Christos Fragkonikolopoulos, Alexandros Baltzis

Local conference Culture of the Media / Culture in the Media
School of Journalism & Mass Media Studies of the Aristotle University
Thessaloniki, November 3-5, 2006



In the last decades various social movements developed, the international movement against the neoliberal globalization being their spearhead. In the international and local literature very little can be found about the functions of the arts in the context of these movements. On the other hand, the dominant mass media treat the arts in the context either of the infotainment, or of the mainly escapist forms of entertainment. In this way they support and reproduce certain notions about the artistic communication and its functions, as well as about the social roles of the artists in modern developed societies. This feature is embedded in the latent cultural agenda of the dominant mass media. However, using photography, music, performing arts and several other forms of artistic expression, many artists involved in various social movements express and they state with their practice a different notion about the functions of the art, contrasting the ideas disseminated by the dominant media. The origins of this different notion can be traced back in the artistic avant-garde that emerged during the 19th century.

In this context, the paper explores the functions of the so called activist art, focusing on the ways in which it may express or even define the issues raised by the social movements. Based on several examples as well as on the literature, the paper discusses the functions of the activist art as an alternative form of mobilization of resources and as an emotional agent provocateur in the context of the social movements. The paper explores also the extent to which this type of art - as an alternative form of communication - might fill the needs that the "conventional" mass media fail to meet.

Finally, the paper introduces a typology of the activist art and a definition that makes a clear distinction among activist, political, and politically engaged art.