The art of dissent
Anna Romanovska tackles the issue of the pro-democracy protests though the Stand with Hong Kong art exhibition in WMA
A recent exhibition in the WMA Space in Hong Kong, organised by the group Imagine Hong Kong, aims to tell the “story of HongKongers; the ones who keep turning back even after rounds of tear gas, their bloodshot eyes showing nothing but determination to save the city.” Stand With Hong Kong: Global Newspaper Exhibition 2.0 aimed to gather support for the fervent protesters and celebrate their dedication to their cause. By showing excerpts from newspapers around the world, it hoped to present the impact repeated and committed protest and dissent can have in a global context.
Art can be a powerful medium of communication between protesters and their supporters.
Art can be a powerful medium of communication between protesters and their supporters. Though objective reports provide all the facts, artistic works such as music, photography, theatre, novels and paintings all have the power to deliver the emotions and thoughts of protesters. In what is, unfortunately, a ‘post-fact’ world, where fake news and headlines dripping with ulterior motives dominate the spreading of information, art can often serve as a source of authentic accounts free from propaganda. It has the power to provide news where classic reporting fails due to strong impositions placed upon ‘intruders’ of some nations. Therefore, its relevance and importance should never be overlooked.
Most of us can remember the ‘Destroy this Mad Brute’ cartoon from our GCSE History classes. By depicting Germany as a massive imperial beast destroying culture and harming innocent women, the United States Army successfully influenced the views of its citizens and encouraged young men to enlist in order to fight the said ‘Brute.’
During the regime, the plays staged, (…) served as a method of emotional relief for the silent critics of the regime
In my country, the Czech Republic, prominent figures the likes of Vaclav Havel and Milan Kundera used writing as a means of practicing political dissent. Through these means, they managed to capture the attention of the West and gather their support in fighting the repressive totalitarian government of Czechoslovakia. During the regime, the plays staged, and the novels circulated served as a method of emotional relief for the silent critics of the regime. Art and literature reassured them that they were not alone in this fight against totalitarianism and that one day, they may succeed in their fight for freedom.
Art can also serve as a method of warning future generations. If impactful and relevant, it has the power to influence future generations. Take Picasso’s Guernica for example. It is globally known as a warning against the effects of war upon people and society. Even the United Nations hung a copy of it within its New York headquarters, warning leaders against the devastation that often comes with conflict.
(Art) It binds people together, encourages support and allows protesters to see that their efforts truly are for something.
However, that is not to say that art always tells the truth. Like most means of communication, it does not come without its issues. It has, and still is being used as a means of propaganda by many nations. Art, in such a manner, can become a dangerous method of propaganda. Due to its subjective nature, it is more likely to influence the views of others in a negative manner.
Overall, art is an essential form of analysing lived experience and provides a deeper insight into the everyday happenings of oppressed and repressed groups. It binds people together, encourages support and allows protesters to see that their efforts truly are for something.
Header image: Studio Incendo