For Scott Gratson, fake news is an invitation to argue.
“I believe there is an art movement afoot in the United States that allows us to better investigate the idea of so-called fake news,” said Gratson, the director of communication studies in the School of Media and Communication, during the event. “And I believe that art will segue a series of additional arguments, things that force us to reconsider who and what we are.”
The subject of fake news was one of the main focuses of the “Post-Truth” art and media symposium and panel discussion on Tuesday night in Temple Contemporary.
Professors from schools from Temple, University of Delaware and Rutgers University gave presentations on topics like current and historical fake news, the history of distorting art in the media, identity protection, perspective and using emotional knowledge over rational knowledge.
Students, faculty and community members came to the event to watch the six presentations and discuss questions with the presenters during the panel discussion.
The event was created by Erin Pauwels, an art history professor who collaborated with SMC to make her idea possible.
“For a school of art, we think a lot about visual images and visual culture studies,” said Pauwels, who was excited by the turnout of about 100 people. “How can we train people to be more critical viewers of things like fake news or to be better readers and critical thinkers? I think that just getting people talking and raising some awareness is a really important goal.”
The event was a continuation of the anti-inauguration discussion held at SMC earlier this semester. Pauwels wanted to continue the post-election discussion at Tyler School of Art.
“We were thinking after the election what were ways that we at the Tyler School of Art could create some programing and some opportunities to educate not just students, but the whole community here about these issues that are changing politics and also our culture,” she said.
The speakers at the event included Pauwels, Gratson, Geoffrey Baym, the chair of the media studies and production department and Bruce Hardy, a strategic communication professor.
Pauwels said she sent a general description to the speakers about what they would talk about and asked them to share their thoughts and present any ideas that they thought were interesting or important.
Gratson focused his presentation on art and the role that it plays in society today, especially after the election of President Donald Trump.
He shocked the crowd by saying Trump is an “international art superstar.”
“Trump, for everything he may and well indeed be, is really good for art,” he said. “And art is really good for argument.”
In his presentation, Gratson also used images like “My Father and Me” from a recent exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. He said he believes the image “forces us to reconsider the position of Islam and Muslim art within our society.”
At the panel discussion, the presenters agreed that the an effective way to start to combat this fake news is to create narratives that both political sides can relate to and better understand. Pauwels added that they plan to host another event in April for similar discussion.
Jeremy De Valle, a sophomore philosophy and journalism major, attended the event with his Race, Identity & Experience in American Art class. He said he believes fake news has harmful effects.
“[Fake news] can push propaganda and ideals that are counteractive to the growth of people in general,” De Valle said. “Donald Trump saying that CNN isn’t a credible news source is him pushing his own propaganda and trying to steer the view towards FOX and trying to legitimize that just because that’s where his platform falls.”
Taylor Horn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.