This coming Wednesday, January 11, Arts and Culture groups from Occupy movements around the country will have the chance to meet over the phone. In a national conference call planned for 10pm EST, the groups will introduce themselves, propose projects and join forces on plans for the future of Occupy. With arts groups in nearly every Occupy base, the possibility of what they can accomplish together seems limitless, if they can organize effectively. Possibly the next step could also be to use social media platforms like Google+ Hangouts to connect with groups in other states.
With Interoccupy, a site that connects working groups and General Assemblies across Occupations, several groups have hooked up through conference calls. Using MaestroConference technology, the groups are able to take votes and break out into smaller groups during the call. January 11 will be the first in a series of conference calls that focus specifically on Occupy’s Arts and Culture groups.
I caught up with two of the organizers of the call, Gan Golan and Janelle T, to hear more about what inspired them to begin this project and how they plan to facilitate a conference call with 60+ people!
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Liza Eliano: What do you hope to accomplish with this nationwide conference call?
Janelle T: Initially we sent a wide call for Occupy Artists to fill out a survey asking what they would want to achieve through a national call with other artists. More than 60 artists from 32 different Occupy sites filled out the survey and the arts planning committee took those responses and designed the call to meet the most common objectives put forth, which are: To learn about what other Occupy artists are doing, to collaborate on and coordinate creative actions and art projects nationally and internationally, to share resources, skills, ideas, successful strategies and lessons learned and to maximize the power and impact of the occupy messaging.
We are also working with Gan to connect the call to his wonderful website, ArtIsMyOccupation.org which provides resources to Occupy artists and will house some of the things that come out of the national calls.
Gan Golan: Occupy has given birth to an entirely new arts movement, which includes traditional media like posters, music and performance, but it also has great things like giant puppets, flashmobs and bat signals.
It’s a very innovative space, but art is measured by its ability to inspire and mobilize people to take action, not just sit on a wall looking pretty. The Occupy art movement not only includes thousands of artists but a number of new Occupy institutions to showcase, distribute and support this work. It’s creating a virtuous between artists working in occupations, taking their work to the streets, then putting things on line so that others can see it, even download it, and go back out into the streets with it.
There is no central place where this is coming from. It’s just organically emerging everywhere, and people are organizing automously to create their own infrastructure to meet the need, and support others.
LE: How did the idea for this conference call come about?
JT: InterOccupy has been hosting national calls in a number of different thematic areas. Many of us artists, it turned out, were thinking along similar lines and we came together to form the InterOccupy Arts Call Planning Committee.
I contacted InterOccupy about working with us to create a regular national arts call and they’ve been helping us learn the conference call system and are providing a lot of facilitation and technical support.
GG: Like anything in Occupy, a few folks just started talking, and said “Has anyone done this yet? No? Okay, Let’s do it!”
Previous to this, there have been some really great one-off efforts by arts organizations, but Occupy has now figured out the infrastructure to do it ourselves, and in a regular way. We have the good folks at InterOccupy to thank for that. Janelle and others at Occupy DC got the ball rolling long before I joined on.
Of course, the conversation we were having, about bringing artists within Occupy together, is also happening in many other places within Occupy simultaneously. All we hope to do is help weave some of those threads together, and connect artists to each other. There is so much energy and inspiration that has been unleashed, artists are clamoring to work together. For many this will mean collaborating locally, but we can also collaborate on a massive, nationwide scale, conducting participatory art projects that happen in 100 localities at once. That’s now possible, and people are thinking Big. People are now just as much a part of the art as brushes and paint. And since Occupy is a global movement, we are working on huge canvas.
LE: How many people do you expect to be on the call, and how will the meeting be organized so everyone’s voice is heard?
JT: So far, 61 people have registered for the call. With the conference call system that InterOccupy uses, there are a lot of functions that allow us to be very participatory and to have more in depth discussions.
The first call is dedicated to exploring the Occupy arts landscape, looking at what projects and resources are out there. We will have a large part of the call focused on letting folks present the art projects they are working on, we then will be breaking into small group discussions around specific themes and questions (which we will be gathering by survey ahead of time to see where participants’ interests lay).
It’s fabulous that we have the capability to do that with InterOccupy’s call system! It gives opportunities for different levels of participation and it allows us to have more meaningful collaborative interactions through each call.
GG: I defer to Janelle on that one, but really, you never know how many people until the last minute. Everyone in Occupy is working so hard, it’s always down to the wire.
Once it gets over 50 people or so, you don’t have time for everyone to talk on a single call unless you have a few hours, but a lot can be accomplished in breakout groups within each call. InterOccupy has found a way to replicate the openness of the GA system on a conference call, using the Maestro system. This first call is really just an introduction, so if not everyone speaks this time around there will be more opportunities for more voices to be heard. For right now, we all just want to get to know each other, and understand the landscape we are creating so we can collaborate on a larger level.
Also, the planning process is totally open, so the themes and structure of future calls will be decided by whoever wants to participate.
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The nationwide Occupy Arts and Culture conference call will take place on Wednesday January 11, 2012 at 7pm PST/ 10pm EST. To register for the call, click here.