Andrew Boyd

The tactics & techniques
of creative action

description & bio
sample agenda
client list | reviews

books & articles

contact | links

Artful Activism : Creative Strategies for Social Change
Gallatin School, NYU, Spring 2004
Wednesdays, 3:30 - 6:10pm, 194 Mercer Street, Room 207

Professor: Andrew Boyd
718/768-4110 + 646/234-3990 + andrew at wanderbody dot com
Office hours: wed, 12-2, room 815

Is culture the new politics? Where is the line between art and propaganda? How can we adapt artistic strategies to support political action and education? We will take on these questions through a hands-on exploration of creative activism and aesthetically-savvy political action. In the classroom we will survey a wide range of forms including culture jamming, media stunts, guerrilla theater and on-line viral campaigns. Case studies will be drawn from ACT-UP, Guerrilla Girls, Abbie Hoffman, RTMark,, etc., as well as from my own work (Billionaires for Bush, etc.). Selected readings from Dery, Klein, Lacy, Rushkoff, and others will provide background in the history, theory, and methods of creative activism. Outside class, working in small teams, and armed with a "toolbox" of creative tactics and techniques, students will collaborate with a grass-roots campaign to design and implement artful activist projects of their own invention. The class will make use of alternative formats, including film, slideshow, case study analysis, guest presenters, hands-on experimentation, and project critique.

Content: Gain a broad exposure to the history, theory, sources, and current practice of creative activism.
Practice: By briefly experimenting with several forms and deeply exploring one, develop the capacity and confidence to design and carry out your own activist/art projects.
Intangibles: Come further into your own power and imaginations—as citizens, critical thinkers and artists -- and, um, have fun.

1) Attendance, diligent reading, and active participation in all class discussions.
2) Several short written & hands-on assignments during the semester.
3) Completion of a final group project & short evaluation paper.

Students' final grades will be based on the following:
30% class participation
30% response papers & miscellaneous assignments
40% project work

Class participation will be judged by level of preparation, engagement during class time, and generosity to other students.

Final projects will be judged by all aspects of their creation—both process and product. Did the group think things through in the early stages—did they plan, design and redesign well? Did the group set up an effective process—did they care and learn from each other? Did the project succeed on its own terms?—according to the group's own stated goals? Did the group do the necessary risk-taking, follow-through and evaluation to learn all that the project had to offer them?


Books :
1. Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky, Vintage Books, New York, 1971, ISBN: 0-679-72113-4.
2. Activist Cookbook, Andrew Boyd, United for a Fair Economy, Boston, 1997.
3. Radical Street Performance: An International Anthology, Jan Cohen-Cruz, Ed., Routledge, London & New York, 1998. ISBN: 0415152313.
4. Cultural Resistance Reader, Stephen Duncombe, Ed., Verso, London/New York, 2002. ISBN: 1859843794.
5. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken, Dutton, New York, 2003. ISBN: 0-525-94764-7.
6. Media Virus!: Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture, Douglas Rushkoff, Ballantine, New York, 1994, 1996. ISBN: 0345397746.

Course Packs:
1. Main Course Pack.
2. A xeroxed version of the out of print.But is it Art?: the Spirit of Art as Activism, Nina Felshin, Ed., Bay Press, Seattle, 1995. ISBN: 0941920291.

Except for Boyd’s Activist Cookbook, all books are available at Bluestockings Bookstore. (Bluestockings is a radical bookstore, fair trade café, and activist center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 172 Allen Street, just one block south of Houston, and the F train 1st Ave exit).

The xeroxed course packs are available at the cheapest copy shop in town: Advanced Copy Center, 552 Laguardia St., 212/388-1001.

Course Schedule
[c] = coursepack
[CRR] = Cultural Resistance Reader, Steve Duncombe
[Felshin] = But is it Art?, Ed. Nina Felshin
[Cruz] = Radical Street Performance, Jan Cohen Cruz

January 21
Get acquainted, define goals, discuss structure of course.
Introduce the two campaigns in which we will do our project work : Billionaires for Bush, and the effort by NYU adjunct faculty to secure a just contract.
Tease out core questions. Fill out questionnaires.
ASSIGN: Create your own Billionaires for Bush persona.

January 28
1. Franken, selections [see handout]
2. Billionaires for Bush website and hand-outs.
DUE (in my box): One-page response paper to Franken & Billionaires campaign.


January 31 (Saturday)

February 4
Of Truth & Lies and Means & Ends
1. Alinksy, prologue, 3-47
2. Hazen, A 12-Step Program for Regime Change [c]
3. Farber, The Four-Fold Path to Student Liberation [c]
4. Kaufman, A Short History of Radical Renewal [c]

February 11
Survey of Artful Activism
CASE STUDY: Boston Tea Party Redux
1. Felshin, Introduction [Felshin, 1-34]
2. Alinsky, 72-97
3. Boyd, Activist Cookbok, 1-17 & selections
4. Rubin, Do It!, [CRR, 330-332]
5. Boal, Invisible Theater [Cruz, chap 15]
6. Piper, Xenophobia and the Indexical Present [Cruz, chap 16]
7. Durland, Witness: The Guerrilla Theater of Greenpeace [Cruz, chap 8]
8. Boyd, Activist Cookbok, 18-25

February 18
Media & Media Viruses; Memes & SmartMemes
Jonah Paretti’s Nike Sneaker Virus
1. Boyd, Truth is a Virus [CRR, 369-378]
2. Rushkoff, 1-42 & Afterword
3. Reinsborough, Direct Action at the Point of Assumption [c]
4. Gladwell, Introduction, The Tipping Point [c]
5. Lasn, Meme Wars [c]
6. Branwyn, chap 1, The New Media Hackers [c]
7. Klein, chapter 16, A Tale of Three Logos [c]
8. handout, Cultural Creatives [c]
Bring in a virus.

February 25
Culture Jamming and its Discontents
GUEST: Carrie McLaren of Stay Free Magazine
WATCH: selections from Sonic Outlaws
1. Dery, Culture Jamming [c]
2. Klein, chapter 12, Culture Jamming [c]
3. Lasn, Culture Jam, p. xi-xvii; 100-109; 128 [c]

March 3
Social Networks & Digital Activism
GUEST: Eli Pariser of (unconfirmed)
1. Boyd, The Web Re-Wires the Movement [c]
2. Arquilla & Ronfeldt, The Advent of Netwar [c]
3. Klein, The Vision Thing [c]
4. Rheingold, Smart Mobs—Introduction [c]

March 10
Posters & Propaganda
GUEST: Gene Case of Avenging Angels (unconfirmed)
1. Meyer, Grand Fury and the Graphics of AIDS Activism, [Felshin, chap. 2]
2. Hess, Guerrilla Girl Power, [Felshin, chapter 11]

-----SPRING BREAK-----

March 24
The Art of the Prank
GUEST: “Andreas Bichelbaum” of RTMark (unconfirmed)
CASE STUDY: Abbie Hoffman & RTMark
1. Pranks!, Introduction & chapters on Hoffman & Skaggs [c]
2. Rushkoff, chapter 9
3. Branwyn, Media Pranks and Art Hacks [c]
4. Nisker, Crazy Wisdom, chapter 7 [c]

March 31
Humor: "Redicule is our most potent weapon"
GUEST: Todd Hanson of The Onion (unconfirmed)
CASE STUDIES: The Onion, The Daily Show
1. Friend, What's So Funny? [c]
2. Peyser, Red, White & Funny [c]
3. Eco, “I Love You Madly,” He Said Self-Consciously [c]
4. (other readings, TBA)
5. Nisker, Crazy Wisdom, chapters 1 & 2 [c]

April 7
Tactics & Tactical Media
GUEST: Ricardo Dominguez of EDT & CAE (unconfirmed)
CASE STUDY: Electronic Disturbance Theater & Critical Art Ensemble
1. Dominguez, Electronic Disturbance [CRR, 379-396]
2. Alinsky, 126-148; 158-164
3. Bogad, Electoral Guerrilla Theater in Australia [c]
4. Klein, chapter 16, A Tale of Three Logos [c]
5. Rushkoff, chapter 7

April 14
Reinventing Protest: The Extreme Costume Ball
CASE STUDY: RTS & WAC & Critical Mass
1. Jordan, The Art of Necessity, [CRR, 347-357]
2. Bey, Temporary Autonomous Zone, [CRR, 113-117]
3. Monbiot, Raising the Temperature [c]
4. Boyd, Extreme Costume Ball [c]
5. Essoglou, Louder than Words: A WAC Chronicle, [Felshin, chapter 12]
6. Schechner, The Street is the Stage [Cruz, chapter 25]
7. Bell, Louder than Traffic [Cruz, chap 33]

April 21
Does the Truth Matter?
1. Duncombe & Boyd, The Manufacture of Dissent [c]
2. Rorty, Ironists and Metaphysicians [c]
3. Boyd, Save Western Civilization Now—Ask Me How [c]
4. Boyd, Life’s Little Deconstruction Book
5. Franken, What is a Lie? [Franken, chapter 43]

April 28
But Is It Art?
1. Kelly, The Body Politics of Suzanne Lacy [felshin, chap 8]
2. Lacy, Debated Territory: Towards a Critical Language for Public Art [c]
3. Kalb, The Gospel According to Billy [c]
4. (other readings, TBA)
5. Felshin, Introduction [Felshin, 1-34] (Reread)

May 5
Final Class
Project Presentations. Party.
DUE: Final Papers & Project Evaluations