WITNESS: Picturing Social Justice

September 27, 2015 - October 9, 2015

Location: UCF Art Gallery

“WITNESS: Picturing Social Justice”

In conjunction with Global Peace Film Festival


Three factors motivated me to curate “Witness: Picturing Social Justice”

1.I believe that art speaks about political and social issues unlike any other means of communication. The arts can reach deeply into our emotions and move us to respond to social ills far more powerfully than politicians or newspapers.

2. “Witness” presents the work of three very different visual artists – all photographers: Sue Thompson, Keith Kovach and Rama Masri Zada. Each engages global politics in a unique manner.

Sue Thompson is a documentary photographer. She travels to areas in crisis with a commitment to recording the events that will become history. Her focus is on the people, their personal dignity and circumstances. On view is a selection of Sue’s photographs that feature prominent international peace activists, as well as intimate portraits of the people who are suffering from a lack of peace. Thompson’s passionate advocacy for those fighting for peace shares the stage with her compassion for the victims of war. Her goal, along with theirs, is to live in a world where unchecked state violence no longer dominates our lives.

Kovach, who teaches in SVAD’s photography, has been a Fulbright scholar in Vienna, where he shot the work currently on view. Kovach spends time with every photograph by way of retouching it through Photoshop and highlighting significance of the subject matter photographed, which in this case The Flak Tower in the Augarten Park in Vienna. These are enormous concrete towers that are very visible at several spots all over Vienna. “FLAK” stands for “Flug Abwehr Kanone” and was a program of the Nazis to protect cities and residential areas from air raids with bombs. The Flak Towers fulfilled two purposes: They held cannons and spotlights that should fight airplanes from the ground; and they were important bunkers with an autonomous electricity, air and water supply system. The towers are the best and most accessible anti-war memorials” and Kovach highlights this factor by presenting these architectural ‘monsters’ through the delicate network of tree branches that softens their shapes.
Rama Masri Zada, who is originally from Syria, is currently a student in our Film MFA program,. Masri Zada presents 2 short animations: “No Birds Flying Outside” and “Room 13”. The first is about the suffering of Syrian women refugees; it follows them from their unsettled situation in Syria, with its daily fear of barrel bombs attacks, to the refugee journey, and all the related issues, such as sexual harassment and early forced marriage.

Room 13 recounts a female examination being conducted by a male prison officer. Both films were shot with an iPhone, which is rapidly becoming an essential tool of young filmmakers. We are very proud of Zada’s success with this technology.

3. I moved to Orlando a year ago from NYC. In NYC socially engaged art has become a significant force in the art world. I share this commitment to art that seeks to challenge old hierarchies and that advocates for social justice and equity.
I want to bring this same conversation to Orlando. “Witness” is our first step in building a community of artists and audience dedicated to social change.

I have been motivated by the work of Nina Steich, the founder of the Global Peace Film Festival. During the past ten years she has worked hard to raise awareness of the horrors of war and to honor the peace makers through festival programs that embrace films that are entertaining and intriguing and engage viewers with their humanity, their cutting-edge realism, and their value as both works of art and political challenges. Last year, when I moved to Orlando from NYC, I met Nina through a mutual friend from NYC and we became friends. Like Nina, I care deeply about the arts and their ability to reveal new understandings of political and social issues. Film and visual art complement each other.
As part of the “Witness” program UCF Art Gallery will host an evening of awareness, presenting the play “Keep Her Safe”, with the UCF Theater Dept. on Thursday October 8 at 7 pm.
With MFA acting students Madelyn James and Maddie Tarbox performing GODDESS DIARIES, by Carol Lee Campbell. Directed by Julia Listengarten, UCF Theater Professor, Coordinator, Graduate Studies & Research, in advising by Carol Lee Campbell.

Moderated by Sheri Heitker Dixon, Executive Director, Keep Her Safe