Focusing on the culture of today’s German speaking world, the course reflects on the role of visual arts, film, music, prose, poetry, and drama in responding to conflict. Its goal is to understand the role of protest and dissent in the 20th and 21st century. How do writers, artists, and filmmakers adopt new communication strategies to resist dominant narratives? And how effective is art as a form of protest and a conduit of change?
Protest and resistance take many forms. In search for better understanding how culture is created, resisted, and appropriated, we will focus on independent, unpopular, and marginalized voices, including the wide range of social movements (e.g. women’s rights, LGBT, civil rights, and environmentalism). To rethink evolving notions of “canon,” we will look at works by Afro-German writer May Ayim and Japanese writer Yoko Tawada, protest songs by poet Wolf Biermann, artworks by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei and German visual artist Hito Steyerl, performances by German experimental group Einstürzende Neubauten, Russian punk-rock group Pussy Riot, and electro-pop musician Bernadette La Hengst, underground literature and publishing, hip-hop and punk music in Hamburg and Berlin, street art, graphic novels, and films associated with the new avant-gardes. Many works are not necessarily overtly political (though they may well be that, too). They offer, foremost, aesthetic protest by resisting clichés and challenge received ideas of what stories, images, and music are. And they do so in order to expand the audience’s imagination and sensitize emotional responses.
The course will offer students opportunities to explore ways in which communities address issues of cultural inclusion and dissonance through the arts. Students will explore a wide range of texts, engage with archival materials (on-line and on-site), and evaluate the legitimacy of sources of information. They will also consider how close readings and textual analysis can translate across genre and medium.