“You can also define creative intervention as a real move”: Fragments of an interview with Andrew Boyd

Andrew Boyd describes himself as an “author, activist, and prankster for social change”, involved in campaigns such as Billionaires for Bush or The other 98%. Together with Dave Oswald Mitchell, he recently edited Beautiful Trouble. A toolbox for revolution, a kind of instruction manual for creative activism. We had the chance to ask him some questions, and were particularly interested in his reflections on the role of social imagination and the practical effectiveness of symbolic actions.

Julia Ramírez Blanco: In the kind of actions portrayed in the book, what do you think is the role of utopia?

Andrew Boyd: In Beautiful Trouble, utopia is most reflected in the tactic of “prefigurative intervention”. I am speaking of these sort of moments, whether it is a TAZ [Temporary Autonomous Zone] or an extraordinary epiphany moment, a carnival moment; whether it is in the streets of Seattle or in Occupy Wall Street, with its utopian longings. Or maybe it can be some of these lovely Critical Mass transitory moments. Bringing utopia into history, to make that happen – even if it´s just for a moment and on a localized place and experiencing it – affects you on a very visceral level, at the level of your nervous system, of your whole being and body and soul, as opposed to just an intellectual argument. If you experience direct democracy, or an intimate community, or just an otherwise impoverished urban space suddenly made beautiful, it alters everything.

Art can do it in a very powerful way, and pranks can do this as well: to change things in a way that gets you to think that a whole other set of things are possible because you feel it and smell it and commune with it. That´s where I think utopia – when it lands for just a moment and then goes away – is still an extremely powerful presence.

JRB: So what do you think are the limits of creative intervention?

AB: It depends how you define it. – if you define it in a narrow sense or in a larger sense. In the narrow sense, I’m talking about a prank or street theatre or a flash mob or a culture jamming-type thing or banner hangs – all these creative little tactics. I think people that are into them and get turned on by them think that such interventions can do a lot more of the work than they actually can. So they lose the sense that those interventions are great but they are complementary to a lot of ways of organizing that are maybe less flashy.

JRB: Such as?

AB: You have to make email lists and stay in touch with the community. You have to figure out what is your relationship with elections and maybe have an outside strategy where you are doing some of the boring, painful compromising work of running an election. You also have to think about how to build power over the long term and build organizations and NGO infrastructures. You have to do all this stuff. You have to have powerful charismatic leaders who are maybe not “creative”, fancy, artsy or humorous. I just emphasize this again and again with people with whom I do workshops and talk to – creative actions, creative interventions can draw attention to an issue; they can push a corporate target which is stealing from the people or getting away with an ecological crime, and you can put a spotlight on them and it can be extremely useful. But then there has to be a larger movement that keeps holding their feet to the fire. There are people involved in a 20-year legal case (oil, toxics, Ecuador), and it´s fine if the Yes Men come along and do a prank that highlights that, but you´ve got to have the people and the lawyers and the environmental organizations and a paid staff to keep pursuing that for 20 years. Creative interventions are not going to do that, but they can help. It´s important to understand that a lot of things have to happen to create social change, and that creative activism has a certain set of things and another set of tactics, but in no way it is sufficient in itself. So that is my answer if you define creative action in a more narrow sense.

JRB: And if you define creative interventionism in a wider sense? What would that be?

AB: In the broad sense, I think you can define creative intervention also as a real move. You can say that the revolution in Egypt was just one huge big revolutionary creative action. There was a lot of creativity there, a lot of tactical innovation. There was a core of people organizing, but then the people were making things up as they went along. In the broader sense, the do-it-yourself sense of a mobilized population figuring out what they need to do as they come into their power – that is definitely something creative. In the broader sense, it is almost one and the same with revolution, and one and the same with a successful social movement, so in that sense there are no limits because you conflate your creative piece with your revolutionary piece.

There is a quote by Paul Virilio, who was involved as a young man in Paris 1968. He tells this lovely little story where he is chanting. There’s a lot of tension between the anarchists and the communists, but they are in the streets side by side. Virilio shouts “Power to the Imagination”, and a communist says, “no, comrade, all power to the working class”, so then he replies “are you saying the working class has no imagination”. The point is in those revolutionary moments the people at large are taking things into their own hands.

Coco Fusco


“People don’t like the things that I do. At all. The problem is that I still do them. So it’s kind of like, it would be easy to throw me out for a lot of reasons, and I have gotten bounced. But I’m still working. That’s enough.”

“It took three hundred years to get rid of slavery and segregation in this country. So do you think that means that the people in the nineteenth century who were abolitionists or who were anti-lynching activists were losers and that they failed? …. [I]f you can’t measure the effect of individual art practices directly on social formations in this immediate sense, then do you want to consider them all failures? Or shouldn’t we start looking at the big picture.”

Coco Fusco is a New York based interdisciplinary artist and Director of Intermedia Initiatives at Parsons The New School for Design. She is an author of five books, participant in multiple biennials, and shown in museums around the world.


L.M. Bogad

Innovation, surprise… when you surprise someone, you’re earning a moment because you’re opening up a space.

The surprise can open up a temporal, experiential space where anything can come in.  There’s opening up a political space, opening up a physical space.   Events, protest events, tend to either occupy space or open space.  There are some things that do both, obviously.  But there is an emphasis in activism on occupying space.  “We’re taking this over and we’re going to chant our slogan, and now this space is about our slogans.  And you’re not in here and we are.”  And that sometimes is totally appropriate, especially if you do it a little differently, or do something surprising within that.

But opening a space is like, “Wow!” It’s not predictable.  And it gets sloppy and messy and maybe that’s okay, because it’s more participatory and it’s more likely to be less predictable.  So that could be the street party thing, or any event where there is a diversity of tactics.

Larry Bogad is a writer, performer, and teacher who theorizes the protest as performance and utilizes his expertise in wide-ranging activist collaborations.  He is  the Co-Founder of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA), and author of “Electoral Guerrilla Theatre: Radical Ridicule and Social Movements”, an international study of performance artists who run for public office as a prank.  In 2011 he joined us as the Director of the Center for Artistic Activism’s West Coast branch, based out of Davis, California.  Bogad works on the intersection between art and activism, and on the role of humor and imagination in organizing social movements.   We interviewed him in 2008, and he shared with us his ideas about opening up space, the difference between surprise and cliché, and the importance of performing for an audience – not just yourself.

* Editors note: This interview happened before Occupy took place.  Speaking to Bogad since then he describes Occupy as an event that used the tactic of occupation to open up a space. 


Dread Scott


“They denounced my work on the floor of the Senate as they passed the legislation. And President Bush publicly said he thought the work was disgraceful. So here I am 24 years old and the President of the United States knows I exist and doesn’t like what I’m doing, and I think, I must be doing something right, this is good!”

You may already know the work of Dread Scott. He first received national attention as a student in 1989 when his art became the center of controversy over its use of the American flag. President George H.W. Bush, declared What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? “disgraceful” and the work was denounced by the US Senate. Since those inflammatory beginnings, Dread has gone on to show in venues like the Whitney Biennial, the Brooklyn Museum. His sculpture has been installed in Philadelphia’s Logan Square and the Franconia Sculpture Park in Minnesota, and his artwork is in the permanent collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art,  and the Akron Art Museum. Dread is a revolutionary communist living in Brooklyn, NY.


Joseph DeLappe

Joseph DeLappe, Dead in Iraq, 2007

“It may not effect change in the kind of physical sense that maybe we’ve been talking about, but I think if you can get inside someone’s head, and make the synapses shift for a second, then there’s something really valuable to that.”

Working with electronic and new media since 1983, Joseph DeLappe’s work in online gaming performance, electromechanical installation and real-time web-based video transmission have been shown throughout the United States and abroad.   In 2006 he created a project called dead-in-iraq, entering America’s Army First Person Shooter online recruiting game and typing in the names of all of America’s military casualties from the war in Iraq. He is an Associate Professor of the Department of Art at the University of Nevada where he runs the Digital Media area.


Rebecca Bray and Britta Riley

Drink Pee DIY Kit“in terms of success, it really became more than just the art project that’s sitting on the wall. It became something that people wanted to engage in and talk about the wider implications.”

“we actually wanted to give our work to the audience and let them play with it.”

At the time of our interview Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray were residents at Eyebeam, the art and technology center in New York. Their work has been featured in ArtNews, on the Discovery Channel, at the Venice Biennale, and the A+C gallery in Chicago. They own an interactive design agency in New York, Submersible Design.

Rebecca Bray may be best known for “The Meatrix” an animated movie, spoofing The Matrix while educating viewers about the problems with factory farming. It went viral, was translated into 30 languages, and directs viwers to a website where they can learn to become advocates of family farms. DrinkPee is a project about “the role our bodies play in larger ecosystems”and includes an installation and a DIY kit for turning urine into fertilizer. DrinkPee was featured in both ArtNews, and on the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green. R&D-I-Y is project designed to crowdsource solutions to environmental problems. Their first project was the Windowfarms Project.

S&S: Tell us about a project you felt was effective.

Bray: I was working for a nonprofit concerned with food issues and factory farming. While trying to educate people we realized we were showing people all these horrific pictures of factory farms. We were telling people how horrible they were and nobody really wanted to hear it. Everybody was disturbed and they didn’t want to listen.

So, we realized that we needed another angle, and decided we could use humor – as strange as that seemed – to talk about factory farming. It was 2002 and we realized there could be a fun angle on this if we did an animation and based it on The Matrix because of the crazy parallels with this very strange, alternative world of agriculture. Working on that script, we had a lot of conversations about how we didn’t want to be preachy. It was difficult because coming from the nonprofit world there was a lot of preachiness. And there were also a lot of facts, you know, “how many facts can we get in?” It could have been very long and very preachy, but we managed to pair it back to something which was just getting basic information, but trying to bring characters into it, and some sort of personality and humor. That was the Meatrix.

Eve Mosher

[private]Themes: Provoking intimate conversations and delivering more info. Pyramid scheme. Awakening as a political artist. Quantifiable metrics of success.[/private]

In a few short years, Eve Mosher went from being an abstract sculptor who cared about the environment to an artist making powerful, engaging, and interactive public works about the climate crisis.

Eve Mosher

Kitra Cahana/The New York Times

Eve is an artist and interventionist living and working in New York City. Her work has been profiled in international media including the New York Times, ARTnews, L’uomo Vogue, and Le Monde. Her public and community based artworks have received grants from New York State Council on the Arts and New York Department of Cultural Affairs, both through the Brooklyn Arts Council and The City Parks Foundation. She has an undergraduate degree in architecture and a Masters in Fine Arts and is currently an assistant professor at Parsons the New School for Design and a consultant/leader for the Professional Development Program at Creative Capital.

EVE MOSHER’S WEBSITE[/button-medium]

S & S: We usually start by asking for an example of a project you’ve done that you thought was effective – that you thought “worked.”

Eve Mosher: I guess the biggest, best-known project is the High Water Line Project where I marked the 10 foot above sea level line all around Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan over the course of six months. That ten foot line marks what is currently the one hundred year flood zone, and with climate change in the worst case scenario it’s going to be every four years, so it will be an uninhabitable area. It received a ton of media attention, but the point of the project was really to have these one on one conversations with people along the way about climate change and the effect it’s going to have on us New York City locally.

S & S: Why were one on one conversations so important?

EM: I started looking around at the work I was doing and the environmental organizations that I was working with and noticed we were sort of talking to the same people over and over again. Or the organizations were going out and giving lectures to people. I felt we needed to really have conversations and the most powerful way to make change happen was in a one on one conversation. So the project idea was to go out and to do something that would spark conversation.

Eve talks to people in battery park

Eve talks to people in battery park

S&S: What sparked these conversations?

EM: Walking around New York with a sports field marker.

S & S: Why conversations? What is it that’s different about a conversation from a lecture?

EM: When you’re dealing with some of these really complicated issues, for me it was finding out what people were interested in in their own lives. It’s not that lectures aren’t effective. They definitely are. I mean, I’ve taken away a lot from them. But I feel like when you’re dealing with these really complicated issues where people have wants and needs and different desires, and the issues themselves are really complicated, in conversation I can find out. I can elicit information from them and respond to it in a better way than in a large, lecture-type situation.

S & S: So the feedback that they’re giving you, you can sort of tailor your response?

EM: Yes, definitely, there’s a feedback loop happening.

S & S: What kind of conversations did you have?

EM: Well there’s a photo of me talking to two families on their way to the beach, Manhattan Beach on Coney Island, clearly they’re on their way for the day.  We start talking about different things – I was talking about real simple things, and they were like, “Yeah, we already do that, we just do that and it saves us money, cause we don’t wanna run the air conditioner,” and they were realizing that they were already thinking in this way. I hand out a little packet of information, too—because they’re often asking, “what else can I do?” They were really interested in doing more when they realized it wasn’t that hard to begin with.

I think in South Brooklyn and along the waterfront, they’re very aware of the precarious situation, primarily because insurance companies pulled the flood insurance from everybody in South Brooklyn—they did not do that in Manhattan, which is just as susceptible. So they’re all very aware of the dangers. It was really interesting to have conversations with people who were a little more informed than those “in the know” even.

S & S: You could just knock on doors and talk to people one on one too, but you walked around drawing a giant line with sports chalk marker. Was their something important about the visual and performative qualities of how you were engaging people?

Eve rolls the Heavy Hitter

Eve rolls the Heavy Hitter

EM: Why a public art project? I think for me knocking on doors is really confrontational, and with this sports marker thing—it was called “the Heavy Hitter,” we could just refer to it as that, the Heavy Hitter—they would come up to me and engage me in conversation, which implied that they had the time and the interest in having some kind of conversation. I did not go out and go, “Hey! You guys wanna come talk to me?” Or I didn’t advertise on my body what I was doing. I had initially wanted to make stencils that I would lay in the line, and then I started realizing that’s not actually what I wanted to do. It was really important to have people come up to me and ask what I was doing. Which of course limited the number of people that I talked to, but it was also self-selecting so I had, in a way I think, kind of higher quality conversations than if I’d been confrontational.

There was one guy out on the Parkway in Bay Ridge and we had a little conversation, and his ending remark was, “We don’t get much of that around here.” And I was like, “Get much what?” And he said, “Art.” I was thinking; oh, well, there you go!

S & S: OK, but it wasn’t all just a performance piece. I mean, you handed out packets of information, right?

EM: Right. I wanted to extend the conversation. So I thought of it as ancillary, but people were eager for the information. It was amazing how much they wanted to know. That they felt like, yes, we understand our situation is bad, what can we do about it? And they weren’t necessarily inclined to go find out on their own, but given this opportunity, they wanted to know.

The packet was basically postcards we designed to address different parts of your life on each card. So you could take one to work, you could hang one up in the house, you could send it with your kid to school to share. I was encouraging people to share that information.

Each card had ten things you could do in your life that were from really easy to much more complicated things that you could take on to reduce your carbon footprint. And then there were also two postcards to send to (then) Governor Spitzer and Mayor Bloomberg. And one blank postcard, with information to look up your local representative. I didn’t say that they needed to write anything specific – they could totally disagree with climate change if they wanted to – the card said something like, “I have thoughts on climate change.” And then a blank space for them to write whatever they wanted.

S & S: You say the project got a lot of mass media. Was that an important part of this project, in retrospect?

EM: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, of course, somewhat for my own career goals, but also for the idea that it was a really ephemeral project. The chalk line in some high-traffic areas didn’t even last two hours, there were some streets where maybe it lasted two weeks or something, but it was an ephemeral project.

But also to get the word out to the larger New York region because I wasn’t [physically] talking to everybody. I was only talking to people who were either living or working or visiting this coastline where I was and only on the day that I was, so it was important to kind of extend the reach through that. The issue is something really important to us locally so it was important to get outside of any art press – which it did very well. Actually the art press picked it up only much later.

Through my website I was hoping to get the word out to a larger audience as well. I mapped the whole walk and added photos and stories from along the way so you can do the virtual walk yourself if you want to.

S & S: So, did you learn any lessons about the efficacy of your project that you are applying to other work?

EM: Yeah. The thing that frustrated me about that project was I felt like I was just providing information. And I wanted to provide real tools for effecting change. Not that I’m against providing information, I still do projects that are about visualizing or informational projects. But I wanted to include remediation and I’d seen all these other artists – like Jackie Brookner and Aviva Rahmani – for whom that was their art – the remediation. So the project I’m working on now is a green roof network. So you can get modular green roofs that are like two by four that are not super lightweight, but they’re cheaper than getting a whole green roof.

S & S: Why not a whole green roof? It seems like that would have a larger effect.

EM: The whole idea of green roofs is, for a lot of people, including me, really expensive. And you have to own a roof. So how do we as renters and people who don’t have a lot of money take part in something that could have a huge impact on New York City? The idea is to choose five underserved neighborhoods around New York City and go in and find two or three people, through the use of the community boards, who are interested in having this module put on their rooftop. Then I go in and have this little planting party. There we can talk about what green roofs are, what some of the urban environmental issues are that they specifically address, and about installing a roof module by module. So getting the ideas and information out again through these small conversations.

And the people who want the green roof modules have to introduce me to two or three different people. It’s my Green Roof Pyramid Scheme. Then they’re building up within their community their own network of people who are interested in this kind of thing.

Seeding The City

The other aspect of the project that provides it more public access is all of the modules have flags and street level signage, so people can watch the visual growth of a network and might get involved in the project through the street level signage and become a recipient of the module through one of those.

S & S: OK, that sounds like political activism and organizing, but what’s artistic about it?

EM: Right, and I’ve had this conversation also with other friends of mine who do specifically environmental artwork, and I think because I come at it from an artistic point of view, that in and of itself—I’m not saying that’s my final answer—but that in and of itself makes it more of an artistic project.

S & S: Can you talk about that a little?

EM: I mean I do the research and everything, but for me it’s all about visual tools. They’re the tools I use. Now they are becoming blurred because activism and art are using so many similar tools.

I’m also not lobbying for anything specific. I’m going just out to the people. And while I would love to have that conversation with city agencies, that’s not the purpose of the project. So is there a line between the two? I don’t know. It’s getting really blurry.

I had a long email conversation between myself, two other artists, Brooke Singer and Xavier Cortada, and a representative from the nature conservancy. One of the questions the representative from the nature conservancy posed was how are artists different, in what we’re doing, from an organization? Brooke’s response was fabulous. She said that organizations are always needing long-term ways to build things up sustainably. We can be way more strategic and faster on our feet. And artists are more like, so I’m gonna go put those green roofs out and yeah I’m doing some test plots this year to make sure they survive, but beyond initially getting that project started, it becomes an open source thing. So I put it out online, I’m not required in it anymore, and people can create their own systems elsewhere. I’m not like an organization – or potentially activist – where I’m gonna sit and be concerned about overseeing that specific project over time.

S & S: Can you talk a little bit about the open source model?

EM: I’m setting my budget at 100 roof plots. So in five neighborhoods, that’s really only 20 roof plots, that’s not that many. Beyond that, I’m setting up a relationship with the supplier of the green roof plots, and I’ll be providing access to the iconography used on the flags and the street level signage so people can print their own or I can tell them how I can get the flag. I don’t know if the flags will be free, but they can access them freely, and then all of the information surrounding the projects are available.

Seeding The City Flag

Seeding The City Flag

The idea is that maybe someone in Sao Paulo will want to do this project, and then I will help them find their resources or give them the tools to find a local supplier of green roof materials, and then all the iconography and information that I’ve developed, all the online mapping tools for it will be available. Basically providing people in other areas access the information so they can re-create the project if they want.

S & S: So how would you know if it’s effective?

EM: Well what’s the actual effect on the environment? But effective in my mind is for people to connect within that community that’s been built. So if I’ve been working in Two Bridges, the neighborhood down near Chinatown, and I’ve got my two or three people and they connect me with three people, we have this group of nine, providing a method for communicating online, and encourage them to continue to work on these ideas developing either further green roof plots or meeting and developing other remediation projects.

But the effectiveness in my mind is measured by how many green roof plots actually get out there. How much beyond those initial one hundred the project extends.

S & S: Okay, so what’s the least effective thing you ever did? Or maybe you worked really, really hard, hoping it had some kind of effect and it fell flat.

EM: High Water Line’s the first big public project that I did and I did that last year. Previously I was working in a really abstract manner and it was within the gallery system. That’s effective in a kind of emotional, connection to the art kind of way, but it’s not effective in moving people to think about things differently.

S & S: Stop there for a second. That’s a big statement. So—

EM: I was just gonna let that bomb drop and walk away.

S & S: We’re not going to let you!

EM: OK. My work before was this kind of abstract idea of man and the environment, and this real fluffy, fuzzy artistic aesthetic kind of idea.

But I realized I want to make very specific, identifiable statements. I want to effect change. Because I was really pissed and nobody was doing anything about it, and basically our world was fucked, and we needed to do something.

S & S: People have made an argument that those aesthetic, sort of “fluffy” as you say, art works touch people in a certain way that makes them next time they look at a nature, they think about it differently and so on and so forth. Why did you think: no!

EM: Forget it! [laughter] Maybe those kind of things were happening! I mean, I still do gallery kind of work. I actually put up an installation recently that was just really decorative, and I think there’s value in that. But I don’t think the effect is as immediate, I think it’s more emotional and less actionable.

There’s definitely work that’s made me think that things are really beautiful, but I don’t know that it specifically gives me the tools to change my world. You know? I can look at it and think, oh, that’s really gorgeous and I’m so moved, and that maple tree now, I’m gonna think differently about it. But it’s still in a poetic sense as opposed to an actual action.

S & S: Is there a certain poetics in your more “actionable” work?

EM: The chalk I used in the High Water Line I thought was beautiful. I made aesthetic decisions. I decided that I wanted to add pigment and make it blue, and to me this visual idea of drawing this line made perfect sense with the drawings that I do. And the work that I do was always really obsessive, and this work is really obsessive. So it moved out of the gallery space and it got really big. I don’t feel like I abandoned that realm entirely.

I’m not giving up on the galleries entirely. There are still things that I’m working on that are object-based. And even the Green Roof thing, it is an object. And it is has visual aesthetics.

S & S: Back to this idea of “actionable.” What sort of action do you want to come out of your work and how do you see that happening?

EM: I had to explain this to someone who was with me, I think it was a city reporter or somebody who was like, “Are they gonna take that packet and make those changes right away?” And I’ve read somewhere that people have to hear about something like three times before they take action. So I’m one of those three people or statements. So I might be the first one, and they may not do anything. Or I might be the second one and they’re gonna think about it a little. Or I might be the third one, and I finally change someone’s mind.

S & S: So you’ve changed someone’s mind, what do you hope happens then?

EM: They will take on actions themselves. So they will start to consider within their daily lives what they impact with each decision that they make.

With the High Water Line project it was to just take on a couple things. Try them out. Turn your lights off. Don’t sit here in your idling car and talk to me. Cause that happened a lot. “Can you turn your car off and then I’ll talk to you?” Or you know, think about all the different little things, one thing at a time. So they’ll start to try and realize that changing your lifestyle isn’t as difficult as we all think it is. I totally believe it should be a huge shift, but not everybody can take that on. Or like with the Green Roof project, realizing that you do have a voice in this conversation and you can effect change and you can put remediation in place even if you’re a renter, even if you’re in transit, even if you don’t have a lot of money. In a way it’s sort of like giving people the ability to do something and the confidence—confidence isn’t the right word and I hate the word empowerment, but just letting them know that they are important as individuals, that they do have a voice. So there’s a couple other projects visualizing what can happen in your community and the Green Roof project is like this, is you can do this on your own, we don’t have to wait for the government to act. While we would love for the government to act, there are things you can do on your own. So it’s giving them that knowledge and confidence, empowerment, whatever–

S & S: Empowerment.

EM: I hate that word, I hate that word.

S & S: I know, we do too. But sometimes.

EM: Sometimes it’s the only term.

Visit EveMosher.com[/button-medium]

Visit HighWaterLine.org [/button-medium]

Aaron Gach / The Center for Tactical Magic

[private]Theme: It’s magical. Recalibrating reality.

Tactical Ice Cream Unit  Photos – should include

  • images of protest supplies
  • show the menu with flavors of ice  cream and propaganda
  • people gathering around
  • cop watch surveillance equipment
  • diagrams [/private]

Aaron Gach is the founder of the Center for Tactical Magic and has a notable background. As part of his art training, he studied with a magician, a ninja, and a private investigator. Under the auspices of the Center for Tactical Magic he collaborates with a variety of artists, activists, and thinkers to produce projects exploring power relations, social transformation, and self-empowerment.

We interviewed Aaron while he was exhibiting the Tactical Ice Cream Unit at Creative Time’s “Democracy in America” exhibition in September of 2008. Aaron described the The Tactical Ice Cream Unit as “Combining a number of successful activist strategies (Food-Not-Bombs, Copwatch,  Indymedia, infoshops, etc) into one mega-mobile, the TICU is the Voltron-like alter-ego of the cops’ mobile command center.”


Hans Haacke

Hans Haacke lecture
Gallatin School, New York University, April 15, 2008

S&S: As a political artist, how can you know when you’ve been successful?

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

I believe it is a relatively new phenomenon that art works are referred to as successful or unsuccessful. And success would mean, in today’s arts, media attention. I understand why you ask this question if one works, as I do, with overt political topics as the repercussions it had would tend to be in sync with whether it had hit a sore spot.

I’m a bit uncomfortable with that because it means that if, for some reason, and there are many accidental reasons, something is being picked up by the media or is overshadowed by something at that very time that is absorbing everybody’s attention. That is: if it doesn’t get picked up then therefore it was a bad work and something that for sensational reasons is being bandied about therefore is a good one, a successful one.

So I would rather not think in those terms because these are unweighables; it becomes too much of a prisoner of media attention. And, as we know from history, things that were not paid attention to are all of a sudden discovered, are sensational.