Objectives and Content
"Art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable."
What do you see that you`d like to amplify? What do you see that you`d like to
subdue? Are you proactive or reactive? Do you resist or do you generate? What
do you want to change? improve? destroy?
Design activism has its roots in Henry David Thoreau`s essay "Civil Disobedience", in
which he makes the case for not blindly following authority, but following one`s individual
conscience in each matter.
In the many years since, artists of many kinds have taken up the banner of Thoreau`s
call, including (but not exhausting) Isidore Isou and the Letterist group, Guy Debord and
the International Situationist movement (both credited for inventing Détournement),
Spass Guerillas, Motherfuckers Against the Wall, Tibor Kalman, Jenny Holtzer, Barbara
Kruger, Guerilla Girls, Group Material, AdBusters, Occupy, Pussy Riot...
The commercial sector has also taken up the call, with Viral advertising and Guerilla
advertising, or more correctly appropriated the methods and tools these artists (and of course many many more) created and drew to light. The advertising and public relations
business has used these methods, and in some ways perfected them. (See e.g. Edward
Bernays, and onwards in the business anywhere in the world).
The question for Design activists thus has become one of purpose and ethics.