[sixties-l] Fwd: Make your own revolution

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Jun 20 2000 - 05:13:38 CUT

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           A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

    Art for protest's sake
    The Battle in Seattle lives on at the intersection of politics and art.

    LAST WINTER'S anti-WTO protests were some of the best and most inspiring
    actions I've seen humans take in my lifetime. Now, it's probably because I have
    a reputation as a cynical old bastard, but when I express this opinion to
    people they always seem surprised that my feelings are so unequivocally
    On the other hand, maybe it's just because my thoughts contradict the TV
    coverage, which portrayed the action either as a failed attempt by boring
    to maintain a civil discourse or a successful attempt by demonic and
    "self-avowed" anarchists to deprive Seattle taxpayers of five crucial days
    of holiday
    shopping. Or both. (And, by the way, let me just say that the term
    "self-avowed" is redundant, and its constant use by commentators only
    served to suggest
    that TV people consider their viewers too stupid to know what the word
    "avowed" means. Plus, some of the nicest people I know are avowed
    anarchists. Anyway. ...)

    Really, though, who in this day and age seriously expected the mass media to
    give objective coverage to what was essentially an anticapitalist uprising?
    I don't know what it says about our society that we have to turn to art for
    unbiased reporting, but I'm not complaining, because this month Seattle is
    enjoying a number of works of art, music, and film that both reflect and
    embody the spirit of the anti-WTO movement.


    "The Whole World Is Watching: Art, Images + Literature from the WTO
    Protests" runs at the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) through July 1 (in
    with several events at the Independent Media Center and the 911 Media Arts
    Center). The show creatively juxtaposes representative art (that is, art about
    the protests) with functional art (art that was actually used in the
    protests), subtly erasing the distinction between reportage and
    participation. As
    with the protests themselves, there's a refreshingly broad palette to choose
    from: a photo of the Lusty Lady's marquee ("Nude World Order") shares space
    with a large papier-mch businessman, an autographed door (from an
    anarchist squat), and a huge, collectively produced graffiti-influenced
    mural. How's
    that for multiple perspectives?

    Perhaps the most thought-provoking piece is "Take Off the Head," which
    presents 525 woodcut-style portraits of politically influential figures,
    from Nigeria's
    Olusegun Obasanjo to Arkansas' Paula Jones, without specifying their
    relationships to each other or the WTO. The implicit message--"Figure it
    out yourself!"--is
    not so much a challenge as an invitation, and as such represents the
    grassroots spirit of the protests far better than anything presented on
    during that exciting week last December.


    That news coverage--thankfully--is used sparingly in Trade Off, a
    documentary about the anti-WTO protests that won Best Documentary at this
    year's Seattle
    International Film Festival's Golden Space Needle awards (and may gain wider
    release this summer). The film--the first feature from director Shaya
    to balance political content, humor, and striking images, such as a fast
    360-degree pan at the intersection of Fourth and Pike that reveals colorful
    stretching to the horizon in all directions. Mild-mannered and hilarious
    activist Mike Dolan becomes a de facto narrator as interview segments are
    with footage of relevant images. Early in the film he expresses his
    commitment to the struggle by looking directly at an interviewer and
    deadpanning, "I
    have TWO cell phones, all right?" The one potential disappointment for
    Seattle audiences derives from the film's focus on the broad political
    of the protest. Having made that (quite reasonable) choice, it tends to
    steer clear of items that may be more superficially colorful or of greater
    interest: The conflagrations that occurred when police clashed with crowds
    on Capitol Hill, for instance, are not mentioned at all.


    Meanwhile, on the musical front, we have a CD from the No WTO Combo: Live
    from the Battle in Seattle (on Alternative Tentacles Records). The NWTOC was a
    one-off project featuring Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and Sweet 75 on bass,
    Gina Mainwal of Sweet 75 on drums, Kim Thayil of Soundgarden on guitar, and
    Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys as the lyric-spewing vocalist. Originally
    scheduled to play on the first night of the protests, the band was put off
    by the tear gas and general mayhem. They did perform the next night, though,
    and this recording documents that show. Those who braved Paul Schell's bizarre
    partial curfew ("Protesters will be met with tear gas and rubber bullets,
    but if you're here to shop, everything's hunky dory!" What if I wanted to do
    both?) were treated to a set of pure energy embodied in music. As Jello
    aptly proclaims in the 15-minute tirade that introduces the CD, "The cardboard
    turtle insurrection has begun!" The music mixes relevant old favorites from
    Jello with WTO-specific new songs all wrapped in Paris '68,
    joie de vivre. If that's not punk rock, I don't know what is....


    The No-WTO Combo's performance also forms the centerpiece of "This Is What
    Democracy Looks Like," a six-minute documentary currently being Webcast on
    Actually, it's not really clear whether the piece is a documentary with
    background music from the combo or a music video that utilizes WTO footage, but
    that ambiguity is itself intriguing. The Fastband Globalcast, under whose
    auspices the documentary appears, was founded by Novoselic and Roderick Romero
    of Sky Cries Mary as an attempt to blur the line between documentary,
    political action, and art. Initially Webcasting from New Orleans, the
    soon plans to feature continuous Internet transmissions from studios in Los
    Angeles, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Rio de Janeiro, Bangkok, and Sydney.

    TAKEN COLLECTIVELY, these works paint a picture of a world in transition.
    The portrayal of this movement by a variety of media, each operating from a
    perspective, serves to underline its nondogmatic, nonhierarchical nature.
    And that may be the best part of all: I have to refer to it as "this movement"
    because it doesn't really have a name; it is so decentralized that no single
    term, slogan, or ideology will suffice. There is no one leader/spokesmodel
    to be idolized, imitated, and ultimately co-opted. There is no one book or
    song or movie or painting that can explain it. Make your own art. Make your
    own life. Or, as Billy Bragg once sang, "Start your own revolution--cut out
    the middleman."

    By Joe Schloss

    Seattle Weekly, June 15 - 21, 2000


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