11 November 2020
What is the role of artists in shaping understanding of our history?
Tune in to BBC Radio 3 on Remembrance Day to hear how contemporary art has become a lens through which to mark historical anniversaries of national significance.
IWM’s Annual Remembrance Debate 2020 brings together a panel of artists, commissioners and historians who will debate “What is the role of artists in shaping understanding of our history?”
The panel includes artists Es Devlin and Machiko Weston, Director of Art Fund Jenny Waldman and IWM Senior Curator Paris Agar. The panellists will discuss how artistic intervention can provide new perspectives of historical events and consider whether artistic storytelling distracts from the authenticity of the history. They will also debate how an artist’s voice can speak to the past and how art can represent those affected by conflict and other historical events.
Each panellist will bring significant personal experience to the debate, which will be chaired by presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking programme Anne McElvoy.
Contemporary artist Es Devlin and her long-term studio colleague Machiko Weston were commissioned by IWM earlier this year to create the digital artwork I Saw The World End to mark the 75th anniversaries of the dropping of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In her former role as Director of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War Centenary, Jenny Waldman commissioned ground-breaking artistic responses such as we’re here because we’re here from artist Jeremy Deller and Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, first displayed at the Tower of London in 2014 and subsequently as Wave and Weeping Window at IWM North and IWM London in 2018. As a Senior Art Curator at IWM, Paris Agar will illustrate the debate with examples from IWM’s own rich art collection and share the perspective of a national museum that continues to commission contemporary artistic responses to conflict to present day.
Es Devlin is known for creating large-scale sculptures and performance spaces that combine light, music and language including Memory Palace in 2019 which mapped shifts in human perspective over 73 millennia. She collaborated with theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli on a collective reading of his work on the nature of time and has conceived stage sculptures for a multitude of high profile concerts, operas, dances, dramas and Olympic Ceremonies worldwide. This year she was commissioned, along with Machiko Weston, by IWM to create the digital artwork I Saw The World End to mark the 75th anniversaries of the dropping of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Machiko Weston is an Associate Designer at Es Devlin Studio, having trained in Architecture at the Nagoya Institute of Technology and Set Design for Stage and Screen at the Wimbledon School of Art. She has worked on multiple exhibitions and stage projects around the world including Die Tote Stadt at the Finnish National Opera and Tokyo’s New National Theatre and The Lehman Trilogy at the National Theatre. Core interests in her personal art practice include visual storytelling, perspective in scaled model-making, and the relationship between Japanese and British culture.
Jenny Waldman is director of Art Fund and former director of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War Centenary, where she commissioned over 100 new works from leading contemporary artists inspired by the events of 1914-18. Commissioned works include Jeremy Deller’s Somme tribute we’re here because we’re here, Peter Jackson’s film They Shall Not Grow Old and new works by John Akomfrah, William Kentridge, Akram Khan, Katie Mitchell and Rachel Whiteread.
Paris Agar is a Senior Curator in the Cold War and late twentieth-century conflict team. She specialises in IWM’s art collection for this period which includes notable works by artists such as Peter Howson, John Keane, Deanna Petherbridge, Ori Gersht and Linda Kitson. She co-curated What Remains, part of the Culture Under Attack exhibition season in 2019, and was curatorial lead for IWM’s commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. She is currently working with regional partners on a series of displays to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Ekow Eshun is Chairman of the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group and the former Director of the ICA, London. He is the author of Africa State of Mind (Thames & Hudson) and Black Gold of the Sun (Penguin), which was nominated for the Orwell prize. He has contributed to several books including Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography (Barbican); Between Worlds (National Portrait Gallery) as well as to catalogues on the work of Chris Ofili, Kehinde Wiley, John Akomfrah and Duro Olowu among others. Eshun’s writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Financial Times, Granta and The Guardian.