Occupy (Berlin) Biennale: While overlooking the protest pit of Occupy Biennale with Martin Zet, at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, during the 7th Berlin Biennale, I had an epiphany.


After decades of mulling the merits of various forms of political (action) protest, and finding no viable means that suited my personal disposition, I have finally recognized an approach that sprouted from the seed that had been lying dormant in my mind since the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. I have never been enamored with the noisy march or rally, or the simple demonstration of moral anger, as a political tool. I have always been interested in the value of Instrumental Power. The noisy march or rally is a valid means to express moral anger or outrage with genuine passion. Political protest strategies, however, that exploit instrumental levers can play a much more certain role in achieving a desired result, or in accomplishing the core purpose that arose from the need to protest, in the first place. The use of instrumental leversis a means by which the concrete aims of social protest may actually be achieved.


We must learn the lesson that lies in the logic that governs the enunciation of the problem, which will lead to its successful realization. When a problem is properly stated it inevitably finds a solution. Lets examine Le Corbusier’s analysis in the example of the airplane: “The airplane shows us that a problem well stated finds its solution. To wish to fly like a bird is to state the problem badly. To invent a flying machine, that is to say, search for a means of suspension in the air and a means of propulsion, was to put the problem properly: in less than ten years the whole world could fly.”The problem properly stated is not “how do I protest,” it is “how do I end the offending behaviors?”


My epiphany was an awakening to something that had been seen before. It was the sensing and conversion of data into an instrumental form, based on a sudden understanding that the strategy of the Nonviolent Movement as a heavy-handed but deft use of economic levers, represented a powerful means by which human’s may be motivated to alter their behaviors. This implies a position of power that lies in its relationship to the crucial ability to effect what sustains the necessity of one’s existence (money Ö food Ö status), because the human being will move in relation to these necessities faster than in the pursuit of ideology.


The Occupy movement went global after the protests against Wall Street in 2011. During the World Economic Forum (WEF) in January 2012, at the mountain resort of Davos, Switzerland, protestors camped in igloos to bring their argument for global economic reform to the super-rich "1 percent.” For the members of the Occupy WEF movement, the analysis and target of their protest was the same as the one against Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street was a leaderless movement of people from many different backgrounds. Hundreds of people camped out at Zuccotti Park, in New York City, sleeping on mattresses and in makeshift tents to demonstrate against the excesses of the financial industry and what they described as a broken capitalist system. The analysis of the protest was that a small percentage of the world owns and controls the global economy. The slogan of the protest was:“we are the 99 percent.” This strategy was much smarter than that of the radicals of the 1960s, who were committed to the crazy notion of violent revolution. The Occupy movement recognized the power in nonviolent action. The 7th Berlin Biennale (2012) staged its own (ersatz) Occupy movement, called Occupy Biennale – which was a curator created live performance/installation hybrid artwork.


Occupy Biennale was the tragic epitome of Critical Theory culture gone awry once again. The result of which was a ridiculous tragicomedy. It was an absurdist use of institutional power to explore role fulfillment, fate, and the theatricality of cultural politics. The Occupy Biennale protesters were invited into the belly of the beast, by the institution itself, and were quickly trapped within its metafictional conceit. The protesters were successfully cut off from their metaphysical bearings; all their actions became senseless, absurdist and theatrical. The inevitable consequence was the devaluation of their ideals and purpose.


The Berlin Biennale is organized by KW Institute for Contemporary Art and funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation).


Liberals in general, as apposed to radicals, are frightened by upheaval. This observation goes to the root of the problem. Time and again, we are subjected to these so-called radical art world hipsters, who use institutional power to stage ersatz art world rebellions. The art world hipster and his fake authority defying stunts, only pretends to be a progressive with radical views on political, economic, and social reform. A true reformist rebels against the self-perpetuating conceits of the opinion-making organs of cultural authority, when the prevailing norm is obsolete and or cannot be justified on moral grounds. Progressive Liberalism is not just sex, drugs, and Rock n’ Roll - it involves real world insights that are a necessary confrontation with the status quo. The true cause of liberal impotence is the fear that there might be an evolution of movement towards actual concrete political action. This is part of the problem with the Liberal ethos: unlike Neoconservatism, it makes a big show, but never coalesces around “instrumental” power.