18 Sep 2018 • Book
New book alert: Can art aid in resolving conflicts?
As Dr. Noam Lemelshirich-Latar explains, there is a side of the Bilbao Effect that isn’t as widely discussed as it should be. Along with the economic and social benefits the Guggenheim Museum brought to the city, it also resulted in an unanticipated reduction of violence in what was considered a very conflict-ridden area.
In hindsight, the phenomenon has been attributed to the insistence, by the then-new museum curators, to display works by Basque artists alongside pieces by Spaniards and international creators. Thus, artists with conflicting backgrounds and viewpoints became collaborators.
Throughout the centuries, art has documented the atrocities of wars, fueled propaganda campaigns, and at times has advocated for peace and social justice. In the latest book from Frame Publishers, Dr. Lemelshirich-Latar, along with Prof. Jerry Wind and Dr. Ornat Lev-er, explore the collective wisdom of contemporary artists to answer the question: Can art be of help in times of cultural, social and religious disagreement?
That’s the gist of Can art aid in resolving conflicts? In it, more than 100 painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, dancers, architects, curators and museum directors from around the globe responded, in many cases supplementing with visuals. Their insightful outpouring is contained in the 230 pages that make up the tome.
Here is a preview of some of the contributions found in the book, available now for pre-order in our web store.
Art and philosophy education for children could help us prevent conflicts in the future. A good example is the symbolic politics developed by Antanas Mockus while serving as the mayor of the city of Bogotá in the 1990s. For example, he hired clowns and mimes to help police officers that were in charge of the transit circulation in some special places in the city. In a city where before people didn’t care about the circulation rules, he managed to change that using humour and laughter. If you were doing something wrong, a clown would come and make fun of you, push your car and make everybody aware of the wrong thing you were doing. He developed many other symbols to reinforce civic values, to make people drink less alcohol on the weekends, to fight against visual pollution, to denounce the abuse of children. Those symbolic politics changed the relationship of people with the city, and generated a new perspective.
My conflict as a child was due to feeling that I look and am different, and to having deeply traumatized parents who were not able to validate my presence or my feelings. As a member of a minority culture, a Jew in Swedish society, I was often asked, ‘Where are you from?’ That gave me a sensation of being different and standing out, of not fitting in. But like in a fairytale, something unexpected happened: an old lady, the director and actress Mimi Pollak, who was a former classmate of Greta Garbo’s, came to my ballet class and discovered my talent.
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
In presenting a more positive yet subversive approach to conflict resolution, the human body becomes a site of reimagining cultural and political identities. For example, Congolese dandies known as sapeurs, or the Skhothane dandies of South Africa, form particular subcultures that build on self-expression and bring together communities in creative and festive competitions. The ‘body-subject’ thus has the ability to transcend a rather chaotic socio-environmental situation, which means that the body reconstitutes alternatives for survival.
Kiryat Gat, Israel
I believe that the heavy toll of international conflicts on the involved parties (and often also on those not necessarily involved) demands making use of the entire toolbox made possible by diplomacy, including cultural diplomacy.
In this area, art has many advantages in terms of its ability to touch hearts in a direct, non-verbal manner, the honesty and reliability it transmits, its capacity to convey hidden messages, the fact that it functions as an easy excuse to bring together different audiences, the media exposure and interest it arouses and more.
Some artists work with the subject of the world as such. They call, regardless of differences, to unite on the ground of common values – peace, compassion, loving the Earth and the planet. I consider this pathos to be important, because irrespective of the slogans promoted by different societies, it encourages the treatment of humankind as a supreme value positioned above territorial, political and cultural dissensions. On the other hand, this approach neither dissolves the realities of everyday life and those participating in it nor teaches us to cope with difficulties that we face in the real world.
AZIZ & CUCHER
Lunenburg, United States and Lima, Peru
Yes, some art could play a constructive role in conflict resolution. We think that this can happen in instances when people from disparate communities come together to make art or to participate in some kind of artistic collaboration. This way, people can learn to put their energy into a shared outcome that might reflect the potential to overcome much larger differences. We do not believe that simply sharing images from one culture with another can have any real impact; it must come from a process of making something together, whether it is in the visual arts, music, choreography, etc.
ADRIÁN VILLAR ROJAS
We have to think of non-imperialistic ways in which the signifier ‘art’ can approach the world, which is partly the task of rethinking the world from non-imperative, non-Eurocentric, non-androcentric, and even non-anthropocentric categories; not in order to displace humans from the scene, but rather in order to unmask this false construct that we have called ‘human being,’ which is nothing more than the Western, white, heterosexual male that has permeated all of our epistemology and metaphysics since their very origins.