Zefrey Throwell: KLEMENS GASSER & TANJA GRUNERT, INC
Decter, Joshua, Artforum International
On August 1, less than a month and a half before last year's occupation of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, Zefrey Throwell staged the performance Ocularpation; Wall Street. At 7 am, fifty volunteers, dressed in the garb of a range of professions--from personal assistant to trader, prostitute, dog walker, janitor, and lawyer--gathered in front of the New York Stock Exchange and at other locarions on Wall Street and stripped naked for five minutes. Three performers were arrested, charged with exposure, and later bailed out by the artist. Throwell has stated that this project was triggered by his mother's loss of retirement savings during the recent economic crisis, and that his intent was to shed light on the "mysteriousness," the opacity, of the downtown financial industry by highlighting the diversity of its workforce.
At Gasser Grunert, Ocularpation was presented as a video, with amateurish intercutting of still photos and live-action footage, a sanctimonious voice-over by the artist, and a trite electronic sound track that attempts (in vain) to heighten the drama. If the video were straightforward documentation, or if the performance were an investigation into the limits of the use of public space in relation to the New York Penal Law, section 245.01 (Exposure of a Person), it might have had greater resonance. Even more worrisome are the jarringly grandiose claims made by Throwell in the voice-over. He asserts--seemingly without irony--that the performance not only catalyzed Occupy Wall Street but also spawned the Occupations that subsequently emerged around rhe US and the world. Ocularpation, he states, "was the flash point for the current massive unrest in the United States; a fifty-person naked performance galvanized the American consciousness and paved the way for OWS to blossom, pollinate, and spread across the globe." The video's opening sequence features clips of Occupy Wall Street and its national and global outgrowths, and the artist intersperses the footage with quasi-revolutionary slogans such as the spark in thetinderkox, FROM WALL STREET TO ALL OF NEW YORK, FROM NEW YORK TO THE whole world. …