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State Crime, Human Rights and the Arts
by Phillida Cheetham, Emily Baxter and Charlie Woodward
The state crime in the arts blog deals with the power of the arts to act as a part of the critical apparatus of civil society. It seeks to demonstrate the myriad creative responses to state crime that we find in the visual arts, performance, fiction, poetry and related disciplines. The aim of the blog is to provide a showcase of the work that is currently being made at the intersection of art, reportage, and political activism, and to publicise the crucial support structures that allow that work to happen.
The ability of artists to communicate complex situations in engaging and original ways, embedding dissent, make artists a prime social group within which to look for whistleblowers, activists and other critics of the relationship between state and big business. Artists whose work engages with state crime often demonstrate enviable communication skills, allowing their work to incite public debate, raise awareness and critique the obfuscations and assumptions that often accompany large-scale criminal activities. Whether working at the level of individual experience or exploring abstract structural issues, artists whose work engages with state crime provide alternative ways of conceiving of and dealing with complex socio-political issues.
Artists engage with state crimes in a range of media and from a range of different standpoints. Some artists see their role as similar to that of a journalist, dealing in straight representation and documentation of a particular political situation. Other artists are more oblique. Artists such as Heath Bunting, Wafaa Bilal and Rabih Mroue draw out the ethical and legal ramifications of particular situations by embedding themselves with in them, often expressing themselves through performance interventions, installations and research led-work.