Ivan Knapp (UCL) - 2017-18 Students

Codes of conflict and histories of opposition: power, anxiety and identity in media strategy

The research project I am proposing seeks to interrogate and excavate the media and communications strategies employed by certain groups and movements that emerged in the public sphere from 2013 to 2016. Specifically focussing on particular tropes prevalent in the narrativisation of identity by groups such as ISIS, Black Lives Matter and the Alt-Right, I want to explore how strategies used by these groups find their origin in performance and activist art of the latter half of the 20th century and how the deployment of those strategies in these new contexts can contribute to interpreting the intersubjective dynamics of political groups today.

Using art historical visual and iconographic analysis, complemented by theories developed in the psychoanalysis of groups, my research will centre on a series of case studies exploring features of which the following are exemplary: (1) how the use of memes by the Alt-Right can be read through the use of fascist iconography by groups associated with the Neue Slowenische Kunst in the 1980s as well as various net.art practices in the 1990s; (2) the relationship between BLM’s use of hashtags and photographic imagery to both performance practices opposing the Vietnam war in the 1960s and the use of appropriation in feminist practices of the 1970s; (3) whether the oscillation between the bucolic and the terrifying in videos created and disseminated by ISIS can be interpreted within a history of violence in overtly political performance art that can be traced from the origin of Happenings in the 1950s, through the work of Jean Jacques Lebel and Oscar Massotta in France and Argentina respectively in the 1960s, to several groups in the 1990s and 2000s whose practices adopted new technologies of communication at the intersect of art and activism.

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