Art in Dialogue

Art in dialogue I • Geneva • Switzerland

artasfoundation and HD centre explore the potential roles of art in conflict mediation.

The Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian dialogue (HD Centre) is an independent private mediation organisation dedicated to the peaceful resolution of armed conflicts ( Funded by a variety of governments, private foundations and philanthropists, it has become one of the world’s most influential conflict mediation organisations. As a neutral and impartial foundation, it facilitates discussions, mediates between warring parties, and provides support to the broader mediation community. Its main office is situated in Geneva, in Villa Plantamour, an 18th-century house in a small park on the shores of the lake. The house, on loan from the city of Geneva, provides one large and two small conference rooms. They are used for the peace-talks and negotiations that HD centre conducts, as well as for meetings of the UNHCR and other humanitarian institutions.

Todays conflicts have become ever more complex. Global interconnectedness, the growing impact of foreign or expatriate interests on local communities, creatively fluent associations of political and economic actors, the extended reach of criminal networks, the influence of media-(mis-)representation, growing demographic and environmental pressures, these are just some of the dynamics that demand an ongoing reflection and development of mediation methods. Due to its practical engagement, the HD centre is acutely aware of such dynamics and at the forefront of developing appropriate new techniques and strategies. Exploring–in conjunction with artasfoundation–how art can support peace processes is one of its initiatives in this direction.

In the first phase we installed in three conference rooms of the HD Centre in Geneva, works of

Beatrice Minda (Berlin)

Ayaz Jokhio (Lahore)

Hajra Waheed (Montreal)

The selection of the works was matched to the frequent presence of negotiating delegations from Muslim countries in the facilities of the villa Plantamour. This was done through the close collaboration between the curators of the artasfoundation, Catherine David and Dagmar Reichert, and the team from the HD Centre.

The exhibition of the artworks was opened in an official event on October 10, 2012 and the work will remain in the conference rooms until end April 2013. The initial reactions to the presence of special artworks in these rooms were very positive. As hoped for, they provided starting points for discussions and supported the creation of a constructive atmosphere. How far the complexity of the art works could oppose tendencies of simple categorisations, which might occur in negotiations, is hard to say. Besides the effect of the work on the atmosphere for talks, what was valuable was the possibility of opening the HD Centre to a wider audience, on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition.

The cooperation of the HD Centre and the artasfoundation Centre will now be further explored in a future project. Here it is envisaged that artists would develop new site-specific works, which respond to the context, the activities and the philosophy of the HD Centre.

Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre)