Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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

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