Recently the word ‘activism’ has been banded about a lot in the mainstream media and there seems to be a bit of a pre-conception that most ‘activists’ are ‘long haired students with shrines to Che Guevara on their walls’. In the same vein, there are also currently a lot of conversations about what makes someone an activist and the use of the word.
What’s not being picked up are some of the incredible ways all around the world where people have banded together and made active choices to speak out about issues that matter to their lives. There have been plenty of these moments that have stuck with me, so I’ve decided to highlight some of the most creative.
1. World Cup Brazil, 2014
The FIFA Football World Cup is one of the biggest and most profitable sporting events in the world. In 2014 it was hosted by Brazil, a nation we tend to romanticise with carnival vibes and football. A lot of football fans from across the globe lauded the decision to bring the World Cup to Brazil, this but the story we didn’t hear too much of in the news were the numerous protests against it happening. There was a large proportion of people who were unhappy with the Brazilian government spending around £18 Billion on what essentially is just a huge tourist event. rather than investing in welfare, education or health services. This resulted in mass protests in host cities across the region. There was a lot of amazing street art created in response to this that helped highlight the issue on social media on a global scale.
NGO Rio De Paz created an installation where they painted red crosses onto 500 footballs and laid them across a beach in a makeshift graveyard across Copacabana beach in Rio De Janeiro. The Idea was to highlight the country’s high homicide rate and lack of government spending on key services by making a striking visual image.
2. Homeless Spikes London & Manchester, 2015
In 2015 there seemed to be a surge in the construction of spikes in the areas outside of businesses. They were labelled as a deterrent for anti social behaviour but quite honestly seemed like a direct attack on homeless people looking for covered seating. This led to various protests in London where they were placed. There are a number of stories in the news about people fighting back against the spikes including Jennie Platt in Manchester who covered the spikes with pillows and left a sign with food that read “Take A Seat And Have A Bite To Eat”; and Leah Borremo who led a huge campaign in London putting mattresses over the spikes for people to sit on.
3. Brandalism, 2012
There is a huge movement called brandalism where people take over public advertising space with satirical imagery and art often with anti-capitalist messages. It is often huge billboard posters that are altered or redrawn to make a point and encourage people to reflect upon on industry that feeds off of people’s desire to “buy”. There is a website set up with tutorials of how to replace images at bus stops and recommends products that can aid you in doing so. There have been a number of prominent brandalism campaigns across the UK that quick google of the word brandalism will bring them up for you to check out. One of the most high profile Brandalism campaigns was in the run up to the 2012 Olympics in London where a number of high profile art activists banded together to create a series of billboards highlighting and criticizing the strict and overbearing advertising regulations of the event.
Written by Jay Crutchley