This lecture looks at how artists have wielded demonstration to question the status quo both aesthetically and politically, marshaling art and education as powerful agents of change. Demonstration, in short, says: “See here.” It is the practice of pointing to something in order to explain or contest it. The lecture focuses on art from Western Europe (especially Germany), Eastern Europe and the United States, expanding on contemporary discussions of art-as-protest, activism and resistance. Examples include Ilya Kabakov, Harun Farocki, Bertolt Brecht, Ulrike Meinhof and others.
Sven Spieker teaches in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, the Comparative Literature Program, and the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A specialist in modern and contemporary art, aesthetic and critical theory, and global and transnational art and art history, his work has appeared in English, German, Korean, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Albanian and Polish. He is the co-founder of the Working Group Cultures of World Socialism, and the founding editor of ARTMargins Online and ARTMargins Print Journal (MIT Press). His latest book publication is a co-edited volume about acousmatic sound in art and culture (Akusmatik als Labor, ed. with Mario Asef, Koenigshausen Neumann, 2023) and the monograph Art as Demonstration: A Revolutionary Recasting of Knowledge (MIT Press, forthcoming in February 2024). Also forthcoming is his Socialist Exhibition Culture: International Art Exhibitions in the Socialist World, 1950-1990 (ed., Toronto University Press).