Category Archives: Arts in the Movement

Occupier + current system + social media = ?

20 May 2012: The police crack down pretty hard on the Occupiers in Chicago today during their Anti-NATO protest.

I found this photograph moving around Facebook and I thought I’d post it.  I thought the Occupy protests were winding down, but based on this chaos, I’d say I was quite off the mark.

The focal point of the image is the young man guarding himself against a police officer, as well as on the overwhelmed and scared woman with the camera.  I feel like this image represents three main elements of the entire Occupy movement really well.

The young man represents the generic Occupier: the recent college graduate, possibly a hipster, who feels the need to stand out against the current regime and say that he doesn’t approve of the current status quo.  His hands are up to shield himself against the night stick, but the look on his face isn’t necessarily one of fear.  There is determination there, a confidence that comes out if you stare a little longer at him, and you can see that he isn’t just going to defend himself against the police officer, he is willing to take him on.

The police officer is not only representative of police presence and the issues that have come out of that during Occupy, but the illustration of faulty government itself.  The police are supposed to protect citizens, just as the government is supposed to benefit the people, but clearly the police were not protecting anyone but themselves in Chicago today, and clearly the system is not working for the governed because groups like the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers exist.

Finally, the woman with the camera represents media, more specifically social media.  Before social media took off, people heard about things like this through news articles or segments done by professionals.  Ideally, the news is supposed to be unbiased but it rarely is.  Now, with social media, people who were actually there in the moment can show their own evidence to anyone they want at lightning speed for free.  With these kinds of resources, the moments like this will always be available to the public and the truth will never be forgotten.

The Occupier, the current system and social media. Put them all together and what do you get?  Based on this photo, a real Charlie Foxtrot.



Alright… so just what is Occupy Wall Street?

Occupy Wall Street isn’t a new movement, it’s an evolved movement.

Because we have more advanced social media than seen in other movements, the public has been made more aware of violence and aggressive discourse associated within OWS. Savannah Edwards addressed this in her post A Quick Look at the Beginning.Savannahstated “Every time there was an incident of protesters being hurt or dragged, it was caught on tape and videos were going viral online.” In protests of the past, the general public didn’t have the ability to logon to youtube and be bombarded with graphic scenes of violence on the streets ofNew York. Social media has made Occupy Wall Street more personal, and way more real to viewers. Because it’s so visible, individuals have become more invested in the movement. That’s what sets Occupy Wall Street apart from other movements- it’s the most accessible protest we’ve yet seen.

Within my topic, Street Art encompasses performances and artwork not specified in specific venues but existing in the open. Occupy Wall Street’s use of art is similar to other movements. Like Sarah stated within her first post (Story Time: Voiced by the Theorists) on music within in the movement, the use of art creates the feeling of community. But this is no different from other movements in the past, all over the world.

So what sets Occupy Wall Street apart?

A Washington Post article states both the Feminist Movement and the Gay Rights Movement seen in theUnited Stateswere essentially leaderless movements, just likeOccupy Wall Street. Later in the 1990s, anti-globalization protests created a network of movements similar to that seen recently. None of which had any centralized leadership. Occupy Wall Street is a symbol of both the past and future. It’s also representative of a move towards the idea that no singular issue takes precedent over another. This is one of the reasons why the movement has benefited from encompassing so many different forms of media and methods of resistance. There’s literally something for everyone-it IS the 99%.

In one of her previous posts, Evelyn articulated that Occupy Wall Street is “global protest of regular people, a network, a movement.” Evelyn stated this perfectly. I think the word “network” is one of the most important to remember in relation to the movement as opposed to other movements seen in the past. Occupy Wall Street isn’t just a network of people; it’s a network of the arts. Different mediums are interwoven into a highly specialized web.

In my first post, I examined what Fred Ritchin illustrated in his article “Toward a Hyperphotography,” when he discussed what it meant to alter images to link and contextualize these forms with other media. Linkage throughout the movement, and connecting ideas from one art form to another exemplifies what Occupy Wall Street is about, using old ideas combined with new forms of media. This is shown through Shepard Fairey’s alteration of the Obama HOPE poster which is merged instead with the image of Guy Fawkes. While Shepard has been criticized for some of the ways in which he subverts images in his other works, his work does show the advancement of contemporary art into a new genre. I touched upon this idea, that Occupy Wall Street is representative of a new branch of contemporary art in one of my earlier posts. I think at the very root of Occupy Wall Streetis a sense of urgency to formulate new and better ideas immediately. Occupy Wall Street is the plight of the common man made known through a growing arts movement, which is a shift to incorporate new media.

Savannah Edwards stated in her post on Twitter and Occupy Wall Street that twitter is being used to share new images that inspire resistance across the movement.Savannah stated that this sharing allowed individuals within the movement to become united with one another. In my opinion this leads to the understanding that the sharing of artwork creates a movement away from an arts community based upon financial gain and instills a sense of unity amongst artists. Creative ventures become less about the “me” and more about the “we”- and how these individuals can use their craft to get others to think. Occupy Wall Street is representative of more unity amongst artists than we’ve known in the past, and this is made possible by our advances in social media.

During this semester, we have been faced with hard challenges to answer seemingly unanswerable questions about Occupy Wall Street. The movement itself is so huge, and made up of so many parts that it’s often difficult to analyze. But in reality, that’s how it should be. Occupy Wall Street is supposed to be the voice of the 99%, and the 99% is an extremely diverse group of individuals and viewpoints. It’s only fitting that there’s something for everyone in the movement. And so much of the art used in the movement reflects this concept. There’s songwriting, poetry, visual art, street art, posters and all kinds of web design projects.

The best metaphor I can think of to describe Occupy Wall Street is a flea market. It’s a lot of old ideas, coming together inexpensively to create new innovation. There’s an emphasis on sharing versus buying and formulating. It’s an arts conglomerate. That’s my answer: Occupy Wall Street is an arts conglomerate, utilizing new media to link together ideas of resistance.

–Jenny Questell

The Role of Comedy in Occupy Wall Street

I mentioned the role of Kickstarter in funding Molly Crabapple’s art in my previous post. Kickstarter has also been beneficial to performance groups such as the Los Angelesbased comedic improv group Laughter Against the Machine. This group in particular has had a unique role in Occupy Wall Street. They’ve visited seven Occupy Wall Street encampments and other political protests while posing the question: what role does comedy play in the revolution? Improv, a fascinating element of street art plays an interesting role in the movement because it is such an organic means of performance. Modern improv utilized in the United States evolved from the classic Italian comedy Commedia dell’Arte. Commedia dell’Arte embodied the first really recorded attempt of using a wide representation of social classes in comedy to battle oppression in Italy. In a way, it was an ancient means of battling the Italian “one-percent.” Improvisation at its core relies on support and individual liberation, and its popularity increases during periods of time when these values are threatened in society. Throughout Laughter Against the Machine’s tour, one of their performers, Nato Green, performed some Occupy Wall Street stand-up.

Green’s comical approach pokes fun at the movement itself, while remaining informative. Humor has continually been used in the movement to garner support. In November of 2011, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog reappeared on Conan O’Brien.

Triumph, a sassy dog puppet, Triumph was used to make fun of bystanders participating in the protests. Additionally, Triumph attempted to disguise himself as a banker and convince them he was on their side. Incorporating the absurd and even ludicrous jokes and humor in regards to Occupy Wall Street lightens the seriousness of the movement in such a way that it serves to benefit the movement by attracting attention to key elements of the movement, and making it memorable through humor. Triumph also made fun of both sides of the movement, giving a neutral, yet scathing perspective of the 1%…and the 99%. Comedic enterprises involved in the movement continue to remind us that if you can make someone laugh, you can make them think.

–Jenny Questell

So, what is Occupy Wall Street anyways?

The easiest way for me to define OWS is really difficult to define. It seems that every part of the definition I think up comes with about a thousand stipulations: do we look at OWS as part of a global protest or do we limit it to groups that claim the title “occupy,” do we measure its successes by policy changes or by the movement’s spread across borders? There are a few things everyone seems to agree on:

It didn’t start with Zuccotti Park. OWS is part of a larger global protest or protest movement that represents the frustrations of the underprivileged many in regards to the privileged and powerful few – bankers, dictator-like leaders, whoever. Think of my Shepard Fairey post Part 3

The global movement and OWS use new media and social media tools to spread the movement.Another post on our blog compares its global spread to that of the anti-globalization movements in the 90’s. The 2011 movement of anti-capitalism (a feature of OWS according to this post and many OWS protesters) has an ally in the internet and social media that wasn’t so prevalent in the 90s.

In fact, Time‘s Person of the Year article claimed that these movements have partly redefined the terms “globalized” and “viral.” They say that globalized no longer simply means economy, it can also mean this globalized movement and globalized feeling; and viral is no loner cute videos of pets or people doing embarrassing things, it can be a protest or a plan or a news story. Richin’s hyperphotography shows that OWS and the global movement have the internet’s cubist linking ability to thank for some of its successes. (Richin) See practically all of the Shepard Fairey posts, but most notably Part 2.

Part of this “viral” protest makes OWS into a kind of social meme. Celebrities follow it. Through their endorsement, their fans may join the cause or at least learn about it through “weak ties” as discussed in “Unreciprocated Ties.” “Occupy” is an advertising scheme too – this Tide advertisement copies the “99%” meme.

And, many of us have seen the pepper spraying cop, who has an entire tumblr dedicated to him. In a post about this, and other images from the OWS movement, J Hallward talks about a  comparison between the pepper-spraying event at UC Davis and the Kent State Massacre images. Though, obviously, the Kent State Massacre was a much more serious incident, the blog post does bring up another point about OWS.

It isn’t a new occurrence. Yes, OWS, the Arab Spring, Tunisia, and Moscow are recent events. These types of protests, however, are not. The Times notes the phenomenon of protest history.

Ever since  modern republican democracy was invented, astonishing protests and uprisings have spiked and spread once every half-century or so… It happens almost like clockwork, yet each time people are freshly shocked and bamboozled. (Abouizeid 89)

The article mentions the American, French and Haitian revolutions of 1848, various revolutions in 1910, and of course, the 60s. And they had art too:

1960’s anti-war image

So, what is Occupy Wall Street anyways?
It is a part of a movement that shows the frustration of the “common man” against the people who supposedly have the power, like so many that came before it. But, due to the proliferation of internet usage and social media, the movement has gone global in new way. Its images, ideas, and messages have gone viral.


For Equality and Human Rights?

From books like Common Sense to the Common Laws, equality–or lack thereof–has driven many revolutions and movements. The Civil Rights Movement was about equal treatment for all races; the Brown Berets strove for equal treatment of the Latino race; the Women’s Rights Movement strove for gender equality and the list continues. The catchy phrase of Occupy Wall Street is “We are the 99%.” What they want to get across could be anyone’s guess but from photographs, the easiest conclusion is that 99% of the United States populations is struggling to make ends meet in some way or another (although it is usually monetary).

What they believe in are citizen rights. Citizen rights are differentiated from human rights as the right “to work, just pay, a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, including housing and medical care, social security and education.” Human rights, as defined by Feinberg, are “moral rights of a fundamentally important kind held equally by all human beings, unconditionally and unalterably.” Human rights are ideally universal and should remain the same throughout the globe. This is not the case and it is visible on every news channel in the world. This is the primary motivation of the movement according the the photograph and the interviews, is for the moving of citizen rights to be human rights.

This is a huge thing and it makes sense why some would call those in the movement “entitled“. That’s the theory basis of it. If we were to look at the movement as a blob. Which it isn’t and that’s where psychological motivation comes into play. But to interview every single person–as the Handbook of Motivation and Cognition suggests–is nearly impossible and there are always chances that people will lie about their real reasons.

As more articles come about about possible motivations for Occupiers (members of the Occupy Wall Street Movement), I will try and connect them with research done about human motivation. There are false articles and misinformation all about but theories are proven.


Occupy Art: The end of contemporary art or its rebirth?

A BBC news article on April 30th, 2012 questioned whether or not contemporary art has met its death in Occupy Wall Street. Some members of the Occupy movement have begun to protest what they called in the Art Newspaper “the rampant financialisation of art.” Their efforts promote a free exchange art economy which is what is signifying to some a shift to the end of contemporary art. However, in these interviews reported in the Art Newspaper, members of the movement indicate they desire to “branch out” from the contemporary art world. This rhetoric seems to indicate a desire to maintain contemporary art, but create a new version. Occupy Wall Street does not signal the death of contemporary art, but rather its rebirth and ability to evolve to meet the needs of the public. College lecturer in media studies, Mark Read, states in the article, “A lot of the work coming out of Occupy is not concerned with how it will be perceived by a buying public. It’s not designed to be bought, but shared – it’s designed to be made available as widely as possible.” I am of the opinion that this view of Occupy art is very much emblematic of our age of technology. Technology allows artwork to change form, which is what really sets apart Occupy art from other art movements in the past. A piece of artwork can enter the movement in one medium and be rapidly transformed into another, and shared. The artwork used in Occupy Wall Street reflects one of the central tenets of the movement itself: the ability to evolve with the political climate of theUnited States. What’s new about many artists in the Occupy Movement is they aren’t graduates of premier fine arts schools, rather they’re craftsmen. Molly Crabapple, a graphic artist, is a member of this group. She reflects the adaptability of Occupy Wall Street Art through her work and how she promotes it. Crabapple is famous for her drawing of the Octopus reading “Fight the Vampire Squid.”

Crabapple originally posted the picture online, but then citizens across the country used it to create protest signs. Crabapple made use of the Kickstarter website, which is a way of receiving donations to fuel creative ventures. She rose over $64,000 to fund her artwork, and make it accessible to share. She is an example demonstrating this new branch of contemporary art doesn’t mean finances won’t be tied to art, just redistributed in a way that makes the message more important than what will sell to an audience. This poses a direct challenge to galleries. Because all the art in the Occupy movement is designed to share, audiences don’t need expensive galleries to purchase work. However, what must be remembered in this case is that Occupy Wall Street is a fad. The movement is volatile and quick to change. Contemporary art can end. But that time is not now, and likely it will branch off and evolve into something new.

-Jenny Questell

Shepard Fairey and OWS: the Protester as the person of the year – Part 3

Times Magazine declared the Protester as the person/people of the year. That article and the issue cover, by our dear Shepard Fairey, created heaps of hype in the blogoshpere. From criticisms to stalking the protester whose face graces the magazine,  it has certainly been an eventful ride. But, the image and the Times article actually offers a decent portrait of the OWS movement.

The Protester
Shepard Fairey

Upon first seeing the image, I was interested in its lack of specificity. The original image, shot by Ted Soqui of LA Weekly, captures Sarah Mason, a LA protester who has been arrested for her efforts. The collage images, however, represent various protests from around the world, including Egypt and Russia. Fairey and Time Magazine, which provided the collage images for Fairey to use, are saying that OWS isn’t just about the US.  It is a global movement.

Moreover, the article explains that the various global protests are a network. Connected, however loosely. Greece was inspired by los Indignados of Spain. The Wall Street starters learned from other protests. It all started in the Arab World. For OWS, the original email from Adbusters called for a Tahir Square for the US. (Abouzeid) In an interview with the Huffington Post, Fairey says of the collage background:

With the Time cover I wanted to capture the spirit of defiance that any protester must possess in the face of arrest or worse. To convey that the cover was about worldwide protests I created a collage of protests from around the globe that is used tonally in the background. I’m a supporter of Occupy, but I thought it was important to recognize that protest was a global phenomenon this year. I think the collage helps to put across that cumulative effect.

But there are problems with the image as well. Again (I seem to talk about this in all my posts), Richin’s idea of Hyperphotography becomes a problem. The seemingly unending curiosity of human beings has turned the anonymous protester featured on the cover into Sarah Mason, about whom you may learn way too much information via LA Weekly’s blog. Part of me doesn’t want to link the page out of respect for the woman’s privacy, but part of me realizes that is a citation faux-pax.

Sarah Mason Portrait
Ted Soqui

Is this LA protester the face of all protesters worldwide? Maybe, maybe not. No, her credit card debt fueled protesting isn’t the reason that Los Indignados became frustrated, but she is an average woman seeking her frustrations. Fairey says in a Times tumblr post “A lot of [the protesters] are just regular folks who feel dissatisfied.” That certainly describes Mason.

So, what does “The Protester” say about OWS?
The image itself and the article that it illustrates indicate that it is a global protest of regular people, a network, a movement.
The story of Sarah Mason shows that it is a protest composed mostly of regular people who are dissatisfied. In other words, Fairey finally seems to have gotten his OWS propaganda-art close to right.