Our Occupations (after the Occupations): with Kathy Westwater

Re-Blogged from Wild Horses on Fire

Something I am wondering about kind of broadly is how your practices might have changed since the beginning of the occupations, if we can mark this beginning in the fall of 2011 (the occupations obviously having their immediate precedent in the Middle East and Europe).

Do you think it may be possible to speak to this a bit? […] Succinctly, in a paragraph or two? Maybe it has had no perceivable effect, which is fine of course, and in which case you might talk about why it is important to maintain what you are doing parallel to (or beyond?) current social movements and political events.


Manhattan skyline behind PARK performers on North Mound at Fresh Kills (credit Marina Zamalin)

By Choreographer Kathy Westwater

When Occupy Wall Street began last year I was deeply entrenched in a creative residency on Staten Island at the Fresh Kills landfill, site and subject of PARK—an interdisciplinary performance project with collaborators Jennifer Scappettone and Seung Jae Lee—as it undergoes a 30-year transformation into a park.

Work on PARK began in 2008 during a residency in California around the time that the first tent cities started cropping up in municipal parks there, and my research immediately began to encompass non-recreational residential behavior in parks.

I was in fact deeply obsessed with the collapsing economy, having spent 2010 doing extensive research to understand the derivatives market, including how we managed collectively to have not known about something so massively detrimental to us all. That research got channeled into the performance/lecture “Deriva-trivia”.

Throughout my time working at Fresh Kills in fall 2011, Wall Street felt very present, like a part of or extension of the landfill. The financialization of the processes of making and doing that feed our global culture of consuming and enable the materialization of monuments to waste, Fresh Kills being the archetype, link the two sites, as well as the fact that one can see downtown Manhattan from Fresh Kills. Unsurprisingly yet still worth noting, one cannot see Fresh Kills from Wall Street.

Work on PARK since April 1 this year has occurred while in residence in a former vault in the basement of 14 Wall Street, a building right across the street from the New York Stock Exchange and around the corner from Zuccotti Park. This former vault has been “occupied” by artists for about five years via the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Swing Space Residency Program.  Read more…