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The Age of Ambiguity: Art and the War on Terror Twenty Years after 9/11

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

M.L.R. Smith, David Jones

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalSTUDIES IN CONFLICT AND TERRORISM
DOIs
Published2021

King's Authors

Abstract

9/11 and its aftermath was to have a dramatic impact on the visual arts and the artistic response to the War on Terror. This study surveys the evolution of these responses from the dramatic events of 11 September 2001 to the longer term reactions generated by the two-decade long encounter with the so-called War on Terrorism, primarily via the Imperial War Museum’s Age of Terror/Art Since 9/11 exhibition of 2017–2018. The analysis suggests that the visual artistic response moved from the initial amazement at the destruction of the Twin Towers, through satirical caricature of the terrorist persona, to a trite predictability that mirrored official equivocation about the threat posed by violent jihadist activism. Artistic endeavor on these terms became notable only for its moral ambiguity and complicity in self-censorship rather than contributing to the creation of artwork of enduring value.

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