Oppression Destruction Passion Hope
During spring term 2023, students in Barbara Allen’s POSC 214: Visual Representation of Political Thought and Action, joined artists-in-residence Jesse Willenbring and Bevin Mcnamara in a collaborative mural and mixed media installation sponsored by Arts at Carleton and displayed in the Weitz Center for Creativity. The work consisted of three flats featuring a tree and grid design situated before a mural on the same themes. The installation was designed to be permanently installed in Hasenstab Hall, with the mural portion represented by photographs of the wall sections as they had been originally viewed between the panels of the free-standing installation.
Working in teams, the students drew, painted, and pasted original and appropriated graphics to comment on a range of political ideas including the Federalist Papers and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail,” in light of current matters of inequality, institutional racism, and threats to liberty as well as the protests — violent and nonviolent — meant to expose these problems.
The class and installation explored four primary concepts in engaged art and politics: visual grid systems and their ability to allude to (or resist) structures of authority; appropriation techniques and their effects on how value is created and assigned by an active public; collaboration and individual choice/response (responsibility and authority); and the action–history nexus (asking who is authorized tells what story).