The contents of this article are for information and educational purposes only. Patriot Propaganda does not officially recommend using any of the tactics, techniques or procedures presented.
All true art is a form of activism, and the best, most enduring activism rises to the level of art. DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF
About a decade ago, a group of idealistic artists journeyed to the countryside of their country in the western Balkans with the noble goal of bringing art to the people. However, when they got to one of the towns, the people weren’t interested in talking about art. They were too concerned about all the potholes.
Oh, and these weren’t just any potholes. These were seriously huge, gaping potholes in the main streets of their town that were deep enough to break a car axle and form a small lake when it rained. It was quite ridiculous.
In fact, the potholes hadn’t been fixed by municipal authorities for years and were symbols of the incompetence and corruption of the current regime. Sure, meetings had been held, politicians confronted, and petitions signed and delivered, but the potholes remained nevertheless. So, rather than bring art to the people, the group decided to bring artistry to the people’s problems.
The artists borrowed some fishing poles, gathered up some buckets, set up stools around a rain-filled pothole, and cast their lines into the “lake.”
Locals came out of their homes and gathered around the peculiar, urban anglers. Curious, they looked into the buckets where they saw several fish (purchased earlier by the artists at a local market).
The people began to laugh, and off they went to tell their neighbours. More people arrived, very much enjoying the absurdity of the spectacle while discussing the pesky pothole problem that still hadn’t been fixed.
The sneaky artists shot their own video and uploaded it to YouTube. The story made it into the national media that night, and the pothole problem was fixed by municipal authorities within a couple of days.
This is art activism.
EXERCISE: MAKE YOUR MARK
Time: 1 Minute
What you will need:
- Piece of paper
- A pen or pencil you love
1. Scribble an A and a B on the paper, and with your favourite pen or pencil, connect a line from point A to B.
2. You’re done.
You’ve made a mark. You’re now an activist, eh.
This exercise appears simple, but there is much more below the surface. Making a mark is important because the first step of committing to any endeavor, including becoming an art activist, is the hardest. In taking this first step, however small, you’ve made the move from thinking about doing something to actually doing it. You’ve begun the journey from just reading this article, to putting it into action, and to then using the lessons learned here to make a better world. In activist circles what you just did is called “stepping off the curb.” It’s the step that moves us from being passive spectators into active participants. It’s the step from the sidewalk into the street to join a demonstration, or from the couch into the studio to create and communicate what’s inside our heads. It’s a step we need to convince other people to take with us to overcome their habitual reservations about taking a risk and making a stand. It’s also an action we need to rehearse ourselves.
Stepping off the curb, and moving from interest and intent to commitment, can be very scary. Stepping off the curb of noble interests and good intentions into the street of demonstrable action is risky and will make you feel uncomfortable. That’s good. Get comfortable with the fear. As time goes on you will welcome that discomfort like a familiar friend. We’ve all been trained to read and absorb knowledge, yet not to make a mark. Now that you’ve made a mark here, it’s time to practice some skills so that you can make your mark beyond these pages.
ART IS NOT JUST FOR “MAGICAL LIBERAL PEOPLE”
Art activism is a hybrid practice that fuses the creative force of art to the concrete results of activism. Common definitions of “art” and “activism” are often restrictive. Instead of perpetuating an idea of artists as separate, magical beings, art activism allows us to cultivate the creativity we all already possess. Even those of us who don’t identify as “artists” have a familiarity and comfort with creativity, arts, and culture that we often don’t have with politics. We make playlists of our favourite music, sing songs at church, upload videos we’ve made to YouTube, assemble scrapbooks with our friends, invent new cuisines from our leftovers, and watch TV dramas or read novels before we go to bed. “I’m not political,” is a phrase one hears often; but it’s a rare person who doesn’t identify with some form of creativity. We are all creative.
Most people would not define themselves as activists either. Yet, in a sense, we all do forms of activism every day: organizing a group of people to go to a movie or picking a restaurant; negotiating with parents for extra screen time, or your boss for a raise; talking a friend out of a bad relationship. All being an activist really means is having an idea of what needs to be changed and doing something about it. Yet, capital A Activism can still feel foreign to people, and a bit daunting; it seems to take too much commitment, too much risk, and too much time.
Mixing arts and activism is crucial. Because we all have a creative life, using arts and culture in activist work lowers barriers to entry. Culture, as something familiar, can work as an access point through which organizers can approach and engage people who might be alienated from institutional political systems like voting, lobbying, campaigning, and legislation.
To create a new world, we need to imagine what the world looks like. To conjure up this vision takes creativity and time to wonder. Visions of success are what get us up and out in the morning and what attracts others to do the hard and necessary work with us, pointing to a place on the horizon to move toward. Art gives us the vision; activism helps us make the road.
As we witness the dramatic triumph of radical, left-wing types around the world, and the eclipse of truth by cancel culture and the establishment-owned media, it’s increasingly clear that the simple presentation of facts falls upon deaf ears. If facts are to be heard and heeded, they need to be made into engaging stories and compelling images that capture people’s attention and resonate with the ways they make sense of their world.
And this is where the left-wingers have been outclassing patriots, for the most part (until now). If there’s one thing liberals do well, it’s art activism and killer propaganda, which is why we’re studying their field manuals and presenting you with the essentials. Our hope is that these resources will empower you with knowledge and inspiration to prepare your own art activism campaigns. The trick is to do what they do … but do it better.
The world today is drowning in cultural sewage, economic inequality, medical discrimination, child abuse, and hatred. If we’re going to climb out of the depths of this emerging, post-human hell and survive as a species, we need to change the world, creatively.
Art and activism, together, have the power to change the world. All of us are artists and activists, whether or not we realize it. The resources we provide are made for people who want to change the world and are designed to help you awaken and organize your creativity to do just that.
This article was adapted from Duncombe, Stephen, and Steve Lambert. The Art of Activism: Your All-Purpose Guide to Making the Impossible Possible. OR Books, 2021.
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