On reflection having recently completed this extra-curricular course: ‘Art Activism School’ facilitated at the Autograph ABP Gallery alongside other members of Shades of Noir, I found myself leaving with more questions than answers, as warned by the facilitators of this short 3-day intensive course.
I went in having somewhat clear questions and my stance on the role of art activism, such as: ‘What is the role of the artist within the gentrification of our communities? And how can we avoid this?’ ‘Would one have to completely abandon the role of ‘the artists’ to fully become an activist?’ ‘How can the role of the artist & the activist intersect?’
‘What can Art actually Do?’
I think the role of the artist & activist both intersect, to me personally, they are two things that can’t really be separated, like the intersections of my identity, I can’t separate being a women and being black. The issue lies within the difficulty I have when making work, having to exhibit work in groups, on the course etc and also my role as an artist within my community.
My current research and interests are within strategies of resistance focusing on artists of colour and how we are navigating institutions, our environments and our visibility on the internet. Learning more about the historical strategies used within art activism and how I can apply them to my current research or practice in general was what I intentionally wanted to get from this experience alongside answers to these questions above and learning of practical collective approaches we could develop as creatives and how I could apply these strategies, or even thought processes so I can take a step back and view my practice from another standpoint.
What stood out most for me was the importance of inter-generational & inter-racial dialogue. Hearing from all generations, especially within topics of activism, society and our communities from within a safe-space and with more of a mixed small group to the alternative of a lecture theatre or a studio was a different experience. We were collectively listening to all voices and hearing from artists and writers on their current practice first hand and getting to speak to them one-on-one within this safe- space was really rewarding.
We all had an opportunity to also speak on our own projects or ideas for future projects or practice, this was a great opportunity to discuss and exchange thoughts on what we are working on individually and an opportunity at the end for us to network, keep in contact with each other in future or share opportunities for collaboration. The bibliography and references, with organisations and networks given towards the end, was also incredibly helpful as it has given me extra sources and references for my current research.
We spoke about historical movements such as ‘Rock Against Racism’ an established brand, on gaining solidarity which led onto a discussion on individualism and how this notion could perhaps be the cause of ‘us’ unable to all come together collectively as one movement such as ‘Rock Against Racism’. As currently, we seem to have little pockets around our communities but none on the scale of what ‘Rock Against Racism’ was. I think there are many factors as to why these movements aren’t reviving as they did in the past, but individualism seems to be a big factor within our society.
As mentioned at the start, I have many more questions than answers, but they are all questions I can dissect and deconstruct to gradually find the answers to; I probably won’t be able to answer them all, but working collectively, and engaging in collective action and conversation on our present, past & future is something I strongly feel like I want to continue engaging in and working towards.
Words by Tiffany Webster