Art as Activism!

By Cheryn Vigil, Aesthetic Activist

 Receiving an opportunity to use art as activism on MLK day, was the perfect time to demonstrate who the Aesthetic Activists are at the Environmental Center. After hearing word about an opening to talk about how art is used to bring change, I felt the sudden urge to sign up. To honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fort Lewis College holds many activities throughout the day to educate the people on making a difference. It is a time to come together to support the need for change.

Where do I start? Well, it could start with gaining a little background knowledge on artists who used their art as activism during the Civil Rights Movement. Artists such as Barbara Jones Hogu, left me inspired. Will was my co-worker, who was more than happy to help with running a workshop. As we threw down some ideas, the main challenge was, “what kind of art project could we do to engage the people?” Sitting in the office, I looked around for some ideas and there it was. The Environmental Center has a mural on the windows that say, “What Do You Stand For?” That was the question we had been searching for. The activity would be to use one word on what it is that you stand for, write it down, and then draw it. Participants were given, markers, colored pencils, and paper.  For some, the word came easily, but for others, they struggled in finding the perfect word.

We spent the next two hours, walking around, asking questions, laughing, and enjoying what people created. Some pieces included words such as, love, integrity, depth, stories, experience, and oneness. The most interesting part was hearing why they chose that word. Some people told a personal story and others gave a little lesson about the importance of their word. Everybody struggles from time to time, but too often we forget that there still is so much hope and love on this planet.

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JAVA BANDITS: The EC’s Most Wanted

By Dylan Hamilton, Aesthetic Activist

PUBLIC NOTICE: It has come to the attention of the authorities at the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center that certain criminal elements of the beverage containing species have begun to engage in heinous acts of larceny and violence. They are contributing to the production of massive amounts of waste and fraud, and are likely even stealing YOUR MONEY, dear citizen. It has been determined that the use of disposable cups on the Fort Lewis campus is at least 78 cups per student, per month. In total, this creates paper waste equivalent to 273 thousand paper cups a month. This is mortifying, and is a grave addition to the waste at the college. WE, THE STUDENTS AND CITIZENS OF FORT LEWIS COLLEGE, CAN ACT to put an end to this menace, by the use of personal reusable mugs. In addition to this, it is estimated that the savings that a student can gain from the use of their own mug can save them more than one hundred dollars a year. THEREFORE, THE AUTHORITIES AT THE FORT LEWIS COLLEGE ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER HEARTILY ENCOURAGE THE PURCHASE AND USE OF A PERSONAL MUG.

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Moloch Comes

By Dylan Hamilton, Aesthetic Activist

Let’s be honest. Things are getting weird.

It’s hard to remain calm at times. Everything about our society and our lifestyles is designed to maximize our various anxieties and to produce revenue from advertising. I don’t mean to suggest that this is the product of some multinational conspiracy; the truth is probably that this is all happening on accident.

Any smart manufacturer knows that this is the state of the system. And so, they become generalists, producing cheap lifestyle accessories for whatever you fancy your self-image to be, and for whatever demographic group you happen to be in.

Behold! The vacation piggybank for the early twenties, in a relationship, aspirational adventurous demographic. The fonts are specifically chosen for a mix of whimsy and non-threateningness. The arrow decal in the center is a symbol of questing and dynamism. The square frame and transparent sides of the piggybank are right out of postmodern design. $18.99 on Amazon.

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It’s hard to remain calm. It’s especially difficult to remain untainted by cynicism.

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There are two major schools of Christian belief; Catholic and Calvinist (well, and orthodoxy, but we’ll exclude them for a minute). I won’t get into a super complicated argument here, but the gist of these two sects is that Catholics, in general, believe humans and human nature to be weak. Calvinists, who include Protestants, Lutherans, Baptists, and almost every American Christian sect, believe humans and human nature to be evil.

Don’t understand what that difference means? I’ll explain. It has to do with the way we deal with those we consider our opponents and enemies.

Someone who considers their adversary subject to human weaknesses will recognize a bit of themselves in their foe. They will look at an opponent and realize: “She and I disagree because she is uninformed and ignorant. I have been ignorant before. I should treat her with generosity and understanding.” A person who empathizes with their enemy can make that enemy a friend, given the time, drive, and persistence.

Someone who considers an opponent to be evil will do none of these things. Such a person will look at their foe and say: “A wicked man. The world would be better if he were dead.”

A person who believes in the innate evil of humanity will not know mercy, will not be able to recognize justice, and will be able to injure and kill other humans without hesitation or consequence.

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I once heard someone say: “We are living in the dreamtime.”

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I believe this. I know it in my heart. The dreamtime is a bastardized word for a Native Australian concept which represents the time before time, the mythological era when demons and monsters ruled the world. They were not necessarily evil, but they were so powerful that they had the means to make and unmake the very substance of the earth.

They roamed about, building, destroying, and forming the world which we now inhabit today. The Forgotten Beast, Yeiitsoh Nagaii; The Titan, Uranus; Moloch, the incarnation of mindless hunger; Changing Woman, the first leader of the Navajos; Elijah, the Jewish magi; The Rainbow Serpent, creator of all of the Glorious Cosmos; and many others.

My thesis is that we are now in the unenviable position of being those beasts. In a way, we are the monsters of immense power which dominate the world, and what we have done as an industrialised society and what we continue to do will define the character of the world for a long time. Our societies know such power and security, like no other human culture has known in the history of our species, that we have gained the influence of gods. We do not, however, have the ability to undo our largest mistakes.

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What do we do? So many powerful forces in the modern world seem to conspire against us. Against the concepts of justice and freedom; against the hopes and dreams for peace and equality and fraternity. Lords of War and Robber Barons strut about in defiance. Moloch directs our fury and our rage onto the weak, those least deserving of it. Always, the innocent suffer.

I cannot tell you with certainty that we will escape these times with the things we hope for. Stability, prosperity, equity, sanity; even our very lives may be lost to some of us. I hope not, but I feel that times of great turmoil are coming, as always, caused by the greed, pride, and wrath of weak and petty men. There is nearly no way to physically prepare for such things. There is no amount of theory, training, skill, or rationality which will save us.

And even now, as I write, I must conclude that life is not too bad. But my life is rich beyond measure. My garbage, my consumption, is all borne on the bodies and spirits of slaves and poor bastards whom I will never have to meet. This borrowed luxury, this borrowed life bought with the suffering of other people, causes me to think that a reckoning will come.

Personally, all I have is faith. A weird faith, in the ability of humans to be good in times of crisis, to hope for beauty and kindness in their lives despite our violent histories. A faith that perhaps some higher power is guiding us, and that it means for us not to all perish meaninglessly. I am always driven to a saying which provides, in my opinion, the only reasonable prescription for existential despair. The saying is: “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.

Honestly, there is no better advice I can give you.

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