nl en

Social and Ecological Activism in the Visual Arts – lecture series


Admission requirements

No admission requirements for this course.


Throughout history, visual artists have mobilised their practices to advocate for the causes they believe in, and to protest or disrupt those they oppose. Today’s global challenges and political and social injustices are increasingly complex which make new and unfamiliar demands on the visual arts. Contemporary artists and designers are responding to these challenges by experimenting with novel and creative strategies of intervention, advancing forms of activism in the service of social justice through their practices. Some target impoverished visual vocabularies and deceitful narratives, and seek to enrich them with alternative interpretations, scenarios, and imaginaries. Others prioritize the redirection of collective organisation, policy making, and pedagogy.

This lecture series charts the contours of the relationship between the visual arts and social justice activism, looking at how certain tropes and tactics have developed historically but also how their implementation differs depending on geographical location and cultural context. Students will be have the opportunity to gain the knowledge, analytical skills and methods needed to critically deconstruct and evaluate a range of cases where art and design take a leading role in the shaping of protest, advocacy or intervention in a social or political urgency. They will discuss key texts, prepare presentations on aspects of the topic, and hear directly from some of today’s most politically engaged artists and designers.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, the student will have gained: · Knowledge of global visual arts and design practices as they relate to social, political and environmental protest, critique and activism; · Understanding of the historical development and geographical specificity of visual arts activism in relation to social and political urgencies; · Knowledge of theories and concepts for deepening understanding of visual arts activism and critique in relation to capitalism and social injustices; · Ability to situate and engage in debates and contribute to academic discourses related to these topics; · Skills necessary to analyse particular case studies from historical, cultural, and visual, perspectives, and to reflect more generally on the social and cultural significance of design and the visual arts in the context of social and ecological activism; · Skills in critical thinking, argumentation, substantiation and clear expression (oral and written).


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of:

  • Lectures

  • Group discussion of key texts

  • Excursions

  • Self-study

Assessment method


The course is assessed through a written examination with short open questions (midterm), an oral
examination and paper (final), and active participation in the lectures, discussions, excursions, and related learning activities.


25 % Participation in class discussion of key texts and preparation for excursions
25% Written mid-term examination with short open questions
50% Final oral presentation and paper


A resit/ rewrite can be done for the final paper (Paper 50%) which is failed. This will be due in January 2023.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Indicative reading list:
Liz McQuiston, Protest!: A history of social and political protest graphics, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2019)
Iris van der Tuin and Nanna Verhoeff, Critical Concepts for the Creative Humanities, (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2022)
T.J. Demos, Beyond the World’s End: Arts of Living at the Crossing, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020)
Otto van Busch, Making Trouble: Design and Material Activism, (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2022)
Dirk Vis, Research for People Who Would Rather Create (Eindhoven: Onomatopee, 2021)
Boris Groys, On Art Activism (e-Flux journal, Issue #56, June 2014)
Gregory G. Sholette, Dark matter, activist art and the counter-public sphere (
Unlearning Exercises - Art Organizations as Sites for Unlearning, various authors (Valiz, 2018)
Losing Human Form. A Seismic Image of the 1980s in Latin America, Southern Conceptualisms Network (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2012)
Toward The Not-Yet: Art as Public Practice (Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, 2021)

Additional texts will be announced at the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Rogier Schneemann (


For other courses in the domains of music and fine arts, please visit:

Elective courses music and fine arts