Welcome to The Art of Occupy, a mini blog salon continuing this week. Today, two invited Bay Area guest authors discuss aspects of the art of the Occupy Movement. These authors then begin a dialogue about their ideas, which readers can continue and develop. What compels you about the Art of Occupy?
Right now, there is a lot of talk about the Occupy Movement's varied and vibrant works of art, in all media – and how these artworks have reactivated fierce debates about the possible intersections of art and political action. Today's guest authors are director, teaching artist, and artistic director Jessica Holt and poet, playwright, and arts blogger Marisela Orta. Their blog pieces jointly address the resurgence of the human microphone, and the relationships between artistic expression and political parties and monuments.
Guest Author: MARISELA ORTA
Title: LIFE MIRRORING ART: COMPOSER PHILIP GLASS, THE HUMAN MIC AND THE LINCOLN CENTER
While you can draw many parallels between the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement (both were spontaneous, both responding to the economy, both are non-hierarchical swarms rather than a leader-led movement) there is one glaring difference: Occupy is producing and presenting art as a way to spread their message/s.
Why? Why is there more art (posters, plays) coming out of OWS?
Are artists more inclined to lean left?
I have no idea and I don't even know how to speculate on an answer.
What I will say is that so often artists reflect the world through their work. They highlight and underscore when we succeed and fail in our humanity. And playwrights in particular identify a protagonist pitted against a challenge, an obstacle and out of that dramatic tension, out of that clash ask bigger questions about society and life.
Take composer Philip Glass, whose opera Satyagraha tells the story of MK Gandhi's early struggle against colonialism and segregation in South Africa. It just concluded its run at the Metropolitan Opera. Ironically, just outside the Lincoln Center there was an Occupy protest—ironic because the Occupy movement is itself employing non-violent techniques of civil disobedience to effect change, the very subject of the opera being sung to the patrons inside.
The tension between the police at the barricades and the protesters was diffused by the composer himself, as Philip Glass lent his support to Occupy and used the Human Mic to recite the final lines of his opera:
"When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again."
It is a meta moment.
The bridge between art and reality is palpable; it is made up of human voices and bodies. And in this moment, when art that was created over 30 years ago is used to give voice to a contemporary struggle, this playwright is reminded why she started down this writing genre: art can change the world, one person at a time.
Watch this video of Philip Glass, listen to him and the rest of the protesters recite his words and see if like me, you get goosebumps.
To read the companion piece in this salon, click here.
Marisela Orta is a Bay Area playwright and poet. She also authors literary and theatrical blog Variations on a Theme. Her work focuses on personalizing the political, cultural identity, and social justice.
The views represented in this Chatterbox Art & Opinion post are those of the individual author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Theatre Bay Area or its staff.