Auto Portrait Oral, 1996
Digital scan on paper
39.5 x 39.5 inches
The Art of Protest
Dubbed the “first TikTok war” the current battle raging in Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s reckless imperialism is taking advantage of user outrage. Both US president Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – himself an avid social media user – have addressed TikTokers directly, calling on them to protest to help end the war.
And even as opposition parties lampoon the efforts as frivolous, and media researchers decry the app’s design as too susceptible to the spread of misinformation, there is no doubt that the short-video platform resonates outside traditional journalism and typical war coverage. Its edge is using a language and aesthetic that appeals to a generation that want their voices to be heard by people their age who dress and dance like they do.
As British art critic John Bergen so poignantly said, “Protest and anger practically always derives from hope, and the shouting out against injustice is always in the hope of those injustices being somewhat corrected and a little more justice established.”
And that’s just what we all want – TikTokers, magazine subscribers, TV addicts, artists, designers, and architects alike.
In the new issue of DAMNº – The Art of Protest – we side with those creatives whose work bites deep, with those who use their craft to protest, and specifically with those who reach out to the public directly as collaborators in that fight against iniquity. Post-colonial narratives, illegal acts, ecological activism, cultural conservation, and freedom of movement are all covered and many of the artists and designers included are not just reflecting on these topics but are themselves immersed in and experiencing them. We have tried to extend the impact of cultural protest to emphasise those artists and designers who go beyond mere representation and dare to discuss real solutions.
And even if the medium of protest expands in the age of social media, it should be recognized that rough skills as well as cheap accessible materials have always been at the core of protest art – posters then, memes now, photography then, NFTs now.
The kernel usually starts emotional and even angry before the narrative cleans up and moves across the spectrum into polite society where eventually even galleries and collectors become enthusiastic.