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Make Films and Circuses Not War: Q&A with Australian War Artist George Gittoes Part 1

Meet the Australian Artist Turning Taliban Supporters Into Art Lovers

Published on 8 March 2012

Author(s): Blouin Art Info/Nicholas Forrest

Type:  Feature

Australian artist, filmmaker and activist George Gittoes is an amazing person indeed. Not only is he one of the world’s most incredible unofficial war artists, but he also empowers locals from war-ravaged towns and cities by including them in art projects such as films.

He has even used Taliban fighters in his films and encourages visitors to his Yellow House artist’s co-operative from Taliban supporting villages to produce art in an effort to change their anti art attitudes!! Currently based in Jalabad, Afghanistan’s largest eastern city, Gittoes is working on a number of projects including a film, a series of paintings, a recreation of his Yellow House artist’s co-operative as well as a travelling tent cinema circus.

From the unspeakable mass murders of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide to the atrocities of the War on Terror, Gittoes has documented the effects of virtually every major conflict since Vietnam and has seen more human suffering than most people could ever bare to see. With a global rather than regional vision, Gittoes has set up mobile studios and created works in the US, Central America, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Somalia, the Middle East, Western Sahara, Sinai, Mozambique, South Africa, Rwanda, Congo, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Bougainville, China, Tibet, Thailand, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Timor, Russia, Yemen and Iraq – often in the worst of times, when those regions were experiencing conflict and upheaval.

George Gittoes on his way to Tora Bora with his circus crew (Copyright George Gittoes).jpg
George Gittoes on his way to Tora Bora with his circus crew (Copyright George Gittoes)

When asked why he does what he does Gittoes said: “as far as choosing the roads I have travelled, I have this instinct that if I get comfortable, the work will lose its ‘sting’, so I go out of the comfort zones and into the wilderness to find my art. In the past it was the natural world where predators fed on gentler creatures. In the contemporary context, I go alone into a different kind of human wilderness – Rwanda, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq – not to contemplate nature, but the basics of humanity…”

His internationally acclaimed trilogy of feature films which include Soundtrack to War (05) Rampage (06) and The Miscreants of Taliwood (09) have been screened around the world and his paintings shown in some of the world's most prestigious galleries. In fact, the effects of his global artistic outreach have been so positive that he received an Order of Australia, AM, for services to the Arts and International Relations in 1997.

Gittoes’ oeuvre is so extensive and his experiences so intense that they deserve to be revealed project by project, piece by piece. Part two of this series will feature an exclusive interview with Gittoes as well as footage from one of his films.

To see more of Gittoes' work visit http://www.gittoes.com

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