Dr Jill Gibbon

ISRF Early Career Fellow 2017-18

Dr Jill Gibbon

ISRF Early Career Fellow 2017-18

Jill Gibbon ISRF

Jill Gibbon is a senior lecturer in Graphic Arts at Leeds Beckett University. She holds a B.A from Leeds Polytechnic, an M.A from Keele University, and a PhD from Wimbledon School of Art, the University of Surrey. She has published on art as an interdisciplinary method in War Studies, and has drawings in the permanent collections of the Imperial War Museum and the Bradford Peace Museum.

Her ISRF project uses drawing to explore the etiquette of the arms trade. The military and security industries are usually studied with reason-based methods. However, etiquette lies outside reason. It is sensuous – enacted, performed and displayed. Jill has visited arms fairs covertly in Europe and the Middle East by dressing up as an arms trader, and once inside, she draws. She will use an archive of the drawings and other artefacts from the fairs to explore the rituals of dress, manners, and hospitality that legitimise and normalise the international trade in weapons.

The Etiquette of the Arms Trade

The UK and US governments regularly grant export licences for arms sales to unstable states and repressive regimes. How are these deals validated? This project uses a body of artworks that I have made undercover in arms fairs to address this problem. It aims to show how the arms industry is given an appearance of respectability through rituals of etiquette, and to challenge this veneer by juxtaposing the art with research about the impact of arms sales.

I am an artist using drawing and performance to research the arms trade. I have visited arms fairs covertly since 2008 by dressing up as an arms trader with a suit, paste pearls, and a sham business. Once inside, I draw the manners, hospitality and weapons, and collect complimentary gifts. A colleague has photographed my performance. Arms fairs are infrequent but having worked on the project for several years, I now have a substantial body of drawings, gifts, and photographs. I am seeking this fellowship to disseminate and contextualise this work through an exhibition at the Bradford Peace Museum, catalogue, website, articles, and a book pitch.

The project responds to calls for the use of aesthetic methods to study war (Bleiker, 2001; Sylvester, 2010) by using drawing and performance to bring new insights to research about the arms trade (Feinstein, 2012; Omega Foundation, 2017; Wright, 2008). It addresses ISRF goals by using an interdisciplinary methodology to tackle an urgent political problem – the international trade in weapons. It uses art to convey the micro-social processes that allow arms deals to authoritarian regimes, and challenges those processes with social science research.

Research Outcomes

  • Gibbon, J. (2020) ‘This is Not a Bomb – matériel culture and the arms trade’, in Maltby, S., O’Loughlin, B., Parry, K & Roselle, L (eds.) Spaces of War, War of Spaces, Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 187-204.
  • Gibbon, J. (2020) ‘Gifts from Arms Fairs’, ISRF Bulletin, 4 May. Available at: https://www.isrf.org/2020/05/04/gifts-from-arms-fairs/
  • Gibbon, J. (2018) The Etiquette of the Arms Trade, Beam Editions, UK.
  • Gibbon, J. (2018) ‘I Go Undercover into Arms Fairs – and Secretly Draw Caricatures of the ‘Hell’ I Find There’, The Conversation, 10 May. Available at: https://theconversation.com/i-go-undercover-into-arms-fairs-and-secretly-draw-caricatures-of-the-hell-i-find-there-95473
  • Gibbon, J. (2018) The Etiquette of the Arms Trade: ten years drawing in arms fairs, 13 April – 28 June 2018, Bradford Peace Museum. Details at: https://peacemuseum.org.uk/the-etiquette-of-the-arms-trade-ten-years-drawing-in-arms-fairs/

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at [email protected].