There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be at time when we fail to protest.
- Elie Wiesel
Protest art has a long and varied history. Regardless of the medium, it provokes and inspires. While walking along the Rhine River in Düsseldorf, Germany on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I happened upon the art piece Lampedusa. It gave me pause. Literally. With the river serving as the backdrop, stuffed black plastic bags of varying sizes representing the bodies of children and adults were ceremoniously displayed. The retrospective mood was fortified by lit candles and somber music.
Inches from the symbolic body bags stood a tent bearing the name Frontex along with statistics on the thousands of migrants who have died at sea.
I had to meet the artist who conceived this work. A month later, I met Anabel Jujol, an activist, performance artist, and painter. As we sat and talked in Karo, the art gallery she shares with two other artists, her enthusiasm was palpable.
Jujol has two passions, art and activism. She once believed that these were mutually exclusive, but her involvement in the Occupy Movement changed this perception.
In 2011, like many others, she was inspired by Spain's Occupy Movement, Los Indignados. Further motivated by Stéphane Hessel's Time for Outrage: Indignez-vous!, Jujol along with five others began Occupy Düsseldorf in October 2011.
In time, the occupiers realised that their efforts were not leading to meaningful and lasting global social change. Individuals became disheartened and the Movement waned. Yet, Jujol recalls, "the smaller the movement became, the more art was made."
Düsseldorf's Occupy camp ended in August 2012. This, however, did not lessen her resolve. She continues her activism in diverse and inspired ways.
Jujol envisions site specific performances. As with Lampedusa, the setting is key. Performances are often staged in heavily trafficked areas to encourage participation from passers-by. This leads to work that she describes as "very organic".
In 1% loves 99%, performers donned costumes to emphasize stark differences in social class. They then strolled along Königsallee, a street known for its high-end boutiques. Performers interacted with the public, many of whom eagerly participated.
When Jujol is not staging public art performances, she paints.
Born in Germany to a Spanish father and Dutch mother, Jujol is quite interested in the concept and malleability of identity. She explores and critiques the placement and displacement of individuals and groups in modern societies.
Talking with her and viewing her work, I was reminded of The Monkey's Mask: Identity, Memory, Narrative and Voice (2003) in which Chris Kearney refers to identity as a "knotty problem". Her paintings are visual representations of the profoundness of identity. It is deep, vast, complicated, interwined, and a journey. So are Jujol's paintings. When viewing her work, one feels as if one is casting off on a journey into another dimension and that eventually the unknown or as yet undiscovered will be found.
Sinuous lines resembling the density and strength of roots interact upon the canvas. There is a sense of movement, growth, and constant change.
Whether a performance or painting, Jujol questions social norms in varied and inspired ways and invites the viewer to do the same.