The Violence of Public Art – Do the Right Thing
Critical Inquiry publishes critical thought on arts and societies and has done so for almost forty years. The university publication includes articles by critics and artists regarding contemporary criticism and culture, i.e., neo-Darwinism, the Occupy movement, affect theory, and photographic automatism. It generates comparisons and connections that drive theoretical debate.
The mandate of the University of Chicago Press encompasses an obligation to disseminate at the highest standard and to publish serious works that promote education, foster public understanding, and enrich cultural life. It’s been around since 1890, and is more relevant and important today than it has ever been, especially since the pandemic turned our world inside out.
From the book, Beauty is Nowhere: Ethical Issues in Art and Design, w.j.t. mitchell wrote, “In May 1988, I took what might be the last photograph of Mao Tse Tung on the campus of Beijing University. ‘The thirty-foot monolith was enveloped in bamboo scaffolding to keep off the harsh desert winds’, my hosts told me with knowing smiles. That night, workers with sledgehammers reduced the statue to a pile of rubble, and rumours spread throughout Beijing that the same thing was happening to Mao statues on university campuses all over China.”
Artists felt compelled then, as they do today to use their energies to benefit society by making transparent what is often hidden from public view. It’s a powerful element that many artists don’t fully appreciate until something impacts them personally, then all of a sudden, their art takes on new depth and meaning, and sometimes becomes their life’s work whether through traditional painting or digital animation.
In 2021, mid pandemic, it’s the type of focus society needs of artists, but unfortunately many artists have moved away through fear in a world that has grown increasing divisive and violent.
In 2020, the murder of George Floyd changed society in an eight minute moment that seemed to last an eternity. It was incredibly painful to watch police snuff out his life while a crowd on the scene, and millions more around the world watched. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anyone choked to death–slowly or otherwise.
In that brief few minutes, “Do the Right Thing” became a meme that caused us at iAD to think deeply about our responsibility as artists, and to consider what we can do as an international collective to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again.
As a result, we decided to create a campaign to award artists who step up and do the right thing because we want the world to know it’s time for change.
We also want the world to know that artists have more power than you, or even they, might think.