The final event in the Hirshhorn Museum’s Ai Weiwei series will discuss the challenges and necessity of art making amid political turmoil. The fourth and final installment of “In Conversation: Awareness, Action, and Dissent (Part II)” takes place today, December 14, 6:30–7:30pm in the Ring Auditorium at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Here are excerpts from Hyperallergic. Laila Pedro writes:
Making art in contentious political times is, to put it mildly, a tricky proposition. There can be great generative potential in cataclysmic moments (as in Dada and Surrealism during and after the First World War), or there can be art that fails to hit the right note or simply doesn’t land. [. . .]
[. . .] How they take on that responsibility is a difficult question, one the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, is addressing with In Conversation: Awareness, Action and Dissent, a series of panels around Ai’s current show, Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn, which continues at the museum through January 1. In the first installment in October, Nato Thompson, the erstwhile artistic director of Creative Time who now heads Philadelphia Contemporary, led a conversation with artists Laurie Jo Reynolds, Pedro Reyes, and Paul Ramírez Jonas on how their art directly confronts legislative and social issues and engages contemporary audiences. This final event, taking place tomorrow, features New Yorker journalist and former Beijing bureau chief Evan Osnos moderating a discussion between artists Tania Bruguera, Hank Willis Thomas, and Eric Gottesman.
All three are examples of artists who produce urgently relevant work that responds with immediacy and effectiveness to its political and historical context; and all three offer enervating, timely takes on the present state of art and politics. Bruguera, a Cuban installation and performance artist who has long grappled with questions of censorship in authoritarian contexts, sees the potential and responsibility of engaging artistically at critical political moments. I asked Bruguera about the role of art right now, and she responded that “the moment has come for all to use art as a tool to defend the right to have our own political imaginary.” In our cacophonous and frightening climate, Bruguera added, “art can be a way to give people tools to navigate chaos without fear.” [. . .]