"Life jackets on the beach" by Ann Wuyts is licensed under CC BY-2.0 (via Flickr)

Under ideal circumstances, the dinghy should have only held eight people. The same could have been said of the many boats that preceded it, in search of beaches in Greece. Yet, just as those before them, the rubber dinghy left the shores of Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula in the early hours of the morning. Among the twelve people onboard were three-year-old Aylan Kurdi and his family, refugees from the besieged Syrian town of Kobane.

Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Kunsthistorisches Museum by James Steakley (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Inseparable from the modern museum is an examination of how the forces of globalization affect it. As audiences of these museums seek increasingly globalized experiences, so too have the collections of museums diversified with collections from around the world. Impressive as they may be, though, such collections bring with them a number of ethical issues. And in the time of ISIS and antiquity black markets, foremost among them is just how such antiquities arrived in the museum’s hallowed halls in the first place.

In February, Dr. Wesley Cray of Grand Valley State University presented his talk “Unperformable Works and the Ontology of Art” as a part of the Young Philosophers Lecture Series hosted by the Prindle Institute and the DePauw Philosophy Department. Next week, we’ll post Dr. Danielle Wenner’s lecture “What Is the Meaning of Freedom?”

Throughout May and June, we’ll continue to post videos of each talk (also available on YouTube).

Enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments!

Homeless on bench by Tomas Castelazo (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Two families, $200,000, and any number of difficult decisions. It is a well-worn recipe for game shows and reality television alike. In this regard, it appears that CBS’ new show, “The Briefcase,” is no different from its predecessors. However, the context this formula inhabits has sparked a growing controversy around the show. For, in this case, the families are grappling with poverty, and they must ultimately decide whether to keep their share of the money or give it to the other, equally struggling family.

"Clowes Pavilion - Indianapolis Museum of Art" by Daderot, Public Domain.

It is easy to think of the art museum as a clinical space. Seemingly divorced from the outside world at times, these pristine spaces and the artworks that inhabit them often could not feel farther from real-life political struggles. Yet these sanitized, white gallery walls and climate-controlled rooms play host to a number of political debates that are intimately connected to the world beyond the museum gates.

The conflict in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe on a massive scale, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions of others forced to flee their homes. Recently, the BBC has attempted to expand the impact of the Syrian narrative by tapping into an intimate intersection between humans and technology: the video game. Journalist Mamdouh Akbiek and researcher Eloise Dicker have created an interactive, storybook-style game in which users make choices for their virtual family of refuges as they attempt the journey from Damascus to Europe.

The game, entitled Syrian Journey: Choose your own escape route, has come under fire from critics who say that it trivializes the horrors faced by refugees everyday. One expert on the Middle East suggests in the Daily Mail that “the decision of the BBC to transform the human suffering of literally millions into a children’s game beggars belief.” Is it morally permissible to construct a video game around a narrative of human suffering? Does connecting to these characters via digital interaction foster empathy, or belittle the reality of these experiences?

In an article by Keith Stuart, he argues that these interactive dialogues are nothing new, and in fact may be the next big development in news media. He insists that video games have matured over the last 40 years into a truly artistic medium, and criticism from conventional news sources is nothing more than, “old-fashioned moral panic.”

I agree that video games could offer a unique opportunity for user engagement within certain contexts. In the case of Syrian Journey, the game is not marketed to children, nor presented as pure entertainment. It is designed as an informational experience, meant to connect the user to a minimal understanding of the harsh decisions that Syrian refugees are forced to make. Mass media in the 21st century has become increasingly pervasive, utilizing technology to wedge itself more deeply into the cracks between culture, society, and politics. Video games may be the next step in this process.

People are no longer satisfied with static media, but seek sources of information that allow a two-way dialogue. The ability of video games to escape linear narratives could allow for more nuanced story telling, and plugging-in could force engagement on a deeper and more intimate level. Making decisions within the confines of virtual reality could lead to a more complete understanding of the human side of the story. As stated by Stuart, “Games offer a range of ways of taking on a topic that linear forms can’t – putting you in the shoes of another person…”

However, moral problems may arise from the selfishness of the user. Eventually players may demand less engagement with the topic and more entertainment, skewing the integrity of the interaction as a whole. Developers may come to exploit these narratives of suffering, as those privileged enough to have access to these technologies demand their next virtual challenge.

Photograph by Taylor Zartman

DePauw is well known for its many off-campus classes, faculty-led excursions, and high rates of students who study abroad. Whether DePauw students choose to stay on campus or venture off campus through the many opportunities afforded them, many learn to view the world around them with a critical and questioning eye. The entries to Art of Awareness exhibit this high level critical thinking that is crucial in noticing the ethical issues in every-day situations.

We would like to congratulate the three winners of the 2015 Art of Awareness:

First Place: Taylor Zartman

Second Place: Samuel Caravana

 Faculty Vote: Nathaniel Fox

The winners will receive framed copies of their winning photos and a monetary prize. Please enjoy their thoughtful photos featured below.

As you explore the world around you throughout the next year, keep your eyes open, your cameras out, or your paintbrushes poised to capture ethical situations around you for next year’s Art of Awareness 2016!

First Place:

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Brined and Smoked Bacon
Black and white film photograph
At the Bloomington farmer’s market, I noticed the stare of a young boy. On the ground under the market tables, he patiently sat as his mother picked produce. Photographing in a public space leaves a hefty amount of power in the photographer’s hands. In this public space, I have the right to take this photograph. Legally, I do not need the consent of these subjects. Yet, this young boy is the only subject aware of my photo taking. And the photographing of children raises the questions – Are they able to give consent? Is it justifiable to take a photo of someone who is unable to agree or deny? And this can lead to the whole discussion of “truth,” what does the courtesy of requesting a photo mean for artistic integrity and the capturing of a moment?

Second Place:

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This photo was taken at the International Bazaar in Freeport, Bahamas. Since the Princess Hotel in the background closed and tourists began flowing to a different part of the island, the bazaar has become an overgrown ghost town. Besides a few tiny stores near the weed-ridden parking lot, all the business have been abandoned and boarded up. Although this image is in black and white, it was originally taken in color. I made the decision to remove the color in order to accurately portray the situation I witnessed. The restaurant’s pastel paint aroused feelings of happiness, a sentiment not felt by the poverty stricken shopkeepers in this forgotten place. Thought the colors would have accurately portrayed the building, they would not have transmitted the desperateness of the area. The monochrome version of the image transmitted this desperateness to the viewer more affectively and thus told a truer story than if it had remained in color.

Faculty Vote Winner:

FullSizeRender-3-2-300x143

Street Art and Urban Pressure:

Graffiti as we know here is the U.S. is thought as trash and dirty, stereotypes that are simply not accurate. Graffiti is more than just trash created by the lowly and impoverished. This negative connotation needs to be removed from this artistic form of self-expressionism. If you ever get the chance to walk down the streets of downtown San Jose, nearly every nook and cranny is covered in colorful and vivacious street art. The diversity of street art forms represents the rich diversity and culture of the countries that borrows many traditions from other countries while remaining to hold on to their own. One of the main topics expressed in this street art is political corruption of both Costa Rica and fears of globalization. Also numerous topics include the free trade agreement with the U.S. (CAFTA, or TLC in Spanish); corruption in the government; criticism of specific government officials, including the president; the demand of equality for homosexuals; and protests against wars and support for revolutionary movements in other countries.

Image via Conflict Kitchen

The Conflict Studies Program, The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, and the Department of Art and Art History are thrilled to announce an upcoming visit by artists Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski, and chef Robert Sayre, of Conflict Kitchen.

We will welcome them to campus the week immediately following fall break. Public events include:

Public Lecture by Dawn Weleski and John Rubin, founders of Conflict Kitchen
Monday, October 27 at 4:15 PM
Peeler Art Center, Auditorium
Free and open to the public

Meal at the Prindle Institute
Thursday, October 30 at 6 PM
Prindle Institute, Great Room
Open to the public. Tickets $15 ($9 for DePauw students)
Tickets go on sale Wednesday, October 15 and are available for purchase at the front desk of Peeler Art Center Monday thru Friday 10 AM-4 PM

Conflict Kitchen is an art project that takes shape as a restaurant in Pittsburgh that “only serves food from countries in which the United States is in conflict,” with the country of focus changing every few months. The restaurant is currently in its Palestinian phase, and past versions include Venezuela, Afghanistan, North Korea, Cuba, and Iran.

Using strategies of socially and publicly engaged art, Conflict Kitchen places an equal amount of emphasis on preparing authentic meals as they do on educating customers on the conflict of focus. Not only do they visit the countries to gain a greater understanding of the conflict and cuisine, but they also interview Pittsburgh residents from these nations to better understand different perspectives. The food at Conflict Kitchen is served in paper wrappers that function as informative handouts with direct quotes from these personal interviews as well as information about the cuisine, politics, and culture of the country.

Artists Dawn Weleski and John Rubin, the creative founders of Conflict Kitchen, will present a public lecture on Monday, October 27 at 4:15 PM in Peeler Auditorium. While on campus, they will also visit several classes, meet with students and faculty, and conduct art critiques with Studio Art majors.

On Thursday, October 30 at 6 PM, Dawn Weleski and Robert Sayre, the chef at Conflict Kitchen, will serve a Palestinian meal at Prindle and give a presentation about the politics of food in Palestine and the way it is used to establish cultural identity. A limited number of tickets to this event will be available on October 14 to DePauw students, faculty, staff, and Greencastle community members.

We hope you will consider attending the Conflict Kitchen lecture and meal to learn more about this unique restaurant, social practice art, and the conflict in Palestine.

 

By taking on a voice of its own, performance art often eclipses the common perception of art as simply inert. Emma Sulkowicz, a senior Visual Arts major at Colombia University, is doing just this by protesting her rapist’s presence on campus for her senior thesis.

In the above video, Sulkowicz shares that she was raped on the first day of her sophomore year in her own dorm room. The university did not take actions to dismiss her rapist from campus. In a performance art demonstration that is nothing short of courageous, Sulkowicz plans to carry her mattress around with her everywhere she goes on campus until her rapist is expelled from the university.

The development of preventative sexual assault policies has only recently taken on a wide discursive presence on many college campuses. Student activists working to break the silence around sexual assault are pushing universities to evaluate the effectiveness of their policies. Organizations on my own campus, such as Code Teal, have emerged in response to the existence of sexual assault on campus to create a space for discussion and action.

It can get very complicated when cases of sexual assault must be processed on multiple levels, both on campus and on an official level. With so many cases beingdropped and perpetrators being let off the hook, I must question whether a motive to keep instances of sexual assault to a hush on campus influences administrative response.

Nevertheless, students like Sulkowicz are inspiring these conversations and forcing both students and administration to address a need for taking progressive preventative measures.