Throughout this module I’ve grown hugely in my understanding of the relationship between the world of contemporary art and activism. It’s really impacted how I view my own practise as well as the world around me.
Writing my articles on the existence of art activist movements within global structures has made me more mindful of how my own practice is placed ethically with a socio-political context. It became clear to me that art movements couldn’t simply abstractly protest against an injustice such as economic inequality from the comfort of their middle-class town houses – instead, the real change came when artists made it happen themselves and took on personal responsibility to make sure the situation was addressed.
Feeling very strongly about the climate change and reduction of fossil fuel use, I felt challenged to get involved creatively with Extinction Rebellion’s creative group. Writing on class and race within the XR Art Group I realise how I’m in a position of privilege in terms of ability to protest – it would be far too easy for me to separate myself from the issue which won’t affect me for some time. However, I have a collective responsibility to use whatever resources I have, including my money, time and creativity to not only put pressure on corporations and governments but also change my own lifestyle. The beauty of creative dissent is it’s about a cause – not the ego.
Another area I was challenged in is how I view art institutions and their relationship with artistic dissent movements such as Tate Liberate. I used to see the Tate as a shrine of liberal progress, yet, in the past, as revealed in my articles, they have failed to practice what they preach – especially with regards to climate change. However, as Tate Liberate proved, creativity really can help stimulate change of heart even in the most corporate of institutions.
Although my own artistic practice has always been fairly focussed around social reform, I was inspired by XR and Occupy to make my work more widely available over the internet. I am also making sure that all of my materials are sources sustainably as my research has highlighted just how important having a green practice is to me. I have come to believe socially informed art should be displayed mindfully: this means either in an ethical institution that supports the cause or in an environment where it can be accessed widely and seen by the right people at the right time. For example, there’s no use putting XR flags in the V&A when you don’t use it for protest – it won’t reach the eyes of authority or express any sense of urgency behind glass. However, as with Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition ‘The Future Is Near’, there is a place for acts of creative dissent in gallery spaces but only when it’s done right with awareness and open discussion.
As I go into my final year, I want don’t just want to illustrate a need for change, I want to use my work to be change. Part of this will definitely involve collaboration because if I’ve learnt anything about art activism through this module it’s the more the merrier!
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