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Artists, Curators and Activists Respond to the Condition of Global Conflict

The symposium ‘Artists’ Responses to Conflict’ on Tuesday 8 April aims to stimulate new approaches to the understanding and interpretation of conflict, through art – including art education – to counter the nationalist perspectives that we hear routinely from the media and politicians.

‘The RCA in London is home to a lot of diasporas,’ explains convener Michaela Crimmin. ‘ Many people have experience of conflict – we are implicated historically and culturally in so many global conflicts, such as Afghanistan, Cuba, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. This is a good place and time to seek an open and discursive space that involves people from different academic and professional fields.’

Part of an RCA research programme, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the human rights organisation Index on Censorship, Art and Conflict brings together activists, cultural theorists, artists and leading academics. Its overall intent is to build greater understanding of the value of art in addressing conflict, and to foster the exchange of knowledge and perspectives with other sectors with shared interests: the political and diplomatic community, NGOs, international development agencies, the media, and the many peace-building initiatives worldwide.

‘In spite of a cultural move towards knowledge exchange and interdisciplinarity, people can remain siloed by the reputation and knowledge of their sector. And they can want clean conclusions. We want to promote a better understanding of other people’s areas, methodologies and discourses, so we can understand more about the messy, complex world we live in,’ says Crimmin.

The symposium brings together artist Jananne Al-Ani, an RCA graduate who explores the landscape of the Middle East, its archaeology and its visual representation in the West through the technology of modern warfare; theatre director Jonathan Chadwick; artist Edmund Clark; artists David Cotterrell, Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps; Hossam Al Madhoun and Jamal Al Rozzi, directors of Theatre for Everyone  (on Skype from Gaza); Rotterdam-based curator and writer Nat Muller; and curator and writer Sarah Rifky, co-director of Beirut, Cairo. 

This symposium is the last event in a series of seminars exploring personal and collective aspects of armed conflict including memory, resistance, satire and resilience. Each seminar has focused on a theme: Art and Memory; Art and Satire; Art and Resistance; and Art and Resilience, each in the context of conflict. Guest speakers have included Professor Howard Caygill, author of the recent book, On Resistance; Cuban/American artist Coco Fusco, whose work has addressed interrogation techniques employed specifically by women in recent conflicts; Adela Jušić, a Bosnian artist who has made work featuring her father, a Bosnian sniper killed in Sarajevo in the war that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia; and Larissa Sansour whose work has a strong element of satire in its focus on the Palestinian situation.

This final one-day event will be followed by an online publication this summer addressing the questions and issues raised, and the diversity and the complexity of the responses. Plans are also currently underway for an international conference later next year, a book, and – funding permitting – an exchange programme of visits by artists between the UK and other countries.  

Art and Conflict is grateful to the British Council for joining with the RCA and the AHRC in supporting the event on 8 April, making it possible to open it to a wider public at no cost.

Artists' Response to Conflict
One-day symposium
8 April 2014, 10am – 6pm
Kensington, Lecture Theatre 1

For more information, see the Culture and Conflict website