Stephen Duncombe and I published a column called “Activist Art: Does it Work?” for Open! Magazine.
It begins like this:
Activist Art: Does it Work?
The first rule of guer illa war fare is to know the ter rain and use it to your ad vant age. The to po graphy on which the act iv ist fights may no longer be the moun tains of the Si erra Maes tra or the jungles of Vi et nam, but the les son still ap plies. Today, the polit ical land scape is one of signs and sym bols, story and spec tacle. Re spond ing to this new ter rain, there has been an up surge in the use of cre at ive, artistic, and cul tural strategies as a tool for so cial change. This prac tice goes by many names: polit ical art, act iv ist art, in ter ven tion ist art, so cially en gaged art, and so cial prac tice art. No mat ter the de scrip tion, artists are using their aes thetic train ing and skill to wage battles for so cial change. Yet as prac ti tion ers and train ers in these forms of artistic act iv ism, we are haunted by the ques tion: Does it work?
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