30 Apr ’14
Protest Art in the Contemporary World
Violence. Protest. Awareness. Social movements geared towards change. People gunned down in the streets, beaten for speaking out. All throughout history, there have been many examples of violent and non-violent protests. From Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil rights protests, to the Tottenham Protests of England, the fight for change has been a turbulent but nonetheless progressive step towards protesting. Speaking out and relaying the message can come in all forms, but none more various and popular than protest art. When wanting political, economic, or social change there is more than one way to creatively display your point of view.
Though there is no direct link to track protest art through history, what could have started in the early 1900s has gradually increased into the phenomena seen today. There are many different forms protest art can shift and morph into, like signs and banners, performances, illustrations, graffiti, and other cross boundary mediums to name a few. This type of awareness is not limited to one region, one state, or country. It has the potential to be seen and addressed throughout the world, in a way that could attract more followers and activists than in a march or occupation. It has become popular with the masses, as a person does not need to be a professional artist to take part in protest art. Any person with a voice to be heard can contribute and speak out for their cause.
There are many different examples in contemporary society of protest art. In Great Britain, youth are encouraged to advocate for their beliefs in a way they find expressive and creative. This protest may be shown in different forms, but all have the mixture of visual fun and politics. “I want to say to the government that a future that works will be a future where one can be innovative, inventive, creative, and imaginative,” said one U.K protester. Others will share their concerns on health, gay rights banks, workers’ rights, women’s rights, free speech, and democracy. In another country not too far away, Romanians have protest art of their own. In Bucharest, many different paintings and sculptures are breaching the surface, all displaying criticism towards communism. “A new exhibit of some 650 paintings opened this week at the National Library seeks to show how some artists subverted to regime, creating works that criticized communism or painting in styles like cubism that were out of favor.” Some work would never have been shown in public, in a time when censorship was rife, but still was used as a propaganda medium. It’s late justice. It shows there was resistance to the regime, not a violent resistance, but not everything was social realism.
Overall, protest art is a very appealing way for the average person’s voice to be heard. There is no need for formal art education, just a voice and confidence transformed into any of the various art forms. Protests started as a form of violence, an act aimed to hurt and make example of. Now there are many various mediums in which to be innovative and expressive to attain non-violent protest.
Mutler, Alison. “Exhibit Shows Romanian Artists Resisted Regime.” Huffington Post Sept. 2012, U.S
ed.: n. pag. Print.
Smith, Bob, and Roberta Smith. “U.K. Portest Art is Hip Again.” theguardian Oct. 2012: n. pag.
As an artist, I’m genuinely interested in the social application and use of art in our world. Especially when it is “art of the peoples” like this. I think street art and graffito are some of the most important works we have right now as I feel like nothing expresses what people in our day and age are feeling better than that. It’s actually a topic I suggest that more of you guys should follow up on if you have the time!
I love the idea of protest art because it allows for the message to be seen and heard in a way that doesn’t harm anyone and probably allows for further expansion of the idea. Protests in the form of art could actually reach a larger audience because more people are willing to go see art, rather than walk towards protests where people could potentially get hurt. Art also has a way of speaking to people from all types of backgrounds, allowing for a much larger audience to be affected by the idea behind the art.
What I love about protest art is the ability for it to transcend what written language or speech can do. Any artist is given the ability to pull someone out of their ordinary way of thinking and into something they may have never experienced before. Along with the fact this art is done without permission adds to effectiveness of it. Any bystander can immediately be forced to think about something that someone else feels passionate enough about that it deserves the given attention. From there, new paradigms and thoughts can be made around the topics being protested about.
I think that protest art holds some of the richest moral messages of all. It allows people to effectively convey their message where words fall short. I also think it can have more appeal and induce more feeling than say a speech. Here is a link to the facebook page of a magazine called Protest Art….https://www.facebook.com/protestart.org. It has an interesting live feed featuring protest art of all kinds.