Rethinking Intervention

Cultural Hijack presents a survey of provocative interventions which have inserted themselves into the world, demanding our attention, interrupting everyday life, hijacking, trespassing, agitating and teasing. Often unannounced and usually anonymous, these works have appropriated media channels, hacked into live TV and radio broadcasts, detourned billboards, re-appropriated street furniture, subverted signs, monuments and civic architectures, exposed corporations and tax loopholes, and revealed the absurdities of bureaucratic behaviours.

The show sets out to explore the role of art and the artist in contemporary society, and to offer the opportunity to rethink the growing use of such interventionist art practices, particularly in relation to the field of creative cultural activism. The exhibition positions itself at the intersection between art, politics and social justice in an historical moment, as we witness a rising tide of global resistance to neoliberal capitalism through an expanding ‘movement of movements’, from Zapatismo to the Arab Spring, from alternative G8 summits to Occupy Wall Street. In the shadows of this moment, artists are joining in the writing of alternative histories, the reclamation of our rights to the city and the unfinished project of the revolution of everyday life.

In attempting to house these ideas together in an institution, we are mindful of the Architectural Association as an influential zone, where the physical future of Architecture and Urbanism is significantly shaped. We propose that the dissemination of the ideas and practices gathered for Cultural Hijack, might similarly shape the possibilities for us to occupy as yet unimagined futures, where user-generated cities and systems, that support individual and collective empowerment, become more prevalent.

These interventions provoke a questioning of whether art might play a crucial role, or perform a minor part in everyday struggle. As with much of this work, it is difficult to determine how the work impacts and where value resides.

Do small acts of resistance and creative disruption, build muscle that encourages an appetite for real alternatives to neoliberal capitalism or do they end point and sate such an appetite? At what point does the whimsy of the slactivist turn into the hard thinking of the committed activist? What might the tools, tactics and poetics of the interventionist artist, (who often expose the blind spots and plays in the cracks of capitalist ideology), offer the insurgent imagination of activism and social movements? What challenges, if any, are really made to stop creating capitalism?

And what of ‘commissioned resistance’, is it implicitly flawed, sponsored by the system it seeks to critique, or can it, despite its origins, have impact?

These questions, and yours, will be picked over in the CONTRAvention: 24-26 May.

An initial symposia, led by artist & writer Gregory Sholette (Dark Matter) will be followed by a carnival weekend of lectures, screenings, participatory actions, interventions, communal meals and debate- The CONTRAvention will summarise and celebrate the end of one thing and the beginning of many more.