Susan Sontag’s famous essay Regarding the Pain of Others (2003) offers a profound rethinking of images of pain, horror, and atrocity. It poses an important question: how is it possible to mediate unimaginable suffering to those who have not experienced it themselves?
The Pain of Others exhibition project aims to reflect on art’s ability to speak of war, violence, and conflict, and, more importantly, on our (in)ability to relate through art to the horrors of war and the pain of those affected by it.
The project has been triggered by the unjustifiable Russian invasion of Ukraine and the unspeakable atrocities that have been happening over many months now. Yet, importantly, the exhibition’s main focus is not the war in Ukraine. Neither is it politics nor ideologies. The ambition is to address a universal human experience – our capacity to connect with other people’s pain and suffering through art.
The exhibition will feature contemporary painting, photography, graphic art, videos, and installations by artists from different countries including Andres Serrano, Christian Boltanski, Gerhard Richter, Nikita Kadan, and others. Relevant historical artworks will provide a wider perspective.
Do Goya’s The Disasters of War, the terrible memento of Spain’s brutal, 19th-century struggle for independence speak to us in the same way as war images of 21st-century conflicts? Can art bring an insight that is different from the rational expertise of other approaches?
We have perhaps never been so “close” to war as we are now when videos and news are shared by people trapped at the very centre of the conflict in Ukraine in real time. We watch their heart-breaking stories and listen to their crying voices. And yet, in a war which we follow on screens from the comfort of our homes, is there a way of engaging with the pain of others? And what does art have to say?
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public events including lectures, talks, debates and learning programmes for schools and families, as well as the publication of the exhibition catalogue.
Curated by: Leoš Válka, Otto M. Urban, Michaela Šilpochová, Tomáš Glanc & Stefano Carini
Exhibiting artists: Hans Peter Alvermann, Ali Arkady, Christian Boltanski, Dario Bosio, Wilhelm Brasse, Sergey Bratkov, Jacques Callot, Robert Capa, Stefano Carini, Maurizio Cattelan, Dagmar Demming, Otto Dix, Roger Fenton, Abel Gance, Francisco Goya, Stanley Greene, Gottfried Helnwein, Nikita Kadan, Zhanna Kadyrova, Bohuš Kubinský, Sasha Kurmaz, Kateryna Lysovenko, František Novák, Marsel Onysko, Claus Otto Paeffgen, Party Of The Dead, Gerhard Richter, Andres Serrano, Tim Shaw, Chaim Sokol, Bohdan Sokur, Lena Stroganova & Alina Dykhman, Alexander Tinei, Rosemarie Trockel, Nick Ut, Matvei Vaisberg, Jitka Válová, Vasilij Vasiljevič Vereščagin, Alina Yakubenko, Yōsuke Yamahata a Kamila Ženatá