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The Political Aesthetics of Power and Protest

Participants in the Political Aesthetics of Power and Protest workshop at the University of Warwick and others alert to the importance of aesthetics in politics are looking at emotion in politics and how it is so effectively harnessed for political purposes through art.

The state needs the discipline of that smooth consistency, which is embedded in national culture and is displayed through the aesthetics both of everyday rituals and hyper-visible ceremonies, of flags and the ceremonies to unfurl or take them down, of art reflecting the political imaginations of the state elites.

However, political imaginaries are not just those of the powerful, of course. Equally important are the ways in which the aesthetics of power are employed in everyday objects of use, such as calendars, leisure, film, museums and public displays of art, and modes of communication such as humour and vulgarity, ‘the grotesque’ as Achille Mbembe has called it. Aesthetics has developed across these historical boundaries not in any linear way but through struggles of and for meanings and also through reciprocity and intercultural dialogue. Read more...

The Parthenon Marbles and British national identity

Today, the British Museum’s Trustees argue that the Parthenon sculptures are “integral to the Museum’s purpose as a world museum telling the story of human cultural achievement.” But what does history tell us?

Unsettling art: caste, gender, and dalit expression

Critical issues of domination, discrimination and gender find powerful articulation in the expressionist imagination of dalit artist, Savindra Sawakar. His work traces the dense contradictions and acute sensuousness of social worlds, past and present.

Power, politics and public monuments in Nairobi, Kenya

For the Kenyan novelist, playwright and essayist, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, power through cultural subjugation was the principal tool of colonialism. The monuments of Nairobi can be read as a history of cultural artefacts used by the coloniser to dominate and subjugate the colonised.

Aesthetics in cartography: a more democratic access to information?

Can atlases serve to empower those at the bottom of the pyramid, permitting an understanding of historical change, social developments and a more critical awareness of regional, national traditions and resources?

Pedestrian crossings; contemporary judicial spectacle

Two types of spectacle – procession and tableau vivant – in the Judges Service at London’s Westminster Abbey, allow us to explore a ‘live’ performance of judicial authority outside the usual stage setting for its performances.

Imagining pasts and futures: the Indian Parliament Murals and South Africa’s Keiskamma Tapestry

The tapestry and the murals are part of the complex and multi-layered ‘archi-texture’ of the parliamentary buildings, which continue to echo with older articulations of power and what the nation is and should be.

Ordinary/Extraordinary: narratives, politics, history

The artpolitics of May Stevens, as ‘the invention of sensible forms and material structures for a life to come’ – identified by Jacques Rancière as a kind of  ‘aesthetic anticipation of the future’.

The aesthetic politics of two decades of techno-movement in France

The political debate around the techno-movement accompanied efforts by the French state to bring raves under state control. The aesthetic effect of these musical events remains a political challenge.

The politics of aesthetics: Mussolini and fascist Italy

For politics not to be a dirty word that reflected the failing political class’s capacity for endless debates and conservative behaviour, it had to play a role much more active and daring; politics was supposed to change a society’s whole way of living and thinking.

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