Conflict Resolution

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© courtesy of the Artist and SFAI- Walter McBean Gallery
© courtesy of the Artist and SFAI- Walter McBean Gallery
Conflict Resolution
Curated by: Hou Hanru

800 Chestnut St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
October 17th, 2008 - January 31st, 2009
Opening: October 16th, 2008 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

Financial District/Wharf
Tue 11-7; Wed-Sat 11-6


Ideas for Iraq consists of two panel discussions in conjunction with this exhibition, both to be held at Walter and McBean Galleries:

Conflict Resolution for Iraq

October 17, 7:30pm

Design Strategies and Conflict Resolution
November 19, 7:30pm

Part of this exhibition is an active think tank and discussion forum focused on the state of the war in Iraq. The project centers on a table cut in the shape of the map of Iraq, reminiscent of scaled relief maps used by the military. These maps are used to plan and strategize military attacks or missions. The table serves as a tool for managing and resolving conflicts rather than for creating new ones. The prerequisite is that all suggested ideas must arise from the conscious intent of finding a viable solution to the conflict in Iraq.

The surface of the detailed map/table is a bas-relief of Iraq’s hydrography, its main cities, and its principal geographical characteristics. Acrylic pieces represent infrastructural, demographic, civil, and military objects: oil production facilities, natural resources, and key civil and religious buildings. Additional figurines represent civilians from different ethnic groups, journalists, soldiers, and armed forces both from Iraq and from other countries.

The piece functions as a discussion roundtable, where experts from different disciplines—the arts, design, political science, Middle East studies, economics, military history, and conflict resolution—are brought together to participate in an exercise of revising new ideas that aim at conflict resolution in Iraq. Participants are invited to use the elements on the table to illustrate their strategies for possible solutions to various war problematics. Ideas are arranged on the table similarly as they would be on a checker- or a game board.

For information about the ongoing conversation and project, please go to

Participants include Colby Buzzell, Teddy Cruz, Susan Greene, Evelyne Jouanno, and Pedro Reyes.

Panels are cosponsored by SFAI’s Design and Technology department as part of the Fall 2008 Design and Technology Salon.

For the last two years, San Diego–based architect Teddy Cruz and Mexico City–based artist Pedro Reyes have together been deliberating on, among a host of other interconnected matters, the relation between design strategy and social transformation in the age of globalization. Notably appearing in conversation in the pages of the November 2007 issue of Modern Painters, where they consider and actively invoke the power of nonrepresentational diagrammatic reasoning, Cruz and Reyes come together again, under the initiative of SFAI’s Exhibitions and Public Programs, to repurpose their “micropolicies” for transfiguring the socio-urban topography as resolution procedures, in particular, for the variously imbricated, ground level conflicts obtaining in postinvasion Iraq.

Working neither from within nor from outside “the system” (the latter being to them every bit as bourgeois as the former is to the self-styled subversive), Cruz and Reyes seek to engage the hands-on problematic of a war-torn or otherwise-blighted urban landscape in what they refer to, after Herbert Marcuse, as “the mouth of the cobra”—that is, to engage it with critical proximity rather than distance. For instance, in no way endorsing the prevailing just-war doctrines promulgated by certain members of the US and EU intelligentsia, Cruz and Reyes nevertheless embrace the unsought but de facto opportunities for understanding conflict, mediation, and facilitation that have been brought about by the situation in Iraq. As with their collaborative ruminations on the alternative design trajectories made available in and by the Tijuana–San Diego border area (conventionally taken, from the planning and architectural perspective, as a promiscuous sprawling muddle), their reflections on how the war in Iraq was actually played out (“bottom up”), as opposed to how it was originally planned (“top down”), discover in the wake of calamity a palpable object lesson: conflict, and the dire wreckage of conflict, is, by its very nature, a base of operations for imaginative intervention and social and geopolitical negotiation—the kind of intervention and negotiation they mean both to explore and to instantiate through their collaborative project at SFAI.

Indeed, the swords-into-plowshares ethos that pervades Cruz and Reyes’s thinking is expressly thematized in a number of the works and ventures they will be exhibiting or actualizing within the physical space of the Walter and McBean Galleries or beyond it. Reyes’s call-to-action project Palas por pistolas (which literally translates as “shovels [in exchange] for handguns”)—a campaign to collect, from the embattled citizens of Culiacán, Mexico, some 1,500 weapons to be refashioned into shovels for the planting of trees—will be reactivated within a Bay Area context. Analogously, Cruz’s project in distributive justice as nonconformist cartography, McMansion Retrofitted, is a proposal—presented through videos, photographs, drawings, models, and maps—to “beat” an existing 8,000 square foot single-family suburban house into a mixed-use multifamily dwelling.

Consistent with its varied themes and methodologies—as well as with the curatorial strategies of SFAI’s director of Exhibitions and Public Programs, Hou Hanru—Conflict Resolution is coordinated and presented at the intersection of two of the principal components of SFAI’s Exhibitions and Public Programs. The first, New Models of Production, contextualizes artistic creations against a backdrop of economic, industrial, and technical production under globalization while also investigating the concept of competing versions of modernity and the tension between developed and “underdeveloped” worlds. The second, Acting Out in the City, utilizes the galleries and spaces of the SFAI campus as points of departure for large-scale projects of urban intervention, conspicuously injecting artistic productions and awareness into public spaces.