CP: It’s great to speak with you again Martin. Your last year’s visit to Dubrovnik was highly publicized and well received. And rightfully so, we think, since the local, as well as Croatia’s population at large, particularly the Homeland War defenders and civilian victims and their families, are still in process of healing the war inflicted wounds. Now that some time has passed, do you still find your way of dealing with PTSD, which you experienced yourself, and other debilitating psychological challenges could, at least in part, truly be helped via the powerful artistic expression?
MN: I really do, would be the shortest answer. But you know, when founding AFPAF I didn’t have a masterplan, I didn’t venture out with a clear idea or goals I would strive to achieve. Shooting from the hip and throwing myself into projects without much forethought was what I actually did. My art is bound to my experiences with warfare and I did find that it helped me a lot. In fact, I dare say I owe art everything. Of course that professional help is welcome and needed, but I found that throwing paint at the canvas offered a great way of letting go of aggression and other negative and destructive feelings. This is intuitively understood by all. And a rather enjoyable experience.
CP: NGO AFPAF has a wider mission than easing the difficulties of the soul. . .
MN: You could certainly say that. I believe that artistic expression is a powerful weapon of peace that can be used to embrace the peoples, to bring them together regardless of their cultural differences and any borders. Artists for Peace and Freedom is aimed at the noblest of goals: peace and freedom.
CP: Lofty goals, indeed. We’ll come back to that but let’s stay with art itself a bit more. In its utmost, if we understood you correctly, you find art should be less elitist and more a truly human endeavor not dependent of any particulars – something as simple and natural as breathing?
MN: That’s right. Why should art not be allowed to be first and foremost fun and a part of the very human way of being? I find that artistic creations, particularly action painting is enjoyed across all generations and continents, and a great way of betterment of life for all.
CP: You had your first exhibition in your native Denmark, at the Holstebro Museum. Looking back, now that a bit of time has passed, how did that go?
MN: Well, I had this idea of bringing together soldiers with disabilities and asking them to participate in an action painting. And, indeed, we all did. Shooting paint on the canvas resulted in a completely new “fine art expression”. The sheer projection of the inner to the outer was not new, of course, but its explosiveness of creation and the visual results were astounding to many. I am very pleased at the way it all turned out and the way it was received.
CP: It was about the involvement, the force of immediate cathartic channeling of that which lies in the soul?
MN: Sure. The genuine and authentic and chaotic, right there on canvas, but serving as a unification mechanism, that which inspires and brings about a healing whole.
CP: Symbols of unity are pervasive in human cultures since the beginning of known history. Yet, you accentuate it is precisely the absence of symbols that adds the proper artistic meaning to action painting. . .
MN: True, there are no symbols in my art. I simply believe that we don’t need symbolism in such art as it is frequently culture dependent and divisive in the end. And my goal is to unite the world, to avoid any fragmentations, to rise above any boundaries. As much as uniting principles lie underneath my endeavor as an artist, they are led by the desire to achieve truly human expression and respectful human communication between peoples of all nations. I believe this can bring us many steps closer to achieving world peace and freedoms we all deserve. However, I do not think symbols should be avoided altogether. For instance, our AFPAF emblem is not devoid of symbolism but imbued with the message we strive to bring to the world. The whole of underlying philosophy is to embrace the world with love rather than bitterness.
CP: Now that you mention the world peace and freedom, perhaps you could tell us again that funny episode of your founding of the phrase’s namesake NGO?
MN: Truth be told, the founding of AFPAF was really due to chance, a misunderstanding between myself and Morten Gøbel Poulsen from CKU – the Danish Center for Culture and Development. Namely, it just so happened that I heard Morten say the word “create” rather than to simply seek and find an organization that would support my work. I ought to clarify here that “opfinde” and “finde” are quite similar sounding in the Danish language. In any event, I created AFPAF. That took some struggle to finance into existence but here it is. I’d like to again thank Claus Brændstrup who helped me by lending me the much needed funds at the time.
CP: The AFPAF took off well, indeed. You have since been having opportunities to speak AFPAF’s message across continents, for instance from a TED conference in Turkey to the Children’s Festival in Washington D.C., and your “explosive” action painting has been well received. . .
MN: I find that the message of peace and freedom is universal, imprinted on the human soul, that it is something we all thirst for. It is thus well received throughout. And, as far my art goes, in addition to allowing me to be creative increasingly better in terms of my skills in expression and to diminish the negative emotions when they arise, it has gained attention and acceptance worldwide giving me an opportunity to become a part of a whole new network of people. I am grateful for that and that I still can help war veterans and marginalized individuals with my art projects.
CP: You’ve been continuously boldly venturing into projects involving various art production. Film and book projects, such as, for instance, collaboration with Dr. Gorm Harste on his “Critique of War Reason” (Kritik af krigens fornuft, Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2016), or Henrik Saxgren on a photobook come to mind. What should we expect from you these days, what’s coming up?
MN: For some time now I have been pondering and incorporating some of Clausewitz’s theory into art as applied in special warfare (i.e. explorations in art, love, sex, thought power, self-destruction of systems, asymetrical warfare, etc.). You can expect something along these lines. And, of course, much more.
CP: Wishing you much success with your art and other endeavors. Planning on swinging by our corner of the world in near future?
MN: I love Dubrovnik and have visited it four times. I do hope I will be able to come to the next conference at IUC, the Niklas Luhmann Forum perhaps. There is so much culture and history in that city. I couldn’t help but also notice how many beautiful women there are in it. I also have local friends that I’d like to visit with again.
CP: It’ll be great to see you back here, Martin. Thank you for your time.
MN: Likewise. Thank you.
Born in Dubrovnik in 1973. Shortly after, his family moved to Cavtat. Spent the college years (and then some) in the US, mostly in NYC. Organizational behaviorist, HR L&D expert, published author, show-host (TV & radio), afficionado of water sports and tennis. Cavtatportal's editor-in-chief.