Truth to Power: Expanded VersionMay 19 2021
Speaking truth to power is a non-violent way of challenging political, economic, social and cultural leaders, and holding them accountable for actions and words that result in injustice, inequality and harm to others. The tactic requires courage and a willingness to risk one’s reputation, livelihood and sometimes even one’s life to express beliefs that go against entrenched interests and status quo public opinions.
The phrase “speak truth to power” originated in the Civil Rights and Peace movements of the mid-20th century, and first appeared in print in the title of a 1955 antiwar treatise published by the American Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. Although the phrase is relatively recent, the idea of speaking truth to power is ancient, and can be found in cultures around the world stretching back thousands of years. The term “speak” suggests that this form of protest is primarily verbal, but challenges to established power structures can also be expressed through literature, visual art, music and social behavior. This exhibition highlights a small selection of 20th and 21st-century artworks from Europe, North America, Asia and Africa, all of which represent the spirit of speaking truth to power.