Rad Artists

I’m participating in Fun-a-Day, a daily art challenge through the month of January, committed to do a daily post here detailing some Big Art Idea or project that looms somewhere out in my future.

Bomb Throwing Anarchist 19th Century-Style

I wanna work with more rad artists.

I’m using rad here not in the gnarly cool sense.  I mean rad as in politically radical, though that can be off-putting for some.  Many people, particularly the media, equate radicalism with extremism (as do a few lousy dictionaries).  Here is one enlightened definition:

rad·i·cal /ˈradikəl/ (Adj.) 1. Of or growing from the root of a plant. 2. Relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough

The root rad — as in radish — means having to do with the roots.  Thus, a radical looks at the roots of the problem (capitalism, representational democracy, corporatism, etc) rather than the symptoms.

People sometimes use the word activist to refer to someone actively engaged in social change work, because it doesn’t make people immediately call the Department of Homeland Security.  But it too is problematic, as it has shades of liberalism, a political philosophy content to make incremental change within the system.  I do like, however, how activist captures the idea of taking action, not just sitting around and talking about it.

So to review:  To radicals, liberals are reformists, seldom concerned with the deep roots of the problem.  And to liberals, radicals are extremist malcontents who won’t accept anything but total all out violent revolution.

Flower Thrower by Banksy

Beyond the semantic shizzle, I’m often looking to collaborate with people who bring an artist’s vision that recognizes the beauty of the world and a radical’s understanding of how fucked up it is and desire to make it better. I think anonymous street artist Banksy captures the idea well.

I was applying for an individual grant for artist-activists. What does that mean exactly?

I guess I kinda am one, an artist as change-maker.  But I also know that I tend to compartmentalize my role as an activist and my role as an artist.

I want to change that.  I want to blend the lines between these areas of my life.  And I want to work in a group of artists that challenges the status quo through performance and visual art.

But what would that look like?

Artist Activist Collective Notes

I imagined a small collective of people with an affinity toward each other’s work and philosophy, collaborating where needed and wanted, working together as necessary, and mutually supporting and inspiring each other.

Quick rundown on the some of the possible deets:

  • A small invite-only artist collective
  • An itch to create, dance, perform, assemble, re-contextualize, and express creativity
  • A recognition of dominance as a destructive force in the world and desire to confront that at a deep level
  • Collectively run via consensus decision-making
  • Group shows and collaborations as needed
  • Shared or collectively acquired resources (art materials or studio space, for instance)
  • Responsibilities shared among members

I immediately turned to names for this non-existent potential project.  I love naming things. Perhaps like Adam, I want the honor of naming all the things and critters in a newly-created world.  Names are suggestive and evocative, and it kills me when a good idea has a shitty name.

[An aside:  Trichogramma wasps are garden-friendly insects that lay their eggs on tomato worms.  The newly hatched wasp larva gnaw on their caterpillar host and turn him into lunch. Gruesome and gnarly.]

I’m imagining the name on a flier for a group show.  March Hare Collective has a nice ring, but I was hardly the first to think of it.  Google reveals many similarly named groups.  That’s true of a lot of the names I brainstormed.

I think my favorite is Harmless.  I like the idea of participating in something not-quite-credibly named Harmless.

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