20 Jul 2011
7:30PM - 9:30PM
686 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
July 20 2011, 7:30 – 9:30pm
Is the pen mightier than the sword?
Full Spectrum & Greenlight Bookstore present
A discussion with four creators committed to political change: filmmaker/media activist J. Bob Alotta, poet/educator kahlil almustafa, visual artist/performance artist/AIDS activist Hunter Reynolds, and painter/performance artist Chaw Ei Thein. Moderated by visual artist Dread Scott.
Pablo Picasso created Guernica in response to the bombing of a Basque village by Hitler’s war machine during the Spanish Civil War. Widely dismissed at the time, the painting is now considered modern art’s most powerful anti-war statement.* Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible as an allegory of the McCarthy-era, when the U.S. Government persecuted its own citizens, many of them artists, for suspected Communist ties. The play opened to unfavorable reviews, but today it is studied nationwide as a revolutionary work of theatre, an American classic.
Other artists have produced vital works that triumph as both protest and art — Jimi Hendrix’s anti-war song “Machine Gun;” Larry Kramer’s AIDS activism play, A Normal Heart; Costa Gravas’ film on Chile’s disappeared, Missing. But do artists have a unique obligation to create work that can stir discontent or spark revolution?
Given the Chinese Government’s temporary imprisonment of artist Ai Wewei, and revelations of the FBI’s hounding of Ernest Hemingway, it is useful to ask why the powerful can become afraid of the artists in their midst. Can a piece of art become a force for change greater than the will of any government or army? Is the pen mightier than the sword — and do we have a political responsibility to use it?
*While living in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II, Picasso suffered harassment from the Gestapo. One officer allegedly asked him, upon seeing a photo of Guernica in the artist’s apartment, “Did you do that?” Picasso responded, “No, you did.”
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