ARTIVISM: The Art of Subverting Power

How can art and activism be combined to tackle pressing social issues, surveillance, unethical corporations and corrupt governments?

On June 23-25, 2023 ARTIVISM: The Art of Subverting Power examines how art and activism can be combined to draw media attention to important social issues, targeting unethical corporations and corrupt governments working against the public good. The program presents distributed techniques and methods to provoke social and political justice using digital technologies for public awareness and political criticism. Among the invited speakers are artists, political activists and developers, as well as human rights defenders and truth tellers.

Artivism, a practice that combines art and activism, is configured through the actions of artists and collectives to generate social and political disruption (Bazzichelli 2006; 2013). Throughout June 2023 Disruption Network Lab celebrates its 30th anniversary of the conference with a program of meetings, workshops, speeches, panel discussions and art productions that focus on the importance of building a network of trust to expose power systems and injustices. The aim of the events is to reflect on the impact of technology and media on wider society by combining arts and networking projects that explore power asymmetries and civil rights violations.

Since the time of the avant-garde, art has been a means of understanding our society. The history of artivism in relation to digital culture dates back to the early 1990s, combining hacktivism and network culture projects. However, the beginning of this concept can be traced back to the 1980s, when artists experimented with various art forms, from performance art, media art, video art, street art and culture jamming, to stigmatizing abuses of power and critique of consumerism.

The history of this approach is long and includes a variety of practices (list is partial): from avant-garde art projects to the Fluxus movement; grassroots artistic subcultures of the 80s-90s. from mail art, The Church of the SubGenius, neoism and Luther Blissett to net art projects from the 90s; hacktivist interventions from early cypherpunk and cyberfeminism (including VNS Matrix, Old Boys Network, Cornelia Sollfrank) to the present day; first publicity, culture jamming and subversive efforts by Billboard Liberation Front, Guerrilla Girls and The Yes Men; Virtual Sit-in and other Electronic Disturbance Theater interventions (Ricardo Dominguez, 1997); Netstrikes, telestreets, Indymedia, Candida Tv and other media activism projects and grassroots collectives in Italy and worldwide in the early 21st century; AHA project: Activism-Hacking-Artivism (mailing list and exhibitions on media activism) by Tatiana Bazzichelli (2002) and her book Networking: art as a work of art (2006); Matteo Pasquinelli’s analysis in the book Media activism (2002); the monographic essay Artivism in the performing arts by the Slovene scholar Aldo Milohnić (2005); an autobiographical monograph by the Italian artist Giacomo Verde Technological artistry (2007); a decade of critical Internet and social media interventions before and after the mid-2000s (see: Tatiana Bazzichelli, Network interference, 2013); distributed interventions by Anonymous and LulzSec (Gabriella Coleman, 2014; Marco Deseriis, 2015); the recent debate on whistleblowing, privacy and data surveillance following the Snowden disclosure.

Conference ARTIVISM: The Art of Subverting Power examines the political impact of contemporary art forms and activism (artivism) in the areas of social networking, hacking, whistleblowing and leaks, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The aim is to provide a lively platform for debate and exchange analyzing the current transformations in political and technological critique, as well as reflecting on the need for today’s artistic practices to reveal the inner structures and logic of political, economic and technological systems. Do we still need artivism and what does it mean to combine art with activism today?

The curatorial approach is developed by comparing projects that deal with different forms of artivism and their political impact on our society. By inviting experts from various fields to analyze the invisible side of technology in shaping our lives, the aim is to create an interdisciplinary atmosphere of sharing and understanding, and to address a group of actors active in this field in Berlin and internationally.

This show is a continuation of the series publications AND events took place in Italy after the death of the artist Giacomo Verde, whose work was commemorated during the conference with the presentation of his last performance from 2019 “Il piccolo diario dei malanni” (The Little Diary of Ailments).

To combine: