playlist

How art shapes conversation

Powerful art makes people talk. These TED Talks bring context and nuanced perspectives to subjects surrounding history, race, socioeconomics and more.

  1. 4:32
    Dread Scott How art can shape America's conversation about freedom

    In this quick talk, visual artist Dread Scott tells the story of one of his most transgressive art installations, which drew national attention for its controversial use of the American flag and led to a landmark First Amendment case in the US Supreme Court.

  2. 4:36
    Camille A. Brown A visual history of social dance in 25 moves

    Why do we dance? African-American social dances started as a way for enslaved Africans to keep cultural traditions alive and retain a sense of inner freedom. They remain an affirmation of identity and independence. In this electric demonstration, packed with live performances, choreographer, educator and TED Fellow Camille A. Brown explores what happens when communities let loose and express themselves by dancing together.

  3. 10:34
    Deb Willis and Hank Willis Thomas A mother and son united by love and art

    An art school professor once told Deb Willis that she, as a woman, was taking a place from a good man — but the storied photographer says she instead made a space for a good man, her son Hank Willis Thomas. In this moving talk, the mother and son artists describe how they draw from one another in their work, how their art challenges mainstream narratives about black life and black joy, and how, ultimately, everything comes down to love.

  4. 12:52
    Titus Kaphar Can art amend history?

    Artist Titus Kaphar makes paintings and sculptures that wrestle with the struggles of the past while speaking to the diversity and advances of the present. In an unforgettable live workshop, Kaphar takes a brush full of white paint to a replica of a 17th-century Frans Hals painting, obscuring parts of the composition and bringing its hidden story into view. There's a narrative coded in art like this, Kaphar says. What happens when we shift our focus and confront unspoken truths?

  5. 5:03
    LaToya Ruby Frazier A visual history of inequality in industrial America

    For the last 12 years, LaToya Ruby Frazier has photographed friends, neighbors and family in Braddock, Pennsylvania. But though the steel town has lately been hailed as a posterchild of "rustbelt revitalization," Frazier's pictures tell a different story, of the real impact of inequality and environmental toxicity. In this short, powerful talk, the TED Fellow shares a deeply personal glimpse of an often-unseen world.

  6. 4:19
    Sanford Biggers An artist's unflinching look at racial violence

    Conceptual artist and TED Fellow Sanford Biggers uses painting, sculpture, video and performance to spark challenging conversations about the history and trauma of black America. Join him as he details two compelling works and shares the motivation behind his art. "Only through more thoughtful dialogue about history and race can we evolve as individuals and society," Biggers says.

  7. 11:27
    Angélica Dass The beauty of human skin in every color

    Angélica Dass's photography challenges how we think about skin color and ethnic identity. In this personal talk, hear about the inspiration behind her portrait project, Humanæ, and her pursuit to document humanity's true colors rather than the untrue white, red, black and yellow associated with race.

  8. 7:01
    Paul Rucker The symbols of systemic racism — and how to take away their power

    Multidisciplinary artist and TED Fellow Paul Rucker is unstitching the legacy of systemic racism in the United States. A collector of artifacts connected to the history of slavery — from branding irons and shackles to postcards depicting lynchings — Rucker couldn't find an undamaged Ku Klux Klan robe for his collection, so he began making his own. The result: striking garments in non-traditional fabrics like kente cloth, camouflage and silk that confront the normalization of systemic racism in the US. "If we as a people collectively look at these objects and realize that they are part of our history, we can find a way to where they have no more power over us," Rucker says. (This talk contains graphic images.)

  9. 5:05
    Laura Boushnak For these women, reading is a daring act

    In some parts of the world, half of the women lack basic reading and writing skills. The reasons vary, but in many cases, literacy isn't valued by fathers, husbands, even mothers. Photographer and TED Fellow Laura Boushnak traveled to countries including Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia to highlight brave women — schoolgirls, political activists, 60-year-old moms — who are fighting the statistics.

  10. 16:52
    Theaster Gates How to revive a neighborhood: with imagination, beauty and art

    Theaster Gates, a potter by training and a social activist by calling, wanted to do something about the sorry state of his neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. So he did, transforming abandoned buildings to create community hubs that connect and inspire those who still live there (and draw in those who don't). In this passionate talk, Gates describes his efforts to build a "miniature Versailles" in Chicago, and he shares his fervent belief that culture can be a catalyst for social transformation in any city, anywhere.

  11. 11:26
    eL Seed A project of peace, painted across 50 buildings

    eL Seed fuses Arabic calligraphy with graffiti to paint colorful, swirling messages of hope and peace on buildings from Tunisia to Paris. The artist and TED Fellow shares the story of his most ambitious project yet: a mural painted across 50 buildings in Manshiyat Naser, a district of Cairo, Egypt, that can only be fully seen from a nearby mountain.

  12. 5:00
    Adong Judith How I use art to bridge misunderstanding

    Director and playwright Adong Judith creates provocative art that sparks dialogue on issues from LGBTQ rights to war crimes. In this quick but powerful talk, the TED Fellow details her work — including the play "Silent Voices," which brought victims of the Northern Ugandan war against Joseph Kony's rebel group together with political, religious and cultural leaders for transformative talks. "Listening to one another will not magically solve all problems," Judith says. "But it will give a chance to create avenues to start to work together to solve many of humanity's problems."

  13. 13:15
    Sethembile Msezane Living sculptures that stand for history's truths

    In the century-old statues that occupy Cape Town, Sethembile Mzesane didn't see anything that looked like her own reality. So she became a living sculpture herself, standing for hours on end in public spaces dressed in symbolic costumes, to reclaim the city and its public spaces for her community. In this powerful, tour-de-force talk, she shares the stories and motivation behind her mesmerizing performance art.