Using cultural and disciplinary difference as a driver

IFICAN Seminar: Emerging Themes



The Difference Exchange investigation into inter-faith artists' narratives continued with a robust debate at Arts Council England on 8th April, 2011. The event offered a critical space in which people of different, or no, religious faith shared ideas and responses arising from the IFICAN artists’ placements.


The seminar addressed the proposition that faith can be variably interpreted as the ultimate engagement with creation, or as a dogmatic constraint. It considered how contemporary art responds to such a tension and whether it should make a productive contribution amidst these divergent positions. Many in the audience expressed how valuable the debate was in bringing disparate views together at a time of worldwide anxiety about culture, religion and politics.
The event was introduced by Tony Panayiotou, Director of Diversity, Arts Council England followed by presentations from two of the participating artists involved with the IFICAN project, Ansuman Biswas and Gareth Lloyd. The work and main research outcomes reached by the other artists involved - Sharon Chin, Harminder Singh Judge and Arin Rungjang - were also presented.
Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE, Chetan Bhatt, acted as discussant, provoking debate across a range of ideas in response to the presentations. These ranged from: the idea of the sublime in 21 century art and culture; the relationship between the monumental and the quotidian; art’s role in speaking out against fundamentalism; whether Christian faith is marginalised in contemporary arts; whether art should sometimes hurt feelings; the importance of retreat and the vigorous embrace of the mundane.
A more in-depth essay will be posted based on the emerging themes from this seminar, a special debate at St George’s House, Windsor Castle in June and the Difference Exchange blog.


Funded by Arts Council England.

IFICAN is now working on phase two in consultation with the artists, theologians and curators to hold a national debate and to present new work arising from the residencies.


“Everyday spirituality does not neatly fit under the rubric of "Hindu" or "Muslim" or "Buddhist", etc. In my work I found that the little (sometimes illegal) temples and shrines and the spiritual activities that went on in private spaces such as homes were actually where interfaith activities and heterodox practices would take place”

Richard Baxton, Anthropologist working in Malaysia