USA

Does Occupy signal the death of contemporary art?

Posted April 30th, 2012

Contemporary Art, Politics, USA


“I think what Occupy did to my generation is it took us outside of ourselves. Outside of the gallery system, outside this very arid, self-referential way of working and it made us engage with real people, and the outside world” (Molly Crabapple Artist)

There has been so much art centred around the Occupy protests that it is beginning to feel like a new artistic movement. What defines it, and could it supplant the world of the galleries?

BBC Economics Editor Paul Mason investigates: “We get in the van and speed along to Bed-Stuy. It is the New York equivalent of London’s Shoreditch or Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg, a hipster sub-metropolis, but with cuter beards. (Re: Wait, did the BBC just compare New York to Berlin? Hey, hipsters, have you heard about this New York place? It’s almost as cool as Berlin! -The Editor)

And Mark Read, the driver and instigator, is a college lecturer in media studies.

The bat signal is really simple. It’s big and it reads as a bat signal – it’s culturally legible,” he says. It’s a call to arms and a call for aid, but instead of a super-hero millionaire psychopath, like Bruce Wayne, it’s ourselves – it’s the 99% coming to save itself. We are our own superhero,” he explains.

The Making of the Occupy Bat Signal

An inside look at how the iconic “bat signal” images were projected onto the side of the Verizon building during the November 17th Occupy Wall Street protest.

When Read and his collaborators shone the famous 99% logo onto the Verizon building, as protesters occupied Brooklyn Bridge in November 2011, one art critic called it “the most emblematic artwork” of the year, “the artistic gesture that stood for its rebel aspirations and its thwarted dreams”.

Tonight they have a smaller scale work in hand. They get to Bedford, do a double sweep of the area as the cops move them on a few times, then unleash the full experience of Occupy projections, subversive Disney movies from the 1930s, hot chocolate, techno music and free books.

I am with The Illuminators – a group of performance artists whose art is to shine revolutionary logos onto buildings in support of the Occupy Wall Street protest, including one that has become iconic – the 99% logo, known to protesters as “the bat signal”.

In the van is not just a projector and a laptop, but also posters, a mobile library, and a whole vat of hot chocolate. The woman controlling the projector is a union organiser. The man vee-jaying the video is – well, a vee-jay (video jockey) in real life, but for corporates, fashion shows and the like. ”
Read on at the BBC