Sunday, November 7, 2010

Peaceful Uprising and performance that matters

I haven't been that into art of late. I've spent a lot of time being underwhelmed, not feeling that lifting feeling of inspiration that got me into this world of expression in the first place. When I think of communicating the importance of expression I get disdainful, failing to see how expression for expression's sake can do anything more than provide a consumptive market with MORE. NEW. STUFF.

This perspective forgets, of course, the huge power that comes with expression. The power to awaken people, to make things clear, to teach and spread truths in the hope of a better world.

And what a better way than to be reminded of that by Peaceful Uprising.

If you aren't familiar, Peaceful Uprising is a group "committed to defending a livable future through empowering nonviolent action." They're Utah based, and (quite effectively) sprang up around the case of Tim DeChristopher, who used direct action as an attempt to block illegal land auctions in southern Utah, an action which in part led to the government realizing its mistake and dissolving the agreements Tim was disputing. Tim is still being held on federal trial, however.

The trial has been posponed multiple times, it becomes clearer and clearer that the prosecution is unwilling to allow Tim to make a case for himself while he holds a media spotlight. So he and Peaceful Uprising decided to hold the trial themselves. In public. With puppets. And excellent, directly political dialoge that provides specific ideas and actions to take in its commentary.

I went to the Exchange Place Plaza last Friday to film the performance. Here're some highlights:

You can see the entire half-hour long performance here. I'd suggest checking it out, there's a ton of informative stuff about how we got into the current state of affairs. The performance outlines how corporate power came to weigh so heavily in the civic domain, and what we can do about it.

So what we have here is art. Street theater. It may not be as polished and perfected as the majority of gallery shows out there right now, but it has something most of them do not: Direct, actionable content. I'm sick of vague dithering, and very happy this group is working hard to awaken people to their options in the face of vast environmental injustice.


Elaine said...

the intersection of art and activism is, in my opinion, the most wonderful, though-provoking, and beautiful place in the world.

coming at it from the activist end of things, there are truths and convictions that i hold about people, society, rights, oppression, communities, and so much more. arguing these convictions in an environment where political banter is mind-numbing and conviction itself can be something of a bad word (understandably) is incredibly frustrating.

as an un-artsy activist, when people can put the passion that i know we have into something as beautiful or disturbing or mobilizing as art... i am amazed and grateful and so happy that art exists in our world.

Davey D said...

Huh. Thanks 'Lainers. I need to work it all out in my head as well. I am attracted to contribute to venues where the discourse is so VERY boring but the issues are huge. I want to make it correspondingly compelling, it's difficult though because you have to wade through/process so much shit before you get to the point of output. It takes crazy amounts of stamina and concentration.

Luke Williams said...

Man, this is a scary and wonderful conversation (scary for me, anyway). Studying english and environmental issues at the same time, I get to think a lot about this intersection, and from a critical point of view I think it's fantastic, with real potential to affect culture.

The personal application is where I get lost. If I sit down to write with an activist agenda, what comes out is consistently trite and uninteresting. My better songs often have political underpinnings, when I let my activism emerge from beneath some other narrative or concept, but those songs are often too vague to spread a message, at least in the way this kind of performance does. Plus, to explore this space as a songwriter, I've committed myself to a means of expression that is, at times, for expression's sake. To do that with integrity, I have to believe that there's a purpose for that craft, even when it's not political, beyond inundating the consumer market with more things to consume. Maybe it's not true, I don't know. But the alternative frightens me.

Peaceful Uprising did this wonderfully though, and the puppets are beautiful. And you spreading the word through film makes you a part of all this too, my friend. You may be attracted to contributing to influential-but-boring venues, but you're also an artist. You're helping to break down the load-bearing walls of this crumbling structure from multiple pressure points, with multiple tools, and for that I salute you!

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