Frane Šitum / Armament for Peace
Armament for Peace
“…to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” – Sun Tzu
You enter the exhibition space. Time seems to have stopped precisely as a bullet comes flying through the air towards you. You are staring right at it and it is openly threatening you. In this massive, oversized bullet measuring almost twelve meters in length, you see your own reflection as well as a reflection of the world around you – a world which pretends to peace but contradicts itself in reality. This is the fact behind the name of Frane Šitum’s spatial installation – Armament for Peace.
However, this is not the first installation through which Frane Šitum explores the topic of the interrelation/opposition of notions, but it is the first to deal with the paradox of conflict, and therefore also of peace. The concept of conflict, or perhaps better said war, is paradoxical in the sense that it simultaneously implies rivalry (for example between two nations), but also consolidation (of a group of people, often of differing interests, in a certain nation). In accordance with the Neoplatonic idea that light does not exist without darkness and vice versa, so conflict does not exist without some kind of harmony. One would not be able to recognize a state of war without knowing peace. Conflict comes into existence when the concept and perception of peace change; when interests and ideologies begin to diverge. The breach between them grows with the passage of time until it, often literally, explodes. Upon the resolution of a conflict, another period of “peace”, or at least clam ensues only for the entire cycle to repeat itself. And so it has been throughout the entire history of humankind.
The recurring pressure and tension in the world are reflected in the stretched, semi-transparent fabric that covers the bullet’s wooden frame. In its tension, the bullet actually appears as if shooting through the air. However, owing to its oversized proportions, the bullet rather resembles a missile, and the exhibition space – the very appropriate cellars of Diocletian’s palace – takes on the function of a (nuclear?) weapon depot. Through the canvas, one can discern the silhouette of a boy-puppet passively sitting on the horizontal beam of a gun-sight. The life-sized boy serves as a cruel, all-too-real reminder of the future generations suffering the repercussions of the repeated mistakes of the so-called civilization that does not care for them in the least. This puppet-sculpture observes his surrounding world. If we can see him, perhaps he can see us as well; maybe he is crying out for help, but we cannot hear him, or possibly do not want to hear him. Some people might be experiencing shellshock; their ears are still ringing. Others cover their ears in fear of what they might hear. The boy remains helpless.
History repeats itself just as humankind repeats its mistakes, disregarding its ramifications. It justifies itself by claiming that everything it does, it does with the aim of achieving peace and prosperity. Still, the moment when one man or one nation defines what constitutes peace and prosperity; the moment when they begin to strive for it, the process of “armament for peace” commences. This is a catch-22; an example of eternal human absurdity.
The theatricality of the sight of an oversized bullet and the sculpture of a boy – this metaphorical puppet sitting inside it – evokes Chekhov’s Law: if a gun appears in the first scene, it will undoubtedly be fired in the following scene. Humanity, as it seems, cannot resist the temptation to play with this cosmic gun, all the while not knowing where it is shooting and often not even why. In this game, the bullet can ricochet off of something and hit its liberator, wound the “enemy” or even an innocent “civilian”. A graphic example of this is offered by the historian Yuval Noah Harari who explains that even the world’s most powerful rulers, once that had gotten their hands on a new weapon, succumbed to temptation. Nevertheless, he somewhat optimistically emphasizes that humanity has successfully managed to resist this bait since the beginning of the Cold War: “The gun that appeared in the first act of the Cold War was never fired. By now we are accustomed to living in a world full of undropped bombs and unlaunched missiles, and have become experts in breaking both the Law of the Jungle and the Chekhov Law. If these laws ever do catch up with us, it will be our own fault – not our inescapable destiny.”
In its own way, humanity resembles the boy in the bullet – trapped in its own vicious circle; in that paradox of armament for peace.
 Sun Tzu, The Art of War, (transl. Lionel Giles), London: Pax Librorum, 2010.
 Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, London: Harvill Secker, 2015.
Frane Šitum was born in 1985 in Split. After graduating from the School of Fine Arts in Split, he enrolled in the sculpting department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Split. He graduated in 2010 in the class of Kuzma Kovačić with a Masters degree in sculpture. He has held six solo exhibitions and has taken part in several group exhibitions. He is the author of four public sculptures as well as several plaques and awards and a model of the original reconstruction of Diocletian’s Palace. He currently lives and works in Kaštela. He is also a member of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists (HULU Split).