Presenting and overcoming borders has been for many years the central theme in the artistic work of the painter Batuz. Through his own experience of war, becoming a refugee, changing countries several times – always dealing with overcoming physical borders – this leitmotif of his early artistic productivity has gained its own specific authenticity. Those artistic beginnings have developed in the course of the years in numerous small consistent and goal-oriented steps a task for life to which the “practical philosopher”Batuz has devoted all his strength: „No más fronteras“ – overcoming borders in all its possible forms. On this objective Batuz is prepared to bring to bear unreservedly his creativity, his many-sided abilities and his own resources. Schaumburg Castle, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Washington, Montevideo, Altzella / Sachsen, Chemnitz are some of the places from which the Batuz Foundation since about 1984 has endeavored through initiatives and projects to bring to life the visions of its founders. Overcoming borders: This might also mean conjuring up the inner connections of artistic expressions (“interrelation of forms”) such as the suspension of the dividing lines between artistic disciplines – visual artists and writers from various regions of the world combine their work to some kind of a “Gesamtkunstwerk” (synthesis of many individual pieces of art), but also calling into question thoughtless characterizations which, for instance, divide the world into central and peripheral regions of culture: Batuz brings together artists from Latin America and Eastern Europe, i.e., from the so-called peripheries, people who had previously hardly taken note of each other; resulting in not only gaining insights, but also creating friendships “across the borderlines”. Quite soon, however, Butuz became also interested in dismantling physical and mental barriers that were created by concrete conflicts among the people concerned: artists from Argentina and the Malwines, from Israel and Palestine meet “on neutral ground” (in the former workshops of the Batuz Foundation in Altzella) for common work.Artists from the Malvines and Argentina (Tucumán) living and working together has been documented in a catalogue financed at the time by the Foreign Office.
July 2002. A warm summer day at the German-Polish border. From the German and Polish banks of the border river Neisse, steeped in history, between Piensk / Poland and Rothenburg / Germany people move towards the middle of the river, meet each other, mingle with each other. Each of them carries on his/her head a painted plate, mounted on a scrapped, equally painted steel helmet which the German Bundeswehr had placed at their disposal. By the movement of the people continuously new pictures emerge which are documented via film and photography from the top of a building crane. The Germans and the Poles, for centuries fierce adversaries, encounter each other; the border is overcome for a moment, a potential reconciliation between two peoples is symbolically anticipated. A richly illustrated documentation, financed by the Foreign Office, gives testimony of this unique event.
Five years later Batuz has made use of the 167 painted steel helmet of the Neisse river in a new manner. They are integrated into a monumental piece of art, 5.5 by 11.3 meters, carrying the title “Helmets for Peace”. Prof. Dieter Ronte, director of the Art Museum in Bonn, writes: “In ‘Helmets for Peace’ a great abstract picture is being shaped from totally concrete objects which nevertheless transform themselves into painting. ‘Helmets for Peace’ will develop in the future such a power as we see it today in Guernica by Picasso. … In contrast to Guernica, Batuz works from an abstract, an intellectual, a philosophical world which he continuously likes to transform into practical results. It is here that the actual artistic desire of the artist lies. Not to adhere to mere portrayal, but to add on to the visible world a new reality. … ‘Helmets for Peace’ is a principal work which aims at overcoming borders, which as a monument processes history for the future and devisualizes the contrasts of peoples in a simple manner.” The city authorities of Chemnitz have placed at the disposal of Batuz a power station, currently not in use, where the piece of art at this time is situated.
The idea is, however, still to be further developed. With the help of the Bundeswehr, which already was actively involved at the Neisse, armed forces from various countries are to be invited to supply for ‘Helmets for Peace’ additional helmets – four from each country – with the former owners remaining identified. Some of these helmets are planned to become part of another gigantic piece of art. The others will be placed on a free plain, upside down, symbol of the alienation from their original purpose for warfare.
Just like in the past the war-weariness of peoples and their longing for a “normal” life without hunger and misery led to the demand for exchange of “swords for plowshares”, with the expansion of the project “Helmets for Peace” the helmet – martial criterion of the soldier, fit for duty and ready for action – is to become part of a gigantic piece of art meant to contribute to overcoming what for thousands of years has separated us human beings over and over again – envy, prejudice, lack of understanding, hatred, “hereditary enmity”.
Even with this presentation the project “Helmets for Peace” will by no means have come to a conclusion. The project will have its permanent forum at the home page of the Batuz Foundation ( www.batuz.com) where all participants in the project – above all the soldiers themselves who have previously been using the helmets – but also other persons interested should have an opportunity to exchange their views.