Creative activism benefits from being unexpected. Put art in an unlikely place or activism in an unfamiliar form. By disrupting someone’s preconceived notions of art and protest you can change their predetermined ideas about the messages you are trying to communicate.

Here are just a few of the FTV projects that have used surprise to capture attention:
A playful tombstone with the ghost of Jonas Salk asking, "could you patent the sun?" #OpenCovidPledge appears along the base.

In order to become newsworthy, conventional forms of protest (like marches) typically need to increase in size or descend into violence. But with the element of surprise, even small-scale artistic activism can get attention. Offering something uncommon or out of place can be memorable.

Here’s a video from the Carnival March for a People’s Vaccine, which made a splash in London in July 2020. It even landed on the BBC!

Apply it:

  • When you’re brainstorming tactics, start by generating impossible ideas. Is it too expensive? Does it defy the laws of physics? Good! Come up with 7 impossible tactics before you start thinking about more realistic options. When you’re ready to refine your ideas, think about how you might make those “impossible” ones possible.
  • Use counterpoint and juxtaposition to make something unexpected. Have a really depressing and boring topic to convey? How over-the-top silly and fun can you make it?