DESAPARECIDOS: The Art of Protest


PUBLIC ART AND PROTEST

Making art comes from a world of ideas, interaction, divergent views, and argument in many forms. By their nature, artists and designers are compelled to speak out, to protest, or advance an idea. And, as such, they will conflict with power. In a civic environment, the work of the artist, visual and verbal, often serves as a voice for the oppressed, for ideas, and for discourse.
On observation, one can usually separate the art of protest from the art of self-expression or self-aggrandizement; the voices of dissent and protest are clear and critical, for such art, with its inherent covert challenge to authority, can be a rallying point for resistance.

When one visits Buenos Aires, the walls of buildings and the pavement of the city are part of a lively and ongoing political discourse. Visible is commentary on the war in Iraq, Los Islas Malvinas, the current Argentine government, and various political movements. It is part of a civil dialogue that is witty, sarcastic, and pointed, sharing the public arena with a chorus of spray-painted commercial adverts.
However, some of the graffiti stands out from the rest; in some places a white headscarf is painted on the pavement or on the walls. For porteños no words are needed, and the message of remembrance and resistance is clear. The headscarf is the symbol of the Madres, and it is a reminder of what is still missing.

There is a question we must raise that is directly linked to our responsibility to speak out for the oppressed, to defend the defenseless, to remember and participate. Do we make enough art?

Brad Hokanson, RA, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, College of Design, University of Minnesota

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