Themes and questions

What does the research involve?
The project encompasses archival and online research, interviewing, networking and public engagement activities from 2011-2021 up to the tenth anniversary of the 2003 invasion and beyond. In terms of art disciplines it focuses mainly on visual, fine and contemporary art but also takes into account the performing arts, and is particularly interested in the intersection between artistic practices and other ways of knowing about and intervening on the world (such as research, archiving, activism, memorialisation and so on). Overall I’m less interested in art disciplines or what art ‘is’ than what things that are somehow considered to be art ‘do’.

I am interviewing people from across the UK art world, including artists, curators, commissioners, critics and gallery and museum staff. I aim to include artists from a range of backgrounds, including artists from the UK, Iraq and other countries; artists who have adopted explicit positions on the war and those who have not; and artists who have worked alongside coalition forces in Iraq.

I am also interested in talking to organisations of people affected by the war or campaigning on it. This includes Iraqi community organisations, organisations of UK service personnel and their families, and anti-war and peace groups. In this way I aim to gain a broader perspective on how the art world responded.

If you’d like to talk to me about your work, experiences or thoughts, drop me an email.

What kinds of questions does the project ask?
The central theme of the project is that art and war both revolve around the representation, construction and experience of geographic space, and that we can gain a better understanding of them and how they relate to each other by exploring their spatial dimensions. The project is guided by the following kinds of questions:

  • How have artists and art spaces responded to the war?

How have artists from Iraq and Britain responded to the invasion and occupation? How do their responses reflect different experiences, locations, views and ways of making art? What kinds of aesthetic tactics have been used? What kinds of work have been commissioned and exhibited? What kinds of exhibitions have been staged? What kinds of curatorial approaches and concerns have been in evidence?

  • How have these responses represented and constructed space?

How have artistic responses engaged with the political, cultural and material construction of space? How have artists represented invasion, occupation, resistance or resilience? How have they dealt with violence and destruction or the desire for peace and the effort to continue living? How have the landscapes and people of Iraq, the UK and other regions been represented? In what ways has the complexity of Iraq and its surrounding regions been reflected? Where have works been exhibited or staged, in gallery spaces, museums or other public institutions? Where have they appeared, for example on demonstrations or elsewhere in public space? To what extent and in what ways have works transgressed or conformed with conventions of display and exhibition? What has been made visible and what has not? How has this process been negotiated and contested?

  • What have been the implications of art responses for public engagement with issues of war and peace?

What kinds of roles has art played in mediating the experience and understanding of the war in the UK? What role have artists, art works and art institutions played in public discussion and debate over the invasion and occupation, in opposition to it, or in articulating the experiences of people in Iraq and the UK? What has been the relationship between the response of the art world and broader debates and struggles over the war?

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