Some thoughts on Art as Activism / 3 March 2013
Sometime soon I’m going to embark on a project as light as air, if only for myself, for the sake of my own grey hairs and deepening frown. It will be a project to make me laugh (and maybe other people too), something not even the tiniest bit hardcore.
“No more Nazis," I tell myself.
It’s just there are still so many Nazis and art is a great way to greet them head on.
There are activists who think that art is a diversion from the single-mindedness of a campaign. But activism succeeds or fails on its ability to communicate, which is what art does best. Some of the best direct action, whether or not its participants call themselves artists, has been pure theatre (the bus blockades created images that communicated the issues in an instant), and music (such as Johnny Crescendo’s Choices and Rights) has provided anthems that have united a movement.
Art can encapsulate ideas, asking questions and presenting viewpoints not seen elsewhere. It can give glimpses into other people’s lives and broaden our view of the world. Artists are good at raising difficult questions, and exploring creative alternatives.
Art can make an emotional connection to audiences and go on working long after the piece is officially over. We can only make change for the things we know about; for me, the most exciting art brings to light lives on the margins and compels the onlooker to become a part of creating change.
Someone asked me recently how I would want them to approach my work. Mostly I hope people don’t get caught up in what they’re ‘supposed’ to think or say or understand! Relatively direct in its meaning, my work is also there for the audience to take from it whatever is useful to them and this will be different for different people. It might be a keyhole to another life, their own experience made visible, or a way for them to make links to parts of their lives they’d never connected before.
I hope it raises questions for audiences, gets them talking, making connections with each other, maybe shifting how they behave or motivating them to take a stand. In the end, I put the work out there, hoping that it will give something of value to other people and that, in their own lives and campaigns, they will use it.
Keywords: access,access issues,activism,art,disability art