Art is a proposition. It provides the means to discover and transcend restrictions and boundaries. It allows for a new consciousness, vocabulary and identity — for ideas, peoples, and territories. As with the best of all remixes, art can imagine new worlds and alternatives. But just as equally, art binds our imaginations and recalls power and authority. Past reminders include the ornate Prussian and Austro-Hungarian opera houses of former absolutist monarchies built to project power (Cummings and Katz 1987). And yet, the recent furor in India following the current BJP government’s attempts to silence scholars, writers, artists, and activists in the name of free speech and nationalism reminds us that art can also provoke protests against such power. In short, art is a creative commentary on our lives, as well as its bounds and aspirations.
The mission of this new scholarly and journalistic endeavor is to explore the ways in which art can expand the horizons of International Relations research.
We introduce the first issue of Arts and International Affairs with the hope that it will offer all of us perspectives and practices to free ourselves of “conceptual jails,” a term International Relations scholar James N. Rosenau (2000) employed to speak to scholarly habits of never noticing the new, or explaining it with the same old, same old.
Two recent presidents of the International Studies Association turned to art in their presidential addresses. On 27 February 2003, Steve Smith asked why International Relations only focuses on some types of violence and not others and raised questions about ethics. “All this leads me to art,” said Smith (2004:511), who subsequently referenced Rene Magritte’s realistic art, which represents the everyday, and Diego Velazquez’s Las Meninas, “a painting that seems to me to raise the most fundamental issue about our relationship as scholars with the social world we study” (p. 512).
In March 2015, ISA President Amitav Acharya began his address with an 1825 artwork from India titled An European Gentleman with his Monshee (Acharya 2014). Acharya referenced the conversations between the learned British sahibs and Indian munshis (or teachers) the work depicts. The Indian munshis, although aware of their superior learning, were relegated in the empire to serve as informants for the British. Acharya then employed the embedded allegory to speak to academia’s current disregard for regions beyond the West.
Just as art compels us to recognize the codes with which we have been programmed to narrate stories, an artistic remix can present new songs and stories. Fifteen years ago, I initiated a project in my graduate seminars on development called “Development Remix” (Singh 2013). Students prepared seven to eight minute digital narratives that remixed existing literary and audio-visual representation from the developing world to narrate a new story. The mere task of imaginative editing — the remix method — was important toward thinking of reflexivity, humanization, translation, voice, cultural hybridity, agency and power.
Here is Brasil: Directors Cut, my student Patrick Scullin’s remix of cinematic and literary narratives:
There was an important path for me from introducing the remix method in my classroom to thinking about this journal. I would like to thank the Policy Studies Organization — especially President Paul Rich and Executive Director Daniel Gutierrez-Sandoval — for supporting and funding this creative endeavor as one of the official journals of the PSO. I edited the PSO journal Review of Policy Research from 2005-09 and now it is a premier journal for the politics and policy of science and technology. Art, like science and technology, is about creative endeavors. They have recently come together in a new section at the International Studies Association called “Science, Technology, Art and International Relations.” We hope AIA: The Arts Journal will serve these and other emergent communities.
Most of all, we would like AIA to provide a vibrant and compelling forum for your own remix on how art informs our understandings of international affairs. In our first issue we introduce three themes: Cultural Diplomacy and Global Interactions, Cultural Identities and Human Rights, and Cultural Politics and Israel. All three themes cut across several imagined boundaries and representations, both scholastic and those from the real world. We hope the remix will prompt you to ask further questions about how art relates to your world of scholarship and practice.
Please send us your articles, and propose new ideas for us. All “Longform” scholarly articles are refereed, but we also want to encourage short “Brushstrokes” on contemporary topics and “Multimedia” articles that combine text and other media. Art for us includes all creative practices including fine and performing arts, cultural heritage, entertainment industries, and digital cultures.
The response from academics, practitioner and artistic communities for creating this journal has been overwhelming. As we launch our first issue, I thank many colleagues including those from our Editorial Board for their enthusiastic support. We are grateful to our first set of reviewers for the longform articles, and to the documentary filmmaker and visual anthropologist Harjant Gill for his ideas that helped shape our website. I have a great team: Managing Editor Zach Marschall’s love of the arts and writing is inspiring; Creative Director Rahima Schwenbeck listened to our words and read our writing, and helped us visualize the journal. The website is her creation. I am immensely grateful to Zach and Rahima for their hard work and creative imagination.
Please enjoy our introductory issue on perspectives and remixes!
Featured image is taken from Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds
Acharya, Amitav. (2014) “Global International Relations (IR) and Regional Worlds.” International Studies Quarterly 58(4): 647-659.
Cummings, Milton C. and Richard S. Katz. Editors. (1987) The Patron State: Government and the Arts in Europe, North America and Japan. New York: Oxford University Press.
Rosenau, James N. (1997) Along the Domestic-Foreign frontier: Exploring Governance in a Turbulent World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Singh, J. P. (2013) “Development remix: Representing Poverty, Culture, and Agency in the Developing World.” International Studies Perspectives 15(3): 243-256.
Smith, Steve. (2004) “Singing our World into Existence: International Relations Theory and September 11.” International Studies Quarterly 48(3): 499-515.