Why Activists Need Art To Create Social Change

“The Art of Activism: Your All-Purpose Guide to Making the Impossible Possible” by Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert compiles knowledge the authors have gleaned from training hundreds of activists and artists around the world over the last 12 years. Their main message? Because today’s political terrain is one of signs, symbols, stories and spectacles, activists must learn to operate in that cultural space if they hope to change the world.

Although a free companion workbook is available for those looking to sharpen their practical skills, “The Art of Activism” is more than a nuts and bolts “how-to” guide. Duncombe and Lambert also deliver thought-provoking discussions on the theoretical underpinnings of artistic activism, drawing on fields as diverse as marketing, cognitive science and pop culture.

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Preserving A People’s History Through Quilts

More than 600,000 people in the United States have died of coronavirus since the pandemic began, a number that is incomprehensible. Few people understand the magnitude of this loss more than 14-year-old Madeleine Fugate. Since April 2020, the eighth grader from California has spent her weekends constructing the Covid Memorial Quilt, a tribute to the casualties of the virus.

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Nonprofit Arts, Culture Organizations Have Lost $17.3 Billion In Pandemic

IWhile hundreds of people in the US and 10,000 globally continue to die each day, American media outlets lose no opportunity to assure their viewers and readers that the pandemic is “over.”

In fact, the suffering of the population continues, long- and short-term physical and economic suffering. For example, Feeding America reports that more than 50 million people in the US experienced food insecurity in 2020, up from 35 million in 2019, while more than 42 million face the same condition this year. A new study also indicates that one-third of Americans planning to retire now say the pandemic has delayed their retirement.

Artists are faring badly, along with other vulnerable and unprotected portions of the population.

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Art Against Drones

At the High Line, a popular tourist attraction in New York City, visitors to the West side of Lower Manhattan ascend above street level to what was once an elevated freight train line and is now a tranquil and architecturally intriguing promenade. Here walkers enjoy a park-like openness; with fellow strollers they experience urban beauty, art and the wonder of comradeship.

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When Will Minneapolis Start Listening To The Whole Community?

Minneapolis didn’t get here alone. The actions and decisions of many people created the challenges facing the city. Solving them will require the work of many people, too.

But before anything changes, people need to start listening to each other.

Imagine if Derek Chauvin had listened to George Floyd and let him breathe. A 46-year-old man and father of five would not have died. Minneapolis would not have burned. The city would not have had over $1 billion in damage. And communities would not have had to deal with the fallout of the most expensive civil disorder in U.S. history.

After Floyd died in police custody on Memorial Day at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, the site of his death turned into a memorial to honor Floyd’s life.

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Scheer Intelligence: The Political Cartoon Is Dead

Political cartoons have helped us make sense of the world in which we live since they first appeared in the 18th century–though some, like the iconic cartoonist Mr. Fish, argue the art predates even newspapers. Although it’s an art form that is in many ways dying out, there are a precious few political cartoonists out there that still understand the importance of speaking truth to power through insightful humor and visual commentary.

On this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” the inimitable Dwayne Booth (AKA Mr. Fish) joins host Robert Scheer to talk about his life, his passion, his art, and…

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On Contact: Art – Transformative, Transcendent, Revolutionary

On the show this week, Chris Hedges talks to artist and cartoonist Dwayne Booth, aka Mr. Fish, about the cultural requirement for revolution.

Mr. Fish’s new book is ‘Nobody Left – Conversations with Famous Radicals, Progressives and Cultural Icons About the End of Dissent, Revolution and Liberalism in America’. Among those featured are: Joan Baez, Wavy Gravy, Lewis Lapham, Paul Krassner, Tariq Ali, Robert Scheer, Dennis Kucinich, Norman Mailer, Howard Zinn, Abbie Hoffman, Jon Stewart, and Lenny Bruce.

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Architects Build Society’s Cage On National Mall In Bold Statement On Racial Strife

A group of five designers at the internationally known SmithGroup Architecture firm set up a metallic cubic structure on the National Mall to frame the struggle of Black Lives in America. The public display titled “Society’s Cage” is a 14 foot cube pavilion timed for the 57th anniversary of the March On Washington and is made from the hidden components of sky scrapers. It depicts an architect’s visualization of ongoing racial inequality in the United States and asks the question, “What is the value of Black life in America?”

The cube is constructed from 484 vertical rusted conduit pipes attached to a large metal plate, supported by four large metal supports on a pavilion, resembling a cage. One in four bars are connected to the floor, representing the rate Blacks will be incarcerated. A four-part, 8 minute, 46 second music composition, the same time length of time of George Floyd’s tragic murder, sets the mood.

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Street Artists Rise To The Occasion

The massive protests in Los Angeles in response to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others organized through the Black Lives Matter movement generated an outpouring of engaging and provocative visual artworks. Open-air installations, murals, posters, “street art” works, and similar efforts abound, many in my Venice/Mar Vista neighborhood where I regularly jog.

I participated in many of those protests and saw some of these efforts personally. Cumulatively, these, and similar works throughout the United States and the world, have added to the burgeoning tradition of political art—a movement that has inspired social activists for centuries.

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How Artists Are Exploring Radical Economies

There are many proposals for radical economies from progressive economists, activists and think tanks. Artists are increasingly joining these debates with speculative proposals and unconventional methodologies. I will explore three art projects here that approach the economies of caring labor, agricultural and social production on farms, and forests, with an artistic spin. Driven by artistic curiosity but not shying away from addressing systemic issues, these projects help us open the scope of our discussions by engaging with diverse social actors. The ReUnion network is a design prototype for a socio-economic ecosystem that helps people organize bottom-up social support through long-term P2P (peer to peer) care agreements.

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How New Creative Actions Are Fueling Chile’s Uprising

In response to repression by Chilean police, decentralized performances — sparked by small artist collectives — are replacing traditional barricades. On the surface, things have calmed down in Chile, after the initial weeks of massive demonstrations that began on Oct. 18, and brought the military back into the streets almost three decades after the fall of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. But the country is far from calm. While new repressive tactics are being used to keep stubborn protesters away from the now legendary Dignity Square, the Chilean people.

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No Music For ICE! Musicians: Pull your Music From Amazon This Holiday Season

In an escalation of our NoMusicForICE campaign, we just issued takedown notices to pull our music from Amazon’s digital platform, and you can too. We’re calling on musicians & labels who oppose ICE’s human rights abuses to join us during the holiday season. Read on for why, and how, you can join us in a collective digital takedown, in solidarity with groups fighting Amazon’s support of ICE nationwide. Mass takedowns will begin on Black Friday and continue throughout Amazon’s all-important holiday shopping season.

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Concert For Assange Outside UK Home Office Demands “No Extradition!”

Hundreds gathered outside the UK Home Office in central London last night for a concert in support of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder and multi-award-winning journalist Julian Assange. Rap artist M.I.A. performed and was joined by Assange’s father John Shipton and fashion icon Vivienne Westwood. The event was organised by Don’t Extradite Assange, a newly formed campaign group that works closely with Assange’s legal team. Longstanding supporters of Assange were joined by fans of M.I.A. and fellow rap-artist Lowkey.

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Michael Brown’s Death Continues To Be A Catalyst For Change

Michael Brown Sr. lies stock-still on his back on the floor of an art studio in St. Louis as an artist layers papier-mache on his arms, chest, and torso.

Brown Sr. is a stand-in, the model for a life-size replica that St. Louis artist Dail Chambers is creating to represent Michael Brown Jr. — his deceased son.

In the days and weeks that followed, other artists added their own interpretations to the cast, and community leaders, family, friends, and activists affixed messages of remembrance, of hope, as well as photos and tributes to Brown Jr.

“Although everybody else has left since your death, we are still here fighting,” one 16-year-old girl wrote.

The final exhibit, called “As I See You,” will be part of a memorial Aug. 9–11 for Brown Jr., five years after a police officer took the 18-year-old’s life in Ferguson, Missouri.

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The Artist As Prophet

Where is America headed? As the question is endlessly argued, especially during the presidential campaign, potential answers tend to inhabit political realms. However, Chris Hedges, suggests that we also look elsewhere in seeking answers: to our artists. The artist, if true to his or her vocation, recovers the past and explains the present. The artist is the true chronicler of who we were and where we came from. Culture, in times of distress, is not a luxury but a life raft.

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