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Traces of War from King’s College London

Traces of War

Exhibition preview

TRACES of War, a major new exhibition from King’s College London, is the result of collaborations between The Department of War Studies at King’s and three international artists – Jananne Al-Ani, Baptist Coelho and Shaun Gladwell.

It will be on display at King’s College London, Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing, Strand, London from October 26 to December 18, 2016.

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 relations.

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, on landscapes, and on the most hidden spaces: our memories, identities, and lived experiences. At the same time, the phenomenon of war is not confined to moments of crisis or battlefield locations.

War should not be something defined by its representation on screens or in print where narratives of patriotism distort, but rather should be seen as a force which disrupts the normality of everyday life, ever present both viscerally and emotionally.

Traces of War, curated by Cécile Bourne-Farrell and Vivienne Jabri, Professor of International Relations, 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 of War, the three artists expose the more quotidian side of warfare.

Jananne Al-Ani uses aerial imagery, both moving and still, to depict archaeological sites but also to evoke a sense of the dual purpose of aerial imagery for surveillance. War’s imprint upon a surface is itself only comprehensible in terms of what lies underneath.

Baptist Coelho did extensive research into the lives of Indian soldiers, whose experience of war is much more rooted in patience than direct conflict. By using the ‘fabrics’ of war (soldiers’ uniforms, rations, personal letters) his multimedia installations aim to reveal both the humanism of war and the paradox of heroism, where more lives are lost due to extreme cold than the army bullet.

Shaun Gladwell served as Australia’s official war artist in the first Gulf War and was pioneering in his use of the medium of video to explore the role of technology and surveillance in contemporary warfare.

The Inigo Rooms, King’s College London’s flagship exhibition space is in Somerset House East Wing and can be accessed from the Somerset House courtyard and from the Quad on King’s Strand Campus. The closest tube stations are Temple (on the Circle and District lines), Covent Garden (on the Piccadilly line) and Charing Cross (on the Northern and Bakerloo lines). The nearest mainline rail station is Charing Cross.

Image: Shaun Gladwell, Double Field/Viewfinder, (Tarin Kowt), 2009–10, Two-channel HD video, 18:39 minutes, 16:9, colour, stereo sound. Commissioned by the AustralianWar Memorial.

Time: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm.