'(S)extremism': project exhibitions and events

There Is No Alternative (2019)

This exhibition by Navine G. Khan-Dossos, which previewed on 4 June at The Showroom, Paddington, London, explores the visual branding of the UK government’s ‘Prevent’ Strategy. It raises subtle questions about whether there really are any alternatives (as per the title, borrowed from a soundbite by Margaret Thatcher) to this counter-terrorism technology. The exhibition will operate as a ‘pre-criminal’ space in which these ideas can be explored and reflected upon.

Launch of "There is no Alternative" by Navine G. Khan-Dossos

Two fully painted walls feature Prevent logo-inspired designs, while dossiers of documents, including a folder of the artist's research, are provided on central tables for visitors to read and interact with. (Visitors are invited to write on post-its and add them to the documents.) Lisa has curated a dossier of documents on mental health practitioner debates about Prevent which features on one of the four tables.

"There is no Alternative" by Navine G. Khan-Dossos

More wall paintings will take place over the course of the next two months, such that new 'windows' will overlay the current murals. A series of public-facing events will also be held to coincide with and contribute to the work of the exhibition, including workshops and talks designed and hosted by a number of collaborators. In July 2019 Lisa organised a panel debate on how the implementation of Prevent impacts upon freedom of expression and public mental health. 

Shoot the Women First (2018)

Shoot the Women First - Navine G. Khan-Dossos/ The Breeder Gallery

Shoot the Women First - Navine G. Khan-Dossos / The Breeder Gallery

This exhibition, which debuted at The Breeder Gallery in Athens, Greece in February 2018, explored Navine’s and Lisa’s shared interest in women as both targets and perpetrators of cultural violence. Navine’s exhibition is designed to resemble a shooting gallery; visitors work their way through a number of rooms hung with a series of paintings resembling discretionary command training targets. The symbols on the targets become more recognizably humanoid as the visitor progresses through the space. The exhibition is a multi-media co-creation: the images were accompanied by an essay written by Lisa, “Shoot The Women First: A Reflection on the Gender Politics of Targeting” and a choreographed performance by Yasmina Reggad, which took as its title the final line of Lisa’s essay: ‘She refused to be what she was told she was’.

Echo Chamber (2017)

Echo chamber - Navine G. Khan-Dossos/ The Van Abbemuseum

Echo Chamber - Navine G. Khan-Dossos / The Van Abbemuseum

This exhibition, which was held at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands in 2017, took the form of Navine G. Khan-Dossos’s aniconic portrait of Samantha Lewthwaite, or the “White Widow”, a white British convert to Islam and the widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of the 7/7 bombers. While working on this project, Navine read Lisa’s book, The Subject of Murder, and contacted her to enter into a dialogue about cultural representations of extreme and exceptional woman. The refusal to show Lewthwaite’s literal image in the exhibition offered a stark resistance to the normative over-exposure of violent women, as exemplified perhaps in the mugshot of Myra Hindley that was discussed as a metonymic icon for feminine evil in Lisa’s book. The conversation between Lisa and Navine culminated in a public-facing Q&A event at the museum in its final weeks and was the springboard to further work between Lisa and Navine and a series of ongoing co-creations. 

Navine G. Khan-Dossos in Birmingham 13 February 2019

On 13 February 2019, Navine visited the University of Birmingham for a series of meetings and events that focused on Lisa and Navine’s shared interest in questions of gender and ‘extremism’, and more recently in counter-terrorism strategies and freedom of expression, especially as they impact upon mental health. 

This public-facing event comprised an illustrated ‘conversazione’ about the exhibitions Navine and Lisa have worked on together, and their forthcoming collaboration on ‘There Is No Alternative’, followed by a panel debate on the topic of ‘Prevent: Gender, Wellbeing, Liberty’.

Participants in the panel debate, in addition to Lisa and Navine, were: 

  • Dr Katherine Brown, Senior Lecturer in Theology, an expert on radicalisation and women.
  • Dr Katharina Karcher, Lecturer in Modern Languages, who works on feminist militant groups and “terrorism" in contemporary and historical contexts. 
  • Dr Monica Lloyd, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, who provides consultancy to Prevent.
  • Chris Ryder, PhD student in LCAHM, whose thesis examines manipulation of gender stereotypes in ISIS propaganda.

The questions debated included:

  • Why are so many more men and boys than women and girls referred under Prevent? 
  • In what ways is the language of the Prevent strategy explicitly or implicitly gendered, and with what outcomes?
  • Why is there such a strong focus on Islamic extremism, despite the rise in numbers of Far-Right referrals? 
  • What is the relationship between 'British Values' and Prevent?  
  • The annual report seems to suggest that referrals are higher when there has been a recent attack. How does the media’s reporting on/ depiction of terrorism feed in to this?
  • Has there been any value in the publication of the Prevent statistics?  
  • What should be explored in the independent review that was recently announced? 
  • What might be the consequences of dropping Prevent from the counter-terrorism strategy?  
  • Can we imagine a genuine alternative to Prevent rather than constantly trying to edit and reshape it? What might this look like?