Ryan J. Suto's Blog

24 October 2011

The Deliberate Use of Art Diplomacy

It's a very short post, but I wrote a quick entry drumming up support for the upcoming APDS Symposium. You can read it here. Thanks.

Later this month our Symposium, Building Bridges: The Tools of Public Diplomacy, will feature a panel discussing art as a tool of public diplomacy. It must be noted, however, that such public diplomacy must be used carefully.
        The main goal of art as a tool of public diplomacy is to create a common experience among those of different cultures. Art diplomacy doesn’t often have the feel of an imposition of a policy, and often its lack of an explicit governmental message is its selling point. Such a tool can be used to express similar values in those cultures or even as a simple piece over which to have a conversation.
        However, what art we transmit as ‘American’ must be deliberate. If we as a nation transmit caricatures of our culture abroad, such images will be viewed as accurate. Of all the art that originates from America much of it creates caricatures of American life, often for the goal of parody or comedy. However, this may be lost on international consumers who experience such art decontextualized. Sometimes such art portrays Americans as rich, wasteful, spoiled, racist, xenophobic, lazy, or any other negative characteristic.
        What, then, do we do? Should the U.S. government, through media such as Al Hurra, Voice of America, etc., show the world all our art, and hope they draw the conclusions we support? Or, should the government regulate what American art the world sees, and thus censor and control our own image? If the government picks and chooses, should we export high art or popular art?
        In the end, ethical public diplomacy requires us to be honest in our message and reciprocal in our tactics. Art must be no different. Hopefully on October 27th our questions will be answered.

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