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Arts and Culture

OWS: A Visual Primer

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Posted on Oct 26, 2011
Flickr/ believekevin (CC-BY)

Choose your own adventure: In this photo taken in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, childhood favorites Yoda and Captain America lend their powers to Occupy L.A.’s greater purpose.

Social movements come with their own unique aesthetics, often drawing raw material from past protest traditions and performances, as well as from the font of plenty that is popular culture, and repurposing it in inventive new ways for the cause at hand. The movement that began with Occupy Wall Street has brought a bounty of images—ranging from cheeky and quirky to inspiring, devastating, provocative and beyond—that have come to the astute attention of visual culture scholars at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism here in Truthdig’s hometown of Los Angeles. Get ready to be taken to school.  —KA

USC Annenberg’s “Civic Paths”:

Commentators and participants have talked about the Occupation as an example of what Hakim Bey has called “temporary autonomous zone.” As Nathan Schneider put it, “the demand, so far, appears to be a process—one in which all people can speak and money can’t.” Although the Occupation is no doubt best experienced through the act of occupying, people have used various forms of media to make that activity visual and spreadable.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, October 29, 2011 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

Is this sort of “repurposing” post-modern?

I still don’t know what post-modern is.

Personally, one of my favorite images is of Lloyd Blankfein’s severed head on a stick.

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By gerard, October 26, 2011 at 4:55 pm Link to this comment

The more this kind of information gets out, the more people will understand what this protest is about and how it differs from (and yet is similar to) ones previous.
  The nonviolent humor and artistry of it shows up the cloddish behavior of police who are (very obviously but unfortunately) holding the fort for authoritarianism, and so are out of their element.
  This is a huge part of our problems:  Social change moves far too fast to encompass the scope and variety of it and commercial media has largely given up trying to “translate” it. Authoritarianism simply throws up its hands reflexively, and all too often starts shooting. Of course that’s the wrong response—but unfortunately smarter people can’t get near enough “the systems managers” to tell them they are out-dated—even if they were willing to listen.
  That’s pretty much the social bind we’re in these days. Occupy is about access for 99% of the people of this country who are left out.  The “system” is inadequate to the needs.

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