Using the Images of War to View Compassion

A Review of WitteVeen’s When We Were soldiers… once and young installation at Brooklyn Navy Yard

One Sunday afternoon my Uncle Max offered that he had been in the Kaiser’s Guard during the First World War and pull up the leg of his pants to reveal a grotesque bunched leg muscle caused by hours of unnatural and painful Goose Stepping.

Bettina WitteVeen explains her preoccupation with the horrors of War with “I was born in Germany” and in her new exhibit one photo seared itself into my memory—a group of amputee Oxford students sitting displaying their mutilations with almost aggressive assertiveness.

She even selects the site for her installations to echo the horror of the collective and official hate that is war and for this exhibit she selected the decaying 1850 hospital on the grounds of the now defunct Brooklyn Navy Yard.

As I walked through the scabrous high ceiling rooms and viewed photos of a silhouetted dead British World War 1 trench fighter draped over a barbed wire, I felt I heard one-hundred and fifty years of pain and dying as a low moaning echo.

Bettina WitteVeen is an extraordinary articulate force that identifies with the Buddhist pursuit of enlightenment through compassion and social activism.

Visitors to the exhibit, which runs through October 24, will unfortunately not enjoy the talk artist WitteVeen offered the press tour—her easy ability to articulate why she combines images to make new meanings should be available to as audio or printed notes because they are an important part of the art experience she creates. —George Capsis


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