In November 2008, a symposium titled “On the Limits and Possibilities of Politics in Art” was held at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia. The event was organized in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition for the American painter Peter Saul, who was one of seven noted artists invited to speak on the role of politics in their work. This essay uses the PAFA symposium as a point of entry into an exploration of the theoretical contradictions surrounding art's engagement with politics and offers a challenge to the notion of “political art” as a discrete category with definable “limits and possibilities.”

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