NYU Launches “Artistic Activism” Research Group


Contact:  Stephen Duncombe
sd47 at nyu.edu

NYU Launches “Artistic Activism” Research Group

Awarded 10K Funding For Two Years

New York University awarded $10,000 to support research in Artistic Activism beginning this fall. The research group will be headed by NYU professor and co-director of the Center for Artistic Activism, Stephen Duncombe, and NYU professors Dipti Desai and David Darts of the Department of Art and Art Professions.

Over the next two years the Research Group on Artistic Activism will use the resources for operational support creating a forum to discuss and develop the study and practice of arts and aesthetics in the practice of civic activism. Activities include bi-monthly research meetings, curricular development, communications and publication, and a series of sponsored workshops, beginning with legendary AIDS activist art group Gran Fury in Spring of 2012.

What is artistic activism? “There is an art to every practice, activism included,” explains Stephen Duncombe. “It’s what distinguishes the innovative from the routine, the elegant from the mundane.” The “art of activism” requires art, that is: applying an artistic aesthetic and method to activist tactics, strategy, and organization.

Historically, the most effective political actors have married the arts with campaigns for social change. The practice of artistic activism has only accelerated as organizers learn to operate within the increasingly mediated political terrain of signs and symbols, stories and spectacles. “Artistic activism is not arts and activism, it is the melding of the two. It is not about using art as a window dressing for politics, nor is it about using politics as mere content matter for art,” says Steve Lambert, co-director of the Center for Artistic Activism. “It is an approach to civic engagement that integrates the aesthetic and the political. Artistic activism is a hybrid, and that’s what we’ll be exploring.”

The Working Research Group on Artistic Activism will be open to scholars and students from NYU and surrounding universities, as well as artists, practitioners and thinkers from outside the academy.

“This sort of serious engagement with the theory and practice of artistic activism is critical,” says CAA Co-Director and NYU Professor Stephen Duncombe,  explaining that “while Martin Luther King Jr. is now largely remembered for his example of moral courage, social movement historian Doug McAdam’s estimation of King’s ‘genius for strategic dramaturgy’ better explains the success of his campaigns.”

The Center for Artistic Activism is the home for artists, activists and scholars to explore, discuss, reflect upon, and strengthen connections between social activism and artistic practice. More: https://c4aa.org

The Humanities Initiative at NYU draws on the talents and energies of our faculty and students across the university to provide a forum for cross-disciplinary discussion and collaboration in the humanities and arts. To foster and enhance the humanities community at NYU, the Initiative sponsors a number of endeavors aimed at promoting interdisciplinary dialogue, teaching, and research. More: http://humanitiesinitiative.org


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