Art and Social Change in Asia (Session A)
This course thematizes the mobility of people, artworks, and ideas in and through Asia from the late Twentieth Century to now. It considers the role of diaspora communities in reframing histories of migration, colonization, and conflict. It foregrounds the role of the mobile artist—whether a political refugee commenting on human rights issues from abroad or a participant in the global circuit of biennial and triennial exhibitions that form temporary sites of translocal art discourse. The dissemination of images through communication technologies expands art’s viewership and diversifies response. Creators and events are imbricated in human networks and histories of practice that transcend national borders.
While investigating the question of how art matters now, this course prioritizes the role of art in marking and even bringing about social change. Beginning around 1945, our case studies will focus in particular on experimental and socially-engaged art practices: late abstraction, hyperrealism, pop, conceptualism, documentary video and photography, performance, multi-media installation, new media and video art, feminist and queer practices, site-specific projects, and participatory art. We will analyze how and where art practice intersects with political expression, identity formation, and institutions such as the academy and the state. Art that emerges at the grassroots level connects with specific communities to foreground their particular needs and character, and to articulate along with them a shared vision for the future. Particularly in contexts of military rule and social upheaval—where expression is censored, regimes are unstable, or the welfare of the community is in jeopardy—we will ask what role art plays in advocating for democratic representation, human rights, and social equity.