The University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) is partnering with an artist-led nonprofit organization to increase inclusive civic participation through its newest gallery exhibit.
“For Freedoms: Art as a Political Resistance” features work from various artists to encourage unity, social change and freedom of expression. The gallery exhibit operates in conjunction with an initiative spearheaded by For Freedoms — a nonprofit organization that strives to alter political discourse through art, programming and nationwide campaigns.
“An Extra Noise by the Big Boss,” a 17-minute short film written and directed by Kaveh Baghdadchi, is among the work showcased in the exhibit. It explores the direct impact of the Trump administration’s travel ban on families across the world.
The film is based on a true story — Baghdadchi’s personal story. He explores how the travel ban affected his family. His parents’ visa applications were rejected after the travel ban was implemented, and they were unable attend their son’s commencement at UC in late April.
“My short film investigates how one of the most recent controversial, populist actions of Donald Trump victimizes many ordinary immigrants and how such minority population get hurt because of a fake political propaganda,” Baghdadchi said. “I wanted to show how illogical it is when he pretends it secures the country.”
Using services like FaceTime, Baghdadchi showed the Queen City to his parents, who are unable to see it for themselves.
Another art piece at the exhibit is “Out of Court: Justice Kennedy and Diversity’s Death” by Stephen Slaughter. It explores how the future of the Supreme Court could negatively impact minority students enrolled at colleges and universities across the nation.
The piece features 500 hanging black silhouettes — the documented silhouettes of slaves on slave ships — in front of a white decal that displays the dictionary definition of affirmative action.
Slaughter said that he blends the text with the white background on purpose.
“Affirmative action is fading away,” he said. “You have to work to understand it.”
In contrast to the heavy and dark pieces showcased throughout the exhibit, students Ravenna Rutledge and Kari Durham aim to illustrate a message of hope. Their works, entitled “Standing Strong and Holding On” and “We Are Moving Forward,” are two large flags intended to send positive messages, despite the ongoing national and international chaos.
“Kari and I felt strongly that our pieces should be uplifting and comforting,” Rutledge said. “The current political state of our country seems to be lacking those very qualities, so my hope is that these flags might provide some peace.”
Political dialogue is almost always emotionally fueled. Despite the prevalence of incivility, Rutledge hopes the flags will remind viewers of the importance of positivity.
“Amidst the chaos, violence and injustice … it is important to still be patient and positive,” she said. “Our biggest goal was to not put out anymore hate.”
To Rutledge, art plays a crucial role in political discourse by opening creative avenues that encourage larger conversations about contemporary issues.
“As with anything, the more coverage and the more attention these issues get, the more likely they are to change and to spark conversation and unite others,” Rutledge said. “It’s a great time to be an artist to share with the world, and an equally crucial time to be aware of what’s going on.”
For Baghdadchi, art reflects the artist. By representing his personal experiences through his art, Baghdadchi hopes to correct misleading messages and inform those who might be influenced by agenda-driven rhetoric.
“Extremists and populist authoritarians concoct fake social concerns on migration and diversity issues to motivate underinformed voters,” Baghdadchi said. “In these turbulent times, it’s incumbent upon artists to resist against such wrong propaganda which can spread hate and anger and end up in discrimination.”
Despite its focus on modern issues, Rutledge says the exhibit holds greater significance.
“[It’s] not about politics,” she said. “It’s about being human.”
Other artists whose works are featured include Calista Lyon, Breanne Trammell, Mary Banas, Richard Whitaker and Charles Woodman.
For Freedoms: Art as a Political Resistance will be on display at the Dorothy W. and C. Lawson Reed, Jr. Gallery in DAAP until this Sunday, Sept. 30.