Facing Human Wrongs:

Navigating paradoxes and complexities
of social and global change.

Artistic Practices And Pop Culture: Magnitude Of The Challenges

Facing Shadows And Storms

Inviting people to sit with “wicked problems” and with our complicity in harm is a huge challenge for both education and art. We tend to think about global challenges as “informational” issues – we just need the right data, the right analysis, the right plan, the right policy, the right expert, the right methodology and we can proceed with our walk towards “progress” and “prosperity” (what counts as “forward” is generally not in question). But what if it is precisely our notions of progress and prosperity that have got us into this mess? Another way to think of it is that these are not issues related to a lack of information, but to a harmful “habit of being” that is both conscious and unconscious and both violent and unsustainable.

Education and art that frame the problem as a problem of information approach learners and the public only with more knowledge. Education and art that see the problem as a problem of denial (that our habits of being are violent and unsustainable) approach learners and the public very differently. They have to deploy pedagogical strategies that can deflect or disarm our unconscious defences – the defences of our egos and our desires to consume (knowledge, relationships, hope and experiences), to feel and look good and to have the sensation of “moving forward”. Whenever instructors and artists refuse to meet these desires, they may face serious backlashes and have their audiences turn against them: people will blame them for forcing them to see and feel what they had spent a lot of energy trying not to see or feel (i.e. to repress).

The artists below have all tried to invite the public to sit with difficult and painful issues and to develop self-reflexivity (focusing on the necessity to look at not so beautiful things about ourselves and the world). Pay attention to how they did it, and what it moved on your bus (both pleasant and unpleasant). Try to see the creative process from the artists’ perspective: what decisions they had to make to keep the audience interested even though what they were doing did not necessarily meet their audiences’ desires to look and feel good. Warning: the artworks may be triggering and not easy to watch, but stay with it and pay attention to the rationale behind it.

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