On the centenary of World War One, a new exhibition at the Freud Museum revisits the little known correspondence between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud on the subject of war and how it might be avoided. The question is approached through art, poetry and prose created by both adults and children.
The artworks are produced by members of the East London printmakers group, who have been curated by Katja Rosenberg, with other works by psychotherapist and Middle East peace negotiator, Gabrielle Rifkind and sculpture and great grand-daughter of Sigmund Freud, Jane McAdam Freud.
Both the art and the poetry explore themes highlighted in the Why War? correspondence between Einstein and Freud, as well as Freud's earlier paper, 'Thoughts for the Times on War and Death' (1915).
Human aggression and the appetite for destruction hidden beneath the veneer of civilization is explored alongside themes of propaganda, disillusionment and the psychological causes of war.
Children from Griffin Primary School in Wandsworth created a tapestry, title Why War, which was recently shown at the Saatchi Gallery. In making their tapestry part of this exhibition, the children were asked to consider why people fight and how fighting can be avoided. Revealing great insight and perhaps unwittingly echoing psychoanalytic ideas, one young person responded:
"I think people fight because they have a bad feeling inside them that is indescribable and which they think is hard to explain, mainly because they have never explored it."
Older voices - writers, analysts, academics and servicemen have reflected on Einstein's question and Freud's response, including Sebastian Faulks, Clare Short and Professor of War Studies, Edgar Jones.
Julia Chaitin, Senior Lecturer at Sapir Academic College and member of Other Voice, (an organization seeking a non-violent solution to the Israel-Gaza conflict), writes:
"... by keeping people separate, reinforcing distrust and repeating negative stereotypes of the 'enemy', short-term conflicts become intractable ones. When such perceptions prevail, people only see themselves as victims and can no longer imagine peace with the monstrous 'other'. Constant war becomes our fate."
The exhibition will invite visitors to join these other voices by adding their thoughts on Einstein's enduring question: 'Is there any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war?'