January 23, 2012
December 6, 2011
This is an article from the New School Free Press detailing an outsider’s perspective to the fall of the recent All City Student Occupation of the New School. While The Free Press has been a typically shoddy newspaper when it comes to covering radical events, it presents a fascinating timeline, nonetheless.
The Glorious Rise and Ignominious Fall of a Student Occupation
On Tuesday, November 22, Kellen Auditorium was filled to capacity as members of the New School community turned up for a public forum, organized by President David Van Zandt, regarding the student occupation at 90 Fifth Ave. Before the meeting had even begun, security guards were ushering attendees into an overflow room next door, where they could watch the forum on a live video feed. Tensions were high as Van Zandt prepared to address the crowded room, facing his most difficult test yet as president of The New School.
Since November 17, students from universities throughout New York City had been occupying The New School’s Student Study Center, influenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement that has swept across the country. As part of a student-organized “Day of Action,” thousands had converged on Union Square before marching over to Fifth Avenue, where dozens of students entered the New School building at 90 Fifth Ave. There, they took control of the study center’s second floor and announced the third occupation of a New School building in three years. Optimistic and energized, the occupiers hoped to transform the Student Study Center into a space where people could openly discuss economic issues pertaining to students, organize political actions, and launch a national student movement.
But five days into the occupation, as Van Zandt stood in front of more than a hundred people in Kellen Auditorium, it was clear that the occupation of 90 Fifth Ave. had divided the university. An overwhelming majority of the students who spoke at the public forum were opposed to the occupation, and many expressed anger at the administration for allowing it to continue. While a number of the students there said that they supported OWS and had initially supported the occupation, they were dismayed by the turn of events at the Student Study Center.
What had begun as a widely-supported and inclusive movement had, somehow, devolved into a tense, convoluted, and unpopular situation. Read the rest of this entry »
June 30, 2011
May 12, 2011
In the midst of huge Lefty marches on Wall Street comes this interesting action from some New York comrades: a surrealist march from Wall Street in Manhattan to Wall Street in Staten Island. I’m excited to see these groups challenge the concept of the Wall Street march, an aged action with implications of a centralized Capital, existing deep within bank vaults or in the inhumanity of a small circle of banker’s actions. In reality capitalism exists with the same strength in the skyscraper valleys of Manhattan as the side streets of Staten Island. Capitalism is less a thing being done to the world than a thing we are constantly doing to each other.
And an intriguing communique from More of the Same
June 14, 2010
Recently it seems like all the once ultra-positive anarcho-punk zinesters have run empty on optimism. Burn Collector was always a bummer, but even the latest issue of Erick Lyle’s SCAM zine, once a manic celebration of guerrilla punk shows, squatting, anti-police/yuppie/war activism, and heavy beer consumption, has taken a despondent turn.
The recently-released 7th issue is focuses on Miami, specifically, how the city’s constant obsession with re-manufacturing its cultural identity. Most of the issue compares Art Basel, one of the worlds largest contemporary art exhibitions, with the violent suppression of the FTAA protests in 2003. On the same streets that he saw activists brutally beaten as the Miami Model unfolded, he now watches “subversive” “street artists” like Swoon and Shepard Fairey (who Lyle interviews, delightfully making him feel like a fool for his support of Obama) erect massive, Deitch-commissioned murals that will be watched by armed guards to prevent their vandalism from being vandalized. Desperate to find some sort of anti-establishment silver-lining at Art Basel he joins Molly Crabapple, founder of Dr. Sketchy, in a guerrilla burlesque-sketching performance, which turns out to be more of an advertisement for sketchpads and her friend’s show, which she “interrupted.” Lyle considers this scene as endemic to the art world; a few people drawing models with dozens photographing as the art happens.
In his brilliant commentary on the hypocrisy of an art world, that at once purports to grasp the self-mockery of a piece like Warhol‘s “200 Dollar Bills” while attaching its $43 million price-tag, Lyle approaches an investigation into the tenuous relationship between culture vs. art (which carries over into the topic of summit-hopping and activism at large as power vs. resistance) in which their mutual determinacy is exposed as a recurring, defeatist paradox.
But is punk any different? The culture orbits an aesthetic core, after all, and that core has been heavily recuperated. There is a feeling in earlier issues of SCAM that, despite this, punk represented an actual alternative community against the idiotic monoculture. Last year’s issue of Cometbus: The Spirit of Saint Louis (apparently actually set in Richmond, Virginia) touches on this concern as it recounts, in ethnographic detail, and entire generation of punks: their bands, their projects, and their own struggle against gentrification, concluding that the entire business is a worthless and regrettably dead end that leads to the same frustration from which it began.
Another recent zine by a longtime NYC squatter, The Belladonna Tree, remembers the “good times” of the early zeroes in New York: the era of the massive Kung Fu Castle (KFC) in the LES, Casa Del Sol in the Bronx, and even the Bat Cave in Carroll Gardens. The narration watches as each squat is evicted repeatedly, and as the years go by his friends are priced out of Manhattan, emigrating east to Brooklyn. As this occurs, he begins to fantasize that Peter Missing’s Party’s Over logo of the LES anti-yuppie youth, an inverted martini glass with its line through the draining booze, has turned on him and his friends, becoming, instead, an inverted 40 oz that represents the failure of his era to sustain itself. This kind of thinking always reminds me of the Big Lebowski’s famous cultural analysis: “Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir.”
Lyle does attempt to close SCAM #7 on a high note. He tags along with Max Rameau, organizer of Miami’s Take Back the Land, a group that found enthusiastic national media attention 2 years ago when they began to run a type of squatting realty-service for families in need of housing. Rameau takes Lyle to a protest of a recently constructed, and almost totally vacant, highrise condominium. While hundreds swarm the lobby demanding the empty condos be given directly to the public, I’m sure as Lyle scribbled notes amongst the hundreds of low-income Floridians chanting lines rehearsed beforehand and leaving at the pre-determined time, he couldn’t help but remember his days of cutting locks and crow-baring planks of wood off doors in the middle of the night, trying to convince cops that their fake lease was authentic, and holding punk shows in abandon warehouses with stolen electricity. And now, having heard the shouts of the masses’ demands, he felt an exhausting confusion. What can really be done with this senseless culture and its taste for conceptual art and luxury? What can be done to stop the G20 in Toronto next week, now that the Miami Model proliferates as the de-facto method of crowd suppression, totally killing the momentum of Seattle in ’99? Hopefully something new, because it seems like all the intoxicating positivity of the last decade has been violently drained, and all us late-comers are left dumbly milling about, not even realizing that the good times are over.
Note: I highly reccomend checking out SCAM #7 from your local infoshop, along with the super-inspiring On The Lower Freqeuencies SCAM collection available from Soft Skull.