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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: art

Humanizing The Dehumanized: The Legacy Of Eugenics And The Relevance Today at Central Booking

Nickie Phillips

Twisted Data

Join us for the panel Humanizing The Dehumanized: The Legacy Of Eugenics And The Relevance Today

January 21 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

OffLINE at CENTRAL BOOKING, 

21 Ludlow St, New York, 10002 United States

Moderator: Nickie Phillips, criminologist, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NYC

Panelists: Artists Noah Fuller, Geraldine Ondrizek, and Barbara Rosenthal featured in Twisted Data exhibit

This panel will explore the legacy of eugenics and the ways that “scientific” data has been used to justify atrocities. The panelists will discuss how the categorization of individuals, dehumanization, and bureaucratization converged to reinforce cultural prejudices and the lasting impact of these policies and practices. The study and reception of bio-criminological explanations of criminality will be discussed in light of the history of eugenics within the field of criminology, as well as other unfortunate implications of the movement to “purify” the population.

Paintings from the Inside: Art by Offenders

Nickie Phillips

dinner  

These five remarkable paintings greet visitors of Leeds Metropolitan University School of Social, Psychological and Communication Sciences. The paintings are part of the Koestler Trust exhibitions that feature artworks by offenders, secure patients, and detainees.

Koestler Trust is described as "the UK's best-known prison arts charity" and operates as "…a charity which celebrates the best achievements of people who have made grave mistakes in life…."

The Trust operates on donations and income from the sales of the artworks, with 50% profits going to the artist and 25% of all sales going to victim support.

Koestler offers annual awards that cover a variety of artforms including, writing, painting, performance, and crafts with a selection of the entries featured at the annual UK exhibition held in London. For more information on the exhibitions, go here.

To support Koestler Trust, go here. You may purchase art here.

 

scream mask headinsand cell

 

5 Pointz Graffiti Space White-Washed!

Nickie Phillips

Photo: Tamara Beckwith

A couple weeks ago Crimcast reported on the saving of the 5 Pointz graffiti space in Queens, New York, from destruction to make way for luxury housing.  In a shocking turnabout, the developer reneged on agreements with community activists and began to paint over the artwork two nights ago under police protection.  A federal lawsuit filed by the artists failed to receive an injunction and so the good-faith agreement was all the community had to rely on-- but only they were acting in good faith.  Shame on developers Jerry and David Wolkoff for painting over a vibrant and historic space for graffiti artists!  What a travesty!  As one 5 Pointz fan put it to the media:

It’s the death of a real cultural institution in the city and there doesn’t seem to be any room for this kind of art anymore.

5 Pointz Graffiti Space Faces Redevelopment

Nickie Phillips

photo credit: 5ptz.com

While New York City was going gaga over a month-long visit by Banksy, a homegrown virtual gallery of artistic street-tagging was on the brink of destruction.  5 Pointz, an area of abandoned industrial spaces in Long Island City where graffiti artists have covered all available spaces with their art, faces redevelopment that would destroy the art. Luckily, it won't be destroyed completely.  On October 10th, a deal was reached which will preserve the graffiti at the base of the buildings and remove and save other facades for auction.

The owner of the building originally planned to create 600 luxury apartments sans graffiti.  The tagging community was up in arms that their living museum was under threat, holding a number of community meetings and demonstrations earlier this month.  Although the deal is not ideal, it represents a compromise that the graffiti community can count as a win-- their community activism and outrage made a difference. 5 pointz can be seen from the elevated 7 train and grew up organically.  Easily, and some not-so-easily, scaled facades of completely abandoned had been abandoned for the last two decades and therefore, have been the perfect canvas.  As one Long Island City resident and blogger has written:

...5 Pointz—subtitled “The Institute of Higher Burnin’”—is a haven for what [taggers] and many others consider an inherently valid art form, one that needs no apology or context.

The buildings are covered in a mosaic of styles, colors and messages that have been added to, covered over, and embellished over the last 12 years.  Losing this treasure would have erased the work of hundreds of talented artists.

And as graffiti ethnographer Gregory Snyder has argued in his book

Graffiti Lives

, for many, what begins as street-tagging can spin-off into viable a career in the visual arts.  In essense, 5Pointz is the space where future new media moguls are potentially practicing their skills and perfecting their aesthetic.  Crimcast hopes that the spirit of 5Pointz lives on through the redevelopment phase  and that home-grown NYC graffiti lives on.

Brooklyn Aesthetics - Writers on Writers: Graffiti, Poetry and Narrative

Nickie Phillips

SFC presents: Brooklyn Aesthetics - Writers on Writers: Graffiti, Poetry and Narrative Please join us for Writers on Writers, a panel discussion on parallel notions of literature and

Writers on Writers

graffiti as narrative constructions. Participants include Adam Mansbach, New York Times bestselling author of the graffiti novel Rage Is Back; Jean Grae, prominent underground hip-hop artist and producer; and Brooklyn graffiti legend Blake ‘Keo” Lethem.

The evening’s wide-ranging conversation will explore narrative and identity in both literary and graffiti cultures; the relationships of both literature and graffiti to authority; and the persistence of "beef" across the genres. Participants will also confront the notion of a hip-hop aesthetic, discuss the importance of codes and code-switching, and discuss the parallel evolution of graffiti, hip-hop, and new literary cultures in New York City.

Adam Mansbach is a NY Times bestselling authorMansbach's latest novel, Rage is Back, set in NYC graffiti culture, was named a Book of the Month by Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, and is currently being adapted for the stage by Mansbach and award-winning playwright Idris Goodwin.

Jean Grae is an internationally recognized underground hip hop artist. She has released 9 solo albums since her debut in 2002. Throughout her career she has collaborated with major hip hop artists, such as The RootsTalib KweliMos Def, and Styles P.

KEO TC-5 is a bona-fide Brooklyn legend in the realm of NYC graffiti and hip hop. SCOTCH 79 came of age in the Brooklyn of the 1970s and learned his craft in the tunnels and yards of the MTAs subway system.

Friday, September 27, 2013 at 5pm Founders Hall

George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell: Romance Arising from Dentistry

Nickie Phillips

Demetra M. Pappas,  JD, MSc, PhD, correspondent 81V5bVczSJ0Y8Y22jw9MsHPBi_2ta2I6WfTXLSxWgsM

David Staller, in his “Note from the Director” of The Pearl Theater Company and Gingold Theatrical Group production of You Never Can Tell, writes that “this charming comedy was so revolutionary for its time that the actors who were cast in its original production at London’s famed Haymarket Theater found it impossible to navigate the psychological twists and turns the play demanded resulting in all of them, one by one, walking out.”

In a comical turn of events of my own, I almost had to leave because the opening scene is one of young dentist Mr. Valentine (Sean McNall) pulling out the tooth of teenaged Dolly Clandon (Emma Wisniewski) with the sort of “pop” that one hears when flicking an index finger against the inner cheek. Having myself had a protracted dental extraction barely 48 hours earlier, I was taken aback, notwithstanding the period scenes (by Mind the Gap) and costumes from the TDF Costume Collection.  When shortly thereafter, Valentine’s landlord Fergus Crampton (Bradford Cover) has a tooth similarly pulled, my companion tugged on my sleeve to do a quick check to see if I was experiencing empathetic (or actual) pain.

Here is the mark of a fun production – after the first pop, and young Valentine’s

Photo Credit: YNCT by Al Foote III

introduction of profession, I found myself quite immersed in the Shavian comedy. Imagine middle aged divorced parents, one daughter (Amelia Pedlow) who vaguely remembers a father, young twins (Wisniewski and fraternal twin Philip, played with equal over-the-top glee by Ben Charles) who recall nothing of the man, name changes, unfortunate (or fortunate) encounters years later in a resort town. To add to the hilarity, waitstaff Walter Boon (Dan Daily) finds himself to be immersed in the drama which his son Walter Bohun (Zachary Spicer) comes to mediate, with excessive (and excessively handsome) pomposity. Shaw’s original cast may have been dazed, perplexed and scandalized, but this is a contemporary American family, but for the accents, costumes and resort decor. What may have been confusing social and psychological structure in London would not cause even a raised eyebrow in Judge Judy’s court.

That may have been why this performance was so fun, even if the acting was (almost certainly deliberately) directed to be so over the top. In a less dentally aware state, I may have enjoyed the play less, rather than more.

This just goes to show that You Never Can Tell.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College.  Her book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press,  2012) (100 year study of US and UK  doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media) was nominated, 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize and was nominated and short listed for the 2013 BSC Criminology Book Prize.

Urban Utopia in Southwark, London: The Lake or The Shard?

Nickie Phillips

20130909-224018.jpg

Wandering around South Bank London on a damp evening, Crimcast stumbled upon a compelling sight-- a small lake constructed out of timber in the middle of an urban scape.  Nestled next to a stone archway for commuter trains to and from Waterloo station, "The Lake" featured lounge chairs, a cafe, and playground.  A sign indicated that this was an urban oasis, built by architects, carpenters, and other artistic visionaries to bring the notion of being on holiday directly to the people.  Had we arrived just a couple days earlier we would have seen the many community members enjoying some late summer sun and floating homemade model sailboats. The privately owned land has been donated to a collective called EXYZT whose manifesto calls for utopian imaginings and community experimentation.As such, the gates are open for all comers who may wish to relax, enjoy a tea, or take on a project in one of the many work spaces underneath the railway arches.  We particularly liked a piece in the gallery space created by a local artist featuring a baby stroller resting on a treadmill on cardboard.

20130909-224212.jpg

Architect Nicolas Henninger explained that the members of the collective, who have spaces throughout Europe, live on-site and bring their brand of enthusiasm for building social capital to local people.  "We had families here throughout the summer who made small boats and enjoyed themselves.  It's  temporary installation so we will have something new next year."

Whether the The Lake, or previous years' projects featuring gardens and faux Lido seasides, the zeitgeist is one of anti-commodification and collectivism through art and design.  Playing and building together forms a key part of the collective's modus operandi.  A game of "Anti-Monopoly" was ready to go in the tea shop.

20130909-224057.jpg

A passing bicyclist who stopped to explore along with us couldn't help but notice The Lake stood in poetic contrast to The Shard looming above it-- a brand-new sky-scraper, purportedly the tallest in the European Union.  It houses a hotel, residences and offices. Talk quickly turned to the hundreds of millions of pounds it cost and that one can buy a small space there for a mere £8 million.  The bicyclist was concerned that The Shard would create problematic traffic flows for the area and that once inside the complex it would isolate people from interaction with the existing Southwark community around it.

The_Shard_on_Opening_Night

Although Southwark has come a long way from its Dickensian roots, the borough's revitalization is happening in two distinct ways represented by The Lake and The Shard.  One envisions social capital the other panders to global capital.  One empowers locals to work and play together in a low-key, creative space; the other is a silver cage for the cosmopolitan elite, rising above the neighborhood and barely grounded in it.

20130909-224239.jpg

Sculpting Doughboys: Militarism, Manhood, and Memorials of WWI

Nickie Phillips

Jennifer Wingate

Crimcast sat down with Dr. Jennifer Wingate, an assistant professor in the International Cultural Studies, Foreign Languages, Fine Arts department at St. Francis College. Dr. Wingate recently published Sculpting Doughboys: Memory, Gender, and Taste in America’s World War I Memorials (2013), a book that explores memorials and sculptures, or "doughboys," in the United States in the aftermath of World War I.

In your work, you mention that World War I memorials and sculptures often celebrated militaristic ideals in ways that overshadowed the tragedy of war. Can you give a brief example of what you mean by this?

Especially in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, sculptural memorials were triumphant and heroic, often featuring actively fighting soldiers rather than mournful or dying soldiers. The emphasis was on belligerent themes rather than on loss and suffering. Many communities erected simple honor rolls (lists of names of the dead), but those who went through the trouble of raising money to erect sculptures needed to satisfy many different constituencies, including veterans and their families. Even though only a small percentage of US WWI soldiers actually saw combat (compared with Civil War soldiers for example), civilians and veterans alike equated male citizenship and service with rifles and bayonets. It was important for public memorials to reinforce that ideal of unwavering heroism. In my book, I also argue that the fighting soldier stood as a symbol of protection and vigilance during the postwar red scare. One memorial designer in particular, who sold over a hundred copies of his fighting soldier, advertised his memorial design as a sign of anti-radicalism.

In the aftermath of World War I, in what ways did the heroism of the memorials and sculptures relate to the broader visual culture of the era? 

Fighting soldiers and fit, healthy, and strong veterans were everywhere in the visual culture of the era, from movies and advertisements to sheet music covers. The year 1919 was a time of economic and social upheaval.  Returning soldiers who survived the war and the flu epidemic, faced unemployment and serious racial tensions. Memorials featuring stoic and virile soldiers served as reassuring beacons of stability and familiarity.

In your book, you mention that the doughboy sculptures reveal more than just "simple commemorations of the sacrifices of U.S. troops," and offer insight into the public's notion of manhood and strength. In what ways were these characteristics rendered in the sculptures and what are the racial implications of these representations?

Sculpting Doughboys

As with the previously dedicated Civil War memorials, these soldier sculptures were intended to represent universal notions of manhood, and in the 1920s in the United States, that still meant white manhood. It had been very important for African American enlisted men to fight rather than serve exclusively in labor battalions. However, only those regiments who fought with the French escaped the worst discrimination during their service. There were efforts to erect memorials to honor African American soldiers, but most were never realized. Chicago and Philadelphia dedicated two notable exceptions. The history of the Bronzeville memorial in Chicago is interesting because the memorial did not feature a fighting soldier at first, but three bronze reliefs depicting an African American warrior standing with shield and sword and personifications of Motherhood and Columbia. Later, the artist added a freestanding sculpture of a fighting soldier in response to community dissatisfaction with the original design, which was perceived as too “passive.”

Sculptors often subscribed to pseudoscientific beliefs that equated physical type with race, class, and national character. Examples abound of sculptors striving to achieve the postwar ideal of “100% Americanism” by portraying “American” type soldiers and of critics lauding memorial designs for capturing the authentic “American” man.

In what ways were sculptors, specifically those that were inclined to produce anti-war or pacifist art, constrained in their work?

Sculptors who did not want to celebrate war and militarism in their memorial designs had a bit more flexibility starting around 1921, but even then any pacifist sentiment that they expressed had to be open-ended and subtle. Public art is an art of consensus, and the politics of the interwar period were too complicated to allow for stridently pacifist commemorative statements. There are exceptions, but for the most part, sculptors who were unwilling to compromise their anti-war statements, did not succeed in realizing public memorials. Interestingly, some of the most striking exceptions were women sculptors, who were already working at a disadvantage in the field of public military sculpture. Anna Coleman Ladd, who had worked in France during the war making tin masks for disfigured veterans, dedicated an unusually gruesome memorial featuring a skeleton hanging from the barbed wire of no-man’s-land. The memorial was dedicated in a cemetery, and so did not have the visibility of a more public memorial located in a town square or park. The American Legion Post that commissioned it specifically requested a memorial that represented “the truth about war.”

The collaboration between the Governor of Maine, Percival Baxter, and the sculptor, Bashka Paeff, proved even more fortuitous. Like Ladd, Paeff felt very strongly that memorials should not glorify war. Baxter, who chose Paeff’s design for the state of Maine, agreed that memorials should teach the lessons of war’s violence. Paeff’s bronze relief features a female allegory of Civilization shielding her baby from the destruction of war.  Exceedingly rare for a U.S. war memorial, it also depicts the bodies of two dead soldiers. By the time the memorial was complete, the new governor (Baxter’s successor) objected to the relief’s pacifism, and according to one journalist, the pacifist ideas “current among women.” Notions of “patriotic motherhood” were promoted in the visual culture of the war, and women who did not willingly give their sons to the nation could be accused of radicalism.

You primarily used the Smithsonian Institution Inventory of American Sculpture database and files and artists’ papers in the Archives of American Art. Can you tell us some of the challenges you faced in doing this kind of archival research? Do you have any recommendations for other researchers wishing to use these archives?

The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) database is a good place to start, and it is continuously updated, but it’s important to try to go to local sources as well, like regional historical societies, and to artists’ papers, which typically include project files and correspondence with the memorial committee. The Smithsonian Inventory of American Sculpture also has files on public memorials throughout the country that were inventoried during a “Save Outdoor Sculpture!” survey in the 1990s. They contain photos, miscellaneous clippings, and related information. I was very lucky to have a fellowship at the Smithsonian, which gave me regular access to those files and photographs in DC. Also, many of the Smithsonian’s photographs are being digitized now, so it’s easier, teamed with online resources like Flickr, to actually see what these memorials look like. Even so, pretty much every source is incomplete. To put the story of a single memorial commission together, I usually needed to consult multiple sources. The Library of Congress has the papers of sculptor Daniel Chester French, for example, but the National Archives has the papers of the Fine Arts Commission, which was heavily involved with French’s projects and proposals for the capital as well as with those of sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (whose papers are at the Archives of American Art).

Because many of the sculptors who made WWI memorials are lesser known than French and Whitney, I had to use a lot of papers that were never microfilmed (or digitized). In the case of the Boston-based artist Bashka Paeff, I tracked down her papers at the home of one of her nephews (with the help of a fellow art historian). The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art recently acquired some of those papers, but when collections are broken up, challenges are raised for future researchers. Now Paeff’s papers presumably are well organized and more accessible, but some pertinent items are located at other repositories, like the Massachusetts College of Art and Design library in Boston. Projects like this require a lot of persistence and detective work. My advice would be, even in an era of increasing digitization, not to rely on databases, and to exhaust all possible sources. Even though regional newspapers can be searched in excellent databases at the Library of Congress, there’s still obviously a lot of value in browsing and reading papers on microfilm.  Another helpful source for me was the monument trade journal, The Monumental News. I used to read it at the Science, Industry, and Business branch of the New York Public Library, but now those volumes are located off-site and recently one volume that I was looking for was missing. Hopefully, before too many more go missing, they can be digitized for online access!

What projects are you currently working on? Can we expect more work from you on other war memorials? 

I think my work on memorials may be complete for the time being, though I remain committed to public art and to art that’s used, enjoyed, and viewed outside museums and galleries. Though I’m a museum junkie and I appreciate “art for art’s sake,” the “high/low” distinction has always been a thorn in my side. When I was l growing up, Norman Rockwell was my favorite artist, but the art establishment has only relatively recently accepted his work as embodying legitimate artistic concerns. I’ve been thinking a lot about “social practice” art for a class I’m teaching, Art of Social Change. What interests me about this art is that it raises so many questions about the definition of art and how one evaluates art that deals more with ethics than aesthetics. There’s something irritating about these conversations and that’s always the sign of a good new project.

archive

This is the third in a 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often game-changing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of criminology and criminal justice.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Nickie Phillips

Get tickets for the Human Rights Watch film festival here. Go here for a schedule of all the films showing at the NYC festival. "Anita" is sold out, but tickets remain for other shows.

Born this Way trailer


Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer trailer


99% The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film trailer


An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story


A Tale of True Crime Exhibit, Harvard Law School Library

Nickie Phillips

Detail of Illustration from The Diary Murderer of Lynn Boston Evening American and Boston Sunday Advertiser, [1936?] Wood Detective Agency Records, 1865-1945: Box 5-30 Source: http://www.law.harvard.edu/library/special/exhibitions/extra!-extra!-read-all-about-it.html

Harvard Law School is hosting an exhibit on true crime narratives January 3 – April 26, 2013. For more information, go here.

Among the exhibit topics:

"serialized true crime literature, crime photography in newspapers, and the representation of family life in the media’s coverage of the Sacco and Vanzetti case."

Criminal Justice in the Arts Podcast featuring Michael Bush

Nickie Phillips

Michael Bush

In this episode Michael Bush, assistant professor of criminal justice at Northern Kentucky University, joins us to discuss incorporating art and popular culture as pedagogical tools into the criminal justice curriculum.

References

Bush, M. D. (2012). “Criminal justice in the arts: An exploration into creative criminal justice pedagogy.” Presented at the International Crime, Media, and Popular Culture Studies Conference at Indiana State University.

Burke, A. S. and Bush, M. D. (2012). “Service learning and criminal justice: An exploratory study of student perceptions.” Educational Review.

Dodson, K. D., Bush, M. D. & Braswell, M. (2012). “Teaching peacemaking in criminal justice: Experiential applications.” The Journal of Criminal Justice Education.

Kappeler, V. & Potter, G. (2004). Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Messner, S. & Rosenfeld, R. (2006). Crime and the American Dream. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Random Superhero Generator

Further Listening:

Johnny Cash

Tracey Chapman

Clinton Clegg & the Backstabbing Good People

 

 

Poetry, Survival, and Human Rights

Nickie Phillips

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9KmR96Fk7M] See POETRY OF RESILIENCE, a film by Academy Award nominated director, Katja Esson.

She highlights six different poets, who individually survived Hiroshima, the Holocaust, China's Cultural Revolution, the Kurdish Genocide in Iraq, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Iranian Revolution. By summoning the creative voice of poetry to tell stories of survival and witness, each reclaims humanity and dignity in the wake of some of history's most dehumanizing circumstances.

Prison Photography Chapter Meeting ASC Chicago, November 15

Nickie Phillips

The Institute for Peace & Justice at St. Francis College will house the new National Center for the Study of Prison Photography. Join us Thursday, November 15 at 10:00-11:30, Exhibit Hall.

The U.S. prison system may be the largest photography “system” in America: virtually every prison in America allows prisoner created photographic portraits, taken by prisoners, of prisoners and featuring prisoner created photographic backdrops. The resulting portraits are the preferred method prisoners have for communicating with families and friends, and may number in the millions.

Composed of a multidisciplinary team of scholars from the fields of sociology, criminology, art theory, and economics, as well as practitioners from several state corrections departments and a prisoner rights group, the Center is the first of its kind for the study of this vast, but mostly unknown, photography system.

The activities of the Center include a fast growing archive of original prisoner portraits along with original painted backdrops which have been donated by some of our correctional partners. Other activities include scholarly meetings and panels as well as lectures by artists with a background in the specialty fields of conceptual photography and social practice interventions. Much of the activities of the center are not open to the media and are restricted to scholars and researchers.

However, the Center, along with St. Francis College’s Center for Crime & Popular Culture, will be hosting its first ever public chapter meeting at the upcoming American Society for Criminology (ASC) conference in Chicago in November 2012. We will present some of our archive and research. We are interested in collaborating with scholars from many fields, and hope to forge research partnerships at the ASC.

Look for us at ASC on Thursday November 15 at 10:00-11:30, Exhibit Hall.

The Center has already elicited media coverage in the following publications:

Clocktower Gallery

Occupy Wall Street: From Marginalized and Criminalized to Mainstream Arts at The One Year Anniversary

Nickie Phillips

Guest Post by Demetra M. Pappas JD, MSc, PhD

One year ago, New Yorkers considered the word “occupy” as relating to real estate or landlord-tenant law.  The word “occupant” or “occupier” was generally a reference for use by police (especially in vehicular searches), lawyers and jurists in the criminal justice system, and (in civil proceedings) insurance claims and law.  That was all before Occupy Wall Street, a protest movement of the “99%” (regular people) as against the 1% (wealthy CEOs, CFOs, members of the banking and stock markets, the ultra-rich).

On September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street introduced a new phrase to the vocabulary, a new concept to most Americans, who have not seen the level of protest in the past year since the anti-war protests of the Vietnam era, which predates the birth of most college (and many graduate) students.  The protests against social and economic inequality resulted in an encampment in the financial district’s Zuccotti Park.

On September 18, 2012, Andrew Ross Sorkin published a front-page article in the “Business Day” section of The New York Times, entitled “Occupy Wall Street:  A Frenzy that Fizzled.”   Sorkin opened his piece saying that “[Occupy Wall Street] will be an asterisk in the history books, if it gets a mention at all.”    Sorkin contended that “now, 12 months later, it can and should be said that Occupy Wall Street was – perhaps this is going to sound indelicate – a fad.”  With all due respect to Sorkin and the Grey Lady, I disagree – Occupy became a national and international movement of civil disobedience, had consequences in the criminal justice system for both occupiers and policing/prosecuting authorities, and became a topic of discussion from classroom to dinner table to water cooler. It was, in short, internationally and locally relevant.

In addition, there have been examples from international art shows to the current Broadway season as to both the visuals and the vocabulary of Occupy moving from the marginalized to the mainstream;  this in and of itself is axiomatically a cultural shift.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to travel in California and in Germany, where I saw some of the more famous Occupy areas in an unplanned way; that is to say that the trips were pre-planned, but that the opportunity to see other Occupy sites was something I requested along the way.  This accidental (or opportunistic) cross-cultural study led me to write a visual sociology blog, entitled, “The Overlapping Geographies of Occupy and the Arts,” appeared earlier this month in Social Shutter post http://socialshutter.blogspot.com/2012/09/occupy-collaborates-with-arts.html. What I noticed most was that the Oakland (California) Art and Soul Festival of August 4-5, 2012 was replete with music (four stages from indy to blues), stalls for standard festival snacks (and also soul food), had ample accommodations for the disabled and handicapped to have preferential seating arrangements at the stages (and easy ingress and egress given by cheerful security and law enforcement, who showed great community for the disabled, rather requiring visitors to go around to formal exits).

In other words, I saw a well-organized and welcoming event, devoid of any of the deviance (by either occupiers or law enforcement authorities) reported on at length on by Jonathan Mahler in his piece entitled “The World of Anti-Capitalism,” on August 5th, 2012 in The New York Times Magazine.  Mahler wrote that “Oakland is the spiritual birthplace of the Occupy movement and maybe the only place where it’s still wreaking havoc” (p. 37).   My initial disagreement with this statement is that Occupy Oakland began its protest on October 10, 2011 by creating an encampment at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. This was cleared out amidst violence and 100 arrests on October 25, 2011, with ongoing ensuing chaos for months, including (among other things) strikes, a City Hall break in and takeover. (As an aside, I should say that I clerked for the first Puerto Rican man to take the appellate bench in New York State, and he oft reminisced about one of his proudest moments – helping to organize and participate in a 1960-something sit in at Columbia, a college which he did not attend himself, which would have cast him – in the current day – as a potentially prosecutable miscreant, rather than a bona fide occupier; such a suggestion would have appalled the activist that became the jurist). Oakland certainly has a complicated history, both of economic disenfranchisement and of political activism;  however, on the date the article appeared, I can attest that there was no havoc being wrought, that the people of Oakland were out in a pleasant communion, both citizen and cop.

I read another  article barely 48 hours after the Oakland piece, also in The New York Times, by Jack Ewing, “Occupy Frankfurt Camp is Closed as Health Hazard,” (Tuesday, August 7, 2012, p. A6), regarding the clearing of Occupy in Frankfurt, a city I was scheduled to – and did -- visit later the same month.  The article pointedly reported that the tent city, at the doorstep of the European Central Bank (which I thought to be fascinating living visual symbolism of marginalization by members of the 99% relating to the 1%) was closed only after months of tolerance and court litigation by protesters, who “argued with police, beat drums and played loud rap music, but there appeared to be no physical confrontation” (Id.).  Ewing’s article compared Frankfurt’s camp – and its clearing for reasons of hygiene and health hazard – favorably with the clearing earlier in the year in New York (and let us not even discuss the Oakland Occupy clearing efforts, notoriously mishandled).  During my visit to Frankfurt, I pointedly asked to see the Occupy site. What one local businessman told me was that Occupy Frankfurt had rules, which it well-enforced, with Occupy equivalents of Neighborhood Watch.  Again, the German businessman – who had not read the NYT piece, articulated that the central reason for the clear out was hygienic, with a secondary reason that some non-political miscreants had gravitated to the site to engage in unlawful drug use and similar conduct – something that the occupiers themselves found unacceptable.  As something of an irony, on the day we drove past, en route to another city, there were still some Occupy tents and citizenry, seemingly peaceably assembled.  Perhaps even more instructive was that this was in the midst of Frankfurt’s Museum Embankment Festival (which I likened in another piece to New York’s Museum Mile having been placed on the banks of the East River, with music stations, culinary eateries and artisanal stalls set up a mile on either side of the river, with mansion and museum gardens also opened to the pubic for the purpose), though some distance from the embankment arts and museums sites.

Even more embracing of the Occupy movement and its occupiers was the German city of Kassel, which hosts the experimental arts festival dOCUMENTA from June through September every fifth year (and has done so since 1955). It was in this location that Occupy and art merged, where Occupy saw the marginalized about the mainstream.  A docent told me that one of the primary questions sought to be presented in dOCUMENTA (perhaps the biggest art festival in the world) is whether something is art.  In Friedrichsplatz, the main square, where the infamous “hole in the ground” (not visible as anything other than a small circle within the concrete of the square) is located, there were Occupy tents.  In addition, there was a series of some 20 small (knee high, two five year old child-wide), perfectly constructed tents with single words or phrases on them (my particular favorite, perhaps as a former criminal lawyer, was “abuse of power"). Virgilio Pelayo, Jr., of dOCUMENTA 13, confirmed that the miniature Occupy Art tents were created by the Occupy Camp. A docent in Kassel, Lutz Kirchner, a docent who is also an artisan, kindly translated information for me, to the effect that additional artistic tents were constructed as “thanks to the curator and as a friendly art.” The same document cites Dr. Alexander Beck as noting that the Occupy art was meant to be part of a theme of destruction and reconstruction.  Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the Artistic Director and Curator of dOCUMENTA 13 was especially welcoming of Occupy art – indeed, the Rome/Kassel/New York based artist announced herself as inviting “the participants of the movement to take care of the place and to take responsibility for the space that they have the right to occupy, and to respect the people of the city of Kassel and the visitors of the documentation, in the secular spirit of the rise and becoming” (Press Release as translated by Lutz Kirchner, September 8, 2012).

As for New York, is there cultural recall on the occasion of the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street? Yes, there were protests, yes, there were arrests. However, there was also artistic rendition of occupy in New York in the Broadway rendition of cheerleader movie Bring It On; in the revised and reconstructed Broadway show, an “evil” and manipulative wealthy suburban cheerleader named “Eva” (played with delicious delinquency by Elle McLemore) triumphantly (and deliberately politically incorrectly) cries out “I am the 1 %!”  As for the audience, it collapsed with laughter – at the 1%, not as part of it, and plot development clearly constructed Eva as the malefactor.

Occupy Wall Street has become indelibly inked into the mainstream presence of arts and performance institutions – no disrespect to Andrew Ross Sorkin, but this reflects format, not fizzle.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, New York, where she was named the SGA Faculty Member of the Year for 2011/2012. She writes about criminal law, criminal justice, visual sociology, culinary culture, theater and the arts and historical matters, among other things. Her first book, “Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America:  The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate,” (Greenwood Press) came out in September 2012.  She can be reached at DemetraPappas@yahoo.com and followed on Twitter @DemetraPappas.

SFC Lectures By and About Radical and Progressive Women

Nickie Phillips

The St. Francis College Institute for Peace and Justice & the Women’s Studies Center are pleased to announce their Fall 2012 Senior Citizens Lecture series. The series is devoted to lectures by and about radical and progressive women and will feature topics such as women and poverty, women and science, women and representations of fundamentalist Islam, and incarcerated mothers. For the month of September, the lectures will feature the following:

On September 11, Emily Horowitz, professor of sociology, will speak on “Women and the 2012 Election.”

On September 25, Bettina Aptheker, political activist, feminist, professor and author, will speak on her life as a pioneering activist in the Free Speech and Women’s Movements.

The lectures will be held at

St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY

Tuesdays at 11:10am in Room 4202

The lectures are free and open to the public.