Confrontational Art

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Creative Work by Michelle Davey

When I asked for feedback from my classmates on the G+ community regarding whether they think activism that is being demonstrated live (in-action) or as an art piece, such as a graffiti or sculpture, is more effective in terms of conveying their message the overall consensus was that of a live performance. The more “in your face” the art is, the more impactful it will be. Visual activism through art is a way for the artist to convey their feelings or opinions in a non-confrontational way that allows the audience to see their view and decide for themselves what they want to believe. Art has the ability to create an emotional experience with the viewer. Art is fluid in the way that it connects people who may live in different countries or continents. The topic of animal cruelty is a universal one that many artists are cognizant of.

Throughout this assignment I have been researching many different artists and the mediums they use to showcase their opinion on animal cruelty. I have shown artists who use photography, paintings, books, and art in a more comedic, subtle way to show the consequences of animal cruelty. For my creative work I decided to use a program called Emaze as a way to show what I have learned throughout this project concerning visual activism.

In this final blog post I am going to explore more in-depth some artists whose work I believe to be the most effective. One organization I find to be most influential is PETA. On their website under the category “Why does PETA use controversial tactics?” They replied with “We will do extraordinary things to get the word out about animal cruelty because we have learned from experience that the media, sadly, do not consider the terrible facts about animal suffering alone interesting enough to cover. It is sometimes necessary to shake people up in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and of course, action” (PETA, 1). There is no shortage of activism videos in PETA’s playlist but the one that I will be focusing on is a protest outside of a Louis Vuitton store that exposes the violent skinning of crocodiles in Vietnam who are being killed to create these leather bags. Three women whose bodies were painted to look like bloody, dead crocodiles draped themselves over an oversized crocodile-skin bag. With this grotesque image PETA has no doubt captured the attention of onlookers as well as the media. Their message to urge shoppers to buy vegan alternatives is clear.

Another artist whose work captured my attention is Sue Coe. Sue grew up next to a slaughterhouse that is the inspiration for many of her graphic paintings and drawings. Her art can be described as dark and nightmarish yet very impactful. It reveals the harsh truth behind how we obtain our meat. Anyone who views her art will undoubtedly feel her impassioned fury behind these works and while it may not change your mind, it will show you a powerful new perspective.

PETA and Sue Coe are just two of the amazing artists using their creative works as a tool to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. They challenge our perspectives on an issue that a lot of us just choose to ignore and put to the backside. I am finishing this blog post with a quote from Nicholas Mirzoeff, “Once we have learned how to see the world, we have taken only one of the required steps. The point is to change it” (298).

Works Cited

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world. Great Britain: Pelican, 2015. Print.

“Why Does PETA Use Controversial Tactics?” PETA. PETA, n.d. Web. 29 May 2017.

Officialpeta. “Body-Painted ‘Crocodiles’ Protest Outside Louis Vuitton Store.” YouTube. YouTube, 10 Feb. 2017. Web 29 May 2017.

Yeung, Peter. “The Artists Pushing Animal Rights Further.” Dazed Digital. Dazed Digital, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 May 2017.


Activism Responding to the Impacts of Animal Cruelty

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Painting by Dana Ellyn  

Moving from the general to the more specific issues concerning animal cruelty. I will be looking at why this topic is important and affects all of us and that this is why so many visual artists and activists are incorporating anti-animal cruelty into their works. Why do people abuse animals? Animals are innocent creature that Mother Nature has created. They are here to co-habit with us. They are not here for us to abuse, neglect, or rule. Every living creature has the right to live in peace. It is our social and moral responsibility as human beings to ensure that no living being is abused and neglected, human or animal.

Many individual artists know this and incorporate animal cruelty into their works. There are even whole organizations such as PETA who have activists dedicated to this cause. This activism is done in a number of ways. Through visual protests, campaigns, posters, photography, etc. Sometimes activism done through art can have a more profound effect on people than by simply lecturing or giving facts about the cause, especially if these artists and activists have agency within the community. Viewers are able to visually see the effects without the message being too overbearing and are able to interpret the message for themselves as well as feel the impact. I have researched many ways in which this can be done. Through graffiti, public protests, artwork, and art installations just to name a few. Nicholas Mirzoeff in Chapter 7 of How to See the World tells us “Graffiti is a way to reclaim public space for discussion. It can reach people who might not see mainstream media let alone go to an art gallery (264). A very informative website that I found, OneGreenPlanet, showcases many artists and their works of activism, such as Gale Hart who is a sculptor, painter, and multimedia artist. In 2010 Gale released a collection of work titled Why Not Eat Your Pet that focuses “on the hypocrisy of human treatment of food animals.” PETA also has a link on their website that highlights artists such as Jo Frederiks, Dana Ellyn and Banksy just to name a few who use pictures and art to speak up about animal rights. In my final post I will go more in depth with the mediums and strategies used by these artists to communicate this global issue.


Works Cited

“Art and Activism: A Spotlight On Animal Rights Activists (Part 1).” One Green Planet. One Green Planet, 15 Dec. 2011. Web. 25 May 2017.

“Picture Perfect: Artists Speak Up for Animal Rights.” PETA Australia. PETA Australia, 15 Nov. 2016. Web. 25 May 2017.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world. Great Britain: Pelican, 2015. Print.

How do we shape the natural world?

For our second assignment I picked Topic 4: “How do we shape the natural world?” After skimming the other topics and their corresponding chapters, this one stuck out to me the most. Namely, the impact we as humans have on the environment. In chapter 6 “The Changing World” from the book How to See the World Nicholas Mirzoeff discusses climate change and the impact that it is currently having on our world and as well as its future impacts.

Mirzoeff talks about one way in how we try and show the visible changes that climate change is having on the Earth is through the use of comparative formats such as time-lapse photography (215). This type of photography for example shows how rapidly the glaciers and ice are disappearing due to the warming of the Earth. Later in the chapter Mirzoeff shows how we as a whole have let ourselves be anesthetized to the effects of climate change and have accepted them as normal. For example, George Wesley Bellows painting Forty-Two Kids (1907) shows a group of naked children getting ready to swim into the black water of the East River in New York. At the time of this paint the bodily waste of 6 million people living around New York Harbor was being piped straight into the water. Mirzoeff proposes that “the desire to live in the modern city was so great that it anesthetized the sense, or at least allowed people to disregard what they saw and smelled in the water” (234). The idea of our society being anesthetized to climate change never really occurred to me prior to reading this chapter, but now reflecting on our world I can see how it is a reoccurring theme.

One of the additional resources I chose was the video of a workshop led by Nicholas Mirzoeff: “How to See Climate Change.” I thought it would be interesting to see how he relates what he writes in his book to what he discusses in person. In his lecture, Mirzoeff brings up the idea of the visual commons and how it is a commons because nobody owns it, it is a common sensation or view. Visual commons is not abstract; it requires you to be there (perezartmuseum). Because of this visual commons we all have a mental picture of what Earth looks like from outer space. Mirzoeff is referring to the “Blue Marble” photograph of Earth that he also talks about in the first chapter of How to See the World. This is the most downloaded and reproduced photograph of all time. Mirzoeff refers again to anesthesia and how it was done with the black water in New York as well as the smog in London. People just accepted the change in the physical environment and expected it to be that way. I believe that we as a society will most likely always be anesthetized to the changing climate and the repercussions that brings because we want to be blind to the fact that it is all of our faults.

I also viewed the video by CEPImperial: “Climate Change in the Anthropocene.” Anthropocene is a word that I heard throughout Mirzoeff’s lecture but wasn’t able to grasp a concrete definition of until watching this video. Anthropocene is the new geological epoch that we have entered, one that is dominated by humanity (cepimperial). Similar to the idea of our society being anesthetized it is discussed that we now have a “new normal.” How the current dramatic weather events such as storms, droughts, and fires, all due to climate change are considered normal. I know personally that I don’t question when there is an earthquake or tsunami, I just assume these are part of Earth’s natural process. However, we are in fact altering Earth’s natural cycles so much that we have made a whole in the ozone layer. A solution given is that we all need to bear in mind both the current and future impacts of climate change.

I am looking forward to delving deeper into this topic and doing some outside research of my own as to how climate change is currently affecting Earth, how it will affect Earth in the future, and what we can actively do to save our planet.

Works Cited:

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world. Great Britain: Pelican, 2015. Print.

Perez Art Museum Miami, FL. “Workshop Led by Nicholas Mirzoeff: “How to See Climate Change”.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 July 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

CEPImperial. “Climate Change in the Anthropocene.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 Dec. 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Looking with fresh eyes: A New Endeavor

Three weeks ago I read in the course guide that we were required to attend the Cindy Sherman exhibit at the City Gallery Wellington. I typically think of exhibits as uninteresting. I pictured myself with a group of my peers standing in front of various art works, not really looking at them, just giving the illusion of analyzing the art.

On the day we were to attend the exhibit I found myself standing outside the gallery with my class, wearing a blue band that granted me all day access to the gallery. I made a decision before entering that I was going to try and let myself really experience an art exhibit for the first time.

I walked straight into the enormous mural showcasing a multitude of different characters being represented by Cindy Sherman. This main room was full of other students and visitors all trying to get intimate with the photographs as well as attempt to digitally capture a sole image of the photograph without any outside interference. I knew with the crowdedness I would not have an adequate amount of time to analyze the mural. In Isaac Kaplan’s blog he writes about how generally as a whole we are not looking at works of art long to fully experience the work and for it all to be consumed thoughtfully (Kaplan).

I was intrigued when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of a ridiculous photograph of what appeared to be a clown, followed by a storm of color from the room to the left of the mural. The explanation of Art the Clowns series revealed to me that Sherman created it after the 9/11 attacks. The clowns’ expressions represent the various emotions felt by everyone. These photographs ignited a memory of me leaving school early that day and my mother anxiously waiting for a phone call from New York, for my father to tell us that he was safe. The exhibit elicited a surprising amount of emotions from me as well as a new connection between the visual art and the outside world.

After the exhibit I thought of the introduction from the Mirzoeff book as well as the reading by Michael Clarke and their discussion of visual culture. Mirzoeff explains that how through social media and technology, we have altered our idea of visual culture (Mirzoeff, 13). Because I was able to personally experience the gallery I know that I would have had a much different reaction to the exhibit if I ‘d looked up the images online. Clarke recognizes that an interpretation is never simple and can never be conclusive (Clarke, 26). Someone will presumably interpret the Clowns series and its representation differently than I do.

Reflecting on these past three weeks since the course began I have a new perspective on how art and design can play an important role in my life, and my connection to the visual world. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the semester holds for this class.

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Photograph taken by Michelle Davey (myself) is part of the Clown series in Cindy Sherman exhibit at the City Gallery Wellington. I thought that this photograph most accurately showcased the many emotions felt by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Everyone reacts to tragedy in his or her own way.


Works Cited:

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world. Great Britain: Pelican, 2015. Print.

Kaplan, Isaac. “Https://Www.Artsy.Net/Article/Artsy-Editorial-Long-Work-Art-It”. Artsy Editorial. N.p., 2017. Print.

Clarke, Michael. “Language and Meaning.” Verbalising the Visual: Translating Art and Design into Words. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Publishing, 2007. 20-27. Print.

How to See the World: Introduction

The author, Nicholas Mirzoeff, begins the book by recounting how many people believed that seeing the image of “Blue Marble” significantly changed their lives. That they were finally able to see the world as a whole and because of this they were all linked to one another.

Later on in the introduction Mirzoeff talks about how in 2012 another photograph of the world was produced. This “Blue Marble” seems as if it was taken from one place in space like the original was, but this is not accurate. The image was composed of many different pictures of the earth from different angles and assembled to look as if was just one. Mirzoeff says, “It is a good metaphor of how we see the world visualized today. We assemble a world from pieces, assuming that what we see is both coherent and equivalent to reality. Until we discover it is not” (Mirzoeff, 10).

Mirzoeff goes on to explain the concept of visual culture and the mental model that we all create based off of what we previously know to be true. The world of social media and more evolved media outlets over the years has altered this concept of social media. “The difference between the concept of visual culture in 1990 and the one we have today is the difference between seeing something in a specific viewing space, such as a museum or a cinema, and in the image-dominated network society” (Mirzoeff, 13).

The introduction to this book was intriguing and I am anxious to learn more and to continue moving forward in this class.

Works Cited: Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to see the world. Great Britain: Pelican, 2015. Print.