Examining a call for response…
I have realised that I make with a specific ‘audience’ in mind, within the instrumentalist idea (or some inherited sense of work ethic) that art should have a practical purpose, be for something and someone. I am interested in this as a vehicle for engagement and change. I also want to consider the praxis… how the practical is underpinned by the theory and production.
As a way to support my own emergent practice I want to gain a better understanding of how to engage and initiate the call, start conversations and subsequently engender the possibility of a meaningful response. I have always been interested in the ideas of encouraging ‘disobedience’ and this is part of a bigger project that I am developing as part of my MA. As I progress this I want to understand more about how engagement is made through an individual’s creative being and practice to promote a better sense of shared citizenship and a ‘common good’ within a neoliberal world.
I am defining disobedience in this context not only as a way to challenge rather than maintain the status quo (an example of which could be the refusal to give up a seat on a bus) but as a conscious decision in taking the time to be, think, make, talk and exchange ideas with a kind ‘artfulness’ (in both senses of the word).
I wonder whether, in the current time of noise and visual saturation, the quieter, more considered, creative conversations are more effective and ultimately more sustainable (and less exhausting) than the rant and has more value than a click. Looking to go beyond mass protest and a strictly ‘anti’ agenda that relies on binary thinking of a ‘us and them’, or the ‘powerful and the powerless’, I want to focus on the elements that have an emphasis on (quiet) subversion and creative making as a means of activism, protest and resistance (real or imagined). I believe, by its very nature, it cannot stand alone, it relies on engagement with and within the grey areas that form society, communities and audiences. I want to explore the processes and platforms used as ways to start conversations and build the connections… the stage, the public space, the event, the happening, the participatory workshop and the anonymous (?) intervention.
It could be argued that as the more acknowledged models of protest and resistance have become ‘established’ and there is a risk to them becoming formulaic and almost cliché. This, in turn, allows them to become easier to ignore… the derogation and subsequent dismissal of ‘student style politics’. As the appropriation/subversion of ‘the Spectacle’ and its graphic language as tools for protest becomes more sophisticated and prevalent is there is a danger of it being consumed, but not considered, by the very models and audiences it seeks to challenge? Is there a way that mimicry maintains rather than challenges or subverts the status quo?
There is a rise in more passive models such as ‘slacktivism’ and ‘clicktivism’ which again can feed an innate ‘want to do the right thing’ in the responder but can lack the integrity of real thought and does not necessarily deliver a call to action. This new model of petitioning can also risk dismissal under a ‘quantity not quality’ agenda. Placed alongside ideas of virtue signalling it is a way to be ’seen’ to be engaged with important issues and concerns but without actually having to do anything much. Should we be seeking models that embrace elements of these where useful but are re-imagined and smarter, indeed more artful, for our times?