Curated by Bradley McCallum
Artist-in-Residence with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court
This exhibition brings together works by artists who challenge us to examine political issues, prompting us to consider how they impact others, and how art might serve as a means or catalyst to raise political awareness and response.
The context for this exhibition is shaped by my work as the Artist in Residence at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court and my role in defining and directing the long-term mission of the Coalition's Arts Initiative which aims to engage artists in fresh conversations about questions of international justice. In my own project with the CICC, I examine cases brought before the International Criminal Court concerning individuals accused of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity as well as those working to end impunity. For instance, even as criminals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are being tried at the International Criminal Court, the underlying conflict continues.
'Post-conflict' is a term used in international recovery and justice communities to mark the end of a conflict and the beginning of a new period of development aid, reconstruction, and accountability. But the duration of time that marks the 'post' of the conflict is variable and fragile and involves multiple challenges-ranging from transitional justice issues to rebuilding civil society. While the problems, regions, politics and the points in time are all variable, the power of art to address incomprehensible human abuse, treat injustice as moments of self-examination, and focus our attention in visual and poetic ways remains constant.
The exhibition highlights the different ways artists have responded to situations of extreme conflict, abuse of power, and international engagement. Some of the artist have long been committed to politically engaged work while others address a single instance of abuse. Some question the role of a nation, while others examine the more personal forces of forgiveness and reconciliation.
CREATIVE COURT's series 'Africans and Hague Justice' was composed in 2014 to reflect on perspectives and realities of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The work of several prominent African cartoonists is represented in this collection, among them are GADO (Tanzania), Victor Ndula (Kenya), Brandan Reynolds (South Africa), and GLEZ (Burkina Faso/France). Some cartoons poke at indicted leaders, others reflect on the position of witnesses on the stand and question the ethics of the ICC. Published in prominent newspapers, the cartoons are an influential source of information for the general public in Africa and abroad. As GADO says, "Satire is a serious business."
Creative Court is an organization at the interface of art and global justice, based in The Hague.
JENNY HOLZER negotiates the political landscape after 9/11 and traces the debate over covert operations, ghost detainees, prisoner abuse, and war tragedies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay through the directives, emails, and testimonies of policy makers, soldiers, and prisoners. Her portraits of Guantanamo Bay detainees, rendered through enlarged silk-screen paintings of declassified documents, detail prisoner abuse. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Waterboarding, Geneva Conventions--the subject of torture leads quickly to an examination of morality, civic responsibility, and issues of representation. Her paintings lend tactility to documents often unseen and offer visibility to hidden pasts and a masked present.
Twenty years after the genocide in Rwanda, some victims say that they have forgiven their perpetrators. Photographers PIETER HUGO and LANA MESIĆ travelled to Rwanda in early 2014 to visualize their forgiveness. The series, Rwanda 20 Years: Portraits of Reconciliation, was commissioned by Creative Court, an organization at the interface of art and global justice, based in The Hague. Mesić and Hugo and encountered various sides to forgiveness and captured different relationships between people who forgave each other. "In the photographs," Hugo said in an interview for The New York Times, "the distance or closeness you see is pretty accurate." In addition to the portraits, Mesić developed a reflective concept on forgiveness by trying to visualize the process of forgiveness as well as her own poetic perception of the post-conflict situation. "The people I photograph are gentle, soft-spoken," she states, "They feel like paper, so fragile. Not broken. Their taciturn hearts still beating. I wanted to literally transform the weight of history they carry into sacks, bananas, jerry cans, big balls of green grass. Because then putting the weight down and walking away would be a much easier task."
ALFREDO JAAR's Rwanda Project: 1994-2000 is a series of twenty-one photography-based installation works including "The Eyes of Gutete Emirita," "Real Pictures" and "Embrace" derived from his experiences in Rwanda. He first travelled there in the summer of 1994 while the genocide was still ongoing and overwhelmingly ignored by the international community. The Rwanda Project attempts to counter and transform the conventions of photojournalism, which frequently objectifies violence through unmediated images of victimization. Alternatively, Jaar reverses the lens' eye to focus on the eyes of the witnesses and the hauntingly beautiful landscape in which this massacre was enacted as a means of eliciting an emotional response from the viewer in which every individual feels responsible for the community and for 'the other.'
Throughout 2012, RICHARD MOSSE and his collaborators travelled in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, infiltrating armed rebel groups in a war zone plagued by frequent ambushes, massacres and systematic sexual violence. His most recent Infra series captures the ongoing war between rebel factions and the Congolese national army in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Infra series is marked by Mosse's use of Kodak Aerochrome resulting in the lush Congolese rainforest rendered into a beautifully surreal landscape of pinks and reds. Mosse said in an interview with The British Journal of Photography ,"I wanted to export this technology to a harder situation, to up-end the generic conventions of calcified mass-media narratives and challenge the way we're allowed to represent this forgotten conflict… I wanted to confront this military reconnaissance technology, to use it reflexively in order to question the ways in which war photography is constructed."
ADAM PENDLETON is a conceptual artist known for his multi-disciplinary practice, which moves fluidly between painting, publishing, photographic collage, video and performance. His work centers on an engagement with language, in both the figurative and literal senses, and the re-contextualization of history through appropriated imagery to establish alternative interpretations of the present and, as the artist has explained, "a future dynamic where new historical narratives and meanings can exist." Pendleton's LAB Painting (Two Rows Split Together white) juxtaposes image and text in order to reference the protests of 1968, and in particular the Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico (also known as The Night of Tlatelolco from a book title by the Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska). In refusing the fugibility of images, characteristic of other modes of contemporary appropriation, Pendleton imbues his source images and texts with new valences, less concerned with the past than with insisting on its continuity with the present.
DAAPO RÉO is a video artist interested in the discourse that surrounds the itinerant experience of African immigrants. His works investigate the events and cultural circumstances that create identity disputes. They aim to move the stories he reveals from the periphery to the center, as a way to confront traditional structures and break religious and social conditionings through the exposure of the existence of oppressed and silenced voices.
AI WEIWEI's "Study of Perspective" is a photo series completed between 1995 and 2011. In each of the photographs the artists' middle finger is defiantly positioned in front of the world's most notable seats of cultural and political authority--from Tiananmen Square to the White House, to the painting of the Mona Lisa. The gesture, a rejection of the power held by culture and politics and a rebellion against authority, is infused with political conviction, humor, and personal poetry. In this series, the artist reinvigorates the potency and symbolism of traditional images and forms to reframe the familiar with minimal means in a critical examination of our systems and institutions of power.
The Arts Initiative of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court harnesses the power of art to enrich understandings of international justice and invigorate the dialogue between human rights and arts communities as well as the general public. Through a unique Artist-in-Residence program as well as a series of public conversations the initiative stimulates discussions about fundamental global issues of peace, international justice, and human rights.
The Coalition for the International Criminal Court includes more than 2,500 civil society organizations from 150 countries committed to ending genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The Arts Initiative is implemented in partnership with Conjunction Arts, a non-profit organization working at the intersection of art and social justice