Ariela Azoulay teaches political thought and visual culture at Brown University.
Her website can be found here.
Since then, when sometimes against all chances / Opportunity appears on the horizon / Citizens have not given up / The possibility of imagining another life / Once in a while they re-emerge and declare: / Without us there is no body politic; only an idea on paper.
The sovereign language usually manages to subdue the inner syntax of civil language so that it is interpreted mainly as a series of goal-oriented actions whose meaning is construed to lie within the hegemonic political language. By restricting our understanding of revolution to national contexts, by associating it directly with well-defined goals and particular results, history, and political discourse since the end of the 18th century has delayed the emergence of a civil language according to which revolutionary history could appear as a single, albeit interrupted, campaign.
Jeff Wall, Citizen, 1996, black-and-white photograph, 71 1/4 x 92 1/8".
The man sleeping in a public park in Jeff Wall's Citizen, 1996, represents an act of criticism, a transgression of borders, an inspiring example of both potential and practical citizenship. Ever since seeing Wall's photograph at Documenta 10 in 1997, whenever I see anyone asleep in a public park-whether someone homeless or someone, like the man in this image, who looks like he or she has a home to go to-I cannot help thinking of him or her as claiming a share in a public space. And if citizens can assert their right to sleep in public, they can also rebel against a sign prohibiting the erection of tents, such as the one that addresses visitors to Manhattan's Zuccotti Park.