writing . culture . location
Regarding War: Image/Text
10.30am - 6.00pm Thursday, 18th June 2009
Conference Centre, Lancaster University
The 2009 Trans-Scriptions event brought together a photographer, a filmmaker, a contemporary writer and a literary critic to discuss the themes of conflict, displacement and alienation in the context of the Centre’s Regarding War project. The day had as its starting point the Centre's online Regarding War exhibition, which contains images by photographer Richard Hanson and textual pieces written in response to those images by novelist Fadia Faqir. The conference included an exhibition of Richard Hanson’s photographs, a creative writing workshop run by Graham Mort and the work of two filmmakers who are exploring similar themes, Dictynna Hood and Sami Khan.
Graham Mort's Creative Writing Workshop
Graham's workshop took place from 11 am to 1 pm. It explored photography and the stimulus it offers to writers through Richard Hanson’s Regarding War images in a creative writing workshop open to all.
Some participants' comments on the workshop:
“Great idea to add work generated in the workshop to the website, for me it generated such debate about creativity and use of image…But also much thought about experience of war in the UK, its representation (or not), all those stories (so many untold), and the many dynamic and creative ways it is possible to speak and open up dialogue, especially where it is lacking.”
“A really dynamic workshop. Thought-provoking, interesting, and stimulating. Felt very open, in the sense that it continued beyond the workshop. The writing just begun, ideas arising, and continuation of moral questioning of the whole uncomfortable process of responding creatively to an image (relating to war) devoid of its context. A creative response to a creative composition. Re-igniting thoughts about use, 'ownership', appropriation, of images and story related to war…A workshop that has continued for me, going back to notes, back to previous readings about cultural appropriation of images, and stimulated further exploration through writing.”
“The workshop was very interesting and informative linking images to stories. It was good being in a group of people that I didn't know. Graham explained his concepts clearly and it was an enjoyable experience.”
“The idea of using photographs to generate our individual pieces of writing worked brilliantly. Graham Mort was very engaging and his insights into the intersections between writing and photography were illuminating. There was an atmosphere of intense focus in the workshop, when people had chosen one of Richard's or Graham's images and were madly trying to get all their thoughts down - a diverse range of work resulted.”
The afternoon session
The afternoon opened with a showing of two short films:
Dictynna Hood's 'Journey Man': "Mohamed Ali is a young asylum seeker from Sierra Leone, who arrives as a stowaway in a run-down Welsh town. It's Christmas. He is starving, lost. Finally, he seeks shelter in a pub. He is thrown out by Griff, the landlord, but unexpectedly touches the heart of Connie, Griff's wife."
Sami Khan's 'How Life Happens': "The story of a young African refugee, Kosey, and his experiences in trying to find a place for himself in his new surroundings. A 10-year-old child, Kosey's life is shattered when his father is taken by paramilitary forces from his home in East Africa. Kosey and his mother find themselves on the edges of a new emerging city of prosperity and wealth. They have a new life to begin, and for the young Kosey there are universal parallels that take him all the way back to Africa."
This was followed (3 pm - 5.45 pm) by three talks on "Photography / Text / Film":
3.00pm Finding Form: Research, ethics, aesthetics
Richard Hanson introduces his work, describing the research experience and the decision he faced and took as a photographer interacting with known individuals.
3.15pm Exploring The Punctum
Dr. Lindsey Moore introduces Fadia Faqir’s work (http://www.fadiafaqir.com/) as it explores still images, giving voice to their silence and extending an implied present moment into the temporal, spatial and psychological dimensions of retrospection and anticipation.
3.30pm ‘How Life Happens’
Filmmaker Sami Khan introduces his work and talks about the role of the moving image in the portrayal of those displaced by conflict in the UK.
The panel discussion, "Regarding War", was chaired by Corinne Fowler, with Sami Khan, Lindsey Moore, Graham Mort and Richard Hanson. It was themed around representations of the experience of war and its diaspora in the UK, with reference to photography, text and moving image, drawing together and extending the discussions held throughout the day.
Some comments on the afternoon session:
“The talks were fascinating. And the paper by Lindsey really accessible. Very interesting to hear from Richard, contrasting this experience of photography with his usual work experience of photography. Would have loved a longer time for the panel discussion. Or future opportunity to continue discussions and explorations stimulated by the event.”
“I particularly enjoyed the photographer's paper and the background he gave to the photographs we had been working from in the workshop. This was good link.”
“Richard Hanson provided a very human reading of his own work, and his ethical and personal quandaries about Regarding War provided some of the day's most interesting revelations. The morning's workshop really fed into the panel discussion and provided an audience who had not only engaged with Richard's photographs, but in some sense made them their own.”
Sami Khan wrote to us after the event to say: "It was great to be part of the day, I really enjoyed it. I'm really inspired by the work you guys do there - it's great to be able to see how the the same subject can be approached from so many different angles and disciplines. From my side of the world its all too easy to forget the detail, the analysis of story and meaning - its an angle that inspired me in the choices I have made in joining the industry but its almost battered out of you once you become a practitioner/technician..."
An overview of the event
Some comments on the 2009 Trans-Scriptions event:
“I want to thank every one involved in making it such an interesting and challenging event. The workshop, the talks, and the discussion were so stimulating and thought-provoking.”
“Really appreciated the event. Brought together an interesting group of people. A stimulating thought provoking event. Would be good if there were future events of this kind.”
“It was a great day that was accessible to both academics and non-academics. It was linked together from the workshop to the panel discussion which gave it continuity and reinforced the subject matter.”
“The interdisciplinary nature of the event was inspiring. The fusion of poetry, prose, photography and film meant that fresh insights were discovered as the day progressed. I went away full of new enthusiasm and ideas.”
The objectives of the Regarding War project and the 2009 Trans-Scriptions event
Regarding War is a practice-based research project developed by the Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research. Its first phase involved two sequential commissions:
- Photographs exploring the effect of overseas conflicts here in the UK through human displacement, by photographer Richard Hanson. His images showed war refugees in the Sheffield and his blog discussed ethical dilemmas and research methods.
- Textual pieces in poetry and prose written in responses to those images and giving voice to their silent representations, by novelist Fadia Faqir. Fadia’s pieces explore the human stories and conflicts implied by the images.
Our one-day conference seeks to consider those creative outputs in various ways, adding new explorations of conflict, displacement and alienation via the moving images of filmmakers Dictynna Hood and Sami Khan.
In the course of the day we will seek to explore a series of questions in relation to Regarding War:
What ethical restraints operate upon artists addressing the experience of individuals caught up in armed conflicts, and what are the tensions between reportage, the need to ‘bear witness’, and aesthetic effect?
In what sense do explorations through photography, creative writing and the moving image constitute a form of practice-based research penetrating the conditions of conflict and displacement to bring about significant realisations through their interdisciplinarity and interdependence?
What is the relationship between the still image, the moving image and creative text in their imaginative pitch for audience response; to what extent does artistic selection, framing and form imply or even seek to determine response?
Given the remoteness, scale, variety and complex provenance of overseas conflict, can a specific focus on individuals or community groups in the UK offer artistic insights that engage and empower their subjects and audiences rather than reinforce a sense of remoteness and powerlessness?
To what extent does the artwork move us towards a realization of armed conflict as a significant driver of diaspora within the UK?
How does the presence of human diaspora in the UK driven by conflict also ‘migrate’ the effects of the conflicts that bring about dispersal – psychological, emotional and cultural – to re-define or even subvert notions of a wholesome contemporary UK ‘multiculturism’?
Sami Khan's How Life Happens
Dictynna Hood's Journey Man
Richard Hanson's Jeremie
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Centre for Transcultural Writing and Research, County College, Lancaster University, LA1 4YD, UK