Protest as Performance or Reality?
On December 5, 2005 the Troy Chamber of Commerce organized a Victorian Stroll with all the member businesses. The event was to support local businesses and create an event that would attract the citizens of Troy to these businesses. City Councillors, the Troy Chamber of Commerce, local business owners and citizens dressed in Victorian middle-upper class outfits and gayly walked up the promenade.
At the same time the United Victorian Workers gathered near by. "The United Victorian Workers Union was an ad-hoc collective of artists, activists and academics... to imbue public memory with a more complex understanding of our past, present, and future." They were organized by Bettina Escauriza, Dara Greenwald, Ryan Jenkins. Josh MacPhee, Amy Scarfone, and Marshall Tramell. The United Victorian Workers also dressed in Victorian garb, but a tad more raggy-tag; think Victorian lower class or labour workers. They reenacted a protest reminiscent of the late nineteenth-century labour movement protests calling on fairer working conditions and wages for labourers at the time. These protests began the framing for what would be known as the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1937, which would establish the forty-hour working week. This was done to reflect the eroding of this act that has occurred in today's culture of over-worked and underpaid working situations.
In a strange scenario of events, the United Victorian Workers protested the working standards of the late nineteenth-century while the Troy Chamber of Commerce celebrated their Victorian Stroll to celebrate businesses today. The President of the Chamber of Commerce then requested that the police, who were also dressed in Victorian police outfits, stop the mock-protest. The police did so and escorted the protestors off site. History repeated itself. Performance became reality.
Check out the video below to see documented footage of the United Victorian Workers Union protest at the Troy Chamber of Commerce Victorian Stroll.
This is one of my favourite new agency articles on the topic of Social Art Practice. It delves into the broadness of this art form and explains the impact it has on society.
"Social Practice is about broad social goals, networks and cultural practice. It is an art and design practice that involves engagement with communities of interest. It requires the democratization of the relationship between creative practitioner and public and a sharing of ‘expert’ and ‘lay’ knowledge. Social Practice involves the valuing of difference as well as the need for shared understanding and agreement; it focuses on the skills, knowledge and understanding that people have innately in their private, family, community and working lives. Social practice has a broad range of forms and working methods which are not limited to but can incorporate both collaborative or transgressive actions. " LIT University Website (MA SPACE)