Over the last three years of grad school I think I have heard the question : Can a photograph/photographic series create change? at least 20 times. Some people argue that photographs don't have the power to change anything, while others believe that they have and can create change. I think the answer to this question is so obvious, photographs can and do create change, as proven by the censorship of Subhankar Banerjee photographs, as well as many others including Robert Mapplethorpe and Andreas Serrano, the real question is to what extent can it create change. In the contemporary art world the term "change" has become as problematic as the term "beauty," (or in connection to our class the term nature) and I think this becomes very obvious after reading Reframing the Last Frontier / Resource Wars and hearing Mr. Banerjee's lecture. If anything I think that the reading and lecture raised as many, if not more questions about the role/classification of art, as it did issues of environmentalism.
Here are some of the statements / ideas that I found most compelling:
Is art that is based on emotion, feeling, and beauty not smart art?
What is the goal of environmental art?
In the Finis Dunaway article raises the question what is nature in its most authentic state? and do we have to travel to the "wilderness" to experience it?
What is the relationship between text and image? Does text take away from aesthetics? Do aesthetics make something less political?
I also found it very interesting when Banerjee stated that it wasn't important whether his photographs/text were truth or fiction, but rather what was important was that they asked questions. This statement really stuck with me because it seems as though artists who create work of a political nature are suppose to have/show the answers and when they don't have the answers they are ridiculed. Can Banerjee's photographs really stop drilling in the Arctic and preserve the land? That is a question that I am not sure can be answered but it did make people stop and think about it, even if just for a minute, and I think that has to count for something. Change comes from questioning, and it is through this questioning that artists create change.