It is important that the final stage of this project be showcased to the people of Luton. The centerpiece of this is a large painted mountain in the Iraqi desert, near a significant cultural border. I painted the slogan Peace for Luton on the side of it. To understand the project and why I facilitated this dramatic and seemingly random event, you need to understand the context.
The recent re-enactment refers to the Peace for Kurdistan project in 2000 by Ismail Khayat. I have connected this initial exciting event to a more generic and worldwide context as a peace symbol. As an artist from Luton, it seemed right that I use this dramatic and beautiful symbol as a rallying point to wage peace.
In 2009 when the troops returned from the conflict in Iraq to Luton, they were greeted by a returning home parade. They were also greeted by a handful of Muslims with extreme views, who protested and caused an angry response from some of the supporters of the troops. This violent response led to a number of arrests and a growing sense of sheer detest to these few extreme Muslims. These people went on to form the English Defence League (EDL), a far right group that primarily is anti-extreme Islam. The group did initially grow some momentum with several marches, including a couple in the founding town of Luton. The EDL provoked a reaction from the far left, namely a group called Unite Against Facism (UAF) and amongst the Muslim communities, the Muslim Defence League (MDL). These groups and a number of others have primarily been trying to counter the EDL, branding them as racists and extremists in their own right.
Fundementally, the supporters of the EDL feel un-listened to about some genuine concerns and a number of their supporters have hijacked their core stance towards other imigration and race related issues. The UAF and MDL have reacted so strongly towards the EDL that they have become just as violent and regularly are the ones who get arrested at counter demonstrations. They are almost racists to who they consider racists.
Both sides appear to have truth and genuine concerns and yet both sides have very little time to sit down and create real dialogue about the issues. In my Peace for Luton project I am hoping to use the starting point of Iraq and use a dramatic symbol for peace to be a starting point for dialogue and peace. The tensions are UK/Europe wide, but Luton has become one of the media's main focussing points. THis is partly due to the large Asian populations in Luton and the fact that a number of the main organising people of these groups come from the area. Although it is worth noting, that few of the actual members of the groups live in Luton.
Extract from news article:
Luton artist, Ben Hodson and creative director of ATP Media, has recently returned from an incredible trip to Iraq. The 26 year old travelled with fellow director and storyteller Ian Rowlands, 49, to Iraq last week. The purpose of the trip was somewhat unusual.
With the help of local Iraqi artists, they literally painted the side of a mountain on the site of a dramatic peace project on the turn of the millennium, created by internationally renowned artist, Ismail Khayat. Ben explains “When Ismail initially did the project it was about bringing peace to two opposing Kurdish factions in the north of the country” “It appears that his intervention as an artist kicked off the peace process and he is widely credited with being instrumental in bringing the two opposing sides together.
Ben is the creative Director of ATP Media, who as a team are working on a documentary to tell some of these stories and many more from Iraq. The film will look to show how creativity and people can help to bring about positive change, even in the most difficult of situations.
With this dramatic re-enactment and performance the agency hopes to use it as a symbol for peace for the country, the region and the world. “Art is not the answer, but it’s a great start. It starts dialogue and helps people engage with difficult subject matters in a way that can bring hope and be constructive.” says Ian. During the trip Ben exhibited a solo exhibition of artwork that was made in Luton, UK. I am passionate about showing the beauty and common humanity in every culture, ours is no different. “As we have exhibited a number of Iraqi exhibitions in England and Wales, it is great to show British people and culture to the Iraqi people themselves."
I facilitated a pop exhibition of art work by local artists in and aroun the streets of Luton, specificallt over the duration of the Love Luton 2012 Festival.
I went to the launch of the new space for the Departure Lounge project, an exhibition called: "All that I am" a group show of portrait photographers; Julie Cook, Jane Hilton and Nancy Newberry. The images were stunning, a real insight into their respective subjects. The varied scale and presentation of the work made for an interesting show and was well attended, it is good news for Luton.
As part of the MA we have been working on designing, branding and documenting this years Luton Science Fair.
Photos can be found here: http://www.lutonsciencefair.co.uk/
Here is the video I made in conjunction with Umair as part of the initial Luton brief. The work is really visual research and the main idea is about juxtposing both a "positive" and "negative" image of the same location in the same shot. All the clips were shot at stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton. This was a challenge as most of the places in the centre are what most would consider beautiful and well kept.
Here is an initial sketched idea by Umair based on our decisions. We have decided to pull out some key items from out research to represent on our poster.
During the opening of "Escape from Colditz", the curator Matthew Shaul had a brief conversation with BBC2's The Culture Show presenter Michael Smith (and I recorded it). I have included it in my journal as it represents an growing ground sweel for arts in Luton, which I am a passionate supporter of. It feeds directly into my desire to bring about positive change through creativity. Building the creative sector/industry is part of this.