Is the citadel an army or a navy

Exhibition "The Naive War" at the Citadel
When soldiers produce art

The exhibition “The naive war. Art, Trauma, Propaganda ”.

It seems a bit as if someone had cleared out children's rooms from earlier times for the exhibition. Toy soldiers, wooden planes and small tanks are displayed in showcases. Paintings of sea battles are complemented by ship models. However, the producers of these items were not artisans or factories that supplied toy stores. It was soldiers who processed their experiences with the production of these replicas.

The professor at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art in Halle, Georg Barber, who is also known as an artist and illustrator under the name ATAK, bought the raw model of a warship on the Internet a few years ago. He was the only bidder and therefore got it for little money. When unpacking, the artistic power of the object surprised him. Barber now has a collection of more than 4,000 items that people made during and in response to wartime.

Toy and fight
belong together for a long time

Much of it can now be seen on the citadel. The association with toys is no coincidence. While in the rooms, especially of boys, there used to be replicas of soldiers made of tin and later plastic, the representation of violence in small format has not disappeared from the children's world today. It is often characters from comics and space series who point their plastic weapons at one another or fight virtual battles controlled via the game console.

Up until well into the 20th century, the understanding of the role of boys as adolescent fighters was combined with the propaganda of nation states, which swore their citizens to real wars and was very successful with it. One example is the work of the marine painter Hans Bohrdt, who heroically exaggerated a scene from a sea battle between British and Germans off the Falkland Islands in December 1914. The focus is on a sailor on the wreck of a sinking ship. Almost devoured by a wave himself, he defiantly holds out the imperial war flag at an enemy ship in the distance. The original has been considered lost since 1916. However, the motif survived widely as a postcard print and animated numerous copyists. Barber found replicas well into 2007.

Criticism of the uncommented exhibition

When Barber showed pieces from his collection at his university on a test basis, a visitor criticized the fact that the pieces depicted and glorified the war without comment. They rather stand for a speechlessness in the face of horror experienced. After Barber had acquired the cardboard picture “Battleships in combat” painted in 1949 by Kurt Waldemar Effgen (1925 - 1992), he asked his son for further information. He learned that Effgen was a marine from 1942 to 1945. The son could only guess at his father's rank. He also suspected that his father's hobbies, painting and ship model building, helped him to better deal with “traumatic war experiences”. Many exhibits "speak" indirectly about the experiences of their creators, who were silent even to family and friends.

As an artist, Barber classified the topic in a distant manner. He has set up a diorama board with toy soldiers. If you look closely, you will notice that in the 2017 work “Greetings from the Field” every figure is damaged.

The exhibition “The Naive War” can be seen from Friday to Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Zeughaus auf der Zitadelle Spandau, Am Juliusturm 64. Admission costs the citadel admission from 4.50 euros (reduced 2.50), which entitles you to visit all museums on the citadel. We recommend the catalog of the same name (Verlag Antje Kunstmann, Munich, 154 pages, ISBN 978-3-95614-267-3, 25 euros).