Art is in many ways ideal for being used for political activism. Depending on the type of artistic format used it can be useful in advancing political activism both covertly and overtly. The art used for such activities is often produced covertly to protect the artist and the distributors from censorship, imprisonment, or other forms of punishment.
Governments especially totalitarian ones are opposed to any form of political activism, which may threaten their version of events or even their position of authority.
Art in general, and it’s visual forms in particular can be ideal for conveying the messages of activists. Placards, photos, pictures and posters can be clandestinely made and distributed to undermine governments. The internet offers even more opportunities to political activists to spread their messages and increase the audience for art protests.
Of course not all political activism is subversive and intent on causing political or social revolution. Instead social movements and pressure groups aim to shape public opinion and to achieve their goals peacefully.
These groups use art to get their points across. The art used for political activism could be likened to a highly targeted piece of advertising as it raises awareness of their cause.
Films, blogs and podcasts these days are a popular means of raising publicity, protesting against governments as well as attempting to change public policy.
Governments have been known to use art for political activism for their own political ends too. Perhaps the best examples of this have been totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. When it suited them to do so these regimes were really astute at producing propaganda. It was used to present their highly skewed ideological perspectives of the world.
In the guise of the swastica, or the hammer and the sickle they were responsible for two of the best known symbols of the 20th century. Further more those symbols predated the rise of their respective parties to power, when they were protesting against the existing orders.
Though these regimes represented opposite ends of the political spectrum they used art for propaganda in markedly similar ways.
Though art can be part of political activism it is not always successful in achieving the goals of the groups using it. Raising public awareness for a political cause does not instantly mean the group using art to make a protest or get a message across will achieve their goals.
For some the ability to make a protest is more important than the protest leading to positive changes. While protesters may not expect their artistic protests to change policy it can achieve that sometimes. Music is part of protest movements too, take for example the artists and groups that protested against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and the 1970s.
Thus art can be, and often is part of the protests against governments and political orders. Art can express the opinion of political activism against the status quo. Art can also be used to present the government’s side of debates and important issues.