kindness can only be perpetuated if one is kind to themselves

DESIGN ACTIVISM

‘I paint what I like and when I like’ David Hockney

The freedom that is permitted to creatives when they apply full dedication to their profession and careers is something I see as the ultimate goal in life. This idea of personal activism and the exploration of the self, which goes deeper than selfish decisions or frivolous actions, is one that interests me endlessly. In a talk by Tracey Emin that I attended in December, she said ‘look after yourself and you can look after hundreds of people’. It is not a case of making selfish decisions that negatively impact others, it is about loving and respecting yourself enough that you do not make decisions that harm each other. Using the the theory of nature vs nurture, you can argue that the consequences of negative experiences in childhood lead to actions in adults that otherwise would not behave in this way; whether that be world leaders making globally affected decisions or events happening in a microcosm of society, each event is a domino effect on another. In which case, if this idea of loving yourself to help others is true it really does highlight the need for personal activism; the recognition that activism must begin truly in your own mind and kindness can only be perpetuated if one is kind to themselves.

Chanel’s faux feminism

DESIGN ACTIVISM

The image of archetypal beautiful women carrying banners and signs emblazoned with slogans such as ‘boys should get pregnant too’ and ‘ladies first’ on the catwalk, whilst adorned in the finest Chanel garments, is one that raises many issues within the fashion industry’s fetishisation of rebellion and counterculture. The embodiment of the spirit of protest purely for commerce is one which stands against everything that socially and politically conscious designers try to achieve in their work. The commodification of counterculture completely contradicts that of say Katherine Hamnett and the political slogan t-shirts she is synonymous for; some of which are on sale at the moment on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) website. It is the sincerity in which this link to counterculture is achieved in that it is clear for example, Hamnett, is consistent in her work attacking social and world issues she is concerned with. Chanel however are attaching ‘feminist’ principles to a show dominated by a nearly all white, very slim casting, it is near impossible to see any genuine feeling about the causes Chanel are attaching themselves to. It is purely a way for those fortunate enough to be able to buy the garments, to also simultaneously buy into a feeling of rebellion or that the consumer is somehow part of fighting the struggles of inequality through a thinly veiled representation of protest imagery. I am not at all suggesting that fashion must simply sit in a realm of its own with no reference to social causes, however it is incredibly degrading to commodify these causes with no sense of dedication, only perpetuating the acceptibility of the throwaway nature of fashion today.

What do anonymous voices stand for?

DESIGN ACTIVISM

I didn’t really know anything about the work of Anonymous and the culture of Hacktivism apart from the odd reference to them in mainstream media until the film, We Are Legions. I found the film (We Are Legions: The story of Hacktivism, 2012) a really interesting insight into their history and campaigns; however I think it highlighted some holes in their ethos firstly in that the lack of specific message in turn results in a conflict of belief. It limits the ability in connecting with a wider audience as it seemed clear to have a very particular white male dominance that established from computer gaming culture. Relating back to the lack of clear beliefs or moral identity, it  reminded me of a quote about London that I cannot seem to find but it discussed that as the city never set out with specific aims, it is malleable over time. This was reminscient of Anonymous in that its organic growth results in a conflict of beliefs or aims due to it’s roots in comedic internet humour on 4Chan. This resulted in some people hacking an epilepsy charity website with animations that caused many people to fall ill and have fits as a result. This clearly contrasts with the positive campaigns they have completed such as that in support of protestors in the middle east uprisings. This conflict in ethos reminds me of a quote I saw on the back of the stage of band Enter Shikari’s set at Reading Festival a few years ago that is from their song, Quelle Surprise. The backdrop said (Enter Shikari, 2010) ‘if you stand for nothing you will fall for anything’; this highlights the flaws in the group Anonymous as they cannot represent themselves strongly enough due to no structure or shared idea within the group.

Enter Shikari. (2010) Reading Festival 2010 set. Performed by Enter Shikari [Reading. 2010].

We Are Legions: The Story of The Hacktivists (2012) Directed by Brian Knappenberger. USA: Ro*co Films International.

 

 

 

 

The art of protest: Art is your human right by Bob and Roberta Smith

DESIGN ACTIVISM, Uncategorized

 

I have known the name and vaguely the work of Rob and Roberta Smith for some time but it is the campaign with students to save the closure of the CASS, London Met’s art department, that alerted me further to his work. An ethos revolving around art and creativity being for all is something that permeates his body of work and the project titled, Art is your human right, is no exception to this. Deciding to stand against Michael Gove, Education Minister, in the constituency he represents of Surrey Heath, Smith took direct step in challenging the beliefs he disagreed with in the political sphere. By including himself in this domain with his colourful, joyful aesthetic, it opened up a sense of accessibility to the otherwise elitist world of politics. It is not just a piece of design activism against physical space, Surrey Heath constituency, but the claiming of a otherwise snobbish political place that seems completely unachievable to most.

After facing limitations at secondary school, over the choice of three creative options which resulted in a lengthy battle that I thankfully won, I completely understand Smiths’ desires in his manifesto. Smith (2014) states that ‘It’s almost impossible for kids to study art and music together, let alone dance or drama as well’, which I know all too well the reality of and therefore the need to have artist figures defending the artistic rights of children and teens. A piece of work by fellow British artist, Grayson Perry, highlights the absolutely necessity of Smith’s campaign to protect the arts. The piece by Perry (1996), Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot, that can be seen below has ‘I was a mad kid and now I ain’t. I got out coz I could paint’ inscribed into it and reveals massively the importance of the support the arts provides.

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Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot, Grayson Perry, 1996. Photo by Nick Moss.

Smith, R. (2014) Why I’m standing against Michael Gove. Available at: http://bobandrobertasmith.co.uk/why-im-standing-against-michael-gove/(Accessed: 1/02/2016).

Perry, G. (1996) Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot [Sculpture]. Available at: http://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/articles/mad-kids-bedroom-wall-pot-grayson-perry/ (Accessed: 1/02/2016)

William Morris Gallery (2015) Bob and Roberta Smith: Art is your human right trailer Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH0gG3r2C_c (Accessed: 2/01/2016).

B, James. (2016) Know Your Rights: the campaigns of Bob and Roberta Smith. Available at: http://rs21.org.uk/2016/01/27/know-your-rights-the-campaigns-of-bob-and-roberta-smith/ (Accessed: 2/01/2016).

It’s Nice That (2016) . Available at: http://www.itsnicethat.com/features/bob-and-roberta-smith-art-is-a-human-right. Accessed: 2/01/2016).

 

 

 

Assemble: Political art or not?

DESIGN ACTIVISM

The work of Assemble, London based collective with experience in design, architecture and art, had not been something I was familiar with until I became aware of their Turner prize nomination and subsequent win. Describing themselves as the first ‘non-artists’ to be up for the prize, it seems a strange choice to reference their work in relation to political art. However, their Granby four streets and workshop projects are exactly what a piece of political art should be if using ‘an open letter to critics writing about political art’ as guidance. It claims that ‘the function of political art is to challenge and change the world’ (Lambert and Duncombe,2012); at a talk about the place of art in architecture I attended, they explicitly spoke about feeling the desire to do something in the world. The project in Granby, location of the Toxteth riots in 1981, is an ongoing collaboration with the residents who set about trying to reclaim their area

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Granby four streets (source: Hunger Tv. Image by unknown) 

after the council used the riots to get hold of the space for development. However, the area was left to decay and residents took it upon themselves to renovate the streets in small acts of rebellion including painting the fronts of empty houses and lining pavements with plants and flowers which can be seen in the image on the right.

It also included the creation of a community land trust, CLT, who have worked with Assemble on this project and still are; they are currently planning the design of winter gardens that will be placed in the abandoned houses that are beyond viable economic repair. This desire to change the world is exactly what is required in political art as it is not bound by aesthetic or medium just an explicit need to effect change which is another idea discussed in the article. To quote Bell Hooks, ‘the function of art is to do more than tell it like it is-it is to imagine what is possible’. This is clear in the ethos of Assemble as the Granby workshops, debuted in the Turner prize exhibition, as it has been set up to provide a long term self sufficient space that encourages creative skilled learning and removing class associations with artisan, ‘trendy’ design products. There is an irony to this as the houses in the Granby four streets were initially established to house artisan workers and it seems to have come back full circle.

Granby four streets n.d. photograph, viewed 25/01/2016 <http://www.hungertv.com/feature/turner-prize-shortlist-announced/&gt;.

http://assemblestudio.co.uk

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/dec/07/urban-assemble-win-turner-prize-toxteth

http://simplyreference.com/quotes/view/8406/—-the-function-of-art-is-to-do-more-than-tell-it-like-it-is–it’s-to-imagine-w

Duncombe, S & Lambert, S. (2012) An open letter to critics writing about political art. Available at: http://artisticactivism.org/2012/10/an-open-letter-to-critics-writing-about-political-art/ (Accessed: 25/1/2016).