“There are so many spaces in London which have a set of bye-laws where almost everything is forbidden, except breathing”
Lord Blair, Former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service

S.A.D is a collection of discreet, performative actions, realized by artists and citizens as a response to the inequities, absurdities and abuse of laws, bye-laws, constitutions and commands of government as they impact on specific local communities and spaces. Each action is a form of civil disobedience or civil resistance. This long-term, collaborative project includes exhibition, performance, public workshops and an archive.

As world events rage over the planet, civil life seems to be becoming more and more problematic and unresolvable. The global problems the world is facing politically and economically have lead to more violence, more repression, more rules and regulations, more security devices, more, more…Nevertheless, more freedom and more equality seem a long way ahead.  This  project, Small Acts of Disobedience, investigates the possibilities left when the margins for freedom seem to be thinning. The invention of attitudes, dispositions, and the resources of micro-politics open up avenues that can unblock a situation. Artistic interventions or productions will not change the world in any direct fashion. They will however encourage shifts, starting with shifts in the imagination.

To Obey or to Disobey an essay by Chantal Pontbriand


launchart SMALL ACTS OF DISOBEDIENCE was selected for presentation at MANIFESTA 9 Parallel Events in Genk, Belgium taking place from May 31-Sep 302012. For Manifesta 9 three works loaned to the S.A.D archive, by Tim Etchells, Mirza & Butler and Portland Green are being presented.



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Individual actions matter. In many regions of the world, they have triggered sweeping changes to historical systems of power in dictatorial, democratic and revolutionary states alike. These systems have however been replaced, in some European states, by new top-down systems of power which embed greater control over citizens than the old. These far-reaching national and global shifts require our full attention as individuals. However, the frameworks that regulate the ‘local’, the ‘specific’ and the ‘personal’ within our lives need no less vigilance; indeed they need frequent re-assessment. While our attention is elsewhere, their abuse or appropriation by private interests and elected national and local representatives, is incrementally eroding the freedoms of the individual and changing our increasingly regulated, public space. S.A.D is an art project that works in the space and frameworks of the latter.

S.A.D is an archive that is collecting small, discreet, performative actions, and non actions, that have been realized by citizens (including artists and communicators working in other disciplines) from different communities, as a response to the inequities, discrepancies, absurdities and abuse of historical laws/bye-laws, demands, constitutions and commands of government as they impact their specific local communities and spaces. Each action is a form of local or personal empowerment, cultural disruption and a form of civil disobedience or civil resistance.

Each time, the project is presented in a public space, works from the archive and new works created during the presentation period, at the site of the presentation, are exhibited or performed either in a temporary project space associated with the host venue, site or platform or within the public space of the host organisation’s locality.

There are two processes by which the actions (art works) and/or their documentation have and are delivered to the project curators and the project archive. Either, members of the community including artists can ‘loan’ their completed action and/or its documentation, realized through a self-directed process, to the project archive. Alternatively, members of the community including artists can bring their idea/proposal for an as-yet unrealized action to the temporary project space, to one of the regularly held group ‘workshops’.

During the workshop, the proposers, invited guest artists and the project’s legal advisor, come together to discuss the proposed ‘acts of disobedience’. The specific law/bye-law or command as it functions today is interrogated; in some cases revealing its abuse or appropriation by corporate interests: and the group is encouraged to raise concerns, engage in dialogue about how meaning is constructed and offer feedback to the proposal, acting as a framing device for the action (historically and otherwise). If requested by the proposer, the group can devise an alternative action or inaction that presents information or points to an amendment to the legal framework in question, through an aesthetic means. The group can provide assistance with the realisation of the action by the proposer, including paying for its performance, exhibition and documentation thereby acting as project co-curators and producers. The workshop is a social experience (hot drinks and baked goods are integral), and supports social interaction as a form of cultural production. In order to create a space of equals creating art, all participants, bring an idea or proposal, no bystanders are allowed.

The project is building an archive of existing projects/art works and proposals (both realised and unrealized); there will be opportunity in the future for these proposals to be ‘exhibited’ in the project’s temporary space. Documentation of some of the individual projects within the framework of Small Acts of Disobedience are accessible online at the project site –

The project is also building a ‘library’ of texts, books and media emanating from the critical frameworks in which this work is situated. The library will be available to the public in the temporary project space at each presentation.

Portland Green