Global Aesthetic Achievement 2020 to #BlackLivesMatter

The Finnish Society for Aesthetics has granted the Global Aesthetic Achievement of the Year 2020 prize to the international #BlackLivesMatter movement. 

#BlackLivesMatter came to be a central transformative force in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 by a police officer. Following this brutal event, commemorative murals have been created in numerous cities in the US and globally.

Since then, the transformative power of the #BlackLivesMatter movement has had a central position in fostering decolonizing practices throughout the world. The main focus has been on the police brutality targeted to the black communities and other minorities in the US, but another significant aspect, pertinent to this prize on aesthetics, how the movement affects the urban landscape, education, and artistic practices.

On June 5, 2020, the street outside the White House in Washington was officially renamed to Black Lives Matter Plaza, which was rapidly followed by many similar formal and informal performative and public gestures in the US. On June 7, the #BlackLivesMatter protesters toppled down and threw the statue of Edward Colston to River Avon in Bristol. Colston was a late 17th and early 18th-century philanthropist, but also a slave trader. A few days later, during protests in Belgium, this act was followed by the defacing of the monument of King Leopold II, outside the Africa Museum in Brussels. Similar acts took place globally in many forms during the summer 2020. Instead of regarding these events as vandalism, they rather could be termed as ethico-aesthetic and performative acts to call for European countries to reckon their racist histories.

#BlackLivesMatter movement has also fostered a call for action to encourage art and cultural institutions to take action against structural racism within their institutions. The movement requests institutions and people working within these institutions to regard their privileges and to develop more inclusive and anti-racist strategies.

These transformative processes combine successfully the ethico-aesthetic production of subjectivities as a collectivity, not unlike the political movements of the late 1960s effected on the conceptual art practices or how Arab Spring and Occupy movements in the early 2010s raised the question of increasing global inequality. With such a transformative power #BlackLivesMatter movement has created a true paradigm shift on how aesthetics, politics, society and arts are integrally related, today and hereafter.

#BlackLivesMatter was founded 2013 as a response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. The mission of this decentralized movement is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and police. It aims to combat and counter the acts of violence on persons of colour, not only in the US, UK and Canada, but globally. 

Since 1997, the Finnish Society for Aesthetics has awarded the prize of the Finnish Aesthetic Achievement of the Year. The Society has thus highlighted an important aesthetic work made in the spheres of art, city and environmental planning, architecture, media and other fields with aesthetic values. With the award, we aspire to foster discussion about aesthetics and its role in society. The award is given to a person or community which has through its acts, products or thoughts raised discussion about art, beauty, and aesthetic value. The recipient of the award is announced at the seminar of the Society in the beginning of December. 

The recipient of the award was chosen by the member of the Finnish Society for Aesthetics, Doctor of Arts Tero Nauha (Theatre Academy of the Uniarts Helsinki). The award was published in the Finnish Society for Aesthetics’ annual seminar in Helsinki, December 7, 2020.