Piotr Kunce, “Slaughterhouse”, 1972, lithograph
The starting point for Kunce’s 1972 work Slaughterhouse is a photograph from the French weekly Paris Match, showing the execution of Indian men suspected of collaborating with the Pakistani army during the struggle for Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. Thrown to the ground, the men are killed by Bengali guerrillas with bayonets. One by one. Photographs show a crowd of onlookers watching the scene, smiling faces appear. Reporter William Loverance captured the suffering of the captives and their deaths frame by frame. These photos made their way into the paper to appear before the eyes of readers flipping through pages with their morning coffee, to be glanced at before moving one’s gaze to an advertisement on the next page. To be seen and forgotten. Piotr Kunce’s work is a reminder of the violence and cruelty of war. It puts an equals sign between people and animals being led to slaughter, showing human beings just as helpless and powerless. Although the artist reached for a newspaper photograph which has been reproduced many times, after so many years it still doesn’t lose its power. He points out that just because violence has happened once, doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. History likes to repeat itself.