This past week Paddy Johnson of Artfagcity, Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic, the artist Bill Powhida, and I were invited to debate the topic of the art community's place within the Occupy Wall Street movement. The debate was hosted by Flux Factory and organized and moderated by Douglas Paulson & Christina Vassallo. The debate is now available as podcasts. As I told my fellow panelists, the debate format made this the single most enjoyable panel I've ever been on. It helped that I know and like everyone else on the panel, respect their work and opinions, but I really enjoyed that there was no pretense at agreement, no impulse to reach a consensus. It made for a fun night of arguing with a group who all enjoy arguing. Perhaps because it was billed as a "Deathmatch" I swore like a sailor (or maybe because I always swear a lot), so by that metric I clearly won the debate (except the method actually used: twinkle fingers).
The podcast allows me the opportunity to listen, as I was not able to listen on the evening the event (because while the others were speaking I was busy thinking about what I would next). In review I'm impressed by everything my fellow panelists had to say. While the format was playful I think we managed to touch on a lot of important points. A few points I made during the debate that could use a little background:
- I reject the metaphor of artists as vanguard or avant-garde and believe it does a particular disservice in relation to Occupy.
- Artists are poor people that rich people like.
- We are not capitalists
- (I didn't have time to say it during the debate, but we, the 99%, are consumerists and should embrace that identity).
- The great majority of the 99% not a radicals, they are incrementalist, Occupy should embrace the "Fabian Choice" of asymmetrical political protest protest and change.
- The Occupy Movement's greatest achievement has been to change the national debate from economic austerity to income equity.
- The political landscape has been legally and physically altered since the 1960s. This has been done out of fear and in order to make large scale protests difficult, if not impossible.
- The Problem isn't wealth any more that it is poverty. It is the size of the gap between the two. The political opponents of the 99% are the portion of the 1% who seek to widen the gap.