Mi Gradimo Prugu, Pruga Gradi Nas’ (We Build the Tracks, the Tracks Build Us)

Friday 1 November saw the opening of our 6th exhibition in collaboration with the Historijski Muzej (Historical Museum) of Bosnia and Hercegovina in Sarajevo. This exchibition, ‘Mi Gradimo Prugu, Pruga Gradi Nas’ (We Build the Tracks, the Tracks Build Us) is the second in the series for the ongoing ‘Living Museum‘ project, which began in February 2019.  The project is a collaboration between the Muzej, King’s College London and University of the Arts London, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council/Global Challenges Research Fund as a follow-on from Art and Reconciliation.  It seeks to excavate, curate and open new conversations about Yugoslav history through the Museum’s extensive collection of socialist art.

The opening was a tremendous success, with very many people attending and even made the front page of Oslobojenje!  It showcased the work of four students from the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, Esnar Hadžić, Faras Ramadanović, Stefan Savić and Marina Krsmanović, together with work by artist-in-residence, Milena Michalski, ‘In a different light’.

The students’ work was in response to the art collection held by the Museum, some of which is currently exhibited in the ‘Living Museum’, together with  artworks commissioned in response to it, in the exhibition ‘Savrameni Kontekski: Oslikavanje Socijalističkih Slika (Contemporary Contexts: Reimagining Socialist Images) by Dženan Hadžhasanović, Smirna Kulenović, Milena Michalski, Andrea Mirnić and Meliha Teparić (more details to follow!).

Visit the Museum’s facebook page for more photos and info: https://www.facebook.com/histmuzbih/

 

 

VEM+ Exploring Exclusions

The VEM network based within the Faculty of Social Sciences & Public Policy aims to create spaces of knowledge-exchange and research excellence around visual, embodied and art-based methodologies within, across and beyond Social Sciences. The network was founded by Drs Negar Elodie Behzadi and Jelke Boesten, both in the Department of International Development at King’s College London. It expanded over the summer to include other scholars in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Public Policy at King’s.

Rachel Kerr and Henry Redwood were part of the VEM’s first major project, VEM+, where collaborating artists were invited to take up residency at King’s for 2 weeks in July 2019 in Somerset House studios, working directly with researchers.

Henry Redwood worked with Belgrade-based artist Vladimir Miladinović on the project //Undiscernible//. 

//Undiscernible// builds on a two year collaboration, which began with Art and Reconciliation when Vladimir was one of the artists commissioned by the Historical Museum. It explores how aesthetic approaches to the legacies of war might open up new modes of engagement with, and ways of imagining transitions to, peace.

Henry and Vladimir focus on a series of intercepted cables linked to the case at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia against General Ratko Mladic. About a third of the intercepted cables are described in the documents as ‘undiscernible’. This leads to questions both about the nature of this ‘proof’ and the question of the role that this proof plays in contemporary society.

The project draws inspiration from Vladimir’s use of ink-wash drawings based on archival material relating to the war in the former Yugoslavia, to ask difficult questions about how particular knowledges of (past and present) violence are produced, and what this means for how societies reconstitute themselves after violence.

H&V-40
Photograph by Lyanne Wylde

The results of the collaborations are currently being shown in The Exchange space in Bush House (until 7 November).

Exhibition: Exploring Exclusions

1 October  to 7 November 2019

This exhibition presents the work of four artist/researchers collaborations (below) on questions of exclusion, stigmatisation, marginalisation, conflict and violence at the School of Social Science and Public Policy (SSPP).

Find out more here.

Art and Conflict Panel hosted by LSE Festival

Saturday 02 March 2019 12:45pm to 2:00pm
Hosted by LSE Festival: New World (Dis)Orders

Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building

The panellists will discuss the role of art and visual representation in response to conflict and dealing with its consequences.

Text Illuminations is an art installation by artist Nela Milic of the University of the Arts London (UAL) produced through inter-disciplinary collaboration with political scientists Dr Denisa Kostovicova, Dr Ivor Sokolic and Tom Paskhalis of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

This artwork is an interactive representation of a search for the meaning of reconciliation after mass atrocity through debates including people from all ethnic groups involved in a decade of conflicts in the Balkans. The artist and the political scientists join together to discuss the process of interdisciplinary collaboration to convert quantitative text analysis into art. The exhibition is part of a major AHRC-funded project, ‘Art & Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community’, led by King’s in collaboration with the University of the Arts London and the London School of Economics.

The work will be contextualised in relation to the early findings of a DFID-funded project, the Conflict Research Programme, led by LSE, which explores conflict in relation to notions of identity, civicness and the political marketplace. Contemporary conflicts often combine attacks on civil society, culture and cultural heritage. The panel will also explore how, in responding to this civicness, art and the defence of cultural heritage can come together.

Denisa Kostovicova is an Associate Professor in Global Politics at the European Institute and the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She studies post-conflict reconstruction and transitional justice with a particular interest in the bottom-up perspective on transitions from war to peace.

Nela Milic is an artist and an academic working in media and arts, and is Senior Lecturer and Year 2 Contextual and Theoretical Studies Coordinator in the Design School at London College of Communication.

Tom Paskhalis is a PhD candidate at the Department of Methodology, LSE. His research is focussed on comparative politics and the development and application of new approaches to quantitative text analysis.

Dr Ivor Sokolić is a Research Officer at the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He works on the ERC funded project “Justice Interactions and Peacebuilding: From Static to Dynamic Discourses across National, Ethnic, Gender and Age Groups”.

Denisa Kostovicova, Ivor Sokolic, Tom Paskhalis and Nela Milic discuss the process of interdisciplinary collaboration, which turned a political science method into an art installation in their blog piece Text Illuminations: From the Method to the Artefact.

Henry Radice is a Reseach Fellow in the Department of International Development, LSE.

Twitter hashtags for this event: #LSEFestival #NewWorldDisorders

This event is part of the LSE Festival: New World (Dis)Orders running from Monday 25 February to Saturday 2 March 2019, with a series of events exploring how social science can tackle global problems.

Book your ticket here.

Reconciliation as Activity: Constraints and Possibilities

Ivor Sokolić and Denisa Kostovicova, London School of Economics and Political Science

Reconciliation is proving to be a problematic concept for both practitioners and academics: it is laden with normative expectations and is often rejected by local publics. Ivor Sokolic and Denisa Kostovicova report on the exchange with civil society in Kosovo on reconciliation as activity. Participants shared their experiences of how interethnic contact between individuals through a variety of activities often had unintended positive outcomes for intergroup relations.

On 05 March 2018 the London School of Economics and Political Science, as a part of the ‘Art and Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community’ project (artreconciliation.org), held a collaborative workshop in Prishtina titled “Activity as Reconciliation: Lessons from Practice”. The event was organised together with our local partner in Kosovo, the Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication (CRDP), who work on, and research, themes of peace, justice and truth in Kosovo. There was considerable overlap with the CRDP’s work on human security and reconciliation and our own, which made for a natural partnership for the workshop organisation. The workshop was attended by representatives of local and international civil society organisations who conduct a range of activities within communities and across ethnic lines. Some dealt directly with reconciliation issues (for example, efforts in coming to terms with the past), but many did not (for example, youth dialogue programmes).

The workshop dealt with one of the key research questions behind the AHRC-funded project, ‘Art and Reconciliation’: how to reconceptualise reconciliation? Our partner’s findings on reconciliation show the importance of this question in the post-conflict context in Kosovo. They find that projects under the label of reconciliation were initiated too early, are simultaneously both unclear and too ambitious, and favour one side of the conflict (the full results can be found here). This has often resulted – mirroring experiences in other post-conflict contexts – in the rejection of the concept on normative grounds. The biggest challenge, then, is how to reconcile this rejection with the necessity, as well as the desire expressed by many who themselves have suffered from violence, to work on social repair for the sake of peace.

The workshop addressed this conundrum by reframing reconciliation as activity. The premise here is to focus on activities that, sometimes labelled as reconciliatory and sometimes not, lead to better relations between groups. Underpinning this was the idea that activities that involve contact between different groups – be it physical or symbolic (such as interaction with outgroup symbols), intentional or unintentional – can lead to positive outcomes for intergroup relations. Many of these activities are missed in traditional appraisals of reconciliation, which are loaded with specific expectations of what the process and outcomes ought to look like. This focus on activity, then, helps to reconceptualise and critique reconciliation. Together with civil society organisations, we shared experiences of what types of activity can aid reconciliation and what is it about these types of activity that make them conducive to transforming interethnic relationships. We questioned if this concept was useful, and if not, what concept would be more useful from a practice-oriented point of view?

Representatives of civil society exhibited a readiness to acknowledge the problems associated with the normative load of reconciliation, which had become an impediment to the work they were undertaking. Some felt trapped, since they needed to adhere to labels to attain funding, but these labels hampered their work. Organisations experienced hostility towards their work, if they labelled it as reconciliatory. At the same time, numerous examples were provided of activities they had undertaken that had positive outcomes on intergroup relations, but which did not fall under the label of reconciliation. Participants also noted a number of macro and micro factors that inhibited these types of activities from taking place. Three key themes, with clear policy implications, underpinned the discussions on the day.

Structural barriers to activity

First, the structural dimension of activities that can aid, or hinder, reconciliation was highlighted. On the macro level, dynamics between the global and the local; donors and civil society organisations; and civil society and the state, all defined the structural framework within which organisations operated, and by which they were often constrained. The ghettoisation of minorities, segregated educational systems and regional divergence in state capacity within Kosovo made it easier for organisations to conduct activities between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs from Serbia, rather than with Kosovo Serbs. These macro level differences also fed into other issues. Differences in education provisions meant participants noted that the language barrier between Serbs and Albanians, who do not speak each others’ language, which is often seen as an intrinsic barrier to cooperation, could be overcome through the shared understanding of English. This was, however, found to disadvantage Kosovan Serbs who lacked sufficient English skills to communicate with Albanians. An inability to communicate within Kosovo thus forecloses opportunities for reconciliation even when reframed as activity.

Generational focus of activity

The generational dimension, with an emphasis on youth and the transgenerational dimension of reconciliation, was the second key theme underpinning discussions. Many civil society organisations targeted their work at young people and saw positive outcomes between groups. These organisations defined success in their work as educating young people about opportunities to travel, to converse with other groups and, sometimes, as enabling such travel and exchanges. They believed these activities provided participants with new information that questioned dominant narratives about the conflict, as well as an invaluable opportunity to meet members of the other ethnic group. These situations did not involve discussions about politics, society or violence at first, but through socialisation outside of the core activities of travel or exchanges (for example, over drinks) and in the pursuit of common interests (for example, interests in the arts or music), these conversations began to occur. They “talked about the war incognito”. This finding contradicts the commonly assumed premise that the divergent, ethnically-centred, representations of conflict are an obstacle to discussions about the most delicate issues concerning the conflict. In this respect, activities that are not primarily addressed at reconciliation, through challenging dominant narratives about the conflict, facilitate exchange on the most challenging issues dividing Serbs and Albanians.

Formal resistance to reconciliation

Much of the activity with positive intergroup outcomes that organisations had undertaken occurs in the informal domain, which emerged as the third key theme of the day, but these processes meet resistance from formal institutions and societal norms. Informality, across all levels of society, was seen as a space where friendships were created. The informal spaces at the margins of reconciliation efforts contained some of the most meaningful interactions between groups. They were spaces where constraints surrounding interaction across ethnic lines disappeared. Civil society organisations believed there was a readiness to reconcile, observed through informal activities that resulted in restoration of torn relations between members of the two communities. This trend was also documented in the LSE-based research (available here), that found that Albanians’ and Serbs’ participation in Kosovo’s informal economy that cuts across ethnic lines leads to creation of friendships, and was reflected in the above-mentioned study by the CRDP (available here). The positive will to change was, however, obstructed by societally defined boundaries that formal institutions reproduce. Organisations cited examples of cultural programmes, exchanges or interethnic sports events that were literally halted by politics. They also highlighted the reproduction of ethnic division through textbooks, nationalist political rhetoric and the political instrumentalisation of minorities. The effect was that individuals often made friends with members of the other ethnicity in the informal setting or away from their home or in spaces where they would not be exposed to public scrutiny, only for these interactions to be sanctioned by their own ethnic communities.

Summary

Overall, the workshop provided a forum for dialogue based on evidence deriving from academic research and experience from practice focused on reconceptualising reconciliation as activity. This recognised the paradox of people’s desire and need for normalisation of relations, dignity and reckoning with the legacy of conflict and the hostility towards the concept of reconciliation. The resulting outputs will be both academic publications (including a journal special issue edited by I. Sokolić) and a policy brief for local and international policy makers. The policy suggestions will focus on the roles of education, youth and cultural activities. Improved English language teaching across ethnic lines can provide a lingua franca for future generations. Youth exchange projects will be recommended since they are cost-effective and not typically labelled as reconciliatory. Furthermore, activities in the cultural sphere, such as the arts, will be highlighted due to their potential to help younger generations from different ethnic groups meet each other and bond over shared interests.

 

Reconciling Experience – Dance

On Wednesday 21 November, The Exchange held its first immersive dance performance, as part of the Reconciliations Exhibition.

The piece, choreographed by Roman Baca, former US Marine and current Fullbright Scholar at Trinity Laban, explored how training for war impacts the mind, body and psyche of an individual.

The space was transformed into a partially lit zone of exploration with the dancers weaving through the audience, and the artwork.  Members of the audience were invited to participate, donning arm bands, flash lights and responding to written instructions giving them a personal experience of the power of ritual, sacrifice, and military training.

Roman’s work demonstrates his own process of reconciliation as a trained dancer, then US Marine, and now as a choreographer working with material that explores the possibility of reconciliation for veterans, as they transition back into civilian life.

“I found this dance performance profoundly moving. Being a part of the movement helped me to experience the message of the dance on every level, intellectually, sensually and emotionally. This was a first for me. I found the content thought provoking and beautiful and it has stayed with me for the last few days. King’s challenges perceptions and takes risks and that is always exciting and rewarding.” Amanda Faber, Producer.

“the need for more integration of our research with art … is something we desperately need to do more of, because it not only allows to reach a population we don’t normally reach from the ivory tower, but also the communicative means to allow for true exchange with those from other backgrounds, transcending the boundaries of our identities.” Stefan Schilling, PhD Candidate, School of Security Studies

After the performance a panel with Roman, Stefan Schilling (School of Security Studies) and Melissa Abecassis (former co-director EcoME Centre for Peace and Sustainability in the West bank) discussed how dance can add to research, study and dialogues around reconciliation.

This event is one example of how SSPP’s Exchange space seeks to pioneer creative activities based on academic research within the Faculty.

The event is part of our current exhibition, Reconciliations, running in parallel at the Exchange, Bush House, King’s College London from 1 November-16 December 2018, and at the Knapp Gallery, Regent’s University London, from 1 November 2018-19 January 2019.

There will be another, different, dance performance by Touchdown Dance Co. as part of the Art and Reconcliation Symposium on Friday 30 November.  Details here.

By Jayne Peake

Continue reading “Reconciling Experience – Dance”

Artist in Residence, Milena Michalski’s work selected for ING Discerning Eye Exhibition

We’re delighted to announce that Artist in Residence, Dr Milena Michalski’s work, Harmonics & Functions, was selected for the 2018 ING Discerning Eye exhibition, which opened at the Mall Gallery on 15 November 2018 and runs until 25 November 2018.

http://www.discerningeye.org/exhibition/intro.php

War Requiem – English National Opera

On Thursday 22 November, Artist-in-Residence, Dr Milena Michalski, joined a panel at the English National Opera for a pre-performance discussion of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.  In War Requiem, Benjamin Britten juxtaposes – or reconciles –  the anti-war poetry of Wilfred Owen and the timeless ritual of the Latin Requiem Mass.

The discussion was hosted by journalist Alexandra Coghlan, with ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins, Dr Milena Michalski, and ENO Staff Director Elaine Tyler-Hall.

Pre-performance talks 2018/19

Introduction to Britten’s War Requiem

Reconciliations Exhibition Opening 1 November 2018

Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate the opening of our exhibition, Reconcilations, at The Exchange, Bush House, King’s College London on 1 November 2018, and at the Knapp Gallery, Regent’s University London on 2 November 2018.

We had two wonderful evenings celebrating and discussing the work of all of the wonderful artists whose work is included in the exhibition, including Vladimir Miladinovic who managed to navigate the dreaded visa regime and come from Belgrade to help us install his beautiful series of ink drawings, Memoria Bosniaca, and Dejan Kaludjerovic, who designed a special display about his work, Marbles, for us to exhibit in London.  We look forward to being able to exhibit the whole installation in Sarajevo in Reconciliations II later this year. We also saw Mladen Miljanovic’s rocket launcher in operation watering the gardens in Regent’s Quad!

Artists whose work is exhibited at the Knapp Gallery also joined us last night for a fascinating and insightful discussion about reconciliation and the artistic process.  We heard from Lola Frost, Pam Skelton, Naresh Kaushai and Gunther Herbst and Emma Elliott about how they navigate contradictions and contestations in their work, and how the reconciliation of paradoxical and seemingly mutually exclusive positions could be managed but not, crucially, necessarily resolved.

We look forward to hosting some of the other featured artists from Bosnia and Hercegovina – Lana Cmajcanin and Adela Jusic (Bedtime Stories), Ziyah Gafic (The Rope), Mladen Miljanovic (MWRL) and Melos Gashi (The Tapes) later this month, and to hearing them discuss their work at the Symposium, together with partners from the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Hercegovina, Stacion – Institute for Contemporary Arts in Prishtina and the Post-Conflict Research Center, Sarajevo, who were instrumental in the commissioning of the work.

New logo: Art and Reconciliation

We are very grateful to artist and undergraduate student in War Studies, Aryan Salazar-Volkmann, for designing a new logo for the project.  Ari was recently awarded an King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship to work with us on the Art and Reconciliation project over the summer.

“My name is Aryan Salazar Volkmann, I am currently studying International Relations at King’s College London. I grew up in Guatemala, Vietnam, Iran, Colombia, New York and El Salvador. My interest in both Art and Human Rights began in Iran; a country rich in culture and history – yet sadly also plagued by human right violations. My relationship to Art was built on rebellion there; we had friends who were artists and musicians that used their craft as political tools to express their dissent of the situation of their country. Colombia, similarly, had its own battles to pick – at the time it was still in a state of civil war. I visited many exhibitions and worked alongside various artists – and again I noticed a trend in the community using art as a language of criticism, of community and of unity.  In New York I built on my experience in the development and justice sectors, whilst separately engaging in my own artwork. The two came together when I helped organise a painting exhibition orchestrated by ECPAT, aimed to raise funding for their cause. Nevertheless, El Salvador has been the first country in which I have witnessed art being harnessed as a legitimate tool within an institution I worked for: the World Food Program. It had launched a pilot project called ConectArte aimed at at-risk youth in areas of high violence.

It is only when I came to London however, that I began to see the possibility for an active academic commitment in between spheres dedicated to development, transitional justice, equity and reconciliation and the Arts. This is largely through my experiences with the Arts and Conflict Hub; and now, the Arts and Reconciliation collaborative project. I will be researching, transcribing data and documenting various cross-cultural country and institution-based case studies: my areas of focus are El Salvador, Guatemala, Turkey, Croatia and Vienna.”
You can read more about Ari’s inspiration for the design and her work on the project on her blog.

Gender and Discourses of Reconciliation at BISA

Denisa Kostovicova (Department of Government, London School of Economics) and Tom Paskhalis (Department of Methodology, London School of Economics), who is an LSE-based research assistant with the the AHRC-funded project, ‘Art & Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community,’ presented the initial findings of their research investigating  women’s contribution to reconciliation at the British International Studies Association (BISA) Annual Conference 2017 – 14-16th June 2017 – Brighton, Sussex, UK, contributing to BISA’s Critical Peace & Conflict Studies: Feminist Interventions.

Women Deliberators and Transitional Justice: What Kind of Voice?

The recent turn in the scholarship of transitional justice that studies how states and societies engage with the legacy of mass atrocity has been to investigate the women’s perspective on post-conflict justice. This welcome development in the field is part of an effort to investigate a paradox: transitional justice measures do not necessarily deliver either justice or reconciliation, which are their key aims, and, by contrast, often entrench injustice. The gender perspective has shone the light on blind spots in this scholarship that result in highly gendered masculinized versions of post-conflict justice. This paper furthers the study of women’s voice in post-conflict justice processes. It brings together the scholarship of transitional justice and the theory of deliberative democracy. Scholars of deliberative democracy have also highlighted inequalities in women’s participation in deliberation, concerning both the conditions for deliberation and the frequency of women’s contributions. This research tests and critiques the scholarly proposition of (in)visible women in the deliberation of transitional justice. It argues that more can be gleaned about women’s contribution to transitional justice from the analysis of the kind of voice women have and its implications for post-conflict rehabilitation. Is their contribution self-interested? Do they reach more across ethnic divides than men? Are their contributions more reconciliatory? The evidence is drawn from a comparative quantitative analysis of 1,211 statements of contributors during the deliberation of transitional justice in the Balkans.