SAHMAT, meaning "in agreement" in Hindi, was formed after the deadly beating of the socialist street theater activist Safdar Hashmi by a ruling-party candidate and his followers during a performance in 1989. Responding to such sectarian violence, the organization advocates for mutual respect within diversity through creative curatorial, performance, and publishing platforms.
One of SAHMAT's earliest efforts took advantage of existing street culture to maximize visibility for their message. The group invited Delhi's taxi drivers to redecorate their rickshaws with commentary on the theme of communal harmony. The one here reads: "Call Him Ishwar, Allah, Wahe-Guru, or Shri Ram, if you will; these are but different names for the one creator." After the official competition for best design, many rickshaws kept these painted slogans in circulation for years.
At key moments in history, artists have reached beyond galleries and museums, using their work as a call to action to create political and social change. For the past hundred years, the term agitprop, a combination of agitation and propaganda, has directly reflected the intent of this work.
Agitprop! connects contemporary art devoted to social change with historic moments in creative activism, highlighting activities that seek to motivate broad and diverse publics. Exploring the complexity, range, and impact of these artistic practices—including photography, film, prints, banners, street actions, songs, digital files, and web platforms—the exhibition expands over its run within a unique and dynamic framework. It opens with works by twenty contemporary artists responding to urgent issues of the day, in dialogue with five historical case studies. In the following months, two more waves of contemporary work are being added—on February 17 and April 6, 2016—with each wave of artists choosing those in the next.
These projects highlight struggles for social justice since the turn of the twentieth century, from women’s suffrage and antilynching campaigns to contemporary demands for human rights, environmental advocacy, and protests against war, mass incarceration, and economic inequality.
The first round of invited artists includes Luis Camnitzer, Chto Delat?, Zhang Dali, Dread Scott, Dyke Action Machine!, Friends of William Blake, Coco Fusco, Futurefarmers, Ganzeer, Gran Fury, Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, Los Angeles Poverty Department, Yoko Ono, Otabenga Jones & Associates, Martha Rosler, Sahmat Collective, Adejoke Tugbiyele, Cecilia Vicuña and John Dugger, and, in a collaborative work, The Yes Men with Steve Lambert, CODEPINK, May First/People Link, Evil Twin, Improv Everywhere, and Not An Alternative, along with more than thirty writers, fifty advisers, and a thousand volunteer distributors.
Agitprop! is organized by the staff of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Saisha Grayson, Assistant Curator; Catherine J. Morris, Sackler Family Curator; Stephanie Weissberg, Curatorial Assistant; and Jess Wilcox, former Programs Coordinator.
Brooklyn Museum - Agitprop ! - 11.12.2015 - 07.08.2016