Occupy Art: A Manifesto, A Statement

I haven’t really found a solid and complex statement or manifesto for the “Occupy Art” movement.  This is my first attempt at doing so.  Any comments, criticisms and other responses are more than welcome.

As we’ll see, I did find a manifesto for the “Occupy Museums” movement.  It’s interesting, yet it only addresses some of our problems.

It make sense that the Occupy Movement would also concern itself with arts and culture.  We too, are casualties of the excesses, criminal actions and cruelties of corporations.  As citizens, we suffer in similar ways as our fellow citizens.  As artists, we also have our own special challenges and difficulties.

Many of us are glad to be involved with the Occupy Movement.  We offer our time and talents in a variety of ways.  We can do art and design for ads or promos for actions and protests.  We can use our visual art and writing to enliven flyers, poster, and petitions.

We hope to spark enthusiasm, to help get more people involved.  All power to the exposé!  More people should be made aware.  Certain realities can be revealed, and then detailed.

Yet art has a greater part to play than the merely decorative.  We have more to offer than bright posters and catchy slogans.   This is central.  To the point:

First,  Art is far more than mere “candy.”  It’s not just a distraction or a time-killer.  Art can wake people up, enliven and surprise as well.  Art can reveal or illuminate truths and insights.  Art can be funny or serious.  Sometimes it can be both at once.  Art can reveal possibilities.  It can give important insights into what it means to be a human being.  This heightened awareness can help lead to change.

Second, This is the future we’ve been waiting for.  When one lives with one foot in the future, the present can seem to be past or even “out of date.”

Passionate communication and perversely defiant optimism may yet become contagious.  Artists are often specialists in imagination.  They can see better days.  Sometimes, they can almost taste them.  One needs to imagine changes and improvements, before one can see them “made real.”  Artists have a part to play here.

Third, The relationship between art and entertainment is often unhealthy and problematic.  Millions of dollars are spent creating “popular culture.”  These movies, television programs and “radio-friendly” songs suck up the lion’s share of the money and public attention.  Sometimes, these can be quite good, even excellent.

Yet much of this expensive material is boring, ill-conceived, pretentious, derivative, watered-down or idiotic.  A copy of a copy of a copy of a copy will lose quality.  Some of this seems truly unwatchable and unlistenable.

Meanwhile, thousands of artists create amazing, top quality work only to spend their lives struggling.  Many are at the feast, while others seem to get by on gardening or table scraps.   Big entertainment takes a lot from art and gives little back.  It seems to be an exploitive relationship.  The corporations do play a big part in this.

Yet maybe successful individual entertainers could do more to support artists as well?  Sure, some of them might buy our paintings or books.  Yet real financial support and moral support is more involved and complex.  What will it take to improve this situation?

Fourth, The relationship between artists and the “art establishment” is often unhealthy and problematic.  It often seems to be a case of “artists in the trenches” versus “well off, well-heeled” art game experts.  There’s often a sort of love-hate relationship between artists and museums, galleries and the press.  Sometimes, art in galleries and museums reminds me of the animals locked up in zoos.  Yet it is a way for people to see your artwork.

What can be done to improve this situation?  Some museums have programs to support and encourage artists in their area.  This seems to be rare though.  Many grassroots galleries are aware of this and try to be supportive and progressive.  Some writing and coverage of art is also excellent.  It’s good when any attention is paid at all.  Yet some dare to hope for something more.

I need to investigate the “Occupy Museums” movement further.  I’m heartened that they’re at least talking about this section of our issues.  I’ve included a link to their statement from last Autumn below.

Again, maybe individual artists can do more to support artists as well.  Those few who are wildly successful could do more to offer financial and moral support to their fellows.  If we’re true to ourselves and work hard to do the best work that we can, then, really, we’re all part of  the same tribe.

Fifth, The dance of community and connection will continue.  We need to network and navigate.  We need to get together.  This includes painters, poets, dancers, sculptors, actors/actresses, film makers, musicians, singers, directors, choreographers, creative writers, puppeteers, photographers and artists of all stripes.

If the successful artists and entertainers can’t understand or support us, then we’ll play without them.  The same goes for museums, galleries and the media.

Keep working.  Don’t give up the fight.  Be aware and beware.  Resist commodification.  Not all art is a “product.”  Talk to each other.  Take to the streets.  Create amazing and strong work, even if it goes against the odds or against the stream.  Down with the mediocre.  Renaissance now!

Maurice Greenia, Jr.   February 25, 2012

I’ve written dozens of arts statements and manifestos since 1977.  I’m a poet and visual artist.  I’m also a puppeteer and am in two musical groups.  Thus I have interests in both the fine arts and entertainment.  Here’s more information on myself, Maurice Greenia, Jr.  aka Maugre:

http://research.udmercy.edu/find/special_collections/digital/greenia/bio.php

My main archival website and links to my blogs:

http://research.udmercy.edu/find/special_collections/digital/greenia/

This is the statement from “Occupy Museums.”  I think that it was written by Noah Fischer.  The protest event took place on my birthday!  I’ll write more on this movement in the future:

http://paddyjohnson.tumblr.com/post/11652516894/occupy-museums-speaking-out-in-front-of-the-cannons

They haven’t posted anything on here in a while.  I keep checking it though:

http://occupyart.org/

Scroll over the upper left hand corner for information on this site:

http://occupydesign.org/

Hooray for comics and cartoons:

http://occupycomics.com/

These are mainly lists of signatures in support of  the Occupy Movement:

http://occupywriters.com/

http://www.occupyfilmmakers.com/

http://www.occupymusicians.com/

Thank you to Surrealism, Detroit, New York City, my family and friends, the Guerrilla Girls and all those who fight for true art and culture.

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One Response to “Occupy Art: A Manifesto, A Statement”

  1. Don Handy (Mud) Says:

    There was at least related Occupy happening I read about, at which Philip Glass, Lou Reed and some thousand-odd “commoners” protested outside Lincoln Center. As I remember, Philip Glass had something to do with what was being presented at the Lincoln Center that night.

    Reading this, I thought of the Great Depression, when the U.S. government paid artists to create work, sometimes in locations such as post offices. Surely such is far more worthwhile than the defense spending that far too much our tax dollars are currently being spent on, much of which has only one purpose: to destroy. I’d rather see my tax dollars go towards creating.

    Anyway, another thought-provoking piece, Maurice. Keep up the good art!

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