The 'Good Pain'. Artistic Practice in Conflict Zones

"Transforming is what art does, but photography that bears witness to the calamitous and the reprehensible is much criticized if it seems ‘aesthetic’; that is, too much like art", writes Susan Sontag in "Regarding the Pain of Others". Particularly when art, not only photography, is created in areas of conflict and war it is not only a witness to suffering, but also an important societal factor for addressing, even reworking, traumatization and other societal crises.

In her project, Kristin Flade will think about what happens when pain serves as impulse, inspiration, and constant context of artistic practice in Palestine and Israel, a territory in which situations of conflict and war inform the everyday realities of its inhabitants. Methodologically, the project conjoins a phenomenological reading of specific examples of artistic and societal practice with contemporary aesthetic, cultural, and political theory.

Looking closely at a diverse field of cultural creation in Palestine and Israel, several questions guide this project: What is entailed by the transformation of pain into art in these critical circumstances? What kinds of problems and responsibilities does an artist face in these contexts? Does a community of creators encounter a different set of problems and responsibilities than the individual artist? Whose pain does a potential audience perceive? Do the specificities of the pain matter once pain has been transformed into art? And, finally, one might ask: Is there a kind of good pain – a commodified, artistic good, which is valued simultaneously as aesthetic, social, financial, personal, therapeutic…?