Helmets for Peace is a multifaceted project applied by and representing the method of the Société Imaginaire, an undertaking that for over twenty years strives for cultural dialogue. The project, focusing on the armed forces as an organized institution whose members worldwide experience and share vast similarities, brings participants together by exercising the undertakings method of providing direct communication.
Through this direct communication where members of the armed forces worldwide, together with those participating from the civilian sector, contribute a message of adherence to the principle no más fronteras, their voices eternalize this common desire of overcoming borders through the artwork they help to produce together.
The project is not only an exhibition of the resulting contributions from members of the armed forces worldwide, the correspondence they establish amongst themselves and with others, but an exhibition of the method of the Société Imaginaire itself.
In the city of Chemnitz, Germany a place has been designated through the support of the Stadtwerke AG Chemnitz to officially house the project Helmets for Peace and its exhibition. Beginning with a historical insight to the development of the Société Imaginaire, the exhibition includes many past contributions together with those dedicated to the armed forces. It is an extensive show which includes original artwork from the undertakings founder, contributions by its members ranging from renown artists to heads of state, the submissions by members of the armed forces, the large work “Helmets for Peace I” presented alone with a specially designed light sequence, the mega-installation “Helmets for Peace II – The Wall” by Batuz in close collaboration with architects from MIT, and documentary videos running continuously to inform the public on the disasters occurring at the growing number of walls and barbed wire fences being erected throughout the world.
The Method of the Société Imaginaire
“Batuz’ proposal is noble. It can seem utopian and imaginary. For this exact reason it has strength”
– Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of the Federative Republic of Brazil
The Société Imaginaire is an undertaking that strives for cultural dialogue. It has applied itself through multifarious projects, continuously aiming at the same goal while doing so through different means. The great ambition of all the undertakings projects, no matter in what form its method is applied, continuously aims towards the same ideal. Overcoming borders, whether they are the physical ones that are imposed between regions or even the imperceptible ones that arise socially, the projects bring together the various different peoples divided and by having them communicate through art, they virtually overcome these conflicts by exposing a common desire that is shared individually yet globally.
The Armed Forces and the Société Imaginaire
“To overcome borders: soldiers should be involved!” – Hans-Peter von Kirchbach, former commander in chief of the German Bundeswehr
The armed forces throughout the world have undergone remarkable changes in their purpose and structure. Less and less are they isolated forces of confrontation and more and more are they joining together in mass coalitions in order to struggle together for the common goal of peace. Such a remarkable development resulting in vast similarities is a direct portrayal of what the Société Imaginaire seeks and exemplifies; individuals throughout the world keeping their individualities while at the same time joining one another in a common effort for a “convivencia humana”. Furthermore the armed forces are one of the first proofs of a world society where individuals work in cultures which they are not familiar with while defending ideals common to all.
Around the world they are submitting helmets to this project, together with their artistic contributions of communications that answer the call to overcome borders. The helmet is a symbol most closely associated with war. The donation of such war equipment to the project is a remarkable portrayal of each contributors adherence to the project and the undertakings leading principles.
Helmets for Peace I
"Helmets for peace" is a fundamental work that wants to overcome boundaries, that refers to the past as a memorial for the future and visually annuls the differences between people.” – Dr. Dieter Ronte, former director of the Kunstmuseum Bonn
As a consequence to the project on the Neiße River, “no más fronteras Piensk-Rothenburg”, and the participation of the German Bundeswehr, only later was it realized what a magnanimous symbolic representation had been given by the unique combination of war helmets in a work of art which united people through the Société Imaginaire’s method for communication.. Five years later, these helmets, kept in storage as if in a mass grave, came to life through an encounter of General von Kirchbach and Batuz.
Though the point of union on the Neiße River was where the myriad individual works of art came to be joined into one, it was still under the influence of the hands of many. It was only through the suggestions that emerged through the above mentioned encounter that Batuz decided to put the pieces together himself, calculating every single position of each individual art work into a collective piece. Doing so he has taken a momentary event, where a work of art was realized by many, and memorialized this activity into a work of his own.
Simultaneously the creation of this singular work made by many and the same, a work in which the Bundeswehr played a decisive role, stimulated the extended call for others to take example from what occurred on the Neiße river and continue the correspondence. The creation of Helmets for Peace I is what initiated the project to focus on the armed forces worldwide, to harness upon the vast similarities they are more and more experiencing and bring them together so that they may share and gain a greater understanding through the undertakings method of direct communication.
The Anti-wall of Batuz: Helmets for Peace
“man has made the borders and man can make them disappear” ...Batuz
Batuz knows a lifetime of crossing and opening boundaries: geographic, disciplinary, political. Such efforts are his life, his intellectual and cultural agenda. A wall is anathema to Batuz, yet now he builds a wall. An anti-wall, and like all walls, the anti-wall has two sides.
Though armies around the world contribute helmets in a gesture of peace, the helmets rest here as witnesses of why walls are built. Witnesses fallen at the foot of a brooding wall — constraining, shadowed, excluding, confining. It is a place to contemplate the bleak, enfeebling realm of barriers and conflict. A dark contemplation relieved by the anti-wall of Batuz.
Batuz' anti-wall is open, spacious, free, welcoming — standing in sunlight and mirrored in water. Visitors are received at a monumental instance of Batuz' life work: strong elements confront one another but achieve a correspondence, share in a meeting.
The helmeted wall is restraint by industrial means; the anti-wall beckons with color, texture and light.
Prof. of History, Theory and Criticism
Massachusetts Institute for Technology Architecture
Forum and Correspondence between Armed Forces
“Société Imaginaire…idea for a world in which borders stop being ramparts in order to transform themselves into bridges that communicate.”
- Julio Maria Sanguinetti, former president of Uruguay
The call for soldiers to participate in this project is not only to gain their adhesions to symbolize this common desire in a collective work of art, but to give continued life to this effort by extending the initial contributions into a long-term correspondence involving many.
“Helmets for Peace” has been developing to offer the armed forces throughout the world a new platform for direct communication, where they can share their experiences and further gain understandings of the remarkable similarities apparent amongst themselves. For this, a forum has been constructed on the undertakings official website (www.batuz.com) where each participants initial submission, either an artistic interpretation of his selected border (a physical approach and identification of his border attained through his art) or a handwritten text containing a testimony of the individuals adhesion to the projects principle, becomes the symbol of his individual profile, setting a possible dialogue in motion. His statement and/or work of art is a symbol of his identity to which others may identify themselves with or to. The responses can then lead the dialoguing amongst themselves.
The forum provided is a continuation of a longstanding practice of the Société Imaginaire to initiate long-term correspondence between like minded people, this time utilizing the possibilities of the internet and its immediate source of communication.
The Portfolio “no más fronteras en las Americas”
“Batuz is a great artist who has placed his art at the service of a superior ideal: overcome the borders within the cohabitation of the men and women of our world.”
- Patricio Aylwin Azocar, former president of Chile
“Correspondence” has already been achieved by the Société Imaginaire through various approaches, mostly documented in the series of portfolios produced by the Société Imaginaire and forming part of the collections of some of the most renown museums around the world (National Gallery of Art Washington DC, Kupferstichkabinett, Albertinum, and more). Institutions which await further contributions such as the one currently in process, “no más fronteras en las Americas” where former presidents throughout the western hemisphere such as Julio Maria Sanguinetti of Uruguay, Belisario Betancur of Colombia, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Carlos Diego Mesa of Bolivia, Patricio Aylwin of Chile and more are contributing manuscripts declaring allegiance to the principles of this unique undertaking. With their handwritten statements, they illuminate /illustrate each from a different perspective the unrelinquished and consistent work of Batuz in his search for a more peaceful and creative “convivencia-humana”. The result of this portfolio will be exhibited together with others of the Société Imaginaire in the presentation of “Helmets for Peace”, together with the works submitted by members of the armed forces and the civilian sector throughout the world which will be collected and submitted in yet another edition of the portfolios of the Société Imaginaire.
The portfolios give permanence to the projects, tying together the temporary and long-term of these actions while simultaneously becoming historical documents that are kept warded in museums such as mentioned above.
For example, the portfolio no más fronteras created together with Czeslaw Milosz did exactly this to the action performed on the Neiße river: by turning the action into a piece of art we give a transient moment a historical permanence. The portfolio “no más fronteras en las Americas” is doing the same for the project “Helmets for Peace”, further solidifying the ambition of this project as an eternal statement for the future. The handwritten texts from such prestigious presidents have to be seen as supporting statements calling for peace and a “convivencia humana”, the main goals of the Société Imaginaire and the project “Helmets for Peace”.
“Like no other, Batuz embodies this imaginary society, whose goal of crossing frontiers and building bridges between worlds brings together people of different nationalities, professions and schools of thought.” – Dr. Peter Seifert, former lord mayor of Chemnitz
To warrant a full comprehension of the project Helmets for Peace an introduction to the fundamentals of the Société Imaginaire, its birth and extensions will be presented to the public. For this, the second edifice of the compound housing the project is thus allocated, open to several hundred square meters of exhibition space.
Herein will be a compendium exhibition beginning with the development of the founder’s study on the interrelation of forms, which he eventually extended from a singularly painterly sphere to a plurally social one; the interrelation of cultural forms. The gradual development of his studies will be identified through various reproductions and original artworks, leading towards the emergence of the Société Imaginaire with the first portfolios made with others. All editions will be on display, allowing the public to see the depth and scope of the Société Imaginaire’s working and the people that have participated. Here will also be presented the before mentioned portfolio no más fronteras en las Américas and furthermore, together with the artworks and statements contributed by members of the armed forces and civilians throughout the world.
The exhibition thus links together the multitude of the project and the undertaking, helping to tie together the various parts that are all interrelated and thereby offering a thorough presentation.
“Each dream shared with others instantly turns into reality and so will the beautiful collective dream of Batuz.”
-Belisario Betancur former president of Colombia
The aim of the Société Imaginaire is to find a method to live together in this globalized and confused world in a more civilized and peaceful way. Over the last 25 years, thousands of participants in innumerable projects have demonstrated that it is possible.
This small brochure is yet another testimony of that fact.
In my work Helmets for Peace, this desire is clearly visualized. It represents also an homage to the soldiers of so many countries offering their lives to achieve this noble goal.
The city of Chemnitz generously has offered its support to house this project, a place of meditation, remembrance, a place for the viewer to gain more awareness of the many worldwide conflicts, of the walls and fences being built, and how to overcome them.
From texts of all the participants in our projects we can hear an irrepressible voice of this common desire to build a better world.
Let’s end those empty talks on a Global Village, and let us build one!
We have never had a better starting position like now . Together we can do it, right now and here in Chemnitz.