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Post War Art & Culture Festival Symposium

Reinvention: Iraqi Contemporary
Art & Culture in a Post Conflict Zone.



Colloquium and panel discussion with curators, artists, officials and academics from Iraq, Iran, UK and USA.

Adalet R. Giarmany opened the symposium, after which Richard Wilson R.A. spoke for 10 minutes about his visits to Iraqi Kurdistan and the meaning and process of installing 20:50 in a post war area.

Chair
Peter Jenkinson, OBE, Cultural Broker, is undertaking a portfolio of projects including acting as an adviser on the post-conflict art programme in the City of Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on and off screen participation in Channel 4’s Big Art Project television series due to air in May 2009, and is a partner in CrunchLab and Associate of CultureLabel. He is also an adviser to a range of organisations and individuals on leadership, political contexts, strategy, future scoping, creativity and learning and project development; the mentoring and coaching of artists and other cultural figures and contributes to policy forums, debates and conferences nationally and internationally, including the Salzburg Global Seminar. UK.

Panel
Dr. Cynthia P. Schneider, Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Senior Non Resident Fellow, Brookings Institution, Former Ambassador to the Netherlands, USA.

Cynthia P. Schneider, an expert on cultural diplomacy, teaches, publishes, and organizes initiatives in the field of cultural diplomacy with a focus on relations with the Muslim world. She leads the Arts and Culture Dialogue Initiative within the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and is a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. Schneider served as U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1998-2001, in which position she led initiatives in public and cultural diplomacy, biotechnology, cyber security, and military affairs. From 1994-1998, she served as Vice Chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. As head of the Arts and Culture Dialogue Initiative within the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Schneider seeks to maximize the potential of arts and culture to increase understanding between the United States and the Muslim world.

Dr Lamia al-Gailani Wer, Iraqi Archaeologist living in London, specialising in Ancient Iraq, worked in the Iraq Museum in the 1960s as assistant curator, and from 2003-2004 was consultant to the Ministry of Culture on archaeological matters and the Iraq Museum. Holds an honorary Research Fellowship from the Institute of Archaeology, University College. She is editor and publisher of the Edubba archaeological series. 
UK.

Amirali Ghasemi is the director of Parkingallery, Tehran, (www.parkingallery.com) an independent project space and online hub based in Tehran, which has introduced numerous young artists to Tehran’s emerging contemporary art scene, and initiated various International exhibitions and workshop projects since opening in 1998. He has curated numerous exhibitions in Iran and abroad, and has spoken at several high-profile international platforms about contemporary Iranian art, such as the Dubai Art Fair. Iran.

Didem Özbek is an artist and designer, and lives in Istanbul. She gained her Masters of Arts in Communication Design at Central St Martins College of Art & Design, London. She uses printed material and photography, and also holds performances. Her work has been exhibited at Akbank Sanat, Istanbul, Umetnostna Galerija Maribor, International Design Center Nagoya., Museo MADRE, Naples, Frieze Art Fair, London and PiST/// Istanbul. She is the co-founder of PiST/// Interdisciplinary Project Space, a non-for-profit, independent artist-run space in Istanbul. Since 2006 she co-directed and co-curated PiST projects such as Reserved ’06 exhibition series, PiST/// 7-24 window display exhibitions, Turkish Pavilion, PiST/// PARK and PiST stand at Frieze. Art Fair 2008. She also developed and created other conceptual projects for PiST such as Artist Information, Tea Stand and White Sugar Cube Book. Özbek writes articles for all PiST publications and also designs them. Since 2007, PiST publishes LiST, Istanbul’s contemporary art list, and Özbek is the designer and co-editor of this free guide with a map listing bimonthly Istanbul’s contemporary art events. Turkey.


 

History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up
and hope and history rhyme.
So I hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
s
and cures and healing wells.

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney
from The Cure of Troy 1990

Much has been written about war, but there is little available that presents a more comprehensive or positive picture. Most of the media resources focus on inter-ethnic conflict among Iraqis, on civil war, ethnic cleansing and terror bombings and the violence, civil strife and economic hardship that has wrought havoc on the land and its people. Very little is known about contemporary Iraqi life or the multitude of hopes and aspirations for the future. The Post-War Art & Culture Festival aims to address this mis-representation and to present a more accurate and more positive picture of Iraqi Kurdistan today as well as tackling the challenges facing the country in the generations ahead.

“It is not the literal past, the facts of history, that shape us, but images of the past embodied in language….We must never cease renewing those images because once we do, we fossilise.”

Brian Friel
from Translations 1980

This Symposium is organised by ArtRole UK in association with Kahk Press & Media Centre, Iraq Kurdistan.

It is part of the 3-Day international contemporary Art and Culture Festival in Iraq – the first of its kind after the war. The programme is a collaborative initiative between UK, USA and Iraqi Kurdistan which aims to promote greater exchange of expertise by creating a unique platform and opportunity for dialogue between Iraqi and international artists, curators, officials and academics. It is vitally important for Iraqi artists and students, the public and arts and culture professionals to be able to connect and communicate directly and have access to information about the rest of the world in order to develop their own thinking and practice. And the same can be said in the opposite direction for the international delegates. It is hoped the Festival will result in new partnerships, networks and friendships.

“Difference is not a threat. Difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should never be a source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace – respect for diversity.”

John Hume, Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in Oslo 1998.

This energetic and optimistic Symposium aims to move beyond the cliches and stereotypes that usually attach to discussions around war situations and to ask, but not necessarily find answers to, critical questions that will move the agenda onwards. What is the true and purposeful role of culture, creativity and learning in conflict and post-conflict landscapes? How does culture assist in journeys towards peace? What exactly does or might the artist and the intellectual bring to the situation? And take from the situation? In highly volatile and complex contexts what new capacities, skills and understandings are required in the cultural and creative community? In facing the future is the notion of healing a necessary objective? How important is an interrogation of the past in moving to the future? How important is memorialisation? In places of the collision of fundamentally opposing cultural mindsets and of highly contested narratives about the future, the present and the past how important is the ambiguity and betweeness, knowing disorientation and magical thinking, irreverence and independence or playfulness and joyfulness that artists can bring? Is humour a tool in peace making?

“It was an explosion of life, the rebirth of joie de vivre, the younger generation seeking pleasure as its immediate objective, the legitimacy of all political choices and the loss of fear of the police. All these things are reflected in my first films.”

Spanish filmmaker Pedro Aldomovar reflecting in 1990 on the explosion in culture and creativity across Spain after the end of the Franco dictatorship.


 

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