artWork: Art, Labour and Activism brings together a variety of perspectives on contemporary cultural production and activism in order to interrogate how the concepts of art, labour and activism intersect in practices for social change. What can we learn about contemporary art and politics by looking at the intersections between art, labour and activism? What theoretical tools can help us arrive at a deeper understanding of these intersections?
In order to address these questions, this collection explores the role of art as activism, the use of social media and technology in creative production and organising, the politics of artmaking, the commodification of culture and the possibility of a creative commons, and the work of artist activists as educators. In addition to offering a variety of new perspectives from researchers and practitioners, it proposes new paths towards interdisciplinary research in this field that combine sociological, anthropological, philosophical and art theory perspectives. It will be of interest to students and scholars interested in creative labour, social movements and political arts practice.
Preface/Introduction/ 1. Reimaging, Reimagining, or Reimagineering: Rebranding Ulster, Sarah Feinstein and Sheelagh Colclough/ 2. Art, Activism, and Addressing Sexual Assault in the UK: A Case Study, Winnie M Li/ 3. Macao before and beyond social media: the creation of the unexpected as a mobilisation logic, Alberto Cossu and Maria Francesca Murru/ 4. The Political Value of Techno-future, Emanuele Braga/ 5. Changing the Narrative: Highlighting Workers’ Rights in Environmental Art Activism, Paula Serafini/ 6. Working Dancers; contemporary dance activism in Argentina, Konstantina Bousmpoura and Julia Martinez Heimann/ 7. Making Art Relevant in the Aftermath of the Egyptian Uprising, Rounwah Bseiso/ 8. Collective art-making to agitate for social change: Liberate Tate in parallel with The Wooster Group, Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, Forced Entertainment, La Pocha Nostra, Climate Camp and Occupy Wall Street, Mel Evans/ 9. Embracing failure, educating hope: some arts activist educators' concerns in their work for social justice, Jane Trowell/ 10. In Case of Emergency Make Art: Exploring the (non)function of art in response to humanitarian disasters, Jessica Holtaway/ 11. Post- Autonomous Art and Common People in Barcelona, Roger Sansi/ Conclusion: Art, Labour and Activism, Notes for Future Research, Alberto Cossu, JessicaHoltaway and Paula Serafini/ Acknowledgements/ Index
artWORK: Art, Labour and Activism represents an important contribution to emerging debates about contemporary socially engaged art produced in the wake of new forms of global protest and resistance over the past decade. It will do much to further advance this debate, especially through it’s close attention to the complex imbrication of art practice and social movements across a range of geo-political contexts, from Argentina to Spain to Egypt to the UK and beyond.
Assembling an encyclopedia-sized volume of writings by over a dozen sharp-minded thinkers and practitioners, Serafini, Cossu and Holtaway provide us with a timely book about 21st century socially engaged culture: a rapidly evolving field combining art, activism, education and alternative community organizing that refuses to be contained within museums, academies and other institutional spaces as it confronts our tumultuous political era with a abundance of imagination, ideas and hope.
In artWORK, “WORK” is a verb: it encompasses the making of art as labor, political organizing around labor issues, and the efficacy and appeal of activist art. Art works. Offering readers a thick description of the art of contemporary, multi-sited social movements, and incorporating the insights of practitioners and scholars (and scholar-practitioners), the editors have crafted a conversation about art and activism that is thoughtful, critical, practical, and deeply urgent all at once.
Brecht and Weill famously asked 'What keeps mankind alive' in song form. This important and timely collection asks what keeps artists and cultural workers alive today, when confronted with conditions of increasing precarity. Essential reading for building a new art workers' coalition.
artWORK: Art, Labour, and Activism is an ambitious and successful project and an enriching read for the way it highlights the generative capability of art/artists as cultural producers that are part and parcel with, rather than separate from, broader socio-spatial activist struggles. The enthusiasm and spark of the contributors, many of whom are freshly inspired/informed by empirical research, comes off the pages and imbues the reader with a sense of possibility and optimism in otherwise fairly dark and perilous times.
Alberto Cossu is a Lecturer in New Media and Digital Culture in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam.
Jessica Holtaway is a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
Paula Serafini is a Research Associate at CAMEo Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies, University of Leicester.