Conflict and Culture: texto de Michaela Crimmin

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No dia 4 de Maio, o CECC e o Lisbon Consortium receberam Michaela Crimmin, curadora independente, que falou sobre os seus projectos relacionados com o ambiente e os conflitos mundiais. A palestra “Art in Uncertain Times” foi inserida no seminário Culture and Entrepreneurship, da responsabilidade da docente e investigadora Luísa Santos.

A este propósito, partilhamos aqui um excerto da introdução do livro Art and Conflict, que pode ler na íntegra aqui , onde encontra contributos de Jananne Al-Ani;  Bernadette Buckley (Goldsmiths, University of London);  Malu Halasa; Jemima Montagu (co-director, Culture+Conflict);  Sarah Rifky (Beirut, Cairo); Larissa Sansour; Charles Tripp (SOAS). E ainda um ensaio de  by Michaela Crimmin e Bernadette Buckley reflectindo sobre arte e conflito no Ensino Superior no Reino Unido.

INTRODUCTION: REFLECTIONS ON ART AND CONFLICT

Michaela Crimmin

Despite the plethora of peacekeeping efforts, this year has provided a sharp reminder that conflict is a depressingly and disturbingly ongoing feature of the human condition. The year that commemorates the centenary of the beginning of World War I will also be marked in history for the conflagration in Syria; killings in and the uncertain future of Afghanistan and Iraq; conflicts in the Central African Republic and South Sudan; the ongoing underlying animosities in Northern Ireland and the Balkans; Russia and Ukraine; the drone attacks in Waziristan; the Israel/Palestine conflict; the continuing presence of al-Qaida, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, Islamic State (ISIS) and too much more. Also to consider is the enormous military spend by the United States, and to a lesser but significant degree by other countries including the UK, China and Saudi Arabia. This is, as António Guterres says, ‘a world where peace is dangerously in deficit’. This statement appears in a new report that has just announced that forced displacement has gone beyond 50 million people for the first time since World War II .1

Saturated by the spectacle of war fed to us daily in the media, appalled by the politicians who often so outrageously ratchet up xenophobia or civic antagonisms, disappointed by the failure of the ‘Special Envoys’ to resolve differences across belief systems, anaesthetised by our seemingly individual impotence, and side-tracked by the daily exigencies of our own lives, it is all too easy to duck an interrogation of why, in the 21st century, there are so many people kept busy as the proponents, the victims and the profiteers of war. Stanley Cohen reasoned that it was our lack of empathy and remarkable ability to turn a blind eye.2 Others say it is the profound ignorance of history. Others again blame an overcrowded planet with limited resources.

And what of the responses? In this case, specifically with respect to those from the arts sector who are engaged with this difficult subject.

There are artists living in the everyday of war; artists who are part of a resistance movement and who use their art to challenge the dominance of despots; artists who join the peace movement; artists who have provocations and questions; artists who make observations or offer reflections; artists dealing with the trauma of war; artists rewriting histories; those who use art as propaganda; those who use art to bring people together. There are artists who are optimistic in their outlook, and others who are disaffected by the state of the world—‘I am deceived by the past, tormented by the present, scared by the future’ 3—yet in either case make work that has powerful agency with the intent of provoking a response.

Artists who have received attention for addressing conflict in their work include Gustav Metzger; Lara Baladi; Wafaa Bilal; Willie Doherty; Omer Fast; Mona Hatoum; Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen; Dinh Q. Lê; Richard Mosse; Rabih Mroué; Imran Qureshi; Michael Rakowitz; Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin; Francis Alÿs; Eugenie Dolberg; Walid Raad; George Barber; Shirin Neshat; Mahmoud Khaled; Krzysztof Wodiczko; Regina José Galindo; Eyal Weizman; Khaled Hourani; Raphael Chikukwa; Emily Jacir; Rosalind Nashashibi; and, Tony Chakar, amongst many more.

Artists can be wary of labels, or being classified within a particular genre or subject area, and this is certainly the case with respect to the subject of conflict. So, for example, in Wael Shawky’s Cabaret Crusades, a three-part video series telling the history of the Christian campaigns from an Arab perspective, the artist offers profoundly fresh insights into a narrative and a history that those in the West have received from an entirely different viewpoint. These films, both delightful and terrifying in equal measure, are shockingly relevant now; they say much about war, but so much else besides. Or again, there is the phenomenal enterprise and determination of Rahraw Omarzad who set up the only centre for contemporary art in Afghanistan, offering courses, workshops and a place to work for young artists, but whose work is not defined or contained by the tensions of the Afghan situation. These are just two cases of the many initiatives that are taking place across the world both because of, and despite, conflict.4

However we try to define—or not define—the connections between art and conflict, destruction and war, the insights of artists are too interesting and too important to be denied more airing and debate than they presently receive. Attention when it does come is invariably piecemeal, and in the case ofthe visual arts it is largely corralled within its own sector. In the United Kingdom, apart from the Imperial War Museum, whose contemporary art programme is long running, there are one-off exhibitions, PhD students delving into a particular practice, and artists focusing on a particular context, but there is scant exchange between the different activities.

in Art and Conflict
 
Edited by Michaela Crimmin and Elizabeth Stanton
Design by Tom Merrell 
 
Published by Royal College of Art, London, 2014, with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
 
The Art and Conflict research inquiry was realised as a partnership with Index on Censorship, with additional support from the British Council, Culture+Conflict, the University of Manchester, and Goldsmiths, University of London.
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