Activist art has come to signify a particular emphasis on appropriated aesthetic forms whose political content does the work of both cultural analysis and cultural action. The art collaboration Ultra-red proposes a political-aesthetic project that reverses this model. If we understand organizing as the formal practices that build relationships out of which people compose an analysis and strategic actions, how might art contribute to and challenge those very processes? How might those processes already constitute aesthetic forms? In the worlds of sound art and modern electronic music, Ultra-red pursues a fragile but dynamic exchange between art and political organizing.
directory - Minorities
When at the end of 2007, the then incumbent Mwai Kibaki was announced as the victor of the presidential elections in Kenya, and was immediately sworn in again, protests broke out in various regions of the country. The anger of the people was directed towards the ethnic group of the Kikuyu of which Kibaki is a member. When the artist Solomon Muyundo aka Solo7 witnessed how in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum and one of the largest in Africa, houses and market stands were set on fire, he began writing “ODM – PEACE” with charcoal on walls, referring to the Orange Democratic Movement of Kibaki’s election rival Raila Odinga. The buildings which carried his writing were not harmed by any looting.
Parrhesia is a group founded in 2000 by Jewish and Palestinian activists, artists, designers, and photographers in Israel, which supports dialog with the Palestinian population of Israel, and advocates their equal rights. In the course of the project Through Language, which has been running since 2006, the Arabic place names in Jerusalem and Jaffa that have been effaced on road signs are replaced by graffiti. In collaboration with the initiative Zochrot [remembering], which was founded in 2002 and works to keep remembrance alive of the Palestinian Nakba [catastrophe] – the forced expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 – the group Parrhesia publishes the magazine Sedek [the rupture].
Artist Khalil Rabah was born in Jerusalem and lives in Ramallah. He studied at the University of Texas, taught architecture at Birzeit University, and art at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem from 1997 to 2000. Rabah is a cofounder of the Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem and the ArtSchool Palestine in London.
Floating Lab Collective designs participatory research projects that explore the frontiers of individual agency and collective empowerment. Experimenting with the aesthetics of direct action, FLC crafts open-ended public projects that engage specific localities and identities, using visual arts, performance, new media, and publications to question the assumptions of global economy, political power, and social mobility and inclusion. FLC’s artists develop projects collaboratively with community members.
Manifesto: The place of the artist is on the side of the weak. Weakness makes a person human, and it is by overcoming weakness that heroes are born. We do not extol weakness, but rather appeal to kindheartedness and humanity. The time has come to return compassion to art! Compassion is an understanding of the weakness of others and a joint victory over that weakness. You cannot call it sentimentality. It is Freedom standing on the barricade with bared breast, defending the child in each of us! You say that art is only for the very smart, that it’s an intellectual game? That there is no place left for true impact, that strong emotions belong exclusively to Hollywood? It’s not true! Because in that case, art would be meaningless, cold, incapable of extending a helping hand.
The 2011 England Riots were a quite radical uprising of underprivileged English youth between 6 and 10 August. In England, such riots are a not uncommon form of violent protest that goes back at least to the 1980s. The rioters are mostly boys and young men, whose socioeconomic situation and outlook is very poor. The 2011 riots began in Tottenham, a deprived area in north London with a multicultural population and a high crime rate, after 29-year-old Mark Duggan was shot by police during a regular stop-and-search under much-debated circumstances. The fact that a black male had died as a result of police intervention was handled by the authorities with a very questionable and inappropriate communication policy, which attracted much media attention.
The Colombian artist collective Colectivo Cambalache consists of Carolina Caycedo, Adriana García Galán, Alonso Gil, and Federico Guzmán, who met at the University of Bogotá in 1997. Since that time they have developed projects together to foster social interaction among the city’s inhabitants and to remove social barriers. Their activities commenced with a campaign to preserve El Cartuche, a district of Bogotá that was under threat of demolition. Ignoring the bad reputation of the neighborhood, the artists made contact with its inhabitants, and drew inspiration from their everyday lives.
Anna Halprin is considered one of the most important pioneers in the area of conceptual and interdisciplinary work in contemporary dance. Her Jewish heritage, and thus belonging to a minority, has made her especially sensitive to socially and politically precarious situations, both on a personal and a global level. She conceives dance as a collective process of creation as well as a ritual and communal force, which can serve as a means for personal, social, and political transformation.
Adrian Piper is a conceptual artist, philosopher, and author whose work has focused on (gender) identity, racism, and xenophobia. In 1970, she became “politicized” as a result of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, the growth of the women’s movement, and the student protests against the war. In her Catalysis series, Adrian Piper physically transformed herself into an odd or repulsive person and went out in public in New York to experience the frequently disdainful responses of others. For Catalysis I (1970), she soaked a set of clothing in a mixture of vinegar, eggs, milk, and cod-liver oil for a week, then wore it on the train during evening rush hour.