Visual art practitioners, curators, filmmakers and others working in conflict and post-conflict societies generated a range of responses, addressing questions of cultural memory, commemoration, ethics, civil rights and community development. This conference considered those forms of visual culture within the larger framework of civil society-based initiatives for reconciliation and peace building.
The conference was aimed at people interested in the power of the arts to advance conflict transformation and social change - community development workers, youth workers, arts practitioners, arts/cultural outreach workers, educationalists and policy-makers. The conferences drew together a critical mass of community development organisations with a particular experience and commitment to peace-building.
The conference assembled and drew on local, national and international contributors to consider how collaborative and contemporary visual art and culture impact upon conflict zones and the social, political and economic changes that evolve from this type of work.
The first day of the conference programme consisted of presentations seeking to examine and share experiences of collaborative arts and cultural work in international conflict, post-conflict contexts and marginalised community settings. International speakers included Bonita Bennett, District Six Museum, Cape Town, South Africa and Mary Jane Jacob, Curator, Chicago, USA.
In keeping with ICAN’s ethos of exchange and connection between artists, community development sector workers, local communities and the non-traditional arts audiences, a related workshop element was devised. CONNECT took the form of workshop-based discussion between conference speakers and delegates including community development workers, youth workers, arts practitioners, arts/cultural outreach workers, educationalists, and policy-makers. CONNECT enabled participants to explore some of the key issues of conflict resolution and collaboration.
The conference explored some of the key issues and challenges of community collaboration in arts programmes at an international, national and local level, particularly projects which realise cultural initiatives in post-conflict and marginalised community contexts. It also critiqued models of good practice in relation to participation and arts access across visual art, film and other cultural media, and developed new audiences for the arts
The EXCHANGE conferences and CONNECT workshops gave the Playhouse and North-55 an opportunity to share their local experiences of how they have activated their own cultural thinking through long term developmental arts projects and collaboration with a range of border and interface communities.