Conference Program

Thursday, February 12, 2015 

10:00–11:30 a.m.
Session 1: Attack on Charlie Hebdo: "Fear of Art" Enacted

Ben Katchor, Associate Professor at Parsons, The New School for Design; contributes picture-stories to Metropolis magazine; author, Hand-Drying in America and other stories (2013)
Nikahang Kowsar, Iranian cartoonist, journalist, and blogger
Saadia Toor, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, College of Staten Island; author, The State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan (2011)
Alexandra Zsigmond, Deputy Art Director for the Opinion Section, the New York Times
Moderator: Victor S. Navasky, editor, publisher, and publisher emeritus of The Nation; George Delacorte Professor of Magazine Journalism; Director of Delacorte Center of Magazines; Chair of the Columbia Journalism Review, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism; author, The Art of Controversy: Political Cartoons and Their Evolutionary Power (2013)


12:00–2:00 p.m.
Session 2: Reflections on Art Censorship and Banning

A. “Degenerate Art” in Nazi Germany
Olaf Peters, Professor of Modern Art History and Art Theory, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg; curator, “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937” exhibition at the Neue Galerie, March 13–June 30, 2014

The contribution will outline the premises and development of the National Socialist concept of Art and Art policy from the early 1920s until the Degenerate Art campaign. The historical background will be illuminated and the intended propagandistic effect of the war against modernism explained by a case study. "Fear of Art" during the Third Reich means to some degree instrumentalizing prejudices and unleashing destructive dynamics to stabilize the regime.

B. Artist as Collaborator with Totalitarian Regimes
Emily Braun, Distinguished Professor, Director of the Art History Program, Deputy Chair of the Department of Art and Art History, Hunter College and the Graduate Center

In the wake of World War II, some artists and intellectuals who practiced under totalitarian regimes or occupied countries were judged as collaborators, others not. Collaboration is a concept of the modern state apparatus, since artists have served brutal and rapacious rulers for thousands of years. The issues defining twentieth-century collaboration bear scrutiny, as the lines between unseemly cooperation, coercion, resistance, and passive accommodation are not always clearly drawn. What kinds of behavior and/or artistic practice qualify as collaboration? Why is it that certain artists extolled a political agenda uncritically and others not? Are there heroes and villains in the creative field or do “great” figures who leave an artistic legacy get a pass for their personal shortcomings? As some examples will show, collaboration on the wrong side of history is not unique to artists who lived under Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler; many avant-garde practitioners have willingly conceived their art in tandem with anti-liberal politics.

C. Banning, Censorship, Defamation, and Destruction
David Freedberg, Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art and Director of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University

I will give a brief account of the many ways across history in which the censorship and defamation of images terminate in iconoclasm. I will examine the ways in which political and psychological motives merge in the attacks on images, and conclude with an account of a spectacular South African case in which efforts to censor a work of contemporary art concluded in dual acts of violence against it, stirring up ancient racial issues and contemporary political ones.

Moderator: Agnes Gund, philanthropist, art and arts education patron and collector; President Emerita, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); Chairman, MoMA PS1; founder, Studio in a School

2:15-3:45 p.m. 
Session 3: Activist Art
Ricardo Dominguez, artist, co-founder, the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT); Associate Professor of Visual Arts, University of California San Diego

Since the 1980s, gestures that came to be named "tactical media" have now blossomed into multiple practices: from artivism to tactical poetries; from hacktivism(s) to border disturbance tools; from augmented realities to speculative cartographies; from queer technologies to transnational feminisms and code; from locative media to dislocative media; from data bodies flooding the streets to real bodies flooding the networks; from digital Zapatistismo to peer-to-peer intergalactic performance. Each of these gestures manifests a core aesthetic of disturbance.

Stephen Duncombe, Associate Professor, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University; co-founder, School for Creative Activism; Co-director, Center for Artistic Activism

Does activist art work? Does it work aesthetically? Does it work politically? Most important, what do we mean when we say it "works"? I will be discussing the different ways artists, activists, and theorists have thought about this question and how their responses might help those of us interested in the affective effect (or effective affect) of activist art."

Moderator: Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, PEN American Center

4:00-5:30 p.m.
Session 4: The Potency of Art
Holland Cotter, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic, the New York Times
Paul Chan, artist

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Moderator: Carin Kuoni, Director, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School for Public Engagement

6:00-7:30 p.m. 
Session 5: 
The Censorship of Artists: Artists in Prison, Artists in Exile

Ai Weiwei, Chinese contemporary artist and political activist
(via a video made for the conference funded by Agnes Gund and Larry Warsh)

Followed by a panel discussion:
Melissa Chiu, Director, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden 
Ethan Cohen, founder, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, specializing in Chinese contemporary art
Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives, Human Rights Watch
Moderator: Jerome A. Cohen, Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

Friday, February 13, 2015

10:00–11:30 a.m. 
Tour of Site-Specific Works from the New School Art Collection
Begins in the Orozco Room at 66 West 12th Street, 7th floor
Works include Jose Clemente Orozco's historic 1931 New School mural cycle, “A Call to Revolution and Table of Universal Brotherhood” as well as other installations throughout the university's public spaces by Camilo Egas, Alfredo Jaar, Sol Le Witt, Dave Muller, Martin Puryear, Michael van Valkenburgh, Brian Tolle, and Kara Walker.
Guide: Silvia Rocciolo, Curator, The New School Art Collection

11:30-1:00 p.m. 
Session 6: Artists at Risk/Artists in Exile
Chaw Ei Thein, Burmese multimedia artist

Regarding "Artists at Risk": What is life like for Burmese artists who live under a military government, create art under under censorship by junta? How can contemporary artists create, take risks in their work, and develop when there is no freedom of expression? Regarding "Artists in Exile": when leaving a home country and learning to live in a new place, artists experience trauma, depression, culture shock, and a loss of identity. Finding a home for themselves, their family, and an income is critical and the time and capacity to make art is significantly diminished if not altogether impossible.

Naila Al Atrash, Syrian director, human rights activist

Why does theater art constitutes a threat? How did theater help create a sense of identity in Syria, especially during the uprising? Will also discuss how the monologues helped me overcome the contradictory state I was going through when I first fled Syria.

Moderator: Elzbieta Matynia, Associate Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies, Director of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, The New School for Social Research

2:00-3:30 p.m.
Session 7: Censorship and Self-Exile

Shirin Neshat, Iranian visual artist and filmmaker 

The focus of my talk will be how artists who are born and raised under years of dictatorship tend to intuitively self-censor, even if they live in exile. Therefore, the products and perspectives of such artists and their relationship to the concept of freedom of expression are inseparable from their original cultural backgrounds.

Jack Persekian, Director and Head Curator, The Palestine Museum; former Director, Sharjah Art Foundation
Moderator: László Jakab Orsós, World Voices Festival and Public Programs Director, PEN America

4:00-6:00 p.m. 
Session 8: Who Does the Policing? What Is the Role of Self-Censorship?
Jeffrey Deitch, American art dealer and curator who served as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) between 2010 and 2013

A case study on the controversy around the painting over of the Blu (Italian Street artist) mural commissioned for the MOCA Geffen Contemporary building in Los Angeles. It will examine the issues of the artistic license versus the sentiments of Japanese American military veterans and their families in the surrounding neighborhood.

Boris Groys, Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, Department of Russian and Slavic Studies, New York University 

Jack Persekian, Director and Head Curator, The Palestine Museum; former Director, Sharjah Art Foundation

Lisa Phillips, Director, The New Museum

Moderator: Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programs, National Coalition Against Censorship; co-editor, Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression (The New Press, 2006)

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