Not on Paper: A Review of our Activist x Artist Event
As we moved into October, we held an amazing event that showcased some brilliant activist artists, while creating a space for forward-thinking discussion. In collaboration with The Holy Art Gallery, we put on an exhibition that took viewers through various global and regional movements that our recent platform expansion explores. Artworks delved into issues ranging from human rights to mental health; deploying styles and mediums from hyperrealism to moving images. The space welcomed audiences to learn, discuss and question the international affairs represented through a creative lens.
Our opening night provided a space for our community of artists, activists and followers to merge in a relaxed setting. The team were so happy to meet more than 200 art and advocacy enthusiasts, after a year of virtual meetings and email chains. It was great to see a constant flow of movement as guests made their way through the exhibition space, taking time to visually explore the works on display; and the energy of discussion that tailed off from these analyses was especially brilliant.
The following day we held four panel talks that brought together artists and activists. Our first talk brought together artists Jens Galschiøt, a significant Danish artist best known for his large-scale, politically-charged sculptures, and Peter Mammes, a South-African artist, producing intricate artworks inspired by ancient Egyptian art, hieroglyphics and contemporary local politics. Together, they discussed artist censorship and the roots of their creative endeavours. The talk highlighted how backlash to activist art inflames discussion and draws attention to the issues their work explores, while also encouraging artists to extend their practice covertly.
Following on from this, Shirani Bolle, artist, and Sandra Freij, climate justice curator, activist and fashion photographer, sought to break down intergenerational activism. This talk put forward questions on trauma and communication through a lens of climate change and mental health. The panel explored the moments of epiphany that can lead to activism, on both an individual and societal level, and how this can be difficult to convey to those outside of the activism sphere.
Our third talk seated three individuals promoting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. Simon Cheng, an exiled activist and non-profit founder; Justin Wong, a political cartoon columnist; Catherine Li, an independent artist, curator and activist. They expanded on the symbols of the Hong Kong movement, how to bring it to a point of looking forward to the future and questioned arts' role in promoting societal change.
Our final talk was a power panel exploring gender equity in various directions: Fatima Zaman, an activist who works with partners such as the UN to enhance human rights focusing on women, peace and security; and Iva Troj, the 2016 Palm Award Winner and 2019 CAF Artist of the Year, who uses Renaissance aesthetics to overturn social and gender norms. The talk shone light onto the societal norms inflicted upon women, communities of colour and other minority groups; with the guests drawing focus to their experience of breaking out of society’s imposed framework.
We are thankful for the massive support received from NGODEI.org, The Holy Art Gallery, and the community of activists and artists. We hope to expand our activist art movement beyond the UK and cannot wait for the next event; raising awareness, funds and cultivating artistic x activist discussion.