This year marks the 375th anniversary of the Peace of Westphalia. For seven months, from April to October 2023, the Peace City of Osnabrück will celebrate the anniversary of the peace alliance that shaped Central Europe with a diverse cultural programme. Volker-Johannes Trieb, Osnabrück artist and activist known for his interventions in public space, will be showing his monumental installation forx. pitchforks for peace on the façade of Osnabrück City Hall in October as part of the Year of Peace 2023.
Fig. above: forx. pitchforks for peace, 2023 © Volker-Johannes Trieb, Rendering: ahw Ingenieure GmbH
With his installation forx. pitchforks for peace, Volker-Johannes Trieb not only wants to commemorate the Thirty Years’ War, but also to sharpen our view of the crises and wars we have to deal with today.
“The fact that pitchforks become weapons only happens in the greatest need. The project forx. pitchforks for peace pays tribute to ordinary people, who then as now often had only a pitchfork, in countries where poverty prevailed, exploited by the wealthier. Mankind has always waged war against itself – then mostly militarily, today also ecologically.”Volker-Johannes Trieb
In October 2023, Volker-Johannes Trieb stretches a net of hay forks painted white in 1648 up the façade of Osnabrück’s town hall, creating a temporary memorial to the victims of the Thirty Years’ War. The conceptual artist leaves nothing to chance, as exemplified by the number of forks that take up the year of the peace treaty. Preparations for his most monumental work to date have been underway for months. The installation forx. pitchforks for peace is designed as a participatory project. Trieb is entering into dialogue with the people of the region and has launched a collection campaign calling for old pitchforks to be donated for the realisation of the project. As in an agreement, it is an act of give and take. Old dung, hay or turnip forks are exchanged for new ones. The artistic transformation process then begins – the forks are robbed of their potential as weapons by having a solid piece of wood attached to their tips. The pieces of wood are worked on in cooperation with individually impaired young people from the non-profit organisation Die Brücke. A new coat of paint follows. Together with the Osnabrück painters’ and roofers’ guild, Trieb paints the forks and the wooden piece white, in the colour of peace. Sustainability is a matter of course for Trieb in his peace project. The pieces of wood are made from old beams and the artist is already planning to reuse the transformed forks. After the project, they can be purchased and the proceeds donated to a drinking water project in Africa.
“With forx. pitchforks for peace we set a sign for a defensible democracy and a defensible discourse. The pitchforks become a web of peace and cohesion. Osnabrück as a city of peace has a special responsibility for this.”Volker-Johannes Trieb
The Thirty Years’ War began in 1618 with the Defenestration of Prague and ended after five years of negotiations in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia; after three decades of war. What was initially a confessional conflict between Catholics and Protestants spread into a widespread territorial war – the first major war in Europe. The dimension of cruelty in warfare exceeded anything previously known and the Thirty Years’ War claimed unimaginable numbers of victims among the population. With the signing of the Peace of Westphalia, negotiated in Münster and signed in Osnabrück, a peace order of equal states was created in Europe – the birth of the idea of Europe as a confederation of states.
The greatest human catastrophe of the Thirty Years’ War was not the deaths on the battlefields, but the deaths in looting, pillaging and rape among the civilian population. This is just one of the frightening parallels that has been repeated in the war against Ukraine since 24 February 2022. Likewise, hunger is used as a weapon in military conflicts. The war in Ukraine has so exacerbated hunger in the poorest countries on earth that there are now more deaths from lack of food than from combat operations in battle. Volker-Johannes Trieb’s intervention, historically anchored, ties in with current political debates and, through its participatory and formal strength, develops an emotional impact that radiates far beyond the region.
Installation: Saturday 30.09 – Tuesday 31.10.2023
Ceremonial handover of the installation: Saturday, 30.09.2023, 16 hrs