Review: COnscription the exhibition


Conscientious objection is little enough dealt with in mainstream political discourse, let alone as the subject for a gallery installation.

So it was encouraging, and probably groundbreaking in a London context, that Filmpro - a "disabled-led digital art agency" - made conscientious objection (and, in particular, conscientious objection in Turkey) the subject of a two-week installation at an east London gallery during May, called COnscription.

The main installation was a multi-channel, immersive, video presentation, telling of individuals who meet at a military hospital: three subjects under assessment, and their doctor. The dialogue is based on the experiences of COs in Turkey, but presents the universal issues involved.

The displays also looked at the notorious Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, dating from 1939, a version of which is reportedly used for assessing the personality and psychopathology of Turkish conscripts who try to resist their enforced induction into the military.

The gallery also contained hanging banners telling the stories of individual Turkish COs, as well as explaining legal and statistical information about conscientious objection in Turkey and elsewhere.

The artist behind the project was Turkish film-maker Çaglar Kimyoncu.

Since the event coincided with this year's International Conscientious Objectors' Day, that evening the gallery hosted a discussion panel on the topic "Conscientious Objection: from personal right to universal responsibility". A well-attended meeting heard from activists and specialists in conscientious objection, who dealt with the situation in Turkey, in Britain, and more widely, as well as putting the issue in a broader political context.

It's hard to imagine the impact the installation would have had on a visitor to the gallery with no previous awareness of the issues raised. But certainly many who attended the discussion evening pronounced themselves interested in a topic they hadn't confronted before, and some of them networked with the speakers with the intention of following through by linking with related campaigns.

Albert Beale


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