Here in 2019, while living in ‘American End Times,’ during the horrific and criminal Trump administration, I’ve seen many calls for ‘Activist Art’ to protest the inevitable Republican achievement of the destruction of the United States of America and end of Democracy as we knew it.
Yeah, right. Like art is going to change anything.
Remember the Women’s March, AKA the ‘Pussy Hat’ protest of 2016? How’d that work out? Did you see any changes? Nope. Like ‘Artist-Activists’ they achieved nothing except feeling good about themselves and seeming like they’re ‘doing something.’ Sure, it showed a lot of unhappy people but little else.
If you’re an artist who thinks you can create artworks that will affect social change you’re wrong. Sure, you’ll feel like you’ve contributed to the resistance but politicians don’t give a damn about your symbolic gestures. Yes, there is some ‘protest art’ that has withstood the test of time and is recognized as indicative of the time in which it was created but that art didn’t cause any real changes and had no bearing or influence on anything significant at the time.
‘Activist Art’ may impress your dim professor at Art School, or perhaps it’ll sway some Grant-giving committee because nobody receives free money merely to make pretty pictures but society-at-large doesn’t care. It doesn’t even register with ‘art consumers.’ Your activist art may be absolutely fucking brilliant but it’s little more than a fart in a hurricane when it comes to any social influence.
Art is metaphor, art is symbol, a lot of art isn’t obvious and requires some mental work from the viewer to interpret. Do you really think that a dumbass Trump-supporter is going to comprehend the subtleties of your oh-so profound artistic protest? No! Hell no, no way! The very people the ‘activist artist’ needs to influence are the stupidest among us. Not only will they not get it, they’ll work hard not to. These are the willfully ignorant, watchers of Fox News, flat-Earthers, climate-change deniers, the ‘poorly educated,’ and are generally fucking morons. This isn’t hyperbole. I’ll give you a profound, and deadly example:
Remember the World Trade Center bombing of 1993? Probably not because it wasn’t a big enough terrorist act to get attention. Nah, a little smoke coming out of the underground parking garage didn’t register in our collective consciousness. But what about September 11, 2001? You know, 9/11? Everybody remembers that act of terrorism don’t they? And why? Because four airplanes were hijacked simultaneously and two of them were flown straight into the World Trade Center Towers. Yeah! Fully loaded, fully fueled passenger planes crashing directly into the two tallest buildings in the country finally got America’s collective attention! The World Trade Center terrorists of 1993 were just as pissed-off as the 19 skyjackers of 9/11 but it took a huge, audacious act creating a scene reminiscent of a Godzilla movie to get Americans’ heads out of their lazy, consumerist asses long enough to get their attention. Yup, that was America’s wake-up call. Nothing subtle about it.
So if it takes big airplanes flown into office buildings to make Americans understand the need for social change do you actually think your art is going to make a damn bit of difference?
You might be applying some artificial significance to your work by positioning it as ‘activism’ but you’re not going to change society.
ART IS NOT A SIGNIFICANT FORCE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE.
Do you really want to affect society? Do you really want to ‘make a difference?’ Here’s how:
Get yourself elected to political office.
Fight in the revolution.
Making ‘art for social change’ isn’t going to cut it. Symbolic gestures do little. At the absolute bare minimum, go vote because nobody’s going to change their political views based on your artwork.