BEAUTY opinion - The Furious & The Fragile
The world is a fast changing place; where once protestors would risk life and limb to be heard, now modern activists can create a movement with the simple tap of a keyboard. But can the powerful ever truly be moved by the oppressed, and is the art of protest really evolving?
It’s hard to say why something ‘catches fire’ in the world of protest. Previously it would happen through myth making: Joan of Arc dressed as an armoured man, holding her sword aloft and leading France to freedom is something that’s still firmly entrenched in the modern consciousness - almost 700 years later. In recent times it’s thanks to the lightning-fast dissemination of imagery; 2017’s shot of a young woman smilingly staring down the hateful face of a far-right English Defence League protester went viral due to the silent power of its message; which, like Joan of Arc’s was simple: we will not submit, we will not surrender.
Much has been said about peaceful protest, but it could be argued the most powerful protests are the ones that capture the imagination, that deeply resonate with some universal human truth, without actually saying a thing. The act of standing in front of a row of tanks for example, fearlessly and quietly moving into their path is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century, somehow made even more powerful due to the everyday look of the protestor’s shopping bags by his side. It was understood wordlessly by all to symbolise ‘Everyman’ confronting ‘The Man’.
The striking act of holding a mirror or passing a flower to armed forces during a protest has become a universal symbol for peaceful civil disobedience. To choose peace and hope when all seems lost is a revolutionary act in itself… Pepsi was widely ridiculed for its recent attempt to hijack this idea in its advert featuring the conspicuously a-political Kendall Jenner. In the ad Jenner successfully diffused tensions during a protest using nothing but a can of Pepsi, with many accusing the brand of trivialising important issues and trying to piggyback off legitimate causes to sell its soft drink.
But of course real protest can never be bought; it comes from a place of truth that advertisers can only dream of. There will not be a #revolution without the authenticity of the protest, and the protest will not have power without effective peaceful resistance. When rights are restricted there are two choices: riot and revolt or get quietly creative: the question is, which one will Generation Next choose?
Words / JESS CLARK