Lauren Huff and Reuben Hesselden: An Examination of Art in Relation to American Social Movements

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An Examination of Art in Relation to American Social Movements Lauren Ashley Huff and Reuben Hesselden The Evergreen State College Abstract: This paper examines the role art played in four American social movements: the Black Panthers and the Black Power Movement, overarching Anti-War movements, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power and the HIV/AIDS awareness movement, and the Seattle WTO protests in 1999. Throughout the 20th century art has been used in a myriad ways but it is most commonly used to posit questions to and of society that would normally be difficult to articulate or understand- in this art can be seen as a vehicle for social change.

The Black Panthers and The Black Power Movement The mid 1960s were a time of great strife in the United States of America. Despite landmark bills passed in the United States that protected the voting rights of African Americans and made it illegal for discrimination to occur based on race, color, religion or national origin as well as a bill that opened U.S borders to considerably more people than those only of European ancestry the Civil Rights Movement was still being met with opposition in both the streets and in Houses of Government. Much of this is because the movement had taken on many new goals due to the rise of the Black Power Movement. The Black Power Movement evolved as African American civil rights leaders bean to realize that their struggle revolved around much more than legislation and government recognition. Sparked by words from Stokey Carmichael, stating that the only manner in which to stop the oppression of Blacks at the hands of white police and lawmakers was to form Black political organizations, the Black Power movement was defined not strictly by an opposition to segregation and judicial inequality, but to racism itself. Leaders would come to recognize that racism takes place in education, economics, politics, societal issues and legal injustices. The most well known group to evolve out of the Black Power Movement is most certainly the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (later called The Black Panther Party) that was defined by their militaristic approach, stern ideology, incorporation of theatrics and art and implementation of massive social programs (Carson).

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Founded in 1966 by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton the Black Panther Party (BPP) was defined by a series of bold statements that make up a miniature manifesto for what the BPP hoped to accomplish called the Ten-Point Program. Roughly, this program called for an end to capitalist exploitation of blacks, police brutality and intimidation, drafting into the military and the autonomy for black neighborhoods to determine their own fate and agenda as well as housing, food, land and fair trial. The Panthers quickly gained notoriety throughout the US as they espoused primarily communist and socialist rhetoric but were later remembered primarily for being a Black Nationalist group, a fact that has been widely disputed. Regardless, “much of the public activity of the Black Panthers was built around highly dramatic, stylize confrontations, often involving guns and the police” (Reed p 42) which will serve as our primary focus. The earliest of these actions was the storming of the California State Capitol in Sacramento. This was an action planned in protest of a selective ban on weapons, which the Panthers interpreted as a violation of their Second Amendment Rights and a move to keep arms out of the hands of Blacks, thus further inscribing a system of black oppression. One morning in May of 1967, a group of thirty Black Panthers, dressed in matching berets, leather jackets and powder blue shirts pulled up outside the front of the Capitol building and unloaded rifles and shotguns, enough to outfit each member, and proceeded up the front stairs and down the hall to the legislative chamber as (then) Governor Ronald Regan literally retreated out the back door. With news cameras on them the entire way the Panthers announced that they were exercising their right to see their government in action as well as their 2nd Amendment right-to-bare-arms. After exiting the building, co-founder Bobby Seale read aloud a brief manifesto outlining whom the Panthers were and what they were fighting for, encouraging others across the country to join them. This was also the first time on national television that the word “motherfucker” was heard.

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This was the Black Panthers‟ coming-out party and it was already such a powerful and provocative act. The Panthers realized early on that to capture the hearts and minds of the public they could not get by with only lofty text and ideals; they had to appeal to the anger that resided within much of Black America and to create an outlet that would not jeopardize the party was of utmost importance. The first of such outlets was the creation of a nationally circulated magazine called the The Black Panther Party Newspaper (Carson). The newspaper was created to spread the word of the Party to areas outside of central California but also to reach out to members of the Black community that would not normally read the paper or become involved in political struggle and discourse. Edridge Cleaver edited the paper and he realized early on that political rhetoric would quickly exhaust most readers and there was the need to involve art and cultural pieces within the weekly release. A fellow Panther, and Minister of Culture, Emory Douglas began to produce covers for the newspaper as well as numerous illustrations in each issue that highlighted Black struggle and liberation through resistance. (Roberts p. 44). Douglas had studied commercial art at the San Francisco City College and it was there that he first became involved with the Black Panther Party. At school he studied the role of the image in contemporary society and one of his first projects, as Minister of Culture, was to redesign the Panther Logo. The design before had consisted of a black panther leaping forward but Douglas thought that the panther looked too fat and relaxed. He believed that the logo of the Panthers should reflect the people whom they were fighting for, namely the poor, hungry and downtrodden and so he redrew the panther to be leaner and gave it a meaner expression and enhanced its lunge toward the viewer. The redesign of the Panther Party logo served another purpose too. In the south, where literacy rates were still quite low, white candidates in regional and local elections had, for decades, been allowed to place a white rooster next to their names on the ballots. This way, even those

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whites (and maybe some blacks) who could not read were able to identify their candidates and thus choose whom to vote for, generally along racial lines. While it is unclear if the Panthers ever ran their own candidates in the Deep South, the Panther logo was created to be a symbol of racial pride and solidarity throughout the black community. “It showed our strength and in that respect it had a great impact on the community” (Roberts p. 45). Emory Douglas‟ approach to art and design is one that attempted constantly to speak from the people whom he represented rather than for the people he represented. The images he produced for the Black Panther Party Newspaper often focused on poor blacks, either living in rural or urban poverty and their demeanor and expression is often one of discontent, anger and mistrust. Artist Colette Gaiter remarked of his work that : Douglas‟s images served two purposes: first, illustrating conditions that made revolution seem necessary; and second, constructing a visual mythology of power for people who felt powerless and victimized. Most popular media represents middle to upper class as „normal.‟ Douglas was the Norman Rockwell of the ghetto, concentrating on the poor and the oppressed. He made excellent use of simple printing techniques; using heavy black outlines with a one or two color palette. While much of this was due to a strict printing budget these constraints came to define his style and it emerged as one that was easily reproducible and young people reading the magazines began to copy and wheat paste the images around black urban settings, thus creating further propaganda for the Black Power movement. Douglas‟ work also reflected many BPP beliefs and doctrines such as one poster depicting a rural mother teaching her naked young son to operate a rifle. The importance of such images is that they portray the people as being the source for the strength of the Party rather than the Party being a beacon for the oppressed to congregate around. In this way, Douglas embodies much of the pedagogy that Paulo Friere outlines as key to any revolutionary movement. While Emory was not a member of the lower class, or at least not subject to poverty, by speaking with and embodying the struggle of the poor he avoided becoming an

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oppressive leader. His images also poses questions to the viewer, often in the form of text about the illustration or within the illustration, that can be viewed as targeted towards both the oppressed and the oppressor. While art was an integral part of promoting the cause of the Black Power Movement the reverse is also true. The Black Power affected much of the arts and its influence is still seen today. Without the Black Power Movement one could argue that hip hop would not be what it is today as would much of Black style and culture in America. In this way “black power also included a variety of pervasive cultural formations in the literary and performing arts centered on the notion of an independent „black aesthetic‟ (Reed p 42). The Black Power movement thrust into the spotlight an essential blackness that was easily relatable to many African Americans and the arts quickly became a point of solidarity with jazz and soul music as well as black painting styles, poetry and theater. Black Power also influenced theology and cuisine with soul food and celebrations such as Kwanzaa became a new focal point in many black families. Fashion and aesthetics were not outside this realm as the Afro and checkered suits became a symbol of ones dedication to the movement and to the resistance of white hegemony. In this way, art served as a center for the pride of being black, which the Black Power Movement centered around and thrived upon. For an example we need only to look to the massive hit by James Brown in 1968, “Say It Loud- I‟m Black and I‟m Proud.” The Panthers‟ intersection between theatrics and actions is noted by T.V. Reed as a success of “black-power theater and black power as theater” (Reed p 50) and this was very true of the Panthers‟ policing of the police. Members of the party would tail the Oakland Police Department as they made their rounds through black neighborhoods, often stepping in and providing assistance to community members in order to keep police from becoming involved. The mass media paid huge attention to this creation of an alternate system and

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much of it is due to the posturing that occurs on the Panthers behalf. Patrols would dress in the Panther uniform and tote massive shotguns and rifles, far more firepower than is generally necessary, in order to garner attention as well as intimidate police. Reed elaborates, claiming that much of the Panthers theatrics came not in the form of traditional art (performance, sculpture, painting, etc…) but in the form of speeches and organization. The Party was ultimately military and believed that “black people on the street needed discipline” (Reed p 57) both in their beliefs and actions and this was echoed in their rhetoric, structural hierarchy, protests and teachings. The central committee was comprised of a number of ministers and a primary requirement for joining the Panthers was learning how to assemble, disassemble, clean and fire a rifle and leaders spoke frequently of defense, aggression and combat in general. This is not to say that the Panthers‟ rhetoric or practice was a joke, in fact the opposite is intended. Like any established politician the Panthers‟ were aware of the power of the actor to evoke and create emotional bonds around political issues as the people needed more than the facts of the matter, they needed to grow to understand and to empathize with the reality of their situation, to feel connected to the struggle. In this way, art was used very effectively to raise awareness and also to promote connectivity amongst oppress people. The art of the Panthers also caused the Art World to take up the cry of Black Panther Party as well as propel Panthers into the art world (Emory Douglas, Angela Davis) and in this way created a longer lasting legacy than the Party itself, which eventually succumbed to federal infiltration and conspiracy. The art of the Panthers was also something that no government agency could touch and while J. Edgar Hoover could denounce the Panthers as being the most dangerous group in America it is difficult to believe him when listening to the soul music of the Black Power era or viewing a print of Douglas‟. It is very difficult to discredit and spin the message of painting or a poem.

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Art in Anti-war Movements Art has been an effective and purposeful part of war resistance movements over the past hundred years and this includes art made by those engaged in combat, (soldier, rebels, insurgents, guerillas, politicians, leaders) those living in wartime (civilians, activists, propagandists) and those oppressed by war (civilians, enemies of state, prisoners of war, undesirables). All three groups have used art differently in different ways but art as a site for resistance is perhaps the only category which can easily span all three groups as it so often is site for advocacy, information, solidarity and awareness. Most often this resistance art is used to ask questions that would otherwise be difficult to articulate or to inspire hope in the face of the grim and unbearable. Art that emerged during the Holocaust in Europe in the 1930s and 40s is a perfect example of the many roles art can play. In setting the stage for a series of artwork gathered from transit and concentration camps, Leonard A. Schoolman (1978) writes that : for most of us the Holocaust is remote… The impact of the loss of six million lives crushed by the Nazi boot is formidable but still remains a statistic. And the antiseptic quality of a number is only briefly relieved by the poem of a child or a personal vignette from a friend who wishes to speak the unspeakable…But the depths of the loss becomes vivid through these drawing… (p. 6) The drawings recovered serve as insight into the atrocities committed by Nazis as the audience can see first hand the view down the line to the gas chambers or the smoke rising in telltale SS symbols from the crematoriums. The drawings and paintings also help as point of healing and reconnecting possibly with lost family and friends. While these loved ones may have disappeared, their artwork remains and this can be a very powerful site of recovery and growth from a time when many were left only to wonder what had become of those they knew.

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Art has filled this position across the world too as Holocaust Memorials are present in many major country and are found in almost all major European cities. The vast majority of these are not simple plaques placed at a location of significance; they are commissioned works, often featuring very famous artists. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Germany, designed by architect Peter Eisenman is the size of city block and is composed on hundreds of concrete blocks of varying height, arranged in a grid on a sloping plane. When I had the pleasure of visiting the site in November, 2009 I was struck by the multiplicities of meanings that I could garner from the work. The blocks simultaneously represented graves of the murdered and souls of the survivors, marching together. One is also able to walk amongst the blocks and as the ground slants down towards the middle they become so tall that the viewer can see nothing but the blocks and one finds themselves fully immersed in this tragedy. Artists have also been commissioned to arrange the museums commemorating concentration camps often times at the actual site. At Auschwitz, walking through the hallways a viewer is presented with mountains of shoes, luggage, glasses and largest and most disturbing of all, hair, all collected by Nazis from those entering the camp. As we see, art can be a powerful reminder of times past but it is also a vehicle, which thrusts this history into the present, forcing us to confront it. One would be hard pressed t find an artist that embodies this sentiment more than Wafaa Bilal. Iraqi born, Bilal has generally focused his work on anti-oppression and relieving human suffering but his focus has narrowed since the invasion of his homeland in 2002 by the United States of America and now his focus is primarily on ending wars.. Wafaa Bilal was born in 1966 and dreamed from a young age of becoming an artist. He was arrested in his early twenties and labeled as a dissident for artwork he created that was critical of Saddam Hussein and his regime. Upon his release he refused to sign up for

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the military to take part in the invasion of Kuwait and instead began to organize opposition troops. This led to increased pressure upon him from the government and in 1991 he was forced to flee Iraq or face further imprisonment. He lived in refugee camps in Saudi Arabia before immigrating to the United States to attend college and pursue his art (Bilal, Lyersen 2008). In 2006 his brother was killed in Iraq by an unmanned Predator drone. He was not participating in insurgent activity at the time, he was simple part of “collateral damage.” Bilal was unable to travel back to Iraq to arrange his brothers funeral and he and his family members were not allowed to receive the body due to the nature of Bilal‟s anti-war stance. Bilal‟s response was to create an art exhibit in which he would occupy a small room for one month straight, while a paintball gun was aimed and fired at him by anyone who visited his website. Bright yellow paintballs were chosen because they matched the “Support Our Troops” ribbons and the piece was titled Shoot an Iraqi but was later changed to Domestic Tension as the former seemed too controversial. Machine gun fire sounded out of speakers every time the paintball gun fired in order to simulate the multiple sensory impact of gunfire and to bring war further into daily life. Towards the end of the month Bilal began to suffer immense amounts of fatigue and stress and made this clear to the viewers in both the gallery and online. He pleaded many times not to be shot and the plexiglass shields which had protected him had long ago shattered, meaning that he could be shot both while he slept and while he used to bathroom. Eventually people in the gallery would take shifts “continuously turning the gun left, protecting [him]” (Bilal, Lyerson p. 157) while he slept and ate. Bilal referred to these people as both civilians and human shields, the effect of which only increases the connection between war and daily life.

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By the end of the month Bilal had been shot over fifty thousand times and the room he had lived in had been almost destroyed as sixty thousand people in 130 countries had fired at him. Upon emerging from the room he proclaimed “We have silenced one gun today and I hope we will silence all guns in the future” (Bilal, Lyerson p. 162) This work serves expertly to thrust the dialogue of war and the oppression caused by war into the very current. Bilal sums it up well when discussing another work in which he asked an audience to vote to decide whether he or an adopted dog would be water boarded in front of the same audience: In these difficult times, when we are at war with another nation, it is our duty as artists and citizens to improvise strategies of engagement for dialogue… Because we inhabit a comfort zone far from the trauma of conflict zone, we Americans have become desensitized to the violence of war. We are disconnected, disengaged while many others do the suffering. The game holds up a mirror that reveals our own propensities for violence, racism and propaganda. We can close our eyes, our ears and deny that it exists, but the issue won‟t go away. This dialogue is essential not just for learning how to recover from war but also in discussion of how to avoid war in the future. Both Bilal‟s water boarding piece and Domestic Tension examine the actions we take towards those we see as strangers and also how when removed from the immediacy of violence we are more prone to commit violence. These are important issues to examine, especially as we remain in the same war that Bilal was protesting over 3 years ago. One of the most significant aspects of humanity is our creativity and our endurance. Under the stress of near certain death, Jewish prisoners created works which expressed their hardships, personalized the overwhelming magnitude of suffering and provided proof of the harm and pain caused by Nazi leaders and soldiers. While Bilal‟ suffering is different he also uses it as motivation for his works and seeks to bring viewers into the pain he allows others to inflict upon him. This begs the question: how long will we stand by and watch before we step in and alter the current way of things?

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HIV/AIDS Movement/ACT UP: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the disease that effectively destroys ones immune system and leaves one highly susceptible to infection and the development of tumors could be deemed a global pandemic. Today awareness of this global disease is fairly prevalent, but when the syndrome first emerged in the United States in the 1980‟s there was a great lack of awareness and many misconceptions associated with the disease. When AIDS first arose in the United States, the syndrome by accident was prevalent among gay men. This random occurrence served to greatly alter perceptions of the syndrome and even currently still serves to color peoples perceptions of the disease. As the epidemic began to grow, little attention was paid to AIDS for this reason- homophobia was also growing at this time due to right-wing dominance in the government. T.V. Reed (2005), author of the book The Art Of Protest states that as the epidemic of AIDS grew “President Ronald Reagan, quickly seized on the situation to deepen their attack on homosexuality and their promotion of an antifeminist agenda that sought to return sexuality to the control of patriarchal heterosexual men (pg. 180)”. In fact, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was not the first name given to the syndrome. When AIDS was first medically identified, it was named Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID)- a name that was largely biased in regards to homosexuality and the nature of AIDS. In response, many members of the gay community began to organize. Thus, groups like the Gay Men‟s Health Crisis (GMHC) began to form, lobbying for medical research, providing people with accurate medical information and safe sex guides, as well as organizing health care for those affected. On the opposite side of the spectrum, groups like the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) formed, instead choosing to employ direct action through the utilization of

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theatrical forms of protest and bold, graphic imagery. ACT UP formed in New York in 1987 and quickly grew to encompass chapters in such cities as San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. Reed (2005) states that by 1990 ACT UP had spread globally, consisting of more than one hundred chapters (pg. 183). ACT UP also utilized the organization of affinity groups, which self-organized under the multi-faceted and often times contradictory goals of: spreading awareness about AIDS, ending the AIDS crisis, challenging mainstream notions of AIDS existing simply as a “gay disease”, and mobilizing the gay community to see AIDS as a community crisis. Many ACT UP members and supporters were middle and upper class professionals, as well as artists, academics, and advertising specialists- which perhaps helps to explain how the aesthetic and creative nature of ACT UP‟s specific protest tactics aided in their confrontation of society. Specifically, ACT UP incorporated the aesthetic of camp into their direct-action creative protests. Camp as an aesthetic sensibility is complex, but could be deduced simply to a way of seeing the world not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the artificial and stylized. Examples of Camp could be qualified as the films of John Waters, the flapper style of the 1920‟s: sequined dresses and feather boas, or the magazine The National Enquirer. According to Susan Sontag (1964), author of the definitive essay Notes on “Camp”, Camp is: “the love of the exaggerated, the „off,‟ of things-being-what-they-are-not”, “the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater”, and furthermore “art that proposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it is „too much‟.” Camp is on the one hand a highly critical analysis, and on the other hand an extremely large joke. Thus, in critique of government inaction towards AIDS research, the FDA‟s tedious drug approval process, and conversely private companies profiting from experimental AIDS

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treatments, one specific creative protest technique protestors used was the “die-in”- in which affinity groups dramatized the murderous effects of government inaction and corrupt profiteering. Die-ins were staged, highly bodily, protests in which affinity groups lay in piles of “dead” bodies. Often, the dead held signs resembling tombstones emblazoned with political epitaphs. Activists would dramatically fall to the ground, arranging themselves in piles in which their bodies lay atop or around each other. This configuration served to counter the widely held myth that AIDS could be spread simply through touch, but also forced passerby‟s to encounter the stillness of mock death. Upon arrest, activists would similarly maintain a state of “death-ly” non-compliance, remaining limb even as they shouted chants and slogans. In this way, up to four police officers were required to remove a single body. Because of the activists listless bodily tactics they forced the police and spectators to view the body as incapable of moving itself Susan Leigh Foster (2003), in her essay Choreographies of Protest, further stated that in this way activists also “raised the specter of contamination, so much that in many of the early die-ins police wore gloves. In this way, they provoked everyone in the vicinity to contemplate how one body can and should care compassionately for another, and to examine the ethical obligations that the well have toward the sick and dying (pg. 404)”. Activists also furthered their demonstration by tracing chalk outlines of their grouped dead bodies- upon arrest leaving the ghostly remains of a murder scene meant to represent the large statistics of AIDS fatalities. It is important to note that the die-ins were highly rehearsed and planned out ahead of time by each affinity group. ACT UP protestors met in their affinity groups to formulate unique plans and practice non-violent artistic resistance. According to Foster (2003), one critic Alisa Solomon described die-in rehearsals as such: “A dozen young men sit in a circle with their arms linked tightly. Rocking a bit, they chant, “Act up, fight back, fight AIDS!” Their melodic mantra takes

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on urgency as the “up,” sung a minor third above the “act” and tunefully prolonged, gives way to the staccato calls to fight. On and on they croon, their voices becoming tarnished with hoarseness. Soon, another dozen men approach, ordering the chanters to disperse. They do not move. One by one, each man is torn from the group and dragged away, his body goes limp, but his voice keeps going strong. Once the circle has been demolished, the two groups of men change places. The ones who dragged the chanters off now sit down, lock arms and start sounding the battle cry. After they are hauled asunder, they change roles and being again. (pg. 406)” In this way activists learned how to anticipate how to react to another body, that of the police officer acting against them. It also enabled activists to collectively anticipate which direction their protest was taking based on bodily cues and group dynamics. As previously mentioned, many participants in ACT UP and demonstrations were advertising specialists- in this way much early planning also went into the publicity of ACT UP‟s efforts. Many of ACT UP‟s events, including the die-ins, were in this sense conceived to attract and utilize mass media. While taking a critical view of the media, ACT UP activists also knew that the media would synthesize their actions into short sound bites, and thus choose to manipulate the media and demonstrate in such a way as to create dramatic visual emphasis. Larry Kramer, a founding member of ACT UP, stated “Each action is like an enormous show … We‟re divided into committees doing banners, logistics, media, just like a producer would hire people for scenery, costumes, and publicity (pg. 405)”. Activists furthermore choose to stage their demonstrations at media friendly time of the day, sent press releases and publicity information ahead of time, and worked to get reporters at the site of their protests. In his essay, Silence, Death, and the Invisible Enemy: AIDS Activism and Social Movement “Newness”, Josh Gamson describes another ACT UP staged protest, which relied heavily on the manipulation of the media- the invasion of public space during a baseball game at New York‟s Shea Stadium (pg. 351). The protest was organized by an ACT UP women‟s affinity group, whose intention was to counter the myth that AIDS was

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simply a homosexual disease, but also to challenge America‟s puritanically natured aversions to talking about sexual issues. Activists bought around four-hundred seats in large sections of the stadium stands, and spread out expansive banners adorned with slogans such as “AIDS Is Not a Ball Game”, “Men: Use Condoms or Beat It” and “No Glove, No Love”. To further their point activists also passed out “scorecards” which utilized baseball jargon in order to spread information about how AIDS affects women. According to Reed (2005), the scorecards included such language as “Single: Only one woman has been included in government-sponsored tests for new drugs for AIDS” and “Double: Woman diagnosed with AIDS die twice as fast as men” (pg. 202). This particular form of protest served to directly reach the groups target audience- straight men, both watching the game live and from their homes, who refused to take steps towards safer sex. In the same vein, ACT UP participants sought to reclaim public space and challenge puritanical sexual normality‟s by staging “kiss-ins” and developing a parodistic advertising campaign. Kiss-ins involved the public exchange of same-sex kisses and the distribution of materials that detailed the motivation behind the event. Reed (2005) in his description of ACT UP‟s kiss-in described one handout as stating, “We kiss to protest the cruel and that painful bigotry that affects the lives of lesbians and gay men. We kiss so that all who see us will be forced to confront their own homophobia. We kiss to challenge repressive conventions that prohibit displays of love between persons of the same sex. (pg. 201)” Kiss-ins also served to counter the myth that HIV could be spread through casual contact, such as kissing. And in meeting both the goals of deconstructing homophobia and HIV/AIDS myths, ACT UP advertising specialists created bus advertisements that carefully mimicked a Benetton clothing ad that was popular at the time. The original Benetton advertisement depicted heterosexual couples kissing, while the mimicked advertisement instead centered

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same-sex couples kissing. The style and content of these parodistic advertisements were strikingly similar, however the ACT UP caption read “Kissing Doesn‟t Kill, Greed and Indifference Do. Corporate greed, government inaction, and public indifference make AIDS a political crisis”. The advertisement ultimately served to simultaneously target the government, the public, and pharmaceutical companies all with humor and striking graphics- and in reference to Camp, humor which Sontag asserts, “sponsors playfulness”. In a similar way, graphics and creative representations were also used in the context of the postmodern and professional art world. In one instance the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York hosted an exhibit of protest graphics, which ACT UP choose to counter by hosting a counter art show and protesting the MOMA exhibit. According to Reed (2005), ACT UP activists believed “the museum exhibit perpetuated a sense of art as above the political fray by emphasizing formal elements of the protest graphics on display, and by embalming art objects while excluding living activist-artists (pg. 191)” such as those involved in the AIDS awareness movement. The counter art show was named “Let the Record Show”, and existed to raise money for AIDS activism and sought to strengthen the distinction between art as representation and art as action. Though this is only one particular example of ACT UP‟s artistically steeped forms of protest and demonstration, throughout ACT UP‟s years as an organization and social movement, many forms of creative, direct-action were employed- involving affinity groups, individuals and even mass involvement. Overall it could be said that through the utilization of theatrical forms of protest, dramatic and bold imagery, the aesthetic incorporation of camp, and the manipulation of the media, ACT UP positively affected AIDS awareness in America and challenged puritanical homophobia. Many issues related to HIV/AIDS still exist today, differing in relation to new cultural and social issues, however activists must

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look to the legacy of ACT UP and other AIDS movements to make positive change for the future.

WTO Protests in Seattle, 1999: On the morning of November 30, 1999, hundreds of individuals descended onto the streets of Seattle, Washington. These individuals, many of whom were young activists, formed themselves into group-designed human blockades in the middle of Seattle‟s key intersections. As the day wore on they were joined by thousands of others, and Seattle‟s streets were filled with a cacophony of voices, instrumental music, and singing chants. Some marched, or danced, others waved banners or controlled giant puppets. Some posed as radical cheerleaders, yelling “Ho, Ho, Ho, the WTO‟s got to Go!” Others dressed in colorful costumes, taking on the qualities of turtles or butterflies. Some wore suits and ties. These individuals, from various races and backgrounds, whose ages ranged from very young to very old, had chosen to gather on November 30th not by coincidence. November 30th, 1999 marked the first day of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, in which global trade negotiations for the new millennium were scheduled to occur. Those who created living blockades thus sought to prevent conference attendees from entering the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, while others in the street sought to protest the conference, the existence and policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and global neoliberalism. Why did so many people gather in the streets of Seattle that day? What can be said for the mass protest of this global entity? How did this massive orchestration occur and what role did art play in the movement? The WTO, both in terms of its organization and actions, as well as the existence of neo-liberalism and corporate globalization, must be examined in order to provide context and explanation for the mass protest of the 1999 Seattle conference.

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The World Trade Organization grew out of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and was officially established on January 1st, 1995. The WTO in the simplest terms exists as a perpetuator of such neo-liberal policies such as free markets and free trade, the promotion of private companies and foreign investment. In the past twentyfive years, the establishment of the WTO, in cohorts with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, has served to distinctively effect global power relations and create a transnational political, economic, and cultural system. The main way this system has been created has been though structural adjustment programs (SAPs) imposed by the WTO, World Bank and IMF on developing countries. SAPs are imposed in the conditionality of loans, which are often given to developing countries- they often are comprised of such internal adjustments as infrastructure development, the opening of trade, the removal of tariffs, and the restructuring of government spending. The WTO, World Bank and IMF portray SAPs as a means for development and economic growth, but their effects nearly always negative for developing countries forced to comply. For many developing countries, the results have been similar: the devaluation of currency, the cutting of social services such as health care and public education, privatization of business and resources, environmental degradation, and ultimately an increase in poverty. T.V. Reed (2005), author of the book The Art of Protest asserts that “in structural adjustment, a developing nation‟s government is obligated to transform its economy to better serve First World corporations if it wants to receive loans from the World Bank or IMF, or avoid trade sanctions from the WTO. Corporate globalizers call this a necessary transition. Critics call it multinational blackmail (pg. 243)”. In this way it is not hard to see why there was such a call for a movement against the WTO and transnational globalization, why so many people organized, and thus why the “Battle in Seattle” began.

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The “Battle in Seattle” appeared to those watching the mass media to occur spontaneously, but preparation for the protests started months prior to November. The Internet played a large role this preparation, providing useful tools for efficient communication and the spread of information. Additionally just as the Internet was used in the months preceding the protest, the Internet was used an informational tool during the protests. According to Michelle Dent, author of Staging Disaster: Reporting Live (sort of) from Seattle, independent filmmakers were encouraged to document the protests events and bring their raw footage to temporary news distribution centers. These temporary centers collected and edited the footage, ultimately posted on-line un-biased broadcasts of the events on the streets. DAN organizers anticipated that the protests would likely be portrayed negatively in the media, a thought which stemmed from the movements overall conception of the media as “owned and operated by the same forces the protestors were working to overthrow, and hence as adversaries who would never report what really happened (Reed, pg. 409)”. Activist artists also started to prepare, plan and organize months before the protest, utilizing the Internet, but also physically taking to the streets and traveling to garner support for their efforts. Alli Chagi-Starr, co-founder of an organization named Art and Revolution, was one of these artists. With her theatrical dance troupe, she traveled along the West Coast in a road show, stopping to perform street theater designed to mobilize and educate people about the WTO, non-violent protest methods, puppet building, dance theater, and radical cheerleading. Chagi-Starr in an interview entitled Behind the Scenes of Seattle with Yes Magazine (2009), estimated “I figure we probably mobilized somewhere between 5,000-10,000 people to go up to Seattle this way, all of them trained in effective demonstrating (pg. 4)”. The Art and Revolution group also mobilized people and spread

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awareness through the design, production and distribution of postcards which bore the phrase “Shut it Down” and were mailed all over the country. In these ways, support for the movement was gathered even before the protests began and a greater number and wider variety of participants were assembled. The organization of such unique and distinct groups of people through the collective opposition to transnational global corporation, the WTO and neo-liberalism, was the first triumph of the movement. A great deal of planning and preparation also went into the November protests. The Direct Action Network, which coordinated the various participating groups efforts, created and distributed booklets which offered advice on how to avoid injury, how to maintain solidarity during arrest, and possible answers to standard questions that protestors might encounter. One excerpt from a booklet stated: “In this ever shrinking world where corporations are attempting to homogenize us into passive, unquestioning consumers, our culture is the greatest weapon of resistance. Traditional demonstrations and protests, while essential, oftentimes alienate the general public, are disregarded by corporate media, bore many of the participants, and are ignored by policy makers. Taking to the streets with giant puppet theater, dance, graffiti art, music, poetry and spontaneous eruption of joy breaks through the numbing isolation….We must strive to use all our skills in harmony to create an enduring symphony of resistance. The cacophony against capital will be deafening when nine days of large-scale street theater preparations culminate in the largest festival of resistance the world has ever seen. We will make revolution irresistible.” (pg. 255) In addition to the creation and production of helpful booklets, DAN also set up a free clinic and provided maps of downtown Seattle. Each map identified WTO sites, hotels of participants and the location of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, and served to provide ideas for where groups could collectively create their human blockades. The organization and utilization of human blockades during the protest were highly effective and represent an artistic, bodily form of non-violent direct action. The overall plan

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was to blockade key streets and intersections around the Convention Center, creating a “wall of humanity” to prevent attendees from entering. Each blockade was comprised of 820 people who self-organized and designed their own bodily formation or type of blockade, and also choose their site of protest. Reed (2005) in his description of the blockades stated “participants had trained for many weeks in some cases, for many hours in others (pg. 261)”, practicing procedures of non-cooperation. These procedures served to pattern pacifism and non-violent actions, and instilled the potential to feel connected as a group of physical beings. Overall it could be said that art, especially art related to ones body and physicality, played a huge role in the success of the WTO protests. Some used their bodies and the space to create sit-down blockades, others choose to lock their arms together in cyclical formation, perform with giant puppets, or organize street parties. Protestors who formed themselves into human blockades used their bodies to show a strict refusal to comply with the bodies of those in positions of authority and law enforcement. Susan Leigh Foster (2003), author of Choreographies of Protest, writes, “Robotized in full riot gear, faces shielded, bodies encased in black bullet-proof nylon, police offer no opportunity for contact or dialogue. The wriggling liveliness of the protestors‟ bodies, frail and variaform, testifies to the strength of the weak (pg. 410)”. Indeed the image of the policeman, clothed in black and anonymous, seemed to represent the repressive nature of the state- and the protestors, dressed colorfully and full of life, seemed to represent hope and change. Protestors, though differing in their personal and group tactics, worked together in this way to oppose the WTO and transnational democracy. Some performed vibrant educational street theater designed to expose corporate globalization, others performed improvisation rap on the topic. Others provided artistic relief and encouragement for those who choose to chain themselves together into unmovable human blockades, thus exposing

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their bodies to tear gas and rubber bullets. For example Alli Chagi-Starr‟s group roamed the protest area performing hip-hop and dance theater. She states that their performances functioned to “keep everyone‟s spirits up, to help remind people why we were there, and to be a source of fun and inspiration throughout the day (pg. 1-2)”. Once dance theater technique they used was something they called a “Dance of Democracy”, in which each dancer would choreograph a phrase which was later incorporated into a cohesive final piece. Throughout the protests, chained groups would call Chagi-Starr‟s dancers over to create optimism and instill unity. Other groups choose to present their liveliness and resistance through mediums involving costume. The infamous sea turtle march was one of these forms, in which individuals created and wore their own sea turtle costumes- representations of the many animals that face extinction due to WTO policies. These sea turtle people were children, adults, students and elders, and were joined by musicians and street theater players. As the sea turtles gently danced in the streets, they both stopped traffic and raised awareness through peaceful action and protest. T.V. Reed (2005) in his description of the sea turtle brigade went so far as to state that “apparently even the police (pg. 258)” enjoyed the dancing turtles. In a similar march, protestors stood against Burma and violence, dressed as butterflies. Others stood on their own, one dressing as a red devil intent on cutting down tress with his chainsaw, others dressed in parody, imitating military-corporate culture. Others utilized signage on a massive creative scale, climbing Seattle‟s skyscrapers or machinery to hang large banners with humor resistance messages. One particular sign was hung from a construction crane, and depicted two arrows pointing in opposite directions: one arrow was labeled “democracy”, the other “WTO”, in order to portray the inherent lack of democracy in WTO policies. Another banner choose to represent the impact the WTO plays on the environment and animals: it met these ends by portraying the

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WTO as the grim reaper carrying a large sickle. The landscape behind the WTO reaper existed in a state of degradation, and the reaper himself stood upon slips of paper labeled, “clean air act”, “clean water act”, and “endangered species act”. According to Foster, one unnamed protestor described the entire experience, the banners, the marches, the performances, and the costumes, as a sudden feeling of connectedness and physical power. He stated: “Each of us came to Seattle for different reasons… When we filled the streets of Seattle, there was a power in our bodies that we didn‟t know we had. In this city, for this moment, our lives were our own. Who can say at what precise location, exact hour and date, this global movement began. In Seattle we were just a small part of the movement, but in the gas and bullets our memory returned. For that movement, our history was made clear to us. We felt the edges of our skin marked by global and historical struggle. We stopped waiting for our world to be legislated or prescribed to us. This time we did not ask for permission to be free (pg. 410)”. And soon the WTO protestors‟ collective resistance and struggle took effect. On the first day of the blockading, the WTO meetings for the day were canceled for the afternoon. And eventually, the conference was halted altogether. As has been shown, the negative effects of WTO policies, and a need for urgent action, inspired the collective protest against the WTO and corporate democracy. And the effects of the protest not only served to shut down the WTO protest, but to encourage a legacy of artistic resistance. The encouragement of independent filmmakers to document the protest and its effects, as well as the live alternative news streams posted to the Internet, have served to promote and positively effect the prevalence of alternative media. Much of the footage recording of the protests still exists on the Internet today, and has been used by independent filmmakers in their work. Additionally, the movement‟s organization was aided not only by technology, but also the role of artist activists- who used their skills to garner support for their cause and spread awareness about the WTO and its policies. These artists also brought their skills and tactics

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to the protest streets as well- using art to raise awareness and optimism, using their bodies as a form of creative resistance, and reclaiming public space in a variety of artistic ways. Today, the WTO protests serve to show how exactly how effective collective artistic and creatively oriented protest, especially through non-violent direct action, can be in achieving a movement‟s goal.

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