Art activism is the practice of vigorous action as a means of creating political or personal goals by use of art. The type of activists practicing now varies greatly, from street artists to conceptual sculptors. Regardless of the medium, everyone has a common purpose for his or her work ”attempting to create awareness and change. ” Embracing the creative nature of humans, artists send messages using visual content; forcing viewers to not only look but also feel the passion within them.
The movement of advocacy is considered a phenomenon throughout the 21st century ”demonstrating that your voice can be heard around the world if you shout loud enough. Conditional to the period in history, the description for art activism has been constantly evolving. Art activists first gained attention in the early 20’s when World War I began. Notable painters and sculptors from around the world came together to protest against the bourgeois ideologies they believed led to war.
Referred to now as the Dadaist Movement, artists organized public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art and literary journals to protest the ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ of their conservative capitalist society. Marcel Duchamp ”a popular multi-media artist, initiated one of the more infamous stories of his time when he submitted a store bought urinal, Fountain, to a annual high-society exhibition for the Society of Independent Artists.
Because all artists were commissioned by the society, there was no jury for the work submitted, so it was considered appalling when the show committee insisted that Fountain was not art, and rejected it from the show. Duchamp had hoped for this reaction; only further confirming his objection the ideologies of society. Although Fountain was never displayed, the orthodox subjectivity of the art world in that era lives in infamy. Looking back on Dadaism, most would think the results of their efforts seem miniscule considering the continuance of war.
However, their radical demonstrations and forward thinking brought us into Modernism. I believe the true beauty of advocating through art is the ability to use creative minds to bring innovative and resonating ideas. Today we have street artists who take public spaces and turn everyday objects into thought provoking works of art. A few days ago I read an article about a graphic designer in Israel who was drained by the hate between his people and Iranians. Taking a chance, he created a notecard-size poster with the phrase “Iranians, We Love You ? and posted it on Facebook.
Within a month, it caught major attention across the world. The power of design combined with social technology turned this small idea into a massive anti-war campaign. Across the world ideas are being brought into existence, forcing people to face reality in a way that is incredibly remarkable. Hearing things about art activism peaked my curiosity and desire to get involved somehow so when I was told about a demonstration for to the political art project, One Million Bones, I jumped on the opportunity. Their mission is to raise awareness for the mass genocides currently going on in parts of Africa.
To do so, they make ceramic bones and have public installations all across the U. S. June 10th of this year their final installation and silent protest will be held at the Mall in Washington, D. C. That day the mall will be silent as thousands of people from across the country come together dressed in white, to lay down one million hand-made bones on the floor in remembrance of those lost. I had the privilege to participate in a smaller demonstration. I came to a small park dressed in white with no expectations and left with a whole new frame of mind. The act was simple.
We laid out the five thousand handmade bones that had been gathered in our area in an intricate path illustrating the four corners of the world. The complete silence was emotional. You were left with your thoughts and awareness what was occurring. I couldn’t believe how much effort was put into each ceramic bone. Each bone on it’s own had a life, and with all the other thousands of bones it took on a whole new existence That project inspired me to advocate for a cause I am personally passionate about. In October, I created the on-going exhibition I named Suicide: An Individual’s perspective.
Considering my audience and the facts of suicide I came up with an interactive exhibition not for the faint of heart. More than likely, everyone had been directly affected by suicide whether it be a loss of a friend, family member, or even a classmate. This exhibit displayed artists work that shares different perspective’s on the subject. Incorporating an aspect of viewer participation, I attempted to stimulate the viewers by asking each individual write a note to a loved one who hypothetically decided to take there lives.
I asked them to write what they would say to them in there last moments. Every note was attached to a string over the artworks. My hope was that before anyone walked through the exhibition they would already feel emotionally tied to suicide, or even the distant possibility, and because of that connection they are now more aware. During primary school, I came across a quote from the Impressionist painter Edgar Degas. In it he stated, “Art is not what you see, it’s what you make others see. ” ? Immediately I disagreed still remember that distinct feeling of confusion.
I went back and re-read it several times to make sure I had fully understood, and I had ”Degas was a moron. I couldn’t stop wondering why a stranger’s opinion of my work would be more important then my own. I came back to it recently and laughed at my ballsy remark about a renowned painted who had lived many more lifetimes than I. More than that I felt inspired ”inspired because I know that Edgar Degas was simply reminding us of the opportunity all creative individuals are given ”the ability to make people see.