Monday, June 10, 2013

Art + Message = Change

Political posters, like the ones shown, often have a clear message to be brave, to speak out, to have hope, "We can do it!" or in the case of the United Farm Workers grape boycott, "Si se puede!" These posters were effective calls for reform and revolution.

Recently I have been drafting a call for art submissions, on behalf of 3.1 Venice magazine, for a poster project revolving around the idea of non-violence as activism. It is part of a much bigger editorial mission to provide possibilities to promote peace on a local level.

During the course of writing the submission guidelines I realized that the artist's statement - the thinking behind the imagery will be almost as important as the image itself. I wanted to address the recent violent events in Boston and (closer to home) Santa Monica, California with images that reinforce the desire to live peaceably.

I researched images that had a significant impact upon our culture - images that we used as a rallying point - images that create change because they are so compelling people share them willingly. The saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words," is accurate when promoting a desire for change. Sometimes more can be said with one well designed political poster than a thousand word editorial. Art allows for a fluid exchange of ideas on a conscious and subconscious level.

While thinking about the series of articles for the next issue of 3.1 Venice, I began to see the symbiotic relationship between art and activism. The public seemed numb to the recent shootings at Santa Monica College with my friends and colleagues barely posting comment about it. But what could we say that hadn't been said? What change could we effect by talking about it? Which lead me to think - how do we empower ourselves?

The images of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and more recently Occupy Wall Street creating social change through non-violence was a goal, an ideal. I don't pretend to have the answers but art is a powerful tool to create awareness and perhaps rally people to action - if you display a poster that is so compelling, so beautifully designed, so brave, so intelligent that you can't help but speak about it, post it and share it then, that art has become a catalyst for change.

This is certainly not a new idea - it is just a good idea. We are a society in crisis and the average person wants to find their voice, they want to create positive change, they want to live in a peaceful world. We simply have different ideas about how to achieve that. But if the teachings of the great leaders of the non-violent protests have shown us anything it is that answering violence with repression or more violence only perpetuates a cycle of destruction. We need to change our thinking – to do that, we may need to be still for a moment and take in the inspired thinking of an artist with a message.

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