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I’ve recently participated in a Roundtable hosted by The Mantle entitled For the Sake of Others.  Here, four artists and allies answer, “What is the role of the artist in a conflict zone?”

The backgrounds and perspectives of the roundtable participants match the complexity of the question. That is, any answer requires establishing a context, parsing details, and thinking outside the box. Perspective matters. Thus, the writer and performer Kayhan Irani, who has extensive experience in conflict zones like Afghanistan, necessarily approaches the question differently than her fellow artist Emna Zghal, a Tunisian-born visual artist who brings her own interests, experiences, and politics to the table.

As in roundtables past, conflict is in the eyes of the beholder. Revolution, war, environmental destruction, the push and pull of the artistic role in society at large—all of these represent different types of conflict. Lucía Madriz, who uses art installations to address ecological and economic destruction, provides a unique take on her role in the face of a different sort of conflict. To round out the voices, Todd Lester, an advocate for reconciliation and for artists in distress, comes to the discussion with a twist of inside-outside legitimacy: What does an artist’s ally say about the role of the artist in times of conflict?

Further, what role do you, the art lover, assume an artist should take in the face of violence? Perhaps the answers proffered by Kayhan, Emna, Lucía, and Todd will help you see the artist’s position in a different light.  To follow the roundtable that asks, “What is the role of the artist in a conflict zone?” see the Roundtable page here, and click on each of the participants to read their essays and responses.

The art accompanying the roundtable is by Sarah D. Schulman.

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