Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Visualizing Violence

This was the title of a call for papers I received recently: Visualizing violence in francophone Africa.   More and more researchers are taking an interest in aesthetics surrounding conflict.  In particular, from cultures where art is not Art, but rather the richest contributions on the spectrum of drama, music, literature, visual space, etc... Topics include:
  • Cityscapes-- architecture and city planning post-conflict, especially to assert national or cohesive identity
  • Urban murals to counter criminal activity
  • Artists employing new technologies to combat post-colonial ideologies-- Do transient, mobile images transcend place and geographically-based descriptors, like African?
  • Verbal art in transitional areas
  • How does Human Rights manifest in literature, cinema, music, the internet?
  • Negotiated space for art itself, the new museum in Africa 
These topic choices for research come from cultures where art is not separated from life in the way it is where I grew up.  I came to know art as something which must be visited in a museum or purchased or created with special intent.  If you encounter it free from these confines, it is considered, in my culture, bohemian, exotic, rare.  Not every culture shares this narrow view of art.  But there seems to be reflection about the power art has in our lives, and perhaps power enough to be considered in the range of approaches to dissolving conflict and relieving suffering.

Take a look at this feature in Al Jazeera English where they provide regular space to discuss politics and social issues from an artist's perspective.

In discussions with Congolese colleagues, I have asked how art might destabilize the banality of violence in the east.  Could there be an aesthetic format which shatters the cycle and engages communities at the level of emotion?  The history of censorship for artists' perspective on the human experience suggests the breadth of their influence.  In a recent conversation, a friend shared her frustration with the blasphemy laws in Pakistan.  While possessing the skills of a lawyer and a human rights activist,  she decided to confront this issue with her writing, her creative invention, her most dangerous weapon. 

These contributions will not immediately yield solutions, and for that reason they are difficult for many who work in policy and conflict resolution to incorporate into a strategy.  The impact of art is not easily quantifiable or even named; however, this impact is perceptible, felt, experienced, and undeniable.

Beyond battling with logical, practical solutions, communities should develop and support artists who bring emotional energy to these crucial subjects.... visualizing violence could dismantle violence.

No comments:

Post a Comment