Dr. Kristin Hunt
Tuesdays and Thursdays 7-9 pm
Town Center, Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery

This course examines the relationship between art and political and social activism in a set of case studies of artists whose work is directly or indirectly engaged in political or social activism. For the purposes of the seminar, “artist” will be defined broadly to include filmmakers, sculptors, authors, performers, and visual artists, among others. Students will undertake analysis not only of activist art itself, but also of the cultural, social, and political engagement each artist is creating and/or encouraging through his or her work. Students will also continually engage with critical questions about the nature of art, the role of the artist in society, and the ethics and tactics of persuasion. 

Some of the critical questions we will ask ourselves will include:

What does it mean to be activist?

What does it mean to be an artist?

What is the artist’s function in a democracy?

What are the possibilities and limitations of artistic forms of activism?

Where is the line between art and propaganda? Is there one?

When, if ever, do illegal acts take on the mantle of art? When, if ever, are illegal acts not construable as art?

What is the future of activism in the 21st century? Where are the frontiers of human expression and persuasion?


Course Calendar: see here for readings

July 16: Introductions, Definitions, Provocations

Post-talk workshop: Salyer+Schaag

Reading: Ranciere, De Certeau, Plato, Image/Text site

July 18: Spatula&Barcode *class meets in 3rd Floor Teaching Lab*

Guest artists: Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson

Post-talk workshop: Salyer+Schaag

Reading: Bourriauld, Image/Text site


July 23: Making art, making identity: filmmaking in urban and rural communities

Guest speakers: Dr. Erica Halverson

Reading: None 

July 25: Constructing Community through Performance

Guest speaker: Dr. Liz Foster-Shaner

Reading: Geer


July 30: First Wave Performance Workshop

Guest Artists: First Wave

Reading: Hoch, Joseph, Simmons


August 1: Avant-Drifting in a Retrograde Phase

Guest artist: Dan S. Wang

Reading: Propositions Press Website


August 6: We Gotta Get Out of This Place: Music, Survival, Healing, and the Soundtrack of the Vietnam War

Guest speaker: Doug Bradley, Distinguished Lecturer, Integrated Liberal Studies

Reading: Selections from Huffington Post


August 8: Closing session: Graffiti and Illegal Art                                                              

Reading: Holopainen, Review Artcrimes site

Options for viewing (choose one, see "readings" page for links): Style Wars, Bomb It, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Robbo vs Banksy


The instructor reserves the right to alter the syllabus at any time in order to better serve the overall objectives of the course.