The Charlottesville white nationalist rally in August made international news for its pure outrageousness and the strong emotions it often evoked. Hundreds of tiki-torch-wielding far-right protesters marched through a University of Virginia campus chanting a chorus of xenophobic phrases such as “you… will not… replace us!” There were clashes with progressive counter-protesters as well, and coverage of the event was widespread, from national publications to small, local news outlets. And all the coverage was more or less the same; it all focused on the social and political aspects of the event, which were arguably the most important pieces.
However the side no one seemed to cover was the artistic side. Don’t close this page. Art doesn’t have to be good. This violent, angry, hateful protest was a form of art. Along with all the whimsical, metaphysical, philosophical, and beautiful pieces of art there are also the cringeworthy, ugly, and revolting pieces, such as this one. The demonstrators set out that night with the aim of getting attention. They aimed to grab eyes and to scare people. To make people all across the nation concerned with their wants and views. And they did it with tiki torches and vague chants. They used abstract symbols and sounds to evoke emotion from hundreds of millions of people. The same could be said of Van Gogh or Monet. The difference is that their work brings joy, peace, or other desirable emotions to people, while the protesters only brought hate and fear. Starry Night isn’t famous because it is a photorealistic depiction, but because of how it makes viewers feel peaceful and serene. It’s famous because the lines all come together to paint a scene of the sky. Similarly, the sheer number of tiki torches mixed with the tone of the protesters voices created fear and worry, just as they intended. No, the Charlottesville protest should not have been covered as an artistic demonstration. Even though it was art, it was still used for objectionable purposes. But neither of these facts diminish the fact that this was quality art, which is the main reason that it was so effective at getting across its hateful message.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and The Guardian