Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Occupy as Form: Seth Holmes

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Seth Holmes, Assistant Professor of Health and Social Behavior at UC Berkeley.

Keyword: Health

After news of the initial eviction and arrests at Occupy Oakland spread, thousands of people gathered for a general assembly outside the Oakland Public Library.  After 5PM that day, some two thousand people marched from the library toward the jail to demand the release of the protesters.  Marchers held signs regarding economic justice, racial justice, and re-funding education and health care.  Close to 6PM, my colleagues and I witnessed dozens of police and sheriffs in riot gear throwing tear gas and shooting projectiles into the marching crowd.  Later that night, we witnessed further rounds of tear gassing and shooting of projectiles.  The City of Oakland Mayor’s Office quickly released a statement - on the internet and posted on the temporary fencing erected around the plaza - indicating “concerns for health and safety” as the reasons for the police action.

Foucault indicates that biopower has taken the place of sovereignty as the primary mode of power in the modern world.  By this, he signals that power now functions chiefly through the control of bodies and the administration of populations – by the state and by the self – in order to maximize life, instead of through the right of the sovereign to cause death.  There are many places and times, perhaps especially in the field of public health, in which power and control are exercised within desires for health and life.  In some ways, the technologies and practices of biopower are so broadly appealing precisely because they are often effective in improving health and life.

During the eviction and the march, several people were sent to the hospital.  One of the injured people, Scott Olsen, is a young, employed, white, Iraq War Veteran who sustained a head wound and brain injury from a projectile.  His severe injury while standing quietly was caught on youtube and ended up on the front page of several newspapers and spread through the internet.  From the broken bodies of protesters, especially this particular young person, a challenge to the justifying narrative of biopower arose.  In this instance, the language of biopower – specifically the need to protect “health and safety” – had been used not to maximize life and health, but rather to cover over and legitimize violence, injury, the opposite of health and life.  Through these events and their broad media coverage, the veneer of biopower was cracked in such a way that the violence it had been intended to hide could not but be seen in living color.

How broad was the recognition that “health” is not a valid justification for state violence against civilian protesters and how long might this recognition last?  What made this instance capable of bringing widespread media attention and recognition of the illegitimacy of state violence and how does it relate to class, race, employment status, veteran status and other moralized categories?  How might other bodily victims of state violence be valorized in such a way as to maintain this recognition as well as a potential movement against such violence?

Occupy as Form: Thien Lam

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Thien Lam, Visual Arts Curatorial Assistant at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Keyword: Reversal

Reversal presupposes a stratified society. A clear separation of classes, one enjoying more rights than the other, must have lasted for some time, and made itself felt in men's daily life before the need for reversal arises.  
- Elias Canetti

With the rise and fall of corporate greed, the 99% collectivize in order to protest social and economic inequality and demand a shift in the distribution of wealth and systems regulating it. The very reversal that they insist upon can also be seen in the form they use to insist. Where the individual who stands, and who obtains the highest physical level, assumes the traditional position of power, in situations of group demonstrations the sit-in becomes a powerful tool of resistance. Further, during the Occupy movements, the act of lying down and setting up encampments rejects any passive connotations and instead conjures up notions of a unified strength.

Occupy as Form: Sara Kimberlin

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Sara Kimberlin, PhD student in Social Welfare at UC Berkeley.

Keyword: Solidarity

"We are the 99%."  The catchy tagline resonates with a diversity of protesters and spectators, calling for solidarity across lines of difference.  But how solid is that solidarity?

Who do those who identify as "the 99%" imagine to be the fellow occupants of this righteous percentage?  They seem to allow for hipsters and hippies, artists and activists, unemployed millenials and involuntary early retirees... But do they include as one of their own the homeless man who occupied the park before it was Occupied?  Do they view as a fellow 99%-er the black single mother who was on food stamps back in the early 1990s, back when food stamps were little paper stamps that signified lazy dependency, and before they became shiny debit cards with a snappy new name, badges of the honorable unemployed?  Do they believe that "the 99%" includes the group of idle young men with sagging pants and caps pulled low, whose occupation of the sidewalk at 24th and Mission Street is monitored by the city's gang task force?  How much difference does this solidarity tolerate?

And how durable is this solidarity?  Does it signal a lasting change in how citizens relate to each other, or will it fade away once jobs become easier to find for most of "the 99%"?  Will it remain at least as a cultural memory, that can be called upon later by advocates and activists, or that might at least trigger isolated acts of compassion and inclusion? Will this temporary assembly create any kind of permanent association?

Solidarity implies not only common interests, but also mutual responsibility.  Do those who identify as "the 99%" feel an obligation to take care of their fellow 99%-ers?  Are they willing to sacrifice their individual interests for the collective benefit?  Must individual interests be sacrificed even just to define the needs of the collective? What are the obligations implied by actively claiming membership in this new moral majority?

Occupy as Form: Kevin Smith

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Kevin Smith, graduate student in Anthropology and Critical Theory at UC Davis.

Keyword: Staying

I am interested in the ways in which the burgeoning Occupy movement inhabits an affective, social temporality of permanence that forcefully breaches the already available time-slots of reified, rationalized administration of public space. It has often been discussed how specific occupations reclaim public sites in the interest of rebuilding the commons, and the gravity of spatiality in determining particular formations of Occupy activities – tents arranged by task; safe spaces for queers, women, and minority groups, boundaries that must be patrolled by community security, etc.  Space is undeniably crucial to understanding how occupations operate – the ethos is founded upon taking back places that belong to the public, in one way or another. Nevertheless, I propose an examination of time as inextricably intertwined with the materializations of Occupy communities in space. What is novel to the Occupy movements in my view is not just that they belong to the commons, understood in spatial terms, i.e. they are publicly visible holding down sites in urban and not-so-urban localities so as to “demonstrate” our frustration with the logic of capital and to make recognizable the possibilities for building new affective communities on our own terms. Viewed through this spatial analytic, they belong to the commons much in the same way do other political demonstrations; they are to be seen at specific points in time and space conveying a message, however various it might be.  In contrast, Occupy breaks with these spectacle based forms of politics in actualizing through a temporal permanency our collective ownership of public space; that is, we do not remain at sites for the, say, 2 hours of capitalist time allotted to us by the authorities on pre-negotiated terms, but we remain there for as long as necessary to generate new affective, relational forms of becoming, even when we violate camping laws or other reified legal constructs.  This is what is confrontational and threatening to the status quo about the Occupy movement, but also what contributes to its possibility for successful communization. Herein lies my interest in the durational nature of Occupation – occupying space-time outside the permits of legal jurisdiction clashes with petrified conceptions of regularity and systematicity integral to the reproduction of capital, through which individuals must inhabit certain spaces at certain times. Occupy offers a rupture in the continuity and routinization of social life, in that a community cements itself so as to be accessible at any point in the day. Rather than surrendering to the inevitable atomization and individualization that follows pre-arranged political marches or gatherings, Occupy retains its solidarity by actually enabling the possibility of “living together” outside the framework of bourgeois private existence. This also radicalizes exclusivist claims to territorial identities embodied most awfully in nationalism by prioritizing not the specific locale and affective ties to it, but the vitality of the community itself. While spectacle based political actions can powerfully force into view fleeting traces of the promise of a new society, “staying” allows us to partake in the longevity of that new society itself. 

Occupy as Form: Gina Acebo

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Gina Acebo, a first-year MFA candidate focusing on Social Practice at California College of the Arts.

Occupy the Hood -- We are the 99%

As the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement mushroomed city by city in states across the country, the need to make room to expand a vision of racial equity through the participation and leadership of communities of color came to the fore. In early October, OWS participant New Yorker Malik Rahsaan launched Occupy the Hood in order to involve more people of color in the OWS movement. Later joined by Ife Johari Uhuru of Detroit to coordinate outreach, Occupy the Hood leveraged social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to amass more than 7,000 followers in its early inception. Comprised of individuals and organizations, their mission statesFrom Occupation to Liberation, De-Colonize, Empower The Hood”,  People of Color, and in particular Black, Brown and Native/Indigenous People, have been disproportionately affected by the issues that the Occupy Movement has recently raised. Unemployment rates double nationwide, disproportionate incarceration rates, wealth gap, subprime mortgages/foreclosures.

Moving from a frame of solely diversifying the Occupy movement is a central task. In The Nation, Rinku Sen, Executive Director of the Applied Research Center and Publisher of Colorlines.com argues that the movement must “occupy racial equity”: “How can a racial analysis, and its consequent agenda, be woven into the fabric of the movement? We need to interrogate not just the symptoms of inequality, but, more fundamentally, the systems of inequality, considering how and why corporations create and exploit hierarchies of race, gender and national status to enrich themselves and consolidate their power.”

The need to center a racial analysis within the narrative of the Occupy movement is not merely an intellectual exercise, but is actively explored through grassroots organizing efforts taking place across the country. These efforts utilize posters, theater, storytelling and other artistic forms. Examples include:

In this historic moment, Occupy the Hood offers artists/makers an opportunity to explore the role and use of site, narrative, and framing while informing our own vision and artistic practice.

Dignidad Rebelde: Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Barraza

Dignidad Rebelde: Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Barraza

Occupy as Form: Scott Tsuchitani

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Scott Tsuchitani, artist and co-lecturer in "Socially Engaged Art and the Future of the Public University" at UC Berkeley.

Keyword: Radical

The word "radical" has more or less become a pejorative in the mainstream, narrowly associated with (senseless?) acts of violence, and consistently applied in this way to marginalize actions, actors, and ideas which would otherwise call into question structures of dominance. It's become so deeply ingrained that one wonders if truly radical thought itself isn't on the verge of becoming unthinkable, even among cultural workers.

In the same way that Occupy continues to be subject to relentless criticism from pundits on both left and right over its refusal to articulate reformist demands, it’s been my experience that socially engaged artists are too often expected to raise only those questions for which we can provide answers, and are similarly encouraged, if not coerced, to reject institutional critique in favor of institutional collaboration [1].

It’s as if the complicity of neoliberal culture has penetrated so deeply into the collective psyche that the only acceptable demands — from artists or activists — are those limited to a paradigm of liberal reformist pragmatism.

And yet isn’t that exactly what made Occupy Wall Street so refreshingly appealing from the very beginning: the unbounded radicality of vision, imagination, and tactics; the beauty in its articulation of the idea that the system itself is fundamentally broken and needs to be fixed?

It’s true that community non-profits and labor unions have their place in the Occupy movement, but as I witnessed at an action council meeting over the weekend, it is not without considerable tension with those who actually lived in the encampments and repeatedly put their bodies on the line for something greater than can be imagined within the system as it exists today.

As we gather to consider giving conceptual or even aesthetic form to what began as a radical movement, it’s important not to lose sight of what truly radical art can do.  As Daniel J. Martinez once put it, “The goal is to sustain a rigorous process of asking difficult questions.  Not in order to find answers but to have questions about questions that produce confusion as a precondition to radical thought.” [2]

Occupy as Form: Andrew Weiner

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Andrew Weiner, lecturer in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts.

Keyword: Autonomy

Among the numerous memes, tropes, and forms associated with the Occupy movement is that of a concerted, public refusal to make specific demands. Although advocates of this tactic have seen it as a potent way to argue that the existing political system must be overhauled, rather than accomodated, many liberals have criticized such a position as impractical, while conservative pundits tout this apparent irrationality as proof that Occupy can’t be trusted. So how might we understand the singular demands made by the rhetoric of “no demands”? What sort of analysis could enable us to disentangle the many different aesthetic, technical, and political factors that converge in this form of contestation?

I would argue that any attempt to engage these questions should be sensitive to their potential overdetermination. For example, we might consider the refusal to make specific demands as a radical claim to autonomy, an insistence that a space free from domination can be secured through independent action. Such a position combines aspects of multiple modes of thought and practice, not all of which are commensurable. Although it recalls Marx’s model of emancipation as collective self-determination, it also resembles Adorno’s valorization of aesthetic negation, in which the refusal to clearly signify was held to be a crucial form of resistance. While certain Occupy tactics exhibit continuity with precedents in the US –– the civil rights movement, the mobilization against Vietnam, ACT-UP –– others are more clearly influenced by sectors of the European Left, ranging from the independent educational initiatives of the 1970s to the various neo-Marxisms typically grouped together under the term Autonomism.

If the conditions that inform Occupy are thus complex and internally inconsistent, this in no way means that the movement is necessarily doomed to collapse under the weight of its contradictions. Rather, it indicates that it might yet be possible to rearticulate the movement’s heterogenous elements into effective new forms. Such an approach might make it possible to operate in a space outside normative political rationality in a way that doesn’t concede to liberal or conservative critics. In other words, might it not be possible to at once refuse to make demands AND demand that Citizens United be repealed, that the Glass-Steagall Act be reinstated, etc.? And might it not be possible to do so in ways that interlace different forms of autonomy, blending clearly intelligible demands with the more formless shapes of emergent collective possibilities?

Occupy as Form: Chiara T. Ricciardone

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Chiara T. Ricciardone, graduate student in Rhetoric at UC Berkeley.

The Occupy movement is a virus.  That is obvious.  But the metaphor veers disturbingly into the real—exhibiting the virus’ trademark capacity for metalepsis and contagion—when we think of the lurid stories that broke out in November:  “Zucotti lung” at OWS, the deadly canine parvovirus over the bridge at OccupySF.  The evictions that followed, in turn, are consonant with what we have known for some time now about the political project of public health. 

Equally obvious, however, is that the corporate financial system targeted by Occupy is parasitic too.  It is parasitic on the people whose house mortgages it sold and traded; parasitic on the citizens whose tax-revenue it has consumed; parasitic, ultimately, on the finite reserves of the environment.

And then, there are those pests accused of parasiting Occupy.  Ninety-nine percent of us reviled the attempted appropriations by every leftist outfit with an email list.  But more controversially, every local Occupy has struggled with the disruptions and divisions within the camps.  Do the “ghettos” that invariably develop in the parks and plazas merely leech off of the functioning Occupy organism? Can and should the Spokes Council style of organization developed by #OWS immunize the movement from such disruptions?  And finally, uncomfortably, there is us:  scholars and students, rushing to publish and present, to disseminate our pet ideas through the vitality of Occupy. 

 There is, it turns out, such a thing as a virus of a virus. 

Who then is the virus, and who is host? What can the figure of the virus—in its reflexivity, itself so symptomatic of our age, spreading like mad—tell us about Occupy?

First, by way of a definition.  The biological virus is known as an obligate parasite, meaning that it can’t reproduce outside of a host cell (though unlike the parasite, it is a non-cellular being, and thus usually not considered alive).  In this loveliest of books, Michael Serres thinks the broader category of the parasite as the basic structure of human relationships.  The parasite, which also means “static” in French, introduces disruption in the system—it is what others have called the clinamen. Serres notices immediately the chain of virality that we observed plaguing Occupy:  everywhere he looks, he shows the parasite of the host itself being parasited.  And as the parasite burrows into the fleshly feast of its host, it appropriates the property for itself with its dirt and disorder: it takes space, takes power with a noise (the drum circle!) or smell (burning sage) or more elementary stercoral means.  (Serres expands on this insight in his more recent Malfeasance:  Appropriation through Pollution (trans. 2010)). 

The chain-linked structure of parasitism means that the disorder introduced by the bug can quickly become the New Order.  As people invariably remark, the word “virus” comes from a Latin word that can mean both the venom of a snake and the semen of a man: like the pharmakon, the virus both destroys and creates.  This is true.  But personally, I prefer a different image.  Biologists know that an endogenous retrovirus, a once-dangerous virus that has been integrated into the genome of the host, is crucial to human and other mammalian conception.  Specifically, this domesticated virus produces a protein that allows the placenta to connect to neighboring cells, so that nutrients can be transferred from the mother to the fetus.  Viruses in general are known as the mix-masters of evolution—the God factor, if you will.  But if Occupy is this kind of virus, it will not just re-arrange the world’s memetic furniture.  It will conceive, link, and nourish a new one. 

But the endogenous retrovirus, after all, projects a long way into the future.  Who knows how many centuries of evolution were required to transmute that venom?  We might not have much time; we need a virus that cures, fast.  During the first world war, the Canadian physician Felix d’Herelle discovered a virus that lives on, and kills, bacteria: the bacteriophage.  He went on to use this little virus to successfully treat dysentery, cholera, and even the bubonic plague.  Can we imagine Occupy devouring the pestilence of capitalism, the black pustules of exploitation vanishing, strands of horizontality multiplying with hungry cosmopolitanism?

Much, therefore, depends on what kind of virus Occupy is, or becomes.  Will the Nigerian strain mutate in a different direction than the North American?  Will Occupy Chicago this May provoke a different immune system response than #OWS and Occupy Oakland did in the fall? 

In a very longterm view, the countless viral and parasitic appropriations of Occupy, even down to Obama’s populist rhetoric in the latest state of the union address, may not be what we ought to worry about.  We are, already, reformulating the world’s political DNA.  Instead, the figure of the virus suggests new narrative possibilities and reframes essential tactical questions.  How do hosts neutralize their unwanted guests?  What exactly is Occupy’s host—the local cities, the national body politic?—and do we want to kill it?  And if we do, are we prepared to inhabit a new host?  As virus, we are reminded of our vulnerability: our basic dependence on what we seek to overcome. 

But with elegant polysyllabicity, Serres reminds us of our motto and our strength: “Metamorphosis is omnipotence.”  In a placard-sized word: Mutate! 

Occupy as Form: Amanda Verwey

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session "Occupy as Form" on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Amanda Verwey, Development Assistant at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Although the word occupy has experienced new use since the Sept. 2011 occupation of Liberty Park, the real evolution of Occupy does not lie in its political usage but its movement from a transitive to an intransitive verb, in which it now acts as a macro-term encompassing/suggesting many keywords (encampment, occupation, sit-in, protest, etc) without a qualifying place/object.  Occupy today is rapidly moving away from its connections to physical space and is no longer limited to a specific political action but functions as an ideology.  In this way, the word "occupy" creates a visual cue for a culture increasingly reliant on truncated ways of expressing information.  What once required sentences or phrases to convey, can now be said using the word occupy as a visual marker of dissent without an association to any single organization, location or even specific cause other than the understood injustice of the 21st century's failing political/economic system.  In an era when twitter and tumblr reign supreme for breaking and unadulterated news, it makes sense that our words would be compressed into the role of symbols. Like a raised fist or a peace sign did before, seeing OCCUPY evokes a sentiment and aligns one to a movement without necessitating explanation.  

Poster from the Italian factory occupations September 1920

Rich Black Occupy poster 2011

Occupy as Form: Ilyse Magy

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session “Occupy as Form” on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Ilyse Magy, a first-year MFA student in CCA's Social Practice program.

Keyword: Share

There is this parable, which for the life of me I can’t find on the Internet. It’s pretty much “The Tragedy of the Commons,” but I think I heard it first at summer camp. It goes like this:

There is a town. In the middle of this town is a giant fruit tree that always has plenty of fruit, as much as anyone in the town needs. Whenever they want fruit, they just go to the tree and take exactly what they need. So this tree is around for a while, and people are happy and well-fed and everything is great.

One day someone starts a rumor that the tree is running out of fruit. Well, the people start freaking out. Everyone heads over to the tree with giant bags and starts grabbing as much fruit as they possibly can. After not too long, they have stripped the poor tree bare. There is no more fruit for anyone anymore. If they had just continued to trust in the tree, then there would still be fruit for everyone. So now the people feel pretty bad about it. And hungry, too.

I don’t remember how the story ends. Maybe it’s because it hasn’t yet.

So the issue here isn’t actually lack, it is a perception of lack. Here we are, humans, living on a planet exactly suited to our needs. Actually, the planet isn’t suited to us, we are suited to it. We formed over time to exist exactly within her resources. You know, air, water, food, shelter.  But somewhere along the line, shit got crazy and complicated. People’s desires got weirder, so we found more ways to make more shit faster and faster, and now everything we come into contact with has to have come into contact with at least a hundred other humans and traveled a few thousand miles and burned a whole bunch of fuel before it gets to us. Oh, and suffering. Some people have to suffer for other people to benefit. And some animals. And landscapes. And the earth. That’s just the way it is, isn’t it?


The perception of lack breeds competition. There isn’t enough money! There isn’t enough oil! There isn’t enough bread! There aren’t enough eligible bachelor/ettes! I HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THESE THINGS AND YOU ARE IN MY WAY, is what people say, perhaps. Perhaps.

But let’s take a look at love. The more love you give, the more love you have. It’s true. It’s like oral sex: it makes me happy to make you happy. Sure, I assume that you’ll go down on me too at some point. But do I expect it? Is my happiness now contingent on future satisfaction? No. Because I am satisfied now to see you satisfied.

Maybe this analogy doesn’t work when it comes to something like, say, food. If we are both starving and you eat the last bit of whatever, well, it’s gonna take a whole lot of zen for me to be happy for you. Even animals will rip each other to shreds over food when it comes to survival. But hey, we’re not there yet. We don’t ever need to get there. And in the meantime, we can use a concept that we all should have learned before we even got to an age that we could fault the education system for. It’s called sharing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Occupy as Form: Betti-Sue Hertz

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session “Occupy as Form” on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Betti-Sue Hertz, Director of Visual Arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Keyword: Publics

Publics act historically. They are said to rise up, to speak, to reject false promises, to demand answers, to change sovereigns, to support troops, to give mandates for change, to be satisfied, to scrutinize public conduct, to take role models, to deride counterfeits. — Michael Warner

How do members of gatherings, from theater audiences to protestors, model the potentialities of a civil society? How do publics intersect with site-specificity? How does art shape transformative experience at sites inclusive of concert halls and urban parks? These questions emerged from the research and development of a two-part exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Central to Audience as Subject: Part 1, Medium (fall 2010) is a question posed by Alain Badiou: “Why would a crowd which does not revolt against flagrant injustice actually constitute itself as a collective subject through the grace of a theatrical summoning?” It leads to a series of considerations about individual identities within the agencies of the collective, and the connection between being a member of an audience and one’s availability and right to engage in democratic process. Audience as Subject: Part 2, Extra Large (winter/spring 2012) puts audiences at live events center stage, where participatory publics—spectators, fans, and activists—are considered through relative terms of engagement: collectivity and anonymity, spontaneity and fear, pleasure and danger, freedom and socio-political mechanisms of control. Crowds of different sorts share identity formation characteristics determined in part by scale, kind, and site. Occupy Bay Area (summer 2012) will display works of various aesthetic and documentary visual forms—posters, photojournalism, and aligned art projects—to provide a platform for considering the specificity of site as a defining factor in the locality of Bay Area identities within the larger Occupy movement. Here, as elsewhere, historical specificity defines public space. Consider that Oakland’s activist legacy is tracked through its public parks as well as the revolutionary art of Douglas Emery. It is through examples such as this that we can come to reconcile the creative agency of individuals and the force of commitment of the collective towards progressive artistic and political drives within spheres of social action. When events and their images lodge in memory it makes for a uniquely potent mixture for positive action in the public sphere. It makes mobile that which is site-specific.

Occupy as Form: Kate Mattingly

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session “Occupy as Form” on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Kate Mattingly, graduate student in Theater, Dance & Performance Studies at UC Berkeley.

Keyword: Architecture

Defined as a way of making visible, of bringing people and structures into relation with one another and with particular landscapes.

Different from keywords that may refer to specific environments -- settlement, place --  architecture encompasses the design, dissemination, and evolution of structures. It also acknowledges interactions between people and spaces, reciprocal relations and flows. The Occupy movement animates spaces. Bodies and places produce architectural forms that are flexible, generative, and resistant. Architecture is creative problem-solving: floating tents.

Source: http://boingboing.net/2011/11/18/ufo-unidentified-flying-occup.html

In the New York Times, Michael Kimmelman uses the phrase “an architecture of consciousness” to describe the coordination of information through Zuccotti Park during a mic check. Prevented from using megaphones, those gathered at general assemblies repeat the words of the speaker, line by line, through the crowd. Kimmeleman quotes Jay Gaussoin who says the process is slow and “it requires an architecture of consciousness.”

Kimmelman ends the article: “The occupation of the virtual world along with Zuccotti Park is of course jointly propelling the Occupy Wall Street movement now, and neither would be so effective minus the other. That said, on the ground is where the protesters are building an architecture of consciousness.”

Architecture not only describes links between people who gather, it also binds physical and virtual. Images from the ground are mobilized. They show up on screens and in conversation. People intertwined with structures or arms linked to form blockades. Bodies becoming architecture; their arrangement triggers thoughts about social strata.

Source: Kent Porter, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 2011

How are places of protest expanded by distributed images?

Do they function architecturally as mobile design and document?

Source: Anda Chu / Oakland Tribune / MCT

In his article “Blows Against the Empire,” Ted Purves describes the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) “a concept developed by the scholar Hakim Bey as a way to envision the contemporary possibilities for social resistance and freedom…. Bey speculates that spaces of freedom, or autonomy, must arise spontaneously in locations that present themselves in the moment so that they cannot be predicted and undermined by the pressure of societal forces.” (from What we want is free)

Can these zones be considered as flexible structures that mobilize people and generate impact? How are they then transformed through images and discourse? As architecture incorporates different formats, what are the varied manifestations that reproduce these protests?

David Harvey in “The Party of Wall Street Meets its Nemesis”: “collective power of bodies in public space is still the most effective instrument of opposition when all other means of access are blocked.”

How have these places been transported, made known, made visible, and made to matter? The architecture of the Occupy movement – its structures, designs, and dissemination -- has transformed unknown spaces, unheard voices into vivid images and conversation.

Source: AP Photo, Kent Porter, Santa Rosa Press Democrat