Court jesters were the original clowns. Suited up in gaudy, bright breeches and a three-pointed hat with bells, these merry men could juggle, joke and story tell. Their appearance was at odds with some of their responsibilities. The jester was tasked to deliver bad news to the King. He was also the only fellow at court who was permitted to openly mock nobles, the Queen and even the King himself, so long as it was done in jest.
Societies jesters and tricksters have come a long way since Medieval times, but still provide the same purpose in helping us see into the heart of things and highlight issues in a playful manner. Playful protest offers a way to provide critique and fun that transcends the traditional sombre nature of critique.
Recently there has been an uprising of pothole pranksters. An artist dubbed Wanksy from Manchester recently took to spray painting phallus shapes around the growing number of potholes in protest to them not being fixed for many months by the local council. A Chicagoan called Jim Bachor goes with a different subject matter, he fills in potholes with ice cream. Not the dairy drip sort, but detailed mosaics of whipped wonders.
From Lithuania to Los Angeles, there are a growing number of people participating in playful protest to highlight the neglected conditions of their roads.
Playful protest isn’t just limited to potholes and politics, but is possibly a part of our everyday lives. Some would say that marriage is built on it! Children are masters of it too. One of my first memories as a toddler was hiding cauliflower under the rim of the plate. Protest in its simplest form, though ineffective in my case as it was served up to me time and time again!
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Perhaps I should have looked to Greenpeace for inspiration. They have an array of protest styles, from ramming whaling ships to using playful protest to highlight issues. In mid 2014, they organised for parents and their children to meet outside Shell’s HQ in London to build a seven foot polar bear, walrus and snowy owl using giant Lego bricks. They were playfully protesting against Lego’s endorsement of Shell on their products as Shell continues to push plans to drill in the Arctic. Greenpeace have also collected a 700,000 signature petition urging Lego to end it’s deal with Shell. Lego responded with this:
The LEGO Group operates in a responsible manner and continually strives to live up to the motto of the company since 1932: Only the best is good enough. We are determined to leave a positive impact on society and the planet that children will inherit. Our unique contribution is through inspiring and developing children by delivering creative play experiences all over the world.
Have you participated in protest, playful or other for social or personal change?