Priorities Aligned: Exploring Political and Social Activism in Art

Opening Image: Olgaç Bozalp “Home: Leaving One for Another”, 2019

By Isabelle Enquist

Young artists have always been a catalyst for change and a loud voice in socio-political conversations. Now, with the existence of the most potent communication platform – social media – young artists are becoming ever more important. They are able to shape and navigate critical social and cultural dialogue, as their digital literacy makes them more relatable and accessible. This article takes a look at a few of these young artists who actively seek to explore cultural and socio-political landscapes, use their art and/or platform as a gateway for activism and communicate social issues to their audiences. 

Olgaç Bozalp – Being recognized by magazines such as AnOther and i-D, it is fair to say that this young artist is gaining pace fast. What is really striking about Bozalp’s work is the intimacy, warmth and sincerity it emanates. He describes his style as “mixing documentary with staged installations”, and it breathes an air of honesty. “Home: Leaving One for Another” (2019) is the most talked about and applauded of his work, but there are plenty of Bozalp’s projects which touch on transmigration, forced displacement, differing ideologies of the East and West, and other relevant topics

Edition III Mãyã, Nepal January 2022
“Home: Leaving One for Another”, 2019

Victoria Kosasie – She explores womanhood and Indonesian heritage through performance art and video. As one struggles to keep in touch with tradition in the context of cultural displacement, Kosasie ruminates. How does the Indonesian image of the woman affect one’s relationship with their own womanhood? How to honor cultural heritage as one becomes a global citizen? Kosasie’s practice is tranquil, yet strong and thought-provoking. 

“Basins”, 2022
Kodrat, Berat Terikat, 2021

Sasha Gordon – A pair of bulging eyes will stare you down from the canvas, as Gordon tackles expectations for the female body in a heteronormative society. She satirizes the narrative of Asian fetishization, claiming and reiterating it in her own terms. Her work also portrays the effect of social pressure and feelings of displacement on a young person’s mental health. Now, Gordon is experiencing dizzying success, with recurring mentions in publications, such as Artsy, and representation by Matthew Brown Gallery. The vibrant, relatable, and biting imagery makes her popularity understandable. 

“Concert Mistress”, 2021
“Sore Loser”, 2021

Precious Okoyomon (garden and horticultural installations) – Subliminal messages and intricate research shape this artist’s practice. Their piece “Earthseeds”, delves deep into the roots of colonialism and its very physical and lasting effects on topography and nature. Okoyomon recontextualizes the case of attempted naturalization of the kudzu plant, a highly invasive foreign species, in the 1800s. It was used to counter the effects of excessive cotton farming on American soil. A blend of botanical, eco-aware themes and reflections on the remnants of colonialism in a contemporary context – Okoyomon weaves intricate ideas into cohesive narratives

“Earthseed”, 2020
“A Drop of Sun Under the Earth”, 2019

Fernanda Liberti – Bodies, social liberties, culture, and post-colonial expectations for people of Latin-American heritage. Liberti is a proactive artist working in photography and videography, establishing an amazing client base, with names such as Dior, Vogue, and Marie Claire being some of them. Liberti’s activism is impressive, as she steers the fashion and photography worlds in the direction of body-positivity and cultural diversity. The fashion world is slow to accept bodies outside of Western beauty standards, so it is exciting to see a curvy, confident Latina take on this challenge with such conviction.

M Journal Cover, 2021
“Dancing with the Tupinambá”, 2022

Maryam Hoseini – The Middle Eastern diaspora produces many politically-active artists. From Palestinians speaking out against Israeli occupation to Iranian women taking off hijabs in protest, we see profoundly beautiful and bold art-ivists emerge from the Middle East. Hoseini is one such young Iranian artist dissecting and portraying gender and sexuality. Nude female bodies – hairy and free, yet fractured and dissociated – grace Hoseini’s canvases, as she explores the relationship between body, identity and socio-political pressures.

“Memory House”, 2022
“Capture 1”, 2021

Marcin Dudek – This multimedia artist captures the stagnation of the Polish socio-political state through mapping. With remnants of Soviet rule still tangible in Eastern European countries, Dudek outlines the ensuing social and urban topographical byproducts. Especially important in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war, his work reminds audiences that there is an ever-lasting Russian presence in countries of the ‘Eastern bloc’. Paired with Poland’s tumultuous relationship with the Catholic Church as a governmental institution, the artist aptly questions the role of religion in procuring, oftentimes violent and long-standing social issues.

“The Guardians”, 2021
“Slash & Burn 2”, 2021
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