Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you four different views on the recent Visual Activism conference, hosted by SFMOMA at the Brava Theater, March 14–15, 2014. Artists, curators, and scholars presented their thoughts on institutional domains, art, and activism. Four visual critics, Danielle Jackson, Natalie Catasús, Colin Partch, and Omar Mismar, were situated at points radiating out from the auditorium of the Brava Theater to respond to the conference.
What role does visual activism play in confronting such deep-seated social hegemonies as racism and heteronormativity? What strategies can be deployed to encourage silenced voices to emerge and become catalysts for change and transformation? These questions, two of many addressed through the Visual Activism conference, had particular resonance for me. As artist and visual activist Zanele Muholi put it in her keynote address, “Visual activism is about being and identities. It is an alternative way of agitating using visuals and digital media to convey messages.”
Muholi’s photographic portraits of black lesbian women portray her subjects as beautiful and intimate beings, rather than broken victims of the corrective rape that these individuals face far too often as a consequence of being out in these societies. By depicting them as community leaders and advocates for social change, Muholi’s portraits empower who they represent while undermining dominant stereotypes.