Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) presents Occupy Bay Area

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) presents Occupy Bay Area, an exhibition on view July 7–October 14, 2012.

R. Black, 2011 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)

Occupy Bay Area is designed as a multi-layered experience of actual events. The creative activities of the artists in the exhibition inform our understanding of the power of the visual arts to convey political messages and intent. The San Francisco Bay Area’s unique role in this visual culture is not only impressive, but also moving in its commitment and exemplary ability to express and record the Occupy movement’s significant contribution to progressive politics in the United States. In response to Occupy, many artists and documentarians have created works that visually express the unique qualities of this widespread action. In particular, Occupy Bay Area focuses on the manifestation of the movement in the Bay Area and its commitment to direct democratic process and resistance as expressed in political posters; its representation in photojournalism; as well as several key historical precedents for protests. In addition, we include several projects by contemporary artists representative of the spirit of the Occupy movement.

The Occupy movement has demonstrated a unique 21st century approach to progressive activism. For this exhibition Yerba Buena Center for the Arts focuses on four aspects of the movement that we found particularly compelling. 1) Encampment, as it has proved to be an effective way to spatially localize collective action and a compelling site for the broadcast of dissent. 2) The direct democracy of the general assembly, as it is a display of a collectively-driven, rather than leader-oriented, approach to organizational decision making. 3) The demands/no demands strategy, which denied to make visible or materialize specific sets of actions, as has been the convention of past protest movements. 4) The self-organizing social structure of the Occupy movement, as a curious amalgam of the Paris Commune of 1871, where people of diverse classes came together to create a council sensitive to the needs of workers and the power of the public sphere as a form of political agency; and as a manifestation of aspects of the hippie communes of the 1960s, where there is a partial dissolution of private property and a concerted effort to share food, lodging, and other resources in a specific localized geographic space.

We pay special tribute to the role that Bay Area artists have played in giving voice to the 99% and utilizing art as an effective vehicle for social change. Impressively, various political poster artists devote their talents to messaging the politics and culture of the movement by creating iconic images—designs that become a symbol of community, are a call to action, or announce an upcoming event. Represented in over 50 posters by twenty-five Bay Area graphic artists, these works carry forward the region’s long tradition as a leader in political struggles. The exhibition also includes visual material from a sampling of significant political struggles located in the Bay Area where claiming space played an important role for making political change. To further expand the discourse central to the Occupy movement, works by six Bay Area contemporary artists are also on view. Their works in painting, photography, and video resonate with the themes, desires, and strategies of the movement. This exhibition is not meant to represent a fully executed social history, but is a testament to the power of images to evoke the emotional expression of popular and widespread sentiments.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
701 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94103 USA

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