Artists, academics and activists: belief and conflict in the UK

Artists, academics and activists come together to consider the role of art in influencing and shaping our understanding of belief and conflict in the UK.

From ‘brightfield’ sites to voices from the ongoing Syrian conflict, from walls that divide communities to sites of tension in the UK and Middle East – a new series of unique exploratory artistic projects have been commissioned by Culture at King’s College London and 3FF to explore the relationships between belief and conflict.

Culture at King’s has partnered with the interfaith charity Three Faiths Forum (3FF) and their flagship arts programme Urban Dialogues to bring together four groups of artists, academics and activists to embark on a series of distinct and challenging interdisciplinary projects.

The ideas for the four new projects were borne out of a series of creative salons. The salons brought together experts from a range of artistic and academic disciplines, along with community activists, to consider the role of art in exploring the relationship between belief and conflict in the UK.

The salons sought to challenge received wisdom, to provoke new ideas and relationships, and to inspire and foster cross-disciplinary collaborations. As part of the process, participants were invited to submit proposals for collaborative artistic works and seed funding was awarded to selected submissions.

The resulting projects each involve a unique and diverse team of artists, academics and activists who will work collaboratively to develop their proposals into concrete outputs, including performance workshops, digital and physical installations, audio and video testimonies and on-line spaces that aim to provoke diverse audience responses.

Holly Jones, who manages 3FF’s Arts & Culture programme, said, ‘The Belief and Conflict series gave us a unique opportunity to bring together individuals with a wealth of insight and expertise from very different perspectives, backgrounds and disciplines. We are hugely excited about the new collaborative work being developed as a result, which sees some of the UK’s leading artists collaborating with King’s academics and activists to create new work that will challenge, stimulate and extend our insight into this complex and crucial area of our social landscape.’

Katherine Bond, Director, Cultural Institute at King’s College London, said, ‘In the current social and political climate in the UK, where debates about faith and cultural identify often become highly polarised, creating more fruitful spaces for discussions around belief and conflict is more urgent than ever. By looking at belief and conflict through the lens of art, we hope to make a positive contribution to this debate.’

All four of the projects recognise that artists are often uniquely able to carve out an alternative space for reflection, imagination and discussion when faced with entrenched fault lines of opinion, belief, and practice. The four seed funded projects are:

Burning Bush
Ansuman Biswas (Artist), Professor Ben Quash (Department of Theology & Religious Studies), Father William Taylor (Priest, City of London councillor)

Burning Bush aims to explore the relationship between the poetic and the the political in relation to particular ‘brightfield sites’ – places that surprise and stimulate new visions and create solidarities within communities.

The project will create an online space to provoke and collate diverse responses to ‘brightfield’ sites and will curate a programme of interactive events including audio tours of these sites of meaning.

Reverberations of Conflict: Syrian Voices in London
Professor Michael Kerr (Director of the Middle East & Mediterranean Studies programme and the Centre for the Study of Divided Societies), Dr Aaron Rosen (Department of Theology & Religious Studies), Kai-Oi Joyce Yung (Artist)

This collaboration, between King’s academics and an interdisciplinary artist, will explore the lived experiences and personal narratives of the ongoing Syrian civil war from the overlooked but invaluable perspective of Syrians living in the UK.

Offering a tangible and empathetic point of access to the atrocities, bloodshed and ongoing destruction in Syria, the project will focus on individual experiences captured through a new, perceptive and sensitive programme of contemporary practice and dialogue. Reverberations of Conflict will discuss the nature of the uprising and the difficulty of peace in the area, connecting the wider public to those affected by a civil war that has torn Syrian society apart.

Through a Wall
Alinah Azadeh (Artist), Dr Craig Larkin (Department of Middle East & Mediterranean Studies), Paula Serafini (Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries)

Through a Wall will see the creation of a new collection in a public space. The collaborators will ask the public to go beyond their comfort zones, to climb into the skin of a stranger and uncover a co-created archive of material from across the world.

The project will centre on a large-scale ‘wall’ installation, embedded with a collection of texts and objects created through direct work with community groups. Once full, the wall will then inspire a collective performance, before the public are invited to ‘un-make’ the wall – taking a piece away, until nothing is left, in a collective act of symbolic deconstruction and dissemination.

Empathy and Risk
Professor David Cotterrell (Sheffield Hallam University), Rebecca Manley (Actor, writer and director), Penelope Quinton (Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Middle East & Mediterranean Studies)

This project will develop the foundation for a major art and performance piece through a series of workshops, in collaboration with an actress, director, artist, academic and a King’s PhD student.

The themes of empathy and risk will be tested through a discursive and practical series of workshops involving three professional dancers and two professional actors. There will also be a focused discussion and a conceptual response to extracts of footage, s and observations gathered through research undertaken within sites of conflict, risk and tension in the UK, Palestine, Pakistan and Afghanistan.


About Culture at King’s

Culture at King’s College London enhances the student and academic experience while adding value and delivering benefits across arts and culture. By creating connections across higher education and cultural practice, the directorate offers a different lens through which questions in art, culture and research can be explored. These collaborations between the university, academics, students and the cultural sector enrich research and learning, increase engagement, widen participation, drive innovation and ensure that the work of our academics has impact beyond King’s.

Culture at King’s is under the leadership of its Director, Deborah Bull, who provides leadership across the university’s programmes and activities in partnership with the cultural sector and for two flagship departments, the Cultural Institute and Science Gallery London. visit http://www.kcl.ac.uk/cultural/­index.aspx

About 3FF

3FF, the Three Faiths Forum, has worked to build good relations between people of different faiths, beliefs and cultures for nearly twenty years. 3FF creates safe spaces in schools, universities, places of work and worship and the wider community where people can engage with questions of belief and identity and meet people different from themselves. The organisation’s programmes enable people from different backgrounds – both religious and non-religious – to learn from each other and work together for the good of everyone. visit 3ff.org.uk