Wednesday, 17 January 2018

16:00 – at Senate House – Room 246

Abstract: Much of contemporary visual art presents us with a specific political commitment. Indeed, of all the arts today, visual art comments on pressing political issues most explicitly: on issues such as the deterioration of the environment (e.g. Mark Dion, Agnes Denes), racism (e.g. Adrian Piper, Kara Walker), or the refugee crisis (e.g. Ai Weiwei, Wolfgang Tillmans). However, when do political messages in art hit home, and when do such works merely rehearse public pieties? Or, to put the question more philosophically: can art contribute something unique to political discourse, or does it at best reflect what politicians, pundits and philosophers come up with independently? Here I argue that art can indeed contribute something indispensable to political discourse. My defence requires an update of some of the accepted tenets of aesthetic cognitivism (the view that art is a source of knowledge), but I hope to make these revisions plausible.