1st Edition

Politics as Public Art The Aesthetics of Political Organizing and Social Movements

Edited By Martin Zebracki, Z. Zane McNeill Copyright 2023
    158 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    158 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Politics as Public Art presents a keystone collection that pursues new frameworks for a critical understanding of the relationship between public art and protest movements through the utilization of socially engaged and choreopolitical approaches.

    This anthology draws from a unique combination of interdisciplinary scholarship and activism where it integrates geographically rich perspectives from political and grassroots community contexts spanning the United States, Europe, Australia, and Southeastern Africa. The volume questions, and reimagines, not only how public art practice can be integral to politics, including forms of surveillance and control of bodily movement. It also probes into how political participation itself can be construed as a form of public artmaking for radical social change and just worlds. This collection advocates for scholar-activist inquiry into how socially engaged public art practices can pave the way for thinking through—and working toward—championing more inclusive futures and, as such, choreographing greater intersectional justice.

    This book provides a wide appeal to audiences across humanities and social science scholarship, arts practice, and activism seeking conceptual and empirically informed tools for moving from public art and choreopolitical theory into modes of praxis: critical reflection and action.


    List of Contributors


    Chapter 1. Politics as Public Art: Bodies, Power, Inclusive Change

    Martin Zebracki and Z. Zane McNeill

    Part I: The Art of Political Movements: A Theoretical Genealogy

    Chapter 2. Introduction: Emotions, Materiality, and World-Building

    Joanna Krakowska

    Chapter 3. A Beautiful Disruption: Extinction Rebellion’s Red [Rebel] Brigade and a Theory of Emotional Representation in Protest

    Janet O’Shea

    Chapter 4. Reflections on Umunthu as the Life Politics of Ozhopé

    Massa Lemu

    Chapter 5. Art-Making and World-Building: Arendt and the Political Potential of Socially Engaged Practices

    Ashley Biser and Erin Fletcher

    Part II: Bodies in Space: The Aesthetic Politics of Protest

    Chapter 6. Introduction: Political Praxis, Ideology, and the Deliberately Aesthetic Body

    Gregory J. Langner

    Chapter 7. Bloodied Beaches, Copper Flowers: A Choreopolitical Analysis of Extinction Rebellion’s Red Rebel Brigade

    Fen Kennedy

    Chapter 8. "Racism Lives Here": Queering the Neoliberal University Campus through Choreopolitical Antiracist Activism

    A.F. Lewis and Kelcea Barnes

    Chapter 9. Exploring the Role of the Disabled Body as a Vehicle and Art Form within Anti-Austerity Protest

    Angharad Butler-Rees and Bree Hadley



    Chapter 10. Entanglement and Choreopolitical Thought

    Thomas F. DeFrantz




    Martin Zebracki is Associate Professor of Critical Human Geography, University of Leeds, UK, and has published widely across public art, sexuality, digital culture, and social inclusivity. Zebracki is editor of the Routledge anthologies Public Art Encounters (with Joni M. Palmer; 2017) and The Everyday Practice of Public Art (with Cameron Cartiere; 2016) and editorial board member of Public Art Dialogue.

    Z. Zane McNeill is an independent scholar-activist who has written on queer and trans feminisms in contemporary performance, queer of color critique, and quare studies and politichoreography. They are currently an advisory board member for the University Press of Kentucky Book Series Appalachian Futures: Black, Native & Queer Voices.

    ‘In a time of continual anxiety over climate change, political unrest, and an ongoing global health crisis, this well-considered collection reminds us of the power of political action through public art and the importance of socially engaged practice to challenge societal differences and discords. Through historical perspectives, case studies, and engaging critical analysis, this anthology serves as both a site of reflection and an inspiration of future activist art actions.’

    Professor Cameron Cartiere, Emily Carr University, Canada

    ‘Martin Zebracki and Z. Zane McNeill’s Politics as Public Art makes a valuable contribution to the emerging literature on socially engaged art. It is notable for establishing a productive linkage between the concept of a "choreopolitics," developed by André Lepecki, and the aesthetics of engaged art practice and social movements more broadly. Equally importantly, the contributors outline a series of key dialogical interfaces, between the disciplines of art history, performance studies, and social movement studies, which will do much to enrich ongoing debates in the field. Crucially, the essays foreground the essential role played by the performative and the somatic in engaged art practices which seek to understand the body as both a "signifying agent" and a matrix of social and political resistance.’

    Professor Grant Kester, University of California, San Diego, US

    ‘This is a terrific set of analyses probing the aesthetics and politics of contemporary protests. Drawing on voices from diverse locations and perspectives, including artists, curators, and scholars, this anthology lends new weight to the argument that confronting injustice requires people to choreograph multiple creative practices of synergetic collaboration.’

    Distinguished Professor Susan Leigh Foster, University of California, Los Angeles, US

    ‘This book is a pleasure. It makes new global claims about activism and public space. It shows the reader how life and freedom are made and destroyed by the capacities of bodies. This collective enacts how politics regulates bodies and how bodies perform alterity through radical art making. Every contribution honors public art in the service of public interest and reminds us that to do so is our birthright.’

    Professor Emeritus D. Soyini Madison, Northwestern University, US