Should Art Be Political?
Cambridge-based Syrian artist Issam Kourbaj and social anthropologist and UNESCO consultant Cristina Cusenza talk about the impact of art and the challenges when it mixes with political issues.
Issam Kourbaj comes from a background in fine art, architecture and theater design. He was born in Syria and trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Damascus, the Repin Institute of Fine Arts & Architecture in St. Petersburg, and the Wimbledon School of Art. Since 1990, he's lived in Cambridge, UK, where he's been an artist-in-residence, bye-fellow, and lecturer in art at Christ's College.
His work has been exhibited in museums around the world, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Museum of Classical Archeology and Kettle's Yard House and Gallery, the Penn Museum, the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Tropical Museum, and the Venice Biennale.
Issam was featured on the BBC program "A History of the World in 100 Objects." Neil MacGregor (the former director of the British Museum) chose Issam's artwork Dark Water, Burning World as the 101st object.
Cristina Cusenza is a social anthropologist with experience in international development and cooperation, most notably at UNESCO, where she led programs to promote the social inclusion and human rights of marginalized groups, with a focus on indigenous peoples and people with disabilities. Cristina has been involved in the coordination of the International Year and Decade of Indigenous Languages, international mechanisms of the United Nations to promote linguistic and cultural diversity. She's worked extensively on cultural and arts policy, particularly through her research project at Oxford College and the fieldwork she conducted with displaced Syrian artists in the international art market between 2017 and 2018. She's worked with the Organization on Identity and Cultural Development (OICD) to support practitioners in addressing identity conflicts in different regions of the world. She has also experience in the field of social entrepreneurship (Enterprising Oxford) and humanitarian assistance (UNRWA).
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