What kind of change his or any political artist’s work can actually achieve remains an open question. In his book 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, the art critic Ben Davis argues that political art is not a force on par with real-life organizing and the in-depth analysis of policy. The shortcoming of aesthetic political gestures is that while they present us with a problem, they rarely offer a course of resolution. Quoting Susan Sontag, he writes: “Photographs of an atrocity may give rise to opposing responses. Or, simply the bemused awareness, continually restocked by photographic information, that terrible things happen.”
(Janelle Zara, “Ai Weiwei hits Los Angeles: ‘I cannot accept anything which is not precise,'” The Guardian, 10-10-18)
(c) 2018 JMN.