Art has the power to instigate real change. Mallika Sarbhai says that it can go through where other things simply can’t. Word for word, she says, “you can’t have barriers because it breaks through prejudices”. Platforms like TikTok allow for art to be more accessible to people around the world. I remember the “Ice Bucket Challenge” in 2017 raised awareness for ALS by being a simple challenge that everyone can do. I for one wouldn’t have known about ALS until I saw this challenge. So, using video as an interactive medium to spread a message is clearly beneficial.
The same goes for sports. Nationally televised broadcasts can be used to spread a message. More recently, the NBA began sporting “Black Lives Matter” propaganda on their jerseys as a new design to bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. Team jerseys now say things like “freedom, education,” and my personal favorite, “group economics”. I’ve had this debate with my friends, and they are torn on how to feel about the jerseys. Some feel that they should separate the politics from sports, but others think that this is a great way to bring an issue to the forefront. I’m certainly part of the latter, but I can’t stop laughing when I see Andre Iguodala’s name as Group Economics. I do think athletes should be able to use their platform to raise awareness for something they are passionate about, my biggest concern is just how they are doing it. The jersey changes seem inferior compared to how the NFL has been supporting this movement.
The NFL shows support by putting names much smaller on the helmets. Instead of printing them huge on a jersey and trying to shove a political agenda down the viewers throats, they just allow the players to do it in their own ways. Aside from the small contribution of the helmets, the players can decorate their shows and kneel to the national anthem. This feels more human and less like a corporation is trying to pander to the audience like in the NBA. You may think that sports aren’t technically an art but what is more artistic than 22 fully grown men diving, jumping, and moving all together in intensely rehearsed and choreographed motion (not to mention they’re in tight matching uniforms).
That being said, a concrete example of how art can be used to creatively engage others about a global issue is a song. While Banana Chant’s music currently may not be trying to actively engage anyone global issue of cataclysmic proportions, we recognize that we can use song as vehicle to transport meaning. Like Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”, song can bring to light the truths of our society. Pink Floyd tells the listener that school is not meant to teach kids how to be a cog in a system of machines, but instead to think freely. Instead of delivering a speech or just tweeting it out how they feel, they made a full production to get their message across. The viewer is stimulated by the visual and audio experience, while internalizing the message. Like Peter Gabriel says, “art is a power that no-one can strip away from you.” It is a way of vocalizing your thoughts that will never feel powerless.
The last one I care to mention is how gaming can used as a catalyst for change. In mid 2018 when Fortnite was initially taking off, popular streamer Ninja grew a massive platform. He went from a couple hundred views to over a million just off the popularity of one game. Unfortunately, he contracted a disease called “Ligma”. Much like I didn’t know what ALS was, I had to do research on Ligma. Now I know what it is, but at the time he used his platform to inform me about the dangers of it. If you aren’t familiar with Ligma you can ask me about it.