Political Art Stirs Controversy

Tempers flared during a discussion about the meaning behind the politically charged art in the Fine Arts Gallery on Wednesday October 17. Daniel Bejar, the multi-disciplinary artist and creator of the provocative work, answered questions and faced strong criticism from some members of the audience.

Bejar focuses on “social practice art,” which addresses issues involving our current state in politics with the intent of fueling engagement and activism. The exhibition named “Going Public” includes four ongoing projects that have been in progress since 2012: Re-elections, Rec-elections, Get Lost, and Redistricting.

With the November elections approaching, this past month on campus has been busy with activities related to voting and being more politically involved. Although some viewed the exhibition as a form of political criticism allowed by the first amendment, not everyone was pleased with Bejar’s art, which included an alteration of the American flag with rearranged stars that spell out the word “FAKE.”

Several Veterans presented at the talk, some of whom were members of the student body. They expressed their feelings about the “false flag,” calling the alteration of the American flag “disrespectful” and “extremely offensive.”

Melissa Hall, Professor and Gallery Director, defended the artist and his work. The gist of Hall’s argument can be found in an essay she wrote describing Bejar’s projects, intent and end goals. Copies of the essay were available to those attending the program. “The posters are meant to be incitements to action,” says Hall, in regards to “Re-elections.”

“It is an invitation to political engagement, and to reclaiming political speech as your own.”

She notes that Bejar is one of many in the long history of artists who have used the flag to express controversial points of view. For example, she says “Fake, a frequently used term by our current President, Donald Trump, is used against the news media for relaying facts that go against his plans.”
In a statement on his website, www.danielbejar.com, Bejar says “Working at the intersection of art & life, my practice considers life as a material and a site to make art that challenges the representations of our histories, identities, and places that are found within our physical and digital worlds. In doing so, my work unearths a space where the public is challenged to question the status quo and envision alternative realities and histories.”

Bejar’s work will remain on display until Nov. 17. Students can find a stack of the “Give The Presidency Back To The People” posters on the floor in the Fine Arts Gallery, and copies of Hall’s essay can also be found at: www.melissahallwcc.wordpress.com/gallery-ideas/daniel-bejar-going-public 

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