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Thousands of people took part in a peaceful protest as part of Occupy Toronto on Oct. 15, 2011. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Thousands of people took part in a peaceful protest as part of Occupy Toronto on Oct. 15, 2011. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

CULTURE

Artists of all kinds carry the torch for the Occupy movement Add to ...

From composer Philip Glass to punk’s Joe Keithley, musicians have been on-side with Occupy, as have actors (Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon), filmmakers (Michael Moore, Paul Haggis) and other artists. But if Occupy feels so 2011, guess again: Creative types are among those keeping the spirit of the protest alive – including calls to action starting Friday.

And ... Action!: Occupy The Cinemas

Fresh on the heels of Oscar’s who-are-you-wearing decadence comes a call to Occupy the Cinemas this Friday. U.S. film journalist/critic Anthony Kaufman is asking moviegoers to reject the overpriced popcorn, the violence-packed action flicks and the clichéd romcom happy endings that have padded the overstuffed wallets of the Beverly Hills and Malibu 1 per cent. He’s calling for a Day of Action, where the art house triumphs over the multiplex, and audiences usher in a new age of cinema by choosing an independent film over the weekend’s big studio releases – Project X and The Lorax.

Now, skipping Project X – a movie from the guy behind The Hangover, whose posters promise “The Party You’ve Only Dreamed About” – seems completely consistent with Occupy values. But The Lorax? We’re supposed to boycott Dr. Seuss’s poetic tree-hugging lament, which shames the evil, capitalist, tree-chopping Once-ler? On what would have been the author’s 108th birthday? But who, we ask, will speak for the trees? On the other hand, perhaps Dr. Seuss would have understood. After all, he’s the guy who wrote (in The Lorax – natch): “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

The Drama: Occupy Paprika

If you hung around any Occupy site, you know that there was a fair bit of dialoguing going on. (Ever attend the daily general assembly?) So imagine all the material playwright Rosamund Small has to work with for Performing Occupy, a verbatim piece based on her documentation of Toronto’s St. James Park Occupy site: interviews, speeches, and stuff she overheard. A cast including R.H. Thomson, Susan Coyne, Martin Julien and Charlotte-Corbeil Coleman perform a reading of this work-in-progress at Occupy Paprika: Celebrate the 99, staged by Toronto’s Paprika Festival, which features the work of emerging and very young (21 and under) artists. The reading March 9 at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space in Toronto follows a panel discussion about art and its ability to effect change.

Museum Peace: End the Whitney Biennial

If you’re 99 per cent sure that a prestigious art exhibition such as the Whitney Biennial benefits artists and those who work in the art field, Occupy Wall Street’s Arts & Labour working group would like to enlighten you. The group is calling for an end to the Biennial in 2014, particularly upset with its sponsorship by Sotheby’s, which locked out its unionized art handlers last year. It’s also unhappy with the Whitney’s planned move to the Meatpacking District, once an affordable Manhattan enclave populated by artists, and now a gentrified neighbourhood out of most artists’ reach. “We object to the biennial in its current form because it upholds a system that benefits collectors, trustees, and corporations at the expense of art workers,” reads part of a letter posted last week, days before the opening of the Whitney’s 2012 Biennial. It goes on: “The Whitney Museum, with its system of wealthy trustees and ties to the real estate industry, perpetuates a model in which culture enhances the city and benefits the 1 per cent of our society while driving others into financial distress.”

The Soundtrack: Occupy This Album

Leave it to Occupy to put Yoko Ono, Willie Nelson, Tom Morello and Devo on the same album (along with Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Ani DiFranco, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, Crosby and Nash, Joan Baez, Loudon Wainwright III and many others). Imagine! But protests – like politics – can make for strange bedfellows. And so we get Occupy This Album: A Compilation of Music By, For and Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the 99%, to be released this spring. The four-disc set (with, of course, 99 digitally available tracks) is a project of Music for Occupy, with proceeds going to “the needs of sustaining this growing movement.” But it is “in no way, shape or form endorsed by the Arts or Music Working Groups at Occupy Wall St., nor by the movement as a whole.”

The Label: Occupation Records

If the term “record label” brings to mind the music-industry excess of weird backstage riders and trashed hotel rooms, consider this endeavour: Occupation Records is raising money online to establish a record label by and for the 99 per cent, with profits going to Occupy London and occupations across the United Kingdom and Ireland. All you need to do to get your name “immortalized on the Occupation Records website” is contribute at least one British pound. If you think it’s rubbish, consider the heft of some of the would-be label’s backers, such as artist Jamie Reid, long associated with the Sex Pistols. The label’s first album, Folk the Banks (say it out loud, with a British accent) will be released this spring, with tracks from Billy Bragg, Morello, DiFranco and others.

The Visuals: WS2MS

Think of it as a tightening of the Borscht belt, because this sure doesn’t feel like the good-times Catskills immortalized in Dirty Dancing. The vacant storefronts of the small town of Catskill’s Main Street tell a tale of recession and despair. But they’ll come to life this month, with more than 50 visual art exhibitions, performances, workshops and panel discussions in an exhibition called Wall Street to Main Street. Facilitated by Occupy With Art (which is connected to the OWS movement), the show opens March 17. Expect images from the Occupy protests, the Arab Spring, and even some Cancon. Toronto-based graffiti artist Joel Richardson (who made headlines last year when a mural the City of Toronto commissioned him to paint was erased as part of Mayor Rob Ford’s anti-graffiti campaign – oops) will conduct an outdoor workshop for teens to learn about stencil painting using his “collection of copyright-free images and symbols.”

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