Thinking about the aesthetics of law is a means to foreground questions on law’s space, law’s language, law’s signs, law’s images.

Following Jacques Rancière, we understand aesthetics as the formalisation of experience; a frame for common sense. Common sense is a social relation between sense/experience and meaning. Understanding aesthetics in this light means understanding aesthetics as a political act. In his book, Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord argues that late capitalism has given rise to a society which is one mediated through imagery. The spectacle is not just a collection of images, but a social relationship, something which itself orders society. In this project, we aim to make this politics explicit by thinking about the interests served through the dominant aesthetic.

The project ‘The Aesthetics and Counter-Aesthetics of International Law’ is inherently collaborative. Participants include academics from various disciplines and artists using the medium of poetry, cartoon, photography, film, and painting. The project was initiated by Dr Christine Schwöbel-Patel and Dr Robert Knox, who are Directors of the Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law research cluster at the University of Liverpool.


Events to date:

  • April 2016: International workshop including
    • a public lecture by Wayne Jordash, QC;
    • a film-screening of award-winning film Peace versus Justice with a Q&A with Director Klaartje Quirijns;
    • an exhibition of ‘Justice Matters’ by the International Criminal Court’s (the point of departure for our critique on aesthetics and international law);
    • interviews with students around their experiences of the exhibition;
    • talks by Terry Duffy (artist), Alma Itzhaky (artist), Jo Frank (poet), Thierry Cruvellier (writer), Professor Gerry Simpson (LSE), Dr Immi Tallgren (University of Helsinki), and many other established and emerging voices in law and aesthetics.

  • April 2017: International workshop including:

    • a public lecture by Kate Evans (cartoonist, activist, writer);
    • a talk on atrocity and representation by curator of the International Slavery Museum Jean-Francois Manicom;
    • a visit of the ‘Art of Solidarity’ exhibition at the International Slavery Museum;
    • talks by previous workshop participants and new participants including Dr Vinh Nguyen (University of Waterloo), Dr Sophie Rigney (Dundee) and Dr Sofia Stolk (VU Amsterdam).
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