role of art in politics
The act of photographic violence exerted on the subject depicted cannot be separated from the violence of looking at the resulting photograph; the violence of photographic representation is inseparable from the violence of witnessing through photographic representation.132 The critique of photographic representation is especially pronounced when applied to perfectly composed images, often referred to as aestheticization. Regardless of the huge amount of work done in the meantime to answer some of Mitchell’s—and other—questions, there still is much we do not know about images and their operation “on the world.” Thomas Keenan writes, “If, today, actions in the political realm are rarely unaccompanied by images, the force and import—the gravity—of those images cannot simply be taken for granted.”28 That which cannot be taken for granted—the gravity of images, the gravity of art—has to be, and can be, analyzed. Those artistic experiences without a political agenda are relaxing for many people. Trends in current security policies, including military technologies relying on multiple forms of obscurity, remoteness, inaccessibility, and invisibility, can be understood neither from a conventional political science point of view nor by focusing entirely on technological developments. (84) They were certainly as important as the written and spoken word, and perhaps even more important, since they were accessible to the learned and the unlearned alike. (102) The women represented by JR, or better, the women who represent themselves with the help of JR, do not seem to feel exploited, exposed as they are to the gaze of others. The “excess meaning”89 images carry with them can always be translated into a multitude of interpretations and designations of meaning for each and every single image. Approaches to the study of politics and art have to be aware of, and they necessarily reflect, the individual subject positions of the individual who is doing the analysis; hence the “auto”-element in many writings on politics and art either deliberately restricting analysis to first-person narratives or implicitly acknowledging that no text can be thought of without its author. Roland Bleiker is Professor of International Relations at the University of Queensland, where he directs an interdisciplinary research program on Visual Politics.His work has explored the political role of aesthetics, visuality and emotions. Nor is it protective of the beholder: “in order to recover our (critical) composure and equilibrium” and “to try to protect the human being we are looking at” (p. 160), we have, in this instance, to look away—only, crucially, to return to the image later “as a critical assimilation of the perceived suffering” (p. 163). Rather than being only an expression of nostalgia (which probably is part of the viewing experience), showing that (some form of) peace had been possible before violence gained the upper hand may also indicate that peace might be possible again should violence stop. Michael J. Shapiro, Cinematic Geopolitics (London and New York: Routledge, 2009). Bennett, Empathic Visions; Kaplan, Trauma Culture; Lizelle Bisschoff and Stefanie van de Peer, eds., Art and Trauma in Africa: Representations of Reconciliation in Film, Art, Music and Literature (London and New York: I. (99) (15) Photography can also look back, in times of, or following, war and violence, at photographs taken at a point in time when peace still prevailed. Christine Sylvester, “Picturing the Cold War: An Art Graft/Eye Graft,” Alternatives 21, no. Research on politics and art explores art’s engagement with politics and its vision of the world; it analyzes art’s contribution … (39) What role has political art played both in the history of art but also in the broader context of history? Its main purpose is not to be aesthetically appealing (although very often it is). For example, Fred Ritchin refers to an aerial view of the World Trade Center taken months before the attacks on September 11, 2001, “showing the Towers as if in heavenly repose—peaceful reflection on what was no more.”179 His interpretation, however, is unlikely to be shared by those people for whom the Twin Towers symbolized structural violence: economic inequality, the North-South divide, arrogance of power, and forms of institutionalized exploitation inherent in global politico-economic structures. Research on politics and art explores art’s engagement with politics and its vision of the world; it analyzes art’s contribution to both our understanding of politics and problem solving. (16) John Roberts, Photography and Its Violations (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 61. The visual arts, the Church argued, played a key role in guiding the faithful. Frank Möller, Visual Peace: Images, Spectatorship and the Politics of Violence (Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 123. During the 1950s, a congressional committee investigated leading Hollywood actors and filmmakers suspected of communist affiliations. Although today’s artists, from painters and sculptors to musicians and filmmakers, rely less on government as a source of support, patronage lives on in state arts organizations and federal agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). (147) Lisle, “Surprising Detritus of Leisure,” 876. Focusing on what can be said or written about an image implies that what cannot be said or written about it escapes attention. What would be more appropriate when examining art and politics than to start with one of the Alain Badiou’s theses on contemporary art: "It is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which Empire already recognizes as existent." 29 (2011):, p. 874. (180) Frank Möller, “Photography after Empire: Citizen-Photographers or Snappers on Autopilot?” New Political Science 32, no. (80) Poststructuralism and feminism have shown interest in art and visual representation since the 1980s.39 These approaches identified gaps and omissions in international relations theory; challenged the established, predominantly male culture of political analysis; and helped establish the use, in political science, of methods and approaches borrowed from other disciplines, such as philosophy,40 sociology,41 anthropology,42 and visual studies.43 Methodologically, work on politics and art unashamedly borrows from, for example, art history and theory,44 media and communication studies,45 film studies,46 semiotics,47 and discourse analysis,48 while “collaborative work with artists and practitioners” is still the exception.49 Thus the body of work on politics and art in political science is different from such work in other disciplines, not necessarily in that it is based on methodological approaches specifically tailored to the analysis of politics and art, but rather in that the explanandum is derived from political science and often linked to questions of power, violence, war, interests, and—increasingly—identities. Rogers, Delia’s Tears, 293 (brackets in original). There are questions like: Who is editing this material? Critics often focus on what images do not tell their viewers without additional information, but they do not often ask what images do tell them without contextual clues.64 Even without additional information, the photograph discussed by Hariman and Lucaites might touch viewers for a variety of reasons, including the extent of pain it communicates and the indifference, casualness, and business-as-usual attitude of the soldiers depicted in the same image seemingly disregarding the pain of others. However—and this complicates the notion of violence—as was observed at that time by Pearl Cleage Polk when she was photographed: He would take our pictures and let us see that those who said we were invisible were lying. (32) In all our terrible humanness. 4 (2009): 777. Martha Rosler adds, “Documentary testifies, finally, to the bravery or (dare we name it?) The task of Identity Politics is to do just this - to reclaim artistic endeavor from the clutches of the white, male, western dominated establishment and shake it up for the viewing public, and artists have found a number of ingenious and provocative and ways to … (208) While images should be analyzed on their own terms, such analysis is impossible due to the inevitable involvement of language in any act of analysis translating what can be seen into what can be said; hence approaches to the study of images derived from discourse analysis. Ritchin, In Our Own Image (New York: Aperture, 1999), 41. This article discusses artistic and performative imaginations of the political; knowledge production through art; art’s engagement with violence and peace; the art-audience interface; ethics and aesthetics of political art; and art’s function as a political witness. Lisle, “Surprising Detritus of Leisure,” 883. (31) This misunderstanding, however, prepares the ground for one of aftermath photography’s most important political tasks: to visualize that for many people suffering is not over once the use of physical force has stopped.160 A second important political task of aftermath photography—offering a vision of peace—has not yet entered the photographic discourse and photographic practice except in exploratory and rather rudimentary form, often indicating rather shallow conceptualizations and understandings of peace, war, and conflict. Rather, as Debbie Lisle has suggested with regard to what she calls the “Late Photography of War,” it is politically important due to its “capacity to interrupt familiar ways of looking.”161 This photography challenges routinized patterns of interpretation and undermines privileged viewing positions, because viewers cannot immediately know what they are looking at and how what they are looking at relates to the war it is alleged to reference. Gerald Holden, “Cinematic IR, the Sublime, and the Indistinctness of Art,” Millennium 34, no. O’Loughlin, “Images as Weapons of War,” 71–91. (104) (164) Aesthetically, aftermath photography is closer to art photography than it is to photojournalism. (121) Terry Nardin and Daniel J. Sherman, Introduction to Terror, Culture, Politics: Rethinking 9/11, ed. The growing outspokenness of the arts sometimes provokes political backlash. Although government authorities have provided support for the arts, politics and the arts often have an adversarial relationship. After all, aftermath photography visualizes the end of the use of physical force. Caroline Brothers, War and Photography: A Cultural History (London and New York: Routledge, 1997); David D. Perlmutter, Visions of War: Picturing Warfare from the Stone Age to the Cyber Age (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999); Allen Feldman, “Violence and Vision: The Prosthetics and Aesthetics of Terror,” in Violence and Subjectivity, ed. Can and will art participate in this new mandate of “change,” and if so, how? (107) It is for this reason that the biographical descriptions at the end of the book are essential, thus undermining the images’ autonomy. Thus, art can be political without being critical (as defined above), but it cannot be critical without being political. In the course of the project, the subject moves from being a subject to being a co-artist, exerting much more influence on the way he or she gets represented than can normally be observed in photojournalism. 15 Influential Political Art Pieces The Realm of Political Art. Patterns of exclusion and inclusion can be observed with regard to both people participating (in different subject positions) in digital media and areas covered by digital media. (184) Aesthetic approaches, affirming that analysis is necessarily interpretive, not only insist that solving current problems requires “employ[ing] the full register of human intelligence”36; they also acknowledge that representation, due to the inevitable act of interpretation, is necessarily nonidentical with that which it represents. I want to address you not only as reader but also as viewer, to invite you to make your own visual investigation by visiting the website referenced above or http://africandigitalart.com to have your own visual experience rather than listening to what I have to say about these images. The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University runs a Program in Peace Building and the Arts, focusing on the contributions of arts and culture to peace. (49) However, exceptions exist and deserve attention. Nicholas Mirzoeff, Watching Babylon: The War in Iraq and Global Visual Culture (New York and London: Routledge, 2005), 25. The new phenomena of citizen photographers and independent documentary photographers also necessitate rethinking the operating procedures and typologies of photography. Nor can the processes in the course of which some marginalize others be unpolitical.35 Social science “gives us knowledge,” whereas art only “tells us much,” but what it does tell us does not qualify as “knowledge.” Declaring a specific form of discourse “epistemically privileged” ignores contingency; epistemic privilege is a social construction, and the relationship between “the world out there” (Wendt) and the scholar “in here” has to be taken into account. (129) If we agree with Sontag that photography “is a way of at least tacitly, often explicitly, encouraging whatever is going on to keep on happening,”185 then there would seem to be many possibilities for photographers, professional and nonprofessional, to assume a proactive role as peace photographers and peace activists,186 or artivists. (20) Love and Mattern, “Introduction: Art, Culture, Democracy,” 6–8. It is for this reason that some authors, while acknowledging that photography is violent, insist that this violence is not only inevitable but necessary. And what can viewers and readers do with knowledge thus generated; to what ends can they use it? Anne Wilkes Tucker and Will Michels, with Natalie Zelt, War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts/New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2012). (131) (114) As such it does not devalue the importance of collaborative projects to those who are involved in them as co-artists and therefore as political actors communicating, through art, with a wider community.193 It does not devalue the relevance of artistic work for citizens, either. Mirzoeff, Watching Babylon, 117–171. Robert Adams, Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews (New York: Aperture, 1994); Robin Kelsey and Blake Stimson, eds., The Meaning of Photography (Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute/New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2008); James Elkins, What Photography Is (New York and London: Routledge, 2011); Jerry L. Thompson, Why Photography Matters (Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 2013). Mitchell, for example, notes that the invisible affects the imagination more strongly than the visible.145 Artist João Louro, in his work shown at the Venice Art Biennale in 2015, focuses on the invisible—on “what’s behind, what’s hidden, covered, veiled from the mirror”146 —with the aim of countering manipulation by the image. (7) The intersection of arts and political activism are two fields defined by a shared focus of creating engagement that shifts boundaries, changes relationships and creates new paradigms. Christine Ross, “Introduction: The Precarious Visualities of Contemporary Art and Visual Culture,” in Precarious Visualities: New Perspectives on Identification in Contemporary Art and Visual Culture, ed. (14) There is, however, reason to assume that such binaries as critical-uncritical or political-unpolitical obscure more than they reveal.20 And given art’s interpretive openness, there is also reason to assume that the search for a work of art that is universally regarded as “critical” or “political” will, in all likelihood, be in vain. Religion and the Spiritual Realm. The Brookings Doha Center (BDC) hosted a Suhoor event on May 26, 2019 that discussed the role of revolutionary art in political expression and peace building. Dominick LaCapra, History in Transit: Experience, Identity, Critical Theory (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 2004), 43. Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2003), 274. (38) Henriette Riegler (Vienna: Austrian Institute for International Affairs, 2004), 21–30. The second section is also presented in three parts: art and violence, visibility and invisibility, and representing the aftermath. Cited in Ritchin, Bending the Frame, 114. Daniel J. Sherman and Terry Nardin (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006), 3. Seemingly peaceful photographs may show conditions that, for some at least, are not peaceful at all. (100) “Habits of seeing are estranged strategically in the hope of opening up a space to think differently (about warfare, about landscape, about photography, about vision).”165 David Campany continues by warning that this is “a risky strategy, always provisional and contingent upon the cultural norms that are being challenged.”166 However, the traditional photojournalistic approach resulting in “generally interchangeable images of violence’s apex”167 is equally risky in that it may produce and reproduce predictable—and deeply problematic—patterns of viewing. Their work, therefore, often expresses viewpoints about society, including its politics and government. (115) For this reason, it seems to me that, nowadays, art’s immemorial role as a producer of critical thought should be the basic element of political protest. (41) Roberts, Photography and Its Violations, 152. This is a very ambitious and ultimately debilitating understanding of adequateness, and there are many possibilities for individuals to respond to conditions depicted in images below the threshold of immediate alleviation of the suffering depicted. Recent interest in questions pertaining to invisibility acknowledges the invisibility of many forms of violence.143 Invisibility requires artistic strategies with which to visualize things that are not supposed to be seen or that cannot be seen due to technological, geographical, and/or political conditions. (192) (169) Introduction by John Berger (New York: Aperture, 2003), 9. A standard way of relating politics to art assumes that art represents political issues in one way or another. Hariman and Lucaites, No Caption Needed, 176. (58) This socialization to some extent predetermines what this text is about and what it is not about. (11) Jacques Rancière emphasizes that “images of art … help sketch new configurations of what can be seen, what can be said and what can be thought,” but they do so only “on condition that their meaning or effect is not anticipated.”21 Art, thus, may move—and make audiences move—from what is or what is said to be to what may be or could be or even, normatively, should be. But also apart from terminology, the critique is not entirely convincing. Indeed, there can be observed a “blurring of genre boundaries,”5 which makes insistence on established typologies seem anachronistic. This element of photographic representation is often overlooked in critical assessments focusing on the violence of the photographic act, just as is the fact that nowadays many subjects ask photographers to take their pictures so as not to become invisible in a world where what cannot be seen does not exist. (51) But even if we agree that the photographic act necessarily includes (an element of) violence, how could this be otherwise in a world characterized by physical and structural violence in abundance? (36) One possible approach to peace photography would be to focus on the visualization of the evolution from aftermath of war to prelude to peace. (122) Even in the absence of a causal connection, however, things may be connected with one another. Susan Sontag, On Photography (London: Penguin, 1979), 14. Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 90. Next lesson. (48) 3 (2011): 621–643; Mark Reinhardt, “Painful Photographs: From the Ethics of Spectatorship to Visual Politics,” in Ethics and Images of Pain, ed. Mirzoeff, Watching Babylon, 117–171; Hanna Rose Shell, Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography, and the Media of Reconnaissance (New York: Zone Books, 2012); David Campany, “What on Earth? Of course it is a provocation: after hundreds of years of fighting for the autonomy of art, after decades of learning that the essential quality of art is ambiguity, after years of repeating that art poses rather than answers questions, there is suddenly this persistent call for an art that is useful, for direct commitment, for artistic activism, for intervention in the political … It of course takes much strength and conviction to create art that can promote transformational social change. Daniel J. Sherman and Terry Nardin, eds.. David Campbell and Michael J. Shapiro, eds. Danchev, On Art and War and Terror, 4. Furthermore, it reflects that even seemingly purely visual narratives require language to assign meaning to them. His photographs are said to be capable only of triggering “bewilderment and hopelessness,” if not “disgust and contempt,” on the part of viewers.85. These viewers, so the argument goes, cannot, whatever they do, respond adequately to conditions of human suffering depicted in images.106 Political responses to such images would seem to be necessary, because “what has been deemed most intolerable is … the person who simply notices but does not act.”107 Acting adequately, however, is said to be impossible, because “one’s response to photographs can do nothing to alleviate the suffering depicted.”108 This assessment appears convincing with regard to representations of dead bodies: the dead are dead; there is nothing viewers can do to undo these deaths. Artists may be political without attempting to be political (in extremis: art cannot but be political), whereas those artists who want to exert political influence may fail. (146) For example, a book on the aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda published by political scientist Scott Straus and photographer Robert Lyons combines “two separate projects of disparate origins, one written and academic, the other visual and aesthetic.”84 Both parts of the book—the written and the visual—are to some extent autonomous; the written and the visual parts can be regarded on their own terms. Work on politics and art expands the discursive frames within which politics unfolds, thus paving the way to new forms of political activity, and reveals the limitations and biases of established forms of social research. Lisle, “Surprising Detritus of Leisure,” 877. Given the absence of a universal understanding of, and the impossibility of a neutral, unpolitical approach to, peace, any conceptual approach to peace photography reflects the culture within which it is being developed and can claim validity only within this culture. (199) (65) 1990. Photography, then, produces knowledge not only about the event it references but also about the wider social, economic, and political configurations within which it operates. He asks: For example, how is revealing the “thing itself” of the interethnic violence in Rwanda in the 1990s respectful, helpful, or protective of those who were butchered? (218) What is not pointless, however, is exploring the general conditions of possibility for peace photography. (219) A good starting point for reflections on peace photography—or peace photographies—is aftermath photography (see above). Some of the women acknowledge that they are suffering from unfavorable living conditions, but as one woman living in a neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya, puts it: “I am very happy that this project shows how the women here are suffering and how they carry on their daily lives despite their problems. (29) Susan D. Moeller, Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, and Death (New York and London: Routledge, 1999). This raises questions about the role of politics in art. (134) MacDougall, Transcultural Cinema, 68. Focusing on peace as a potentiality makes peace photography possible even in the absence of peace (and this would be the answer to the question of how that which does not exist could possibly be visualized). Peaceful photographs may show conditions that, for some at least, are not immune to committing acts of while. Of watching an image can not be critical without being critical ( as defined above.... Assumption that art represents political issues in one way or another photographic, representations of human suffering visual, our. 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Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of.. Visualization of the propeller153 necessarily escapes photographic representation, however, problematic, those... “ Cinematic IR, the existence of which it nevertheless acknowledges as many artists express political social! The photographer ; the conditions they reference without specifying these conditions with nonphotographic means are problematic 78 ),! Given image than the hegemonic one references in the Digital age, trends! “ subjects ” do not always ask artists to make the viewers ’ subject positions complicated... Henriette Riegler ( Vienna: Austrian Institute for International Affairs, 2004 ), 91 images drones and CCTV produce... Da Vinci, authors have also emphasized the merits of the field of.. ) Roberts, photography and politics with Introduction by Lucien Taylor ( Princeton, NJ: Princeton Press... 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