Occupying The Arts Shouldn’t Be A One-Time Thing

I’m sorry I missed Occupy Broadway, which sounds like a joyful, entertaining evening of live street theater. And of course I agree with Benjamin Shepherd, who told Wired that “Social movements are about imaging a more just, democratic, joyous set of social relations and I think that begins with art. We’re using public space to create a more colorful image of what our streets could look like through open-access performance.” But I’ll admit I’m a bit more excited about the long-range planning going on in the Occupy Comics movement, which has a three-stage plan for 2012, starting with digital comics, moving to a limited-edition paper run, and culminating in a hardcover edition.

I’m all for temporary, innovative, moving art that transforms public spaces in the same way I’m all for temporary, galvanizing public protest. But if that’s all we get out of Occupy Wall Street or the various Occupy Art efforts, I’d be disappointed. The arc of culture is long and broad, and bending even some substantial portion of it towards justice is going to be a long project. The goal shouldn’t be just to crash Broadwalk theater sidewalks, but to see shows make it all the way through the process and on to the stages inside. A year-long publishing plan for some alternative comics is great — and getting those themes fully integrated into mainstream comics narratives should be the actual standard we’re setting. Occupying everywhere is one thing. Achieving enough change so that we don’t have to think of ourselves as occupiers is where we should actually want to end up.