Concept of “victim art”

Julie Huynh, #46376331

In Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions, one of the topics she brings up amid her discussion of cultural studies in America is “victim politics.” She references a popular 1995 essay that “expresses resentment” towards artists who use their art to make their audiences feel sorry for them. Basically, victim politics is all about the author playing the victim card to garner sympathy (which Machida notes puts the work “beyond criticism”). Machida is right, that in playing this card, the art really is beyond criticism at this point because now you can’t be critical of something you suddenly feel bad for.

I brought out this topic in Chapter One because it makes me think (albeit pessimistically) about any time a work of art generated by an Asian or Asian American (or colored person pretty much), whether it’s going to be thought of as victim art. While the artist may genuinely want to express himself or herself through the basis of positionality, what if the audience interprets it as an appeal for sympathetic viewers? Although Machida brought up victim politics technically as a ploy from an artist who is intentionally attempting to manipulate his/her audience, I’m questioning this from the point of view of an artist who is merely trying to express and not be misunderstood.  How do you voice your struggle in a way that doesn’t make people think you’re vying for attention and sympathy?


One thought on “Concept of “victim art”

  1. ksidney19 says:

    I really like the idea of Victim art, I always were aware of this but I never knew a term existed for it. I agree, she informs the readers that although some artist intent is to express their identity or position, others interpret it as a sympathy card or the race card. I like this idea because it can apply to a large array of artist who are of color.

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