Week 4: Artistic Expression and the Peace Virtue of Creativity
(Excerpts from The Elements of Peace (EoP), by J. Frederick Arment – Chapter 18 on Artistic Expression: Imagine Peace Tower (2007), pp. 117-122, and Conclusion, pp. 217-218.)
Since John Lennon features prominently in the chapter for this week’s EoP focus, I looked up his biographical timeline and noted that it was in July of 1971 – 41 years ago this month – that he recorded the song and video, “Imagine.” Despite the many outstanding hit songs he wrote or co-wrote as part of the Beatles, it is this song that most people associate with Lennon and that has inspired countless initiatives, large and small, to create a more peaceful world. Perhaps the most poignant of those initiatives is his widow Yoko Ono’s tribute to Lennon, the Imagine Peace Tower, a permanent art installation in Iceland. EoP author Fred Arment leads off this chapter with the story of that project and of Lennon and Ono’s influence on the artist-as- peace-activist movement.
The author defines artistic expression as “the use of painting, writing, sculpture, music, humor, film, architecture, or other forms of artistic expression to produce an aesthetic result that inspires change.” In addition to writing about Lennon and Ono’s creatively nonviolent ways of drawing attention to world peace and other issues, he also highlights journalistic forms of writing, such as political commentary and investigative reporting, as another form, a “writing to right the world.” Of course, many novels, plays, screenplays, short stories and poetry also exemplify writing as a nonviolent tool for change.
The chapter closes with a section, “Creative Expressions for Human Rights,” that profiles Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, who has had numerous run-ins with the Chinese government for his form of performance art.
I must say I was disappointed when the chapter ended; I wanted more examples, more stories – maybe because, as a writer, creative expression has been so much a part of my own peace work. I think there could be a whole book on this particular focus. Hmmm… may have to follow up on that creative possibility! For now, though, here are chapter excerpts followed by links and quotes to further inspire you:
On the Imagine Peace Tower and Artistic Expression
“From the time of their marriage in 1969, John [Lennon] and Yoko Ono began staging high-profile public ‘art for peace’ exhibits. They used the notoriety of their honeymoon by staging a ‘bed-in’ for peace at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel.
The second bed-in was staged in Toronto with celebrities such as LSD advocate Timothy Leary and comedian Tommy Smothers. Lennon recorded the Roy Kerwood song, ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ which has also become a standard in the peace movement.
Upon Lennon’s death in 1980, Yoko Ono continued the work. In memorial to her husband and as a beacon for peace, Ono created the Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland. Located off the coast of Reykjavik on Videy Island, the Peace Tower projects a ‘tower of light’ … from October 9, Lennon’s birthday, to December 8, the day the rock icon was killed in New York City.”
On the peace virtue of creativity
“…Creativity in any medium or action that requires the ability to transcend the status quo and make something new. Peace art comes from this creative imagination…. Art is often where we go to find new ways of looking at an issue. Art is a social action that is an important part of the envisioning process that creates our future.”
“From its roots in survival, creativity is now not only a useful avocation but the mother of all inventions.
For each of us creativity is the action that makes us individual. The ability to see and create something inspiring is also what makes our greatest contribution to society. ‘A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it,’ wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, ‘ bearing within him the image of a cathedral.’”
For further inspiration, reflection or action
“Poetry is an act of peace. Peace goes into the making of a poet as flour goes into the making of bread.”
– Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.”
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes, American writer
“The best way music can bring peace is to bring peace of mind. With hip hop you can break boundaries.”
– Mana, Iranian-American hip hop artist
Imagine Peace Tower website with live webcam of the tower site:
Yoko Ono’s peace wish trees:
Documentary about Chinese political activist/artist Ai Weiwei:
International Committee of Artists for Peace:
Writing for Peace, a program to encourage and train young writers:
Artists for Peace Foundation’s Songs for Tibet project (2008):
More on The Elements of Peace and its author:
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