Protest Art and Black Lives Matter.
Why this issue / researching this issue
I am quite a politically active person. I went to the school strike for climate change and I have been to pride several times. I’m lucky that my school gives me time off to go to events and protests. I had lots of ideas for an art issue but I hadn’t started writing when schools closed. Then the George Floyd was killed and the black lives matter movement started.
I went to the protest in London.
When I was there, I was really struck by the art and how people were using it to protest peacefully. This is what inspired me to research into the art of protest.
Protest Art research
This is where I looked to find out about protest art.
BLM Posters: https://fineacts.co/blm
Artists responding to the movement: https://www.jacksonsart.com/blog/2020/06/11/10-artists-respond-to-black-lives-matter-
Communicating with others about this issue
I thought it was important for the school to respond to BLM. For my unit two, I did an art takeover of the school newsletter and I chose to share this issue there too. This newsletter was shared with everyone connected to Treasure House which is a list of 42 people.
Finding out what other people think
I wanted to see what other people thought about this issue so I sent a message on the Treasure House Whatsapp Group (There is also a message from my classmate, mine is the one about protest art.)
Art is often used in protest and has been a big part of the black lives matter movement. Do you think art is an effective method of protest?
Yes because it catches your eye immediately and makes you think and question the message. The points that are made can really hit home hard. E.g. the statue which replaces Colston’s for a few days in Bristol-because it was the image of a real protester the message was strong and immediate and will have meant a lot to the protesters. I thought it was a really good thing to do and it made its point.Helen – Head Teacher
I think protest art is essential because of the message it spreads but is also essential to the artist. We use art to express ourselves. It can be our happiness, love, sadness, but it can also be our rage. So it can be cathartic for the artist as well as informative and inspiring for the viewer.Melanie – Photographer and Art teacher
Yes, definitely. Art is a really effective tool when protesting. It often makes people think differently about a subject and can raise interesting points that are more likely to be ingrained in a person’s memory.Barney, DT teacher.
I went to one of the BLM protests and I was in awe of all the creative ways demonstrators put together their messages. This was art at its best; individualised, powerful, and moving. Capturing unity and a historical fight for change.Pauline, Pastoral and SEN support teacher.
Protest comes with a violent connotation and I think that art, in a way, alleviates that part (although art can be violent but not in a physical way). It allows people to see it / understand it in their own way and in a gentler way (as you can’t be forced to look at it or take in the art and its message) it’s a very powerful way of expressing yourself but without the negative side.Celine, School Administrator.
Reading all of these comments from other people made me think about how art is a peaceful form of protest that is still very effective. People that I asked seemed to be saying that art was a way of getting across a powerful message without being aggressive or in your face. Perhaps art can change people’s minds better than shouting can because it doesn’t put you on the defensive so much. I thought it was interesting that Celine said that art can be violent but not in a physical way. I asked her what she meant by this and she said “well it can’t physically hurt you but it can make you have a violent reaction” which I think is true and sometimes people might be incited to violence by just art.
My blog post about black lives matter
The black lives matter movement is about explaining the problems going on for people who have skin colours other than white. There is a lot of prejudice in the world. People that haven’t got white skin colour are always being accused of things or told that they can’t do things because of their skin colour. People get arrested just because they are black or Asian or not white. These people are being profiled because of the colour of their skin. Just because we’re not all the same colour on the outside, it doesn’t mean we’re not the same on the inside, we’ve just got different colours of skin tone. People are getting bullied, patronised, and treated horribly. People say there is white privilege because there was an accident in America with a white old person and a black young person and the emergency services helped the white person before the black person as if black lives don’t matter. Kids are scared for their lives because of their skin colour. The whole thing about the black lives matter movement is to make people aware of black people being abused by social media, police, people in public, just because of the colour of their skin.
The Protest in London, June 2020
When I was at the protest there were thousands and thousands of people. I saw lots of banners, clothes and artwork that made me think about how art is important to protest. I saw a black guy walking down the street with a denim jacket on that said “poems are rap songs” on it. I also saw lots of people standing on traffic lights and buildings and they have loads of pictures and paintings of George Floyd and they were calling out his name.
I was walking near parliament square and I saw three black boys who had a huge black banner with white writing that said black lives matter with all their fists up in the air so it was a reverse, instead of a white sheet with black writing, they had a black sheet with white writing, so they’d changed it around. And there was so many more, there were so many posters and quotes. I also saw a white man and a black man who were friends and they had two different posters but they linked together, and so they were holding it together. It all just shows that people profile black people, they think, this person’s going to be trouble because they are walking down the street in their hoody or because if they are a black person sitting in a car something suspicious is going on. There were little kids on people’s shoulders holding banners and screaming. It was just incredible how many people came. There were helicopters in the sky and thousands of people.
People have also been creating protest art online and one picture that stands out for me is a picture of all different people’s arms in different skin tones and it says ‘worthy’ on it made by Dani Coke, an illustrator based in Atlanta Georgia, and it stands out for me the most because it’s basically saying we’re all worthy, we’re all the same on the inside. It stands out because it’s giving a message saying right we all might be different skin colours, we’re all worthy. People should all just be treated the same.
Art is important in protest because when people do art and spread art around the world they can express how they feel about things strongly without using words. If you said something aggressive to someone, it would sound incredibly rude and they might get annoyed or angry, but if you do it on a sign and with expressive art then you’re supporting the issues in a less aggressive and more peaceful way. Also, people think about the issues more. Pictures show they don’t tell.
People think about it more if its on a poster or a sign. They are more likely to reflect on the message because it’s not as intimidating and you are more likely to change people’s mind. Visual imagery can be more powerful than words, you can say a lot more with a picture or a poster than with the equivalent words. If you draw or paint a picture it can show the story of what is wrong. All the pictures at the BLM protest linked up together to tell a story to create unity and show things that shouldn’t have happened in the world.
Art doesn’t always have a positive message, some people came to the BLM protest that had banners against the protest saying things like ‘white lives matter’. Artists can respond to these negative images not verbally, not physically, but they could just make different statements and just hold it in front of the negative protestors and let them read it, maybe play some music that gets their attention, but not say anything back verbally. Art enables people to argue their case without agression.
Not all symbols are positive but they are all very powerful. The peace symbol is basically saying ‘I want peace in the world’ it is sending out a positive image. But there are negative symbols like the Nazi symbol. People who brought the nazi symbol to the BLM protest all got beaten up but when one of them was in danger a black guy picked him up and took him to safety. The black guy was the bigger person because he thought that the white guy was in the wrong but he still doesn’t think he should get beaten up for it. If I saw the Nazi symbol hanging somewhere I would want to go anywhere near that symbol because it is offensive to a lot of people. It reminds me of a storyline in a TV show where there was a group of racists who had the nazi symbol tattooed on them because they hated all people that weren’t white. The swastika has become a general symbol of hatred.
Not all art is political, some is and some isn’t. All art might have a story behind it and make some kind of statement but not all art has a political message.