Conflict brought right up to date

In Museums on March 8, 2018 at 12:58 pm

The war in Syria started on 15 March 2011.  There are more hours of content on YouTube about the war than there have been hours of the actual conflict itself. It might not all be great film content, but it’s certainly evidence of a bewildering and confusing war that continues to make headlines.

Between 15 March and 28 May 2018 Imperial War Museum North is inviting visitors to actively and intimately think about how to make sense of what we hear from Syria – in the news, in print, online. Taking evidence from specific events during the battle of Aleppo in late 2016, the interactive audio experience asks us whether confusion is being used as a weapon to stop the international community from acting. Who controls the fog of war?

This is particularly fitting in IWM North – a building that is designed to confuse and bewilder us. The architecture of the main museum gallery deliberately places visitors in a space where they cannot see all of the room at once . The curves and shards of the walls obscure the entrances and disorient us into a state of mild unease. It’s supposed to be that way, reflecting the notion that when one is in a conflict, one cannot step back, reflect or view situations objectively.

I’ve often thought it makes for a confused visitor experience. But once visitors ‘get’ it, they think it’s rather clever.

When the Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917 its task was to document the story of the First World War raging in Europe and around the (then) British Empire.

Today people might tend to think of the IWM as an historical institution that looks back,  telling us stories of conflicts past. With this installation – and with their accompanying exhibition which I’ve reviewed for Northern Soul – they are demonstrating their relevance to the modern day and that they still have the skills to collect and interpret wars in our lifetime.

Programming about contemporary conflict reminds us of the value of museums, collecting things and presenting them to the public, not only to document our world, but also to help us reflect on our part in it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: