Photograph of a paint brush resting over a pot with dark purple paint. To the side there is a canvas painted with a red and orange background.

Art or activism

In the early 2000s I started exploring propaganda in democratic societies, the mechanisms behind the manipulation of public opinion and the psychological conditions that have to be present in people’s heads to make propaganda work.

Then I went on to explore ways to develop an artistic language for my political ideas. Feminism emerged as the obvious subject, as it is surrounded by negative stereotypes and propaganda and I am a feminist.

As a former graphic designer I am very influenced by advertising techniques, and I include some in my artwork. Therefore, as I continued my exploration, I found it increasingly difficult to engage with feminist messages that reinforce the negative view of feminism. Instead, I decided to focus on exploring the articulation of alternatives in my art because I think that in any activism the most important and difficult task is the development of alternatives to an unsatisfactory existing situation.

As I develop my personal, artistic and political ideas I come up against a dilemma with regards to where feminism stands in relation to all the other personal and social aspects that shape me and in relation to my artwork.

I am a feminist, does that make my art feminist by default?

If my artwork is specifically feminist, is it still art or does it become propaganda? Is there such a distinction?

Or if I produce a piece about the objectification of women from a feminist perspective and it gets used by a sadist misogynist group as a fetish, can it still claim to be feminist?

In other words, is it the intention in the creation of an artwork, the use it is put to or the effect it has on people that makes it feminist?

Can art be feminist or is it more about feminists making art?