Occupy Los Angeles' Open Letter to the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
We are Occupy Los Angeles (OLA), the cultural movement and unincorporated association that operates under the direction of the Occupy Los Angeles General Assembly. We wish to express our interest in receiving the OLA Murals that are currently in your possession. The OLA Murals exist in solidarity with all Occupiers who aspire to socio-economic justice, among other causes, within our society. Our commitment to protest expresses the collective dedication of our nonviolent movement. Marked with hundreds of signatures, the Murals’ painted wooden boards represent freedom and both self- and collective-expression in an oppressive society. This was what our Murals represented to us.
That being said, we respectfully deny your call for conditional possession of the OLA Murals. We believe your appraisal of the OLA Murals misunderstands their true purpose and value. Outside OLA’s group of autonomous Mural artists, OLA, or the People themselves, we believe the artworks should neither be owned, nor released to institutions, nor displayed without the consent of the Occupy Los Angeles General Assembly. The OLA Murals were made for the People and they belong to the People. Therefore, we cannot, in principle, condone their release to anybody else.
Occupy Los Angeles began occupying City Hall Park, renamed Solidarity Park, on October 1st, 2011. In the ensuing weeks, the City enclosed various public art works in plywood. Occupiers met this act of isolation with an act of artistic creation. As the City gradually moved to eject individuals from public space, so then hundreds of people were compelled to imprint their souls onto the blank surfaces and express their freedom. They – we – created a beautiful expression of human dignity in the face of oppression Our personal experience of the OLA Murals speaks to the transformative power of creativity; a metamorphosis of expression, dedication, and love was steadily and continuously revealed in relation to these ‘artifacts.’
We are certain that, had the art been allowed to continue to grow, the aesthetic, symbolic gesture would have enveloped all signs of oppression, and revealed an unconscious and beautiful truth. Your dedication towards preserving the OLA Murals as “artifacts” has prevented you from understanding the purpose of the artwork: continued inspiration through public participation. The purpose of the Occupiers’ art was to *continually* inspire for a greater purpose. When you preserve the Murals and store them away from their makers, you hide away the People’s freedom to be empowered through creativity. By naming them “artifact”, you describe our once-living art as lifeless and attempt to frame our Movement as such as well. We assure you that the Occupation is very much alive and well When you saved the Murals from destruction by the LAPD and City cleanup crew, which otherwise eradicated any sign of the Occupation from Solidarity Park, you fulfilled DCA’s function as you understand it.
However, unless you return the OLA Murals to us as a sincere offering to work “together to make sure that we come up with a good and appropriate solution,” – as your Executive Director, Olga Garay-English told the *Los Angeles** Times,** *it will be clear that you have no real interest towards preserving the Art’s true meaning, but are only interested in re-framing and appropriating the culture of Occupy for the benefit of your department. Occupy Los Angeles is an ever-growing movement. We reject the notion that a part of our movement—the Peoples’ Art—has effectively been privatized for the 1% within our corrupt economic system. If you privatize the OLA Murals, Occupy Los Angeles will renounce the Murals’ value under any and all circumstances. We declare that the Murals are not instilled with any inherent worth when separated from the movement and placed into private possession. The murals belong freely to the People. We invite you to return the OLA Murals to the unincorporated association known as Occupy Los Angeles. Decisions made for the future of the Murals will then be made by the Occupy Los Angeles General Assembly, a transparent, horizontal, democratic consensus-building process in which everyone is free to participate. In
Solidarity With the 99%,
Occupy Los Angeles