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Art Talks Explores the Vulnerability of the Artist in Society

28/09/2021

Art Talks, a series of talks organised by Stockholm University of the Arts together with Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, is taking on an ever more pressing subject this autumn: When art suddenly gets attacked in social media and in the media generally. What consequences does this have for artists – and for society as a whole? The first talk will take place on 7 September.

Since 2018 Stockholm University of the Arts together with Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, has organised the Art Talks, a series of talks addressing the relationship between art and society, today and in an uncertain future. With international comparisons and some of today's most important cultural issues on the agenda, everything from artistic activism to the demands of social media visibility is discussed with the same fervour and seriousness.

This autumn, the focus will be on another burning issue: what happens when artists and art suddenly become the subject of attacks on social media and the media generally, when political groups specifically target the arts. What happens to society, and how does it affect the artists themselves, who may end up in difficult situations and perhaps even be subjected to threats and violence?

"How can you work as an artist when you are constantly faced with the possibility of a work being taken out of context and becoming the subject of political debate? We have seen a pattern in recent years where art is attacked, especially from the far right, and ends up in extreme and unpredictable situations in the media," says Jon Refsdal Moe, Professor of Dramaturgy at Stockholm University of the Arts and one of the organisers behind this year's Art Talks.

Each talk, held in English in Foajé 3 at Kulturhuset, is based around a situation where art has become the subject of political debate, and from there takes the issues raised by the situation to a broader discussion.

The first talk, to be held on 7 October, will be based on the play Ways of Seeing, staged at the small Black Box theatre in Oslo in 2019. The performance was heavily criticised up to the level of the prime minister, and led to both both the performers and the theatre manager being reported to the police. And, in a shocking turn of events, the situation culminated in a massive scandal, with the Minister of Justice forced to resign after it emerged that his partner had fabricated threats against the family that allegedly came from the play's defenders.

"How can a small and narrow show suddenly find itself at the centre of the biggest political scandal in Norway for many years? That's one of the questions in the first conversation," says Jon Refsdal Moe.

Hanan Benammar, one of the artists behind Ways of Seeing, and Tore Slaatta, professor of media studies and sociology at Oslomet, will be visiting Stockholm to talk about the situation. The discussion will be moderated by Tinna Joné, lecturer in documentary narrative at the Department of Film and Media, Stockholm School of the Arts.

A second talk will follow on 4 November, based on a play in Germany that was threatened after being explicitly critical of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party. The third discussion, on 9 December, will focus on dance and choreography in an increasingly right-wing Israel.