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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Norman Nawrocki on Occupy Montreal Culture Committee

by Norman Nawrocki
   Who says last Fall’s international runaway hit ‘Occupy!’ was a one-shot production?
   Not activist actors and artists in Montreal who are about to catapult some collaborative creative action onto the local Occupy Movement stage.
   About 30 writers, designers, theatre people, film makers, musicians, poets and performance artists from across the city responded enthusiastically February 17th to an open invitation by a few local artist/activists who felt it was time to come together and establish a new, formal, open ‘Arts & Culture Committee’ to support and participate in Occupy Montreal.
Participants talked about the need for better, bigger, livelier visuals, about how to ‘occupy’ the media

  Last Fall, local artists contributed sporadically as individuals to Occupy Montreal, with everything from street theatre and live music to a ‘Poet’s Corner,’ film screenings and ‘Surveillance Cameras by the 99%’ installations. But there was no clear infra-structure or space for anyone from the arts to meet each other and collaborate as a group or as individual disciplines. 
   At this first Arts & Culture Committee meeting which included representatives from Montreal’s original Occupy Movement, participants engaged in a wide-ranging discussion about how actors and other artists can organize themselves and contribute to the radical agenda. 
  Among the topics discussed: how creative actions can help promote the Occupy ideas; how the arts can be used to raise public awareness of the issues; how to enlarge the network of artists and other creative people who want to be involved; how to make links with ongoing Occupy Montreal groups in diverse neighbourhoods; how to express indignation as artists about current affairs; how to link up with community groups, striking students and other social groups who continue to organize and protest in the streets, and more.
   Participants talked about the need for better, bigger, livelier visuals, about how to ‘occupy’ the media, how to make the general public part of performances, the importance of sharing existing resources, how to occupy other public space with a critical arts presence, actions equivalent to bright, colourful, noisy processionals in different neighbourhoods to ‘reclaim the commons,’ and contributing to ongoing cultural events and festivals as Occupy Movement artists.
   A proposal was launched for a first organizational meeting (February 23rd) to plan a ‘Creative Retreat/Seminar about the New Paradigm,’ inspired by a similar initiative (‘The Crisis of Everything Everywhere’) by artists and thinkers from New York’s 16 Beaver Street group. 
   This would review the lessons learned from the past Occupy Movement activities and plan for the future. It would cover broad cultural topics like ‘Cultures of Resistance, Resistances of Culture,’ the cultural shifts necessary to refuse the corporatization of public institutions, including institutions of art, and what are cultures of the commons. Other proposals were launched for collaborative actions during Montreal’s Nuit Blanche.
A second meeting of the Arts & Culture Committee / Occupy Montreal is planned for Friday March 2nd, 4521 rue St-Jacques, just west of the St-Henri Métro, 5pm to 7pm. All theatre artists, allies and creative peeps are welcome. For more information for the moment, please contact either Johanne Chagnon or Norman Nawrocki: 
For more information about artists in the Occupy Wall Street movement:

The Occupy Montréal website : 

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