Words of Peace


About Words For Peace

Collaborative installation by Thomas Ingmire, Betsy Raymond and Kazumi Atsuta.

In March 2003, dismayed by both the imminent war in Iraq and ongoing U.S. defiance of the global community, Thomas Ingmire invited approximately eighty friends and colleagues to participate in a collective calligraphic project on the subjects of war, fear, and peace. Each person was asked to write out a statement on a 5″ x 20″ sheet of paper and send it to Thomas, who would then arrange these pieces into a work that would be shown as part of the Friends of Calligraphy exhibit, Kalligraphia X, at the San Francisco Public Library. Thomas also requested that the participants invite their friends, families, and colleagues to contribute statements; children, in particular, were encouraged to take part. To date, more than 750 people from twenty-eight nations have responded. This installation – Words For Peace – is the result.

With the invitations issued and pieces arriving daily in the mail, Thomas set about exploring various formats he might use as the unifying structure for the project. It soon became clear that creating a work whose “whole was greater than the sum of its parts” was going to be a challenge. Meanwhile, something unexpected was happening: Thomas began to realize that the participants’ statements were raising questions for him which often felt as provocative as the statements themselves.

One such question was if a war is already in progress – or, in the case of Iraq, about to begin – then no matter how eloquent or heartfelt the protests against that war, do they come too late? A war does not simply start on one day and stop on another; its roots run wide and deep. If we truly want peace, Thomas reasoned, we must do more than protest against war at the eleventh hour. Instead, our day-to-day lives must reflect that desire. Thus the question “how do we achieve peace?” became for Thomas the more encompassing question “how are we to live – as individuals, as nations, as fellow inhabitants of the Earth?” and from that one question, not surprisingly, sprang many others.

Thomas decided to incorporate these questions into the work with the hope that they would prove thought provoking and even, perhaps, inspirational. Ultimately, he chose lanterns to serve as the structural heart of a sizeable installation. The lantern – a symbol not only of the desire to bring light into a world which seems so increasingly dark but also of the challenge which faces us to become more enlightened in and about the world-was a perfect choice.

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