Social practice, social practice social practice!
That is what the artist Bob and Roberta Smith plans to do during the 2015 general election in Surrey Heath. Bob and Roberta Smith is an alias, the artist’s real name is Patrick Brill, a British born contemporary artist, writer, author, musician, art education advocate and keynote speaker. Brill is known (as Bob and Roberta Smith) largely for his painted signs on banners and discarded boards, which contain slogans reflecting current events, politics, and of course art and arts education. He has exhibited these signs throughout the world and often in relation to his activist work/campaigns. Brill is one of Britain’s most regarded socially engaged artists as well as a very outspoken figure in the advocacy of Arts Education.
Therefore it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that Brill is seeking a seat as a member of Parliament. In what is perhaps the boldest form of social practice, the artist is opposing the Conservative leader Michael Gove for a seat in the local district of Surrey Heath. As the former secretary of education, Gove was heavily criticized by the art community when he proposed cutting all the arts from schools in the U.K.
Brill’s chances seem like a long shot against the incumbent Grove but his campaign is more than likely to raise awareness. If Brill can secure enough votes to make a dent in the election results it would prominently vocalize the communities value for its art curriculum which has shown positive cognitive results for students.
Will this open the door for artists to get involved with general elections? The field of social practice has been vital in many fields outside of the arts such (and in no means limited to) as urban planning, advocacy for the homeless, mass incarceration and the justice system, and advocacy for our veterans.
Ben Sutton notes that this is not the first time an artist has forayed into politics. In 1974 Canadian artist Vincent Trasov ran for Mayor of Vancouver.