My definition of artivism is any art that has some sort of activist-based message and continued action on that message. It can be commercial or not but typically it’s not created for the sake of commercial viability or entertainment alone.
It depends. I think a lot of it has to do with intent. I think artists can participate in artivism and not be considered artivists, meaning they don't self-identify as such. But I have been an activist for over a decade and all of it was being fueled by my “secret project”, this story of Raver J, a raver superherione I am telling through my comic book and my novels. For me to consider someone else an artivist I would look at their intent and their consistency in taking some form of action. With my work, over the years, the Raver J social profiles have consistently messaged about what I bring up in the book and, through my nonprofit work, I have been equally consistent in offline action. So in my eyes, I am an artivist. Artivists are artists of any form using art as activism be they dancers, writers, DJs, photographers, fashion designers, sculptors, or any of the other myriad of visual mediums we can engage in. They can also be organizations that use art for action like Give A Beat
or U.S. Department of Arts and Culture
(a nonprofit not a real department).
What makes Raver J’s story in RAVE: Mythophrenia special is that it’s not a hero worship tale of superstar DJ’s. It’s the everyday individual and the crew. Those that feel like they don’t fit in society and those that are attempting to. It’s the ravers. The dancers. There are DJ’s among them but it is the rave crew who are the heroes of this story shown through the lens of an evolving superheroine.
You have messages on race, cultural invisibility, resource exploitation, climate change, conspiracies but are you making the case to blame all of these on consumerism?
It is thought on the spiritual path that what goes on within us individually and collectively is manifested outward. So the chaos we see currently outside of us, be it the individual or a cultural collective, is actually related to a spiritual mess within us. Something seems like it is missing so we try to fill it. And we are being exploited in that way. Some of us know and go along with it anyway and others really don’t. I try to connect dots and illuminate the unseen in both the comic and the novel, RAVE: Mythophrenia so more of us can approach the future in an informed and inspired fashion especially when it comes to our way of life. We have a choice. For other ways to see the unseen I would say follow Illuminatives
and if you want to do some ancestral healing, regardless of your skin color, check out and do the “Me and White Supremacy” workbook. I don’t care how woke you think you might be already. More than solely a climate revolution, we need a Love revolution.
Do you message about spiritual crisis specifically in RAVE: Mythophrenia?
RAVE: Mythophrenia is the first book in a two part origin story for Jivana Thoreau, who becomes the superheroine known as Raver J. My point in saying that is to answer with “no”, you experience it through the psycho-drama of the character. It is hinted at with my playful jab at Patriarchy with the pronunciation of the last name of the family of bad guys. I do make mention of the idea of human evolution but that is expounded upon in the continuation of her story. But let me be clear. I love men and I am not advocating for a Matriarchal takeover. I do see a need to balance the expression of energies within ourselves and especially collectively. And it is my self-given job as an artivist, through my story and process and everything I do, to not only show what I see but then help us imagine another version of reality so within us we are inspired to find solutions. Regarding Patriarchy, Madame Gandhi is an artivist I admire who acts on this topic.
Who inspired you to become an artivist? And who else do you consider to be an artivist?
The role models came after the desire was born in me, seemingly of its own will. That or I had very cleverly hid this desire in my heart and it was simply unleashed after a spiritual heart-awakening. It was after that episode, I’ll call it, that I found other artists that validated my desire and made me feel like this was not going to be an unprecedented endeavor. Shepherd Fairey has been a huge inspiration. Rage Against the Machine would be another. It’s like I started to realize what some of my favorite artists from growing up had been “doing”. Joseph Carringer of Table Syndicate is a close friend who has dedicated a good chunk of his life now to being an artivist healer and electronic musician. He made a great track called “Bombs Fly”
. Then there is A Tribe Called Red
, one of my current favorites. They are artivists in every way from their strong intent of their art expressed through what they name their songs, the messaging within music videos, to the everyday messaging on social media such as their August 2nd post:
"This song is about the pure enjoyment of dancing and getting sweaty... but this is not without a purpose. This song is for the people who are working hard to make the world a better place then the one they were left with. This is for the fighters and the defenders. Part of being strong is also taking the time to stop, let go and release.
Our dna is of earth and sky."
Collectively we are overdue on truly caring and paying attention to the Earth and that aspect, the sacred Feminine within us all. And it reminds me of some nuances I’d like to discuss.
The stories we tell. So Steve Aoki…
Yes. Before I go further, please let me say that I have mad respect for him as an artist, political activist, philanthropist, label owner, artist empowerer, and overall business man. Steve is definitely an artivist although I offer something much different with my work than what he is presenting in his comic, Neon Future. Mine story is about regenerating, through electronic music, a Natural Future. We see “balance” in a different way. From what I observe about Steve, he knows exactly what he is doing and I believe that he, like most people, are operating from the best intentions within their mindset and life experiences. Steve sees a future I see as a possibility as well. I like what my friend Deepti said about no longer having to relent to what is seen in “Neon Future”. This attitude, and thus possible future, can be changed by the stories we decide to tell ourselves or others or quite literally buy into. Anyway I didn’t mean to focus on him although he just brings up a good point especially when it comes to defining what artivism is in contrast to mimicked art. Sometimes people go along with themes or ideas because they see it is “working” in the world. I get that we all need to eat but what separates the artivist is consciousness surrounding what we are creating and promoting in this world. So please don’t repeat the A.I. narrative unless you really know what you’re pushing. It’s time we all pay attention to what we represent, endorse, create, and promote. I’m sure Steve knows. I respect his decision, I just see another possibility I prefer to promote.
Are these the nuances you were wanting to address?
Sort of. And what I say next has nothing to do with Steve. I’ve just seen some well intentioned artivists of late taking some pictures, thinking they are doing the right thing but having it look, to those sensitive to it, colonial. As a person that appears “white," although like many people I’m a proud mix, I hold white privilege. I have been paying attention to the nuances of that conversation in particular for the last two years and I think it’s something our whole culture should do because, well, let me give the words of Yazzie Min from her beautiful poem “Taste”
"This is not an attack on whiteness. This is a tipping the scales back to balances that we cam come together to fight this.”
We could say the same about the gender conversation. Some people think it’s divisive but it’s not. It’s about taking the time to listen to the people who have suffered. It’s about empathizing with them so we can create a better future together. If we dismiss them, that is divisive. First we must understand each other and understanding is not marginalizing their thoughts and feelings to move with the quick pace of old paradigm progress. It may not seem that we do not have time for this right now with the new language of the “climate emergency”, for instance. But we do have it, we just need to make the time for these conversations or we are doomed to repeat, in different form, the mistakes of the past. The nuances will be self-discovered when you pay attention to uncomfortable issues. Evolution and healing will come when we are no longer afraid to address what’s in the dark. Should be easy for us. The darkness is often where we dance.
Let’s go back to you. What else have you done as an artivist aside from the comic, an epic novel, social media messaging? You mentioned nonprofit work.
I co-founded Electronic Music Alliance
under a nonprofit I started in 2006 called Green Wave
. Anyone interested can check out both as I still run them both. I was particularly excited about the Trash to Treasure contest we ran last year.
I hear you might want to go on a tour. What would that entail?
My husband I and moved to Costa Rica a few years ago to start a mini-permaculture farm. It’s hard for me to want to leave. It’s lovely here and I have a lot of plants to take care of. Plus I would miss my cat. I’m also fairly involved in the nonprofit projects down here and I have the sequel to RAVE: Mythophrenia I am about to start polishing through the re-write process. But yeah, with 2020 coming up and considering getting out a vote is something that comes up in my novel, I’d definitely like to activate our dance music community around that.
What would that activation look like with a book tour?
In 2016 I created the Turn Up the Vote
campaign under EMA. In 2018 I handed over the campaign name and responsibilities to Give A Beat and it has been a desire for me and the director of that organization to do something for 2020. So if I could tie it all in together, I’m in. And…. I’m looking into it.
There are some people that think our music shouldn’t be political. What do you think about that?
A friend of mine Wade said it well today explaining that he changed the worldview of conservative Texans by introducing them to ecstasy in the 90’s while running the Stark club. “It’s always been political, don’t let the newbies in this scene tell you any different”.
A few things! Some people are apathetic because they are scared to make a mistake or take the wrong side. Mistakes are ok to make. Sometimes we have to take sides but if we are allowing ourselves to be open to constantly learn, we will refine our understanding of ourselves. This will help us always pick the side at the time that feels most in tune at that moment. Polarization is so last decade anyway. It’s time to return to the reality that society is complex and we should find delight and interest in what’s going on around us. Evolution will come through revelation. I want to give props to some of my most consistent artivists that are part of Electronic Music Alliance. Shar4 from Boston, Kimberly St. John from Denver, and Deepti Datt who lives in Goa and is the head of EMA India. These ladies use their art as a tool and create events to share their messages.
RAVE: Mythophrenia is out now globally in both digital and print versions. You can order online and links to all retailers are on my website
Please consider minimizing your impact and buy the digital bundle
of the comic, and the novel from my Gumroad account if you realize you truly don’t need a paperback. Buying this bundle includes a $3 donation that goes to a campaign I started called Project Free Bird. Details are all on the Gumroad link. If you do buy from Amazon or Barnes and Nobles and email me after you give it a review, I will send you the comic book for free. I do recommend the bundle though as the comic book comes with that and it should ideally be read first. Take care and take action.