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 Zoe McCloskey, artist and MFA candidate at California College of the Arts.
“We know that people often desire something but do not really want it,” said Slovoj Zizek, in closing remarks to the Zuccotti Park Occupiers on Oct 25 2011, “Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire.” Adbusters Magazine, and its co-founder Kalle Lasn are arguably the first to call for an occupation of Wall Street, and despite the current multitudinous voices, it is worth examining the desires of this demographic. Adbusters lived between fashion and car racing, on the shelves of a corporate bookseller where I, and its demographic were too. We were middle class here, rich by world standards, and raised by the benefits of global capitalism, yet opposed to its infusive influence on our persons. Its pages tried to shock us into being upset by the hidden human rights and environmental injustices global capitalism maintained, demonstrated the forced implicitness of our involvement in these injustices in order to be normal or successful in our own society, and pandered to our anger toward the infiltration of corporate identity on our personal upbringing. The magazine’s imagery is largely the same as when I was a teen in Borders; a recumbent woman in high heels is told to take them off and live, stabs are made at large corporations like Starbucks and McDonalds, the face of a starving third world boy is linked to an apathetic suburban home…. The overarching message is that our desires are created, not by ourselves, but rather by corporations, and only to serve world monetary powers. All the images are as beautiful, slick and as gorgeous as that which they attack. Borders has by now gone bankrupt of course, and Adbusters itself seems to feel outdated. The recent covers are pandemic with the word “post,” from “Post Capitalism” to “Post Empathy” to “Post Anarchy.” Furthermore, Lasn’s call for Occupy was effective only after the system had, by its own flaws, already irrevocable revealed its obsolescence, its inability to continue to deliver. In our hearts we know there are inglorious and basic things that will disappear as well; the dollar store petroleum Tupperware in my cabinet, the credit owned cars on my ghetto street, the cheap computer charger I ordered from China, etc. Are we out there because finally there is a crack in the wall and we might end the cycle of created desire and self-loath that came with a system that was psychologically toxic to our upbringing? OR are we out there because we want back what is no longer waiting for us just at the age when we would retire into conformity? OR are we still blindly holding on to both our rebellion against material desires and our attachment to material things? While palpable grievances like food and housing are finding company for their arguments at Occupy, the movement’s fundamental intellectual power is from a “privileged” generation, who continue to suffer from a deeply psychological crisis of desire.