A nexus and database for thinking about art, history, time and occupation.


ALAN MOORE with Kathy Battista

Art Gangs: Protest & Counterculture in New York City

[NOTE: The interview with Alan Moore was originally published in The Brooklyn Rail (click link below), on the occasion of the publication of his new book (click image above)]



I thought that creative people in the U.S., especially academics, became excessively timid under eight years of Bush. They could no longer insist on anything. What I always tried to say to folks was “get crusty.” Insist on what you want, because what creative people want is what other folks need. In that sense, I believe in the vanguard idea. Now, with the Occupy movement, people are again in motion toward their dreams. That is so encouraging! So now I think I have less to say to Americans and more to listen to.


Occupy Criticism, Occupy Spring

Originally published by Brooklyn Rail, March 2012



Artists and cultural producers of all sorts have been crucially involved in the movement at all levels since its inception in the summer of 2011.4 Holding conventional institutions and discourses of art at a distance, they have undergone a process of simultaneous de-professionalization and re-training as they learn from others in the movement and in turn share their own aesthetic and intellectual skill sets. This process of disidentifying from one’s formerly specialized role can be challenging and disorienting. This is especially the case for those who continue to maintain some relationship to pre-Occupy institutions in academia, the non-profit sector, government agencies, or the culture industries. Many arts-related people in Occupy do in fact maintain a relationship to pre-Occupy institutions, because that is where they work to sustain their lives when not giving their time and energy to the movement. However, these institutions are beginning to appear less as bastions of cultural authority than as nodes in subterranean affinity networks and common resource pools that might be tapped in the interest of growing the movement. While the movement is structurally incompatible with these institutions—the Brooklyn Rail included—the latter can still provide, among other things, valuable spaces for discussion, debate, and speculation about Occupy and its future.

4. See And And And, “To the General Assembly and Affinity Groups of Occupy Wall Street,” October 4, 2011, and Yates McKee, “The Arts of Occupation,” the Nation, December 11, 2011,


Revolutionary Convergences: History and Symbolism in Anonymous and OWS Art

By Jason Huff

[Originally published by Rhizome, November 22, 2011]










Left: Anonymous logo, Right: Greek coin from 271-191 BC



Anonymous operates under a well-designed logo. Does it belie their dispersed identity or siphon power from historical symbols to disrupt our own associations to them? The aesthetics of past revolutionary movements point more toward the second possibility. We see this link to history in the poster designs of Occupy Wall Street—new digital tools under visual constraints produce an early 20th century screen printer's aesthetic with formal motifs of the same era.

New technology and historical technique are converging, and so are the symbols being used to deliver the message. The visual traces of current aesthetics draw on the deep roots of history and the powerful associations images and symbols therefore possess, allowing us to make quick associations to the power of the Roman Empire or the strength of the Greek Gods all in a glance at a tiny logo. Turning back to Anonymous—What can we learn by systematically decoding their symbolism? And how do their aesthetics relate to their actions as international and anonymous activists?

Searching for these convergences online often reveals infinite Platonic shades of nearly identical images. But occasionally, if you sift past the first helping of results, you can uncover some remarkable connections.


After OWS: Social Practice Art, Abstraction, and the Limits of the Social

By Gregory Sholette

Originally published in E-Flux, January 2012



Operating the “people’s microphone,” or “human microphone,” is simple enough. Made famous by OWS as a response to a New York City ban on amplified sound at Zuccotti Park, a group of listeners broadcasts a speaker’s words by loudly repeated them in unison. For larger gatherings, a second wave of repetition is sometimes necessary. On one level, this cultural innovation appears to be a “flesh and blood” substitute for an electronic technology that large public meetings have come to depend upon. On another level, the people’s mic introduces mechanization directly into human-to-human interaction by alternating segments of speech with interruptions to generate gain, a series of discontinuous procedures that send physical ripples through a congregation transformed, one could say, into a temporary, self-regulating cybernetic community, an undulating cyberorganism. Likewise, the entire OWS panoply of hand-drawn or pirated imagery —made with thin-point or chisel-tipped markers, bits of torn masking tape, clipped newspaper, collaged laser prints, spray paint stencils, as well as charcoal and acrylic, and limitless pieces of recycled beige cardboard— exhibited the unmistakable qualities of an archive even before the encampment was power-scrubbed into history. Here I am approaching the idea of the archive not as a precise collection of thematic documents that uphold this or that school or historical interpretation, but instead envision it as a site of conceptual “objects,” as well as an unbounded material accumulation capable of becoming a force of spirited intervention in the present. In this sense, Zuccotti Park, along with all other OWS encampments, embodies an archive avant la lettre, that is to say, a collection of materials, biopolitical practices, and everyday concrete documents waiting to be recognized as an interpretable text. Sadly, in New York City, the moment of this “reading” began at 1 a.m. on November 15 when the NYPD began to clear the park.

Mic check at OWS. Photo: AP


Art in action: American Art Centers and the New Deal

By John Franklin White

Few Americans can recall when they first saw an original work of art. Today we take such things for granted. But this was not always the case in America, and that is what this book is all about. The importance of art in the lives of Americans was certainly not an unwelcome idea to the early leaders of the American republic and somehow the arts were always essential in American life and custom. But if a thread of federal patronage for the arts has always been present and visible, it has not always been thick in the woven cloth of the people. In the 1930s, the circumstances of the American depression resulted in the largest public programs for art in history and greatly increased the opportunity for personal experiences with creativity. Federal programs were intent upon spreading and developing the cultural wealth of America, and the art centers of the New Deal were at the heart of the matter.