Art as

“Art is not a mirror to reflect
reality, but a hammer with
which to shape it”
Berthold Brecht

Art is an overlooked form of
 Persuasion’s

traditional focus
has been on oral and/or
textual messages
◦ emphasis is on persuasion
within the “world of words”
◦ the role of images in general,
and art in particular, has been

The traditional “layperson’s”
view of art
 Art

is created for
“art’s sake”
 Representational
view of art—art
seeks to re-create
or imitate reality
 Romanticism—art
seeks to idealize or
romanticize reality
 Decorative function
—art needs to
match the sofa,
drapes, etc.

Dogs playing poker—kitsch
at its finest

Elvis on velvet—the
King, and bad taste,
live on

Thomas Kinkade,
“Seaside Hideaway”—
mall art

An Enlightened view of art

Art serves more
than an aesthetic
or decorative

◦ Just as “rhetoric”
is more than
mere eloquence
◦ Just as novels
can provide
more than mere

Artists express
their opinions in
and through their
 Art serves social
and political ends

Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica,” which has been
described as “the highest achievement in
modernist political painting” (Clark, 1997), is a
symbolic indictment of man’s cruelty to man
during the Spanish civil war.

Gass & Seiter’s view
The proper study of
the “art of
persuasion” should
include art as a form
of persuasion.
 Art satisfies the major
requirements for

Tracy Emin, “My Bed”
postmodern feminist art

Symbolic action
Free choice/conscious

Controversial Art
 Art

can create controversy, conflict, and even
Francisco Goya, The Third of May
Before Goya's painting of a firing squad
dispatching unarmed Spanish civilians
during the uprisings of the Napoleonic war,
artists had a tendency to paint a much
more rosy image of life on the frontline.
That was all about to change after ‘The
Third of May’. Napolean had sent his
brother, Joseph to crush the resistance in
Spain - and he duly did, with scenes that
didn't look too disimilar to this. As you
might imagine, it made a lot of Spanish
people very angry to hear of such
incidents, and Goya's painting helped fuel
that anger even further rallying more
people to fight back the French.

More controversial art
Blessed Art
Thou, by Kate

Napalm, by Banksy
to Pro-Life:
The Birth of
Preston, by

Art shines a spotlight on

Van Thanh Rudd

Edwards’ Octo

Art as a political tool of
 Greek

friezes and frescoes
taught citizens moral
lessons involving Greek
gods and Greek
 The Catholic church
commissioned thousands
of works of art to promote
 Politicized art: totalitarian
governments used art to
further the ends of the

“Roses for Stalin”

dedicated members of the
proletariat work happily
during the industrial age

Chinese revolutionary art
 Under

Mao, art’s
purpose was to
 Poster art
Chairman Mao
 Poster art
promoted the
ideals of the

Art directed against
Eugene Delacroix’s, “Liberty
Leading the People,”(1830)
both endorses and
romanticizes the French
 Picasso’s “Guernica” exposes
the horrors of war
 Diego Rivera’s murals
depicted the subjugation of
the peasant class
 Edvuard Munch’s “The
Scream” (1893) expresses a
mixture of anxiety, fear and
dread toward society
 Guerilla street artist “Banksy”
uses stencils to offer social

Public Art Controversies
 Recent

demonstrate the
persuasive potential of

◦ A proposal to build a
monument to the
firefighters at ground zero
was scrapped after a feud
erupted over what race
the firefighters should be.
◦ Post 9-11: The “Falling
Woman” statue was
displayed for only a few

The “falling woman”
statue, honoring
those who jumped to
their deaths from the
twin towers on Sept.
11, generated so
much public outcry
that it was never put
on display

Art with a Social Conscience
 Aschcroft

Versus Lady Justice

◦ John Ashcroft’s covered the bare breasts
of the Majesty of Justice (known as
Minnie Lou) in the Great Hall of the
Justice department
◦ Aschroft said he wasn’t comfortable being
photographed at press conferences in
front of the her large, aluminum breasts
◦ The new, blue velvet drapes cost $8,000 Three boobs in this picture?

 Dread

Scott Tyler and the
American Flag

◦ A Republican led group filed a lawsuit to
ban Dread Scott Tyler’s display, “What is
the Proper Way to Display the U.S. Flag?”
◦ The Judge dismissed the suit reminding
the court works of art are protected
under the First Amendment.
Tyler’s “What is the Proper way to
Display the American Flag” on
display at the School of The Art
Institute of Chicago

Art as a form of consciousness
 The

Social and Public Art Resource Center
(SPARC) uses mural to address community
issues, foster cross-cultural understanding, and
promote civic dialogue

Art as an instrument for social
“Art has long been a powerful weapon in
the activist's arsenal.” (Fred Baerkircher)
 Artists use art to critique society and
promote social change
 Artists use art to engage the public and
increase public awareness of social issues

Activists who
belong to the “Art
and revolution
project” protest
corporations and
the WTO through
performance art

The Guerilla Girls seek to change
the patriarchal nature of the art

Participation through
 Participation


◦ observers reflect on what an
exhibit means or what the artist
is trying to say.
◦ In their effort to understand the
exhibit viewers engage in active
thinking or central processing

 Active

(increasing involvement)

Suzanne Lacy, “Three weeks
in May” (1977)

◦ observers don’t just observe
◦ they become part of the art
◦ Peggy Diggs “Domestic
Violence Milk Carton Project”
Barbara Donachy, “Amber
Waves of Grain”

Participatory art
 Shoot

an Iraqi: Wafaa
Bilal lived in a room
for 30 while Web
viewers were allowed
to shoot him via a
paint gun.
 Over 60,000 shots
were fired by people
from over 100

Art as consciousness raising-continued
 The

AIDS memorial quilt,
a.k.a. the NAMES project
◦ the largest community art
project in the world
◦ hand-sewn folk art panels
commemorate those who
have died of AIDS
◦ the quilt is designed to
increase awareness and
decrease homophobia
◦ each panel puts a human
face on the grim statistics
◦ traveling exhibits take the
quilt to the people

“There was hope we could
beat the disease by using
the quilt as a symbol of
solidarity, of family and
community; there was
hope that we could make a
movement that would
welcome people—men and
women, gay and straight,
of every age, race, faith,
and background” (Cleve
Jones, co-founder of the
NAMES project).

Art as Political Activism

depicted the
torture and abuse
of prisoners at
Abu Ghraib.

How art persuades--iconicity

stand for and
resemble the things they
Images can sum up a concept:

Assorted icons

◦ the “trash can” icon in Windows,
female and male silhouettes on a
restroom door


of portraits,
landscapes, and still life are
iconic representations of
people, places, and things

The bald eagle as an
icon for America

An icon for
ignoring a

 Iconic

art needn’t be
accurate, objective
 Iconic art can
glamorize, romanticize,
stereotype, vilify
◦ Example: political
◦ Example: Medieval
paintings as allegories

 Icons

can evoke
emotional responses in

Iconicity in Political Cartoons

nose is an iconic
representation lf
Depicting a
politician with a
long nose makes
the visual claim
that the politician
is a liar.

Appropriating Corporate Icons
 Health Gap is an activist
group seeking increased
awareness and funding for
HIV/AIDS in Africa
 Coca Cola is the largest
private sector employer in
Africa, but only 1.5% of
Coke’s workers are eligible
for HIV/AIDS drugs

 Controversial art transforms
a passive viewer into an
active thinker
 may increase central
 may trigger cognitive

You can’t trust what you can
In the digital age, images are
malleable, changeable, fluid. In
movies, advertisements, TV shows,
magazines, we are constantly
exposed to images created or
altered by computers.
 “photography is highly interpretive,
ambiguous, culturally specific, and
heavily dependent upon
contextualization by text and
 Fred Ritchin, In Our Own
Image: The Coming Revolution
in Photography, New York:
Aperture, 1990, 81.

Soon after 9/11, a camera was
“found” on the sidewalk that
happened to survive the
collapse of the Twin Towers.
When the film was developed,
it revealed a tourist in the
wrong place at the wrong time.
The picture is a fake.

But syntactic indeterminacy can be
an advantage

can equate one
thing with another via
The associations may be
subtle or obvious

In conclusion
 Art can be controversial
 It can challenge the existing


 It can make people angry. It can
 It can heighten people’s awareness.
 It can make people question their
assumptions. It can change the way
they see things.
 It can make them reconsider their
 In so doing, art persuades.

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