Doublethink & Doubletalk: The Art and Politics of Language

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Date/Time: 06/10/2004 12:00 am

Doublethink & Doubletalk: The Art and Politics of Language
International Art Critics Association (AICA/USA) Presents Panel Discussion, October 6, 2004, at The New York Public Library featuring Barbara Kruger, David Levi-Strauss, Nancy Snow, and Boris Groys, moderated by Arthur Danto
At this moment in our history, “truth” seems a confusing and elusive concept. Though we are inundated with more information than ever through such outlets as 24 hour news stations and internet availability of newspapers and newscasts from around the world, it’s not clear whether we are really getting any closer to an understanding of things as they “really are.” Spinmeisters, image consultants, public relations advisors are ever more adept at crafting a convincing version of the facts which serves the interests of their clients. On October 6, in Doublethink & Doubletalk, The Art and Politics of Language, a panel discussion at The New York Public Library, acclaimed artists and critics will examine the ways in which words and images can be used to shape opinions and sway emotion. Sponsored by the U.S. Chapter of the International Art Critics Association, the nation’s largest organization of art writers, in conjunction with the Library, and moderated by critic and philosopher Arthur Danto, Johsonian Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Columbia University, the panel will ask: How much of what we “know” consists of artfully constructed fallacies? How can the experience of artists and critics serve as a counterbalance to decode the truth from a tangle of half-truths, contradictory messages and disinformation.
The program, which is partially supported with funds from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the South Court Auditorium of the Library of Humanities and Social Sciences at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
Tickets are $10 for the general public and $7 for Library Friends and Conservators and AICA members.
Tickets are available at the Library Shops in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library (Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street) and the Mid-Manhattan Library (Fifth Avenue and 40th Street), by mail, by fax to 212.642.0101, or through the Library‚s web site at www.nypl.org/humanities/pep. For more information about tickets, call 212.930.0855, between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Despite the fact that the public has become increasingly savvy about the methods used to manipulate it, we remain susceptible to the pull of images and words. We respond almost viscerally to the siren call of words like Homeland, Patriotism, Christianity, Democracy, and Terrorism. We turn to films and documentaries that promise us unvarnished images from the front to understand what is happening on the other side of the world.
Artists and writers have always understood the power of words and images to define the world and alter behavior. Our ideas of God, even, of paradise are shaped by words and pictures. The Creation, after all, comes from Michelangelo. Patriotic images bathed in a charged light often seem to come to us direct from Hollywood. Meanwhile, as George Orwell frequently pointed out, language is all too easy to manipulate for political purposes. His analysis of ideas like “newspeak” and “doublethink” are all too relevant to the contemporary world, as is his famous slogan from the novel 1984: “War is Peace”. This panel of writers and artists examines the tools of their trades to see how they can be used for good or ill. They will be asking: How much of what we “know” is based on conscious manipulation? How do we make our way in a world so dominated by the rhetoric of words and images? Can art and criticism serve as a counterbalance to the forces of misinformation? The panel is particularly relevant in this election season, when both sides of the political spectrum manipulate words and images to shape opinion and sway emotions. As part of AICA’s ongoing effort to reinvigorate the role of the engaged critic, the discussion proposes to re-inject the voices of creative artists and writers into the process by which public meaning is created.
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Doublethink & Doubletalk will be moderated by Arthur Danto, art critic, philosopher and Johsonian Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, at Columbia University. An AICA member, he is a rare figure who is able to move easily between the realms of philosophy and art criticism and he has garnered considerable acclaim in both arenas. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the National Book Critics Circle Prize for Criticism, 1990 for his collection of essays Encounters and Reflections: Art in the Historical Present. He has been art critic for The Nation since 1984, and his most recent book is The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art he is the 2003 recipient of the Prix Philosphie in Paris. Doubletalk and Doublethink panelists: Artist Barbara Kruger is internationally renowned for her provocative installations, billboards and graphic works which question the meaning of language and images as they relate to feminism, classicism, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire. Her trenchant explorations of the rhetoric of persuasion have been enormously influential among younger artists and some of her works, Your Body is a Battleground, and I Shop Therefore I Am have become classic statements of the contradictions between individual desire, gender identity and consumer culture. She has taught at California Institute of the Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley and currently holds an appointment at The University of California in San Diego. David Levi-Strauss, critic and author and AICA member contributes regularly to Artforum and Aperture. He writes frequently and provocatively on the relationships between politics and art. His latest book of essays on photography and politics, Between the Eyes tackles such subjects as “Photography and Propaganda”, the media frenzy surrounding the events of September 11, and the timely issue of photographic legitimacy. He has been awarded a Logan grant, a Polaroid Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Strauss is on the faculty of the Center for Curatorial Studies at the Avery Graduate School of Bard College and is teaching at the Yale School of Art this fall. Nancy Snow, author of Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America’s Culture to the World (Seven Stories Press, 2002); and Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech and Opinion Control Since 9/11 (Seven Stories Press, 2004); has written urgently and perceptively about the dangers to democracy posed by control of language from above. Analyzing the power of political rhetoric today, she notes, the slogan “war on terrorism” remains a convenient state tactic to control public opinion, expand the climate of fear, and shut down opposition to war in Iraq and elsewhere.” Snow’s teaching affiliations include the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, and the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California and she serves as a Senior Research Fellow in the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. She is currently completing a book, Persuader-in-Chief: American Propaganda by Presidents, for Routledge, due out in 2005. Boris Groys, Professor for Philosophy and Media Theory at the State Academy for Design in Karlsruhe, Germany and visiting professor at New York University. An AICA member, Gryos is a leading theorist of the aesthetic and intellectual underpinnings of Soviet and post-Soviet culture and is best known primarily for his essays on Russian intellectual history and art of the twentieth century and for his interpretation of Soviet culture as “Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin”. He has held appointments as a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California. His recently published book, Topologie der Kunst (“The Topology of Art”), proposes a new approach to (contemporary) art in the context of the relation between a museum’s internal space and its everyday surroundings.
Contact: Alisa Baremboym, AICA 212.566.6777 (board@aicausa.org)
Herb Scher 212.704.8600 (hscher@nypl.org)