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Updated by Kendra Brea Cooper on Aug 14, 2014
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Think Piece: 10 Contemporary Political Artists

There is a political aspect to most art, whether it is intentional or not, it always contains a history and ideology because it's not created in a vacuum. In political art, the piece itself isn't all important, sometimes where it's placed or what country it's shown in is far more significant. Political artists make politics more than just a visit to a state ballot box. They take the power back.

1

Ai WeiWei

Ai WeiWei

There is armchair criticism, the kind that comes out as talk followed by the shake of a head, and then there is the kind of criticism that simply cannot be held in by any walls built by the powers that be. Ai WeiWei can't sit in any armchair and watch from afar. He lead a civilian investigation to the faulty buildings that fell after the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 and killed school children who might have lived if corners were not cut. He was attacked and injured by police. He has a keen sense of symbol and sign with the placement of backpacks on a wall as art in honour of those children, as well as the 100 million hand painted porcelain sunflower seeds representing both communist China, and the important food source. His metaphors are well thought out and beautifully constructed.

2

Adbusters

Adbusters

In a world full of images that don't want us to think about anything besides consumption, Adbusters' ad jamming flips those images upside down by revealing their motives. There isn't a corporation out there that's safe from having its expensive and manipulative ads ripped apart and re ordered, revealing the ideology behind it. It's art that pulls the curtain down.

3

Filippo Minelli

Filippo Minelli

Filippo Minelli takes the crumbling line between the real and the virtual and uses the logos of giants like Twitter and Facebook to place them along the landscapes of what the internet tends to leave out; the real of poverty, the real of the global south, and the connection through senses that googling ignores. If a large part of our lives are lived on the internet, we have to ask what the internet leaves out and what it misses, because it's what we're missing.

4

Packard Jennings

Packard Jennings

Packard Jennings is a culture jammer. He subverts the mainstream by taking the obvious and therefore invisible side of consumer culture, like packaging, and making it apparent through jamming. For example, he placed a comic strip for surviving the effects of climate change on the products we buy everyday (the garbage that is a large part of creating the problem). Capitalism and consumerism tends to take any meaningful resistance to repackage and sell back to us, but Jennings rips it back to the side of the subversive.

5

Paul Chan

Paul Chan

Using mediums like performance art, photography, animation, and video, Paul Chan explores the uncomfortable by facing contradictions in human existence and playing with opposites. Language and existence has created dualities, the things that cannot be defined without the other,the things that oppose each other, and the things that work together. Politics doesn't stray far from Chan's work, even though he insists on keeping his art and social activism separate.

6

OSA (Office for Subversive Architecture)

OSA (Office for Subversive Architecture)

The OSA know that any construction of a space, public or private, has meaning and politics behind it. This group takes on urban spaces with offices in different cities all over Europe. They make a point through re creating and re imagining spaces by considering their political reality (deserted spaces because of economics, places with security cameras ect.) and creating something new, like an empty pool into a little golf course.

7

Marcos Ramirez "ERRE"

Marcos Ramirez "ERRE"

Marcos Ramirez spent much of his life passing the Mexico/US border, as he was born and raised in Tijuana and worked for almost 20 years in San Diego. This experience of place and the visual duality between the global north and south caused by exploitation, economics, and racism, inspired his work. He uses construction and found materials in his art, like chicken wire and sheet metal to construct the American flag in all its "keep-out" glory.

8

Lenka Clayton

Lenka Clayton

Lenka Clayton is known for using photography to visually repair the destruction of war, but not in a way that erases what has been done, because she keeps the old photo as contrast for this "what if world". One of her most interesting art projects was called "Maternity Leave", where she explained "for three months, the sound of the distant domestic world of my home and eight week old baby was transmitted via live audio feed to an empty gallery in the Carnegie Museum of Art..." Motherhood is cornered off and quieted in our society, so much that women get kicked out of shops for breastfeeding. Lanka's art speaks volumes for that silent world.

9

Evan Roth

Evan Roth

Evan Roth is an artist who works to free up what is tied down by copyright law and he helps promote and create open source tools. Much of his work has been around graffiti with the Graffiti Research Lab, which offers graffiti artists access to open source tools. His work is part culture jamming (stickers saying "get this online for free" placed on software in a store), to hacking, pop culture, and open source activism.

10

The DoubleThink Project

The DoubleThink Project

The DoubleThink Project uses a variety of different art forms and integrates them into public spaces and social realms. One of their projects, A Global Anthem, is a soundcloud mix with every national anthem in the world. Another project included placing free chairs in Hyde Park, London, where people are usually charged for them. It's interesting that paying to sit would be seen as the norm, while free chairs is out of place and artistic.