Cultural Activism in the Community


Principal Investigator: Michael Buser
Co-investigators: Jane Arthurs, University of the West of England
Collaborators: Pit Improvement Group; Will Datson,
Duration: 2012

This scoping study explored literature and debates on cultural activism and communities of place. Cultural activism is defined as a set of creative practices and activities which challenge dominant interpretations and constructions of the world, while presenting alternative socio-political and spatial imaginaries in ways which challenge relationships between art, politics, participation and spectatorship. This review looked at a small range of cultural activist practices (e.g. culture jamming, subvertising, rebel clowning, etc) which call upon irony, humour and the carnivalesque to disrupt commonly-held understandings and ways of constructing the world. Our aim was to tease out the ways these practices imagine and conduct ‘resistance’, present future imaginaries, and engage audiences in situated community environments. In doing so, we considered how the ephemeral might contribute to the development of radical, autonomous spaces and opportunities for democratic debate and political contestation. Our international seminar was attended by over 60 people and was highlighted by keynote speaker Paul Routledge’s stirring call to action. We also sought to bring the work into real world activist situations. For example, working with the Bearpit Improvement Group and Will Datson (artist) we designed a small, playful intervention with the intention of challenging common perceptions of a neglected public space. More information and project outputs are available on the website.