Access to the English translation of the text by Guigou Chenevier : Encounter with Guigou Chenevier
Access to the French original texts : a) Faire tomber les murs ; b) Entretien avec Guigou Chenevier
Break Down the Walls
September 1, 2018
“Break down the walls” … : slogan, revendication, artistic and/or political program?
Whatever the case, this generic title immediately reminded me of Mstislav Rostropovich, playing a Bach suite in memory of the victims of communism, a small, fragile yet indestructible silhouette sitting on a modest chair at the foot of the Berlin Wall that fell on November 9, 1989 … Unfortunately, this moment of human fraternity and extraordinary artistic grace seems to be very far from us today. 30 years later, walls have never been so present in the world. Whether it is the walls behind which Palestinians in Gaza are slowly dying, whether it is the wall erected by the dreadful Donald to prevent Mexicans from fleeing misery, whether it is, closer to us, the barbed wire erected in Calais to prevent refugees from reaching England. Everywhere in the world, we only find prisons, detention centers where men, women and young children are confined. The Mediterranean Sea itself has become an abyssal tomb for thousands of men and women fleeing wars, genocides, totalitarian regimes or simply misery… Whether they come from Eritrea, Cameroon, Togo, Libya, Syria or elsewhere… they are nevertheless our human brothers.
By what incredible cynicism dare certain politicians evoke cynical quotas towards them? Would the Eichmann trial therefore have served no purpose? Wouldn’t the Shoah thus have been enough? Then in this terrifying world, can Artstill do something today? We know Picasso’s famous reply to the Nazi ambassador Otto Abetz in 1937 in Paris, when looking at Guernica, he asked: “Did you do that?“… To which Picasso would have answered undaunted: “No, it’s you!”…
Unfortunately, Guernica has not been able to prevent other atrocities to come… Should we then despair? Art (and music in particular), then, do they have no therapeutic virtue against obscurantism, violence, racism or simply fear? I searched for a long time… and finally I remembered this incredible document that I happened to see by accident a long time ago… it was in 1993, during the siege of Sarajevo…. There, amidst the ruins, what was left of the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra continued to rehearse Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony under the direction of French conductor Hugues Reiner. For weeks, Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian musicians rehearsed together, while the bombs were whistling in their ears… In the heart of that dreadful winter of ’93, they were not fighting among themselves, but only against the cold… their numb fingers applying themselves every day on the fingerboards of their stringed instruments in the unheated premises of the Bosnian Radio Television… It is almost certain that at that time… Bosnian Radio Television was the only place in Sarajevo where Croats, Serbs and Bosnians continued to live together… more than that… to work together on a musical creation… a highly symbolic work of peace… The concert took place in the ruins of the Sarajevo Great Library. This incredible story was told in a wonderful documentary entitled « The Violins of Winter » produced by Envoyé Spécial. This reportage can still be viewed today on the internet. Its director, Jérôme Bony, returned to Sarajevo 21 years later. He was able to reunite with a certain number of musicians filmed in 1993. Their testimonies are deeply moving. So, all is not totally lost. Art can break down the walls and be stronger than hate and fear. In the world of violence, injustice and war that we know, the story of the Sarajevo Orchestra gives us a glimmer of hope. An ember on which we should all strive to blow so that brotherhood finally sets humanity aglow.