Dear Lawrence Weschler,
Your essay, Vermeer in Bosnia, I have found to be fascinating. Recently, while at the Frick
Collection, I had taken yet another look at Vermeer and found myself viewing the paintings in the light
of Vermeer in Bosnia. The Europe of Vermeer’s youth was as scarred, scary and violent as Bosnia during
the Balkan war. There is a strikingly unexpected connection between the high art and the horrors of war
I can certainly relate to the ideas and experiences of Vermeer in Bosnia. In the 1990s, I had
worked in various war zones, including Bosnia, first as a media stringer, later as ...view middle of the document...
Big black birds – some fly to the east , some to
the west are woven on a bright red background. However, if you look closer, the birds are rather
helicopters. The edges of the rug are sprinkled with multi-colored artillery shells.
So-called war rugs first had appeared in Afghanistan over two decades ago at the time. Beluchis,
one of the ethnic groups of the regions, had begun to include into the ornaments of the rugs the
iconography of war – AKs, war planes, helicopters and hand grenades. New visual array had appeared on
Afghan rugs after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Whatever is depicted on the rugs, usually repeats
TV reports and propaganda flyers, thrown around by the US Air Force from the air. The awfully tacky
rugs show airplanes hitting the World Trade Center buildings, with tiny black silhouettes falling down
from the Twin Towers.
I am all for the freedom of expression and see nothing wrong with selling war artworks and
souvenirs. Are we ready to blame jewelry stores for selling crucifixes? I had myself bought the rugs in
Afghanistan and sold them once back in New York City. What was on weavers’ minds? Are they typical
Persian rugs, woven just to be sold? Is there something, deeper, horrible and sinister? Is there
compassion, or glee, or, worse, the raging desire for revenge. I had sold the last rug and swore never to
see a war again.
The essay Vermeer in Bosnia is a contradictory work. Straddling the border
between fiction and nonfiction, it claims to be fair, yet Weschler yet the idea of beauty amidst the
horrors is clear enough. Yes, the essay is biased, but in a good way. An Italian jurist Antonio Cassese,
who had served as the president of the court at the preliminary hearings at the Yugoslav War Crimes
Tribunal in the Hague....