Restoring Beauty to Politics
Working towards a Distinction between Art and Political Activism against the Backdrop of the Centre for Political Beauty
This paper explores the attempts of the political activist group Centre for Political Beauty to restore beauty to politics. While the Centre for Political Beauty claims that their performances can be traced back to the multimedia artist Christoph Schlingensief, my contention is that their self-understanding as artists is problematic. By approaching selected interventions against the backdrop of their respective contexts in the history of the avant-garde, I develop criteria facilitating a differentiation between protest art and political activism. I posit that protest art, in contrast to political activism, need not be driven by a goal-oriented artistic intention, and must possess openness as a strategy. Rather than aiming at a direct pedagogical or educational effect on the audience, protest art desires to open up a dialogue between the artwork and the audience. The way in which shame operates in the interventions of the Centre for Political Beauty calls into question whether their interventions actually allow for the open and dialogical engagement that is promoted by protest art.
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