On 13 – 27 October 2011, in conjunction with the opening of the Perpetual Peace Exhibition at Utrecht University, the Centre for the Humanities hosted a symposium on ‘The Idea of Perpetual Peace’, which includes presentation of the Perpetual Peace Project Film Initiative, and a public talk by Gregg Lambert, Syracuse University Humanities Center Founding Director and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities. The event was organized in collaboration with the Syracuse University Humanities Centre, Slought foundation and the Treaty of Utrecht.
A trio of guest speakers led a series of dialogues on international peace as part of the Perpetual Peace Project. Chaired by professor Rosi Braidotti (Director Center for the Humanities, Utrecht) and introduced by professor Gregg Lambert (Director Syracuse Humanities Institute), the symposium saw the participation of filmmakers Laura Hanna and Alexandra Lerman, directors of the Defining and Practicing Peace film, and professor Martti Koskenniemi (international lawyer and former Finnish diplomat), who gave a lecture on ‘Peace as a Legal Argument’, where he investigates the somewhat contradictory relation between international law, peace negotiations, humanitarian intervention and international criminal justice. A response to the lecture was given by professor Patrick Hanafin (Birbeck School of Law).
In the workshop, students had the chance to familiarize with the concept of rewriting perpetual peace. This was a workshop intended for students to think of their interpretation of the concept of peace, based on the PPP’s mission statement. After interfacing with the directors of the film project, students were asked to, in groups, translate that interpretation in a public and interactive format, such as films, blogs, forums, video journalism, interactive websites, ideas for events, exhibitions, conferences. The ideas devised in this workshop were presented as part of the Treaty of Utrecht celebrations in 2013.
The exhibition travelled to Utrecht from the New Museum in New York, where it was first inaugurated in October 2010. Like in the original project, the installation was arranged in an open space with 6 video monitors, each depicting a response on Kant’s Perpetual Peace text. The installation implied a virtual conversation amongst the artists and academics in the short film that does not necessarily have and end.
A Computer Pillar logged onto a specially made Perpetual Peace Project blog space was located in the centre of the exhibit space, so that visitors of the exhibition could write down their reaction to the statements on peace, in order to keep the dialogue flowing.
The exhibition presented complexity surrounding the concept of peace between the fields of diplomacy and theory anchored in Kant’s Perpetual Peace essay. The format of the exhibition rejected the notion of a “locked picture” and instead presented the ideas in a form of an ongoing or flowing dialogue.