Visual Activism


Visual Activism, a symposium exploring the relationship between visual culture and activist practices, was presented by the International Association for Visual Culture in collaboration with SFMOMA at the Brava Theater on March 14-15, 2014. .

A mashup of photographs illustrating public activism
From left to right: Occupy Oakland, November 2, 2011; photo: Salvador Ingram; Carlos Motta, Deviations to Love # 7, 2013; courtesy Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon; Instituto de Visión, Bogotá; Y Gallery, New York; Zanele Muholi; Courtesy the artist and Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg; Carmen Papalia, The Blind Field Shuttle, 2012; photo Jordan Reznick

Art can take the form of political and social activism, and activism often takes on specific, and sometimes surprising, visual forms. How is our broader visual culture shaped by activist practices that circulate in public space? How can we better understand forms of communication that take place under threat of war, revolution, or repression? What strategies can be deployed to transform our engagement with the built environment and broader ecologies? How do embedded social hegemonies, such as racism, figure in the larger efforts to engage with activism visually?

Scholars, artists, and activists address these and related questions in a series of presentations, performances, and interactive projects.

This symposium is presented by the International Association for Visual Culture in collaboration with SFMOMA, and is convened by Julia Bryan-Wilson, associate professor of modern and contemporary art, UC Berkeley; Jennifer A. González, associate professor of history of art and visual culture, contemporary art, race and representation, UC Santa Cruz; and Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs, SFMOMA.

For further information about the International Association for Visual Culture, please visit

Visual Activism was followed on Sunday, March 16, by Bearing Witness, a one-day symposium that explores the political and social significance of the rapid and fundamental changes in the field of contemporary photography.


Selected Presentations

Projects + Perspectives

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