In 1945 Picasso recounted how a Nazi officer, spotting a reproduction of Guernica in his Paris studio, asked him, horrified, “Did you do this?” The artist replied without hesitation, “No. You did.” It was the painter who had created the art; it was the Nazis who had caused the violence.
At issue here is how we talk about violence, that is, about a reality that, even if we do not suffer it or cause it directly, nevertheless invades our daily lives, especially through the news. Journalism is about reporting as objectively as possible, describing reality accurately. However, there are other approaches, equally valid, that are more poetic and philosophical, namely, those proper to art and reflection.
In photography violence can confront us brutally, but art worthy of the name can manage to represent violence without hurting or doing violence to us. It denounces violence and injustice in a direct and prophetic way, but adds a note of hope. The question that will guide our reflection could be formulated thus: “How does art reveal and transform violence?”