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Using creativity to get your message across is not a new phenomenon, but going extra arty is gaining popularity and momentum among groups pushing for social and civil change – from the global Occupy movement using puppetry as part of the Occupy Wall Street activities through to ChillOut creating ‘performance art’ to raise of awareness of children in detention here in Australia. And the ubiquitous crocheting of trees to promote… what, exactly? Although it does look nice.

Art has long been used to raise awareness of issues and spark debate, and its increased use in networked activism is no surprise. Where once art raised eyebrows in more secluded galleries, and then added to the curated beauty and discourse of public areas, it now increasingly adds its weight to highlight the dilemmas, outrages and disconnect between our everyday lives and the issues we face as a community and society.

As raised by Anne Harris on The Conversation, art as a form of creative activism can engage, enrage, enthral and inspire. But is the work more a form of expression – a category of art unto itself – or another tool to help deliver an activist message?

There are some incredible works of art that raise public awareness through debate, and others that raise the visibility of a campaign through their networked sharing or even commerce.

If it is engaging and meaningful, then creative activism is useful tool in the activists’ toolbox, but the message is still the driving force.

Is the conversation about art or activism? Which is the method and which is the muse? And does drawing genitalia around potholes, as reported in the Manchester Evening News, constitute creative activism or vandalism with a message?

What would Banksy say?

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