News

Artist’s talk: Art and Reconciliation; A Conversation, 7th Nov, 2018

Artist in Residence, Dr Milena Michalski, In Conversation with artists on the theme of reconciliation and art at The Exchange, Kings College Strand Campus, 18.30-20.00pm.

In connection with the ‘Reconciliations’ exhibitions, and bringing together some of the artists showing there with other artists whose work deals with reconciliation in the broadest sense, this public discussion reflects on a wide range of reconciliations – or not – including between art and atrocity, both past and present; the artist’s internal conflict during the making of work; between art and politics, art and psychology and between elements such as abstraction and documentation.  For further info and to register.

Talk: Forensic Aesthetics, 31st October

Wed 31st October, 14-16pm,  London College of Communication,Elephant & Castle, London

Artist Vladimir Miladinović will discuss his work from the project Rendered History, which deals with wartime and post-war trauma of the former Yugoslav societies.  In addition Dr Paul Lowe will present his paper: Traces of Traces: Time, space, objects and the forensic turn in photography.

For more info see here

Art & Reconciliation: Final Exhibition and Symposium – Save the date!

To mark the end of Art & Reconciliation: Culture, Conflict and Community, between from 1 November – 1 December 2018 we will be showcasing the artwork commissioned by the project in the Exchange Space at King’s College London. Alongside this, from 29 November – 1 December we will be holding a symposium where project participants, artists, practitioners and academics will explore the key themes of the project: What is reconciliation? What practices constitute spaces of reconciliation? What do the arts have to offer in post-conflict settings? How are we to measure the effectiveness of reconciliation interventions? To capture the eclectic and interdisciplinary nature of the project, the presentations will take on a variety of forms, from arts practice and contact improvisation workshops, keynotes, panels, exhibition walk throughs, and film screenings.

Key dates to note:

Exhibition: Reconciliations

1 November – 1 December 2018 , The Exchange, Bush House, King’s College London

Opening event: Thursday 1 November 2018

Symposium: Art and Reconciliation

Thursday 29 November – Saturday 1 December 2018, King’s College London, Strand Campus

Keynotes: Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marcus Ferrar, Chair, Dresden Trust

Policy Brief: Reconciliation as Activity – Possibilities for Action

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. This policy brief (Reconciliation as Activity Policy Brief), based on a workshop with NGOs in Pristina, addressed this problem by reframing reconciliation as activity. It recommends further investment in English language teaching to improve communication between groups; a greater focus on younger generations; and, an appreciation of the importance of the informal domain in reconciliation.

After the Hague Tribunal: prospects for justice and reconciliation in the Balkans

Hosted by the Department of Government at LSE, on 3 May 2018 leading scholars on the Western Balkans met at LSE to discuss the prospects for justice and reconciliation for the region, contested meanings of reconciliation and how the processes of reconciliation can be measured and evaluated. An event podcast can be found here.

Participants included: James Gow (KCL); Denisa Kostovicova (LSE); Jelena Petrović (KCL);  Jasna Dragović-Soso (Goldsmiths);  Eric Gordy (UCL) and Jelena Subotić (Georgia State University).

Paul Coldwell writes on REconciliations

This is a blog post by Professor Paul Coldwell, written about the REconciliations exhibition, History Museum of BiH, June 29th 2018

I was delighted to be invited to show in the exhibition ReConciliation , curated by Dr Paul Lowe and Elma Hasimbegovic as part of the AHRC Art & Reconciliation project. The exhibition ReConciliation provided me with a unique opportunity to show work that I made twenty years ago, before ever visiting Sarajevo, alongside new work made as a resulting of visiting in January 2018 and conducting research within the History Museum.

Abandoned Landscape installed, REconciliations exhibition, History Museum of BiH

The earlier work had been made in response to Martin Bell’s BBC radio broadcast of April 1996 in which he signed off as BBC War Correspondent and reflected on the tragedy of the Bosnia war. I made two pieces of work; the first an artist’s book With the Melting of the Snows in which, through three visual chapters of computer manipulated photographs, I attempted to imagine the Siege of Sarajevo and make visual equivalents to Bell’s text. The second piece was a large installation of bronze objects Abandoned Landscape in which I tried to suggest objects left behind in flight, as if suddenly discarded. Whilst twenty years ago it was Bell’s broadcast that got through my defences and impelled me to respond, the new work I have made takes its key from research in Sarajevo in January as part of the Art & Reconciliation project.

I was immediately drawn to a sweater belonging to Nermin Divović a seven-year-old child who was tragically shot by a sniper 100yards from the museum. His sweater, donated by his family is displayed alongside some photographs of him playing wearing the same sweater, as part of an exhibition remembering the siege.

A Life Measured: Seven Sweaters for Nermin Divović installed at REconciliations exhibition, History Museum of BiH

I have attempted to memorialise this short life, by commissioning seven duplicate sweaters, one for each year of his life, the first a tiny sweater for 0-1-year-old, through to one to fit a 6-7-year-old. I was really grateful to Anne Jones, a friend and curator at the Arts Council who helped me find a knitter. The sweaters were eventually hand knitted for me by Carol McDavid, a lady living in rural Wales (UK) to whom I sent drawings and photographs for her to work from. The sweaters entitled A Life Measured: Seven Sweaters for Nermin Divović are presented in a line as if recording a life which has been cut short.

Another piece, Three Bottle for Sarajevo (for Edin Numankadic) takes its origins from the importance of plastic water containers to collect water in the siege and references a joke told to me by the artist Edin Numankadic’s that a man was crossing Sniper’s Alley with plastic bottles to collect water when a sniper shot his bottles, so the water poured out. The man screamed at the sniper, ‘don’t shoot the bottles, shoot me!’ Here in the black recesses of humour, lies a sad truth that without water you would be dead anyway.

For me it is very poignant to show all these works in the context of Sarajevo and the Museum and its collection. My piece A Life Measured: Seven Sweaters for Nermin Divović is shown alongside the original sweater and sets up a dialogue between the authentic object and the imaginative space in which art functions. Furthermore, a hundred yards from the museum is a memorial stone commerating Nermin’s death so in this context I hope that my memorial of woollen sweaters suggests another way of remembering. In my case it is remembering through the actions of knitting with their associations with love, warmth and nurture.

There are always surprises when showing work. One that I appreciated was how, when viewing Abandoned Landscape on the floor in the gallery, the viewer can glimpse through the windows to see the remains of WW1 I tanks in the garden of the museum which seem to add a degree of menace to my everyday discarded objects such as bottles, children’s toys and picture frames that make up my installation

In terms of reconciliation, I believe that art has a powerful role to play in presenting images onto which ideas and feeling can be attached. Art is vital in supporting empathy, the capacity to see another’s point of view and without empathy, I believe reconciliation is probably impossible. Art provides a portal through which to view the world and as an overall exhibition I think it certainly offers that to the viewer. Reconciliation is a process and my hope is that in some small way, my work and that of my fellow contributors will provide means to help think about the immediate past and make a small contribution as to how we might imagine the future.

Paul Coldwell

After the Hague Tribunal: Prospects for Justice and Reconciliation in the Balkans

 

Nora Biette-Timmons reflects on the public lecture ‘After the Hague Tribunal: prospects for justice and reconciliation in the Balkans’, which took place on Thursday 3 May 2018. The event was organised by the Conflict Research Group, which is based within the LSE Department of Government, and the Arts and Reconciliation research project.


Last November, in a courtroom in The Hague, former Bosnian Croat general Slobodan Praljak downed a vial of poison upon hearing that the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTY) had upheld his 20-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity and Geneva Conventions violations. The story, which made international news, was historic for many reasons, not least its shocking conclusion. The ruling in Praljak’s appeal also marked one of the final decisions of the Hague Tribunal’s nearly 25-year run.

The ICTY wrapped up proceedings in December, and now regional observers are treading water, waiting to see what comes next. A panel of experts convened at LSE earlier this month to discuss the tribunal’s mixed legacy, and what challenges the former Yugoslav countries face in its aftermath.

Though the Balkans conflict broke out more than three decades ago, one of the primary issues plaguing its aftermath is a problem all too familiar in 2018: “alternative facts” and a fundamental disagreement on what exactly happened.

The ICTY was supposed to aide this process of agreeing upon the historic record. According to panelist Eric Gordy, Professor of Political and Cultural Sociology in the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London, the point of the court was “to use the process of presentation and discussion and contestation and presentation of evidence to establish facts.” However, the tribunal’s narrow scope, the general public’s relative indifference to its proceedings, and national governments’ criticisms of its rulings exacerbated the court’s already-limited ability to cultivate a widely accepted set of facts.

As Jelena Subotic, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Georgia State University, put it, the court’s jurisdiction was hyper specific: It was “prosecuting a very small subset of individuals in what were mass crimes done by groups against groups,” she said. The cases it tried were “not about what happened in Bosnia… Rather, they were about what happened in this particular village in Bosnia in 1993.”

Despite this, James Gow, Professor of International Peace and Security in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, noted that the ICTY was important in giving at least victims a platform to tell their stories and be recognized by the international community.

Perhaps because of that specificity, the tribunal’s mission and the legacy of the war appear to be less relevant to the region’s nation groups today. “The situation is worse now than it was 15 to 20 years ago,” said Jasna Dragovic-Soso, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Goldsmiths University of London. “At the end of the tribunal’s existence, fewer people state that they know the tribunal’s purpose or about the crimes [it tried], even if crimes were committed against their nation group.” In addition, like much of the West, the Balkan region is facing a resurgence of nationalism. The consequence, Dragovic-Soso said, has been a rise in “crimes that suggest nostalgia” and ignore the horrific results of nationalist crime in the 1990s.

And rather than facilitating any sort of resolution, the tribunal’s rulings — even in these discrete cases — often prompted national groups to double down on the innocence of their countrymen.

Croatian reaction to Praljak’s sentence and subsequent suicide reflected this intractability. In a press conference a few hours after the incident, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said Praljak’s act was caused by the “deep moral injustice” exercised against Croatian nationals convicted in the ICTY. Plenkovic condemned the court’s broader legal legacy, characterising its failure to establish “the responsibility of Serbia’s leadership for involvement in a joint criminal enterprise” as “absurd.”

Beyond the ICTY, these nationalist reactions frustrate a need for what Subotic calls societal responsibility. “The state can provide official apologies and reparations,” she said, but permanently changing the minds of nation groups has proved to be a more difficult task.

“Why is it so hard to admit that crimes were done by your group to another group? Why does that minimise your group’s suffering?,” Subotic asked. “Why is it so difficult to acknowledge and provide some kind of redress for horrific crimes that were done with your tax money?”

Subotic’s “dream” example of societal responsibility would resemble the “Berlin millennials who go to publicly available archives to see who lived in their apartments previously. They want to mark who lived in the apartment and where they were taken. That is societal responsibility.”

Such developments would first require an archive, and establishing one is of great importance for many in the region.

Some of the panelists, including Dragovic-Soso, are hopeful that the establishment of an ICTY archive could at least partially resolve the issues — blame-shifting and indifference — presented by the lack of a coherent historic record in the region. Among the information included would be “numbers and names of people killed; the circumstances of their deaths; [information on] detention centers and where they were located.”

Of course, Dragovic-Soso noted, a tribunal archive would deal only with those cases that were adjudicated within its legal boundaries and wouldn’t contain the experience of victims, just those convicted or acquitted.

Like many violent episodes that played out against the backdrop of the post-World War II international order, NGOs and international governmental organisations have been deeply involved in shaping the justice and reconciliation process, and come July, London will host the fifth meeting of the Berlin Process,where dealing with the ICTY’s legacy issues will be on the agenda.

A quarter century on, though, a further issue confounds such meetings. As Jelena Petrovic, Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, asked her fellow panelists, “To what extent are we keeping the conflict alive by deciding externally what needs to be done?”.

Image credit: Paul Lowe


  Nora Biette-Timmons is a journalist and a masters student in Comparative Politics in the Department of Government at LSE. You can find her on Twitter: @biettetimmons.

Art&Reconciliation: Final Exhibition and Symposium

To round off Art & Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community, an AHRC funded project between King’s College London, LSE and UAL, we are holding a final exhibition and symposium to show case the ground-breaking work that has been achieved throughout the project, and to reflect on where this leads to next. Sticking with the interdisciplinary theme that has underpinned the project so far, the event will involve a mix of academic presentations, art workshops and performances, and, at its core, an exhibition showing the work of the artists that have been commissioned by the project to design and implement art projects in the Western Balkans. This is just a place holder for now, and more details will come in the following months, but key dates to keep in mind are:
 
·      01 November 2018: Exhibition Launch
·      29 November – 01 December 2018: Symposium
·      In between these dates there will also be a series of public events in preparation for the final symposium.
 
If you are interested in being kept informed about these events, please fill out this google form: https://goo.gl/forms/RZfxDy8Tiaa5niGt1
 
We look forward to seeing you in November.
 
Best wishes,
 
Art & Reconciliation Team