The Moscow theatre siege of 2002 represented a, literally, theatrical demonstration of the way the post Soviet struggle for regional independence in Russia has adopted the trappings of Islamic fundamentalist violence that is the subject of the American styled ‘War on Terror’. My interest in the event derived from documentary footage in the Dan Reed film ‘Terror in Moscow’, and lay initially in the wish to explore the extraordinary paradox of an audience who had gone to experience a performance (The musical ‘Nord Ost’) which might temporarily remove them from their daily lives, suddenly being faced with the reality of a war going on far away. I interviewed a member of the one British family held hostage in the siege.
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Painting, Digital Printing, Ink Jet Printing, Global Politics, Contemporary History.
He has exhibited internationally for over 25 years, and completed numerous commissions and residencies in the UK and abroad, including the BBC, Greenpeace and the National Portrait Gallery, London.
In 1990, he was officially appointed by the Imperial War Museum as British war artist during the Gulf War.
Deeply concerned with issues of power, human rights and the mass media, Keane's work addresses many of the most pressing political questions of our age. In recent years he has worked closely with humanitarian organisations on research projects in conflict zones in Northern Irelend, Central America, the Middle East and Africa.
In 2001/02, he exhibited a series of paintings on canvas, paper and illegal timber based on a trip with Greenpeace during their illegal logging campaign in the Amazon; 'The Inconvenience of History - a body of work resulting from a number of research trips to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in conjunction with Christian Aid, toured internationally in 2004.
John Keane's recent work has focused on the eminent rise of political violence, exploring ambiguous concepts such as the global terrorist / freedom fighter phenomena. In a recent series of paintings entitled '57 Hours in the House of Culture' - first exhibited at Flowers East, London, and Sakharov Museum, Moscow in 2006 - Keane focused on the brutality of the Chechen war for independence. He is also currently developing an opera about the Dubrovka siege with the National Theatre Studio.
'Guantanamerica', a new body of work, addresses issues of representation and dehumanisation of detainees at Guantanemo Bay through a series of paintings based on low resolution internet files.
"In 2004/5 I have been working on a series of paintings about the Moscow Theatre siege in 2002. The imagery has been derived from screengrabs of documentary footage taken during the siege, and sometimes including subtitles of the English translation from the original Russian, recounting the experience as told by some of the hostages. My initial interest in this subject was provoked by the location of the event in a theatre, a place normally associated with the suspension of disbelief, and how in this case Life intruding without warning upon Art, resulting in the most tragic of circumstances. The process has continued my methods of developing the imagery with the aid of a computer, prior to committing paint to canvas in works both large and small scale. (.)
In 2006 I will be undertaking a trip to Angola with the charity Christian Aid to investigate post conflict conditions with particular reference to children. I will be looking at the re-location back to rural areas of people forced out by the war, and attempts to rebuild communities in more remote areas. During the trip I will be gathering material to provide the source for new paintings commissioned by Wolverhampton City Art gallery for a forthcoming exhibition in the autumn of 2007. The nature of this work will emerge during and after the field trip."