[-empyre-] introductory questions

Matthew Brower matthew.brower at utoronto.ca
Tue Nov 12 01:06:23 EST 2013

Hello Chaya and Owen,
I was initially reluctant to participate in this discussion as I’m not sure I understand what artivism is. So to begin with, I’ll try to locate my questions in relation to my own practice as a curator. While I’m interested in work with political content, I’m too influenced by Adorno’s arguments in Commitment to straightforwardly embrace the political content of work as its most important aspect. Instead, I’m drawn to work that explores what Mouffe describes as the space of the political rather than work that takes up what she would call a politics. I prefer work that opens up questions and explores categories rather than work that offers an explicit message. My concern is that much of the work I’ve seen that labels itself as activist substitutes intention for political effectiveness. I.e., it presents what the artist wanted to do as if it were the same thing as what the work itself did. So, to begin to engage the provocations, I’m trying to determine the difference between agit-prop, propaganda, artivism, and activism. Why does activism need to make art?
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