Art, Terror and Distance - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Art, Terror and Distance

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Art and Terror
Art and Terror lecture series

Art, Terror and Distance

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London

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Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites II, 2011 (detail - click for full)

  • Tuesday 21 March 2017
    PLEASE NOTE: This Date Has Passed
    5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

    Kenneth Clark Lecture Theate, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN


  • Dr Rachel Wells - Newcastle University

Organised by

  • Prof. Julian Stallabrass - The Courtauld Institute of Art

This lecture will examine the ways in which contemporary artists have addressed the changing relationship between distance and conflict. For at least two and a half decades, images of conflict have been theorised in the West predominantly in terms of a moral necessity to overcome geographical and empathetic distance. Susan Sontag, in her discussion Regarding the Pain of Others, presented this overcoming of distance as a conceptual and ethical challenge faced by image consumers who are positioned ‘elsewhere’ to the location of war. While the importance of such questioning has not diminished, under accelerated globalisation distance is not only a condition of the perception of conflict and suffering, but is increasingly an inherent part of contemporary warfare and its effects: drone use presents distance as a tactic of war, terrorism thrives on its threat of omnipresent closeness, and forced displacement reveals distance as its own form of suffering.

The lecture will argue that work by artists including Jananne Al-Ani, Wafa Bilal, Steve McQueen, Trevor Paglen and Sophie Ristelhueber suggests that the relationship between distance and images of conflict must be rethought in terms that go beyond the perception of distant viewers to an expression and critique of the nature of contemporary conflict.

Rachel Wells is Lecturer in Art History and Theory at Newcastle University. Prior to her post at Newcastle Rachel was Tutor in the History and Theory of Fine Art at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford University, and Henry Moore Foundation Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She received her BA in English from Cambridge University, and her MA and PhD from the Courtauld. Rachel’s research on modern and contemporary art has been published widely, including Art History, the Oxford Art Journal and Tate. Her 2013 book Scale in Contemporary Sculpture is now out in paperback with Routledge.

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