the art of resistance

This post is going to be short and sweet. Actually, what I’m really after is your response.

I’ve been thinking about the place of art in resistance movements and social change, everything from the American Civil Rights Movement to the Jewish apocalypticists.

(Currently thatย Dewey Cox movie is on in the background, and he’s taking off Bob Dylan. It’s kind of off-putting given the present subject.)

So here’s what I’d really love your reflections on:

  1. What place does art (any kind) have in social change?
  2. What effects does/can it have? (feel free to include stories)
  3. What are your favourite expressions of resistance art?

Feel free to answer any or all of those broad questions.

If you know people who might be interested in this subject, or who could contribute to it, I would love for you to point them here. I think this could be a really interesting and rewarding conversation.


Posted on January 19, 2012, in Advocacy, Culture & Art and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’m reminded of J. G. Ballard who said “I suspect that many of the great cultural shifts that prepare the way for political change are largely aesthetic.”

    More personally, I’ve been deeply influenced by the artistic detournements of Adbusters and the music of RATM, the design work of Tibor Kalman and others. Anything that inspires, provokes and educates you is valuable; and what can do that if not art?

  2. Hey Matt, interesting you should write this, for one because a couple of days ago I wrote this: (shameless plug) and interesting because this is one of my all time favourite things to talk about ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ll mostly refer to music because its what I know most about. I think the effect it can have can be a couple of different ways. The first, and I guess most notable way, is when music is part of a significant social movement. Culture is the common experience and values of a group of people, and a large part of this is art/music (hence it also often being referred to as culture), so of course the two will influence each other.

    The way this happens is pretty mysterious, but you can see when it happens on a large scale. A good example is the civil rights movement, when both folk music and soul music played a part in building that momentum. Also in the hippy/anti-Vietnam movement music played an important role.

    Less well known, but one of my all-time favourite protest singers in Victor Jara, who was from Chile in the 60’s. Along with poets like Pablo Neruda and a growing folk music movement, they led a reclaiming of mapuche (indigenous Chilean) culture, and at the same time were at the forefront of a social movement that would end with Salvador Allende’s Marxist government being elected. Unfortunately, a few years later Victor Jara would be one of thousands murdered in the CIA backed Pinochet military coup.

    It’s harder to find more recent examples. One reason for this could be the increasing corporate influence (and resulting censorship) of media, or just that our culture is more niche-oriented and so we have less central voices influencing culture. But it still happens, there were interesting articles last year about the role of hip hop music in the Egyptian revolution.

    But music/art can also play another role, at the level of personal change. I guess this is more common at the moment, from the example I wrote about above; to people who are influenced to a certain lifestyle or politics, for example by punk music; or people who hear a song about a certain issue and decide they need to take action on that personally.

    Sorry this is a long response, but I warn you I could write much more ๐Ÿ™‚

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