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William T. Ayton

War Room, The witnesses, England, 2004

Acrylics on canvas 132x198cm.

Courtesy of the artist

William Ayton is an English born artist living and working in the United States. Ayton’s work largely deals with mythical subjects whose relevance has not faded. He devised an exhibition entitled “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” which toured across the United States and Europe.

The exhibition presents three images which compose the triptych “War Room”, 2003. The piece was a response to the covering up of “Guernica”, Pablo Picasso’s famous painting, on the 5th of February 2003, for a press conference held at the U.N. by Colin Powell at the outset of war with Iraq. “Guernica”, as a markedly anti-war work, could not serve as the backdrop to this press conference. Ayton was outraged at this bit of censorship and responded with his own artistic anti-war statement, in a piece that occupies every wall of the room, so that it cannot be covered up.

The figures Ayton depicts – whether fighters, victims or witnesses – are transformed into mythical forms which could belong to any place and any time. This transformation presents war as an eternal, a-historical situation, in which the victors and vanquished join a chain of events, their roles exchanged each time but never actually changing. And indeed, in international politics, the warlike state of emergency is not the exception but a status quo which threatens potentially to erupt at any moment, and justifies a state or readiness and conduct not permissible in peace time. The states of emergency in force in many states around the world can testify to it.