Occupy as Form: Kate Mattingly

The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is sponsoring the working session “Occupy as Form” on February 10, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Kate Mattingly, graduate student in Theater, Dance & Performance Studies at UC Berkeley.

Keyword: Architecture
Defined as a way of making visible, of bringing people and structures into relation with one another and with particular landscapes.

Different from keywords that may refer to specific environments — settlement, place —  architecture encompasses the design, dissemination, and evolution of structures. It also acknowledges interactions between people and spaces, reciprocal relations and flows. The Occupy movement animates spaces. Bodies and places produce architectural forms that are flexible, generative, and resistant. Architecture is creative problem-solving: floating tents.
Source: http://boingboing.net/2011/11/18/ufo-unidentified-flying-occup.html
In the New York Times, Michael Kimmelman uses the phrase “an architecture of consciousness” to describe the coordination of information through Zuccotti Park during a mic check. Prevented from using megaphones, those gathered at general assemblies repeat the words of the speaker, line by line, through the crowd. Kimmeleman quotes Jay Gaussoin who says the process is slow and “it requires an architecture of consciousness.”

Kimmelman ends the article: “The occupation of the virtual world along with Zuccotti Park is of course jointly propelling the Occupy Wall Street movement now, and neither would be so effective minus the other. That said, on the ground is where the protesters are building an architecture of consciousness.”

Architecture not only describes links between people who gather, it also binds physical and virtual. Images from the ground are mobilized. They show up on screens and in conversation. People intertwined with structures or arms linked to form blockades. Bodies becoming architecture; their arrangement triggers thoughts about social strata.

Source: Kent Porter, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 2011
How are places of protest expanded by distributed images?

Do they function architecturally as mobile design and document?

Source: Anda Chu / Oakland Tribune / MCT

In his article “Blows Against the Empire,” Ted Purves describes the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) “a concept developed by the scholar Hakim Bey as a way to envision the contemporary possibilities for social resistance and freedom…. Bey speculates that spaces of freedom, or autonomy, must arise spontaneously in locations that present themselves in the moment so that they cannot be predicted and undermined by the pressure of societal forces.” (from What we want is free)

Can these zones be considered as flexible structures that mobilize people and generate impact? How are they then transformed through images and discourse? As architecture incorporates different formats, what are the varied manifestations that reproduce these protests?

David Harvey in “The Party of Wall Street Meets its Nemesis”: “collective power of bodies in public space is still the most effective instrument of opposition when all other means of access are blocked.”

How have these places been transported, made known, made visible, and made to matter? The architecture of the Occupy movement – its structures, designs, and dissemination — has transformed unknown spaces, unheard voices into vivid images and conversation.
Source: AP Photo, Kent Porter, Santa Rosa Press Democrat

One thought on “Occupy as Form: Kate Mattingly

  • Seth Holmes

    Thank you for your thought-provoking post. It strikes me that Judith Butler’s FRAMES OF WAR might converse well with your ideas on the transportation of places through architecture.

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