Effect (v.) “To bring about (an event, a result); to accomplish (an intention, a desire).”
Affect (v.) “To have an effect on the mind or feelings of (a person); to impress or influence emotionally; to move, touch.” (Oxford English Dictionary)
When it comes to bringing about social change, effect and affect are intertwined. Artistic activism aims to bring about demonstrable change through moving people viscerally and emotionally. We might think of this as: Affective Effect. Or, if you prefer: Effective Affect. Or, as we’ve come to call it: Æffect.
At the C4AA we are very, very interested in æffect. Artistic activism might be fun, creative and cutting edge but if it doesn’t deliver the goods in helping to transform the world, then what good is it?
Since we began the C4AA we’ve been asking the questions: Does it work? How do we know? And what does “working” even mean when we combine the arts and activism?
Our first, and ongoing, project was to interview artistic activists and activist artists about how they thought about æfficacy in their own work. You can read some of these interviews here. Over the coming year we will be undertaking more interviews in Madrid, Berlin and Buenos Aires with the help of three “Global Fellows” from NYU’s Urban Democracy Lab.
Currently, we are engaged in a large research project studying the question of æfficacy in artistic activism. Working with George Perlov, a former VP of Research for the Ad Council, and funded by Open Societies and Compton foundations, we are undertaking a review of the literature on the topic, interviewing practitioners in the field, and developing tools for both artistic activists and those who want to support them so they might better understand the practice and gauge success in appropriate ways. You can read more about this research project here.
In the works is a multi-country research project on New Civic Action with colleagues from Roskilde University in Denmark. Among other things, we plan on staging “real world” experiments to help determine what practices of artistic activism are most æffective for what ends.