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Shelf Life

“Shelf Life” is a podcast about the humanities–and the humans behind them. Each episode features a new conversation with the Newberry staff, fellows, and other readers who bring the Newberry’s world-famous collection to life.

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Activist-Artists in the Archives

The relationship between art and activism is complex. Art is not merely an instrument for–or accessory of–protest. Artists don’t just translate activism into a visual language; they can actually create an environment in which activism is possible. According to Monica Trinidad, co-founder of the For the People Artists Collective, “Art is not an afterthought, it is essential and integral to organizing.”

Monica recently visited the Newberry to view our Never the Same Collection of political art. While here, she talked with us about how art can make difficult ideas more accessible, what happens to art when it becomes part of an archive, and why it’s important to preserve different artistic perspectives in an institution like the Newberry.

Activist-Artists in the Archives by Shelf Life, from the Newberry Library

Show Notes

1:40 – Monica discusses the relationship between art and activism.

mms_nts_box_01_blw_001.jpg

Transcript of “Fred Hampton interviewed by the VideoFreex: a Respeaking Exercise” by the BLW Collective, based on a 1969 interview with Hampton. In the Never the Same archive: Folder NTS00611.2013.

3:06 – For the People Artists Collective visited the Newberry to view the Never the Same archive of protest art: what was that experience like, and how will FTP use the archive as a resource going forward?

6:11 – Why is it important to preserve art by people who are organizing for different social and political issues?

7:11 – What it was like for Monica to see her own work in an archive.

8:09 – In the Never the Same archive, there’s a zine featuring an interview with Fred Hampton, a leader of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s. Why was this such an important piece for Monica to see?

13:05 – How do the materials in the Never the Same archive make complex ideas more accessible? How might they be used to foster conversations among diverse audiences?

16:01 – What’s the potential for encouraging more people to consult this archive of protest art inside the Newberry?

18:48 – How the presence of the Never the Same archive in the Newberry can challenge pre-conceived notions that research libraries are inaccessible spaces.

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