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 Lauren Taylor, artist and graduate student at California College of the Arts.
Every crisis is an opportunity to sell something. You can buy yourself out of environmental crisis by purchasing organic, local, naturally raised, eco-friendly, free-range, zero-waste, green, green, green. If the economy is the catastrophe that is bringing you down, you are obviously looking at this from the wrong angle. Interest rates are so low, you can’t afford NOT to buy! What about starving children? What about girls who can’t go to school? What about endangered animals? Donate to a charity, you will feel better! You can spend yourself out of this situation. And if you still feel like shit, take a pill. Everyone else is doing it. According to Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, in giving you the power to take care of these problems yourself, “any question of social systemic causation is ruled out.” Fisher is specifically addressing mental illness in this passage, but it could clearly be applied to any of the above listed crises. Creating a culture of crisis creates a sense of urgency to alleviate not the issue, but our responsibility to care, the guilt and pain we feel as a result, and our seeming lack of control to do anything other than throw money at the problem. Are we really personally responsible for everything that is wrong in the world? By encouraging us to buy our way out of this hole, the answer that we are given is YES. Is there a coping strategy that is more sustainable? How can we step back and look at the system that is causing these crises, without feeling like we are evading blame? If we fail to do so, we continue the cycle that causes our impotence. We are not just individuals with the responsibility and power to fix the crisis through capital, we are the system, with the responsibility and power to fix the crisis. Let’s figure out how. Occupy the system!