From fine art to superhero comics: the culture war in art

Saturday 2 November, 12:0013:00, Level G StudioBattle Book Club

In May this year, the Saatchi Gallery decided to cover up two works of art in its exhibition, after Muslim visitors complained that the content was ‘blasphemous’. At the same time, in Poland, artists came out in protest against a decision made by the National Museum in Warsaw to remove ‘Consumer Art’, a multimedia installation from 1975 by Natalia LL, because its banana-eating content was ‘suggestive’. In different contexts in different parts of the West, culture wars over appropriate, righteous and politically correct art are raging.

But whether it is feminist or religious sensitivities being offended, why has identity become so central to judging art today? Why are some groups – as well as artistic institutions – reluctant to defend free expression within culture? And how does the movement for social justice influence cultural production?

In Culture War: art, identity politics and cultural entryism, Alexander Adams examines a range of pressing issues in today’s culture: censorship, Islamism, feminism, identity politics, historical reparations and public arts policy. Through a series of linked essays, Culture War exposes connections between seemingly unrelated events and trends in high and popular cultures. From fine art to superhero comics, from political cartoons to museum policy, certain persistent ideas underpin the most contentious issues today. Adams draws on history, philosophy, politics and cultural criticism to explain the reasoning of creators, consumers and critics and to expose some uncomfortable truths.

In this session, Adams will set out his argument in a short opening lecture, before joining a panel to discuss the issues his book raises.