I will be giving an artist lecture January 26 from 7-10 pm at Indiana University in Bloomington as part of the school’s ongoing seminar The In/Visibility of America’s 21st Century Wars . Special thanks to Professors John Lucaites, Jon Simon and Jeffrey Wolin for the invitation.
©Nina Berman, 2007 All Rights Reserved
Occupation Wall Street, if nothing else, is about access to public space.
As thousands of demonstrators marched to Times Square to mark the 10 year anniversary of the bombing of Afghanistan, the police shouted through bull horns, “clear the sidewalk for pedestrian traffic,“ to which the demonstrators replied, “We are pedestrian traffic!”
Once in Times Square, the NYPD set up the familiar cages, forcing the crowd into geometric pockets so cars could pass and the crowd could be contained. It hardly mattered that thousands of people were crushed together with no place to move, while double decker tourist buses sailed south, uninhibited, their passengers, waving and snapping pictures.
The surreal aspect was amplified by the fact that the only time masses of people are permitted to crowd into Times Square is on New Years Eve. It’s an event usually avoided by New Yorkers but familiar to all from television footage showing festive and expectant throngs looking skyward, huddled together in the cold, waiting to be entertained, waiting for the ball to drop, waiting in a fundamental way, to be released. But on Oct 15, people were not waiting for anything. There was no signal, no speakers. They weren’t there to receive instructions. They weren’t there to shop. They were simply, and undeniably, there.
To see them with hand made signs, surrounded by huge advertisements of the furry penguin from Happy Feet, or the red Bank of America sign, or the giant Mama Mia poster, was so strange it made Times Square into something all together stunning. At one point, a man climbed on a pole, lit a sparkler, and the crowd sang, “This Little Light of Mine.” There amid the most intense neon per square foot perhaps in the world, someone lights a sparkler and the crowd starts singing.
Curious to see how the NYPD responds in the days ahead to Occupy Wall Street’s use of the intentional crowd in a city fully crowded. I am reminded of