DC at Night

DC at Night

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Legacy of the Occupy Movement

You won't find the members of the Occupy movement camped out in America's cities this fall, but you can explore the legacy of the protesters by visiting the Occupy This! exhibition at the Katzen Art Center Museum at American University.

The exhibition, designed to consider the causes, actions, and representatives of the Occupy phenomena, contains more than 100 pictures, signs, and historical documents from the movement which a year ago had camps in more than 600 communities across the country.

"The exhibit tells us something about what the Occupy movement looked like at the end of 2011," guest curator Alison Nordstrom writes. "It may also help us visualize - to literally put a face on - issues of war, student debt, foreclosure, economic inequality, and corporate greed."

"The exhibition is intended to raise questions about Occupy past, present, and future, but also to consider the issues that inspired the movement," Nordstrom added.

As was so often the case in the Occupy camps, the featured site in the exhibit is a re-creation of an actual People's Library, with signs encouraging visitors to make and display their own protest signs, send grievances to government officials on postage-paid cards, and take any book from the carefully organized collection.

Videos also help tell the story. In one scene, Occupy protesters try to drown out GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by shouting "Corporations are not people; we are people. Corporations are not the people; we are the people."

The dramatic pictures were set up in themes equally divided between shots of the protesters and scenes of conditions they were protesting. One of the most disturbing sections was a series of pictures of the poverty encountered in rural Troy, New York. In one shot, an exhausted  mother with a Hess Express work uniform shirt on falls asleep at her kitchen table, while one of her young children washes the dishes and 2 others share a bowl of ice cream. In another, an unsupervised 2-year-old in a diaper stands on a chair, a candy bar in one hand and a large bottle of soda in the other.

A  portion of the exhibit contained visual representations of other major protests in the United States to place the Occupy movement into a historical context.

While each Occupy site had a different focus, they generally agreed on these demands:
  •  a reduction of the influence of corporations on politics
  • a more balanced distribution of income between the 1% with extreme wealth and the remaining 99%
  • bank reform
  • an end to home foreclosures
  • forgiveness of student loan
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If you want to catch the Occupy This show, you will have to hurry. It closes Oct. 21.

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