Despite the international ban on land mines, many countries continue to lay the explosives. A German artist has found a way to use his work for removing them.
Zizka's virtual minefield looks like 1950s linoleum from afar
Theater-goers at the German premier of US composer Philip Glass' opera "Civil Wars" in Freiburg last year sipped their champagne while traipsing across a minefield. Commissioned by the city's Stadttheater for the building's foyer, the installation was the work of artist Peter Zizka.
The work got Zizka to thinking about how he could take it further. Finally, he contacted aid organization Medico International with a unique proposal: He suggested his minefield become part of a traveling exhibition and the individual mines be sold in exchange for donations for the removal of the explosives.
Now the 600 plates that make up Zizka's minefield can be viewed on Medico's German Web site. Intertested parties can help clear the mines by clicking on one of the 600 plates, each of which cost a 500-euro ($590) donation.
Clearing landmines in Sri Lanka
Clicking on a mine leads you first to information about the group that would benefit from you donating for that particular plate. Another click takes you to a form where you can provide your account details for a bank transfer. When Medico receives the money, the land mine plate is stamped with the word " geräumt," or cleared, on the Web site.
Buy a landmine, help an amputee
Almost half of the plates have been sold so far, according to Medico's Thomas Gebauer. And both of the project's aims have nearly been reached: "first, naturally raising awareness among the population that mine problems have by no means been solved with the signature of the Ottawa Treaty (that bans land mines), and we've collected 150,000 euros," Gebauer said.
The donations go to organizations that remove land mines, raise awareness in countries where mines are a danger and help victims, such as the Afghan group Amputee Bicyclists for Rehabilitation and Recreation, a prosthesis workshop in El Salvador or the Cambodian volleyball league for the handicapped.
But the money can only contribute a small part to the actual cost of removing an anti-personnel mine, which costs up to $1,000 (850 euros), according to United Nations. In Angola, where an estimated 10 million mines have been laid, up to $10 billion would be necessary to clear the whole country. Medico would have to sell 30,000 minefields.
Potentially worth 300,000 euros
Not a field of flowers
Still, the publicity the organization gains from the campaign is at least as important as the money. Parts of Zizka's minefield has been exhibited in the Rotterdam Art Hall, Frankfurt's Schauspielhaus theater and in the German Foreign Office in Berlin, the aim being to reach as many people as possible.
Only after a second glance, does one recognize that the different-sized discs scattered on the warm beige background aren't just part of an aesthetically pleasing floor covering.
"It almost looks like a field of flowers," said Zizka. "In the foreign office, one of the gentlemen who works there came and said, 'Ah, you're making Christmas decorations?'"
The next stop in the minefield's tour will be the Nobel Museum in Oslo, but part of it will already have been cleared by then. The plates sold to donors will have been sent to the people who paid for their removal.