When I showed up at Demo Day I ran into a friend from my undergraduate days at UC Berkeley Chris Cobb. We met when he was pursuing his MFA, and I volunteered to help him install this project at a bookstore in San Francisco. Now Chris is one of the five or so people running Occupy With Art, a group that aims to synthesize the various arts related to the occupy movement, and act as a point of contact with artists who are interested in engaging with the movement.
Occupy With Art is essentially a hub for showcasing occupy affiliated art, and a means of access to the movement for people who want to do work with the concept and participants. In a material sense, this project is just people and a website, but the project archive is rich, and the caliber of participation runs the gamut from world class to complete unknowns.
This, like all the occupy projects, is an experiment in how to execute projects in a way that is non-hierarchical, open to public participation, and at the same time functional and sustainable. One way to look at it is to see these organizers as design ambassadors to the public in an open source forum. Without supporting a specific civic agenda, it supports the development of populist civic agendas through art and design.
The site itself is not a radical design exercise. It has all the usual features, and rather than calling attention to itself, it focuses more on how to showcase submissions to the site. This in itself is an act of curation on behalf of the occupy movement, which is conceptually challenging when the fierce objective of open public participation is the foundation for its existence. I see in this project all the tensions between design and civics: design works well with structure and deadlines, but in civic participation these qualities are overgrown to the point of rampent limitation and exclusion.
I find the movement to be messy, awkward and incredibly human. This project is all of these things too, but more importantly it’s alive and moving.
Here is the interview I recorded with Chris. We had to cut it short when a panel discussion began, so please forgive the absence of a tidy wrap up.