Over the past six years, following the events of 9/11 in 2001, western society has undergone significant political, legal and social changes. The notion of terror - in action, word and image, has institutionalized fear on several levels: the emotional, the social and the political. Fear, it seems, justifies varying degrees of administrative arbitrariness, which as long as there is a commonly acknowledged denominator like terrorism, public opinion (when informed by fear rather than knowledge) can be swayed to overlook politicised abuse of the law. The protection of law from arbitrariness and from fear that makes arbitrariness possible, then, is a pressing issue in the current climate we live in.
The idea behind this exhibition, Tactics against Fear –Creativity as Catharsis 2007 is to provide alternative readings to popular culture and a public language of fracture, hostility and threat by exploring tactics of fear from a personal perspective grounded in institutional space. The artworks invite to experience an audio, visual, textual, tactile, and performative response from the specific vantage point of the Faculty of Creative Arts (FCA) at the University of Wollongong. Here, 19 FCA staff and FCA postgraduate students - writers, journalists, composers, musicians, poets, graphic designers and visual artists respond to the current climate of the rhetoric of fear around the ‘war on terror’ through interdisciplinary collaboration. Artists and scholars have addressed the notion of fear as a result of the existing rhetoric of terror after terrorist attacks such as the 9/11 events in the USA, or the bombings in Madrid, London and Bali, by investigating the question what is the current climate in which we work and live?
These considerations lead to a number of questions: If the scholar has a ‘specific public role in society’, as Edward Said insisted (Wallen Closed Encounters: Literary Politics and Public Culture, University of Minnesota Press 1998: 215), how can s/he creatively connect with issues that affect society? Is s/he, to say it with Said, endowed ‘with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion to, as well as for, a public’? (1998: 215).
The art works, coming from a creative rather than from a scientific, legal or historical speaking position, explore today’s popular visual culture from various angles. However, the underlying common notion is that language – spoken, written, imaged or performed – can be formative in the development of fear. In that sense, the exhibition investigates tactics of fear as a result of the current rhetoric of terror in the realm of visual culture.