Painting Politics is a two day conference, slated for late February, where emerging artists in the area will converge to explore the intersections of personal visual experience and political theory. On one hand painting is often characterized as the realm of individual expression and self-expression and on the other, politics is often seen as the objective and universal analysis of existing socio-political structures out here in the real world. If we look at history we can see that each side in every war has always presented an image of the other side. Art is in fact a way to challenge those in power by depicting them in a different light. However, it is also a powerful medium that can shape our reality and influence the masses when it is presented truthfully.
With this in mind, painting Politics will seek to put the political arena into context and give it an analytical stance. This is not to say that one will attempt to take a simplistic view of politics or paint a simplistic picture of art. Rather, politics and the art world are intrinsically connected because both involve defining boundaries, building frameworks, creating and preserving certain spaces, determining and articulating truths, and creating and disciplining subjectivities.
The conference theme, Painting Politics, invites participants to question their pre-existing conceptions and definitions of politics and the art world as well as to ask new questions and explore different possibilities. It will insist that politics and the art world are intimately related and that one cannot simply move from one political condition to another. The conference is co-sponsored by the College of Contemporary Arts (CCA), the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), and the Council for the Study of Complexities and Visualization (CSVI). Past participants have included such diverse artists as Frank Stella, Joseph Cornell, Nancy XYZoff, Mark Wigley, and Barbara Segal. Current participants include Associate Professor Emerita Linda Ellis-Goff, Associate Professor emeritus DanielICA Goehlers, and Dr. Zhi Zhong.
The planned Parenthood workshop offered by Melissa Gaffney, PhD, focuses on how women and their families are influenced by politics. It will explore how family life is affected by domestic violence, work related stress, poverty, aging, and other socio-economic conditions that women may encounter. This planned workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to engage one another in a reflective environment that is comfortable and safe. The program will foster dialog and community through its examination of politics, art, and history. Another workshop offered by Melissa Gaffney, PhD, is on Thematic Analysis. This workshop is designed to help participants work on an intensive five-week mini-course focused on the history, politics, and culture of the farthest away possible future.
Thematic analysis begins with the definition and description of aesthetics. Then the aesthetics of politics is discussed with reference to political theory, documentary film and television, mass media, popular culture, visual arts, and other artistic mediums. Thematic analysis will then focus on visual and performing aesthetics and politics of Difference. Thematic analysis is planned to be an introduction to critical theory with a focus on the aesthetic value of politics.
Melissa Gaffney, PhD, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has researched Institutional Creativity and Political Economy as it relates to social action and visual culture. She specializes in Institutional Creativity and Social Economy as it applies to visual culture and politics. In her research she has explored the relationships between creativity and institutional politics, the politics of visual images and digital technology, and the production and politics of visual culture. Her research has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals and has been included in multiple professional books and professional conference publications.
Gaffney’s book The Politics of Visual Surveillance: An Installation, or An interrogation, as she states, “presents a set of case studies which challenges the notion that photography is an innocent technological artifact.” Gaffney contends that her research provides evidence that photography and its visual content have a significant political dimension. In her case study on the politics of visual images, she points out that Israeli politics were deeply affected by images of war, killing, and violence. Images of these types cause an individual to form an opinion about Israel, either supporting or disputing its aggressive actions, and this opinion forms part of the Israeli public opinion. Gaffney does not focus as much on the Israeli government’s role in disseminating these images as she does the effect that they have on the public.
The work she produced as a photojournalist exposed both sides of the story in a way that was informative, emotional, and educational for her audiences. In her book she has attempted to show how her photographs were in fact political acts because the subjects depicted were political subjects. Her research demonstrates how her use of photography as a political act was informed by her intention to produce news reports that would be accurate, legitimate, and objective. Gaffney’s intention was to provide a platform for her viewers to view the photographic work through the medium of social media. She hoped that by posting these images she would be able to create conversation and disseminate news that would ultimately change the public’s and government’s views of some images.