How Artists Are Using Their Work to Break Political Boundaries


When a simple sign on a stick and a clever chant aren’t getting your protest point across, why not consider a sculpture, tapestry or performance piece? Artists across the world are taking their talents to the streets to support a variety of political, social and economic protests. Below are four international examples of how to use creativity to further a cause.

Rio de Janeiro: Brazil’s economy is hurtling toward the country’s worst recession since 1904, and many Brazilians are expressing their anger at President Dilma Rousseff, whom they accuse of corruption, through a massive protest planned for March 20th in Rio de Janeiro. Rather than join that fight, one anonymous artist decided to place red blindfolds over 100 statues of historical figures in Brazil. According to a BBC report, the artist wanted to shield the former politicians from the chaos sweeping the economy today. Blindfold recipients include former president Getulio Vargas, and Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil, who signed the law that emancipated Brazilian slaves in 1888. (BBC, Bloomberg)

Paris: At the height of Paris Fashion Week in February, a group of live art models calling themselves Art Models Collective of Paris took to the expansive plaza in front of the Hotel de Ville to protest unfair working conditions for those who pose for photographers and fine artists. Art models, unlike various other artistic workers in France, are considered temp workers and earn a lower minimum wage, and are not afforded the right to negotiate for fair working conditions. The first time the models protested, in 2008, they did so nude. They chose to keep their clothes on this time, fearing that nudity would distract from their message. (Hyperallergic)

Chicago: Chicago-area artists and social service organizations joined forces on March 2 to protest the current lack of a state budget, which disproportionately impacts smaller social service organizations (and their clients). The budget impasse is the result of a battle between Illinois' Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled state legislature. In addition to their talking points, the participants brought fabric with them—not just any fabric, but “Voice of the Voiceless,” a project consisting of hundreds of colorful scraps. Each piece represents 10 children who are coping without essential state services due to the lack of a budget deal. A local store whose owners support the cause provided the fabric. (Beverly Review, American Prospect)

London: Commuters passing a construction site across from Brockley Station in South London have a new, larger than life feline friend to greet them as they head to and from work. Artist Zara Gaze, fed up with new construction and relentlessly high rents, used 40 tons of sand from one development (and a few hours one Sunday morning) to express her displeasure. The fat cat representing the corporate forces that make Gaze’s neighborhood less and less affordable is snacking on a stalk of broccoli, which, Gaze told the Evening Standard, is a play on Brockley neighborhood. So far it’s a hit. Even real estate agents want to take a picture with it. (Evening Standard)

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