Art as Protest


“… protest art is everywhere, but if you want to see it up close in a thoughtful collection, check out the OCCCA.” Dave Hansen, LA Times

“There are some moments of optimism...” Dave Barton, OCWeekly

“The show further gives artistic and collective voice to the people…” Liz Goldner, Visual Art Source

“…Congratulations on a really terrific show, one with lingering impact…”
Claudia Shambaugh, KUCI


Today, migrations of people are the norm, along with migrations of capital and information. The only map that may make sense anymore is one that depicts these migrations as overlapping flows whose borders alter constantly. This dynamic challenges the worst of nationalism that wants to close borders but also makes it difficult to think globally if you are not a beneficiary of the porous boundaries. The United States of America is, for example, not “America” but is part of a pluralistic, hemispheric landscape called the Americas. It can be called a Latin American country too. If you agree, then how do you situate yourself within this shifting cartography?

How can you protest in a disorienting world of shifting power and authority, whereby states, corporations, and their human faces become indecipherable from one another, to the point that the beating hearts of due process, freedom of speech, and the right to assemble begin to lose their strengths? Well, by being an artist and not letting your voice become subsumed under the sediments of an alluvial plain of dehumanization where these globalized flows meet on occasion.

This occurs when the materiality of art, with its physical presence in the world, acts as a small island of respite for reimagining possibilities within the ephemeral, untouchable flows of capital and information that just do not stop. In this dystopian world that I describe here, art becomes a form of science fictional or speculative technology, creating portals to other imaginaries. Hopefully, enough of these islands will merge in the future and become a continent dominated by the free flow of imagination. In this present time, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art’s “Art As Protest” is one such island of loud voices.

Materializing and externalizing your imagination defines art making. It is as though an artist doubles their voice. The body with which they were born speaks, but their artwork, representing their imagination existing outside of their body, now also speaks. Two voices, then, are doubly hard to silence.

An individual voice is feared by the powerful because their fearmongering is revealed as having a weak spot. If one voice is loud enough to be heard, then it could mean that there’s a crowd out there, not completely visible yet, but preparing itself to pierce a veil of repressive authority. OCCCA’s “Art As Protest” represents an infuriated, angry, incensed, furious congregation that is ready to charge.

Change does not come from above, not even from below but, rather, it emerges when enough voices coalesce in a public space and create a loud, collective voice that cannot be ignored. OCCCA is one such public space in which many voices of “Art As Protest” raise awareness, bear witness, and find solidarity. Watch out!

Tyler Stallings, Juror for “Art As Protest”

May 2017

About explosiveideaz