The Arts of Occupation:  A Call for Crowd Sourcing

Critical Inquiry announces a call to assemble a virtual archive of the Arts of Occupation.  We invite our readers to send images in all media, as well as links, anecdotes, brief essays, reports, games, scripts for performance, and videos that will document the aesthetic as well as the tactical and political side of practices of occupation.  We are interested in the “creative” aspect of the global occupation movement, the ways in which it produces new forms of spectacle, space, face, and inscription.  We are asking for our readers’ aesthetic judgments, not just their political views.  What images and statements have impressed them as especially elegant, powerful, salient, eloquent, penetrating, and—well, yes—beautiful?   What specific images (both metaphors and visual images) have had the most impact, and why?    Is there a new image of the crowd  itself, as a bodily presence in a real place, and as a virtual entity, a mass  social movement?  Is there a new image of the individual, at once non-subject and non-sovereign?  How have the media, both old and new, from Twitter to the People’s Mic, produced and reproduced the emergent forms of democracy?   How is the “sensible,” meaning both sensuous and thinkable, re-distributed by the actions and images of the Occupy Movement?

We do not wish to limit the archive to 2011, though this year just past will clearly stand as the historical beginning of a new sense of the words and images associated with “occupation.”  After a half century of thinking of this word as invariably coupled with military occupation, and with landscapes of  conquest and colonization, a new meaning has suddenly imposed itself.   At the same time the image-concept of the camp and encampment has shifted from a site of detention and dehumanization to one of insurgency and non-violent resistance.  “Occupation” has turned from the sphere of power to that of weakness, disenfranchisement, poverty, as well as resistance, insurgency, and creative direct action.   What are the aesthetic aims and effects of lying down under a red carpet at the entrance to a Chamber of Commerce gala? Camping in a public park until the police remove you?  Erecting a tent city in the midst of Tel Aviv?  Shutting down harbors in Oakland, Long Beach, Portland, and Seattle?  Opening free clinics, libraries, clothing exchanges, media centers, educational projects?  Scribbling slogans, questions, declarations, accusations,  demands, and jokes?  Assembling as an embodied movement on symbolic sites—capitols, city halls, banks, museums, schools, and foreclosed homes.

And, finally, we invite critical and theoretical reflection on the Arts of Occupation.  There needs to be some recognition of the “black arts” of occupation (violence, exploitation, domination) that have mostly characterized the preceding era.  We want to know which arts, and which specific performances, have had the greatest effect in mobilizing this counter-movement?  What have been the failures and successes, and what can we learn from them?

Submit your entry simply by responding to this post.

And to follow Critical Inquiry contributors Slavoj Žižek and Judith Butler on the Occupy movement, click on the following links:

Žižek  in the Guardian

Žižek  in the Observer

Žižek on YouTube

Žižek  on Verso Books

Butler on Salon

Butler on

Butler on Worlds of Change


Filed under Arab Spring, Arts, Critical Inquiry, Criticsm, Media, Occupy

18 responses to “THE ARTS OF OCCUPATION

  1. Kerri

    the occupation is much more interesting than the word occupation if you ask me. this project fills me with dread.

  2. A good place to start: See a ballerina dancing atop the Wall Street Bull.

  3. Sebastian Baden at ZKM Karlsruhe is giving a seminar on Anarchism and Culture. Check it out on the following link:

  4. Ben

    Here is a poster I made for a series of round table discussions across North America. This one was held at NYU:

  5. A curated collection of posters from the Occupy movement can be found at

  6. One of the most interesting artistic developments tied to the Occupy movement thus far has been Occupy Comics ( This crowdsourcing call is bringing together a wide range of comics artists and writers who are producing material inspired by the movement and raising donations for ongoing protests. By December 17, the Occupy Comics Kickstarter campaign raised nearly $30,000 from 715 backers, substantially surpassing its pledged funding goal of $10,000 (

    As the organizer of the Occupy Comics site announces in the introductory statement posted on October 6, 2011, “I think Occupy Wall Street needs art more than it needs a List of Demands.” Already, a number of well-known mainstream and independent writers, artists, business executives, and the publisher have joined the campaign, including Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan, The Boys), and J.M. DeMatteis (Justice League, Spider-Man, Imaginalis). In November, cartoonist and graphic journalist Susie Cagle (Notes on Conflict) who is participating in Occupy Comics was even attacked with tear gas and arrested at a protest, despite allegedly wearing a press badge (

    Perhaps the best known current participant of Occupy Comics is Alan Moore, writer of critically acclaimed works such as V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell. Earlier in December, Moore thoroughly criticized fellow comics creator Frank Miller’s vituperative dismissal of the Occupy movement ( The Guy Fawkes mask featured in V for Vendetta (designed by David Lloyd and used in his collaboration with Moore) has become a major icon of the Occupy movement, appearing at protests ( and on posters (

    The Arts of Occupation (boosted by social media and crowdsourcing) are well underway.

    Patrick Jagoda (University of Chicago)

  7. Photographer Accra Shepp has been keeping a visual diary of OWS. Here is a selection of his images from his current exhibition at the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City.

  8. Michael Rutkowski

    Prof. Badiou, I find your work terribly intriguing, as a student in astrophysics I think that the relevance of your work is more pronounced and not limited to the study of socio-philosphical concepts. I do take issue with what I perceive to be the assumption of the Null Set, without proof, but I see the necessity in doing so. Cheers.

  9. A wonderful essay by Mohamed El-Shahed, “Tahrir Square: Public Space and Social Media,” provides an eyewitness account with photographs of many key moments in the Cairo uprising:

  10. See also Kian Goh, “Social Movements and Urban Space,” on the ambiguities of open urban spaces as both sites of public gathering and democratic action, on the one hand, and state control and surveillance on the other. A smart insight.

  11. For a wonderful set of reflections on Egypt at the present time, see Bidoun Magazine, especially #25:

  12. David Markus

    Rather remarkably, Zefrey Throwell staged Ocularpation: Wall Street just a month and a half before OWS officially began. His show is up at Gasser and Grunert in New York through Feb. 11.

  13. RR

    I encourage you to check out the Journal of Occupied Studies, recently launched, based out of the New School for Social Research.

  14. kkkate

    Any failure of the Occupy movement is a failure of aesthetics. Encampments are unsustainable beyond a few months. Occupy created a protest space in the beginning, but now tents need to be converted. Art will lead the way.

    Please see image attached (as icon to the right) from the Berlin Biennial (the “Occupy Biennial”). It shows one artist’s effort to change the aesthetic form of occupy. She sewed a tent into a piece of protective clothing – for the stylish protester on the move.

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