Art, Activism, and Oppositionality

Essays from Afterimage

Art, Activism, and Oppositionality

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 40 b&w photographs Published: March 1998

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Cultural Studies

There is a common perception in the arts today that overtly activist art—often seen to sacrifice an aesthetic pleasure for a subversive one—is no longer in fashion. In bringing together sixteen of the most important essays on activist and community-based art from the pages of Afterimage—one of the most influential journals in the media and visual arts fields for more than twenty-five years—Grant H. Kester demonstrates that activist art, far from being antithetical to the true meaning of the aesthetic, can be its most legitimate expression.

Forging a style of criticism where aesthetic, critical, theoretical, and activist concerns converge, Afterimage has shaped American debates around the politics of visual production and arts education while offering a voice to politically involved artists and scholars. Art, Activism, and Oppositionality insists not only on the continuing relevance of an activist stance to contemporary art practice and criticism, but also on the significance of an engaged art practice that is aligned with social or political activism. With essays that span fifteen years—roughly from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential win to the 1994 Republican victories in Congress, a period marked by waning public support for the arts and growing antagonism toward activist art—Art, Activism, and Oppositionality confronts issues ranging from arts patronage, pedagogy, and the very definitions of art and activism to struggles involving AIDS, reproductive rights, sexuality, and racial identity.

Contributors. Maurice Berger, Richard Bolton, Ann Cvetkovich, Coco Fusco, Brian Goldfarb, Mable Haddock, Grant H. Kester, Ioannis Mookas, Chiquita Mullins Lee, Darrell Moore, Lorraine O’Grady, Michael Renov, Martha Rosler, Patricia Thomson, David Trend, Charles A. Wright Jr., Patricia R. Zimmerman


“This collection is a real testimonial to the intelligence of the editing of Afterimage, a journal that has showcased throughtful critics and commentators for years.” — Patricia Aufderheide, American University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Grant H. Kester is Assistant Professor of Art History at Washington State University and was the editor of Afterimage from 1990 to 1995.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Ongoing Negotiations: Afterimage and the Analysts of Activist Art / Grant H. Kester 1

The Politics of Patronage

Enlightened Self-Interest: The Avant-Garde in the '80s / Richard Bolton 23

White Men Can't Program: The Contradictions of Multiculturalism / Darrell Moore 51

Fantasies of Oppositionality / Coco Fusco 60

The Mythology of Difference: Vulgar Identity Politics at the Whitney / Charles A. Wright Jr. 76

Theses on Defunding / Martha Rosler 94

Rhetorical Questions: The Alternative Arts Sector and the Imaginary Public / Grant H. Kester 103

Whose Multiculturalism? PBS, the Public, and Privilege / Mable Haddock and Chiquita Mullins Lee 136

Video Activism and Critical Pedagogy: Sexuality at the End of the Rainbow Curriculum / Brian Goldfarb 148

Activism and Oppositionality

Cultural Struggle and Educational Activism / David Trend 169

Video, AIDS, and Activism / Ann Cvetkovich 182

Early Newsreel: The Construction of a Political Imaginary for the Left / Michael Renov 199

Interview with Adrian Piper / Maurice Berger 215

Video and Electoral Appeal / Patricia Thomson 232

Fetal Tissue: Reproductive Rights and Activist Video / Patricia R. Zimmerman 248

Olympia's Maid: Reclaiming Black Female Subjectivity / Lorraine O'Grady 268

Fault Lines: Homophobic Innovation in Gay Rights, Special Rights / Ioannis Mookas 287

Contributors 305

Index 307
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2095-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2081-4
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