At least the activists who “profane” works of art are doing something. What are you doing? – The Irish Times

The penultimate Sunday, I sat in a theater in New York for the closing film of the LGBTQ+ film festival, NewFest. The screening was of All The Beauty And The Bloodshed, by Laura Poitras.

It’s a documentary about artist Nan Goldin, the famous American photographer whose work changed photography forever, who transformed the documentation of her friends’ lives into an intimate, beautiful and radical art form, which created an invaluable archive of the LGBTQ+ subculture, the HIV/AIDS crisis, and his own experience and response to addiction.

Goldin led a remarkable life, but in 2017 she took a new turn when she created PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), an activist and advocacy group targeting the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma, which created, marketed and pushed the monstrous drug, OxyContin, a devastating driver of the opioid epidemic in the United States.

Right now we’re seeing climate activists condemned for using the art world in another way, launching shows of desecration on works of art

Poitras presented the film alongside two PAIN activists, Megan Kapler and Harry Cullen. Cullen reminded the audience that PAIN was not a big band. The line of activism they were pursuing was inspired by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a group that continues to inspire activists around the world, thanks to its practical, agile, creative and urgent traits, so brilliantly documented in Sarah Schulman’s recent oral address. organizational history, Let the Record Show.

Goldin did what any nimble activist does. She focused on what she could do in her immediate orbit to address the opioid crisis and contribute to an attempt to bring down the Sackler family. This mainly geared towards the art world, where Goldin is a hugely respected figure. His work is held in the collections of the Guggenheim, Met, MoMA, Tate, etc. She focused on galleries where she knew her name and work had leverage, from the Louvre to the V&A. This was relevant because of how the Sackler family washed away the devastating impact of drugs that made them incredibly wealthy, with funding, art donations, entire gallery wings and grants, giving all named Sackler a stature that deviated from their actual heritage. , the lives destroyed by their drugs. Anyone who has read Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain or watched the TV series Dopesick will know the horrors the Sackler company has inflicted on the world and the incredible wealth the family has created.

PAIN was DIY, using direct action, creative protest and engaging demonstrations in a mode familiar to anyone who has participated in direct action and grassroots activism. The documentary is amazing. On November 18, it is screened at the Cork International Film Festival.

What this film and the actions of Goldin and his comrades remind us of is the power of protest. It reminds us that the frustration people sometimes feel when there is no mass protest is misplaced, because successful activism is not necessarily about numbers, it is about commitment, passion, clarity and action.

PAIN, ACT UP, Extinction Rebellion, the Repeal movement, and so recently, dynamic modes of activism and protest teach us that there is no one way

Right now we’re seeing climate activists condemned for using the art world in other ways, launching desecration shows on works of art (that aren’t actually damaged) to condemn insane profiteering that oil and fossil companies carry out at a high cost for the future of the planet and of each living entity that inhabits it.

I don’t know how successful this will be, if it’s the “best” form of protest, or if it will bring people on board. But at least they’re doing something. I don’t see how anyone who engages in policing or criticizing any form of protest thinks they can do that if they’re not putting their body at risk themselves, s he doesn’t want to get arrested or isn’t committed to a cause.

It’s pretty obvious that the Just Stop Oil protesters are passionate, their cause is just, and they’re fighting on behalf of the planet and humanity. The way people choose to protest this will increase in its diversity and in its shades of radicalism in the years to come. We are going to see more and more direct actions, more sit-ins, more marches, more riots, more diverse modes of protest to bring down exploitative industries and lazy governments that have much more control over the climate crisis that the individual does. And along the way, we’ll hear the same tired arguments about things that “backfire” or “harm their own cause” that we always have here from people too apathetic to come out and do something about themselves.

Activism is not a monolith, it is a patchwork. It succeeds when people approach things in different ways and use everything in front of them and around them to take action and make their point. If you think a protester is doing something wrong, it’s always good to ask yourself, “well, what am I doing?

PAIN, ACT UP, Extinction Rebellion, the Repeal movement, and so recently, dynamic modes of activism and protest teach us that there is not just one way, but there are small groups of people , who can become great bands, who love Goldin herself, can change the world. If people abstain, they are hardly in a position to dictate how it should be.

Christopher S. Washington