Imaging war, mediating conflict


Last weekend Media@McGill, in collaboration with DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, hosted a screening and conference on representations of war and conflict in art and art history (I’m grateful to Max Ritts for drawing my attention to it). Here is the original summary:

 Imaging War, Mediating Conflict: Recent Aesthetic Investigations addresses the politics, aesthetics and ethics of art and media practices relating to war from the 18th century until today, and assesses how such representations help to shape the experience of current conflicts, as well as their place in history.

There were two conference sessions (click on the title links for the abstracts).  The first, on Media, war and the state in the long eighteenth century, featured:

What’s so Funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding? Satirizing Peace in Georgian Britain | Douglas Fordham, University of Virginia

Wounds and Words: War, the State, and Media in the American Revolutionary War | Holger Hoock, University of Pittsburgh

The Scribbler and the Doctor: Daniel Defoe’s Paper War with Henry Sacheverell | Brian Cowan, McGill University

The second session, on Contemporary Art Interventions, featured:

Poverty Pornography, Humanitarianism, and Neoliberal Globalization: On Renzo Martens’s Enjoy Poverty (2008) | T.J. Demos, University College London

Abolishing War | Rosalyn Deutsche, Columbia University

On Windows, Camera Frames, and Hotel Rooms | Emanuel Licha, artist

Art in Public | Martha Rosler, artist

Abolishing warVideo of the presentations has now been uploaded and can be accessed here.  Two in particular caught my attention.

In an enviably polished and psychoanalytically informed presentation, Rosalyn Deutsche returns to an artist whose work she has considered several times in the past, Krzysztof Wodiczko (whose  Homeless Vehicle Project will be familiar to many geographers; others might know his more recent War Veteran Vehicle). Here she addresses, in a critically constructive fashion, his recent Arc de Triomphe: World Institute for the Abolition of War (though in fact he prefers the term “un-war” to “peace” for reasons Rosalyn explains at 09:51) and his extraordinary re-imagining and re-purposing of the iconic monument (see 11.13 on): what Rosalyn calls ‘disarming the Arc’.  More here and in Wodiczko’s book, The abolition of war, published last summer by Black Dog.  The same press has also published a lively volume of essays devoted to his work, Krzysztof Wodickzo (2011), which includes contributions from Rosalyn and Dick Hebdige, Dennis Hollier and Sanford Kwinter.

World Institute for the Abolition of War

Martha Rosler‘s House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home has always been a favourite of mine, and in her presentation at the McGill meeting, even as she battles with the recording system (haven’t we all?), she manages to say – and show – a great deal with a compelling economy.