Art: (Re)constructing Spaces of Resistance

Art has an inherent history of being revolutionary and revolutions have a history of being artistic. Despite the variations in their end goals, both strategically and creatively express a message that engages and provokes audiences, challenging them to think critically about the world we live in. Recently, on April 5th, 2013 the city of Santurce, Puerto Rico celebrated a weekend of contemporary independent art that included murals, digital art, cinema, theater, installations and performances. “Santurce es Ley 4” (SEL4) is the fourth cultural festival organized by artists, independent galleries, restaurants, and the local community. Although this city is known to be a main exhibitor of emerging art, the purpose of this project was to motivate a tour of innovative programming in the city.[1]

If we take into consideration Lefebvre’s (1991)[2] notion of space as a social product in which the space produced functions as a tool of thought and action, then SEL4 re-appropriation of spaces within the city was a means of constructing spaces of resistance. Thus, the artists’ reclamation of urban spaces within the city and the audience’s positive response to this event made me remember the students’ evocative use of protest art during the 2010-2011 University of Puerto Rico (UPR) student strikes and the resonance it produced both nationally and internationally. The UPR student activists used art and new media technologies as a way to reconstruct spaces of resistance by exposing and challenging the repressions of the island’s neoliberal government policies, while simultaneously engaging the non-student community. Iconography, symbols, chants, and performances enabled them to frame their collective identity, mobilize resources, and build solidarity by attracting new supporters. Their use of protest art functioned as a catalyst for social change. It inspired and encouraged participatory democracy during the strikes as a way to guarantee accessibility to a public higher education of excellence. Thus, the 2010-2011 UPR student movement’s success should not be measured by the sum of demands granted, but rather by the sense of community achieved and the establishment of a network that continues to create resistance and change.

For some examples of the protest art used during the student strikes see the exhibition called smArtAction: ¡a Estudiar y a Luchar!”.


[1] For more information about SEL4 see also Dialogo Digital’s video briefly depicts what the project entailed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir4v-HbrVnE&feature=youtu.be .

[2] Lefebvre, Henri. 1991 [1974]  The Production of Space. Cambridge, USA: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

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One response to “Art: (Re)constructing Spaces of Resistance

  1. Pingback: Art: (Re)constructing Spaces of Resistance | OccuWorld

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