Protest art makes viewers feel uncomfortable by illustrating disturbing situations or questions their complicity. Does this help or hinder?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In many respects, the discomfort posed by protest art is part of its intent.  The idea of protest art is to be able to transform reality in the mind of the viewer, as is the intent of the artist.  The artist who creates art that protests a condition in society is meant to cause a level of discomfort.  This level of anxiousness is created because the artist seeks to transform reality from what it is to what is should be.  When Picasso paints "Guernica," a sample of art that shows the horror of war, and a member of the army asks him, "Who did this," he stares at the army uniform and says, "You did."  This is the purpose of protest art for within its creation of awkwardness and discomfort is a sphere of wanting to change conditions, of seeking to transform, of wishing to move what is into the domain of what should be.  For the accomplishment of these goals, protest art has to strike a chord of dissonance in order to render a harmony that can be envisioned in the artist's mind.