Thursday, 5 April 2012

Direct action in the arts - new sound installation takes a pop at Tate gallery's corporate sponsors

Direct Action comes in many shapes and sizes - basically anything that tries to change the world we live in by means other then voting for politicians to do it for us - can be defined as direct action.

There are peaceful actions and violent ones, clever ones and stupid ones, ones that attract just individuals, and some that involve millions.

But they are all attempts to increase our involvement in the decision-making processes that shape our everyday environment.

And that, in itself, is a pretty good thing to my mind. Having seen, at close quarters, the fact that less than a third of city residents voted in last year's council elections, we have to find new ways to make people involved in policy delivery and decisions: voting (alone) clearly isn't the answer.

That's why this council administration is so keen on delivering neighbourhood councils with devolved budgets (ie real money to spend): to try and deepen our local democracy by getting more people involved - even if it's only for a few on-line minutes here and there: the traditional meeting in the dusty community centre just doesn't work for many people any more.

And that's why I'm so pleased that Brighton Police are committed to facilitating peaceful protest - another form of (often unplanned) direct action. We saw that commitment in action on Saturday, when a march of the Squatters Network of Brighton was abandoned by police when it became clear that everyone's intent was entirely peaceful.

And that's why I'm always on the look out for any planned direct action in Brighton or beyond, better to understand the nature of 21st Century democracy, and better to encourage peaceful activism and dialogue between activists, the council and the police.

All of which brings me on to one of the cleverist bits of direct action I've come across in a while: last week the 'Tate a Tate' audio tour went live.

Anyone wishing to can download, for free of course, alternative audio tours of the Tate's two London Galleries - and the boat ride connecting them - exploring the role of corporate sponsorship in current exhibitions.

They can then listen to them on their 'phone - or an mp3 player or other portable audio device - while they're perusing the galleries.

The 'audio tours' focus on BP, and the oil multi-national's role in trashing the Tar Sands, destroying the Gulf of Mexico, and, ultimately, fuelling the increasing climate chaos that seems likely to engulf us all eventually.

But, and this is the point really, they are new art themselves, and the entire project is itself an inspiring artistic take on the role of sponsorship in the arts.

And it makes for a great - and almost free -  family fun day out!

(It's not the first time BP's relationship with the Tate Gallery has come under the artistic spotlight - do check out the Rev Billy clip above!)

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