Written by Leanne Melbourne, Policy Intern, Centre for Science and Policy.
Last week the Centre for Science and Policy held its fourth annual conference at Murray Edwards College in Cambridge. This year our conference explored opportunities for improving the way government accesses, assesses and makes use of expertise from the humanities, and offered examples of the significant contribution these disciplines have made to public policy.
One of the sessions discussed the role which art plays in conflict and conflict resolution. You can listen to a recording of the session here: //sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1957905/embed
“If history is the disciplined construction of collective memory, art can be the undisciplined expression of collective dreams” Dr Tristram Riley-Smith on why art should matter to policy-makers.
This panel discussion was chaired by the Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research (PaCCS) external champion and CSaP associate fellow, Dr Tristram Riley-Smith. He was joined by Kathleen Palmer (Head of Art, Imperial war museum), Dr Glenn Sujo (Senior Faculty, Royal Drawing School) and the artist Šejla Kamerić. The discussions focused on the importance of art in engaging the audience to think, discuss and learn about the distressing and harrowing topics of war and conflict.
Kathleen Palmer started the session with a highly interesting talk on ‘What art can do for the museum?’ She showcased a wide range of art and art forms displayed at the Imperial war museum in regards to modern war and conflict. To Kathleen, art exhibitions in the museum prompted discussion and formed an engaging way for audiences to learn, see and think about conflict.
“Our moral obligation is to testify. We are the witnesses!” Dr Glen Sujo on the motivation of the interned artist Isaac Celnikier (1923 – 2011)
Dr Glenn Sujo next gave a captivating talk on art from the Holocaust. Dr Sujo examined a wide range of art in relation to the Holocaust to analyse the subjective response of the artist. He presented art from a variety of artists including interned prisoners and workers in the camps, as well as external observers.
“The point is not to shock anyone, the idea is that one fragment shows the amount of information, the amount of human pain behind any war.” Šejla Kamerić on the message behind her commissioned piece of work ‘Ab uno disce omnes- from one learned all’
Finally Šejla Kamerić showcased some of her work about the Bosnia war (1992-1995) commissioned by the Wellcome collections for their exhibition on ‘Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime’. These consisted of videos of the forensic evidence used to aid in identifying the missing people of the war. Šejla explained how she felt that art can be used a medium which forced governments to react to conflict. You can view some of her work here:
“A form of armour in the face of existential threat and mirror for thinking about conflict” Dr Riley Smith on art in relation to conflict
The session ended with a lively debate about the role which art has to play in engaging the wider community including policy makers. Art engages people who wouldn’t normally be engaged and art is therefore needed to depict those distressing moments that otherwise would be inexpressible.