William & Mary

Kay Floyd: 21st century diplomacy

{{youtube:medium:center|rZAHPMgw_DY, Exhibition highlights}}

William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art is featuring “Ballet, Ballots, and Bullets,” thru Sept. 28, 2014. The exhibition, organized in partnership with Diplomatic Courier magazine, features photography taken by both William & Mary students and professional photographers. Kathryn Floyd, visiting instructor of government at William & Mary, curated the exhibit. Floyd teaches strategic communications, insurgency and terrorism. In her career she has worked with many governments and organizations. Her research primarily addresses issues related to immigrant youth violence and contemporary terrorism. 

W&M News sat down with Floyd to discuss the inspiration for the exhibit and its intended impact. – Ed.

Why did you want to do this exhibition?
There are a few goals for the exhibit. First, we wanted to bring these images of war, politics and culture to William & Mary and Williamsburg. We also aimed to showcase world renowned photographers along with students to highlight how anyone can be a diplomat. Lastly, I hoped to demonstrate the multi-faceted nature of 21st century diplomacy. In today’s world, diplomacy is bitcoin, diplomacy is a test message, diplomacy is the ability to track clean water on a cell phone. We are no longer in William Jennings Bryan’s state department.

How did you get involved in the exhibit?
I was engaging with the Diplomatic Courier magazine and its photographers when the idea developed to bring this type of education to campus. William & Mary’s commitment to learning made it a natural home for such an exhibit, with the Muscarelle's desire to be a laboratory for new ideas.

Several students have photos in the exhibit, how did they get involved?
When we were doing the call for photos, we made the strategic decision to invite students. We wanted to emphasize that anyone with an iPhone can capture, or indeed change, the world. We were thrilled to have many students submit images that showed their view of diplomacy.

How do you think photos like this can “change the world”?
I find that a photo can really tug at your heart. You are transported momentarily into that image, into the refugee camps, onto the frozen ice, and alongside political protests. Your emotional response can trigger a call for education and action, whether the viewer is a politician authorizing relief aid or a student getting on a plane to volunteer.

Where did the idea of “Ballet, Ballots & Bullets” come from? Or, why the theme “Ballet, Ballots & Bullets”?
The idea was very organic. In teaching and in life, I take a very broad approach to what constitutes strategic studies, international politics, and diplomacy. We wanted to represent three broad themes that seem to impact daily life and political decisions. The themes are what makes the world go around, whether crying or laughing.

What does this exhibit say about diplomacy in the 21st century?
The subsections in this exhibition say a lot about life within the modern landscape. Broadly speaking, “ballet” is used to represent culture. This category includes images that portray performing arts, adaptation and subsistence. Ballots refer to politics, bureaucracy and soft diplomacy. In America, free elections are the norm and political protest tends to be peaceful. However, politics take on a different tenor across the globe.  Perhaps the most fundamental form of hard diplomacy is the bullet, or war. Though many images depict refugees and victims of international conflicts, “Bullets” also includes the themes of ecological and self-preservation such as climate change and vaccines.  

Why photos instead of paintings, or any other medium?
I suppose that is because photography is what I know best, other than arts and crafts. But strategically, it is a representation of light and drawing. Unlike a painting however, only a small fraction of a second is captured. Accurate or not, that image that will live forever can tell an infinite number of stories. I've been to more than 45 countries, and my must-have item is always my camera (not counting the passport). Photos are my memories, my souvenirs, my history.

Have you curated an exhibit before?
Not of this nature, though I have helped with other photography exhibits in D.C.

Would you do it again?
If there was a good subject matter, absolutely.