This week's Feature presents an international research initiative exploring the role of visual imagery in shaping our understanding of peace. It is contributed by Design2context (Institute of design research) of the Zurich University of the Arts, Department of Design.
Is peace the absence of war - or is it the other way round?
Images, drafts, concepts and foremost the deliberation of peace as central public concerns have been greatly neglected and marginally displaced without discussion – and under social and political, regional and global conditions this is broadly disquieting.
Design2context (Institute of design research) is currently pursuing the leading hypothesis that in the powerful presence of images there is a loss in the ability to imagine peace, leading to increase a disquieting space. In opposition, we have set up a research project in search for visual representations of peace.
The center of this research project is the forthcoming publication "Imagine peace - a visual encyclopaedia" to be published in autumn of 2009 with Lars Muller Publishers, and edited by Ruedi Baur, Stefanie-Vera Kockot and Clemens Bellut. With the participation of Sébastien Thiery, Monya Pletsch, Megan Hall, Maru Martinez and others, we will gather in a encyclopedic way historical and contemporary, European and non-European images, signs, symbols, posters, etc. collected as leading lemmata - accompanied by commentary, research based and supplementary discursive contributions. Well-known authors from the field of science, politics, society, art, design and peace organisations have manifested their interest to contribute these texts. It is at the heart of the project to collaborate with educational and cultural institutions around the world to discuss and exchange critical visions and visualisations of peace. The project does not cater to any specific religious belief/history or sectarian creed.
To accompany the visual encyclopaedia, worldwide workshops , entitled "Imagine peace!", are being held in places marked by situational crisis where key participants, artists, designers, graphic artists along with active peace grassroots organisations will pursue through the exchange of experiences and continuous development, effective and active concepts of peace. To date, workshops have been conducted in El Salvador, Brazil, China and India. An extensive search for images, symbols, signs and posters of peace form the basis of both research activities.
The research has generated clear diagnostics among contemporary visual representations. The split between the naive visual harmony and such, sustains a peace that is created only in the absence of war and violence. This empty space between these two realisations - an open wide abyss - and the absence of civil societal utopias, in the words of philosopher Ernst Bloch, may acquire the meaning "concrete Utopias" in order to build controversial projects of peace against the active powers and structures of peacelessness.
The project's research continues the reflexive force that can be inherent in the images, while taking into account that peacefulness is neither achieved in the absence of discord, nor is it fulfilled in the absence of violence and war - perhaps they themselves are only symptoms of peaceless politic and practice of life.
Imagine Peace! empowers visual creators and fosters the idea of a new iconography of peace or non-conflict. These impacts will be greatly amplified if we manage to overcome the inherent isolation of creative process and share our experience, practice and research across geographic divides. It ensures the proper scale, exposure, and legacy of this project and reinforce the role of artists and designers as catalysts for social change and unique producers or challengers of knowledge.
Imagine Peace! offers a unique gathering of rising creatives and budding intellectuals and other citizens in the different cities it is taking place in and provides the people there a rare opportunity to influence and produce new visions of peace, which will be carried on and into the world, in form of an encyclopedia.
An international call for images is currently underway. Contributions to the project are welcome through May 2009.
For more information, please contact:
Institute of design research
Zurich University of the Arts, Department of Design
Postfach, CH-8031 Zürich 5
T: +41 43 446 6202
F: +41 43 446 4539