Responses from W. J. T. Mitchell’s class on Space, Place and Landscape:
Stephen Parkin, “Occupy Walla Walla”
Walla Walla is a sleepy town of 30,000 in far south-eastern Washington State. Its economy is primarily agricultural (mainly wheat and fruits, but increasingly viticulture and wine as well), though many in town are employed at one of the three colleges (a medium-sized regional teaching school, a small liberal arts school, and a community college), at the state penitentiary, or in the growing tourism sector. The town is just large and historic enough (it’s the first permanent White settlement in Oregon Territory) to maintain a slow-paced individual identity in spite of the relatively significant number of students (roughly 3,100 BA students and 13,000 at the community college out of 60,000 total residents in the valley).
We might not expect to see evidence of the Occupy Movement in rural, conservative territory, but Walla Walla–largely on account of the significant student body–hosts an active chapter. Like many medium-sized rural towns, Walla Walla’s cultural center is defined by it historic Main Street which runs for about 3/4 mile through the center of town. (The other social center of gravity is the Wal-Mart Supercenter and its accompanying recent commercial development on the outskirts of town). The Occupy movement, then, holds its demonstrations along Main Street; many protests gather at the cultural heart of the town (at the intersection of Main and First Avenue), while the Occupation (whose permanent physical presence was short-lived) gathered in a small park just over a block away.
In many ways, the above photograph captures much of the symbolic force of OWS. For one, the protesters are strongly identified with Main Street, the icon of contemporary populism (versus the techno-plutocracy represented by Wall Street and the intellectual elite represented by (esp.) elite universities such as the Ivy League). Another point to notice is the plurality of populist positions represented, which the media has gleefully reported as the lack of cohesive “demands” on the part of the protesters (thus entirely missing the reactionary variety of protesting, the protesting because of rather than for): the signs urge us to “amend the constitution,” “tax Wall Street,” “abolish government,” and “support unions.” What this eclectic variety of perspectives shares is its goal: to “save democracy” from putative encroachment by a variety of socio-cultural institutions, from banks and bureaucracy to teachers and unions.
It is also worth noting that the protesters in Walla Walla used tactics similar to those in other protests nation-wide, including peaceful, non-violent protest and the creation of an alternative community (complete with entertainment, food, etc.) in a public place. Furthermore, the demographic of protesters is similar to that of nation-wide protests, with students, aged civil rights activists, and (often unemployed) workers forming the majority of the movement.
In all, these photographs are not much different than those more commonly seen from the encampments in such places as New York, Berkeley, and Denver, except with the important addition that they reveal that such leftist populist sentiments are not merely an urban phenomenon, but have also erupted in rural, conservative, and agricultural communities as well.
Occupy Wall Street, New York. October 11, 2011. Anonymous man photographed by my good friend Atisha Paulson.
Charles Blackburn, “Occupy Iowa City”
Below are tents in a municipal park in Iowa City. I took the photos on a visit several weeks ago.
I think the pictures raise two issues about the Occupy movement: solidarity and duration.
One might ask, what is this group of campers doing sleeping outside in January—in Iowa no less? In a sense they’re waiting for spring. But they beg the question of how long the movement will last. Can it keep its momentum through the winter months, when not only the elements but also increasingly annoyed city governments and cops threaten to disperse the occupants?
Another question is what exactly links this isolated group to those on the front lines, in Oakland or NYC, for instance. Common causes, a shared feeling of protest? I’m interested in the dynamics between local, small-scale sites of occupation and the big, newsworthy sites.
Mary Emily Duba, “Occupy The Church? ”
The images that I have chosen depict a significant moment in the relationship between OWS and the faith community. Last fall, as police continued to mount pressure on protestors camping in Zuccotti Park, OWS sought a new place to camp for the winter. They requested permission to occupy a piece of land owned by Trinity Episcopal Church, an historic Episcopal Church one block from Zuccotti Park. The piece of land the protestors sought is a piece of empty property near Duarte Square at 6th Avenue and Canal Street.
Trinity Episcopal said no. They explained that the land had already been rented to someone else, who plans to install a public art exhibit on the property this coming spring. OWS said, We can be off the land by spring. Trinity said, no. After numerous attempts to reach an agreement, on December 17, OWS chose to engage in nonviolent protest and entered the property. They pushed. They pressed. They sang. They chanted. They clipped wires. They climbed the fence.
See the ladder at the bottom of the photo?
That is how retired Episcopal Bishop George Packard entered.
These are moving photos to me. So much pressure in the one, so little room to breathe. And then, in the last one: the dignity of a nonviolent presence, a purple cassock, a pectoral cross, a symbolic servant’s towel around his waist.
The still-unresolved conflict between Trinity Episcopal and OWS is complicated. On the one hand, Trinity supports the Occupy movement in many ways: it provides meeting space for Occupy leaders, bathrooms, internet access. And it is certainly a friend of the 99%: its members are homeless, middle-class and making-ends-meet families; it operates Charlotte’s Place (a free community gathering place open to all), runs a prison ministry, an AIDS ministry, an independent living center for the elderly, and supports world-wide Episcopal justice and aid programs. That’s all in addition to it being an inclusive worshiping community, where members and visitors find many different hungers are fed. As Trinity said in its public statement on the matter, “We’ve been advocating for and serving the 99% for over 300 years.”
On the other hand, Trinity is not just a church. It’s a landlord. And a wealthy one at that. It is one of the largest landlords in New York City and it’s in the business of managing these properties. It is, in many ways, a church of the 1%. Its members are Wall Street bankers, business people, the NY Episcopal elite. Another (anonymous) Episcopal clergy person described Trinity’s refusal to loan OWS the land this way: ”It’s fear of antagonizing authorities who are responsible for upholding so many of its privileges. Let’s face it, they’re more a corporation than a place of faith.”
Trinity Episcopal Church is itself a kind of contested space, pulled in multiple directions by multiple agendas, only one of which is the proclamation of the Gospel. To whom does such a church belong? What is the difference between good stewardship of their property and fearful stinginess? Can a group of public protesters make demands on a church?
What is a church? What kind of space? Public or private?
What are the dynamics of sacred space?
These aren’t just questions of ecclesiology. Look again at the photographs above. The bishop has changed the space by his non-anxious, nonviolent presence there. Calm and dignified, vulnerable and vested, the body and its practices make a place of out of no-place, sacred ground of an empty lot. It’s a testimony to the relationship between bodies and space, bodies that don’t just occupy space, don’t just take up space, but expand it, open it up, work their transformative power on place itself.
Here is a message from Trinity: http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/webcasts/videos/worship/postcards/ows-announcement)
Bishop Packard blogs about his experience accompanying OWS at http://bishopsnotebook.blogspot.com/
The quotation from an anonymous Episcopal priest came from this blog: http://gracerector.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/an-outsiders-perspective-on-occupy-wall-street-and-religion/
Scott Degregoris, “Occupy Garbage”
My position on all of the “occupy” episodes throughout the country may best be conveyed by the following admission: I think that anyone who sat by idly and cowardly watched those young girls get maced by those cops, and let those treacherous bastards walk off without responding in–some kind of–kind, are complicit in the macing. I don’t believe in “passive resistance,” especially when it comes to “the law.”
I’m interested in how this “rebellion” or “revolution” (both words I’ve seen employed to describe what these occupy movements were allegedly engaged in) was waged while many of the people involved still attempted to maintain varying degrees of their “normal” lifestyles. Yes, I acknowledge that technological gadgetry has been very useful for organization at the grass-roots level–but hipsters sending out Facebook and Twitter messages on their Mac during a “revolution” will always seems fatuous to me.
Photos of the massive amounts of garbage and waste are interesting if admittedly not altogether that telling of anything in particular.
Philip Cherny, “Commodity value of the Occupy Movement”
Initially, I was just going to post pictures from the residual Occupy Movement in my hometown Dallas, having friends who participated in it. Instead I decided to post on a bizarre yet not in the least bit surprising development: businesses cashing in on the OWS as entertainment value. Forgive me those of you already too familiar with this topic, but someone had to post it since it’s so relevant to issues of Space and Place.
In some respects all movements are almost entirely media constructs, as the mass-dissemination of images solidify them as cultural icons. “Tea Party Movement,” “Arab spring,” “Occupy Wall Street”—like it or not, any time the media addresses something as a “movement” it has already been commoditized and historicized (exactly the kind of thinking that would make Adorno turn in his grave.)
OWS is hip and sexy, stereotypically appealing to the youth demographic (more than the conservatives). No surprise that MTV wants in on the action. Last fall the network announced that it would broadcast an episode of the season’s reality television series True Life on the Occupy Wall Street protests:
(Having not watched the full episode, I will decline from making personal judgments of MTV’s depiction of OWS.)
Last autumn, both a non-corporate affiliation and a corporation (Fer-Eng Investments, LLC) both tried to apply for a trademark of the “Occupy Wall Street” title on the same day. Regardless of the trademark, OWS merchandise is being sold everywhere online (e.g. http://theoccupystore.com/).
With the rate at which things now circulate, self-enfranchising movements are also self-broadcasting. Just as the Christians have their chic I am second campaign, OWS has 99% to spread virally through Facebook and Twitter (it also helps that the word Occupy has brand value in its appropriative potential in that allows people to apply it to almost any situation: “Occupy everything,” “Occupy ____,” —very similar to Absolut Vodka’s “ Absolut ____” campaign.) Should we find ourselves disillusioned by this fact as consumer culture’s inevitable exploitation and devaluation of anything, or should simply acknowledge it as a facet of life and move on?
Jennifer Ruddock-Cordileone, “Time’s Person of the Year 2011”
In 2011, Time magazine selected the protester as the “Person of the Year.” The image chosen for the issues’ cover aims for ambiguity with regard to class, gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, etc. While such categories cannot be completely obliterated in any human representation, Time surely attempted to by covering all but a set of faintly feminine eyes. An indistinct montage of various protesters raising signs, people yelling, and city maps are depicted behind and overlapping the figure.
The person of the year issue has occurred annually since 1927, with Charles Lindbergh. Since then, notable figures have appeared on the cover such as: Mohandas Gandhi (1930), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932, 1943, and 1941), Adolf Hitler (1983), Joseph Stalin (1939), Winston Churchill (1940), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963), and more. The magazine is careful to insist that the title is not so much an honor, per se, but a mark of global influence.
While the list is certainly dominated by individual people, this is not the first time a role, community, or social category has been selected to represent the year in review. Time has also selected The American Fighting Man (1950), American Scientists (1960), Baby Boomers (1966), The Apollo 8 Astronauts (1968), The Middle Americans (1969), American Women (1975), The Computer (1982), The Peacemakers (1993), The American Soldier (2003), and You (2006).
The selection of the protester as person of the year seems appropriate as a reflection of the primary force behind multiple leaderless movements that took place around the globe in 2011. While perhaps not a mark of approval, Time’s choice seems to reflect a renewed faith in the ability to create dramatic changes through peaceful protest.
Liuan Huska, “Weeding out the Occupy Movement”
How much diversity can the Occupy Movement encompass? Is a common anger against Wall Street and its predatory financial practices enough to hold the 99% together? How does the movement open up a space where the margins can become the center?
I took the photo below for an Ethnographic Methods class assignment last quarter. In this group assignment, we were asked to participant-observe Occupy Chicago and produce a visual ethnography. My group joined a Monday-night Occupy Chicago General Assembly meeting held in the frigid and wind-blown sidewalk space in the South Loop next to Roosevelt University. The meeting was not so much a protest as a planning event, but the very occupation of the sidewalk still contained a potentially subversive message, evidenced by the presence of police vehicles patrolling the perimeters.
Toward the end of the evening, the two young men in the photo below showed up. I took notice of them because to me, they appeared out of place. Holding their “Stop Greed, Free Weed” and peace signs, and coming at the tail end of the meeting, they seemed to be present simply to join in the fun of doing something rebellious, rather than to make any sort of concrete protest or actually participate in the decision-making process of the meeting. Their advocacy of free weed also seemed to contradict the general drug-free, alcohol-free principles of the Occupy movement.
When I mentioned my assessment of the two young protesters, however, one of my groupmates, an integral member of the Occupy Chicago movement, disagreed. She contended that the very power of Occupy lies in its ability to welcome those who would normally be considered “outsiders”. She interpreted the young men’s presence as a positive asset to the movement, attesting to Occupy’s ability to draw different voices of protest into the movement as a whole. She also commended the young men for being willing to come out on a cold November evening to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Thus, I revisit my original question – how much diversity can the Occupy movement encompass? Many have shared similar sentiments with my groupmate, that the very creative and lasting power of Occupy comes from its refusal to make any concrete demands but to simply sustain a continuous chorus of protest against the status quo. But at what point does the open, ambiguous space that such a movement creates give way to cacophony? What is the relationship between stopping greed and free weed? Can these tenuous connections be maintained? The tension between maintaining room for spontaneity while also creating enough structure to give a social movement clear direction, between dissolving into undirected chaos and ossifying into another rigid structure that constricts freedom is very real.
Sarah Jacobs, “Ballerina/Bull”
This was one of the first images created by Adbusters to promote the original occupation. I’m going to ignore the “What is our one demand?” heading just because this image has been reproduced and repurposed often since its first iteration, and the ideal “one demand” didn’t last long.
Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters, calls the poster “magical looking.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/business/media/the-branding-of-the-occupy-movement.html?pagewanted=all)
The dancer atop the iconic bull is truly elegant, her pose vaguely echoing the bull’s, and her downcast eyes suggesting great serenity and confidence. This alone makes for an evocative call for grace and simplicity in opposition to such complicated forces as consumer capitalism and the behemoth of Wall St’s economic systems (which I don’t pretend to understand). As an icon for what became a somewhat chaotic, misunderstood movement, I don’t think Adbusters could have done any better.
A beautiful adaptation here: http://occupycinema.org/?p=173 (via CritInq)
However there is also the background of the poster, which reveals gas-masked and baton-armed protesters emerging from–smoke? fog?–obscurity. This aspect of this image has always made me uncomfortable. (Full disclosure: gas masks freak me out, I don’t know why.) It seems vaguely duplicitous to depict rioting and violent protest (violent self-defense?) before an allegedly nonviolent protest has even begun. It proved to be uncomfortably prophetic for some Occupiers, but I don’t believe that the dark side of protest had or needed a place in this otherwise symbolic, idealized image. This is just my opinion, really a matter of taste in marketing imagery. It just seems to me that the dancer perched on the charging bull so delicately is advocating for one form of protest, while the sinister background is promising an entirely different situation.
Michael Martell, “CPD and the Grant Park Occupation”
I want to start this post off with a somewhat tautological question: who is the 99%? According to the Internal Revenue Service, it is every individual whose salary is less than $343,927. Yet, in that case, the only people in this image that we know for sure are part of the 99% are the police officers: the men and women who are charged with keeping the peace, enforcing curfew laws, and, as some see it, exacting the injustice of barring the right to public protest at all hours of the night. This image seems iconic of a site of conflict between what Althusser terms the State Apparatus (which, he claims, is singular, public, and functions through violence) against one (or more) of the many ideological state apparatuses (i.e., the ideolog(y/ies) represented in the Occupy Wall Street movement). Yet these police officers, of course, are not only a part of the State Apparatus; as the stepson of a Lieutenant of the Chicago Police Department, I can safely say that at least one police officer exercises ideologies that are often in conflict with the laws upheld by the State Apparatus. This image is particularly interesting because the man being arrested appears to be (based on his hard hat) a city worker—a lso part of the State Apparatus. The question, then, is not who is the 99%, but rather who stands against those who claim to be the 99%?
Of course, a writer as brilliant as Althusser was not without an answer to this idiosyncrasy. His conception of ideology, as well as the construction and perpetuation of the State Apparatus, stems from practice. In forming habits through day-to-day actions, individuals exercise ideology. Likewise, in wearing a police uniform and carrying out the duties that go along with it, a police officer acts as a part of the State Apparatus even if her practices as a consumer/voter go against her official duties. In Althusser’s view, a single individual can exercise habits that solidify into conflicting ideologies and at the same time reify one’s position in relation to the State Apparatus. One is interpolated into being a subject, as Althusser famously demonstrated with his analogy of a police officer hailing a person walking on the street.
For this project I spoke with a Chicago police officer whose team made 25 arrests in Grant Park that night. He said that the protesters were for the most part extremely civil and, when their cases came up in court all but two pleaded guilty. He explained that, during the night of the Grant Park occupation, three or four warnings (or, to use Althusser’s term, hails) were made over the park’s PA system, explaining the nature of the protesters violation and asking them to leave. According to the officer, the number of protesters diminished slightly after each warning. By leaving the park in response to the hail/warning, these individuals establish their relationship to both the State Apparatus and the ideologies represented by the Occupy Wall Street movement. When the police started making arrests, a larger number of protesters left the park (for obvious reasons—namely, not wanting to get arrested). However, the people who remained (more than one hundred) did not try to run or even resist; rather, they formed a circle in the middle of the park, waiting to be arrested. It seems to me that these remaining protesters, whose response to being hailed by the police was to peacefully await arrest, give force to the occupy movement. But, as the officer I spoke with emphasized, all it takes is one unruly protester out of a crowd of one hundred for the event to turn sour. Given the unpredictability of any protest, the way police officers deal with these unruly individuals, I’d argue, has as much to do with the success of the movement as any organizer of it.
 Figure taken from the October 29th CNN article “Who are the 1 percent?”
 The superintendent of the CPD, Garry McCarthy, earns an annual salary of 260,004, the highest of any Chicago city worker (See “Garry McCarthy” NBC Chicago 20 June 2011).
Hoi Na Kung, “Occupy Cal”
On November 9, 2011, UC Berkeley joined other locations across the US by pledging support for the Occupy Wall movement and voting to set up their own encampment on the university’s hub of student activity, (Upper) Sproul Plaza. Although the University officially took up the cause of the Occupy movement on this day, Occupy Cal is in actuality a continuation of the student movement that had been protesting the increasing privatization of public higher education in California for two years already since the start of the Occupy movement. In 2009, the UC Regents imposed their first of many waves of budget cuts and tuition hikes, consequently prompting a group of about 40 students to barricade themselves in Wheeler Hall and a crowd of students to protest outside the prominent campus building. Since then, the student movement has attempted to sustain its momentum largely through the same tactic of occupation, including holding 24 hour teach-ins in campus libraries whose hours have been reduced due to budget cuts. But the occupation of Sproul Plaza, especially its rallies in 2009-2010 and then encampments in 2011, have always succeeded in generating the most attention and excitement, buoying up student morale in a movement that has been divided in its tactics, interests, and demands.
The events of Occupy Cal have taken place on Upper Sproul Plaza, which is a space utilized by primarily students during both times of peace and protest. The space has become popular for student demonstrations for several reasons: it is a highly trafficked area through which most students must pass through in order to reach the commercial street, Telegraph Ave; it is an open space that can accommodate a large number of people; and it features a broad terraced staircase leading up to the entrance of Sproul Hall, in effect serving as a stage for dance and music numbers put on by student organizations on “normal” days and impassioned speakers during times of protest. The Plaza has been vital in sustaining the student movement to save public education. Although other UC campuses have also staged demonstrations, their rates of student turnout are comparably lower than the rallies held on Sproul, presumably because they do not have a central place that allows for the massive student body to congregate. The demonstrations on Sproul also attract the largest number of students, especially those who are not as committed to the movement as other student activists, but who nevertheless are curious and want to be informed. The demonstrations’ massive turnout and speeches are able to foster a sense of solidarity and unity among the diverse student body.
Besides for its practicality, Sproul Plaza is also an optimal place in a symbolic sense for the Occupy Cal movement. Undoubtedly as a result of its spatial qualities being conducive to mass demonstrations, the space is imbued with a long history of serving as the site of student activism, including but not limited to the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s and protests against the Vietnam War, the university’s investment in apartheid-era South Africa, and the War in Iraq in 2003. The Occupy Cal movement is often framed as fitting into the University’s legacy of commitment to nonviolent student protest.
Although police thwarted students in their attempts to establish camp on November 9 (watch police beat professors and students with batons here), they were able to pitch their tents on November 15, at the end of a day of strikes and peaceful demonstrations. However, in the early morning on November 16, the police forcibly removed the 20 tents on Sproul Plaza and banned the protestors from establishing camp again on the grounds that it was illegal to sleep on the property of the University. The first picture above was taken the next day, when the protestors decided to tie their tents to helium balloons and let them float above the Plaza. The second picture was also taken the next day, when another group of protestors decided to arrange books in the shape of tents on the Plaza. These are possibly my favorite pictures of Occupy Cal. They are ingenious, tongue-in-cheek installations that not only allows for Occupy Cal to continue without legal ramifications, but they also give a defiant, nonviolent flip-off to the police who have inflicted brutal violence on protestors and the UC bureaucracy who have protected the law enforcement, even going so far as to issue statements that deemed “linking hands” as a form of violent protest that deserves to be met with rubber bullets, baton jabs, and pepper sprays.
Other pictures of Occupy Cal (with the presence of demonstrators) here.
Stephanie Mielcarek, “‘I occupied today’”
While a lot has been written about the language of the Occupy Movement, I’m still struck by the use of the word “occupy.” The word’s sudden ubiquity is, I feel, one of the most iconic elements of the phenomenon. As Philip pointed out in his post, the word “Occupy” can be applied to just about anything–Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Everything. It’s plastered across posters, advertisements, editorials. The verb “occupy” can now even be used as an intransitive verb, with no direct object.
I was struck by the sticker that a friend of mine proudly displayed after participating in Occupy Chicago, and just how meaningless the sticker would have been a year ago:
Lindsey Fleischer, “UC Davis”
Oscar Chavez, “OWS Posters”
I hope you all can excuse me for posting two images, but I found that the two posters, in my opinion, work well together to illustrate—In visual terms—the motivations behind OWS Movement’s concern for space/place/landscape.
I would like to offer my personal reading of these images here. In many ways, it all boils down to land property, reductively speaking. The possession of land by its citizens was an early republic ideal that shaped and distinguished the US from other burgeoning democracies. Centuries later, it is little coincidence that an implosion of our housing market lies at the root of our generation’s near-economic collapse, and it is little coincidence that, as a result of this collapse, people feel deprived of their right to “belong,” to be stable, founded—by either possession (materially) or by social worth (spiritually). Moreover, it is very appropriate that the public outcry against the institutions that are blamed for instigating and profiting from this collapse take form as an occupation of land. The thread is clear throughout.
In the first poster, comic artist Seth Tobacman depicts buildings as the metonymic representation of the groups of people at the center of OWS (on one side, a stereotypical bank for financial institutions and, on the other, a foreclosed home for the one-percent), an idea that hits on the importance given to place in the overall struggle for America’s society, we can argue. The second poster also points this out, indirectly perhaps, but translucently nonetheless. It depicts the disparate distribution of wealth in the United States in the form of a visual metaphor, one that shows how land would be distributed under similar disparate percentages. It literally transposes the economic debate onto a depiction of space, of place, of a map of the United States. While one can argue that this is done to make the argument more visible and thus clearer, I also think it points to the far more fundamental connection I’ve mentioned.
Sarah Cole, “Ocularpation: Wall Street”
A little more than a month before Occupy Wall Street began (September 17 is typically credited as the first day of the protests), a piece of performance art with a strikingly similar title to the protests/occupation of Zuccotti Park name took place on Wall Street. Ocularpation:Wall Street involved 50 people who represented a number of different occupations (I did that on purpose) that people people typically perform on Wall Street, including personal trainers, hot dog vendors, sex workers, janitors as well as, of course, businessmen. Functioning as a sort of cross-section of the different types of labor that take place on Wall Street, the 50 participants went about what a typical day would be like for the type of laborer they were assigned to play with the one variation being that they stripped while they performed their usual duties. According to Zefrey Throwell, the author of the piece, the intended effect was to “create a sense of transparency for one of the most mysterious streets in history.” I’ve included a number of links below so you can both read more, if you like, and can see the images associated with performance.
Whether or not you find the performance an effective or compelling way of “exposing” Wall Street as a location, I think the emphasis on the human body in the piece is interesting. Actually, I was reminded of the piece when I listened to Judith Butler’s speech when she visited the protesters and their encampments at Zuccotti Park. The following is taken from a transcript of the end of her speech:
that as bodies
we arrive together in public
As bodies we suffer
we require food
and as bodies we require one another
So this is
a politics of the public body
the requirements of the body
its movements and its voice
We would not be here
if electoral politics
the will of the people
We sit and stand and move
as the popular will
the one that
has forgotten and abandoned
but we are here
time and again
enacting the phrase
We the People
It strikes me that we’ve talked very little about the human body as it figures in the different occupy movements when it seems to be at the very heart of all occupation (working, military presence, protesting). Rather than offer my own thoughts in an already long post, I hope that this post, which attempts to put together two invocations of the body (one graphic, one verbal, both performative), might serve as an invitation to having a conversation about the body in relation to occupation.
Some links, mostly of Ocularpation, but also a link to the transcript of Butler’s speech. You can also find videos of both the performance piece and Judith Butler speaking at Zuccotti Park on YouTube.
Isaac Hand, “‘Tunisia Recognizes the American Transitional Government’”
I was especially struck by this online event where tens of thousands of Tunisians “occupied” Barack Obama’s facebook page during the early stages of Occupy Wallstreet. They made proclamations such as “Tunisia is the first country to recognize the American Transitional Council.”
I thought it was a revelatory moment for a number of reasons:
1. It highlighted the transnational nature of the occupy movement and the way in which online activity traverses or mediates that space.
2. It comically brought attention to the chauvinism/imperialism embedded in the USA’s doling out of recognition to countries participating in the Arab Spring. As though America’s recognition was really what these people were striving for. This chauvinism could also be witnessed in the commentary of some conservative pundits who had the audacity to argue that the Arab Spring was somehow directly caused by Bush’s war in Iraq and that it was his goal all along.
3. It also articulated the double standard held by the USA with regards to freedom of expression. When people are arrested and beaten for protesting in other countries, the USA is often among the first to condemn it, especially in the Middle East. When protesters are beaten and jailed for expressing themselves peacefully inside the USA, it is a different story.
Andrew Hill, “Objects/Masks”
In relation to our discussion of the tent I’d like to draw attention to the objects that allow for the occupation of these spaces. The inseparability of occupiers with the objects involved is especially problematic in regard to a variety of laws/ordinance/etc. The second link is especially interesting as it concerns private space within public space.
The following concern Occupy Denver:
Denver Occupiers discussing the importance of the tent in a variety of registers – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/21/occupydenver-ever-wonder-_n_1106272.html
Police Violating Rights/Opening Tent Flaps – http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_19835303
Arresting a Table (appropriate for all the reasons you are thinking) (relevant until the 1:30 mark) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n50oGZNZQc
The Mask – As Philip pointed out today the Guy Fawkes mask is related to Anonymous and I find this connection to be extremely important. The following article about Anonymous may be interesting to some:
Partial Rhizome of Mask: Guy Fawkes (man) – Pictorial/Comic Representation – Movie Prop/Costume – Replica – Internet Identity – Internet Meme – Popular Imagination – Tool – Protest Attire –
It all gets back to the question of how a mass is represented in the individual. We’ve covered Hobbes’ Leviathan, Time’s Protestor (Bandana & Beanie), Guy Fawkes, amongst others. What image should be chosen? I’m also thinking of the raised fist that has been adopted.
Along These lines…Occupy Denver elected a leader in the form of a canine named Shelby….http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/11/09/every-dog-has-its-day-occupy-denver-elects-a-canine-leader/ - which Other should lead?
I’m also interesting in the way the occupy movement has been parodied and the humor involved more generally as examples of the way in which thinking about space/place has been influenced. For example, Occupy My House Parties and the like.
Eric Watts, “Woman Detained”