The Art of Protest: The Language, Music and Images of Civil Discontent

Joining a protest is personal and a public event. People from all ages and all walks of life take to the streets calling for societal change. Throughout history worlds of people have marched, from handfuls to millions with voices raised, through cities and towns.

When The People Speak, heads turn. Everybody is filled with a heightened awareness. What message is being sent? Who is speaking as a shouting crowd of onlookers responds? From a singular voice to multitudes, the sounds of a protest command attention. There is more than one way, however, to be heard.

Artists speak through their work, seeking to capture the tenor of their times. A protest march can be a dramatic affair incorporating music, chants, costumes and signs. A throng of people stride through the center of town, disrupting business, blocking traffic, calling attention to a cause. How do you know they’re coming? Drumbeats and chants sound through the air long before the first row comes into view.

Artists practice The Art of Resistance. They put pen to the page, paint, sculpt, photograph, film, dance, act out their discontent and document the times. Sometimes you have to Raise Your Voice in 33 Revolutions Per Minute to be heard. Artists brandish signs, banners, flags telling the world Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope- Voices from the Women’s March.

Long after the marching is done, there’s the Soundtrack for a Revolution: Freedom Songs from the Civil Rights Era that kept them inspired. Read all about their strident calls in Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest, Rage Against the Machine in the Head and the Art of Protest, We Are Everywhere: Protest and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation. The marching is, still, going on, we watch them on screens, hear them over the airwaves, families and friends join in the procession, thousands are shouting, P.S. I Can’t Breathe.

A protest march can take a turn and, before you know it, There’s a Riot Going On somewhere in the world. Riots and uprisings have been with us for a long time. Here the drama is rife with rage.

Art channels anger, discontent and rage. Each medium, from the biting commentary of a comedian to the booming drum of a symphony becomes a vessel that transforms energy and allows us to, more fully, visualize and contextualize an issue.

Organizing a protest is no small feat. Something has to be pretty significant for hundreds of people to leave home, school and work, setting aside their daily responsibilities to join in collective action. No longer willing to be complacent, citizens take to the streets, voting with their feet.

There are myriad ways in which artists use their time, skills and talents to bring societal issues to public notice. Their works enable to us to see through time and, hopefully, gain more insight understanding of the issues facing the nations and peoples of this world.

In this moment of societal upheaval at home and abroad, let us, not only, listen, let us look, look widely and deeply and, hopefully, gain a wider perspective. Check out the resource list The Art of Protest: The Language, Music and Images of Civil Discontent to discover what a Story about art and artists can tell us about people, of all walks of life, making history.

~ posted by Chris

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