“In 1998 I saw an advert for an open commission for Artangel. For years I had had this idea to re-enact this confrontation that I had witnessed as a young person on TV, of striking miners being chased up a hill and pursued through a village. It has since become an iconic image of the 1984 strike – having the quality of a war scene rather than a labour dispute. I received the commission, which I couldn’t believe, because I actually didn’t think it was possible to do this. After two years’ research, the re-enactment finally happened, with about eight-hundred historical re-enactors and two-hundred former miners who had been part of the original conflict. Basically, I was asking the re-enactors to participate in the staging of a battle that occurred within living memory, alongside veterans of the campaign. I’ve always described it as digging up a corpse and giving it a proper post-mortem, or as a thousand-person crime re-enactment.” (credit)
Category Archives: Activism or Protest
Alex Villar, Temporary Occupations (2001)
“Drawing from interdisciplinary theoretical sources and employing video-performance, installation and photography, I have developed a practice that concentrates on matters of social space. My interventions are done primarily in public spaces. They consist in positioning the body of the performer in situations where the codes that regulate everyday activity can be made explicit. The body is made to conform to the limitations of claustrophobic spaces, therefore accentuating arbitrary boundaries and possibly subverting them. A sense of absurdity permeates the work, counterpoising irrational behaviour to the instrumental logic of the city’s design.
Theoretical references cover the extensive work done on the problematic of space, especially the works of Foucault and de Certeau, which describe panopticon and heterotopic spaces as well as the potentialities for everyday re-writings of urban space. Aesthetic traditions foregrounding my work go from the sixties and seventies performative-based sculpture and installations by Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark and Cildo Meirelles, to the urban strategies of the Situationists and the anarchitecture of Gordon Matta-Clark. Like the in-between activities it seeks to investigate, my work lives between various fields: part nomadic architecture, part intangible sculpture and part performance without spectacle.
Temporary Occupations from alex villar on Vimeo.
Temporary Occupations depicts a person running on the sidewalk in New York while ignoring the city’s spatial codes and therefore resisting their effects upon the organization of everyday experience. The clips in the video register situations of temporary invasion and occupation of private spaces located in a public setting. The action simply articulates the continuity of these spaces with the remaining areas from which they were extricated, drawing attention to, and possibly subverting, the boundaries that demarcate them.
This piece is part of a long-term investigation and articulation of potential spaces of dissent in the urban landscape, which has often taken the form of an exploration of negative spaces in architecture.” (credit)
ACT UP, Crash the Market (1997)
“Formed in New York City in 1987, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (more commonly known as ACT UP) brought widespread attention to the AIDS epidemic and helped make significant advances in AIDS research.
ACT UP’s first-ever demonstration in 1987 — as well as three others in 1988, 1989, and 1997 — took place on Wall Street, the world’s leading financial center, and targeted pharmaceutical companies that were profiteering from the epidemic.” (credit)
While not all ACT UP actions included walking and marching, their 10th anniversary demonstration did:
“Tenth Anniversary of the 1987 Demonstration
On March 24, 1997, the ten-year anniversary of ACT UP’s first demonstration, the group returned to Wall Street. The action, called “Crash the Market,” again protested the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies, but also cutbacks in Medicaid funding. ACT UP chapters from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Oberlin, Ohio, brought over 500 activists, who gathered at 7:30 a.m. by the fountain in City Hall Park. They then marched south to Wall Street, chanting “We die — they make money” and “Wall Street trades on people with AIDS!” Demands for Congressional hearings on the price of AIDS drugs were also made. Protesters rushed the doors of the Stock Exchange or sat down in the streets. During the demonstration, 73 people (mostly women) were arrested for acts of civil disobedience.” (credit)
Joseph Beuys, Ausfegen (Sweeping Up) (1972)
“On May 1, 1972, after the Labor Day demonstrations, artist Joseph Beuys was sweeping up the Karl-Marx-Platz in West Berlin together with two foreign students. This action took place at a time when Beuys had become politicized after the events of 1968 and had first founded the “Deutsche Studentenpartei (German Student Party)” in 1971, then the “Organisation für Direkte Demokratie durch Volksabstimmung (Organization for Direct Democracy Through Plebiscites).” In 1972, he was also expelled from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Since then, Beuys was performing political and ecological actions and interventions, in addition to the more elaborate art performances.
The cleaning squad from May 1, 1972 only requires a small gesture to make plain what Beuys meant by his extended concept of art. He refers to social differences and to a problem of leftist politics: Those who had to clean up after the Labour Day celebrations and demonstrations were the “guest workers.” Yet, the unions had never done much for the foreign workers who were paid low wages. On the other hand, throughout the 1970s the political Left kept mentioning international solidarity between the lower classes. In this respect, the group of three also achieved some considerable social clearing work. It is no coincidence that the two students and Beuys swept up not only on May 1, but also at Karl-Marx-Platz. While Beuys subscribed to Marx’s analysis of the economic relations, he had a different conception of alienation. Beuys shared the view that every form of capital is a form of slavery, but he saw actions as a way out. Moreover, to him every person was a subject and not an object of history. Hence, picking up the broom is a step towards Beuys’s ideal of self determination. via” (credit)
Allison Smith, The Muster (2008)
“The Muster is a one-day, open-air celebration centering on the question “What are you fighting for?” posed by artist and self-appointed Mustering Officer Allison Smith (b.1971, Manassas, VA). This public art event takes place on Governors Island, the former national military post located in New York Harbor. Once there, visitors can tour an encampment of more than 50 campsites and art installations, created by an army of “enlisted troops” selected by Smith and the Public Art Fund. The afternoon includes an array of activities—mock battles, American Folk portrait painting, magic shows, quilting bees, soapbox speeches, and more—culminating with a formal “Declaration of Causes” on a central stage.
As a military term, muster refers to a gathering of troops for the purposes of inspection, critique, exercise, and display. The Muster adopts the language and aesthetic of a Civil War reenactment. Like Civil War reenactors, participants in The Muster engage in the articulation of identities through performance and expand on the reenactor’s belief that events lost to history can gain meaning and contemporary relevance when performed live in an open, participatory manner. However, The Muster does not involve enacting a specific war from the past; instead, Smith uses the format to create an occasion and a forum for individual expression of diverse causes.
Beyond its military roots, The Muster also bears a resemblance to a country fair or an early 20th-century carnival. Blending art, craft, culture, history and social activism, the event embodies Smith’s interest in community and freedom of expression. The causes of the participants vary widely, from the political to the whimsical, addressing art history, technology, gender, democracy, and sociology.
For more information visit www.themuster.com.” [credit]
Adrian Piper, I am the Locus #2 (1975)
I am the Locus (#2)
DimensionsSheet: 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm)
“The series of five hand-worked photographs that comprise The Mythic Being: I am the Locus conveys Piper performing a consciousness of otherness on a walk through Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An American-born artist of mixed racial background, Piper has articulated questions about the politics of racial identity in many ways throughout her work as an artist and philosopher. In 1973, Piper created an alter ego, the Mythic Being, who became the basis of a pioneering series of performances and photo-based works. For this 1975 Mythic Being performance, she sported large sunglasses, an Afro wig and mustache—chosen to blend in with the mid-seventies urban environment, and dressed in men’s clothing. This simple costume enabled her to appear inconspicuously as a black man to an unknowing public. In these photographs we can perceive the indifference of the crowd in Harvard Square to Piper’s performance: people brush shoulders with her, or look in the opposite direction.
Her subsequent intervention into the photographs with oil crayon and text helps to dramatize the scenes, and to express the tension between the artist’s inner experience and the invisibility of her Mythic Being performance to its live audience. Drawing directly on the photographic prints prevents the images from being seen as straightforward documentation of a performative event. Instead, by the final sequential image, most of the other people and surroundings have been obliterated by drawing, which parallels the text’s shift from philosophical meditation (“I am the locus…”) to existential shove (“Get out of my way…”). Piper intended for these photographs to be made into posters; she did not initially intend for these preparatory images to be treated as works of art unto themselves.” [credit]
“In 1973 Adrian Piper pasted a mustache on her face, put on an Afro wig, and donned round, wire-rimmed shades.
Dressed and acting like a man, she went out into the streets.
Muttering passages she had memorized from her journal, the artist was startling and weird, challenging passersby to classify her through the lens of their own preconceptions about race, gender, and class.
Who was this light-skinned black man, going on and on about how his mother bought too many cookies. Was he crazy? Was he dangerous? Why was he being followed by a film crew?
These street actions formed the basis of The Mythic Being, an influential work of performance art that helped establish Piper’s reputation as provocateur and philosopher.
At a time when Conceptual and Minimal art were mostly male domains that pushed to reduce art to idea and essence, Piper pushed back with confrontational work that brought social and political issues to center stage. And at a time when most performances were barely documented, Piper announced her project in ads in the Village Voice, arranged for it to be filmed by Australian artist Peter Kennedy, and created works on paper dominated by her aggressive alter-ego.
In the catalogue for “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art,” currently at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, curator Naomi Beckwith describes Mythic Being as “a seminal work of self-fashioning that both posited and critiqued models of gender and racial subjectivity.”
Footage from Mythic Being, borrowed from Kennedy, had been playing on a monitor in the Grey’s galleries until this week—when Piper requested the work be removed. The monitor was turned off and the gallery posted a note to viewers on top.
It explained that the artist had articulated her reasons in correspondence with Valerie Cassel Oliver, the show’s curator, which reads in part:
“I appreciate your intentions. Perhaps a more effective way to ‘celebrate [me], [my] work and [my] contributions to not only the art world at large, but also a generation of black artists working in performance,’ might be to curate multi-ethnic exhibitions that give American audiences the rare opportunity to measure directly the groundbreaking achievements of African American artists against those of their peers in ‘the art world at large.’”
The note responds with a statement of Cassel Oliver’s from the catalogue, arguing that the show’s mission is to resist “reductive conclusions about blackness: what it is or what it ain’t. What is clear is that it exists and has shaped and been shaped by experiences. The artists in this exhibition have defied the ‘shadow’ of marginalization and have challenged both the establishment and at times their own communities.”
In response to Piper’s request, Cassel Oliver added: “It is clear however, that some experiences are hard to transcend and that stigmas about blackness remain not only in the public’s consciousness, but also in the consciousness of artists themselves. It is my sincere hope that exhibitions such as Radical Presence can one day prove a conceptual game-changer.”
In depriving students and the larger public from seeing her work at the Grey, the artist, who currently lives in Berlin and runs a foundation dedicated to art, philosophy, and yoga, has chosen to make a larger point about marginalization and otherness, themes that have dominated her work throughout her career.
The question is whether separate exhibitions are still needed to tell the stories that were left out and continue to be absent from conventional tellings of art history, or whether creating these separate spaces amounts to a kind of ghettoization that prevents the artwork from being considered on the larger stage.
These issues are hardly confined to race, of course—curators of exhibitions on gender, nationality, and other aspects of identity routinely encounter artists who decline to participate because they don’t want to be considered in the context of “women artists,” “Jewish artists,” and so on. So, sometimes, do our contributors and photo editor when we run stories on these issues.
The organizers of “Jew York,” a show at Zach Feuer and Untitled galleries in New York last summer, were turned down by several artists who didn’t want to appear under such a rubric. Luis Camnitzer, a German-born Uruguayan artist, was so conflicted that he couldn’t decide whether to recuse himself or contribute a piece. So he sent a letter describing his conundrum, which became part of the show. It read in part: “Do I refuse the invitation on the grounds of feeling that it is an artificial and anecdotal grouping irrelevant to the work of most artists invited and therefore tinged by an aroma of weird fundamentalism? Or do I have to accept on the grounds of my need not to deny my Jewish connections bound by my ethical debt and beliefs? Maybe not totally pleasing to everybody, this letter tries to be my compromise.”
When “Radical Presence” opened at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, last year, it also included five works from Piper’s 1975 series I am the Locus, collaged and painted Polaroids on which images of Piper as the Mythic Being are inserted into scenes of a crowded street. The text gets bigger as the figure approaches the viewer, culminating in the warning “Get Out of My Way, Asshole.” The works, owned by the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago, were deemed too fragile to travel to New York.
Part II of the New York version of “Radical Presence” opens at the Studio Museum in Harlem on November 14. It doesn’t include any works by Piper. The show is scheduled to travel to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis next year.” [credit]
Saleh Khannah, In Between Camps (2012)
A more recent walking artwork highlighting the intersection of walking and race is In Between Camps (2012), which consisted of a group of six researchers and artists, Ismael Al-bis, Fabio Franz, Matteo Guidi, Thayer Hastings, Ibrahim Jawabreh, Saleh Khannah, Sara Pelligrini, Giuliana Racco, and Diego Segatto, walking across the West Bank from the springs of al-Arroub to Solomon’s Pools (three massive stone reservoirs) south of Bethlehem in search of an ancient Roman waterway, the Arrub Aqueduct. The project originated from the Campus in Camps program developed by Al-Quds University, an experimental education program in the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Dheisheh. The purpose of the project was to both reactivate the water system’s source, and imagine a time-frame before the contemporary apartheid-reality of walls, colonial land parceling, and occupation of Palestine. While they were hiking, the group was stopped by Israeli soldiers who were suspicious of the Palestinian participants due to their skin tone and dress. The international participants intervened and explained the trip, their search of the aqueduct, and showed them the map, engaging in a type of information overload tactic, not unlike the tactics Codogan described for minimizing the perception of criminality. After the walk, the group created a booklet (Booklet ) reflecting on the history of the site, their experience, and how the various layers of race-based rule and exclusion are projected on the land.
Hastings, Thayer. “Tracing a Line Through a Fractured Palestine, from al-Arroub to Bethlehem,” Walking Art / Walking Aesthetics. Accessed May 16, 2022: https://walkingart.interartive.org/2018/12/thayer-palestine
Alan Michelson, Mespat (2001)
Video (19:24 minutes)
Turkey feathers, monofilament, steel
Original sound track by Michael J. Schumacher
132 × 168 × 12 inches
Artist Alan Michelson (1953-, Mohawk) has created various works that involve filming from a steady-moving boat, documenting environmental degradation, including Mespat (2001). His use of a boat to create the work might not immediately feel linked to walking as artistic practice, but keeping an inclusive mindset about various modes of mobility, this work very much embodies the contemplative qualities of many other environmentally focused walking works as Michelson slowly brings the viewer through the blighted landscape. The work documents nearly twenty minutes of industrial ruin along the banks of Newtown Creek, an estuary dividing Brooklyn and Queens in New York. This footage is projected on a carefully constructed screen of white turkey feathers, a visual gesture reminding the viewer of the erasure of Indigenous bodies and ways of knowing, in a space where the native Lenape people were eventually displaced in 1642.
(Morris, Kate. Shifting Grounds: Landscape in Contemporary Native American Art. University of Washington Press, 2019. Page 89.)
Cannupa Hanska Luger and Rory Wakemup, Mirror Shield Project: Water Serpent Action (2016)
“The Mirror Shield Project was initiated in support for the Water Protectors as Oceti Sakowin camp near Standing Rock, ND in 2016. Artist Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota) created a tutorial video shared on social media inviting folks to create mirrored shields for use in onsite frontline actions. People from across the Nation created and sent these shields to the Water Protectors. The Mirror Shield Project has since been formatted and used in various resistance movements across the World.” [credit]
For the December 2016 iteration recorded using a drone camera, Luger collaborated with Rory Wakemup (Ojibwe) to orchestrate the more than 150 protesters. The work was inspired by Ukrainian revolutionaries who used mirrors to reflect back the images of Russian government forces. This iteration advanced nonviolent protest, referencing the reflected sky as well as the nearby river. (Morris, Kate. Shifting Grounds: Landscape in Contemporary Native American Art. University of Washington Press, 2019. Page 1.)
Rocca Gutteridge, UK Border Walk (2011)
“A walk along the Scottish/English border to highlight restrictive visa policies for overseas artists, Artist Rocca Gutteridge and Claudia Zeiske undertook a walk along the Scottish/English border in reaction to the introduction of the Tier 5 visa policy for foreign artists on 5-7 August 2011.
UK Border Walk was a 77km walk along the English/Scottish border and included an Artachat discussion in the Romany town of Kirk Yetholm, the halfway point of the walk, about the detrimental effects of the new visa regulations for overseas artists. Both walk and talk highlighted and discussed the effects the Points Based System has for arts and cultural activities across our communities in the UK.
The UK Border Talk took place on Saturday 6th August in Kirk Yetholm, a small town along the border of Scotland and England. This was an open debate on the consequences of the PBS to UK cultural life. Speakers included visual artist Zineb Sedira, photographer Baudouin Mouanda, novelist Kamila Shamsie, artist/cultural commentator Nicholas Trench and Venu Dhupa, Director of Creative Development/Creative Scotland.
People had the option to join for:
- the whole walk (ca 37 km on 5/6 August and 40km on 7 August); very strenuous and full equipment required.
- all Sunday (ca 40km) very strenuous and full equipment required.
- 5km and back on the Sunday morning, returning to Kirk Yetholm ca 12pm. The UK Border Walk continued towards Hungry Law the next day; joined by many for the 5km for the 5 Tier policy walk despite appalling weather conditions.
What is PBS?
In autumn 2008 the UK introduced a new points based system (PBS) for managing migration to the UK. The regulations have led to a restriction of non-European artists’ ability to come to the UK at the invitation of arts curators, promoters and artists. UK hosts are now required to be licensed sponsors if they wish to invite visiting artists. This has regulated the relationship between international artists and UK hosts from one of convivial artistic exchange, collaboration and cultural production to a contract which is excessively bureaucratic and treats international guest artists with suspicion and control. PBS has led to the cancellation of artists’ residencies, exhibitions, productions and performances across the UK. Many artists are refused visas while others are deported from UK airports because they were not sponsored.
For a full dossier of testimonials, petition to UK Government and media coverage visit the Manifesto Club’s website.
UK Border Walk is a partnership between: Deveron Projects, Artachat, Manifesto Club and ARTSADMIN. In collaboration with GASWORKS, Thami Mynyele Foundation and Edinburgh Arts Festival.” [credit]