Wall Street Occupennial: Open Call to Artists #OCCUPYWALLSTREET

Image from this past weekend of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement in NYC
(image courtesy: NY Times)
As many of you may have heard, a small group of protesters began occupying Wall Street in NYC several weeks ago in a bid to draw global attention to a growing resistance movement criticizing corporate America and the growing economic crisis worldwide. What started out as a small group of activists in New York has now spread to other U.S. cities and grown to a much larger and more organized cross-section of participants, drawing attention from the mainstream press and other labour groups across North America.

Adbusters creative contribution to the movement
What specifically caught my attention this weekend was the call for artist participation in what is officially being called the Occupy Wall Street liberation movement. Modelled on the tactics employed in the Arab spring resistance movements of Tunisia and Egypt, the organizers are seeking artists to participate in an “Occupennial.” A full text of the call for participation follows along with a YouTube video describing the aims of the movement. The Vancouver-based anti-consumer magazine Ad Busters has already contributed to the call by organizing a Wall Street zombie walk this past Monday and using Twitter to circulate information using the #OCCUPYWALLSTREET hash tag. For now, I look forward to tracking art-related developments of this growing movement.

An Open Call to Artists in Alliance with Occupy Wall Street and Beyond

The Wall Street Occupennial is an urgent call for artists to contribute to the ongoing Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement currently centered at Liberty Plaza in the Financial District of New York City. The Occupennial is founded on the belief that artists have a crucial role to play in helping to elaborate and sustain the democratic public space that is currently being created by the occupation of Liberty Plaza.
OWS is one in a chain of protest movements unfolding across the world over the past several years concerned with democratic empowerment and economic justice in the face of untrammelled corporate domination of political institutions and social life more generally. This domination has involved the legal enshrinement of “corporate personhood” at the expense of representative government,  punitive austerity measures, rising unemployment, massive income inequality, ecological destruction, assaults on collective bargaining rights, the dismantling of the social safety net, and the scapegoating of public employees, working families, people of color, and immigrants. 

The Occupennial embraces the fact that the OWS movement is not reducible to a single “message” or even a particular set of policy prescriptions; in the most general sense, OWS and its affiliated movements around the world are about democratization, the first manifestation of which has often been the unauthorized occupation of nominally public streets, buildings, and plazas ranging from Tahrir Square to the Wisconsin State House.

While it echoes the familiar art-world term “biennial,” the Occupennial is unencumbered by any predetermined curatorial program or institutional apparatus. It exists instead as an imaginative umbrella-concept and pragmatic media platform (wallstreetoccupennial.tumblr.com/) through which diverse activities might be brought into alliance around both the specific site of Liberty Plaza and other occupation-sites throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

While OWS has gathered political strength and sympathetic media coverage in recent days, the occupation of Liberty Plaza remains an inherently precarious process due in part to the ambiguous legal status of the site: it is a privately-owned public park mandated to remain open twenty-four hours a day; however, the immense police presence is a constant reminder that events on the ground can change very quickly. For now at least, a major priority is sustaining the presence of as many bodies and cameras at the plaza as possible. The Occupennial thus encourages contributions that engage the physical site of Liberty plaza and its occupants, and that can unfold in as timely a manner as possible. For those contributors unable to be physically present at the site itself, we encourage projects that are digitally-based (photos, videos, texts, graphics), but also long-distance ideas capable of on-site realization by interested collaborators. These might encompass sign-making, performative gestures, tours, choreographic scores, acoustic experiments, historical reenactments, or ephemeral architectures. In conceiving of such projects, it is important to keep in mind that various park regulations already constrain OWS occupation activities in terms of the marking of surfaces, the amplification of voices, and the erection of structures found to be “blocking the sightline of the park.” Such constraints are unfortunate, but they might also become opportunities for artistic inspiration, response, and critique.

Finally, it is crucial to note that in recent days, important new linkages have begun to develop between OWS and already-existing labor unions, non-governmental organizations, community groups, public intellectuals, and media outlets. Art projects working to cultivate and facilitate cultivate such linkages are especially welcome under the umbrella of the Occupennial.

We look forward to your contributions to this initiative…Time is of the essence!

Wall Street Occupennial