- Artist: Per Kleiva
- Creation date: 1971
- Object type: Print
The politicization of art in the 1960s and 1970s led to it being used as a battering ram in the political discourse. In a Norwegian context, Per Kleiva’s Pages from the Diary of Imperialism is one of the best known examples of art as political agitation. Triggered by the United States’ brutal warfare in Vietnam, and inspired by American pop art and the stencilled imagery used in advertising, Kleiva’s series of silk screens combines an idyllic slice of nature, in the guise of a hazily beautiful meadow, with the harsh aggression of military might. This aggression manifests itself in the first picture as marching military boots, in the second as airborne helicopters, and in the third as bombs falling over the defenceless landscape. The course of events culminates in complete destruction, with Kleiva using destabilizing contrasts between the beautiful and the horrific to depict the horror of war. The German artist Harun Farocki, a contemporary of Kleiva, noted that it was impossible to portray the real damage caused by napalm, as people would only close their eyes to such horrific wounds and then repress both the memory and the context of what they had seen.
Kleiva was a member of the GRAS collective, which was founded by a group of young, radically left-wing artists in 1969. Using easily accessible silk screens, these artists expressed their action-oriented pragmatism based on the principles of socialism. GRAS wanted to heighten public awareness, popularize art as a tool, and turn such art into an ideological instrument for collective action.
Text: Line Ulekleiv