Through the decades we have seen many different types of activism and social movements. From rioting on the streets in Stonewall, to revolutionary academic works, there are various ways through which LGBTQ* social change can be achieved. But is there a best way? Is creating peaceful street marches the most effective form of activism? Or is it politically demanding the implementation of inclusive practices through policies and laws? Either way, it is undeniable that social change can be achieved through many forms, and lead to fundamentally different outcomes. What, then, are some modern displays of activism, and what are their potentials?
A recent term has crossed my Facebook timeline several times in the past months. ‘Artivism’: the mixture of art and activism has been gaining incredible momentum, especially among Latin American LGBTQ* social movements. I first came across the works of Daniel Arzola, a Venezuelan artivist whose work is called No Soy Tu Chiste (I’m Not a Joke). By combining vibrant colours, a rich mixture of patterns, and eye catching characters, Arzola leads by example in the field of artivism. With the introduction of one or two sentences, his art works become not only eye catching, but also pieces of resistance to a largely intolerant society.
Another movement which incorporates art as a way through which social justice can be achieved is Brasil’s A Revolta da Lâmpada (The Lamp Revolt). Reclaiming in its name an incident where a group of people were hit with fluorescent lights in the streets of São Paulo, the movement parodies militia conservatives groups through mock marches and military undertones. Instead of weapons and aggression, however, the Lamp Revolt counts with a display of bodies of all shapes, sizes, and colours marching to the sound of empowering music, dancing and walking freely. The movement perceives oppression as being rooted in a desire to control and standardize bodies, and therefore advocates for complete body liberation as a way to achieve equality. Its fundamentally symbolic form of manifestation and unapologetic focus on all bodies allows us to characterize the Lamp Revolt as an artivist movement.
But what do these movements and artivism overall offer the LGBTQ* community?
- They are intellectually accessible. Though academic works have a great potential to elaborate complex and valuable topics, they are not inclusive for people outside of an academic setting. Often people who choose not to (or cannot) attend university are left out of these types of conversation, and language may be off putting for many.
- They allow for the participation of more bodies. Marches may not be accessible for people with mobility issues. Even discussing LGBTQ* issues might be a problem for people who are not out, or live in areas with immediate safety risks, but art pieces can have a more universal reach, especially when they have a strong online presence.
- They are concise yet rich in information. A simple sentence in front of an illustration has the potential to convey an infinite amount of information. Given the possibilities of different interpretations of art, the learning possibilities a piece can encompass are endless.
I believe these movements to be very liberating and revolutionary. In both, a prevailing message of empowerment is present through highlighting the importance of self-determination. Although the movements are explicit about the societal influences in identity construction, they nonetheless empower viewers to take ownership of their own bodies and reclaim them as unique and valuable. These artivist movements are, then: first, aware of social norms; second, aware of the disciplining and corporal punishment these norms embody; third, refuse these norms; fourth, explicitly challenge these norms; and fifth, pursue to completely free the body.
In conclusion, modern activism is more and more leaning on artistic means as a way to further social equality. In these exciting times, I believe we are reaching a more inclusive, accessible, and highly critical way of fighting for social justice, a process which must be continuous and tireless. Artivism, then, becomes an ideal hybrid, adapted to modern times, social media savvy, and radical in its premise.
No Soy Tu Chiste: https://www.facebook.com/nosoytuchiste/?fref=ts
The Lamp Revolt: https://www.facebook.com/arevoltadalampada/?fref=ts