Prof. Dr. Ronte: Batuz – Helmets for Peace

The artist Batuz has developed with great consistency works of art in the last decades in which a line becomes a mental barrier and acquires a vital function within the picture. Landscapes are created that are totally abstract, events occur in which many people participate to bring landscape art to life outside in nature. Batuz works with many different media, what remains the same is his vision of a co-existing world that acts as a possible community in which everyone can communicate with everyone else; the intellectuals amongst themselves but also with all others. High and low has no meaning. What’s important is to create a peaceful world. The works of art are agents in this world.

Therefore Batuz does not hesitate to involve servicemen of the German army, as he did, for example, in the Neißefluss project at Peinsk-Rotenburg. An international project about the breaking down of the historically sensitive German-Polish border.

Batuz works with the most diverse of materials and methods, and in widely varying sizes.

His newest work, Helmets for Peace from 2007, is 550 cm high and 1130 cm wide. It is based on the experiences of his Berlin-Wall project, which were carried over into the Neißefluss project. Five years after this project, the 167 helmets, which are the carriers of colored flat shapes and were used in the river Neiße symbolizing the future unity of Europe, were kept and have now been assembled into Batuz’ monumentally large, fragmented work of art. It carries thoughts of no maś fronteras, of local to global, of communication through art, and also of the abstract experiences of earlier works and therefore all the elements of Batuz’ language. Large works such as Omen, 1979, also contain the third dimension in the abstract surface and concentrate on a pure abstraction that can nevertheless be legitimately seen as a landscape.

Yellow detail from the first installation of "Helmets for Peace"

Yellow detail from the first installation of “Helmets for Peace”

Helmets for Peace is in the form of a large abstract picture made out of real objects, yet it continues to convey itself as a painting. Helmets for Peace will in the future develop the sort of power that we get from Picasso’s Guernica today. This work of art will grow as it ages, it will give us answers that are not yet known, not even by the artist. Helmets for Peace, 2007, has this aesthetic potential energy because it gives answers as regards to content. In contrast to Guernica, Batuz works out of an abstract, conceptually philosophical world that he consistently wants to convey into practical results. In this lies the real artistic ambition of the artist. Not to remain as an image but to give the visual world a new reality. Helmets for Peace is art history conceived as an abstract picture of history. 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.

Helmets for Peace is the current apex of the greatest ambition of the artist and his Société Imaginaire. 167 people of both sexes, many nationalities, various ages, and completely different jobs come together and put themselves at the disposal of the artist to make the Neißefluss project happen. It is an event, a happening, as we say today. There is a documentary film, but on the spot where it took place the river Neiße flows quietly by as it always has. But the awareness of the residents on both banks of the river has been changed by this event.

Batuz lets us see many of the possibilities of sight by using relics, in an immense artistic accumulation, as real objects and color mediums, along with the military helmets carrying colored flat shapes in order to together become a colossal new work of art that stands before us like a porous wall. 1. the picture is abstract, 2. the picture is totally real, 3. the picture breathes with diverse meanings, 4. the picture has a three-dimensional surface, 5. the work is totally transparent, 6. the picture is enclosed on all sides, 7. the picture excels itself both in a material and spiritual sense, 8. abstraction is the compression of real statement, 9. more realistic is more abstract, 10. the impenetrable becomes transparent.

Detail of the first installation of "Helmets for Peace"

Blue detail from the first installation of “Helmets for Peace”

All these properties, which can be expanded into, for example, social and biographic aspects, overlap in Batuz’ theoretical belief of the Interrelation of Forms. From this fundamental consideration Batuz formed his immense work of art that is now a masterpiece for us to experience. This interrelation of the forms, forms analog to the interrelation of the colors from Josef Albers, also argues with the feelings, but not with the color memory of the observer, which is deceptive. These individual forms are not a guarantee of a statement. Although their interaction, their interrelation is precise. A cornerstone remains, adhering to the theory of the Interrelation of Forms, the ability for two halves of the picture separated by a line to peaceably disagree with each other in order to show that there are no borders anymore. Batuz’ abstraction is always a metaphor, an almost philosophical allegory about human existence. He controls the principle of dialog in the work of art itself and therefore its realness in the eyes of the observer. Umberto Eco talks about the “opera aperta”, the open artwork.

The work Helmets for Peace calls for consistency, for continuity around the world. The international contacts that the artist has made should make it possible for the whole of mankind, on a shrinking planet, to start an aesthetic dialog with reference to globalization, namely: communication through art. The German army, for example, can help achieve this because of the very different experiences they have encountered during the German Reich, and also civil organizations can be helpful.

It ought to be possible, with the help of many people worldwide, to make this communication become real as a joint discussion through art. Helmets for Peace should not be left alone, it needs a large international family that had its origins in Chemnitz, but then the materialization of this work into an international and global vision demands that a fixed locality can not be a prerequisite for its emergence and understanding.

Behind these helmets for peace lies an immense conceptual notion that goes far beyond the work done in Chemnitz. It is seldom for works of art to arise that immediately require a direct continuation around the globe. Helmets for Peace is not a piece of art made for an atelier or artists studio, or even a locality or urban area, but it is a visual contemplation in a world community.

Prof. Dr. Dieter Ronte
Director Kunstmuseum Bonn
July 2007