Beyond the Now: socially-engaged art in a post-pandemic world

Sarah Allen
Becca Ricks

By Sarah Allen and Becca Ricks | Oct. 15, 2020 | Mozilla Festival

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Earlier in the year, the drive to reconnect and strengthen ties with friends and allies was filling our evenings for personal – and our days for professional – zoom calls. In one of these calls, we met with a group of arts institutions and universities across Europe to understand and support what was happening across the arts sector in March 2020. We all spoke of our shared concerns around how art and community activism has been impacted during a global pandemic, while acknowledging how differently artists approached their creative practice in virtual spaces.

For more than two decades, Mozilla has invested in visionary ideas, global leaders, and advocacy to ensure the internet remains a public resource that is open and accessible to all. MozFest is where this work comes alive, through sessions, talks, and cultural moments. Socially-engaged art has always played a role at MozFest as a mode of storytelling and learning, to help us speculate and understand larger issues from many perspectives. At a time in which tech culture values speed and rapid iteration above all else, art prompts us to slow down and engage critically with hard questions.

Socially-engaged art has emerged as a critical practice that responds to social inequality and injustice. Rapid changes to the internet and social technologies mean that global, disparate communities are now organising and collaborating in ways that may not have been possible before. With new digital tools and structures for navigating this new reality, these artists are shaping the future of community activism.

As MozFest, we worked with art institutions, universities, and Mozilla researcher Becca Ricks to rally together to create a syndicate to create a future-facing curated space that could host diverse perspectives on how the pandemic has shaped our shared understanding of social art practice, the experience of solidarity, and crisis from a global perspective.

We asked artists – illustrators, filmmakers, musicians, technologists, writers, educators, and community organisers – what “socially engaged art” looks like during a global pandemic, and we proudly share their responses on the Beyond the Now platform, with our partners.

Over the next three months, we will share these personal, honest, and reflective pieces about creating socially-engaged art in 2020. Stay tuned to Beyond the Now and our MozFest newsletter for the latest updates.

Beyond the Now Partner Organisations

Launching October 2020, ‘Beyond the Now’ is a syndicated platform that offers up responses and perspectives on what socially-engaged art looks like in a post-pandemic world. The platform is a partnership between seven different organisations that span the globe, including MozFest, Coculture, Counterpoints Arts, Create, Ettijahat, Plymouth College of Art, and Open University.

Collectively, these organisations commissioned written reflections and artwork from artists, art educators, and community activists. The work responded to a set of provocations: Where and what is social, in a post-pandemic world? What narratives, mechanisms, and tools might we use to navigate the uncertainties of the present? How can social justice be realised beyond this current moment? 
Their responses will be shared throughout our network of partner organisations to further provoke conversation and reflection.

Beyond the Now partners

Get Involved

The project will share commissioned writing and work throughout the coming months. To see the work, and talk to the artists you can visit the website or follow ‘Beyond the Now’ on Twitter.

MozFest is part art, tech and society convening, part maker festival, and the premiere gathering for activists in diverse global movements fighting for a more humane digital world. To learn more, visit www.mozillafestival.org.

Sign up for the MozFest newsletter here to stay up to date on the latest festival and internet health movement news.


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