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Larry Bogad: Using Pranks and Stunts for Political Activism

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Bogad as the Economusician, performing economic data as music, his arms twisted by the piano score of Inequality. Helsinki, 2012.  (Photo: Antti Yrjönen)

Imagine this: A row of riot police stand decked out in tactical gear. Then an army of clowns appear, using rainbow feather dusters to clean off the policemen’s combat boots and drawing smiley faces on their shields. That’s a prime example of tactical performance, according to UC Davis professor Larry Bogad, who teaches political protest. He talks about similar stunts where performance activism is used not “as a prank but to make a point” about politics, unequal pay, police force and other issues. In his two books, “Tactical Performance” and “Electoral Guerilla Theatre,” he argues how these “pranks” can deescalate violence at protests and boost the morale of social movements. We’ll talk with Bogad about tactical performance and electoral guerrilla theatre, and why he believes they are so important to today’s social and political activism.


Larry Bogad, professor of political performance, UC Davis; author of "Tactical Performance: The Theory and Practice of Serious Play" and "Electoral Guerrilla Theatre: Radical Ridicule and Social Movements"


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