Nicholas Mirzoeff: Visual Activism

“In Germany, an opinion poll found that 24 percent of young people expressed the desire to become an artist. I don’t think that suddenly a quarter of all Germans want to be painters or sculptors. Rather, art might seem to be the only way to live a life for yourself in the global economy, as opposed to the dominant so-called service economy in which we work, not for each other but for someone else’s profit. This desire to live otherwise lies behind the worldwide surge in participatory media, from YouTube channels to Snapchatting, and performance. […] In visual activist projects, there is an alternative visual vocabulary emerging. It is collective and collaborative, containing archiving, networking, researching, and mapping among other tools, all in the service of a vision of making change. […] In 1990, we could use visual culture to criticize and counter the way that we were depicted in art, film, and mass media. Today, we can actively use visual culture to create new self-images, new ways to see and be seen, and new ways to see the world. That is visual activism.”