What Kind of Confrontation?

Judith Trepp, untitled, 2014, oil & oil stick on paper, approx. 9 x 14 in.

I wrote last week about my ambivalent feelings about political protest, indicating my preference toward deep or slow moving "activism," the kind indicated in Kerouac's verse (which I might be paraphrasing): "Don't use the phone / Write a poem / People are never ready." The issue appears to be one of confrontation, its various forms, and their respective consequences. The best art confronts by raising questions, and even making people uncomfortable. A minimalist painting can leave the viewer wondering, uneasily, where the heck the rest of it is. But it doesn't have a particular goal in mind (save for helping the viewer being more open to the unusual, to a different beauty). The confrontation of political protest has a different objective: it seeks particular political and social changes; it seeks justice. So when we consider something like the Black Lives Matter campaign, we need to ask if it will get us closer to justice as opposed to shutting people down. I'm concerned it leans toward the latter. Occupy worked (to the extent it did) partly because the slogan "99 percent" was inclusive.


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