Abstract ‘Participatory art’ is a genre of art that focuses on the participation of people as the central artistic medium and material, as opposed to production by a single artist, and on the artistic process, as opposed to a definite final product. It is argued that transitional justice, reimagined through the conceptual lens of participatory art, would focus more on participation, on localism, on empowering and mobilizing at grassroots level, and on exploration of creative and uncensored processes, rather than focusing solely on preconceived state-centric models that dictate or control outcomes. It is further argued that the practical manifestation of participatory art is overlooked as an effective transitional justice tool. Using specific examples, the article explores how participatory art is a context-specific, collaborative and bottom-up process that can contribute to individualized and collective healing, make the invisible visible, extend social responsibility, restore collective memory, repair the social fabric, reclaim truths and foster collective change. INTRODUCTION The last decade has seen a swiftly growing interest in artistic interventions in the interdisciplinary field of transitional justice, and the arts are now seen as a crucial catalyst to support societies in transition.1 There is plentiful scholarship from diverse disciplines that argues that purely legalistic transitional justice modes cannot begin to understand the complexity in which the past colours the present.2 It is argued that artistic interventions can, inter alia, offer a way into understanding this complexity, as they ‘help expand the range of what can be seen, what can be said and what can be thought and … what can be done’ in times of political transition.3 Although there is already a wealth of literature exploring the relationship between transitional justice and art,4 this article is intended to contribute to the debate by thickening ‘the web of connections,’5 specifically by exploring participatory art through two separate strands of analysis. Firstly, the article reimagines transitional justice through the conceptual lens of participatory art, and secondly, explores the practical use of participatory art as a transitional justice tool. Before setting out the central arguments in each of these strands, it is necessary to first explain what participatory art actually is. There are many ways to describe participatory art but, put simply, it is a genre of art that focuses on the participation of people as the central artistic medium and material, as opposed to production by a single artist, and on the artistic process, as opposed to a definite final product. Participatory art demands that we not merely rely on our visual senses by passively perceiving art with our eyes, but that we actively participate and embrace an experience with authenticity and fullness. The artist is no longer an individual producer of objects, but a collaborator in situations and projects.6 It is the idea that a work of art should solicit participation and involvement openly, so that the form is developed in consultation with the viewer.7 This genre of art parts from the tradition of object making, and moves towards a process-based approach that is centred around facilitation of dialogue among diverse communities. Grant Kester states that, in a participatory art piece, it is the conversation that becomes an integral part of the work itself.8 It is a practice that concerns collaborative, and potentially emancipatory, forms of dialogue and conversation.9 Kester further argues that dialogical works can challenge dominant representations of a given community, and create a more complex understanding of, and empathy for, that community among a broader public.10 As Claire Bishop11 states, participatory art ‘tends to value what is invisible: a group dynamic, a social situation, a change of energy, a raised consciousness.’12 I rely on the above definition of participatory art in both strands of analysis in this article. First, when perceiving transitional justice through the conceptual lens of participatory art, the focus is drawn away from preconceived state-centric models that dictate or control outcomes within the boundaries of the traditional four pillars of transitional justice (truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of nonrecurrence). Instead, we start to focus more on participation, on localism, on empowering and mobilizing at grassroots level, and on exploration of creative and uncensored processes. As James Young advocates in the context of memorials, the greatest opportunity for learning about the past may be the debate that is stimulated by the creation of a public memorial, as opposed to a fixed product of memory.13 Second, it is argued that the practical manifestation of participatory art is overlooked as an effective transitional justice tool. This article advocates for a shift towards thinking about art in the transitional justice context as an active process that works politically in and of itself, regardless of whether the art is actually about politics. As Eliza Garnsey argues: While transitional justice policies and practices have become fundamental to the ways in which countries emerging from conflict engage with international institutions and international norm compliance, artistic production and participation has become a radical form of political representation in times of political transition.14 Specific examples are explored to show how participatory art is a context-specific, collaborative and bottom-up process that can contribute to individualized and collective healing, make the invisible visible, extend social responsibility, restore collective memory, repair the social fabric, reclaim truths and foster collective change. REIMAGINING TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE THROUGH THE CONCEPTUAL LENS OF PARTICIPATORY ART This section attempts to reimagine transitional justice by relying on the two key concepts of participatory art, namely participation and process. Participation It is a well-versed critique of transitional justice that it is elite-managed and institution-centric.15 All four pillars are concerned with state obligations, and thus target institutional-level measures. This generally leads to a situation where participation is dominated by elite international professional and donor networks. Only a small number of local citizens currently engage with transitional justice mechanisms, and they do so in highly proscribed ways, such as through giving evidence or testimony as witnesses or defendants.16 The locally affected people thereby have little or no opportunity to participate in designing the goals of the process or the nature of particular mechanisms.17 The predominantly legal discourses of transitional justice are often alien to victims and can actually ‘empower elites and outsiders at the expense of victims, particularly the most disempowered, who have both the greatest need for and least access to the language of rights.’18 Christine Bell argues that transitional justice is a discipline rooted in law and argues against the emerging conception of transitional justice as an interdisciplinary field.19 I am not convinced. Just as professional or recognized artists should not be the sole protagonists in the participatory art narrative, I do not think that lawyers should be the sole protagonists in the transitional justice narrative.20 This is not to demote the importance of law or detract from the critical work of lawyers. I do not intend to downplay the question of justice. Lawyers will, of course, need to retain control over the design and implementation of due process guarantees in processes that potentially lead to attribution of guilt and sentences. Rather, I argue that transitional justice needs to embrace the idea of wider participation within a broader social and political context (and this includes acknowledging the important role of artists). The tickets to the transitional justice party should be accessible to people from all walks of life, and the invitation should be written in a language that communities understand without a lawyer or a nongovernmental organization (NGO) worker needing to ‘translate’ the invitation. The current frame is an overemphasis, or unnecessary ‘zooming in,’ on elite-authored institutional engineering, and contributes towards holding traditional power structures in place. This undermines the potential impact of the entire field, as it stifles imagination and growth, and keeps those that are typically most affected by violations at arms length. Recent studies have shown that legal measures, such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), have not led to a significant change in public perceptions of the war on the ground.21 The ICTY is an innovative international criminal court, set up by the UN Security Council, which received an annual budget of around US$250 million.22 It successfully promulgated cutting-edge jurisprudence in the arena of international criminal law. For the people that actually experienced the war, however, it did not change the original narratives.23 This is because the ‘perception of the past is a matter of attitude, not knowledge’24 and powerful narratives of past violence and oppression are tightly controlled by the state and dominant ethnonational elites, which are then passed from generation to generation. For example, surveys suggest that around 50 percent of the Serbian population doubt if the Srebrenica genocide ever happened.25 This shows how the shortcomings of genuine engagement and participation at the local level can result in transitional justice measures inadvertently reinforcing historic power relations, thereby allowing the social, economic, ethnic and political forces of the past to continue to shape how people understand the present. The absence of genuine engagement and participation at the local level is typical in the field of transitional justice. Take the pillar of ‘guarantees of nonrecurrence’ as another example. There must be countless strategies to help a society ensure that massive human rights violations are not repeated (including those situated in the art world). Yet, in practice, this ‘guarantees of nonrecurrence’ pillar is reduced to the narrow and specific mechanism of ‘vetting.’ Vetting usually entails a formal process for the identification and removal of individuals responsible for abuses, especially those in the police, prison services, the army and the judiciary.26 This pillar is currently conceived as a top-down measure aimed at institutional reform only. This is a considerable reduction when juxtaposed against the ordinary meaning of the words ‘guarantees of nonrecurrence.’ It seems to me that institutions cannot genuinely guarantee ‘nonrecurrence’ without the engagement and buy-in of the people that they serve. If Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough are right that ‘people-powered grassroots movements, led by those who are most directly affected, are the engines of true social progress,’27 then this pillar will never achieve its lofty aim of ‘nonrecurrence’ if it cuts out the people that are most directly affected. Pablo de Greiff argues that, while there are reasons for the almost exclusive concentration on institutions, this approach detrimentally leaves out cultural, artistic and individual dimensions, which in turn limits the tools available to those of us interested in social change.28 He further argues that cultural products and activities can raise awareness of the depth, breadth and effects of rights violations in a way that other forms of communication can hardly aspire to.29 If the aim of transitional justice is genuinely to help a society repair its social bonds and promulgate social change, then transitional justice measures need to find new and creative ways of communicating directly with the local people, as well as allowing people to find new and creative ways of communicating with each other. This means that the transitional justice community needs to listen to the calls for locally particular mechanisms with cultural resonance and find the courage to take risks to integrate new technologies, tools and techniques into the field. We need to specifically invite more colourful players to join in, from all walks of life, and we need a more curious spirit of experimentation outside the traditional realm of a lawyer’s mind. Process Transitional justice has outgrown its original four-pillar framework – truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of nonrecurrence – as it is too rigid and prescriptive, and is simply not adequate in all circumstances. Our language and thinking should be grounded in the broader objectives of transitional justice, as the challenges of transition now require us to look beyond this ‘four-sizes-fit-all’ approach. We must work to unpack the assumptions that allow us to continue to adhere to this four-pillar framework, as this would open up the toolbox, rather than constrain it. This may demand rethinking the expression ‘transitional justice’ itself, given that it implies that justice is the principal aim of countries in transition. Challenging the current framing of the field of transitional justice is all the more important in light of its context-specific nature. To achieve full effectiveness, transitional justice measures must be applied flexibly in different countries in accordance with varying cultural–historical circumstances. Framed around objectives, rather than pillars, transitional justice would be able to adapt to the specific circumstances more fluidly, and flourish by embracing methodological and philosophical pluralism. Rather than selecting from a menu of four precooked options, societies in transition could instead be encouraged to approach the dramatic crisis situation with an open mind and as a unique opportunity to challenge underlying assumptions and redefine conventional wisdom. Even within the preexisting four-pillar framework, there is unnecessary inflexibility. The untapped potential within the ‘guarantees of nonrecurrence’ pillar has already been discussed. Symbolic reparations are another example. At present, there are some accepted and traditional forms of artistic contributions in this category, principally in the form of memorials or museums. A traditional memorial is typically a large placard or monument citing the names of those that died in the conflict. Traditional memorial sites tend to reinforce the status quo power dynamic of the hierarchical relationships within society, as they ‘teach’ the population circumscribed stories and lessons, rather than giving people the freedom to think, learn and speak for themselves. As Louis Bickford argues, ‘memorials essentialize a dominant or hegemonic view of the nation that can create loyalty, patriotism, and pride in the (ostensibly shared) past.’30 Memorials often use basic and gruesome imagery and information31 to tell people what to think about the past, rather than hearing what they have to say. For example, the Choeung Ek memorial in Cambodia displays 8,985 exhumed skeletons in a stupa, and leaves visitors to walk around the killing fields (86 of the 129 mass graves remain untouched). There are small narrative plaques placed around the killing fields that describe, in intimate and gruesome detail, how the victims died. The project was originally a way to create a Cambodian narrative in support of the Vietnamese invasion of 1979 and to vilify the Khmer Rouge forever in the national consciousness.32 This memory project therefore exemplifies a classic credit/blame nation-building strategy.33 Although these sites may be described as ‘victim-centred,’ they often operate through the objectification of the victim to support the broader aims of the state.34 Furthermore, this memorial presents a simplified and hegemonic story for the victims and perpetrators, using minimalist interpretations and nonexistent story telling.35 The focus is exclusively on the brutality of the deaths. Although this is effective in many ways, as everyone understands the message that a ‘genocide’ happened in Cambodia (in the colloquial sense of the word), many different variations of the narrative are left out.36 The memorial does not allow for alternative interpretations, nor for a deeper intellectual or emotional engagement – the only available option is to accept the story as told.37 This is also true of Cambodia’s infamous S21 prison museum, where visitors can view the mugshots of all those detained, tortured and murdered in the school-turned-torture-chamber. Some of the signs in this museum simply attribute guilt for atrocities to the Pol Pot/leng Sary clique.38 It is presumed that this clique are the guilty perpetrators and everyone else is innocent, which allows the public to safely identify a relative as having been purged at S21, without questions or suspicions about their loyalties during the Khmer Rouge period.39 This expresses a clear dichotomy of subjects: perpetrators and victims. It is black and white – similar to the necessarily binary outcome of either guilty or not guilty in a criminal trial – and there is no room for the countless shades of grey. Even when the state is not directly involved in designing a memorial, it still often controls the selection of the architect and/or artist commissioned for the project. For example, the architect responsible for the design of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin was an American named Peter Eisenman. He did not himself experience the atrocity or mainland Europe’s recovery, but instead studied at Columbia and at Cambridge University, and is considered one of the ‘New York Five’ (i.e. an influential and wealthy member of an American elite). This memorial could therefore be perceived as a wasted opportunity. Instead of granting authorship to a wealthy, already-famous American architect, for example, it could have been granted to a collaborative group of locally affected European people. It is not my intention to argue that all symbolic reparations projects around the globe are cynical nation-building projects, but rather to emphasize that when cultural or artistic projects are institutionalized, such as memorials, it is the state that is controlling and designing the work. Although it is a positive development that there is an emerging move away from state-run memorialization efforts,40 this development is not radical enough, as there is so much space for more creativity and diversity here. Tried-and-tested ‘safe’ transitional justice measures are too concerned with attracting donor funding by producing a definite and final product, and are too narrow in that they dictate and prescribe a certain narrative and a corresponding emotional reaction. Creativity and activism should not be seen as a luxury at the edge of transitional justice, but rather as a necessity at the heart of the work. Exploring projects that take on a life of their own and give way to unpredictable, innovative and uncensored processes could provide individuals with authentic agency, empowerment and freedom to cultivate their own personal, emotional and counterhegemonic narratives. I tested my assumptions on a micro scale when I hosted my own participatory art event. I entitled the event ‘Paint with Impunity’ and invited a group of female lawyers and judges to my home to share personal or political stories concerning impunity. Participants were encouraged to engage in the paradigm shift of understanding art as a participatory process, rather than worrying about the aesthetic output of art. The group – most of whom had not painted since primary school – painted as they debated the topic of impunity, and every 10 minutes they swapped canvases. Each participant thus contributed to all seven canvases. One participant spontaneously shared her childhood experience of sexual abuse for the first time with the group, who were strangers to her. She said that participatory art felt like an emancipatory safe space for her to externalize the crippling stigma around the issue. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide One of seven paintings that emerged from the participatory art event ‘Paint with Impunity.’ Figure 1. View largeDownload slide One of seven paintings that emerged from the participatory art event ‘Paint with Impunity.’ Example of Transitional Justice Project that Focuses Conceptually on Participation and Process RECOM is a regional commission for the establishment of facts about war crimes and other serious violations of human rights committed in the former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 2001. RECOM’s consultative process lasted many years, straddled regional, national and local groups and brought together many different communities. All of the resources and documentation gathered from this extensive consultative process are shared on RECOM’s website. The objective of the process was to create a public platform for victims and representatives of civil society to express their needs regarding human rights violations and other types of injustices committed in the past. This is truly a bottom-up initiative as it was through these extensive consultations, driven by civil society, that the commission emerged. People from all walks of life participated in the process, including intimate engagement with artistic communities. The regional dimension is important, as there was recognition that no instruments that are nationally focused would be adequate in this particular context. The victims, witnesses and perpetrators of the conflict straddle numerous states. Most traditional transitional justice measures are contained within the borders of one country, which is problematic, as conflicts nowadays tend to be, in some shape or form, transnational. This initiative therefore demonstrates the suitability of bottom-up participatory tools in the transitional justice context, as they can adapt and evolve creatively in response to the circumstances. Iavor Rangelov described the apprehension he felt during one consultation that brought together people with very deeply opposed views.41 These were members of victims’ associations whose politics are often seen as irreconcilable. He said the tension in the room was palpable. But once people started speaking, Rangelov described how they started to recognize the experience of the other, as well as the extremity of their own position. Kester’s words on the potential impact of participatory art are poignant in this context, as they reflect how the process of debate itself can transform one’s view or identity of the past: In attempting to present our views to others we are called upon to articulate them in a more systematic manner. In this way we are led to see ourselves from the other’s point of view, and are thus, at least potentially, able to be more critical and self-aware about our own opinions. This self-critical awareness can lead, in turn, to a capacity to see our views, and our identities, as contingent, processual, and subject to creative transformation.42 RECOM is therefore an example of a transitional justice measure that embodies the key concepts of participatory art, without being considered an art project itself. It invites all affected people to participate and is centred around facilitation of dialogue among diverse communities. The conversation itself became an integral part of the work and helped create a more complex understanding of, and empathy for, the diverging transnational narratives. Important Proviso I should stress that it is not my intention to suggest that transitional justice, as we know it today, should be scrapped altogether and replaced solely by mechanisms that embody the concepts of participation and process. I think that transitional justice measures will always require intervention at the institutional level. It could, for example, be a positive ‘outcome’ if an abundant reparations programme is established by the state or if the most senior surviving leaders of a violent regime are convicted. I am not suggesting that there should be a hierarchy of transitional justice measures and that those that focus on participation and process should fall at the top, pushing the more traditional measures, such as criminal courts, down the hierarchy. There is, in fact, no need for a hierarchy. Rather, I am advocating that we should focus more on creative ways to bring more participation and process into transitional justice, in addition to and alongside the traditional transitional justice tools. PRACTICAL EXAMPLES OF PARTICIPATORY ART IN THE TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE CONTEXT So far, I have argued that the two key concepts of participatory art – participation and process – illuminate possibilities of promoting agency, empowerment and social change within the transitional justice context. This section explores practical examples of participatory art projects that have been used, or could be used, in the transitional justice context. Each example embodies the ‘ideals’ of participatory art to varying degrees. Due to space constraints, only a brief overview of each project is given. Before commencing this practical analysis, it is worth noting that although participatory art can be a very effective form of healing for the participants themselves, it should not be reduced to only having this impact. It can offer a whole range of potential impacts. One such example is in the domain of shared responsibility in the aftermath of atrocities, which is a domain that has been largely missed by traditional transitional justice measures. Criminal trials, for example, cannot extend the mantle of responsibility beyond a handful of individuals, because, for very good reason, they can only hold people responsible for their individual behaviour. Participatory art can significantly reach beyond purely legal instruments in this regard, as it can aptly demonstrate how everyone is indeed connected to the violence, and that they are therefore all responsible for what took place as well as for what ought to take place subsequently. This is why participatory art (and all cultural and artistic interventions for that matter) cannot be understood purely in terms of effects on participants themselves and their healing. In other words, we need to stop misunderstanding cultural and artistic interventions as simply therapeutic visual accompaniments intended to soothe the souls of the survivors of an atrocity,43 but rather as an effective tool which can contribute to, inter alia, extending social responsibility, making the invisible visible,44 restoring collective memory, repairing social fabric, reclaiming truths and fostering collective change. Walter Benjamin delivered a speech in 1934 entitled ‘The Author as Producer,’ where he made a distinction between art that is about politics and art that works politically.45 Artist interventions in the transitional justice context can of course have a useful and important function to play in terms of helping individuals and communities express their feelings about politics or injustice, but I am advocating for a shift towards thinking about art in the transitional justice context as an active process that works politically in and of itself, regardless of whether the art is actually about politics. AIDS Quilt in the US The AIDS quilt in the US consists of more than 48,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels which have been constructed by friends, lovers and family members in memory of a single loved one that they lost to AIDS. The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt began in 1987 with a small meeting of strangers in San Francisco who all wished to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their website hosts step-by-step instructions regarding, for instance, the size of each panel, but no substantive guidelines around what the panel should look like.46 So the project allows for a personal and uncensored artistic expression. The quilt was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and remains the largest community art project in the world. It has arguably been one of the most important AIDS consciousness-raising tools, as it has helped create a memory for lost loved ones and a sense of activism aimed at prevention.47 This project emphasizes participation and process, rather than single artistic authorship and product generation. Through the sharing of memory, individuals participate in giving meaning to the past48 and engage in a slow and deliberate process. It is a dynamic and tactile travelling exhibit and, while it is brought out in its entirety on occasion, the evaluative framework of this project is not centred around the existence of a final physical product, but resides in the condition and character of the dialogical process itself. Poetry Competition in Sri Lanka Sri Lankans living in the country (or those that had emigrated there) were invited by Amnesty International to write poems in English, Tamil or Sinhala specifically on the topic of disappearances.49 Amnesty International then selected five poems from each of the three languages and published them in a collection entitled ‘Silenced Shadows.’ Amnesty International understands poetry as a force for change and stated (rather poetically) that: ‘The state is the source of human rights violations. And when it comes to literature and fine arts, like many states in the world, it is illiterate.’ Poet R. Cheran stated that, ‘Words and imagination are my weapons. I have no other.’50 An extract from one of the winning English poems called ‘Still Waiting’ by Ria Rameez reads: Her face is an empty headstone, a blank, wrinkled page, but her eyes are a story and in them I read of stolen people …51 At the launch of ‘Silenced Shadows’ in January 2016, Amnesty International hosted a day of workshops and art exhibits around the theme of ‘Memory and Justice’ in Colombo at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.52 The workshops included activities such as creating a ‘memory tree,’ which was an interactive space to share memories of the disappeared. There were many informal opportunities too, so people from different backgrounds could eat lunch and drink tea together. By providing a safe creative space and working directly with the people affected, from all different backgrounds, Amnesty International was able to respect the individuality of each person’s experience, whilst at the same time promote a sense of social cohesion and universality. This initiative in Sri Lanka clearly contributed to the overarching aims of transitional justice, as it helped recognize victims and promote healing and reconciliation. It also contributed to connecting people to the violence, and extending the mantle of shared experience and responsibility. A poetry competition or workshop is, in and of itself, a form of participatory art (regardless of the poems produced), as it is an active conversational process and can be a powerful tool to ‘make heard and seen those voices and faces hitherto invisible and powerless.’53 It is a participatory art form that ‘reaches out as well as in.’54 It reaches ‘out’ as it allows people to come together to listen to each other’s efforts to define, confront and oppose similar harms. By giving harm a name, poetry can reclaim the truth of the lived experience, and it is that search for truth that connects the poem to the experience of the reader/audience, who acts as a recipient of the poem’s testimony.55 Carlos Luis-André describes poetry as a ‘privileged medium for articulating the moral grammar of experience’ as it lends the languages of politics and law a power of understanding that they naturally lack, insofar as it is a force that unveils and penetrates emotions, beliefs and desires of persons affected by harm.56 It also reaches ‘in’ as it allows people to voice and convey their own stories, helping them to reveal intimate facets of their own human condition and comprehend the obscurity and effect of their own pain. It can encourage people to articulate themselves beyond the limits of fixed identities and official discourse. As John F. Kennedy famously noted, ‘When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.’57 I could not conclude a section on poetry in the context of transitional justice without quoting from Audre Lorde’s 1985 piece ‘Poetry Is Not a Luxury’: Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought … If what we need to dream, to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise, is a luxury, then we have given up the core – the fountain – of our power, our womanness; we have given up the future of our worlds.58 Playback Theatre in Afghanistan Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed is a form of popular, participatory and democratic theatre of, by and for the people engaging in a struggle for liberation.59 It is a process that closes the separation between actor and spectator, so that ‘spect-actors’ can stop a performance and assume a protagonist role onstage to change the action, propose various solutions and discuss plans for change. It is a self-empowering process of dialogue that helps foster critical thinking and democratic and cooperative forms of interaction, and creates space for participants to rehearse taking social action. This particular type of interactive theatre is rooted in the pedagogical and political principles of Paulo Freire, in his book entitled Pedagogy of the Oppressed.60 Freire sets out a pedagogy that must be forged with, not for, the oppressed in the incessant struggle to regain their humanity.61 In a similar vein, Playback Theatre enables an audience member to tell a story from his or her own experience and then watch as musicians and/or professional or amateur actors recreate the scene, giving it artistic shape and coherence.62 Participatory Playback Theatre was used in Afghanistan in 2009 to provide a space for people to collectively share their stories and create meaning about what happened in the community.63 Workshops were performed in Kabul, which is strongly divided along ethnic lines, for a variety of audiences.64 The actors and audience members were all of different ethnicities, ages and abilities, and spent time together after the performances drinking tea and sharing stories.65 Nadia Siddiqui explains how: These actors openly admitted their prejudices about the places and their inhabitants, and later expressed their astonishment and happiness about having to come to know new communities and people, all of whom were ultimately their fellow Afghani citizens.66 Some of the female participants explained how they had been unable to tell their stories before when approached by formal conflict-mapping officials because they had not felt enough trust to do so. Siddiqui explains that Playback Theatre in Afghanistan has engaged marginalized and victimized groups in the public discourse of issues central to their communities, and helped generate a sense of empathy and universality. She argues that active participation provides a space of mutual respect and recognition and can celebrate individual narratives and connect people through their stories, regardless of their background. She concludes that Playback Theatre in Afghanistan has contributed to repudiating past violence, demanding remembrance and insisting that violence not be repeated.67 This example of participatory art in the transitional justice setting fully embraces the theory of participatory art by allowing locally affected people to participate and take control of situations rather than simply having things happen to them. It also prioritizes unpredictable, innovative and uncensored artistic processes over a definite final project. In recent years, Playback Theatre has also been utilized to raise social justice concerns in postconflict and transitional contexts, such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kosovo.68 Never-Ending Memorial Design Competition Young believes that the greatest opportunity for learning about the past may be during the process of creating the public memorial.69 His idea, in the context of his work on Holocaust memorials, is for a never-ending memorial design competition. This would be a series of annual competitions, whereby the proposed designs and jury debate are exhibited in lieu of an installed winner, so that ‘instead of a fixed figure of memory, the debate itself – perpetually unresolved amid ever-changing conditions – would be enshrined.’70 If adequately publicized, it could attract widespread participation amongst diverse groups of people. The process itself would be substantially more productive than a fixed granite monument, thereby making the debate itself the memorial.71 This idea is dynamic, dialogic and ephemeral; it provokes conversations about how people feel – quite the opposite of a single story being forced upon a passive audience. Projects of this kind understand that static narratives foreclose dialogue.72 Meaning can change over time. A person might tell a story one day, only to find that they need or want to tell the same story an entirely different way another day. This participatory art project would allow stories to be told and retold, debated and redebated. I think Young’s idea is a beautiful artistic expression of the following sentiment: Art makes it possible for different parts of memory to be documented. There is no such thing as only one truth and only one possible memory. There are many memories that coexist simultaneously and can all be truthful in that sense. Art can put these different remembrances in the same space next to each other without saying ‘your memory is more worthy than mine.’73 Deller’s Battle of Orgreave Jeremy Deller, a renowned British artist, reenacted an infamous violent clash between miners and mounted policemen in 1984 in the UK in his Battle of Orgreave project.74 The reenactment was staged in front of the public on the original site of the hostilities and the participants included former miners and local residents. The former miners were even invited to switch roles and play policemen. The ‘performers’ were not given specific instruction on how to behave, so the project developed a life of its own. Deller described how nervous he was before the ‘performance’ took place. He said that he did not feel in control any more, describing the project as follows: After two years’ research, the re-enactment finally happened, with about eight-hundred historical re-enactors and two-hundred former miners who had been part of the original conflict. Basically, I was asking the re-enactors to participate in the staging of a battle that occurred within living memory, alongside veterans of the campaign. I’ve always described it as digging up a corpse and giving it a proper post-mortem.75 Paul Gready and Simon Robins argue that the sustainable peace that transitional justice aims to create is ‘a peace from above,’ as it is ‘imposed by the powerful according to a global prescription that serves to reinforce existing hierarchies of power.’76 They describe the transformative alternative of ‘emancipatory post-conflict peace-building.’77 Deller’s Battle of Orgreave strikes me as an example of an emancipatory postconflict peacebuilding project, as it does not force ‘peace from above’ but is instead rooted in the lives of the affected people, and is able to break free from the chains reinforcing state-imposed hierarchies of power. Although Deller is situated firmly within the international fine art world and is thus operating from a position of institutional power in that world, the project still wholeheartedly embodies the concept of participatory art. This is because – despite Deller maintaining artistic proprietary over this project – it was the people that remained the primary artistic medium and material. Deller delegated artistic decisions to those participating, thereby fully embracing the idea of an unpredictable, innovative and uncensored process. The process was open and unscripted. It was not known exactly what would happen; it was only setting the stage for something to happen. This is similar to the Theatre of the Oppressed, which Boal describes as follows: ‘One knows how these experiments will begin but not how they will end, because the spectator is freed from his chains, finally acts, and becomes a protagonist.’78 Such a project could be used as inspiration in a number of different transitional justice contexts. Projects of this kind could allow us to pursue a richer and more complex set of interweaving and contradictory narratives. They could help to rehumanize a society by understanding the obscurities of pain and unleashing disagreement, contradictions, confusion, grief and anger – rather than prescribing and controlling how people should respond to human rights violations. CRITIQUES It is necessary to acknowledge at least two potential critiques of my position. Firstly, there are inherent difficulties in measuring the success or impact of both the conceptual and practical elements of participatory art in the transitional justice context. Secondly, it is arguable that I have romanticized art and/or locally affected people, and that advocating widespread participation and uncontrolled processes may have seriously negative ethical implications. I address each of these critiques briefly. Measurability of Outcomes Tricia Olsen, Leigh Payne and Andrew Reiter have systematically attempted to measure the success/impact of multiple mechanisms and combinations of transitional justice mechanisms by comparing data across regions, countries and time.79 They conclude that a ‘justice balance’ that combines trials and amnesties is crucial for success in societies seeking improvements in democracy and human rights after conflict. One could argue that attempting to meticulously measure the success of a transitional justice measure in this way is potentially perilous. Conventional frameworks that view transitional justice from this perspective of measurable outcomes are arguably too narrow, and embed some of the assumptions that this article has in fact been questioning. They ignore the fact that participation and process, in and of themselves, can be ‘successful,’ regardless of final product. These measurability frameworks do not take into account that the ‘achievement’ of transitional justice is not an end point per se, but rather a set of processes enabling change.80 One could argue that embracing participatory art means embracing a move away from traditional methods of quantifying success. It could mean resisting the urge to appease potential donors by focusing solely on measurable results, such as the conviction of the most senior surviving leader or the creation of a specific monument. Although it may be difficult to methodologically measure if a poetry competition has contributed to preventing a future mass atrocity, it does not mean that it is unsuccessful as a transitional justice measure. Participatory art is concerned with the labour of collectivity, and believes that the production of a tangible result is merely the representation of the ‘doing,’ rather than the actual ‘doing.’ One could even argue that the power of participatory art lies beyond thinking, beyond comprehension and beyond measurement.81 There is, however, a powerful counterargument. Stephen Duncombe, for example, argues that it would be a mistake to give up on measurability too easily. He argues that artistic practices that hope to bring about social and political change are almost obligated to bear the burden of addressing the difficult question about impact. He states that these ‘artists have implicitly signed on to the project of using their creativity to create change, and if we are going to take this pledge seriously, it means asking over and over: Does it work?’82 Surrendering to the idea that participatory art is some sort of sublime discipline, which floats somewhere outside of consciousness, negates the fact that participatory art can do real demonstrable things on the ground. Perhaps the better option would be to develop a specific standard of measurement that could evaluate the affect, as well as effect, of participatory art in the transitional justice context. Exploring the detail of any such measurement regime is beyond the scope of this article, but it is important to note that it would need to be specially designed. Failing to create a bespoke mode of measurement in this context could allow other misfitted modes of measurement to fill the gap, such as standards applied by the legal sphere or NGOs or the art world (none of which would be quite right). Romanticization and Ethical Risk It is arguable that I have romanticized art and overstated what art is capable of achieving. Some would contend that art is not accessible or desirable to people emerging from an atrocity. I unabashedly admit that I believe that artists (in the broadest sense of the word) play a central role in the creation of a public consciousness and in helping a society out of darkness.83 I agree with Stewart Parker, Northern Irish playwright, who said, ‘It falls to the artists to construct a working model of wholeness by which this society can begin to hold up its head in the world.’84 It does not follow that I envisage participatory art bringing about ‘wholeness’ through idyllic pictures of everyone holding hands in forgiveness after an atrocity. On the contrary, the value of participatory art in the aftermath of an atrocity is precisely that it might produce obscure or even ‘agonizing’85 results, because atrocities are events that overwhelm and defy our cognitive understanding and return in visceral parts and images.86 As Bishop argues, ‘unease, discomfort or frustration – along with fear, contradiction, exhilaration and absurdity – can be crucial to any work’s impact.’87 The fact that participatory art as a transitional justice measure might not be comfortable is an apt acknowledgement of the complexities of the human condition and a warning of the uselessness of any attempt to reduce it to a single logic or dimension.88 It is actually through this ‘unease’ or ‘discomfort’ that we can bring about the ‘wholeness’ that Parker refers to. It is also arguable that I have romanticized locally affected people, and that in encouraging unpredictable, innovative and uncensored responses, I could in fact be inadvertently encouraging or legitimizing unconscious bias, conscious discriminatory practices (e.g. against women) or even violence. Such an approach could perhaps reopen wounds or cause new forms of pain or trauma. It could therefore be argued that my position advocates the abdication of the ethical responsibility that a lawyer and/or artist owes his or her ‘client.’ I do not question that both lawyers and artists have ethical responsibilities. What I do question though is whether our concern for ethics has made us too careful. I have argued that memorial works are often ‘cautious,’ ‘self-censoring,’ ‘orderly’ and even ‘saintly.’ These are words that Bishop uses to critique artists that become obsessed with ethics. She argues that participants are ‘more than capable of dealing with artists [who provide] a more complicated access to social truth, however eccentric, extreme or irrational this might be.’89 I agree with Bishop that an oversolicitousness that judges in advance what people are capable of coping with can be just as insidious as a high-risk project itself.90 The risk of reopening wounds therefore needs to be weighed against the risk of patronizing autonomous adults by assuming that participatory art might be too much for them to handle. The importance of individual autonomy should not be underestimated here. I am obviously not suggesting that anyone is forced or manipulated into participating in projects: each person can choose whether to take part in a participatory art project, and can at any time choose to stop. Participatory art has the potential to contribute towards acknowledging collective responsibility, recreating a sense of community and mending social bonds, but to do so, we cannot try to control or censor the raw emotion that might arise from a broken community. So while we need to be sensitive and conscious of ethical risks, I think that we need to take more creative risks in our artistic contributions to transitional justice. Although it may not always be a comfortable or pleasant experience, participatory art has the potential to reach deep within the consciousness of an individual or a community and actually affect how people feel. If participatory art projects can help establish a communal longing for sustainable peace and affect how people feel about justice, then as Eugene McNamee says, ‘transitional justice, precisely in acknowledging itself as a process inseparable from feelings of justice, is literally unthinkable without the lessons of literature and art.’91 CONCLUSION This article critiqued the transitional justice enterprise as being too focused on institution-centric elite-dominated measures, which tend to be unimaginative, outcome-oriented and prescriptive in their scope and impact. It argued that two key concepts of participatory art, namely participation and process, offer possibilities for promoting agency, empowerment and mobilization within the transitional justice context. Focusing more on participation and process encourages transitional justice mechanisms to extend the invitation to the most affected people, and then listen, accept and amplify their divergent but authentic narratives. It is a form of ‘call and response’ that gives collective voice to something that is already there, which then naturally evolves into active, genuine and engaged discourse and dialogue, without obsessing over the production of an end-product. There is also a certain emancipatory force within the ideals of wider participation and uncontrolled processes, as these concepts can challenge the dominant expectation of subservience to institutions and elites, and can become the driving force behind social change. It was further argued that the practical manifestation of participatory art is overlooked as an effective transitional justice measure. Participatory art cannot, of course, achieve the aims of transitional justice alone. But it is a context-specific, participatory and bottom-up process that can serve as a small but important step towards individualized and collective healing, making the invisible visible,92 extending social responsibility, restoring collective memory, repairing the social fabric, reclaiming truths and fostering collective change. Participatory art can effectively complement other mechanisms by furthering our understanding of the consequences of violations at the micro level, and helping people to communicate with each other. By transforming everyone into artists through collaborative projects, participatory art can engage the hearts and minds of locally affected people, and accordingly help to shift the consciousness of a society on a level that other types of traditional transitional justice measures cannot even aspire to. Footnotes 1 Sanja Bahun, ‘Transitional Justice and the Arts: Reflections on the Field,’ in Theorizing Transitional Justice, ed. Claudio Corradetti, Nir Eisikovits and Jack Volpe Rotondi (New York: Ashgate, 2015). 2 Eliza Garnsey, ‘Rewinding and Unwinding: Art and Justice in Times of Political Transition,’ International Journal of Transitional Justice 10(3) (2016): 471–491. 3 Ibid., 472. 4 For a useful overview of the most commonly and prominently utilized art forms in the transitional justice context, see, Bahun, supra n 1. 5 Garnsey, supra n 2 at 472. 6 Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (New York: Verso Books, 2012). 7 Grant Kester, ‘Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art,’ in Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, ed. Zoya Kucor and Simon Leung (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005). 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 I cite Claire Bishop’s work numerous times in this article when discussing participatory art. It is important to note at the outset, however, that she is fundamentally a critic of participatory art. Inter alia, she critiques the aesthetic value of participatory art. 12 Bishop, supra n 6 at 6. 13 James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993). 14 Garnsey, supra n 2 at 14. 15 For example, see, Bahun, supra n 1; Rosemary Nagy, ‘Transitional Justice as Global Project: Critical Reflections,’ Third World Quarterly 29(2) (2008): 275–289. 16 Paul Gready and Simon Robins, ‘From Transitional to Transformative Justice: A New Agenda for Practice,’ International Journal of Transitional Justice 8(3) (2014): 339–361. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid., 343. 19 Christine Bell, ‘Transitional Justice, Interdisciplinarity and the State of the “Field” or “Non-Field”,’ International Journal of Transitional Justice 3(1) (2009): 5–27. 20 Many others have argued for the expansion of transitional justice theory and practice. For example, in the second special issue of this Journal, edited by Rama Mani, the first four articles argue for an expansion of the transitional justice field. See, International Journal of Transitional Justice 2(3) (2008): 253–434. 21 Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc, ‘The (Lack of) Impact of the ICTY on the Public Memory of the 1992–95 War in Bosnia and Herzegovina’ (paper presented at Annual World Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, Harriman Institute, Columbia University, April 2015). 22 ICTY, ‘The Cost of Justice,’ http://www.icty.org/en/about/tribunal/the-cost-of-justice (accessed 8 April 2018). 23 Trbovc, supra n 21. 24 Ibid., 12–13. 25 Laura McLeod, Jovana Dimitrijević and Biliana Rakočević, ‘Artistic Activism, Public Debate and Temporal Complexities: Fighting for Transitional Justice in Serbia,’ in The Arts of Transitional Justice: Culture, Activism, and Memory after Atrocity, ed. Peter Rush and Olivera Simić (New York: Springer, 2014), 28. 26 ‘The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies,’ UN Doc. S/2004/616 (2004), xiv, para. 52. 27 Doyle Canning and Patrick Reinsborough, ‘Re:Imagining Change: An Introduction to Story-Based Strategy,’ http://www.walkingbutterfly.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/smartMeme.ReImaginingChange.pdf (accessed 8 April 2018), 1. 28 Pablo de Greiff, ‘On Making the Invisible Visible: The Role of Cultural Interventions in Transitional Justice Processes,’ in Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society: Beyond Outreach, ed. Clara Ramírez-Barat (New York: Social Science Research Council, 2014). 29 Ibid. 30 Louis Bickford, ‘Memoryworks/Memory Works,’ in Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society: Beyond Outreach, ed. Clara Ramírez-Barat (New York: Social Science Research Council, 2014), 502. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid. 34 Gready and Robins, supra n 16. 35 Bickford, supra n 30. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid. 38 Maria Elander, ‘Education and Photography at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum,’ in The Arts of Transitional Justice: Culture, Activism, and Memory after Atrocity, ed. Peter Rush and Olivera Simić (New York: Springer, 2014). 39 Bickford, supra n 30. 40 Ibid. 41 Iavor Rangelov has worked closely with the RECOM initiative and kindly took the time to discuss the topic with me on 6 April 2017. Rangelov is the Global Security Research Fellow at the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit at the London School of Economics and Co-Chair of the London Transitional Justice Network. 42 Kester, supra n 7 at 4. 43 McLeod et al., supra n 25. 44 De Greiff, supra n 28. 45 Walter Benjamin, Understanding Brecht, trans. Anna Bostock (New York: Verso, 1998). 46 The NAMES Project Foundation, ‘The AIDS Memorial Quilt,’ http://www.aidsquilt.org/about/the-aids-memorial-quilt (accessed 8 April 2018). 47 Bickford, supra n 30. 48 Marita Sturken, Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997). 49 The UN estimates that Sri Lanka is the country with the second highest number of enforced disappearances; figures are estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000 cases. 50 R. Cheran, ‘Sri Lanka: When Loved Ones Are Stolen Can Poetry Repair the Wound?’ Amnesty International, 6 October 2015, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2015/10/sri-lanka-when-loved-ones-are-stolen-can-poetry-repair-the-wound/ (accessed 9 April 2018). 51 For transcripts of poems, see, Amnesty International, ‘Amnesty International Poetry Competition: “Silenced Shadows”,’ http://join.amnesty.org//ea-campaign/action.retrievestaticpage.do?ea_static_page_id=4326 (accessed 9 April 2018). 52 Amnesty International, ‘Sri Lanka: Amnesty International Hosts “Memory and Justice” – Day of Activities and Poetry Book Launch,’ 21 January 2017, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/01/sri-lanka-memory-and-justice/ (accessed 8 April 2018). 53 Lucy Lippard, ‘Trojan Horses: Activist Art and Power,’ in Art after Modernism: Rethinking Representation, ed. Brian Wallis (Boston, MA: David R. Godine, 1984), 342. 54 Ibid. (emphasis added). 55 Carlos Thiebaut Luis-André, ‘Literature and Experiences of Harm,’ in Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society: Beyond Outreach, ed. Clara Ramírez-Barat (New York: Social Science Research Council, 2014). 56 Ibid., 548. 57 Audio recording of President John F. Kennedy’s address during a ceremony at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, 26 October 1963. See, https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/80308LXB5kOPFEJqkw5hlA.aspx (accessed 8 April 2018). 58 Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 1985), 38. 59 Nadia Siddiqui, Hadi Marifat and Sari Kouvo, ‘Culture, Theatre and Justice: Examples from Afghanistan,’ in The Arts of Transitional Justice: Culture, Activism, and Memory after Atrocity, ed. Peter Rush and Olivera Simić (New York: Springer, 2014). 60 Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Continuum, 2005). 61 Ibid. 62 Nadia Siddiqui and Hjalmar Jorge Joffre-Eichhorn, ‘From Tears to Energy: Early Uses of Participatory Theater in Afghanistan,’ in Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society: Beyond Outreach, ed. Clara Ramírez-Barat (New York: Social Science Research Council, 2014). 63 Ibid. 64 There were 24 performances – each ensemble of actors involved up to 19 people – and audience members totalled around 300 people. 65 Siddiqui and Joffre-Eichhorn, supra n 62. 66 Ibid., 379. 67 Ibid. 68 Siddiqui et al., supra n 59. 69 Young, supra n 13. 70 Ibid., 81. 71 Bickford, supra n 30. 72 Ibid. 73 Olivera Simić and Dijana Milošević, ‘Enacting Justice: The Role of Dah Theatre Company in Transitional Justice Processes in Serbia and Beyond,’ in The Arts of Transitional Justice: Culture, Activism, and Memory after Atrocity, ed. Peter Rush and Olivera Simić (New York: Springer, 2014), 9. 74 See, http://www.jeremydeller.org/TheBattleOfOrgreave/TheBattleOfOrgreave_Video.php (accessed March 2017). 75 Ibid. 76 Gready and Robins, supra n 16 at 351. 77 Ibid. 78 Augusto Boal, Theater of the Oppressed (London: Pluto Press, 2000), 142. 79 Tricia Olsen, Leigh Payne and Andrew Reiter, Transitional Justice in Balance: Comparing Processes, Weighing Efficacy (Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace Press, 2010). 80 McLeod et al., supra n 25. 81 Stephen Duncombe, ‘Does It Work? The Æffect of Activist Art,’ Social Research: An International Quarterly 83(1) (2016): 115–134. 82 Ibid., 117. 83 Eugene McNamee, ‘Fields of Opportunity: Cultural Invention and “the New Northern Ireland”,’ in The Arts of Transitional Justice: Culture, Activism, and Memory after Atrocity, ed. Peter Rush and Olivera Simić (New York: Springer, 2014). 84 See, ibid., 1. 85 Chantal Mouffe, ‘Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces,’ Art and Research 1(2) (2007): 1–5. 86 Peter Rush, ‘After Atrocity: Foreword to Transition,’ in The Arts of Transitional Justice: Culture, Activism, and Memory after Atrocity, ed. Peter Rush and Olivera Simić (New York: Springer, 2014). 87 Bishop, supra n 6 at 26. 88 Luis-André, supra n 55. 89 Bishop, supra n 6 at 26. 90 Ibid. 91 McNamee, supra n 83 at 4 (emphasis in original). 92 De Greiff, supra n 28. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
International Journal of Transitional Justice – Oxford University Press
Published: May 31, 2018
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