In 1937, the soon to be doomed Spanish Republican government commissioned Pablo Picasso to paint a mural for the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris. Against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, Picasso produced a 3.49 m by 7.76 m canvas that remains one of the most prominent and influential anti-war pieces to date. Guernica (1937) depicts the chaos, suffering, and violence experienced by humans and animals during the aerial bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German and Italian air forces on April 26th, 1937, which took place as citizens congregated in the city centre for market day. Picasso’s monochromatic pallet and use of glossless, matte house paints completes the sombre, nightmarish mood. After the war, Guernica was toured extensively through Europe and the United States, drawing in millions of spectators as it became a reminder – and a warning – of the devastation that can be wrought by human hands.
As IMMpress plunges into “Dystopia” for the current issue, we reflect on the foreboding nature of Guernica and consider the potential devastation looming over society in the present. As populations increase, there is an increased demand for energy and resources; how we address these deficiencies has repercussions on ourselves, the planet and other living organisms. Technological development may innovate creative global solutions or enforce damaging practices depending on what we choose to value and prioritize. Climate change, disease, and extinction are just a few of the challenges we must address immediately on a global scale – or risk descent into man-made desolation.