When we’re “talking politics” we’re talking about power, specifically the power of individuals and structures to make decisions that affect the lives of all of us, often without our input or consent. When we “talk politics” we’re talking about who has this power and benefits from it, and who doesn’t have it this power and is oppressed by it.
What I learned from interviewing our guests for this program on The Bridge is that political performance happens when people go beyond just talking politics and instead gather together in public spaces for the common purpose of focusing on structures and uses of power – whether to solidify power for social change, or to challenge oppressive power structures. People coming together to demand changes in who holds power and often to challenge the power structure itself, perform the idea of resistance in order to achieve social justice.
So the Occupy Movement is basically political performance – groups of people gathering in a public space, performing with our bodily presence the idea that “We are the 99%. We belong here. Pay attention to us. We refuse to be left out. The one percent can’t have it all.”
Of course political performance manifests itself in many ways. Some very effective and exciting ways are discussed on the June 15 broadcast of The Bridge. While both our guests place the Occupy Movement in the long and honorable history of political performance, both men also give us alternative ways of thinking about performance that are unique to Occupy. Traditionally, when we think of performance, we divide people into two groups: the performers, who are active, talking, singing, dancing, and the audience, who just sit there quietly and passively absorb the message of the performers. Both Theater Offensive, with the guerrilla musical 99% Stone, currently on tour in Boston neighborhoods, and John Bell’s examples of political performance in the Occupy Movement, dissolve the barriers between audiences and performers and actively involve all people in the performance of democracy.
Listen to our guests describe political performance and its ability to engage people in enacting democracy in ways that reach beyond just “talking politics.”
You can listen here: