Political, Economic and Social factors

Question from p26 of the course guide.:

“What political, economic or social factors might be influencing practitioners of art in the west today? Before you move on, make some brief notes in your learning log. Don’t just think about painters; consider other disciplines such as architecture and applied arts (textiles, ceramics, etc.).”

It’s quite a large ranging question! I would say these days a lot of artists are affected by terrorism & war, climate change, surveillance and consumer culture. I’m sure there are many more. I’ve tried to show my thought processes of how I got to these below with some research to back them up (and fetch links to what was in my mind). Mostly they originate with photography/art exhibitions I’ve been to in the last few years but from my research I’ve found examples of these themes in other artistic disciplines.

Terrorism & war:

My mind went to the last two years winners of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, Conceptual Artists Broomberg & Chanarin in 2013 and Richard Mosse in 2014, also since the recent paris bombings artists of all kinds around the world have been flooding social media with anti-terrorism art.

This theme bleeds into architecture as bombed buildings get replaced and new building designs have to pass muster especially for financial districts. The new world trade centre was designed with anti terrorism in mind (obviously).

Ceramics artist Richard Notkin‘s work is often about war. I found this link about his work and some images in the Bridgeman Library here.

Climate change/sustainability:

Climate change and sustainability issues are definably up there. The Prix Pictet exhibitions are all about highlighting photography and sustainability. Thinking back to the 2013 Prix Pictet Study visit, appropriation artist Mishka Henner‘s series of Google earth images, Beef & Oil really highlighted global sustainability issues in a very immediate fashion. Thinking of Mishka Henner made me think of his entry into the Deutsche Börse 2013, where he was nominated for his exhibition No Man’s Land which made me add surveillance to the list of political and social factors.

While I was searching out the link for another other half remembered climate related image I’d seen in exhibition (Daniel Beltrá – Series: Spill, Prix Pictet 2012), I came across the photos of my trip to the Venice Biennale 2013 and the installation of paintings and sculpture by Julian Lennon and Simon Ma which are also environmental inspired.

This is a ripe one for architecture too, since I know very little about architecture I thought I’d start my investigation with “sustainable architecture award”. The first few links are about the locus foundation which I’d not heard of but there was a link to the sterling prize, which even I’ve heard of so its kosher to include in the research. Found this interesting article on sustainable design of the sterling prize contenders for 2015 from the Architects Journal.

Artist Courtney Mattison has made several beautiful climate change inspired ceramic pieces titled “our changing seas“.


As previously mentioned, Mishka Henner’s work is basically selecting google earth satellite surveillance images to highlight various issues. I’m also reminded of Banksy’s work. To get a link to the picture in my head I googled Banksy surveillance and it seems he’s continued the theme with this newer one.

Whilst searching for this I found the wikipedia link for Surveillance art. While wikipedia isn’t really a good source for research (because its not that reliable) in this instance it looks like it would be a good springboard for gathering and verifying a lot more references. However, I think I’ve illustrated my point here and I don’t want to fall down this particular rabbit hole today.

Consumer culture:

Todays culture seems to be all about me me me, what can I buy to make me cool? I just have to have the latest iPhone, playstation, a selfie stick etc etc. This must be a source of inspiration to artists. Of course Andy Warhol is the consumer culture artist that instantly springs to mind (pre-iphone mind you). I did a search and this past exhibition from the tate popped up in the results, a whole exhibition to validate my theory, featuring work from the likes of Claes Oldenburg, Andy WarholRoy LichtensteinChristo Christo Javacheff, Jeft Koons, Barbara KrugerDamien Hirst and Andreas Gursky, I only wish I’d seen it!


References (retrospective list):

Deutsche Börse. (2013) Deutsche Börse Photography Prize [Exhibition]. London: Photographers Gallery.

Deutsche Börse. (2014) Deutsche Börse Photography Prize [Exhibition]. London: Photographers Gallery.

Hartman, H. (2015) ‘RIBA Stirling Prize 2015: Which is the greenest of them all?’ In: Architects Journal 05.10.15 [online] At: http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/buildings/riba-stirling-prize-2015-which-is-the-greenest-of-them-all/8690289.fullarticle
(Accessed on 21 December 15)

Mattison, Courtney. (2014) Our Changing Seas III At: http://courtneymattison.com/ourchangingseas-iii/
(Accessed on 21 December 15)

Pentilla, A. (2014) The Teapot that Saved the World: Art Activism by Ceramist Richard Notkin At: http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2014/02/22/the-teapot-that-saved-the-world-art-activism-by-ceramist-richard-notkin/
(Accessed on 21 December 15)

Prix Pictet. (2012) Power [Exhibition]. London: Saatchi Gallery.

Prix Pictet. (2013) Consumption [Exhibition]. London: V&A.

Silverstein Properties. (2015) One World Trade Center At: http://www.wtc.com/about/buildings/1-world-trade-center
(Accessed on 21 December 15)

Tate. (2002a) Shopping: A century of art and consumer culture At: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/exhibition/shopping-century-art-and-consumer-culture
(Accessed on 21 December 15)

The Guardian. (2014) ‘Possible Banksy work near GCHQ tackles government surveillance’ In: The Guardian [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/apr/14/possible-banksy-work-gchq-cheltenham-government-surveillance
(Accessed on 21 December 15)

Venice Biennale. (2013) Various Titles [Exhibition]. Venice: Various locations


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