Guernica – a platform for conflict artists

Short read

Margaux Portron, Research and Communications Associate, Artraker.

I took part in #peacehackLdn, a hackathon for peace organised by International Alert in London. If you’re unfamiliar with what a hackathon is, this is the definition given by Wikipedia:

A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development and hardware development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.

It means you spend two days locked up in a room and try and end up with an app or a  software. In this case, we had to adress the theme of violent extremism.

This was our proposal on saturday morning:

With a team of developers we worked on that platform for conflict artists, which we called Guernica in reference to the famous painting by Picasso, deemed the most universal manifesto against war:


Guernica, Picasso, 1937, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

Guernica, Picasso, 1937, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía

The idea for the platform relies on two concepts: fairtrade and counter-narrative. In terms of visual we are aiming for a simple design such as Patreon or Hiive. It should be fairly light so that people in conflict zones don’t have to wait for the page to load.

We want artists from conflict zones to be able to do the job they want in their home country – if they want to. It means that if you’re a client, instead of commissionning a Western Artist, you can find one in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, to do the same job. Artists can make a profile, get commissioned and paid via bitcoin. They can also create crowdfunding projects. This job or project might be a photo-essay on Palestine on an advertising campaign for TFL.

Khartoon: A satirical take on power by Khalid Albaih. Source:

Khartoon: A satirical take on power by Khalid Albaih. Source:

If you indeed need a story on Gaza, why not ask a Palestinian photographer? This is about the counternarrative aspect. In the meantime, artists need visibility to get work and to be safe in authoritarian countries: it protects them to have a “fan base”. Counter-narrative is also about freedom of speech.

We got a lot done but we’re still working on it! Tell us what you think so that we can make it better. For instance, do we need to limit countries? Are there other possibilities than bitcoin?


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