oranje - recent posts from my current home

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Banner waving

Rebecca Clarren and Kathleen Craig have written articles for Salon.com and WIRED about Joseph DeLappe's media art piece, dead-in-iraq. Neither are reviews of the art or artist, but mainstream media reports of a story. The debate about DeLappe's work seems to be about the effectiveness of the work as a protest.

Surprisingly, DeLappe has not become a darling of the antiwar movement. While some peace activists laud his effort, others sense that protest art is counterproductive.

"At the point when hundreds of thousands of people around the world were protesting and Bush said, 'You're a focus group; I don't have to pay attention to you,' symbolic protest -- where you simply hold up a sign and say, 'This is what I feel' --stopped being useful," says Michael Nagler, a peace scholar and activist who founded the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of California at Berkeley. "People in the peace movement gravitate toward art too quickly and use it too much. It's hard for me to say this, but the time has come for direct action and civil disobedience." - Rebecca Clarren: Virtually dead in Iraq

DeLappe's documentation on this project includes remarks made during gameplay via screenshots. Gameplayers have also participated in the dialog about the dead-in-iraq project. While there is support for free speech from the commentors, all believe that his efforts are wasted in achieving a lasting difference and many feel that what he is doing is actually detrimental to raising awareness of this issue.

In a society that encourages freedom of speech, the effectiveness of protest art is difficult to guage. It seems that dead-in-iraq hasn't changed the way that the war is percieved from either side of this issue. Those who believe that the troops should be withdrawn find reinforcement of their thoughts in the project. Anyone that believes that the troop involvement in Iraq was justified still hold their thoughts on the matter. If the purpose of the project was to raise awareness in an arena that so directly supports troop involvement, it seems that it has completely missed the mark.

The mainstream media has picked up on DeLappe's effort and countless articles have been written about dead-in-iraq in publications and in the blogosphere. Perhaps this project will find its way into changing the minds of those supporting the conflict through the media publications. For the most part, the articles are written as human interest stories and have a somewhat condescending tone.

Protesting social issues through art is difficult to do well and effectively. It seems that aesthetics take a backseat to the issue and more often than not, the work is perceived as a stunt.


Lisa Hunter said...

I think political art always gets evaluated by its content rather than its artistry -- at least at first.

Unfortunately, a lot of art is also destroyed because of its content.

Susan Constanse said...

In this particular case, I'm not sure what other criteria you could use to eveluate the work besides the content/intent. It's difficult because as a work it's purpose is obtuse.

I'm not sure how much work is destroyed in the US, Canada or Europe because of content anymore. I would pmagine that in more repressive regimes this is more likely to happen.

It seems to me that political art has to be pretty complex to be taken seriously in cultures that enjoy a degree of freedom of speech. Otherwise, you run the risk of not being taken seriously.