Third Space

A British Council exhibition about recovery and resilience

This exhibition

is a collection of work by displaced Syrian artists. With the support of the British Council, 'Syria: Third Space' demonstrates the roles that artists play in supporting recovery and resilience. It seeks to show how artists can break boundaries, support and unite communities, re-interpret and offer alternative viewpoints through their practice.

Syria: Third Space

is part of the global 'Artists in Recovery' programme in response to working in countries and regions in crisis. Through a structured small grants scheme, 78 small grants were given to displaced Syrian artists in more than 10 countries. The exhibition highlights the vital roles artists play as storytellers, conveners, facilitators, spokespeople and the alternative space they provide (Third Space).

Scroll down to explore the important role artists play in times of conflict.

Exhibition details

Dates: 1 - 5 June 2015, open 9.00 - 20.00

Address: European Parliament, Wiertz 60 Street, 1047 Brussels, Belgium

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Photo credit: 'Truth' (2014) © Hassan Abou Nouh

Photo credit: 'Truth'  (2014) © Hassan Abou Nouh

What is Third Space?

‘Third Space’ is a conceptual place where artists can come together and express their ideas and experiences. This is a safe space where, conversations can be open and shared and, where stories can be heard and differences discussed.

Co-Curators Lois Stonock and Alma Salem have selected over 30 pieces works including films, photography, painting and textiles that highlight the roles that artists play in responding to conflict and displacement.

The artist as spokesperson:

International conversations

Without Sky by Mohammad Omran and Bissane Al Charif

Mohammad Omran and Bissane Al Charif’’s film Without Sky expresses the horror of destruction. By using a bleached out model of a specific cityscape, this work represents many towns and villages destroyed in Syria, demonstrating the sheer scale and pace of the destruction to an international audience.

"Culture, in all its forms, both tangible and intangible, matters. For social cohesion and resilience, for economic development and sustainability, for dialogue and for mutual understanding.”

Graham Sheffield, Director Arts and Jo Beall, Director Education and Society, British Council

X-Ray Syria by Zaher Omareen

Zaher Omareen does not want to be a spokesperson or representative of the conversation around Syria. Instead his short, low-fi films use found footage to present differing voices and interpretations. The films are shown on a loop, leaving the viewer with different opinions depending on when they start watching.

Artists as conveners:

Building trust between refugees and host communities

'Stitching My Syria Back' (2014) © Mohamad Khayata

'Stitching My Syria Back' (2014) © Mohamad Khayata

Stitching My Syria Back by Mohammad Khayata

Mohammad Khayata’s Stitching My Syria Back (2014) is an on-going piece of work to unite displaced Syrians. Refugees and host communities in Lebanon are asked to contribute small pieces of material, which the artist stitches together in a patchwork blanket, similar to the blankets his mother made for his family when he was a child in Syria.

The gesture is simple; anybody can be part of patchwork, but in return they must have their photograph taken with it and become part of the story or community of the artwork.

Find out the latest additions to the project on the Stitching My Syria Back Facebook page.

"Like many Syrians out there who are scattered, I simply wish to stitch my Syria back through an act of art..."

- Mohamad Khayata
Artists as facilitator:

Supporting the vulnerable or marginalised

Still Image from 'Home' (2014) © Bissane Al Charif

Still Image from 'Home' (2014) © Bissane Al Charif

Mémoire(S) des femmes by Bissane Al Charif

Bissane Al Charif’s work Mémoire(S) des femmes focuses on the emotional stories of women who have fled Syria. The sound works record the stories of these women in their own voices, while the photographs and videos provide a disjointed impression on the viewer of their experiences. The work sheds light on the role of mothers in particular and the burdens they have endured.

In this video below, Oum Ammar describes her moving story of leaving Syria to find a safe place to have her baby and care for her children.

'Mémoire(S) des femmes' (2014) © Bissane Al Charif

"It was four in the morning and I told my husband I have to leave for the sake of the children."

- Oum Ammar
Artists as correspondents:

Telling their story

'Table Land' (2012) © Doha Hassan

'Table Land' (2012) © Doha Hassan

Through a series of images, we look at artists using photography to create an alternative narrative of Syria to what is commonly presented.

These images tell the story of those still living in Syria, through the eyes of Syrians themselves. They depict the everyday and the mundane, yet show the pace of change and people’s resilience in adapting to it.

"The photographers themselves have risked arrest and persecution in taking these images, yet they still manage to capture the beauty of Syria."

- Lois Stonock and Alma Salem

Culture and Development

The overall aim for our work is clear: through arts and culture, civil society is strengthened from the ground-up; marginalised people are able to express themselves freely and advocate for their rights successfully; and poverty can be alleviated through the creative industries.

This exhibition and the grants programme behind it are central to our work in Culture and Development. This work has two main areas:

‘Voices and Spaces’ which focuses on the creation of safe spaces for debate and exchange; and the ‘Artists in Recovery’ programme which gives a voice to those affected by conflict.

Learn more about our work in the arts at the British Council.

Photo credit: 'Peace' (2014) © Hassan Abou Nouh

View the exhibition

European Parliament, Wiertz 60 Street, 1047 Brussels, Belgium

Exhibition opening times:
1 – 5 June 2015, open 9.00 - 20.00

Can’t make the exhibition? View the virtual Twitter tour of the exhibition in London with co-curator Alma Salem.

Get involved

Find out more

The British Council's work in Syria.

The Space and The British Council have teamed to launch ‘And وﻭ’, a new digital commissioning programme supporting displaced Syrian artists to create work that raises awareness of those affected by conflict. For information on how to apply, email ANDdigital@thespace.org

Information about displaced Syrian artists supported by this programme at: In Place of War.

Interview with the curator

“We're trying to show what the artists' perspective is, not trying to comment, not trying to have a curatorial opinion, but really just giving a platform for the artists' voices, and to show a different way of relating the story.”

Exhibition co-curator Lois Stonock talks about how Syrian artists are showing us the conflict in new ways. Read the full interview on the Voices blog.

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