´╗┐King's announces new exhibition: Traces of War

26 October - 18 December 2016
King’s College London, Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing
Admission is free

  • Traces of War is a new exhibition from King’s College London. It is the result of collaborations between the Department of War Studies at King’s and three international artists.
  • As the ‘everyday’ of battle is brought into the gallery space, Traces of War hopes to represent the paradoxical dynamic of war and the everyday - its enduring imprint upon both the body politic and the subject of international politics.
  • Working primarily with photography, film and multimedia installations, all three artists have direct experience of conflict and war zones, from Iraq to India, Bangladesh to Afghanistan.

We see war in all kinds of spaces and locations, some predictable and others less so. The elements of war are present in our everyday lives, in our daily routines; from violence, antagonisms, discourses of exclusion, displacements and populations on the move. There is a resonance in Michel Foucault’s observation that the ‘roar of battle’ travels silently in our modes of being and interactions, discourses and institutions, and the practices we take for granted.

Artists throughout history have sought to capture the agony of war, its impact on combatants and civilians, as if we might easily contrast the peace of the everyday with the destructive exceptionalism of war. Our aim in this exhibition is to explore the most enduring and dangerous aspects of war; its relationship to the everyday and the imprints it makes on bodies, emotions and memories, on landscapes, and on the most hidden spaces. The everyday too, its materials and relationships, make their presence felt in zones of war where danger is interspersed with the routine of daily life.

Traces of War, curated by CÚcile Bourne-Farrell and Vivienne Jabri, Professor of International Politics, King’s College London, reimagines war beyond its exceptionality, locating it in spaces where it would be least expected. At the same time, the artworks and artists reveal the sheer power of the everyday, as life in its own right and at its most ordinary makes its presence felt in the most dangerous war zones. In Traces ofWar, three internationally renowned artists, Jananne Al-Ani, Baptist Coelho and Shaun Gladwell, expose the more quotidian side of warfare.

Working primarily with photography, film and multimedia installations, all three artists have direct experience of zones of conflict and war, from Iraq, to India, to Bangladesh, to Afghanistan, and then ‘back home’ where the traces of war are revealed again, as if there is no such thing as leaving war behind.

Born in Kirkuk, Iraq, London based artist, Jananne Al-Ani, reveals traces of conflict and occupation in seemingly unexpected places. In her films Shadow Sites I (2010) and Shadow Sites II (2011), aerial views of contested landscapes suggest war’s imprint upon a surface that is itself only comprehensible when seen from above. The use of aerial imagery to find new archaeological sites emerged from intelligence gathering in times of war, and for Al-Ani, it is the intersection of the two that offers the potential to reveal the ghosts of past conflicts in the present. For Traces of War Al-Ani is producing a new film which will take the form of an aerial journey across the British landscape.

Shot using helicopters and drones, the film will focus on sites rich in military and industrial history in an attempt to excavate traces in the landscape of Britain’s imperial past.

The silent roar of battle is differently seen in Mumbai based artist, Baptist Coelho’s multi-media installations. Coelho realises the everydayness of war by making use of what he has referred to as the ‘fabric’ of war; literally the materials of a life lived in battle zones where no battle as such takes place; where there is much waiting in the lives of soldiers mobilised in India’s farthest mountain reaches. Here we see objects such as jars of food, bandages, soldiers’ uniforms, and backpacks sent to unlikely spaces so that the audience is never quite sure of the measure of distance between home and the war front. Baptist Coelho is the current Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Coelho’s contribution to the exhibition reveals life in zones of war and in the most extreme conditions, respectively the Iraq war and its implications for familial and everyday and the Siachen glacier in India which is brought to audiences through everyday objects.

Australian-born artist Shaun Gladwell, who has served as Australia’s official war artist in Afghanistan, uses his camera work to destabilise the time and space of war. The materials of war are here revealed in the landscape, in soldiers’ helmets, and in their corporeal movements. In a single shot of the everyday on a military base, we see soldiers filming each other in the heat of the day just as a drone lands safely having shed its deadly load on another’s terrain. In the works produced for the exhibition Shaun Gladwell reveals the relationship of war to the everyday in wartime letters between father and son and then again, in an entirely different space where the violence of war is revealed in hidden late modern urban spaces.

I mage captions :

Shaun Gladwell, Double Field / Viewfinder, (Tarin Kowt), 2009–10,Two-channel HD video, 18:39 minutes, 16:9, colour, stereo sound. Commissioned by the Australian War Memorial.
Jananne Al-Ani, Aerial I, 2011, Production still from the film Shadow Sites II. Image courtesy of the artist.
Baptist Coelho, Altitude Sickness, Frostbite, Chilblains, Arterial Hypertension, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Snow-blindness, Hypothermia, High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema, High Altitude Cerebral Oedema, 2009, Digital print on archival paper. Courtesy: Artist & Project 88, Mumbai.