September 26, 2014
Denise De La Rue premiered her film, A Cry for Peace, at the United Nations headquarters in New York City this morning. Presented by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations during the General Assembly, the film, three minutes in length, shows a matador performing the traditional “dance” of the bullfight against the backdrop of Picasso’s iconic painting Guernica. In conjunction with its inaugural screening, A Cry for Peace will be available for viewing on NOW for the next twenty-four hours, until 12 pm ET on Saturday, September 27. Gagosian's Alexandra Magnuson spoke with the artist.
A Cry for Peace features Picasso’s Guernica, one of the most powerful and well-known antiwar statements in the visual record. What prompted you to pair it with the matador?
Guernica, with its journalistic simplicity in black-and-white, captures the chaos and the deafening screams of the victims of real battle; the eternal echoes of Euripides’s tragedy The Trojan Women, where they lament the death of their children and their men in a city fallen into disgrace after a war. The matador captures, in color, the scene of an artistically reproduced battle. Tauromaquia (bullfighting) is an art form linked to death. My objective is to create catharsis in the viewer, just as Euripides does.
The choice to posit the work against the live action of the matador’s danse macabre seems to renew and build on this sentiment. Was this the intention?
Absolutely, from the beginning I visualized this piece as a journey through the devastation of war, so it really needs motion, the matador is a metaphor for the warrior, the soldier, who guides the audience across the history of Guernica.
What is the significance of the film’s three distinct parts?
Formally, the film portrays the three stages of a bullfight. First the prosecution, second the sentencing, and third the execution of the bull. Life, death, violence and conquest: they are all contained in war, as well as in tauromaquia.
Tauromaquia is featured heavily in your photography, something your work shares with Picasso’s. What is the role of the matador in this work, and in your oeuvre generally?
My art speaks to the contradictions that are native to all human beings. In the figure of the matador and tauromaquia I can see very clearly the dichotomy of human existence, encapsulating the struggle between life and death, Eros and Thanatos, beauty and cruelty, the sublime and the horrible.
Your work is primarily still photography; this is your first film?
Guernica has never been authorized to be used in a contemporary artwork before. Is this correct?
Yes, it has not. I am very honored the Succession Picasso granted me permission to create this work. I am also grateful to Gustavo Santaolalla, who contributed the musical score, which is essential to the piece. I met Gustavo and showed him the film, and he said, “I’ll do the music for this.” As you can imagine, I was thrilled. He's so talented.
It is unusual for a work of art to be featured at the United Nations General Assembly. How did the project come about?
I always pictured premiering A Cry for Peace in a venue that reinforces the antiwar statement of the film. I could not have hoped for a better setting. It is great privilege and I am honored that United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has agreed to present it.
What is the next project in the pipeline?
A documentary on former war zones, and a new photo series in the Vatican.