Major political movements have a history of integrating artistic expression to further their causes, and the Occupy protests are no exception. However, Occupy Wall Street is an upheaval of current class structure, and since society is often characterized by class divisions, it is arguably a revolution of how modern society functions. And since art is part of, not independent of society, this is in part an artistic revolution as well.
I went to Occupy Greensboro at the old YWCA on North Davie Street today to get some local activists’ opinions on this correlation. Dave Drake stated that “We’re protecting freedom of speech, freedom of expression, etc. Also, we’re trying to help out the majority of people, the 99%, and artists are included in that,” when asked what the Occupy movement meant for working artists.
Drake added that “Art is art. Art goes way past class and stuff like that. Art is for everyone to enjoy.”
While this statement is true in that art can and should be available and appreciated by everyone, it is hard to ignore the fact that the ruling class has both direct and indirect control of who gets access to art education, materials, and the luxury of time to pursue artistic endeavors. As Ed Whitfield, Director of the Fund for Democratic Communities, said Thursday evening at a teach-in on race and the Occupy movement here at Guilford, “the knowledge of how to fish will not feed you a single meal without access to a place to fish and materials to fish with.” OWS seeks to equally distribute accessibility and materials for many enterprises, art included. Furthermore, since ‘fine art’ is one of current society’s most expensive commodities, the %1 has major influence in how art is defined.
Another protester, who wishes to remain anonymous, brought up the Singing Revolution when asked about Occupy Wall Street’s relationship to art. The Singing Revolution was a series of mass protests in the Baltic States in the late 1980s, sometimes comprised of up to four million people, all singing hymns and historically rooted songs in an effort to reclaim their cultural identity and gain independence from the Soviet Occupation. “We’re trying to emulate actions like that,” he stated.
Guilford students who have been involved with any of the Occupy protests know that there is no lack of creative expression involved. Here is a video from Occupy Columbus exemplifying such actions, and below are some drawings of the protests at Liberty Park by James Rose (courtesy of the Occupennial Art Database) .
Also, on Friday of this week, Occupy Greensboro activists painted themselves as zombies and marched to local major banks as a protest, so performance art, music, and visual arts are being effectively implemented in actions across the country.
Occupy Wall Street will have a major effect on art and artists, just as many forms of art are helping further the movement. Here is the link to Occupy Greensboro’s website, where you can find information and resources on how to get involved.