Reverend Billy Talen recognizes that many environmental causes require halting behaviors that damage or deplete the environment.
The word ‘activism’ is frequently found in discussions of respected works of contemporary art. It applies to art works that instigate direct action to achieve an ecological, political or social end. In many ways the word ‘activism’ applies to Reverend Billy Talen who has not only spearheaded public protests, he ran as a candidate for mayor of New York City on the Green Party ticket in 2009, a political action he shares with Joseph Beuys.
However, ‘de-activism’, the suspension of an action in order to achieve an ecological, political or social end, may be an equally significant aspect of art. Reverend Billy Talen recognizes that many environmental causes require halting behaviors that damage or deplete the environment. He has sermonized to stop Victoria’s Secret from using paper that uses clear cut virgin boreal forest for their underwear catalogs; to stop JP Morgan Chase from surface mining that involves mountaintop removal; to stop the Walmart shoppers from supporting transnational chains instead of community enterprises; to stop rampant consumerism.
a. The following artists in this book have also created ‘de-activating art’ to halt, rather than initiate a behavior: Beehive Collective, Critical Art Ensemble, Bright Eke, HeHe, Michael Mandiberg, and Pedro Reyes. Compare Reverend Billy’s tactics to convince people to stop a common, acceptable behavior, with the tactic of any one of these artists.
b. The Old Testament story about the golden calf has inspired countless artists to create works designed to suspend behaviors. A few examples include Cosimo Rosselli, Nicolas Poussin, Emil Nolde, and Damien Hirst. Consider how many ways Reverend Billy’s direct preaching differs from the approach taken by any one of these artists.