Art is defining student activist movements in a world that’s increasingly moving to social media. The visual side of activism has evolved to encompass new forms with students embracing performance and Lennon Walls — but despite the shift online, one medium remains especially striking: the protest sign.
The sense of community was undeniable at a recent UBCC350 sign-making event and I hesitated to pull members Max Hiscox and Mukta Chachra away from the camaraderie for an interview. They were preparing for solidarity action with Wet’suwet’en land defender that was being held at Vancouver- area ports later the same afternoon.
A dozen or so students cut up cardboard and gather markers while sitting on the floor or perched on couches. They passed around a bag of chips, amidst typical student chatter about some concert the week before or the shortcomings of some professor.
“It’s a space for people to build art and at the same time talk to each other about what’s going on and organize,” said Hiscox.
There’s more nuance to activist art than just protest, however, and the simple sign goes beyond protest.
“I don’t even like to call them protest signs,” Chachra said. “I think it’s more like art and it’s the art of resistance.”
Sign slogans assert a certain kind of defiance. Take the worldwide climate strikes led by activists like Autumn Peltier and Greta Thunberg, where photos of protest signs struck the internet with snappy slogans.
Chachra acknowledged the space she occupies with her activism, stressing the need to centre the voices of the communities most impacted.
“With our signs, I think it’s really important to echo the voices of the people at the front lines, and … for those of us in the more privileged position to support those communities and … their voices in art,” she said.
Finding space in the impermanent
Although signage will almost certainly continue as a mainstay in activism, campus activist groups — such as UBCC350 — have been exploring the usage of more fluid mediums, like screen printing and chants in their activism.
The Lennon Walls across campus also show how spontaneous mediums of protest can have an impact at UBC, as they provide a space for students to write messages about the recent protest movement in Hong Kong. Walk by the wall and you’ll see a motley patch of coloured
Post-its upon which students have scrawled messages of support for pro-Hong Kong activists.
Of note is the ubiquitous 加 油, literally translated as “add oil,” a common Chinese phrase of encouragement. Beside a photo memorializing the late Dr. Li Wenliang, who was a COVID-19 whistleblower, are pens and pads of blank notes for passersby to write and stick on their own thoughts.
Phoenix Au-Yeung, an executive at UBC The Enlightenment of HK, said the wall in the Nest started in a “half organic” way after a rally on campus in October 2019.
“We just thought this might be a chance for everyone to kind of fill up this Lennon Wall, which is a really common way of expressing opinions … in Hong Kong,” she said. “So from then on, we’ve seen people putting on Post-it Notes.”
One of the most eye-catching visuals of Hong Kong activism, Lennon Walls in Hong Kong feature Post-its that are typically glued down in public spaces. The notes provide an easily accessible way for anybody to contribute to an installation — “You probably have one in your backpack right now,” Au-Yeung mused — and it’s already spawned an offshoot for Kashmir in the Life Building.
But the transience of the notes is one of the wall’s greatest vulnerabilities. The installation in the Nest has endured several instances of vandalism, despite the AMS’s approval for the wall to remain.
The wall’s resilience symbolizes the people in the movement, said Au-Yeung, even as media attention has waned. “We’re still here,” she said.
“It’s really exciting to see that there are still people caring, especially [since] we’re all the way here in Canada,” she said. “They’re still willing to kind of put themselves out there … just leaving a message that is letting other people know that they’re caring.”
And it’s neither Au-Yeung nor the rest of Enlightenment’s role to police the messages put up, she said. The wall is open to all, both pro-HK and pro-Chinese government sentiments.
“What we were really upset about [with] the last wall being torn down was that we never stopped you from putting anything on,” she said.
“It could be anything. It could be pro-China. But you didn’t have the right to tear down what other people had to say because those are their thoughts, their property and their rights — and you shouldn’t be able to remove that from the public attention.”
Good press, bad press
By nature, the visual impact of activist art lends itself to being taken up by the media. But Au-Yeung said that media attention is a “side product of the wall.”
“I believe that this should be something that comes together naturally, that exists because people want to present their thoughts and they want to share what’s on their minds.”
Emma Pham, a member of Extinction Rebellion (XR) UBC, holds a different philosophy.
“I think that art is very important in this because this movement is based in the 21st century. There’s nothing better than a good photo.”
XR is more focused on taking up space in media than the other activist organizations I spoke to. For example, events like last month’s road blockades in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en or the hunger strike for divestment in January were both aimed at bringing media attention to XR and its mission. The latter featured chants from the Red Brigade, an activist group tied to XR that brings performance to protests with members clad in signature blood-red livery.
“That’s something that’s kept in mind during disruptive actions,” said Pham, one of the hunger strikers. “Is it going to be enticing for media to be there? Is there going to be a good story or a good photo they can get out of it?”
On the other hand, some have criticized XR for its focus on grabbing attention instead of policy change.
Personally, Chachra said she has issues with media coverage of activism. She said, consider Wet’suwet’en land defenders, whom news outlets and social media users have branded as ‘protesters,’ despite their goal of resisting the RCMP to defend their ancestral lands.
“It’s not a protest because they are Indigenous water and land defenders, and they’re protecting their territory which has never been surrendered.”
Even if the narrative is out of their control, there are still benefits to media attention, said Hiscox. It’s especially important for Wet’suwet’en land defenders, he explained, because spreading awareness about RCMP actions around the Unist’ot’en camp keeps resisters safe.
“I think we’re trying to make it really clear that this genocide and removal of Indigenous people from the land is not something that will be tolerated,” he said. “It’s not something that will just cause a stir for a bit and will blow over. It’s something that absolutely will not go unnoticed.”
And for many student activists at UBC, there will be resistance as long as conflict persists. With tensions in Hong Kong becoming less intense in recent months, I asked Au-Yeung what she saw for the future of the Lennon Wall.
“I hope it could stay up as long as the movement’s going on,” she said. “As long as we’re still fighting in Hong Kong and everywhere else in the world.
“Ultimately [the Lennon Wall] could just be a platform for anyone to say anything they want.”
Christo, artist known for massive public art installations, dead at 84 – Globalnews.ca
Christo, known for massive, ephemeral public arts projects died Sunday at his home in New York. He was 84.
His death was announced on Twitter and the artist’s web page. No cause of death was given.
Along with late wife Jeanne-Claude, the artists’ careers were defined by their ambitious art projects that quickly disappeared soon after they were erected. In 2001, he installed more than 7,500 vinyl gates in New York’s Central Park and and wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in fabric with an aluminum sheen in 1995.
Their self-financed $26 million Umbrellas project erected 1,340 blue umbrellas installed in Japan and 1,760 blue umbrellas in Southern California in 1991.
The statement said the artist’s next project, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, is slated to appear in September in Paris as planned. An exhibition about Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work is also scheduled to run from July through October at the Centre Georges Pompidou.
“Christo lived his life to the fullest, not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realizing it,” his office said in a statement. “Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s artwork brought people together in shared experiences across the globe, and their work lives on in our hearts and memories.”
Born in Bulgaria in 1935, Christo Vladimirov Javacheff studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Sofia before moving to Prague in 1957, then Vienna, then Geneva. It was in Paris in 1958 where he met Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, who would become his partner in life and art.
Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 at age 74 from complications of a brain aneurysm.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Demonstration planned at Vancouver Art Gallery to honour George Floyd | News – Daily Hive
Local organizers are planning a demonstration Sunday afternoon at the Vancouver Art Gallery to demand justice for George Floyd, the Black man who died this week after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.
The protest will start at 5 pm in Robson Square, and attendees are encouraged to wear masks and spread out for safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are going to show the world that Black lives do matter,” organizer Jacob Callendar-Prasad said in an Instagram video Saturday night.
“This is a historic event for Vancouver. Everyone should… be proud and carry yourselves proud,” he continued. “We are rising up. We are making a change in this world for the better.”
Callendar-Prasad plans to begin with a moment of silence to honour Floyd and other Black victims that have been killed due to police brutality before moving into speeches and calls for action.
He said he’s been working with the Vancouver Police Department to plan the event and anticipates anywhere from 500 people to a few thousand to attend.
“This is the time to fight. This is the time to unite. No matter your skin colour, your pigment, where you’re from, this is something you should care about,” he said.
On Instagram, Callendar-Prasad was clear he wants the demonstration to be peaceful and that safety is his top priority.
“Do not start a riot,” he said. “Do not do anything that would assist in police presence to take people out of the protest.”
Protests in the US this weekend have turned violent as demonstrators and police clashed.
Sunday’s demonstration in Vancouver follows another protest Saturday afternoon and a large demonstration in Toronto demanding justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black woman who fell to her death this week while police were responding to a call at her apartment.
Although the demonstrations support the Black Lives Matter movement, Vancouver’s BLM chapter has said it’s not participating in any in-person rallies at the moment because of coronavirus concerns.
“We do not feel that we can ensure the safety of our community in public protest at this time,” the organization wrote in an Instagram post. “Black Lives Matter EVERY DAY. Indigenous Solidarity, ALWAYS. Not just when we are collectively traumatized by another guileless savage gang of cops.”
There are also more demonstrations planned in Vancouver for next weekend. On Friday, June 5, Callendar-Prasad is also involved in organizing a protest in front of Trump Tower beginning at 5 pm. On Saturday, June 6, there is another march planned to start at the Vancouver Art Gallery, an organizer told Daily Hive.
Parkside Art Gallery reopens to the public on June 2 – 100 Mile House Free Press
As the Cariboo begins to reopen following the COVID-19 shutdown, art is returning to 100 Mile House as the Parkside Art Gallery prepares to open its own doors in June.
The longtime gift shop manager Claudia Ring said that she’s looking forward to seeing the public in the building once more. Ring herself is a textile artist who first got involved with the gallery because of her love of art and her desire to socialize with other artists.
“I think it’s important to support local artists so I buy a lot of art too because I think that it’s important for the community,” Ring said.
During normal times, Ring said typically the gallery will have a new art show every month and host opening parties at the beginning of each month. In addition, they also have the gift shop Ring runs, a room set aside to rent out for activities, a fashion room for textile artists and a garden that hosts the storey walk for children to enjoy.
Due to the pandemic Ring said they had to close down in mid-March because as they are a volunteer-run and based organization their first priority was to make sure those volunteers were safe. Ring says she and the other volunteers are now feeling safe to resume operations and plans to reopen on June 2.
To ensure this safety, Ring said they’re currently working on cleaning and sanitizing the washrooms and are putting in a new rule barring people coming in off the street or park from using it. At the front desk, they’ve put up sneeze guards, stockpiled hand sanitizer, gloves, facemask and everything else they need to protect both the general public and the volunteers.
“We’re very excited to reopen and all the volunteers were really excited to come back, it’s time to open again,” Ring said.
While they may be reopened, she said she doesn’t think they’ll be doing art show openings the same way they did before the pandemic. She feels having a bunch of people come for the openings will be too crowded but feels their day to day operations shouldn’t be impacted.
As a way to make up for the lost revenue from the last few months, Ring began making cloth masks out of cotton and silk and selling them to people in the community who needed them by donation. She will be counting to sell masks at the Parkside Gallery’s gift shop and to date has raised $2,500 from mask sales alone.
“There’s a lot of people who want masks now and they are being recommended to,” Ring said.
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