Capturing Art Through Conflict occupied the Byre Studio on Sunday for an immersive, sustainable exhibition. It filled the with emphatic stories, real world experiences and raw photography elements. Speakers engaged audiences throughout the afternoon in talks arranged in collaboration with Students for Global Health.
One speaker, MSF Board Member Dennis Kerr was particularly captivating as his presentation featured images of his travels and experiences. He spoke about the securitisation of refugees, highlighting the conflict between seeing them as a threat versus a statistic, both interpretations leading to action by governments that was letting these endangered peoples down. It was thoroughly engaging for students across all disciplines, as he addressed issues from both a political and medical standpoint. Additionally, he discussed how important it was to recognise art as a therapeutic way for refugees, children in particular, to describe their lives in ways they were not able to in words and across language barriers.
The studio had been decked out with fairy lights, creating a cozy and comfortable environment for guests to walk about and observe the installations, with scannable QR codes allowing people to participate in the silent auction at their own pace. The most eye-catching installation was in the centre, prints mounted onto a tower of cardboard boxes, with all displays were made of recycled materials or completely sustainable. There was also a great range of art displayed, from photography by St Andrews alumni Kate Holt to people experiencing displacement, like artist Helen Zughaib. They were a personal favourite for the simplicity by which they conveyed such harrowing experiences. The use of colour and lack of facial expressions among the majority of the refugees faces was significant in demonstrating how little their voices are heard.
The impact of the art was lessened significantly by how cramped a lot of the pieces were, as the displays would perhaps have benefitted from a larger space. However, it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon – both the speakers and art reiterating important themes that continue to affect many in our society, but often go unrecognised. This event was a great contribution by both On the Rocks and Students for Global Health to the student community, yielding an event which directly addressed creative and political themes.