Category: How To Win

How To Win is a CAA Research Project. We know using art and culture to transform the world is a good idea. But we are haunted by this question: How do we gauge the success of our projects? These posts explore this and related questions. Read more on How To Win.

#ThinkBikes campaign

The AA Charitable Trust, part of the U.K.’s Automobile Association made this video as part of their #ThinkBikes campaign not exactly a new concept but this PSA definitely stays with you …

 

 

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Raise the River Campaign

A PSA that uses culture and humor: Raise the River vs. Move the Ocean …

 

 

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Follow the Frog by Rainforest Action Network

A great example of using humor and social marketing techniques to make a very effective piece.

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SARAH SILVERMAN IS VISITED BY JESUS CHRIST

Great example of using humor to talk about difficult topics. Bravo.

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REFLECTO-CUBE!

The ukranians are using mirrors and in Europe, they have the Reflecto-Cube!

It’s mentioned in an article “12 Inspired Actions to Outsmart Repressive Situations and Laws” written by CAA pal, Leónidas Martín with Amador Fernández-Savater.

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Ukranian protesters use mirrors

EcoLocalizer | News & commentary on sustainability, activism, urban planning, politics, and our world..

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Inside The Box: People don’t actually like creativity

Great article on Slate:

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

Read the rest on the Slate site.

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Reflection from Pakistani Participant

Recently we hosted a group of Pakistani Visual Artists for a short workshop in Creative Activism (Read more about that workshop here).

One of the participants, Sehr Jalil Raja,  shared a recent post about her experiences on the trip to New York and DC. To hear all about her discoveries and adventures, follow this link to her page. 

 

Photo by Sehr Raja

Photo by Sehr Jalil Raja

 

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Activist Art: Does it Work? — OPEN! Cahier

The first rule of guerilla warfare is to know the terrain and use it to your advantage. The topography on which the activist fights may no longer be the mountains of the Sierra Maestra or the jungles of Vietnam, but the lesson still applies. Today, the political landscape is one of signs and symbols, story and spectacle. Responding to this new terrain, there has been an upsurge in the use of creative, artistic, and cultural strategies as a tool for social change. This practice goes by many names: political art, activist art, interventionist art, socially engaged art, and social practice art. No matter the description, artists are using their aesthetic training and skill to wage battles for social change. Yet as practitioners and trainers in these forms of artistic activism, we are haunted by the question: Does it work?

So we started asking artists whose work we respect this very question:

SD&SL: As a political artist, how do you know when what you’ve done works?

Hans Haacke: I’ve been asked that question many times, and that question requires one to go around it before one really avoids it.

The above is just one example, and Haacke’s response is meant to be humorous, but in asking scores of talented and sophisticated activist artists this seemingly simple question, and in surveying hundreds of examples of activist art, we were struck by the inadequacy of the conceptualisation of the relationship between arts and demonstrable social change. Unfortunately, much of what passes for activist art seems to be aimed at four hazy targets:

The Whole World is Watching. The artist determines the success of a particular practice by the amount of media coverage it generates. If the work is covered by the mainstream news media, or the art press, or is noticed by the activist and arts communities at all, then the artist can count this as a success. This is not merely self-aggrandisement: the function of the media coverage is often thought of as a means to “raising awareness” and bringing the political or social issue to the attention of a wider audience.

The first rule of guerilla warfare is to know the terrain and use it to your advantage. The topography on which the activist fights may no longer be the mountains of the Sierra Maestra or the jungles of Vietnam, but the lesson still applies. Today, the political landscape is one of signs and symbols, story and spectacle. Responding to this new terrain, there has been an upsurge in the use of creative, artistic, and cultural strategies as a tool for social change. This practice goes by many names: political art, activist art, interventionist art, socially engaged art, and social practice art. No matter the description, artists are using their aesthetic training and skill to wage battles for social change. Yet as practitioners and trainers in these forms of artistic activism, we are haunted by the question: Does it work?

So we started asking artists whose work we respect this very question:

SD&SL: As a political artist, how do you know when what you’ve done works?

Hans Haacke: I’ve been asked that question many times, and that question requires one to go around it before one really avoids it.

The above is just one example, and Haacke’s response is meant to be humorous, but in asking scores of talented and sophisticated activist artists this seemingly simple question, and in surveying hundreds of examples of activist art, we were struck by the inadequacy of the conceptualisation of the relationship between arts and demonstrable social change. Unfortunately, much of what passes for activist art seems to be aimed at four hazy targets:

The Whole World is Watching. The artist determines the success of a particular practice by the amount of media coverage it generates. If the work is covered by the mainstream news media, or the art press, or is noticed by the activist and arts communities at all, then the artist can count this as a success. This is not merely self-aggrandisement: the function of the media coverage is often thought of as a means to “raising awareness” and bringing the political or social issue to the attention of a wider audience.

What these artistic activist aims have in common is a faith that awareness can change the world without any specific follow-through. This is magical thinking. Ironically, this sort of magical thinking is deeply rooted in the rationalist Enlightenment tradition, which holds that knowing, expressing and conversing upon the Truth leads to social transformation. Knowledge = Power. There may have been a certain validity to this point of view once upon a time. When Church and State had a monopoly on Truth to entertain opposing points of view was an implicit strike against the powers-that-be, but in the age of the Internet – of information surplus rather than scarcity – this faith in the power of mere awareness strikes us as dangerously naïve.

These aims also share a fear. For an artist, declaring they will solve a social problem makes one vulnerable; it’s difficult, art school doesn’t teach it, and it is obvious to others when you fail. But awareness is safe and comes easily for anyone trained in the arts. In art school, we are taught to use shortcuts like, “make it big, red, and shiny”. Applying this lesson to activist art, we take some controversial imagery, mix it with a hot-button issue, and make it very public. Awareness can also just be a euphemism for attention, and everyone – especially perpetually under-appreciated artists – loves a little attention. But as people who believe that art and artists not only can bring about social change and, given the cultural terrain of today, are necessary to bringing about social change, we are deeply dissatisfied with these ambitions. We support all those artists who are working to bring positive and progressive change to the world; we just insist that they aim higher and shoot further. What is at stake is the efficacy of this practice.

Awareness is important, but it is also not enough. Awareness, and its attendant components: expression, revelation, distribution and dialogue are, to borrow a phrase from the social sciences, “necessary but not sufficient conditions”. Action without awareness results in an unthinking activism with stupid, and sometimes horrific, consequences. But awareness without action is just as bad. It results in the appearance of political engagement without any of its results. It can make an action into a release valve instead of a turning point. It is an activism of bad faith.

If, as artistic activists, we are to take ourselves and our work seriously, we need to trace out the explicit connections between our practice and the change we want to see in the world. This might mean measuring the effects of our work in changing public opinion, working within larger campaigns with clear material goals, or creating art practices that constitute new communities committed to collective action. We wish we had an easy answer but we don’t. In fact, we resist the easy answers because we don’t think a simple response would do justice to the power of art (an aspect of which must always be beyond explanation) and the myriad ways in which social change happens. Nevertheless, understanding the complexities of the process does not absolve us of the responsibility of envisioning and articulating clear outcomes, goals, even dreams for what we want to have happen and the means by which this will occur. We look forward to the day when we can ask the question: Does it work? And receive the answer: Yes, and here’s how…

http://www.onlineopen.org/columns/activist-art-does-it-work

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School for Creative Activism, a project of the Center for Artistic Activism — Social Text

Overview

The first rule of guerrilla warfare is to know the terrain and use it to your advantage. No longer does this require navigating the mountains of Cuba with a rifle on one’s back, as today’s political topography is one of symbols and signs, images and expressions. From small community organizations to international NGOs, the School for Creative Activism works with activists looking to broaden their base of appeal and the effectiveness of their work through employing creative processes and using cultural resources. Our training helps these organizations meld tried and true organizing techniques with the avant-garde practice of creative activism.. 

The SCA is not just about “better messaging” or adding slick graphic design. Our goal is more effective organizing. Our curriculum updates the activist tool-kit through the reimagination and reconfiguration of tactics, strategy, objectives and goals in such a way that creativity and culture factors into every plan and every action.

In a weekend long workshop, we offer a broad-based education focused on the organizers and the cultural landscape upon which they operate. We teach a framework of overarching principles, perspectives, and skills of creative activism that they can apply to develop their own campaigns. Invention is required: we don’t just provide a set of cool tactics, we teach a proven methodology for developing creative campaigns. Steve Lambert is a practicing political artist and Stephen Duncombe is a recognized cultural theorist, and we have experience in professional teaching, grassroots organizing, and the arts. Our influences are a mix of all these experiences and the research around them.

Teaching

In our model training, the instructional timeline is compressed – we teach our curriculum in two and a half days. We’re not opposed to learning from “tradition” and using what we know from standard university teaching. A great deal of our trainings takes place through collaborative, “hands-on” workshops, where we work together in imagining goals, planning stategies and devising tactics. But we also believe that in order to work together effectively we need to have a common knowledge base, and in order to convey this information efficiently we use a more traditional lecture and slide format. Since we’re often working with professional organizers it helps to be able to meet them on some safe, familiar ground. However, we also push the boundaries as far as we can over the course. For example, after a long day of instruction on the history and theory of creative activism, we get out of the safety zone of activist culture, taking immigrant rights workers on field trips to a comedy night, having Occupy Faith organizers compete against each other in a game of Monopoly, or spending a night at a sports bar with anti-segregation activists. The lesson they learn here is that activists have to leave the domain they are comfortable with if they ever hope to communicate their message to, and work effectively with, a wider audience.

Our participants are generally experienced activists who are looking for new ways to approach their work. We try to create new groups of collaborators at the same time, so the activists may not all be from the same organization. To create a more creative dynamic, we often include a few local artists among the activists as well. To date the SCA has run training sessions working with local artists and Open Society Foundations organizing partners in New York, North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, and Massachusetts, as well as East Africa and The Netherlands. In the coming year sessions are planned for the United States, Scotland, and Russia.
 You asked a few specific questions we want to respond to:

Questions of funding are important. For both of us, this is the most uncompromised work we do and having autonomy, in that regard, from our funders means there needs to be some barriers between money and our curricular decisions. For this reason, we decided when we founded the school to never do this work for businesses. Charging tuition can bring income and a level of “investment” from students, but this can also exclude the very organizers that we want to work with the most. So far, we have been able to win grants from Open Society Foundations and others so that all participants’ expenses (food, lodging) are covered and they are paid a small stipend for committing to the training. Paying the participants honors their time and commitment to the course. This is a core principle for us. Accreditation is not important to us. We teach the same topics in the SCA that we do in our respective universities because we feel this perspective is critical to understanding culture and citizenship. However, in the SCA we’re able to teach these ideas exactly the way we want – over the course of the weekend, with active practitioners, and without committee meetings or getting signatures from administrators. We work with the people we believe will benefit most – not college students, but experienced activists. And activists don’t really care about accreditation either (though we do have a ritualistic graduation ceremony where we play music, drink champagne and award a diploma).

Stephen Duncombe teaches at NYU and Steve Lambert at SUNY Purchase. Having one foot in these institutions while running an independent school gives us some latitude for our independent pedagogical endeavors, but also improves our teaching within these schools. Ultimately, we don’t want to feel that we need to go elsewhere to teach what we think is most important, and we’d like to bring the SCA into our university classrooms. This, however, raises the question of the purpose of the classroom versus that of the SCA. We don’t have any set goal in our college classrooms other than creating more inquisitive, creative and learned students. We strive to foster the same qualities in the participants in the SCA too, but there’s an important difference. We believe art and knowledge is always instrumentalized – it is unavoidable – it’s just a question of how and for whom. The SCA was created for the express purpose of helping activists to be more effective in challenging power and changing the world. The goal of the School for Creative Activism is, in a word, revolution.

- See more at: http://socialtextjournal.org/periscope_article/school-for-creative-activism-a-project-of-the-center-for-artistic-activism/#sthash.cKg083m3.dpuf

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