The Art of Activism and the Activism of Art

Gregory Sholette

Published by Lund Humphries, 2022
ISBN 9781848224414

Since the global financial crash of 2008, artists have become increasingly engaged in a wide range of cultural activism targeted against capitalism, political authoritarianism, colonial legacies, gentrification, but also in opposition to their own exploitation. They have also absorbed and reflected forms of protest within their art practice itself. The Art of Activism and the Activism of Art maps, critiques, and celebrates activist art, exploring its current urgency alongside the processes which have given rise to activism by artists, and activist forms of art.

Gregory Sholette speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the vanishing distinctions between art, art activism, and traditional political activism, and the political dimensions of culture in a hyper-aestheticised world that is indicative of a broader crisis of capitalism. Sholette describes a new wave of activist art taking place not only within community-based protest groups, as it has for decades, but amongst professionally trained artists many of whom refuse to respect the conventional borders separating painting from protest, or art from utility.

Gregory Sholette is an artist, writer, and activist. He has participated in, documented, and written about activist art for over forty years. He is the co-convenor of the school Social Practice Queens, a pioneering programme training artists to become social and political activists.

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