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4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture

Co-funded by: Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and 4Cs Partners
Type of Project: Collaborative research

Project Manager: Peter Oakley
Creative Director: Michaela Crimmin
Finance: Sara Marsh
Administration: Emma Matthys


The Royal College of Art is a partner on a major four-year European Cooperation Project, ‘From Conflict to Conviviality through Culture and Creativity’ (4Cs), co-funded by the EU’s Creative Europe Programme. The project runs from July 2017 to July 2021. 

The European Commission has acknowledged that tackling the challenges of the refugee crisis, and threats to security and freedom of expression, is a European obligation that requires a comprehensive strategy and a determined effort. It has emphasised the role of culture and the arts in contributing towards building a more cohesive and open society.

4Cs’ core objectives are to:

  • promote an innovative reflection on the role of Europe in emerging forms of conflict 
  • build a greater understanding of the value of involving culture and art organisations in the mediation of situations involving conflict
  • foster the exchange of knowledge and locating possible solutions in conflict-related research and activities
  • stimulate capacity building through career and professional development of skills, competences, know-how and good practices to prepare a new generation of cultural agents able to respond to the challenges of 21st century conflicts.

Activities include exhibitions, artist residencies, film screenings, mediation labs, workshops, conferences, publications, an online platform, and a Summer School. The RCA joins with partners across Europe: Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisbon (coordinator); Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm; SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin; Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona; Museet for Samtidskunst, Roskilde; Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; and Nida Art Colony of Vilnius Academy of Arts. 

The uniqueness of the programme lies not only in its apposite timing, subject matter and means of addressing it, but in the weight of this international partnership. Benefiting from the combined knowledge experience and reach this represents, the activities are engaging a new generation of artists, curators and the public. Case studies, videos capturing live elements of the research, and publications are being disseminated across extended networks and on a shared website and social media platforms.

The RCA’s focus is on artists who are concerned with a colonial past which continues to be misunderstood and misrepresented. The research is positioned in direct relation to the current febrile divisions over Brexit, rising populism and nationalism, a hostile immigration system, and the UK’s changing relationship with Europe and the shifting world order. 

Activities include:

Studio Visits in Sweden and Lithuania, 2018

Hosted by Tensta Konsthall and Nida Art Colony, Michaela Crimmin undertook extensive studio visits, meeting artists in Sweden and Lithuania with interests that correspond with the 4Cs questions and intent. 

Artist Residency: Noor Abuarafeh (2018)

Noor Abuarafeh at Delfina Foundation, 2018 © Arturo Bandinelli
Noor Abuarafeh at Delfina Foundation, 2018 © Arturo Bandinelli
After an extensive selection process, advised by international artists and curators, Noor Abuarafeh was invited to London. A Palestinian artist living and working in Jerusalem, Abuarafeh questions how history is constructed, visualised, perceived, and understood; how all these elements are related to fact and fiction, including imagining the past when there are gaps in documentation. Her research in London focused on the whereabouts of works by Palestinian artists from exhibitions that took place in Europe in the last century, and particularly from an exhibition in 1919 held at the Imperial War Museums. Lost, overlooked, displaced, or hidden, these artworks and the process of finding them act as a metaphor for displaced and marginalised people, a constructive reclamation of history in part as an act of reconciliation, contextualising the present in the past. The Delfina Foundation hosted Noor’s residency. Hilary Roberts, Research Curator of Photography at the Imperial War Museums, and Jack Persekian, director of the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem, both supported the residency. 

Photograph of the Palestine and Arabian gallery at the Imperial War Museum, catalogue number Q 62949
Photograph of the Palestine and Arabian gallery at the Imperial War Museum, catalogue number Q 62949

The outcome of the residency was an art book entitled ‘Rumours Began Some Time Ago’, a response to the question ‘how can we document what is absent?’ It includes an illustrated account of British involvement during the Mandate where civil servants sought to create a museum dedicated to Palestinian art and crafts in Jerusalem. It focuses particularly on the role of the ‘Pro Jerusalem Society’, established in 1917 by Sir Ronald Storrs, the then Military Governor of Jerusalem. 

Workshop events (5, 7 and 9 March 2019)

Bouchra Khalili and Elvira Dyangani Ose at The Showroom, 5 March 2018 © Arturo Bandinelli
Bouchra Khalili and Elvira Dyangani Ose at The Showroom, 5 March 2018 © Arturo Bandinelli
The events took place in the same month that the UK was due to leave the EU on 31 March 2019.  They began with a screening of French-Moroccan artist Bouchra Khalili’s ‘The Tempest Society’, and the launch of her book by the same name, in a partnership between the RCA, The Showroom and Book Works. ‘The Tempest Society’ revisits Al Assifa, a politicised theatre group born out of the struggles of the Mouvement des Travailleurs Arabes (MTA), the situation of Palestine, anti-colonialism, and workers’ and immigrant labour rights.

Professor Gurminder Bhambra at The Showroom, 7 March 2018 © Arturo Bandinelli
Professor Gurminder Bhambra at The Showroom, 7 March 2018 © Arturo Bandinelli

Curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose (The Showroom), with Michaela Crimmin (RCA), and Richard Martin and Luisa Ulyett (Tate), the following two events were titled ‘This Is No Longer That Place: A Public Discussion’ in a one-day symposium held at The Showroom, and a concluding event at Tate Britain. Speakers and audience were asked to address the extent to which art can affect change when addressing issues of migration, displacement, and access. What is the capacity of artists and arts institutions to intervene in the current geopolitical climate? Gurminder Bhambra, professor of postcolonial and decolonial studies at the University of Sussex, gave the opening keynote addressing the inter-related subjects of national sovereignty, immigration laws, empire, racism, and dispossession. The artists and curators who followed included Kathrin Böhm, who talked about the artist-run pro-Remain campaign ‘Keep it complex – make it clear!’; Austrian artist Oliver Ressler who described projects which challenge racism and power structures; and Peruvian, Barcelona-based artist Daniela Ortiz, who took issue with the violence of migration and integration politics. 

Exhibition (April – June 2021), touring to Spike Island, Bristol (2021)

Adam Khalil and Bayley Sweitzer, Empty Metal, 2018. Film still. Courtesy of the artists and Prone Pictures
Adam Khalil and Bayley Sweitzer, Empty Metal, 2018. Film still. Courtesy of the artists and Prone Pictures
Taking place at Gasworks, 1 October to 20 December 2020 (Preview 6.30-8.30pm 30 September), and then touring to Spike Island, Bristol, the first UK solo exhibition by Brooklyn-based filmmakers Adam Shingwak Khalil and Bayley Sweitzer. Acclaimed for their science-fiction political thrillers set against a backdrop of racialised police brutality and mass surveillance, their films combine camcorder footage and pro-shot video, digital animation and drone imaging. Multiple sources and formats are woven together into a kaleidoscopic experience that subverts traditional forms of storytelling by engaging with indigenous worldviews, queer energies and minoritarian politics. Curated by Sabel Gabaldon, Gasworks, in association with Michaela Crimmin, RCA. 

A free catalogue will be distributed at the time of the exhibition.  

Adam Shingwak Khalil is an artist and filmmaker from the Ojibway tribe born in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; and Bayley Sweitzer is a filmmaker from Southern Vermont. Recent screenings include the Museum of Modern Art, Anthology Film Archives, e-flux (New York); Walker Arts Center (Minneapolis); LACMA (Los Angeles) and Tate Modern (London). Their works have also featured at the Whitney Biennial, Toronto Biennial and Sundance Film Festival.

Online Platform (ongoing)

All the partners contribute to the 4Cs website, Instagram, and Facebook 

Events Handbook (2020)

A Handbook based on the 2019 Workshop events at The Showroom and Tate Britain outlined above will shortly be available online.

Film Programme (2021) 

Azar Mahmoudian is guest curating film screenings to take place in Spring 2021. These will be free and open to all attend, with the programme available in early 2021. 

4Cs’ Partners Meetings and Summer School (2020 and 2021) 

Taking place in Lisbon, the Summer School will bring together artists, scholars, curators, doctoral students and young researchers from all over the world. The aim is for this to act as an incubator for new cooperation projects.

Project Team (RCA)

Creative Direction (UK): Michaela Crimmin, Reader in Art and Conflict 
Project Management: Dr Peter Oakley, Reader in Material Culture
Administration: Emma Matthys
Finance: Sara Marsh


Project Outputs 

  • Papers given by Nina Power and Michaela Crimmin, RCA, at 2-day conference, Conviviality and the Institutional, Museum of Art Architecture and Technology and at Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisbon, 4-5 December 2017
  • Art book, Noor Abuarafeh, ‘Rumours Began Some Time Ago’, 2018: link here
  • 2-minute introduction to the Residency
  • Residency video
Videos of This Is No Longer That Place: A Public Discussion, 7 and 8 March 2019 at The Showroom and Tate Britain

4Cs Partners
4Cs Partners
Creative Europe programme
Creative Europe programme