The sun had gone down and it had started to drizzle, as we rushed our way through the doors of the Mosaic Rooms, we were transported back to the Ottoman era for an evening of readings by the author Ted Gorton from his book Renaissance Emir: A Druze Warlord at the Court of the Medici, interlaced with musical pieces, curated by Rachel Beckles Wilson, reminiscent of the era.
Set in the 17th century, the book covers the life of Fakhr ad-Din, a druze prince, and his exile from Mount Lebanon to Tuscany, with sojourns in Sicily and Naples.
The cultural encounters and exchanges are recollected in this historical scholarly book that reads like a novel. Religious strife, money, power all play their part in the Emir’s life. Ted Gorton’s book shed’s light behind the Emir’s apparent tolerance and openness to many religions, which, as Gorton conveys, “in any age, that is a noble quality (…)” (2013:181).
Hrair Sarkissian’s exhibition Imagined Futures at Mosaic Rooms showcased his work Front Line (2007), a series of photographs of men on plinths who have fought for Karabakh, a self proclaimed independent Republic between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which borders have shifted through the centuries, leaving around a million Armenian’s and Azeri’s displaced. The work, which also portrays the landscape of Karabakh could come across as a memorial piece. The amalgamation of both features expose a sense of remoteness, solitude, segregation and quietness, with the artist conveying a void of space and time, and contemplating on the aftermath and effects of war.
His other work on display, the two-screen video installation Homesick (2014), features Sarkissian and the destruction of a replica of his family home in Damascus. Two screens hang on opposite sides of the room, and when placing your back to one screen and watching the other, the effects of fear and awe come to life. For whilst watching the house being destroyed, you can hear the sound of destruction coming from the other screen, and questions of who or what is doing it come to mind. Whilst watching the video of Sarkissian hammering, one wonders what he is destroying, sensing something bad is happening but not knowing what. Only when one turns to see the other screen do you know what is occurring.
A family home, representing a space of memories, and an artwork reflecting and questioning destruction and loss coinciding with the current political climate.
In discussion with Shoair Mavlian, the artist voiced that the idea of destruction was due to his fear of his home disappearing.
That conversion between Mavlian and Sarkissian also highlighted the artist’s work on photographing photo studios throughout the Middle East, and on the key role Armenians had in bringing photography throughout the Ottoman Empire. The disappearance of these studios and the surreal aspect of having, for example the backdrop of a photo of the Alps and skiing in a studio in Damascus were addressed.
A disappearing feature in today’s instant world, but perhaps a little studio magic should be maintained?
SOAS 's School of Law, for its annual inception Lectures hosted Geoffrey Robertson, QC , founder and head of Doughty Street Chambers, asking "Is International Justice Becoming a Contradiction in Terms? "
Geoffrey Roberston was there to address "the growing international criticism towards the ICC". Throughout his lecture on International Justice, he gave the overview and historical path that lead it to where it is today.
The significance of the Treaty of Westphalia has had on law and the principles of Machiavelli's 'Prince' were mentioned, as was the first known historical example of intervention on the grounds of humanitarianism, when, supported by the Hellenic movement, spearheaded by Byron, the British intervened at Navarino for Greece to gain independence from the Ottoman Empire.
He also explained that the Nuremberg trials "set down a legacy" for International Justice Law. As well as illustrating examples of sceptics remarks on International Justice Law, such as, in respects to the Rwanda genocide, some express that "the road of hell is paved with good conventions".
Geoffrey Robertson presented the positive and pessimistic way that one could view International Justice.
Questions such as "Is the world abandoning the fight against impunity? " were raised as were "will Realpolitik intervene? " and "was it all an illusion? " in relations to the Arab uprising.
He highlighted that the trouble with trials is that they are very long and expensive. However, he also stated that "International Justice is so recent" and yet it has managed to achieve a lot in the few years it has come to be. It has lead to good developments such as the African Court on Human and People's Rights and many important trials that have held certain individuals accountable for their actions, that once, may not have been.
International Justice can be seen as controversial as well as a right.
What do you think on the subject?
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