skip to main content
VC 132
Visual Activism
9 units (3-0-6)  | third term
Toppling monuments and cellphone footage. Meme-essays and flyers. Vandalized paintings and crowdsourced image libraries. Now more than ever, practices of protest and resistance depend on the force and reach of visual media, alongside tactics of spectacle, visibility, and selective opacity. The term "visual activism" coined by the queer South African photographer Zanele Muholi usefully connects a wide array of approaches to catalyzing change, but it also prompts questions. Why do activists turn to visual culture to make demands legible? What are the limits of the visual in communicating claims? Can different media help us to think or do politics differently? In this course, we will take our lead from Muholi to investigate the evolving relationship between contemporary activist practices and visual culture across a range of case studies from Tahrir Square to Rhodes Must Fall. Topics include but are not limited to the relevance of aesthetics to politics; tactical media; creativity and efficacy; the role and risks of activism in the art world, and the ethics of harnessing an image. As a key part of this course, students will hear from artist-organizers in the United States and abroad and apply their lessons in creative disobedience to a practical project.
Instructor: Stielau