Responses to Contemporary Warfare

Chair: Haleh Anvari, Practising Artist and Journalist

 

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Alan Ingram, University College London

 Experimenting with Space: Visual Arts and the Iraq War in the UK

This paper examines how artists and art institutions in the UK responded to the most recent invasion and occupation of Iraq by engaging with questions of space, place, landscape, territory and home. Tracking between responses by artists from Britain and Iraq as well as across differences in experience, practice and perspective, it considers how spatial concerns form a common denominator in art works dealing with the war. In so doing, it argues for a conception of space that is more than container, backdrop or context or something that is to be represented, but as something that is active, a medium as well as ground and outcome, something that is both at stake and enacted through art. Examining art made in response to war in terms of spatiality, I argue, enriches conceptual and critical vocabularies for undertsanding the intersection between them. In developing these concerns, the paper considers art made by artists who have left Iraq at different times before and since 2003; by artists who were openly opposed to the war and who made work as part of protest against it; by soldiers and artists embedded with the British armed forces; and by contemporary artists who did not declare political positions with regard to the war but who sought to address it through various participatory projects and institutional interventions. Drawing on this analysis, the paper considers the role that art has played in broader social and political debates and struggles surrounding the war in the UK and how it might relate to the evolving relationships between the state, the military and society.

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Leonida Kovač, University of Zagreb, Academy of Fine Arts

Polyrhytmics and Migrating Voices

The paper analyzes recent multimedial work in progress, Polyrhythmics and Migrating Voices by Croatian artist Nicole Hewitt. The project that consists of experimental film, slide-projection, audio installation and set of live performances addresses the topic of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, but it does not deal with any particular war crime nor with any of the culprits or their victims. Instead, it focuses on “peripheralia” of the trials where the real protagonists are precarious workers, as well as the respectable employees of the Tribunal (court interpreters, analysts, victim support professionals, etc.) who twenty years ago were refugees from the war zones of the former Yugoslavia with the status of illegal or semi-legal immigrants in The Netherlands.  The project deals with all that which participates in the technologies of trial and its media transmission. The basic theme of the project is the relation between (im)possibility of verbalization or visualization of trauma and media production of reality, including the production of the intelligible social subjects with their pertaining identities. Polyrhythmics and Migrating Voices explores a position of living body in interspace of personal and official history; processes of becoming and existing within a language; migratory states excluded from the register of perceptibility, speakability and imaging, but yet existing in various registers of memory: at intersection of past and future, in the elusive present. In the process of articulation of this artistic project Hewitt appropriates forensic methods and by so doing she simultaneously unweaves the sediments of her own memory, as well as the structural layers of the images of the trials at The Hague for the war crimes committed in the territories of the former Yugoslavia – images generated by electronic media and digital technologies.

References

Agamben, Giorgio (1998), Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles (2005), Cinema 2. The Time-Image. London, New York: Continuum.

Felman, Shoshana (2002), The Juridical Unconscious. Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University Press.

Mulvey, Laura (2006), Death 24x a Second. Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion Books.

Nancy, Jean-Luc (2005), The Ground of the Image. New York: Fordham University Press.

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