London, UK – The echo of a football bouncing against an apartment wall gradually transitions into the boom of falling bombs until the child’s game ends in a final, deafening roar.
Khaled Abdulwahed’s video, Tuj – inspired by the artist’s return to his native Damascus in Syria – is an explicit reference to the complicated reality of war and the resilience of those in its midst.
One of 50 mixed-media works on display in a controversial exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum (IWM), Abdulwahed’s film fulfils its thought-provoking aim in five tense minutes – leaving viewers reeling from shell shock.
The messy nature of contemporary conflict and the confused understanding of it are the central themes of Age of Terror: Art since 9/11, which opened in October 2017 and runs until May 28. It has so far drawn more than 12,500 visitors.
Rebecca Newell, IWM head of art, says the exhibition responds to the desire of visitors to the museum that it addresses contemporary conflict and has attracted a new kind of audience.
“It picks up on a widely developing canon of work by artists looking at issues relating to contemporary conflict – new types of conflict that aren’t as easy to categorise as in the past,” she tells Al Jazeera.
“It is absolutely right to say that terror is not a new issue and not a new subject – but we chose the 9/11 marker because it gives us a focus on contemporary conflict as opposed to work that comes from very different periods in history.”
Many of the works on display are disturbingly provocative.
In White House, Afghan artist Lida Abdul whitewashes the entire ruins of a former presidential palace outside Kabul to highlight the unseen damage caused by decades of war.
Jannal Penjweny’s Saddam is Here covers the