Academic journal article The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (Online)

Anonymous: The Occupy Movement and the Failure of Representational Democracy

Academic journal article The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (Online)

Anonymous: The Occupy Movement and the Failure of Representational Democracy

Article excerpt

It is an error to divide people into the living and the dead: there are people who are dead-alive, and people who are alive-alive. The dead-alive also write, walk, speak, act. But they make no mistakes; only machines make no mistakes, and they produce only dead things. The alive-alive are constantly in error, in search, in questions, in torment. Yevgeny Zamyatin, A Soviet Heretic, 1970

1. It may be somewhat of a sacrilege for many art educators to think of the Occupy Movement as political and ethical art whose affect was to create a 'smooth space' of media attention within the striated territory of capitalist interests, which by law sets up the corporation as having the rights and responsibilities of persons with Wall Street as its pulse center.1 Yet, that is the aim of this essay: to treat the Occupy Movement as a 'sense-event,' a bloc of sensations in relation to the creative philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1980), where art is theorized as a constant traversal flight into and across disciplines, thereby placing the social always into question. It is an attempt to treat the Occupy Movement, whose manifestations went viral globally via social networked media, as an exemplar of Post-Situationist art that works with virtuality, becoming, temporality, and territory. This is an exercise in what could be called practical aisthetics, as opposed to the usual aesthetic paradigm (defined as non-use-useful) that is usually foisted on art.2 The Occupy Movement exemplified a form of performance that no longer asks: "is this art?" but rather "what does it do?" And, moreover, "is it useful?" To treat the artistic 'sense-event' in this way is to dispense with the usual framing that art in its various forms of capitalist discourse receives, such as 'what does it mean?' and, perhaps worse, 'how do we judge whether it is a good|bad piece of art?' And, of course, 'what's its worth, pricewise, that is?'3 Such criticism and framing fall away when we shift the ground for art as a social 'tool.'

2. Can the Occupy Movement be taken as a 'tool' in its performative theatrical sense? Such a pragmatic question that weds art to life is only obliquely tangent to Jacques Rancière's (2004) now well-known stance on the "distribution of the sensible." For the magnitude of such a reorientation to happen, Rancière (1998) places political change as a "rare event," (p. 17, 139) which then redistributes the senses for greater participation by "the part that has no part" (Rancière, 2004, p. 12). The claim being proposed here is more modest; the emergence of an artistic sense-event enables an ontological reorientation on the micro-level or molecular level to take place, offering a micropolitics that becomes serialized as variant actualizations of Occupy Wall Street as the epicenter. Unlike Rancière's model of transformative change, the Occupy Movement immanently emerges from the system that is already in place. It's closer to the Duchampian urinal that conceptually flipped the 'inside' of the gallery and museum institutionalized space to the 'outside.' Zuccotti Park, as the site of public artistic action, occupied the 'conceptualization' of Wall Street as a symbol of Capitalist neoliberalist progress. The park is, after all, a slab of concrete. While the urinal created resentment and shock to bourgeois sentimentality, the Occupy Movement created resentment and shock to neo-cons, so much so that the conservative non-profit group Citizens United along with the late Andrew Breitbart, a high profile conservative, produced a conspiracy theory video called Occupied Unmasked to claim that this was pre-organized by leftist interests. As is well known, it was not the weather that did the Occupiers in. The 'performance' was stopped when the State had had enough from pressures placed on it by property owners, propertied classes, and capitalist interests; when all the deterrents had failed, force became the only way to 'stop' the movement.

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