Socially engaged arts practices make new forms of sociability. They are intra-active, diffractive methods through which we are able to craft new social faces. Quantum literacies are the modes through which socially engaged arts practices occur: they are at once critical, performative, intra-active. Quantum literacies enable us to examine generative intersections between artistic research and academic research regarding life and matter, nature and culture. Taking into account the multiple processes of material-discursive production, translation, transformation, and diffraction that constitute socially engaged arts practice, this paper considers the material-discursive space of socially engaged arts practice as a way of re-assembling and re-making multicultural urban spaces currently fractured by differences in belief. The transversal line of socially engaged art practice with interfaith youth zigzags across, and brings together, a diverse selection of bodies, beliefs, knowledges, skills, and creates a material-discursive documentation of group subjectivity. Through an excavation of my recent arts workshops with interfaith children, I will examine the ways aesthetic practices perform a group subjectivity created through collaboration. Such a bringing together of nature and culture, of different races and beliefs in urban environments, is urgently needed. The British Government spends 40 million pounds on an annual basis on The Prevent scheme. For those unfamiliar with the scheme, Prevent is just one strand of the UK government’s counter terrorism policy which has 4 strands – to Pursue, Protect, Prepare, and Prevent.
Through prevent funding, local UK police forces have specialized Prevent officers, and both teachers and children are trained to identify radicalised children. On the southern side of the Globe, between 2015-16 Australian budget committed $22 million to ‘countering violent extremism’. This financial commitment reflects the fact that the everyday atmosphere of Australian life, in addition to British life, is characterised by implicit and explicit relationships to 'terrorism' prevention. This emphasis, indeed this atmosphere, and the financial investment it requires, has not reduced the quantity or severity of terrorist threats. More than anything, increased securitization has inspired a corresponding increase in violence and anxiety. The atmosphere of Islamophobia at the heart of such national imaginings that are mobilised to justify funding ways of ‘countering violent extremism’ is increasing. Taking these nationalizing cultural atmospheres as a point of departure, I look to establish transversal strategies for changing public culture and crafting interfaith belonging in Australia, and in the UK, through arts practices and public aesthetics. This paper reports on the early stages of a trans national art project that is designed to intervene in Islamophobic cultural imaginaries through socially engaged art as a vehicle for relationship building and social cohesion.