Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dissertation Proposal


An extensive review in to the history of art activism in the art gallery and in the public domain. With regards to this information where is art activism headed in the future?


Activism is action taken by an individual or group aiming to bring about social, political, economic or environmental change. Throughout history activism has had a strong connection with the arts and it continues to do so, providing a vehicle for emotion and opinion. Art Activism also falls under the title of community art or public art as it's main intention is to advertise issues of interest to a wider group in society. The reason for advertising these issues is to harness awareness and support in the hope that more involvement will put pressure on the route of the problem to change. If an act of public art doesn’t do anything else, it acts as an outlet for built up anger on an issue.

Art Activism may be done in numerous ways and can be used to tackle any issue. For example the notorious and controversial Feminist Art Activist group, The Guerrilla Girls, get there views over to the masses through appearances, clever poster campaigns, billboards and books. They are famous for staying anonymous by wearing gorilla masks in public and using the names of deceased female artists. Their main goal is to show the lack of females in art galleries. They appear at gallery openings and events of significance to announce their views.

WochenKlauser, an Art Activism group from Austria use a very different method. They don’t concentrate on a certain issue. They assess what local political circumstances need addressing and after research and planning they decide the best strategy to bring the issue to attention. The next stage in there action is to approach an art gallery with their intervention proposal. If the proposal is accepted they then create their work in the space.

These two examples show the extent of diversity in using art as a form of activism. On the one hand it can be in your face, controversial, spontaneous, angry and pushy. On the other it can be a lot more controlled, clever and interesting. It may be an individual view expressed through a painting held at a protest or a performance piece staged by a group in a public building. It may be a piece of classic painting such as Picasso's Guernica or a piece of street art by the infamous graffiti artist Banksy. However different each method is, they all try to do the same thing; challenge public perception on an issue they feel needs changed.


- to investigate the history of art as a form of activism

- to make a comprehensive list of how art is used in activism and assess the success of each method

- to understand why individuals and groups use art as a form of activism

- to assess the reasoning behind different uses of art activism action at different events

- to identify the most controversial art activists groups and individuals

- to identify the differences between art activism in the art gallery compared to that of art activism in public space

- to assess whether advanced planning or spontaneous action is more successful

- to investigate in to the publics opinion towards art as a form of activism

- to find out the recurring issues in art activism and if there has been a change and advancement in the way these issues have been dealt with

- to assess whether advances in technology have changed activist art in anyway


I would like to produce through my dissertation:

- an in depth analysis of relevant books, journals, articles, course syllabi and other written sources

- a series of discussions with activists and art activists

- a personal documentation and analysis of art activism through attendance to art galleries and events

- an analysis and conclusion to the effectiveness of art activism in galleries compared to art activism in the public domain

- an over all conclusion to the success of activist art

- an outlook to where activist art may be heading in the future


activist, art, protest, revolution, social change, campaign


Adbusters, 2010. Activism after Clicktivism, How to energise the political left. [online] Available at: [accessed 10/03/2011]

This article looks at activism on the internet and how it will never compare to the real thing. With the computer and the internet being such a big part of our daily lives, it is definitely important for me to look at how it is effecting activism.

Adbusters, 2010. The Aesthetics of Activism. [online] Available at: [accessed 10/03/2011]

This article provides the story behind the controversial magazine Adbusters and proves that a magazine is a form of art activism.

Cieri. M, Peeps. C., 2000. Activists Speak Out: Reflections on the Pursuit of Change in America: Palgrave Macmillan.

This book looks at why different groups in America are passionate about change. It looks at the issues leading up to there unrest and the subsequent strategies undertaken to initiate change. I think it is important to look at art and activism to come to new conclusions on it’s relationship.

Community Arts Network, 2002. An Introduction to Community Art and Activism. [online] Available at: [accessed 13/03/2011]

This article offers a greatly detailed introduction to Community Art and Activism covering it's history, activist partnerships, initiatives, and a conclusion to the intersection between art and activism. This article will help me gain the background knowledge I need for my research.

Dunn, P, Leeson, L., 1997. The Aesthetics of Collaboration. The Art of Change Art Journal, CAA, USA. [online] Available at: [accessed 13/03/2011]

The Art of Change is an artist's collective that looks at the relationship between art, regeneration, technologies and environment. This article looks at projects they have undertaken in the public domain. One subheading that will be useful for my research is "From Strategy to Implementation." It will help me draw closer to my aim of finding out the success of planned action over more spontaneous action.

Exit through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film. 2011 [DVD]

Thierry Guetta an LA based, French amateur cameraman and graffiti enthusiast was the genius who captured the rise of street art. When he is given the chance to meet with the well known British graffiti artist, Banksy, the tables turn. Banksy feels that Guetta is the interesting one, subsequently making a documentary about him. Street Art and Graffiti are the most common types of public art with political and social issues often being centre stage. For this reason it is a must that I do research in to it's history and influence. This DVD will provide me with a real insight in to the motives behind the influential artist, Banksy's work. It will also provide information on Banksy's feelings towards other graffiti artists, hopefully revealing some of his influences.

Felshin, N., 1995. But is it Art? The Spirit of Art as Activism. London: Bay Press.

This book puts together a group of 12 essays by a varied group of authors who all show sensitivity to their subjects as well as to the complex of issues surrounding those subjects. While the book's subtitle positions art as activism, many of the essays make the case for activism as art. It looks at a history of art activism that has tried to go against the predictable. It features case studies of some of the most controversial art activists of our time including the Guerilla Girls, Gran Fury, Women's Action Coalition and Group Material. Finding out about these passionate activists is key to my research. I will also find this book useful for investigating in to chosen locations for art activism.

Feminist, 2006. Feminist Activism for the College Grrl. [online] Available at: [accessed 07/03/2011]

Although this article is based on feminist art activism, it provides ideas on many ways that art activism can be carried out. This is a good source of inspiration to start making a comprehensive list of successful ways of becoming actively involved in the community through art.

Finkelpearl, T., 2000. Dialogues in Public Art. Cambridge, Mass, London: MIT Press.

This book focuses on art in the public space but not as activism. I feel it's important to include this research as it will be interesting to see if normal public art has any similarities to the art that activists create outside. It leads me to question the possibility of other sources providing inspiration to art activists.

Frieze Magazine: People's Choice, 2010. 17 years of projects by art collective Group Material. [online] Available at:

This article provides me with an insight in to another art activist group's history and accomplishments, strengthening my knowledge on the subject.

Frieze Magazine: Politics, 2011. Good Intentions; Art has a long history of engagement with politics. does recent so-called socially engaged or political art really effect change? [online] Available at: [accessed 29/02/2011]

This article looks in depth at the success of political and social art, drawing on many historical examples.

Gerin. A, McClean. J., 2009. Public Art in Canada, Critical Perspectives. Canada: UTP Publishing.

This book investigates in to the varied forms of Public Art and how it reaches out to the public. The book includes writings from highly respected contributors, offering a wide range of views on how Public Art helps outreach in a way that other Art can't. They highlight the emotion, struggle and outcome of Public Art. This will allow me to hear voices of another cultures perspective. I intend to focus on the emotional information that this book provides.

Guerrilla Girls., 1995. Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls. London: Pandora.

This book showcases some of the art activist group, the Guerrilla Girl's best poster work. They discuss these projects in-depth and the consequences to their poster campaigns. This allows me to understand the reasoning behind the Guerrilla Girl's work and show me how art activism can be successful.

Heller, S., 2010. Pop: How Graphic Design Shapes Popular Culture. London: Allworth Communications.

This book looks in to the lasting and fleeting impacts of Graphic Design on popular culture. It considers the aims of design, and the influence it has over other art forms in broader culture. Covered in the book are relevant topics to my research; viral and guerilla campaigns, political satire and a history of influential publication design. I feel this book will give me a new perspective to my research. Graphic design is always asking people to change their views, so I will look through out the book for links between graphic design and activism.

Kearny Street Workshop, 2007. Archive: Activist Imagination. Available at: [accessed 13/03/2011]

This blog follows the exhibition and the events surrounding the exhibition, Activist Imagination. The exhibition was held at Kearney Street Workshop in San Francisco in 2007 to offer the public an insight in to the past, present and future of activism and the arts. The blog offers write ups of artist's talks, an explanation behind some of the work and an interesting post by an anonymous artist on why he refused to make art for the exhibition as he/ she believes that art and activism do not mix. This blog will help me realize why it is important to document and explore art activism in the gallery. As I plan to look at the success of art in activism, hearing a view against is success will provide ideas for my conclusion.

Kester, H., 2004. Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art. Berkeley, London: University of California Press.

This book is similar to But is it Art? in the sense that it looks at artists and groups that have taken there work out of the conventional art gallery and on to the streets. There work covers issues such as political conflict in Northern Ireland, gang violence on Chicago's West Side, and the problems of sex workers in Switzerland. Artist's/ groups included in the book are The Art of Change, Helen and Newton Harrison, Littoral, Suzanne Lacy, Stephen Willats, WochenKlauser and Jrgen Habermas. This book will definitely benefit my research, as I would like to gain a diverse view on art activism in other countries.

MacClancy, J., 1997. Contesting Art: Art, Politics and Identity in the Modern World. Oxford: Berg.

This book identifies that art is a large political weapon. It first looks at how individuals and groups in the West feel they are unfairly represented by the main stream and so they use public art to educate there true feelings. This is not protesting for change on a major scale but it still asks for change of opinion. I find it very interesting and still see it to be activist art. The book then looks more at the political activism in the West. This will give me yet more insight in to art activism in other cultures.

Raunig, G., 2007. Art and revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century. Los Angeles, Calif: Semiotext.

This book investigates practices emerging in neighbouring zones where art and revolution overlap for a limited time and how this overlap can be traced. It also encourages a new generation of artists and thinkers to refuse to participate in the tired prescriptions of marketplace and authority and instead create radical new methods of engagement. This will provide me with ideas of where activist art is headed in the future.

This Magazine, 2005. Art as Activism. [online] Available at: [accessed 10/03/2011]

Through talking about Artists Against War, a Toronto based group this article gives me an idea of the different styles of art work used in art activism.

Wolfgang WochenKlauser, Z., 2001. Sociopolitical Activism in Art. New York: Springer-Verlag Wein.

This book is based on the Austrian art activist group WochenKlauser. It looks at thirteen projects undertaken by the group to show that art can play a concrete role in the socio-political field. The thirteen interventions span across a wide area of issues from an intervention to establish a community centre for seniors in Italy to intervening in the education system in Kosovo. I hope to learn from this book the range of methods and strategies that art activists can use to tackle different issues. As WochenKlauser's interventions span across continents, it will help me better understand the views of art activism in different countries.

(anon) 2006. Che Guevara: Revolutionary & Icon. London: V&A Publications.

This book looks at the iconic image of the revolutionary Che Guevara and the many ways that this image has been re appropriated. It questions the loss of symbolism and peoples perceptions of the image, revealing a lot about our culture. It will help me explore the thought that re appropriation of art could possibly be a destroyer of meaning.

(anon) 2010. Concept Store: Art, Activism & Recuperation. Bristol: Arnolfini.

Concept store is a biannual journal, focusing on critical issues of contemporary art and their relationship to wider culture, social and political contexts. This issue explores many ideas around the recuperation of activist art. It suggests that activist art is neutralized by the state. Revolutionary ideas are sanitized and re-packaged as mainstream popular culture therefore losing there significance. This book offers me with a new perspective on art and activism highlighting to an extent it's ineffectiveness. It will help me come to an unbiased conclusion about art's success in activism.

(anon) 2000. Whitechapel Art Gallery (London) Protest and Survive. London: BANK

This book was published to document the exhibition, Protest and Survive, held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery on the 15 September - 12 November 2000. The publication includes the work of some 40 artists, spanning several generations. It brings together texts and images that amplify some of the central concerns addressed by the works in the exhibition. This publication will allow me to understand how art in protest does not only change attitudes at the time of protest. It's documentation and appearance in art exhibitions, and furthermore publications of these exhibitions can reinstate the views and outcries repeatedly.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


Mission - complete a VARK test to show my learning style; Activist, Theorist, Reflector or Pragmatist
Outcome - Very strong Activist and very low every thing else, surprise surprise!


Activists like to be involved in new experiences and are enthusiastic about new ideas. They enjoy doing things and tend to act first and consider the implications afterwards. They are unlikely to prepare for the learning experience or review their learning afterwards.

Activists learn best when:

involved in new experiences

problems and opportunities

working with others in team tasks or role-playing

being thrown in the deep end with a difficult task

chairing meetings, leading discussions

Activists learn less when:

listening to lectures or long explanations

reading, writing or thinking on their own

absorbing and understanding data

following precise instruction to the letter

Definitely describes my dominant mode of operating in the world which I am unsure if is a good thing at all times!! I am always enthusiastic and think that every idea is a good one in one way or another. I believe that there is no time like the present meaning I sometimes rush in to things without thinking of the consequences. I love communicating and getting other revved up around me. I am not good at keeping my ideas to myself and do get serious cases of word vomit in meetings and discussions. I overcome problems by talking. After I have spoke my mind I then feel safe to go and research and think a little more in-depth.

All other areas are very low which I do agree with as I do tend to brush over the surface of serious and deeply intellectual matters and don't analyse situations in depth. I do like having a good basis of research to back up my ideas but I don't fret about this research being perfect and leave things open for additional ideas. I'm not much of a pragmatist as I like to try out crazy ideas even though they may not have clear benefits in the end. I do believe that a detailed game plan is very beneficial but it is not the first thing I consider when faced with a topic.

This process has been extremely beneficial at making me realise that there are very different people out there. It has made me reflect on my behaviour in discussions and I now realise that I need to take other peoples modes of operating in to consideration before taking over. A back seat at times would be good for me.

Guessing what my team members were and what they actually were:

Leanne Evans- Theorist/ Reflector/ Pragmatist... actually theorist

Gary Gourlay- Pragmatist (sensible)... actually strong on everything but not reflective

Abbie Graham- Reflector... actually was a moderate reflector and activist

Fiona Harper- Theorist/ Pragmatist... actually activist

Victoria- Activist...

Lynsey- Reflector... actually low activist

Activist most dominate in group with runner up place going to theorist.

I admire Leanne's theorist qualities as it is totally opposite from my natural approach. We need someone like this on the team to remind us of time management and organisation and bring ideas down to earth. Abbie's reflective qualities will be a great plus for hopefully providing helpful feedback and suggestions for moving forwards in a suited way.

Positive mix quite a few activists but we have worked together well so far with no collisions in opinions, we can all be multi-modal when need be and I think finding our place in the team for our group project will come naturally to us.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

analysing an article, summarising a book

Differing from the ideas my title may give off I in actual fact did not analyse an article and summarise a book. I instead summarised two books. The reason being I have not to date found an appropriate article on my subject and I also wanted to get a head start with reading some books. When I do stumble across a linked article I shall summarise it and pop it up. The two books I have been looking at hold endless amounts of useful information and I have found both books enjoyable even though the writing style at times is very different. I have found myself unable to stop taking notes on each book as they spur lots of different ideas that I can use for further research in to my topic. The first book helps me with ideas on the teaching and education of Graphic Deign whereas the latter allows me to consider the other factors effecting the success of a design course.

The Education of a Graphic Designer, edited by Steven Heller

The main purpose of this book is to bridge the gap between education and graphic design, and show the importance of teaching such a subject. It pulls together thoughts, theories and different ways of practising Graphic Design as well as many different teaching techniques which may inspire a better future for Graphic Education. The authors key question appears to be "how can we look at the education system in relation to Graphic Design and all the notions that surround this in an unbiased fashion to offer new perspectives?" This question is answered well with the inclusion of essays, interviews and course syllabi from a large variety of people and sources providing a wide basis of information from which the readers own ideas can flourish. These methods mentioned are the authors primary sources. The secondary sources present in the book are that of facts from the history of Graphic Design and general knowledge of the subject.

To have success with this book you have to grasp the key concept which means dropping all preconceptions of Graphic Design Education, whether you have had first hand experience or you have heard rumours about the system from others you need to be open to learning that there is a lot more to it than scribbling down notes on typography and photoshop. The book looks at it from all angles; creatively and intellectually.

After letting yourself be open to what is in the book you are likely to conclude that there are a tremendous amount of ways and theories about how each aspect of Graphic Design can be taught. Another conclusion that can be drawn is that each way of teaching and learning Graphic Design is neither right or wrong as the book strongly suggests that there are a more aspects to the success of a teaching method than the teaching method itself. If you take the books line of reasoning and conclusions then it is expected that you will be a person with more rounded and balanced views on Graphic Design Education. You will probably come out of it with your own ideas of what makes a good way of teaching Graphic Design. If you fail to take the books words in to consideration you will remain blinkered to the multitude of theories surrounding Graphic Design Education.

Becoming Designers: Education and Influence, edited by Esther Dudley and Stuart Mealing

Becoming Designers focuses on the designer as an individual and a real person, considering what needs may have to be met and what factors contribute to turning a student in to a practitioner. In other words what factors influence the growth of a designer and also a design course. These factors are dealt with in depth taking in to account everything that could effect them. The author draws a lot of inspiration from quotes, as you find them littered all through out the pages proving ideas and information right. Coinciding with the good use of quotes, a strong knowledge of design history and practise shines through in the text. A great primary source in the book comes in the form of whole chapters being written by different design practitioners, offering a diversity of views.

The key concept in the book is development. It is not a history book of what designers are like and how people become one but instead a clever philosophical and insightful bank of knowledge in to how things and people progress in the ever changing design industry. This way of writing leads us to the books main conclusion, that more theoretically ambitious, pure and applied research programmes are needed to support the furthering of design brilliance. Meaning more experimentation is needed to allow our design students and courses to keep up a good level of success and development. If you agree with this conclusion then you are someone who can look to the future of design rather than drawing what was good in the past. More than ever, there is always room for more success and this book urges this saying in to action.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Map to my Dissertation

My hoping that the dissertation workshop would spark an idea for my dissertation paid off. Whilst being taught about research skills I came up with the idea of researching about how we're taught. I feel really strongly about this as I want to learn as much as possible at University so I can come out of the experience and feel that it has paid off. Having come straight from school in to University I have nothing such as college to compare University teaching to, however after speaking to numerous people in my class about their college experience has made me realise that the way things are taught in the two higher education institutes are very different. College seems to be more to the point and the information is handed to you more readily where as University is more about your own research and thinking creatively. I would like to do an in depth study in to how and why things are taught differently in different institutions. To keep it in line with my Design area I shall focus on techniques of teaching Graphic Design and what is and is not successful. I shall also look at other factors that contribute to the effectiveness of teaching and learning. I feel there is a lot of scope and research can be started off easily by starting with the dynamics of my very department.
To get my initial thoughts out I have noted key words on
my mind map that I can draw from to start looking for relevant resources.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Dissertation TIme

It has come to that time when University gets serious and everyone starts to talk about dissertations. We all met in our Design Studies group yesterday to let out our thoughts out about the subject. Everyone was feeling reasonably unsure about the decision of what to focus on. The fact that there are near to none limits on what you could pick to study was a large stress on everybody's minds. We felt that the Dissertation workshop on Wednesday would be a large help to put things straight in our minds and hopefully spark some ideas.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Mind Mapping

To get the ball rolling on my Wiki entry about Branding and Design I made a detailed mind map with all the ideas and issues I could think of concerning branding, on its own and relating to design. It appears that there are a whole lot of areas to cover, but this will make my wiki entry all the more interesting. The main thing I noticed is that design plays a massive part in every part of branding so what I'm interested in finding out is the role branding plays in influencing other areas of design.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

beginning Assignment 1

On Wednesday morning at our first lecture of 3rd year we received, amongst other information on Design Consumerism, a description of our first assignment. The first task to get us on our way to completing the assignment was to find our study groups for the year. Unlike last year where we were in same discipline study groups and had supervision, we are now mixed with people from all disciplines and have to meet up on our on accord. I'm really looking forward to having contact with individuals from other design disciplines as it will bring fresh ideas and insights.
In true makeshift style we found each other by means of one of our members holding up a scribbled down sign reading "Group 7." We decided that for our Thursday afternoon meeting the next day we would head to Braes Bar/Restaurant to meet each other and chat in a relaxed atmosphere.
In preparation for the meeting I looked over the list of topics that we could choose from for our first assignment. There were a number of terms that I had not came across before such as embodied energy, perma-culture and green wash. So I learnt a lot just from the decision process. A lot of the topics were in some way or another linked to issues surrounding sustainability. I find this subject extremely interesting but although I am eager to continue learning more about sustainability I decided that I would take a different route as I have done quite a lot of sustainability projects in the past. Our class project at the moment is focused on branding, a subject that I have never had the chance to look in to in much detail. For this reason I felt the topic Branding and Design would be perfect as I would be able to transfer any new knowledge in to my studio work as well.

The Meeting

After everyone turning up at the right place and the right time we got down to the business of choosing which topic each of us would like to do. Luckily we had all chosen different ones so it was easy from the beginning.

Our teams choice of topic:
Abbie Graham- Green wash
Gary Gourlay- Up-cycling/ Down-cycling/ Re-cycling
Leanne Evans- Ethnography
Victoria Guy- Crime
Lynsey Hutchison- Fairtrade
Fiona Harper- Co-Design
Kirsty Turpie- Branding
Tobie Verleye- Art or Gender?

I feel that the topics are group have chosen are all quite different which will provide a lot of interesting discussions. We had a small chat about each persons choice of topic, giving ideas and inspiration on the different terms. Gary gave me a good issue to think about concerning branding, which was to think about how brands have influenced other brands and how they have done this.
Fiona made us aware of a website called TeamBox, a website where you can create an interactive message board for projects. We decided it would be a brilliant idea for us to sign up so that we could keep in touch with each other, quickly and easily and post ideas and links relating to each others topics.
We rounded up the meeting with plans for next week and the decision of joining TeamBox. All in all a good start to Assignments.
Now....to mind map!