[ISEA2011] Paper: Denitsa Petrova – Big Bird is Watching You: Art, Activism and Technology in the Public Arena


‘Think of yourself as the Permanent Resistance.Things don’t change without activism. Ars longa, but so is activism.’  _Guerrilla Girls (2008) Letters to a Young Artist, New York, Darte Publishing LLC

Many contemporary artists working in the public arena have recognised the potential that the rapid development of digital media technologies presents. As a result new categories of artists have emerged – artists-developers, artists-engineers and artists-scientists. Analysing a number of activist artworks, this paper discusses the potential of art and technology collaborations stimulated by the continuous transformation of our cities. It explores the intersection between art, activism and technology as a new art practice used as a tool for creating situations prompting cultural change.

In the past decade art activists have been actively using various digital tools to realize their projects. Breakthroughs in technology have had a vast impact on the way activist art projects are initiated and developed. Furthermore, the internet, as a virtual public space, has presented the artists with an opportunity to organize and promote their practices.

Presenting a variety of case studies, this paper examines the works of contemporary artists and art collectives who use the power of technology to publically engage with political, social and community issues. From Google Map ‘mash-ups‘, to guerrilla interventions and site-specific installations, this essay investigates interventionist art projects which compel audiences to think about their environment in new ways, and aims to highlight the existence of a critical special practice where public artworks can be seen as a critique of the increasing marginalization of public space.

  • Denitsa Petrova. PhD Candidate in Public Art and Digital Media Denitsa Petrova is an artist, designer and a researcher, whose interests lie in public art, architecture, digital media and web 2.0. Denitsa is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, exploring the relationship between the expanding presence of the Internet and social media, in particular, and public art. Her research focuses on the ways public art has shifted during the past few decades and how the rapid development in technology in the most recent years has affected the production of urban space.

Full text (PDF) p. 1906-1911