#OWS Arts and Culture Group Asks Mark Di Suvero to Speak Against the Barricades in Liberty Park

by Paddy Johnson on November 8, 2011 · 2 comments Newswire

Mark Di Suvero's "Joie De Vivre", after barricades (with NYPD Community Affairs guard)

The Occupy Wall Street Arts and Culture committee has written a formal letter asking artist Mark Di Suvero to make a public statement against the barricades in Liberty Park. His sculpture “Joie de Vivre” is a dominent visual in the Occupy Wall Street protests, situated at the South East corner of Zuccotti Park. The police barricaded the piece after a protestor attempted to climb the piece, effectively detaching it from the rest of the politically activated space. The letter and photo essay to follow.

Dear Mark Di Suvero,

We are artists and art workers forming the Arts & Culture working group of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.

OWS is a people-powered movement inspired by popular uprisings in the Middle East, Europe and South America. OWS is now in 100 cities in the United States, with actions in over 1,500 global cities. We are working to create new social forms to supplant the obsolete models currently in place, holding banks and corporations accountable for buying out democracy, and sacking the economy.

OWS is organized horizontally to bring participatory democracy. The “people’s assembly” is a forum used all over the world to facilitate collective decision making, with shared roots in the history of democratic movements, dating back centuries. The OWS General Assembly welcomes people from all ethnicities, genders, sexualities and beliefs to attend and participate in direct democratic decision making.

Your sculpture, “Joie De Vivre,” at Liberty Plaza (“Zuccotti Park”) has served as a visual backdrop for the movement in New York. The area underneath and around the sculpture has hosted meetings, rendezvous points, teach-ins and concerts. We are conscious of your role in the creation of the Peace Tower (1966 and 2006), and your public opposition to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Your work is an integral part of our collective history, and the tradition of artists who exercise their responsibility as public citizens.

Recently, after one individual climbed the sculpture, city authorities placed barricades around “Joie De Vivre”, cutting off access and separating it from the politically activated space of Liberty Plaza. Some of the barricades carry Metropolitan Museum of Art signage as well as NYPD stickers (see attached photos). This was an unnecessary overreaction in light of OWS’ track record as a peaceful, proactive movement, generating conversation and fostering community and engagement. Recently, Community Board 1, which consists of the neighborhood's residents, voted to request the city to remove unnecessary barricades from the area, especially in light of the OWS's stated commitment to nonviolence.

We believe that cordoning off your gift to the people of New York goes against your intentions for the work, as well as the very spirit of public art. “Joie de Vivre” is especially poignant as this movement actively fights to empower people of marginalized economic status. Indeed, that struggle is the joy of life.

OWS is now in Day 52. This movement will only continue to grow and evolve. It is our wish, and we believe yours as well, that the sculpture be integrated spatially with the activities taking place at Liberty Plaza. Therefore, we ask you to make a public statement urging city authorities to keep all barricades away from this and other public sculptures in the area, allowing free access to the area under and around public sculptures.

We would also like to invite you to speak at a teach-in related to the political role of artists. We would be happy to host such a teach-in at Liberty Plaza, including a conversation about the history of the Peace Tower and other socially engaged public art. We are interested in sharing with you the past actions and future goals of the Arts and Culture committee, and listening to your thoughts on the movement.


Arts & Culture Committee Contact: arts_culture@nycga.net

Joie De Vivre: before barricades (transgender teach-in)

Joie De Vivre: before barricades (construction worker talks to media)

Joie De Vivre: after barricades (with Metropolitan Museum of Art signage)

Joie De Vivre: after barricades (with NYPD guards)

Joie De Vivre: after barricades (with NYPD guards)

Mark Di Suvero's "Joie De Vivre", after barricades (with NYPD Community Affairs guard)


Khujeci Tomai November 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm

The city nay now hastily remove the barricades now that an open letter is public, since Bloomberg is very PR sensitive. But Suvero should still release a public statement against any barricading. His silence to date has been disappointing.

Tommy November 10, 2011 at 12:54 am

I spent some time with Mark while he was in Grand Rapids a few years ago.  During one of our times together I had the chance to spend a solid block of 45 minutes talking one-on-one and during our talk he shared very personal stories of his involvement during the GOP Convention.  He is not afraid to share his thoughts and my tapes reflect his passion for taking care of the people.

I am sure he is not happy about the barricades since he loves it when people interact with his work.  I have a video somewhere of a kid climbing one of his more kinetic pieces and Mark is below thoroughly enjoying it.

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