Appendix: Contextual background

Aesthetic Fast is neither fundraising nor social activism, nor does it simply play a supporting or illustrative role for social justice work. It is itself - as a symbolic act - part of social justice work, broadly conceived.

Whilst standing apart in this way, there is nevertheless a place for it within current thinking on the 'marketing' of social conscience. Here are a few thoughts in that regard.

Abolitionist organisations worldwide are dependent on financial generosity among free people to fund the work they do.  However, as the humanitarian author Dan Pallotta argues, these organisations don't just need investment in their frontline work but also - and crucially - into innovative, alternative and upscale ‘marketing’ strategies to secure new potential support sources. Their overhead spending should not be limited to that which is seen as direct intervention work, and yet they are often heavily criticised when money is put to anything else, particularly toward marketing.[1] 

Out of this low-level investment into marketing fairly singular modes of communication emerge that typically run along lines of a) dramatic and emotive imagery or case studies, b) a call to respond/request for money and c) a gestural statement of hope.  Without more substantial financial investment into marketing, non-profits can be left fighting amongst each other over the same (small) pot of money from individuals and organizations that are already socially ‘conscientized’. Such singularity limits the range of people engaging in the issue and how deeply and holistically they can engage.

We recognise that to create new interest in this issue, alternative projects are required. For this we turn to the field of performance art, which has grown increasingly concerned with exploring how our bodies, our lives and more recently how our relationships may be read symbolically - what art theorist Nicholas Bourriaud has termed ‘relational aesthetics’ (see Theoretical Background).

Additionally,  championing against modern day sex trafficking and gender based violence more broadly, has typically been female led but which crucially (for both practical and principled reasons) should be owned  by both genders. By designing both a male and female ring, Aesthetic Fast allows encourages both men and women to respond and participate equally.

And so, performer-participants in the Aesthetic Fast are not asked to give directly to charities or to lobby governments. Instead, to attract new concern for the issue - and to provide other (but not replacement) ways in which we may (however mysteriously) connect with those who suffer - the Aesthetic Fast provides a way for participants to make a physical response to the suffering and hopelessness around them through enacted symbolism; by becoming part of a living artwork.

[1] http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong?language=en#t-359101