Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: panel discussion

Panel discussion at the Mosaic Rooms in London next week with contributors to the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project and exhibition.


Truth, lies and geopolitics: Photo Op by kennardphillipps

Jonathan Jones has written a short article for The Guardian about kennardphillipps’ work Photo Op, which is on display at the moment as part of Catalyst: Contemporary Art and War at IWM North. For what it’s worth, I read the comments below the line, and many of them dwell on the question of truth and lies, in relation to Tony Blair, the Iraq war and the work itself, bringing to mind the following:

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his [sic] lies. If he only shows in his work that he has searched, and re-searched, for the way to put over lies, he would never accomplish anything.

Pablo Picasso (1923)

(quote via Austin Kleon at

To me this speaks not just to the work of artists like kennardphillipps and other well known photomonteurs such as John Heartfield and Martha Rosler who are concerned to reveal and shock but also to the aesthetic constitution of politics itself. Picasso’s words might apply equally to the construction of the ‘case’ for the Iraq war or the personae of the politicians who set it in motion. In that sense, Photo Op is not just ‘about’ the war, but might equally be regarded as part of the struggle over what counts as the political reality and truth of it. As violence in Iraq approaches levels not seen since the worst of 2006 and 2007, with more than six thousand people killed this year according to the UN, the war can hardly be regarded as over.

Counterinsurgency and the cultural turn in Iraq

A Reply to Nato Thompson’s “The Insurgents, Part I”

Rijin Sahakian’s critique of Nato Thompson’s arts-inflected take on US counterinsurgency in Iraq, in which she contrasts the myths of ‘population-centric warfare’ with the violence inflicted upon Iraqis and Iraq since 2003.

Material Geopolitics: The Great Game by War Boutique

Material Geopolitics: The Great Game by War Boutique

I’ve put together a showing and discussion of War Boutique’s 2011 work The Great Game (which uses textiles to reflect on successive British interventions in Afghanistan) at the RGS-IBG conference in late August. I’m delighted that the artist will join us to introduce the work and be part of the discussion. (The photo clicks through to the session outline on the RGS website).

UCL workshop exploring art, peace and geography: programme

Spaces are still available for this workshop, which is open to academics and nonacademics alike. RSVP to


Beyond the Geographies of War: Exploring Art and Peace

UCL Department of Geography, Pearson Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

11am-4pm, 27th March 2013



Questions of geography – of space, place, home, environment, landscape and territory – are a recurring theme in the responses of artists to war. But how do they figure in the relationship between art and peace? How can we understand the role that spatial practices and spatial themes play in creating peace as well as in articulating resistance to war and violence?

This workshop will explore these questions with reference to the Iraq war but will also branch out to consider the relationship between geography, art and peace more broadly. With talks by artists Rashad Selim and Emily Johns and academic Bernadette Buckley, and touching on issues of oil, water and ecology as well as politics and war, the workshop provides an opportunity to reflect on how art, activism and critical spatial practices can inform one another.


Timetable and speakers

10.30am Registration; tea and coffee; viewing of Art and War | Iraq Revisited exhibition in North Lodge, adjacent to Pearson Building

11.00 Introduction: Alan Ingram

Dr Alan Ingram is Senior Lecturer at UCL Department of Geography, where he teaches critical approaches to political geography and geopolitics. His current research focuses on the responses of artists and art institutions in the UK to the most recent Iraq war and forms the basis for the exhibition Geographies of War | Iraq Revisited.

11.30 Emily Johns

Emily Johns is a printmaker, illustrator, poetry publisher, newspaper editor and activist who has been involved in art and peace work concerning Iraq and related issues since the early 1990s. Having studied geography at Durham she immediately afterwards studied fine art at Goldsmiths, ‘because pictures seemed to be the right medium in which to think about geography’. Her work has been shown in many solo and group exhibitions and used in a wide variety of ways beyond gallery settings. Much of her work has been commissioned by anti-war campaigning groups and used in demonstrations and related publications. She is the recipient of several awards and her work is held in a number of public collections.  For a recent collaborative project Conscious Oil: Myth and Mind in the Age of Petroleum she created large scale lino-etchings, ‘What the Oil is Thinking’, which have their political roots in almost 20 years of work on the war in Iraq, the Iran crisis and how geopolitics and oil have coagulated.

12.00 Q&A and discussion

12.30 Lunch

2.00 Rashad Selim

Rashad Selim is an artist and printmaker, painter, sculptor, curator, illustrator, essayist, cultural researcher, grassroots development worker and project animator. Over the course of the last decade his work has often been concerned with the causes and effects of the war and with developing new resources and approaches to overcome limitations set in the present landscape. His work is held in the British Museum and in 2007-2008 he was artist-in-residence for the Green Zone/Red Zone exhibition at the Gemak gallery in the Hague, which examined the redivision of cities under the pretext of security. More recently he has created Re-Piano, an ongoing art project that centres on the reclamation, reinvention and renewal of defunct pianos. The process of opening and remaking embodies a wider process – an opening of the imagination that is called for in any situation where established systems have become dysfunctional. Re-Piano proposes that this process is not a matter of starting something new but of re-engaging with the huge wealth of what we already have.

2.30 Q&A and discussion

3.00 Discussant: Bernadette Buckley

Dr Bernadette Buckley is Convenor of the MA in Art & Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London and Chair of the British International Studies Association specialist group in Art and Politics. Her research interests cut across several fields from art to politics, philosophy and cultural studies. As well as writing for numerous exhibition catalogues and publications such as Photoworks, she has published several key journal essays including ‘Mohammed is Absent. I am Performing’: Contemporary Iraqi Art and the Destruction of Heritage’ in The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq, eds., Stone & Farchakh Bajjaly, 2010 (winner of the AIA James R. Wiseman book award); ‘Forum: Art and Politics’, in Postcolonial Studies, 2010; ‘The Workshop of Filthy Creation: Or Do Not Be Alarmed, This is Only a Test’ in the Review of International Studies, 2009; ‘Terrible Beauties’ in B.rumaria: Art Aesthetics Politics, 2009. She has worked on a number of funded research projects for AHRC, ACE, En-quire, Heritage Lottery and the Wellcome Foundation and is currently working on a book dealing with the relationship between art and politics.

3.15 Discussion

4.00 End