Gabriel Doss | Monica Garcia | Crow Jonah Norlander | Julian Park | [Tracy Szatan]
Ellen Cushing (Brown Daily Herald) 12/13/2009 7:07:49 "Mostly, I'm just wondering who you are."
We are self-aware. We are morons. We are the ones who sexiled you last night. FML. We are occupational. We are occupied. We are occupying. We like this. We are listeners, blunt-heads, fly-ladies, and prisoners. We have the swine. We are the sinus infections.
We are the questions never asked. We are grateful that we are not our grandfathers and our grandmothers. We doubt that anyone really has the ability to stand up for anything. We are standing up. We are contradictory. We are sad that we are not our grandmothers and grandfathers. We are tired of working. We are old enough to hang ourselves. We are the children of celebrities. We are orphans. We are young enough to leave this place forever. We hope we are remembered. We are not old enough to drink. We are capital.
We are the extension you asked for. We are nonsensical. We are elite. We are tired of working. We are S/NC. We mourn for those outside these ivy walls who work and shouldn't have to. We aren't bad people. We are bad actors. We are addicts. We are first generation college students. We are legacies. We are terrified. We are Ol' Dirty Bastard. We are the entire Wu-Tang Clan. We aren't anything to fuck with. We are $3000 in debt this semester. We need to graduate. We have not slept in three days. We are the stench in the Sci- Li. We are worried about home. We are not on top of our shit. We are all over your shit. We speak in tired metaphors. We are tired of speaking and tired of metaphors. We are still searching for a job.
We are the questions never asked. We are asking you to do the same. We are tired of working. We are the system. We won't laugh at all your jokes. We affirm your existence. We are mirrors. We are winning.
WATCH IT HERE.
Our project was initially conceived of as a timely disruption intended to trivialize the importance students give to finals period, grades, education, success, wealth, and so on. Hesitant about following the trend of recent TAZs which have been nearly completely stripped of political significance, we decided to operate in a more subtly pervasive but obviously cause-related way. By generating buzz through the proliferation of stickers and posters in the form of slightly satirical propaganda we hoped to appeal to a craving for mystery. I concerned myself with generating the means of executing this campaign: designing the website, posters, stencils, etc. I also took a bunch of photos as documentation and made slight editorial and creative contributions to the content of our message. Perhaps somewhat more important was the hubbub generated by the coordination of our efforts. Our plan of attack entailed gradual stickering, climaxing in an overnight blanketing of posters, carrying into an unavoidable audio experiment outside of the dining hall as well as a window projection of a video equating the mindlessness with which students approach their academics to the mundane labor of a factory worker. Whether we eat a meal, take a nap, work out, study, all of it is contributing to our ability to remain within the system that is benefitting from our labor and that promises to contribute to our lucrative future. Our message is clearly idealistic and is largely intended to shake people up a bit, which appears to have been successful based on the responses we've observed. As is to be expected, many people become defensive when they are told that their efforts are being appropriated for an objectionable purpose. In the process of formulating our project we made sure to address what our ideal outcome might look like. We have not intended to punish, but only to provoke, encouraging new ways of conceptualizing the context of what occupies us.
When I first conceived of the general project idea, I knew that what I was interested in was seeing some sort of multi-media intervention against capitalism within the space of the university. The university as knowledge factory/construction site became the grounding metaphor for this intervention. Crow's idea of what amountws to satirical authoritarian posters- KEEP WORKING, KEEP FOCUSED, KEEP IN LINE, etc. I thought was great, especially after the enormous success of a completely apolitical flash mob rave had me questioning the effectiveness of a certain type of disruptive intervention.
At first I wasn't exactly sure what role in the project would be mine - it seemed that the other aspects, website design, video design and documentation, the sound experiment, and sticker/poster design, felt into place with people practiced in these different areas. That said, I did participate in the creation of the stencils that we used to make our large sized posters, the spray painting of those posters, the free printing (yay staples!) of our smaller posters, stickering, and our mass poster deployment.
The general focus of the project having been my suggestion, I ended up more or less (for better for or for worse) being the theorist of the group - putting together the essay that is our homepage's content. In this endeavor, I found much of my inspiration from the political literature emerging from the student occupation movement (linked to on our website), as well as by simply elaborating upon our basic KBB metaphor. I also ended up taking charge of email correspondence with people, the Daily Herald and one other person, contacting us via the website seeking more. Finally, with the help of the group, and Brown's department websites, I compiled an enormous email list and sent out links to our website.
The whole process has been very self-reflective for me, perhaps because of contradictions I perceive between the content of our message and the nature of the project (it was for a class). I still haven't resolved this issue... although perhaps the fact that it was a project that I think would have been good independent of its associations to school "work" is somewhat of a comfort. Or maybe this is the space where work fades into play. In any case, at the risk of sounding trite, or like a broken record, I say it again, with as much seriousness as I can muster:
Stop working, Occupy everything.
During our initial meetings, there were a lot of discussion concerning the accountability of the University to its students and its openness or disclosure with information. The construction sites were the first idea that we had at producing a create of Brown's investments in building versus student's education or more financial need assistance. The construction project that Brown names all of the sites under the banner of "Building Brown." It was from there that we begun to ask the question, "What is Brown Building?" "How is Brown 'Building' Us?" These questions became the driving question in our discussions finally shifting into Brown's role in the production of knowledge and knowledge-producers. What is at stake in such a means of soft control, where there is both an exploitative element, but it is still relatively enjoyable? This is an issue that I wished was addressed in the project more explicitly. However, with the focus on production and the university's modes of production, we decided to make the comparison between the factory and the university.
For my contribution to the group, in the initial stages, I focused on logistics including pricing for the sticker campaign and research into possible sources of funding. After our plan became more solidified, I took part in the postering campaign in the middle of the night, followed by the video documentation of the sound intervention and video installation. I edited those into a concise video. I also was one of the main contributers to the BORF-inspired prose, under the heading, "Who Are We?," found on the website and also an excerpt that was sent via email.
KBB is a critique of capitalism and the University system as a manifestation and a manufacturer of that system.
The KBB campaign incorporates a variety of audio and visual materials to propagate our critique, as well as to motivate students at Brown to reflect about what they are doing here and how the University operates---within our current capitalist society. We began this project, each student interested in employing different media, but with a similar message in mind. We employed postering, video, and soundscapes in the public environment and used those to promote a website (KBB) that included the aforementioned aspects in addition to our statement. All members of our group, including myself, were involved in brainstorming how we wanted to present our message, discussing potential student involvement, autonomous zones, etc.... However, ultimately we decided to focus on a multifaceted approach that would pervade campus so that students would encounter different parts of KeepBuildingBrown throughout their day and into the future. I helped to make stencils and posters and to put those up around campus on Sunday morning. Additionally, I made the video that was projected out of the MCM windows Sunday afternoon and evening, and which is streaming on both youtube and KeepBuildingBrown.com. The video cuts between factory footage from the mid-twentieth century and footage of Brown students "at work," which I shot prior to making the video. The video builds the analogy of university as factory, focusing particularly on the characteristic pressing schedule, clocking in, and repetitive, mechanized, dehumanized individual labor. Students thoughtlessly hurry in and out of the library, "punching in" by swiping their card. The students' hands the dehumanized typing machines that produce piece after piece of product. The multifaceted, multimedia nature of our approach effectively generated intrigue and both positive and negative responses. However, in either case, by prompting students to reflect for a moment, we have had some success. Clearly, we too are implicated in the University system and our message does not outline an alternative to this system. The next step of such a project would be to move beyond disruption and critique to discussion, which we have begun to consider, for example, making others' responses available to the public on the website; and ultimately even more concrete action.
My role in the project was primarily to design the sound. My goal was to create an interruption in a central and social space. The sounds are authoritarian in tone, disorienting, and is an audio detournement.
The audience participated by reacting to the spectacle. Some students passing by frowned. Some asked questions. Some drew direct connections to our project. Some students called the cops. Brown University Department of Public Safety arrived around 1:00pm, about an hour into the project at its peak when most students were on their way to the Ratty. A crowd gathered as they arrived. We conducted the sound experiment twice, once at 12pm again at 7pm.
The sound was set up with the help of a few students who volunteered their lounge and their rooms in Sears House on Wriston quad. One Speaker was centered directly in front of the Sharp Refectory doors. The sound was a loud enough to be heard from George St. The second speak was located at the south end of Wriston, a third was placed in a room in the middle of Wriston, the fourth was placed in a room at the north end of the quad.
The sounds stick to the factory metaphor- machine sounds, office sounds, dark ambience, etc.
There was dark sarcasm and work propaganda audio with Disney's "Whistle While You Work", audio from Charlie Chaplin's film "Work", YouTube "Work Efficiency" seminars.
Finally, there were a series of commands through out the audio. "Keep Working, Keep Focused, Keep on Keeping on" All of which are slogans directly connected with our campaign. The vocals were intentional distorted beyond recognition. The commands are being yelled, to create a tense environment so that each person feels as if they are being yelled at.
The sounds that played on the Quad were intended to annoy. They were intended to politicize the environment. They were also intended to be subliminal and allow people to take a closer look at why they are working and the work they are doing.
Someone on our response page commented on the hackneyed nature out the factory metaphor.
The project is not intended to be a slight to Brown. The sound was intended to beat the factory metaphor to death so that students might realize the absurdity of our occupation in libraries and classes, the futility of working for the sake of working. We protest that we are working to learn, but often we are not. Our statement of "Occupying Everything" is a challenge to the students, to the populace. By blasting this "university factory" interruption, we attempt to very literally occupy this space.
(the below for robots only)
For our class presentation we chose to look into the overnight phenomenon that was http://keepbuildingbrown.com, which appears to have been made by students based on the fact that their manifesto-like main page appears to be addressing us in the first person plural, "we."