Parallel project #5

“We are the people we’ve been waiting for”

My preferred news radio programme is BBC 5Live. Never pompous, good incisive journalism, and plenty of humour. There’s also a lot of sport which I tolerate to the extent that I often know who manages what team because it seeps in when I’m not looking, and right now it’s in a full-on excitement lather about the 2020 (yes, it is) UEFA Euros.

This is such a massive footie fest that it has its own song but I’d heard it before I knew that, and it was that line, “We are the people we’ve been waiting for”, that gave me the shivers for its reflexive message. It says, as long as we wait for someone else to do it, whatever it might be, we’ll be waiting forever; we’ll take no responsibility for anything because it will always be someone else’s job; and we’ll deny ourselves ambition because that’s for other people.

Instead it says that WE are the people we’ve been waiting for, it’s our moment to step up; to the football, to the climate, to poverty, to racism and sexism and multiple other isms, and Islamo- and homo- and the rest of the ‘phobias’ wherever they exclude instead of welcome, to animal welfare, and to destructive greed and avarice.

Somewhere in the materials for this module is the use of mirrors and I’d been thinking about how to tackle that when this song popped up again: what if I made reflective flags interspersed with those words and put them out at the front of the house? What if I asked people to leave an anonymous note about being the person they were waiting for? Could I find a way to take photos of people doing this with their permission? Can I paint on mirrors maybe? I have some mirror tiles in the garage that have been there for years, could they finally earn their keep? What about tin foil? A box with a mirror on it and the words underneath? Are there flexible mirrors? Could I take this idea to the Hub café down the road where most of the people are elderly? And maybe the primary school, also just down the road (and a teacher who’s my next door neighbour)?

How do I record this?

How do I make paintings of it?

Are paintings mandatory?

[Is the rest of the practical course work mandatory? Actually, it probably is because assignment submissions are counted at HQ.]

‘We are the people.’ 2020 – released 2021. Martin Garixx feat. Bono and The Edge.

12th June. I had been thinking about what sort of art this might be; I’m a supporter of activism but I prefer kindness, and I can do gross and shocking but I prefer attractive and engaging. I thought it might be social art; something that presents people with a positive way forward for themselves and gives them confidence. So I searched for social art via Google and found, amongst a range of politically active and confrontational groups, this quote:

Social Art is any artistic expression that aims to create social impact and change. We need more visionaries, utopists, and agents for change with the ability to affect society by creating emotionally captivating experiences

About – The Social Art Award (social-art-award.org)

This sits comfortably with me. The site is one that has made annual awards since 2017 so it seems this is a relatively new way of thinking. There is psychological support for a kinder, less shocking way of achieving change. Studies some while ago showed that the more graphic the images on cigarette packets, the less people looked at them (reactance). It was much the same for dental treatment. If the imagery puts people off, it may also prevent them from engaging and my suspicion is that the power of David Attenborough’s series lay in his reputation as a gentle and reliable source who would not say such things or show such awful pictures if it weren’t important. He gentled us through it without softening it for us.

The other thing he did was to give us hope. he told us we’re not all bad, we’re not all careless, there are things people can do and are doing; small things, doable things, human scale things.

I’m reminded of a story about a man throwing stranded starfish back into the sea. Another man comes along and gestures at the thousands of starfish there on the beach. What difference could he hope to make to all those? The first man picks up another starfish, throws it into the sea and says, ‘Not much but I made a difference for this one.’ The second man nods, reaches down, and picks up a starfish.

Maybe social art is about prompting each of us to make a difference one starfish at a time.

Reflexive (disambiguation – reflective):

grammar : showing that the action in a sentence or clause happens to the person or thing that does the action.

Reflexive – Definition for English-Language Learners from Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary (learnersdictionary.com)

Reactance:

While we found that pictorial warnings elicited greater reactance than text warnings, the studies in our meta-analysis focused on the emotional aspect of reactance, and largely ignored the cognitive elements. Research characterises reactance as a construct comprised of both emotion (eg, anger, irritation) and cognition (eg, defensive processing, denial). Future studies on pictorial warnings should advance a more comprehensive measurement approach and should examine whether reactance leads to adverse outcomes, such as lower quit intentions or greater smoking behaviour. Noar et al, 2014.

Pictorial cigarette pack warnings: a meta-analysis of experimental studies | Tobacco Control (bmj.com)

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