CREATIVE TIME: Anuradha Vikram

On October 12, the Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley and the Curatorial Practice at the California College of the Arts are partnering to host a live-streaming of the Creative Time Summit, an annual conference in New York that brings together cultural producers–including artists, critics, writers, and curators–to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. To jump-start the conversation in advance of the event, attendees have been asked to submit a paragraph on a keyword associated with one of the summit themes: Inequities, Occupations, Making, or Tactics. This posting is by Anuradha Vikram, Curator at the Worth Ryder Art Gallery, UC Berkeley.
Keyword: Occupations

What is an Occupation? The word’s connotations are phenomenological, political and cultural in their scope. The Occupy movement has come to symbolize widespread dissatisfaction with the corporatization of democracy throughout the Western World. This dissatisfaction is no doubt shared by many in the Global South, particularly in the large democracies of Brazil and India. Still, we may not see offshoots of the Occupy movement in those countries very soon, where there has been quite enough Occupation already.[i]

What forms does the Occupation take? It is not enough to take and hold property. It is necessary to Occupy the mind. In the Global South, this is perpetuated today by exported Western capitalism and the outsourcing of factory feudalism. Historically, Occupation has come through assimilation of cultural and religious traditions into a “civilizing” norm.[ii]This norm once took the shape of faith in Christ, today it takes the shape of faith in markets.

In North America, Occupation was largely built on genocide, but this is insufficient for its preservation. The Occupation is embedded in both the product and the system of distribution.[iii]Objection to said Occupation places one outside of the mainstream, on the fringes of society. The Occupation is a path to social mobility. What is your Occupation? Preoccupation? How do you Occupy your time?

Our bodies commit their own Occupations in space. “You, you are not me / Me, I am possibly / Everything plus everything that is not me.”[iv] “A thing is a hole in a thing it is not.”[v]In America, we face an obesity epidemic, one faced disproportionately by  the poor and people of color. Yet these downtrodden are the very people whose political agency, even in democracy, is held in limited measure. Lacking health care, the disenfranchised are forced to reckon with their Occupation of their own bodies in the most gruesome of ways. Can Occupation by size be seen as a consequence of the Occupation of land and of mind?[vi]

[i] Michael Parenti: “Imperialism 101”
[ii] Perry Anderson: “Gandhi Center Stage“
[iii] Indian Country Today Media Network: “On Tails of Navajo Controversy, Urban Outfitters Stock Plunges, CEO Resigns”
[iv] Das Racist: “Rainbow in the Dark”
[v] Attributed to Carl Andre by Robert Smithson: “A Thing Is a Hole In a Thing It Is Not.” Artforum, 1970.
[vi] Sara Ahmed: “A Phenomenology of Whiteness”