Monday, May 14, 2012

On The Davis Dozen & Political Poetry

The Davis Dozen (also called referred by some as the Bankers Dozen) are a group of 11 students and one Professor from UC Davis that received arrest notices weeks after they participated in a sit-down protest outside a U.S. Bank branch located on their campus.  The bank decided to close that particular branch and now the university is trying to get this group to face misdemeanor charges of conspiracy and blocking a public entrance.

Those who have been paying attention to the Occupy movement might remember that UC Davis was the site of the infamous attack by campus police on students using pepper spray.  In fact, some of the same students who were pepper-sprayed, are part of the Davis Dozen.  So, this is actually a case where the university is trying to set an example of students and faculty by criminalizing dissent.

I write about this on my blog, not only because more people need to know about this, but because the professor--who is facing prison time (along with the students)--is a poet, who has actually been doing some good work writing about poetry and politics.  First check out his piece, "Spring Georgic" that was recently published in the Lana Turner Journal, and ends like this: "why would we not call these/ the possessed/ green and gold in the springtime/ in March and in April and in May/ especially in late March/ seize the banks"

Then, there is this wonderful essay co-written by Clover and fellow Poet Juliana Spahr where they talk about being poets and activists--at different times, and at the same time!  A short excerpt here:

We suspect as well that more poets couldn't find jobs or pay debts than has been true in the near past. In this we suspect they are like those who are not poets. And from this unemployed and debt-steeped position, we are even so bold as to believe, more poets thought seriously about making massive, substantive changes than they have in the past few years, changes in how society is arranged regarding things like jobs and debts and jails. Then they stood at moments together and at moments alone and talked about this on the steps of various public plazas some holding megaphones and some holding the microphone from an unpermitted amplification system and some using their voices which then got echoed by the others. Some stood in the crowd or went marching down streets holding cardboard signs with pithy and poetic phrases written on them with a Sharpie. And for the most part they did not call it poetry even as they knew a great deal of the thinking and the motivation that got them there came from being a poet. And even as they did this standing or this marching in the supportive presence of other poets, in spaces made possible by other poets.
Visit the groups website and keep up to date with their case.  They recently rejected a plea deal and a a new court date has been set for June 1.  More recently, the New York Daily News ran a piece on Clover and the case he and the rest of Davis Dozen are facing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Recommended: May '12 Issue of Juxtapoz

I haven't been excited to look at--much less read--an entire issue of Juxtapoz magazine since March of 2011 when they had a cover story of Emory Douglas, (the Black Panther Party's Minister of Culture). But the current issue on the stands is the "Public Art Issue" which features, (besides four different covers), great photos and interviews of some of the biggest street artists working today.

There's also articles written by the artists themselves. For instance, El Mac, who starts off an essay about murals with a quote from one of the great Mexican muralists, Jose Clemente Orozco: "The highest, most logical, purest and most powerful type of painting is mural painting. It is also the most disinterested, as it cannot be converted into an object of personal gain nor can it be concealed for the benefit of a few privileged people. It is for the people. It is for everybody." And then there's this quote from the introduction of Ron English's article where he talks about his long-time involvement with public art:
"Most of the public art that I've done in my career was unsanctioned. So for me, public art means street art, which is DIY, immediate, unfiltered, non-paying, physically and legally risky, and sometimes resulting in situations unplanned for and out of control. I seem to have an innate ability to generate imagery that pisses people off. Combine that with a penchant for putting it on the street and what you have is a life of constant trouble with periods of great delight."

Other great pieces in this issue include the profile piece on Swoon, an artist known for taking her beautiful wheat pastes and highly creative "out-stallations" all over the world: from Brooklyn to Sao Paulo, Brazil; from New Orleans to Haiti; from San Francisco's Mission District and back again. You can tell she has a lot of love for the planet and loves to engage with all kinds of people. The interview with L.A. graffiti artists Saber and Revok is also good, as it spends much time speaking on the criminalization of graffiti artists (mostly youth), and the constant harassment from police and city government.

But, my favorite article is the profile on JR, a french artist who also travels the world trying to utilize art for social change an has gone to many different places like Brazil, Palestine, South Africa to wheat paste giant sized portraits of regular people that seem to bring out their humanity. "When I'm in the streets and I paste, I have to talk to people, so that's why it's easy for me to talk and paste because that's what I do, working in the streets everyday. I have to explain it to folks. I love people, and I love exchanging, and those projects are a great way to learn about people and ask them questions about their story and really learn about their conflicts," he said in the interview.

If you only buy one issue of Juxtapoz a year, make sure this is the one!

[UPDATE: Some stores have already removed this issue from the stands and have replaced it with the new June issue. However, you can still order this issue online].