Strike Art

Strike Art:Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition

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The collision of activism and contemporary art, from the Seattle protests to Occupy and beyond

What is the relation of art to the practice of radical politics today? Strike Art explores this question through the historical lens of Occupy, an event that had artists at its core. Precarious, indebted, and radicalized, artists redirected their creativity from servicing the artworld into an expanded field of organizing in order to construct of a new—if internally fraught—political imaginary set off against the common enemy of the 1%. In the process, they called the bluff of a contemporary art system torn between ideals of radical critique, on the one hand, and an increasing proximity to Wall Street on the other—oftentimes directly targeting major art institutions themselves as sites of action.

Tracking the work of groups including MTL, Not an Alternative, the Illuminator, the Rolling Jubilee, and G.U.L.F, Strike Art shows how Occupy ushered in a new era of artistically-oriented direct action that continues to ramify far beyond the initial act of occupation itself into ongoing struggles surrounding labor, debt, and climate justice, concluding with a consideration of the overlaps between such work and the aesthetic practices of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Art after Occupy, McKee suggests, contains great potentials of imagination and action for a renewed left project that are still only beginning to ripen, at once shaking up and taking flight from the art system as we know it.

Reviews

  • This irrepressibly vibrant page-turner is the first art historical reading of Occupy Wall Street, and a canny account of politically engaged art before, during and after the events of 2011. I’m tempted to call it the sequel to Artificial Hells, but this would do a disservice to its enthusiastic approach to activism. No left melancholia here—just a powerful commitment to the liberatory horizon of both progressive art and politics.

    Claire Bishop, author of Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship
  • Strike Art is, above all, a book of cultural documentation, one that relives the events and “ethical spectacle” of a radical political moment that seems to be giving way, in the usual manner, to a pursuit of electoral success rather than wholesale reform. The art that McKee discusses is often transient by design, produced by collectives or anonymous bodies, and distributed freely or slyly entered into the circulation systems of the culture at large.

    Harper's
  • Strike Art is written by someone who was directly involved in the day-to-day organizing work of [Occupy Wall Street], and who continues to participate in the movement’s afterlife. McKee’s book is therefore replete with granular information about the ambitious, and sometimes ambiguous, revolt of the 99%, details that other commentators can only address in a second-hand manner. In this sense he aligns his writing with Walter Benjamin’s well-known directive that authors become producers with a 'tendentious' tilt towards working class struggles.

    E-flux