Lauren Pyott

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Thesis title
Representing Conflict / Conflicts of Representation: The Politics of Production and Consumption of Syrian Visual Art post-2011


This research explores the conditions in which Syrian visual art is produced and consumed in Europe and the Middle East during the current Syrian conflict. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ brought with it a renewed interest in art and culture from the Arab world, and the demand for ‘Syrian art’ has grown steadily as the current conflict escalates. However, this has led to a fetishisation of the ‘resistance’ aesthetic and a demand for Syrian artists to bear witness to conflict, both of which essentialise Syrian artists and severely restrict how their work is consumed.

Focusing on three cities as case studies – Berlin, Beirut and Doha – this research addresses the politics of cultural production and curation; the role of cultural institutions and funding structures; the politics of representation, questions of ‘authenticity’, and the role of neo-orientalism; the relationship between humanitarianism and cultural practices, and the presence of neo-imperialism; and how Syrian visual art is shaped by – and shapes – the production of discourse. In other words, it contemplates who gets to define ‘Syrian art’, who is consuming it and how, and how artists respond to this process of epistemological control.

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