The term occupation can describe many degrees of both dominance and resistance, in physical and symbolic space. It is to take place, to be present, and thereby transform or redefine that space. In architecture, occupation is understood as the action of using a building; how we live in it, move through it, change it. As curators we are interested in the spatial implications of occupational strategies, but favour those that are conflictual without being controlling or violent. We see these as productive incentives for discussion and change.
The current political and economic situation, characterized by youth unemployment, violent riots, and the Occupy movement, brings relevance to another definition of the term; occupation also describes a profession, a job or a way of spending time. An increasing amount of young creatives and academics are facing unemployment and uncertainty, so whether or not we identify with the “dirty fucking hippies” (1) in Zuccotti Park, we are in a position where we need to re-evalute our future professional lives.
Occupation as a theme suggests many relations to historical and contemporary conflicts around the world, however in this context, we wish to avoid taking on voices of others, and the theme therefore evolves from a discussion about our specific situations, our futures. As a first action for the project Something is taking place, we occupied the task of creating the installation. The exhibition is inspired by the ideas of agonistic democracy and the role of art in this space (2). Studies of occupational strategies and forms of resistance might help us understand our own situation and how we might change it.
The choice of books as medium for the installation, is made to draw attention to an Occupy action at UC Berkeley, that was a cunning and poetic act of defiance towards the ban on encampment at the university square. The titles we have selected are meant to form a common frame of reference, and reflect the amount of knowledge and education that our generation holds, but remains idle. It might even seem useless when faced with the current job market, but by moving the books from the pile, grouping them, creating obstacles, spreading them out, we wish to suggest opportunities for utilizing our knowledge. The fragile and temporary nature of the installation reflects the vulnerability of occupations, but implied is also the ever-present opportunity for re-grouping, transformation and new beginnings.
Nicola Louise Markhus & Marte Danielsen Jølbo
1 Martha Rosler; The Artistic Mode of Revolution: From Gentrification to Occupation, e-flux 2012
2 Political theorist Chantal Mouffe explains agonistic pluralism as the acceptance of potential conflicts, and the creation of an arena where differences can be confronted. Art can also play a role, “[…] by intervening directly in a multiplicity of social spaces in order to oppose the program of total social mobilization of capitalism. The objective should be to undermine the imaginary environment necessary for its reproduction.”Chantal Mouffe: Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces, 2007