Major museums like the New York Historical Society and the Smithsonian Museum of American History are already clamoring over the Occupy Wallstreet protests trying to get posters and ephemera for their collections. While collecting ephemera from events while they occur is not new, somehow it makes me incredibly uneasy. According to Historical Society staff, Jean Aston, they have thousands of pamphlets and such piled up from countless moments since the 18th Century, according to Aston these are worth preserving because, “these items document a particular moment in time which may become significant in the future. If the events fizzle, the objects are still important documents of urban variety and culture.”
Historians are rushing to the site and collecting first, asking questions later. It’s the pack-rat mentality- SOMEDAY it might be valuable. This seems to be great, right? Let’s preserve everything now and sift through it once the chips have landed. Fine. But I can’t help but think that this is doing damage to the protest, sucking the life out of it. Rushing to sweep up the scraps of an ongoing movement can’t help but historicize it, categorize it and make it safe. It’s an institutional vice come down to control and box up the protest in a nice little vitrine. To some extent, this is understandable and is not new. However, with the speed and fluidity of information now, everyone is aware of the protest (who knows if what they think they know is correct). If the protest fizzled out in the near future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an exhibition pop up in less than five years if only to be an inexpensive crowd pleaser. Besides, countless humanities grad students/ professors are probably already gunning for the primary documents- first dibs and all.
It just seems too much like poaching to me.
Original story posted in Art Info here.
The Occupy Wallstreet movement continues and is growing, in both numbers in New York, support around the country, as well as drama from New York’s finest. The movement has finally gained coverage on the mainstream news circuits, however it may be more to do with sensationalization of police brutality than with any interest in covering the real issue: why they are protesting. They are protesting against the corporate bailouts, greed, and inequality that has caused the current financial crisis, in case you were wondering.
Occupy Wallstreet garnered media attention Saturday, September 24th when a police officer pepper-sprayed a group of female protesters that had been penned (“kettled” I guess) in. These women were not threatening nor violent in any way and by most accounts the incident was entirely uncalled for.
1968 Protest Poster, Paris
The situation escalated when approximately 700 protesters were arrested October 1st while marching on the Brooklyn Bridge. The arrests were made because the protestors left the footbridge and entered the traffic lanes due to overcrowding on the walkway. If anyone has been in a large crowd, it is understandable the massive amount of confusion, as many believed the road had been blocked and they were allowed to walk on it…unfortunately it was not the case. In addition, police warnings were not heard by many of the protestors due to chanting. Further information on this incident can be found here. For more information (and great pics) check out the Occupy Wall Street website.
Similar movements have sprung up all over the nation in the financial districts of Chicago, LA, and Boston. These have largely remained smaller and more peaceful.
To support the movement remotely, participate in the virtual march on Wall Street Oct. 5th by clicking here!
The Occupy Wall Street Movement began Saturday September 17th with about 5,000 protesters (read more here). As of now there is an ongoing contingent of protesters that continue to occupy the plaza and parks in the surrounding area and are gunning for the long haul. While I do support the protest as a substantial first step for us to wake up to our situation, my biggest problem is with the media blackout. The U.S media has completely blocked out this protest and is making it quite evident whose side they are on, nobody wants to bite the hand that feeds them- which is exactly the problem. We have the right to protest but the convenient loophole is to just ignore it and it will go away. But this shouldn’t go away, if significant change is to happen, then the people must unite- they have to demand it. The wealth disparity and the people’s lack of power is not new, but that does not mean it should continue.
So today I thought I’d connect the Wall Street protest to various artworks that deal with the persistent wealth gap and with the desire to revolutionize our position.
Niki de Saint Phalle, Tirs 1960s; mixed media
1968 Poster from the Paris Protests
Victor Burgin, Possession, 1976
Erwin Wurm, Fat Convertable, 2005; mixed media