Protest works

Protest Works – full presentation, 2013

A protest song, poem or artwork is a piece of work that is associated with a movement for social change, either because it is topical and references the movement, or because it is associated with a movement  by context, through being “of the time”, or through more abstract, indirect reference reflects a cause. While protest art is usually strictly contextual (the medium often being signs, banners, posters, or leaflets associated with a particular movement), it can become more fluid, branching into performance, site-specific installations, graffiti and street art, and entering the world of fine art. Protest songs are usually written in a genre popular at the time, for example, blues, folk, funk, rock, or hiphop. Sometimes poetry is used, often mixed with music. The key common theme is accessibility. As such, protest art, literature and music can be used as a cultural archive for a period. Negatively, it has been characterised as propaganda. In either case it is an important form which acts as an indicator for the cultural and social context of a time, and a powerful set of symbols, words and sounds which can capture the imagination of future generations and keep a cause alive and relevant.

Protest Art:

2. Placard art:

4. Susan Crile artworks based on Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq:

5. Mexican blood  fountains, protesting recalls the country’s government’s actions on several crimes that have not had a clear judicial procedure, including the death of a poet (“Paremos las balas, pintemos las fuentes”) :

6. Hungarian art work representing political unrest in the autumn of 2006.

Also, according to a GSA student, there is a new protest art growing just now. One of he ministers ordered 20 million HUF worth of paintings that propose show the history of hungary from 1956 to 2011 (year of the new constitution) .

A few artist responded with protest works

and journalists also did

Protest Song:

1. La Cucaracha [Mexican revolutionary song]:

2. Oh Freedom! [Black spiritual]:

3. Talking Union – Woody Guthrie (sung by Seeger):

4. Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit by Abel Meeropol

5. Joan Baez – Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti:

6. Alistair Hulett – The Red Clydesiders:

7. Patti Smith – People Have the Power:

8. Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

9. Girobabies – Bank Charge:

10. Jeff Mangum for Occupy Wall Street:  youtube=

Protest Poetry:

1. Adrian Mitchell – To Whom It May Concern [Read]

2. & ‘Me And The Devil’ (original song by Robert Johnson), followed by Gil Scott-Heron poem “Your Soul and Mine”.

3. Linton Kwesi Johnson – Inglan Is A Bitch:

Tutor’s own work: Words on, Sounds on More info:

Further reading (available in GSA, GU, or Mitchell libraries):

Art against war: 400 years of protest in art / by D.J.R. Bruckner, Seymour

Rockin’ the boat : mass music and mass movements / edited by Reebee Garofalo

Sing for freedom [sound recording]: the story of the civil rights movement through its songs

The sound of history: songs and social comment / Roy Palmer           

33 Revolutions per minute, by Dorian Lynskey


1 Response to Protest works

  1. Pingback: Protest works! | Ellen Mcateer

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