Dread Scott's talk on controversial art highlights the field's potential in motivating social discussion, raising awareness of oppressive structures and being a catalyst for change. The speaker, a visual artist that communicates ideas and creativity in a variety of mediums — including performance art, does not hesitate in boldly stating his political, economic and social stances. The short speech specifically deals with the controversy of a transgressive work from 1989 that put Dread Scott's life in danger but also liberated individuals who felt oppressed by America's intense nationalism.
The work in question is an interactive piece that questions the relationship between the symbol of the flag and the citizens of the world. Entitled 'What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?,' the conceptual piece welcomed audience participation. The engaging work consisted of a photo montage of South Korean students burning American flags and flag-draped coffins coming back from Vietnam. Below this, there was a book that prompted the audience to answer the pressing question of their relationship with the official symbol. On the floor, there was the American flag and people could stand over it.
During his talk on controversial art, Dread Scott highlights the importance of such a transgressive and, some might say, offensive piece. From the German girl who wrote that if Germans admired their flag as Americans do, they'd be called Nazis, to the US Navy Seal Team noting that Dread Scott should be shot, the mixed outrage and solidarity forced people to think of what this national symbol means to them, what it means to others, and how it can be a catalyst for both good and bad experiences.