For those who weren’t able to make it last night, the "Death2Prisons, Freedom2Protest" benefit for Pussy Riot — presented by Red Wedge, the Rebel Arts Collective and co-sponsored by SlutWalk — was an undeniable success! The energy from the crowd was incredible, the music was punishingly…
suggested donation of five dollars at the door & cash bar too.
It has been a year since three members of Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot — Masha, Nadia and Katia — were convicted of “hooliganism” for their “punk prayer” song at the Christ Our Savior Cathedral in Moscow. What started as a protest against the corrupt and bigoted Putin government has become a symbol of a young global resistance that has gripped the planet — and the repression it faces — from Moscow to Cairo, from Rio de Janeiro to Chicago. Quite simply, their struggle is our struggle, their freedom the freedom of all of us.
Proceeds from this show will go to benefit the legal defense of Nadia and Masha — the two members who remain in prison. On top of featuring a diverse array of female and gender-queer powered Chicago punk rock, speakers will briefly address the latest from Pussy Riot’s case, the struggle for women’s liberation and the repression of the queer liberation movement in Russia.
Presented by the Rebel Arts Collective and Red Wedge magazine
$8 entry, proceeds go to Chicago Teachers Union solidarity fund!
Schools and teachers around the country are under attack from politicians, pundits and “reformers” (read: privatizers). According to these people, education is only as good as its service to the bottom line.
But Chicago’s teachers are fighting back, and serving up inspiration for anyone who believes that education and culture are absolute rights for everyone. This benefit, sponsored by the Rebel Arts Collective, will highlight and celebrate the importance of strong teachers, strong unions and well-funded schools.
Come support your teachers as they demand the schools that the students of Chicago deserve!
$8 suggested donation at the door, cheap cash bar and revolutionary art and music all through the night. Proceeds go to benefit the Chicago Teachers Union.
Tonight is the first in a series of monthly artist’s meet ups - anyone who has ideas for projects, is looking for collaborators or just wants to meet other artists/creatives who are down should definitely come out. Feel free to bring examples/inspirations for projects, as well as your own art/instrument/chapbook. Tonight is for meeting, discussing, creating, planning, and doing!
Solidarity With Chicago Teachers: For the Schools (and Art) Our Kids Deserve!
We, the artists, activists and cultural workers of the Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective, wish to state our full and enthusiastic support for the Chicago Teachers Union. We offer our solidarity to the teachers of Chicago in their struggle for their jobs, and to provide the education that Chicago’s kids deserve. As artists, we understand that education can play a crucial role in the creation and evolution of art. Without teachers and well-funded schools, there is no education.
Recently, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) released next year’s budget. It is little more than a scorched-earth policy that declares war on a unionized workforce and, despite all of Rahm’s pious rhetoric, the children of Chicago. Arts and music programs? Gone, or at the very least severely whittled down. Libraries in schools? Suddenly a luxury.
This goes hand-in-hand with the overall attack on teachers’ basic rights and the quality of our schools. If Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard have their way then tenure for teachers will be abolished, along with any job security. The insulting offer of a two percent raise—which won’t even compensate for inflation—will be standard. And the turnarounds and charter takeovers will continue apace, in essence placing our schools and our children’s schooling into the hands of private education companies.
How is it that, in Emanuel’s words, an eighteen percent pay raise is “not tethered to reality,” and yet the notorious Tax Increment Financing schemes that drain untold millions from the city’s coffers is reasonable? How is it that the city of Chicago was with one hand willing to move every mountain for the NATO summit and shut down libraries, field houses and arts programs with the other? It is Emanuel who has become “un-tethered,” not the Chicago Teachers Union.
As artists, we believe in unconditional defense of people’s right to art. Nobody can deny that a lively and robust artistic scene is crucial to any healthy society. This is reflected in the CTU’s own words and actions. In their pamphlet “The Schools Chicago’s Children Deserve,” the union names the arts as a crucial part of education:
A report of international studies on the impact of arts education revealed several benefits from arts programs. Arts education was found to:
• Improve students’ aesthetic development and appreciation of the arts
• Enhance children’s self-awareness, self-confidence and acceptance of others
• Increase class attendance and significantly lower drop-out rates
• Promote enthusiasm, motivation and engagement in learning
• Improve student behaviors in terms of greater motivation to read, awakening of student interest and emotional growth
• Develop interpersonal skills such as teamwork, tolerance, and appreciation of diversity in people and ideas
• Enhance academic attitude and aspiration
And yet, the suits who run the Chicago Public Schools have shown time and again that they believe the arts—as well as education itself—to be a privilege more than a right. In the administration’s attack on public school teachers over the past several years, arts and music teachers have often been the first laid off.
Currently, there are roughly 140 schools in Chicago lacking an arts or music program. This number is already unacceptable, but it’s even more criminal when one considers that 120 of them are on the South Side! This puts on display not only the brazen contempt that Emanuel, Brizard and company have for poor and working people, but their utter indifference to combatting racial inequality in our city.
This is, once again, part of a broader set of shameful disparities in our public school system. It is impossible to separate inadequate access to arts from the over-crowded class sizes, from the extreme segregation between student bodies, from the fact that a grand total of 202 school nurses are expected to take care of the kids in 684 schools!
By contrast, the CTU are demanding that our schools be given decent funding, that they not be placed in private hands, that education not be chalked up to skewed and biased standardized tests. They are demanding that teachers be given the resources (including decent pay) needed to make sure our kids have smaller class sizes, adequate supplies and a safe, healthy learning environment. They have also, to the Rebel Arts Collective’s great pleasure, launched a campaign demanding arts and music teachers in every school!
To us, the formulation is simple: if you want your kids to have arts and music in schools, you support the CTU. And so, we wish to enthusiastically and emphatically restate our steadfast solidarity with the teachers of Chicago in their fight for a decent living and better schools. We reject the base attacks on teachers and the opportunistic manipulation of our children’s futures.
The Rebel Arts Collective will do everything within its reach to support this struggle. We will put on events and fundraisers publicizing the cause. We will work with arts and music teachers to make sure the real facts continue to reach the public. And if there is a strike, we will proudly walk the picket lines and urge our fellow artists to do the same. As always, the question remains: which side are you on?
A great article for artists of all sorts about the ways in which we can approach meaningful work with non-arts partners. What are our skills, our tools, our assets? What are the needs of the non-arts organizations that we are passionate about? How can these meaningfully intersect?
Producing new work does not have to only mean making new plays. And our new work practice, it can excel not just in the caliber of our expression but in the quality of our listening. If we can accomplish that, we model what civic life today desperately needs—a practice that places dialogue ahead of monologue, imagination at the heart of problem—solving, and listening equal in value to expression.
The Last Man is a novel by writer, artist and occupier W.C. Turck, inspired by Occupy and other past struggles against racism, oppression and economic injustice. It is published independently, and proceeds go to benefit Occupy Chicago.
This Saturday the 14th of July at 7pm, Quimby’s bookstore in Wicker Park (1854 W North Ave) will host a staged reading of The Last Man directed by the author and featuring several members of OCRAC. Copies of the book will be available for purchase too. There will also be time for discussion afterward.
¡Venceremos! A celebration of International Workers Day
Featuring Rebel Diaz, Dirty Surgeon Insurgency, Laura Yes Yes, FM Supreme, Cavepainters, an excerpt from Judy Veramendi’s upcoming play “Alegrias y Lagrimas” and more!
Friday, April 27th
Meeting Hall in Pilsen, 1038 W Cullerton
Doors at 7:30pm, $8 entry, cash bar
As communities, union members, Occupiers and activists gear up for another mobilization this May Day, the Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective will be presenting a night of music, poetry and performance celebrating the struggle for justice. Featuring an absolutely incredible lineup of hip-hop, folk, punk rock, slam poetry, and even an excerpt from Judy Veramendi’s upcoming play “Alegrias Y Lagrimas” (including a talk-back afterward), this is an event will be a reminder that culture—like everything else—belongs to the working people of the 99%.
From theGuardian. This without a doubt provokes a response of horror from any true art lover. The notion of burning pieces of art whose cultural value can’t be measured in Dollars or Euro is something guaranteed to break hearts. But then that’s the point; it’s also virtually the same as what the Italian government does when it slashes funding for the arts by as much as 43%. Proof yet again that we need a culture whose purse-strings aren’t held by the one percent!
A museum in Italy has started burning its artworks in protest at budget cuts which it says have left cultural institutions out of pocket.
Antonio Manfredi, of the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum in Naples, set fire to the first painting on Tuesday.
"Our 1,000 artworks are headed for destruction anyway because of the government’s indifference," he said.
The work was by French artist Severine Bourguignon, who was in favour of the protest and watched it online.
Mr Manfredi plans to burn three paintings a week from now on, in a protest he has dubbed “Art War”.
Artists from across Europe have lent their support, including Welsh sculptor John Brown, who torched one of his works, Manifesto, on Monday.
Mr Brown told the BBC that his organisation, the Documented Art Space in Harlech, North Wales, had exhibited at the Casoria museum in the past.
He said the loss of his artwork had not been particularly upsetting.
"We work in a fairly contemporary manner so the process of making art, and the interaction with people, is more important than keeping it as a precious object."
He called the burning “a symbolic act” to “protest against the way the economic crisis is being dealt with”.
"These cuts reach beyond the confines of the visual arts and affect the cohesive well-being of millions of people all over the world."
Italy’s debt crisis led to the resignation of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last year. Since his departure, the government has passed a tough package of austerity measures and other reforms.
Art institutions says they have been particularly affected by the country’s economic woes, with state subsidies and charitable donations drying up.
One of Italy’s leading galleries, the Maxxi Muesum of Contemporary Art, said its funding had been cut by 43% in 2011.
When its board of directors failed to approve the 2012 budget last week, the Culture Ministry took steps to replace them with a government-appointed administrator.
International concern was also raised last year over the neglect of Pompeii, one of the world’s most precious archaeological sites.
A number of structures in the ancient city have fully or partially collapsed, including the “House of Gladiators” which fell down 18 months ago.
However, Prime Minister Mario Monti announced a 105m euros (£87m) project to reconstruct the ruins earlier this month.
Mr Manfredi is known as an outspoken and radical museum director.
He opened the Casoria gallery in his hometown, just outside Naples, in 2005 and several of his exhibitions have drawn the ire of the local mafia.
In 2009, a lifesize effigy of an African figure was left impaled over the museum gates following an exhibition of art that dealt with prostitution - a trade occupied locally almost entirely by African immigrants and controlled by organised criminals.
Manfredi has also blamed the theft of security cameras and several attempted break-ins on the mafia.
His attempts to focus attention on his museum’s funding crisis have been crafted with a keen eye for publicity.
Last year, he announced he had written a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking for asylum, saying he was fed up with the government’s failure to protect Italy’s rich cultural heritage.
He said he would take his entire museum with him if the asylum was granted, but never received a reply.
He said the latest protest will continue unless the funding situation improves.
A statement from the museum described the first burning as “political, necessary, and compelling in the face of these adverse circumstances”.
It added that Neapolitan artist Rosaria Matarese will set fire to one of her works on Thursday, 18 April as the protest continues.
Art, Music and Resistance - Two Upcoming Events From OCRAC
Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective at Uri-Eichen Gallery
Friday, April 13th - 6pm to 10pm
Uri-Eichen Gallery, 2101 S Halsted, Chicago IL
Artwork that inspires, informs and furthers dialogue. Curated by Uri-Eichen and members of the collective, with pieces from artists in the local movement as well as radical art from before OWS began. From scenes of a world where billboards are reclaimed to expressionist portrayals of our hometown police department, this work embodies the spirit of Occupy Chicago.
Members of the collective will be present to talk to anyone who wants to collaborate, join or just learn more.
Occupy Music? Crisis, Resistance and the Sound of Revolt
Saturday, April 21st - 4:30pm
Roosevelt University, 410 S Michigan, Second Floor Congress Lounge
Last fall saw a huge outpouring of support for the Occupy movement among artists and musicians. But this is hardly the first social movement to have its own soundtrack. What does this sonic solidarity reveal about music’s role in the struggle for a better world? What about the function of the modern music industry? Does art actually have the power to change the world?
An upcoming teach-in from Occupy Chicago will aim to take up these very questions. The speaker, Alexander Billet, is a music journalist whose articles have appeared in Z Magazine, TheNation.com, New Politics and SocialistWorker.org among others. He is also a founding member of Punks Against Apartheid and an organizer with the Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective.
Black Flag Games collective is attempting produce a print run of a radical boardgame intended to spark conversation around protest tactics. A Las Barricadas is a boardgame about conflict between two opposing social forces, namely that of the state and of anti-authoritarian demonstrators. It is a two-player game with each player representing one of these social forces, the theatre of this conflict being that of the street demonstration. It is being developed and designed by the Black Flag Games collective, committed to the idea that games and interactive media can have an impact in the struggle for a free and cooperative world. We are also committed to the ideals of free culture and aim to deliver professional play experiences that enrich a participatory entertainment culture.
Below is an article that appeared recently in The Torch, student newspaper at Roosevelt University in Chicago. It was written by Elite Truong.
Last year, the execution of Troy Davis execution sparked outrage around the world. Davis, who was wrongfully convicted of killing a police officer in 1989, became a symbol of worldwide artistic and political movements against racial injustice and wrongful convictions.
At the Wicker Park Arts Center Friday, Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective (OCRAC) hosted a tribute event called “Better Days Ahead.” The event was to pay remembrance to Davis and his sister, Martina Correia. Correia, who passed six months after Davis, was an advocate on Davis’ behalf and fought against the death penalty.
“We’ve learned quite a bit of how the legal system fails in the last few decades,” said Paul Cates, Innocence Project communications director. He explained that 25 percent of wrongfully convicted cases are due to misidentification. False confessions account for another 25 percent and 50 percent is attributed to invalidated forensic science. In Davis’ case, there was no DNA evidence, according to Cates.
OCRAC, a project of Occupy Chicago’s Arts & Recreation, hosts events like the Davis tribute to connect local artists and to highlight the human effect of unchanging laws and wrongful convictions.
“OCRAC exists for the purpose of connecting with artists of all stripes…and mobilizing the power of art in the name of a more just and equal world,” according to the OCRAC website.
Artists and attendees reflected on the tragedies and celebrated Davis’ and Correia’s lives at the “Better Days Ahead” event. Speakers from various local anti-racism organizations like Amnesty International, Occupy 4 Prisoners, and Campaign to End the Death Penalty attended the tribute.
FM Supreme, ‘Two-time Louder than A Bomb’ city-wide high school poetry competition winners, performed at the event. The group wrote a song last year, dedicated to Davis and Correia.
“FM Supreme in particular was active in trying to save Troy,” Alex Billet said, an OCRAC artist and Rebel Frequencies founder, a journalism website focused on political activism through music. “Word is that Supreme had the chance to perform the song for her (Correia) before she passed away.”
An additional memorial was held for Trayvon Martin, in which a local artist set up a framed photo of Martin along with candles, and placed iced tea and Skittles, which Martin was carrying in his pockets at the time of the shooting.
Billet felt the impromptu memorial was important.
“Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin are both victims of the same sick, violent and virulently racist system,” Billet said in an email statement.
Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy at ACLU Illinois, believes tributes like “Better Days Ahead” help to spread awareness about injustices in the legal system and inspire people to right those injustices in various ways.
“I think stories like Davis’ have a powerful impact on how people relate to policy issues, and how it could affect them,” said Yohnka. “For example, President Obama’s statement in regards to relating to Trayvon Martin as a son. Comments like that connect people to issues. It’s very, very powerful.”
OCRAC hosts several events a month to promote activism through art. The next OCRAC-sponsored event is Chicago Spring, at the Chicago Board of Trade on April 7 at noon.
The Wishing Tree will serve as the visual center piece and public art project for Occupy Chicago’s ‘Chicago Spring’. It will stand ten feet tall, have a wood foundation, and papier-mache over wire will expand the foundation to trunk and branches. On April 7 (and various days after that), the people will be encouraged to write their wishes for the future on leaves, which they will attach to the branches. Based off the structure of an olive tree, this project will be a symbol of the peace we all wish for. Branches full of leaves (and wishes of the 99%) will be carried from Chicago’s North, West, and South side to Grant Park where the tree will be assembled.
The Wishing Tree will be reused in this manner throughout May, always filling the branches with the wishes of the people, then delivering the leaf-wishes to our Mayor, and his top donors.
This is true, grassroots art (ha…)! Please go to the Kickstarter page to make a donation.
"Better Days Ahead: a cultural tribute to the memory of Troy Davis and Martina Correia
Friday, March 23rd, 8pm
Wicker Park Arts Cener, 2215 W North Avenue
8 bucks at the door
The Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective is honored to host a night of art, music and culture remembering the life and struggles of Troy Davis and Martina Correia.
Six months ago, the state of Georgia executed Davis for murder of a police officer—despite virtually no evidence and a worldwide campaign to save his life. Months later, his sister Martina Correia, a tireless advocate on his behalf, succumbed to cancer.
Both Troy and Martina were dedicated fighters against the death penalty and the racism of the criminal injustice system. As we move into Chicago Spring and a revival of activism for social and economic justice, OCRAC wishes to pay tribute to them. This event—featuring music, poetry, performance and art—will celebrate their lives, and the continuing struggle against racism and repression in Chicago, Georgia, the United States and around the world.
Included will be local painters and artists involved anti-racist movements in Chicago, as well as local rock, hip-hop and blues, poets and performance artists. Come join what is guaranteed to be an inspiring night. Though Troy and Martina are no longer with us, the culture of resistance they were a part of lives and thrives!
Friday, February 24th - 6:30pm - Wicker Park Arts Center - 2215 W North Ave
Do you enjoy, make, or want to make revolutionary art? Then JOIN US for the launch of the Rebel Arts Collective and discover the possibilities throughout this incredible art-packed night!
For an $8 cover, you support Occupy Chicago, enjoy a cash bar and…
Homegrown rebel music acts including:
Captain Captain Snake Oil Salesmen The Kuhls When Flying Feels like Falling Kris De La Rash DJ Catnip
Theatrical performances from:
20% Theater Company Theatre of the Oppressed
Cutting Edge Art and Poetry Interactive Art Installations Silk Screen Revolutionary Imagery
…plus plenty more that gives Rahm Emanuel nightmares!
Connect with other politically motivated artists, find the resources you need to get your ideas off the ground, and collaborate with other artists to make the most world-changing art you’ve never imagined!
Rehearse the Revolution: Theatre of the Oppressed with Occupy Chicago!
Do you ever feel oppressed by this world, and want to fight it? Gather with us in a open space of dialogue and action to brainstorm how to fight the oppression in the world. We will use interactive theatre to externalize the problem and brainstorm solutions. Augusto Boal created Theatre of the Oppressed and utilized these forums internationally as a “Rehearsal for Revolution.” With these complex systems of oppression that our society has created, we need to find ways to think beyond the individual and breach the structures that keep the oppressed down. Augusto Boal teaches us that everyone is oppressed in some way — and that there are both external and internal forms of oppression. The goal of his creation, Theatre of the Oppressed, is to provide an alternative vein of communication to achieve understanding: physical action. As the most essential human language, Theatre must be used to better our community through understanding, and stepping into each other’s shoes. The more workshops you attend, the better we all will have invested in this community, and in our movement. We, fellow occupiers and practitioners of this practice, bring it to you to help us all build a more cohesive vision that includes everyone’s voices, and oppresses no one.
Workshops will be held on the following Sundays at Occupy Chicago’s new home, 500 W Cermak, Room 700.
Feb 12th 3pm-5pm Feb 19th 3pm-5pm Feb 26th 3pm-5pm
One final interactive performance by our group of actor-occupiers, who have been training in this practice for two months, will provide common scenes of oppression from our society as fodder for communal discussion (and dramatic practice) for what solutions and tactics can best be employed to aid the oppressed. Consider this an alternative GA format.
March 11th 7pm-9pm
Again, the more the merrier! Bring your friends! All are welcome to participate and be heard.
Tuesday, Jan. 31st and Feb. 7th: Occupy Mary's Attic
Democracy Burlesque and WakeUpAndDream Productions present:
Occupy Mary’s Attic!
A Political Salon & Cabaret
Improv, Poetry, Music, Comedy, Dialogue… and much more!
Tuesday January 31st & February 7th @ 7:30pm
Mary’s Attic (above Hamburger Mary’s)
5400 N Clark Street - Andersonville
“A Salon is a gathering of people held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation.”
“Cabaret is a form of entertainment featuring comedy song, dance, theatre, introduced by an MC and distinguished by the performance venue: a restaurant or nightclub.”
Hosted by Andrew Ritter
Featuring the interactive political performance ensemble: The Dynamising Wills
Micah Philbrook as Chester Q. Goodsbee, III, robber baron. A Mayoral Tutorial by Don Washington Music by El Colectivo Musical Stand Up Comedy by Cynthia Levin Poetry by Eva Pilch A sneak preview of Stage Left’s upcoming World Premiere: The Fisherman A Special Announcement by W.C. Turck
And much much more!
Join us for an interactive evening of artistic expression and spirited conversation as we examine and explore The OccupyMovement.
As Many Roles As People Make It: An Interview With Ani DiFranco
The following is an interview with Ani DiFranco by OCRAC supporter and music journalist Alexander Billet. DiFranco, of course, goes into some excellent points about the role of art and music in struggle.
She’s dealt with a lot of obstacles—dismissal of her music, sexist condescension, even attempts from Clear Channel to shut down her concerts. But over the past two decades, Ani DiFranco has remained thankfully relentless, and become a force to be reckoned with in the music world. Making it all the more impressive is that she’s done so almost entirely outside the circles of “the business,” maintaining her own independent label Righteous Babe Records while refusing to back down in her defense of feminism, anti-racism, and passionate anti-corporate politics.
Naturally, she’s seen her share of changes in music and the world at large. But then, she’s also seen all too many inequities stubbornly persist. It’s enough to make you glad she’s stuck around; even happier to know that there are countless radical artists of every stripe who have been influenced by her.
The title of DiFranco’s new album¿Which Side Are You On?is, of course, a reference to one of the original American rebel songs. Calling it a “tribute” wouldn’t be quite sufficient, however. She spoke with Alexander Billet about the album, the evolution of her own work, and her belief in music as a force for social change.
Alexander Billet: I’m going to start with an obvious question. This new album and its title track are, of course, taken from one of the most famous labor songs of all time. It’s been covered a bunch of times already, but why did you want to do it now in this time and place?
Ani DiFranco: Well, my relationship with that song started two or three years ago at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration. I got invited to it, and everyone who played at it was tasked with playing one of the many songs that Pete had played and carried around the world over the years. So my assignment was to play “Which Side Are You On?” with Bruce Cockburn and “Hole In the Bucket” with Kris Kristofferson.
So, I set about learning that song for Pete’s party, and you know, I just immediately started tinkering with it. In one sense it’s a timeless song; the sentiment of the chorus is a very invigorating call to action. But the original verses are quite simple and a little antiquated. I started updating it, and I couldn’t stop. It just ended in a massive rewrite! And I’ve been playing it ever since that night in my live shows for a few years now and just decided somewhere along the way to include it in the record. And then the record, as it was beginning to take shape as a “big-P-political” record, it seemed like in the endgame the best title track.
AB: You mentioned the rewrites, and the lyrics you’ve put to the track go well beyond the original theme of worker’s rights. There are a lot of different things you pull on, but in particular there appears to be a connection between worker’s rights and feminism.
AD: It’s interesting you bring up that connection specifically because my feminism plays a central role on this new record in general. I guess I’ve been feeling lately more compelled than ever to speak to it. In this day and age with all these modern, 21st century political issues that we’re faced with—implosion of the environment, these ongoing escalating wars, an economic crisis—I keep coming back to what I believe to be the root cause of all our social problems, which is patriarchy.
And I really feel strongly that we need to evolve our understanding of feminism as not just about women’s rights anymore. You know, as I say in that last verse in “¿Which Side,” “Feminism ain’t for women / That’s not who it is for / It’s about shifting consciousness / It’ll bring an end to war.” I feel like we need to understand feminism more as a tool to mediate, counteract, to ultimately defeat patriarchy and restore balance to our government, our culture and our ways of thinking and structuring the world. I think we’ve had a very “masculine” sensibility for a long time, and I think we need to go back to the roots of social imbalance. I think we have to try to right that first, and from there and all these more pressing issues will follow.
AB: Much of your more recent work, in particular Red Letter Year, has had more of a contemplative, personal angle. You’ve always made it a point to bring together the personal and political, but¿Which Side appears to be a bit more outward and have a lightness. Is there anything in the world at large that has influenced this?
AD: Well, I’m a happier person now than I was three years ago, and happier still than I was five or ten years ago. So you can probably hear that in the sounds that come out of me; I’ve had recent developments in my life that have brought me more peace than I’ve ever felt.
It sounds like you’re suggesting, though, that there were perhaps some political developments in that too. And maybe so! Certainly the election of Obama after eight years of George W was an incredibly uplifting event and a victory for many people. I was just over in England performing and talking to a lot of people about various things. One of the things that came up was the event of Hurricane Katrina, and I heard myself saying—and this was a big reminder—that Katrina was sort of turning point. If you remember back, there was so very precious little criticism in the media at all of the Bush administration. It was surreal; 9/11 happened and all of a sudden he was King Yahoo-Shit! Everyone was lining up to praise him and the network news was reading the White House press releases like drones. There was just this veil of silence falling over an incredibly destructive administration wasn’t even elected!
It wasn’t until after Katrina that you really started to see legitimate criticism in the media. I think that’s when the social tide turned in a certain sense. It’s what got people’s eyes opened and got people motivated in a new way. The election of Obama was one of the results of that shift. But of course, like a lot of people, I had this naive hope that Obama would fix everything quickly. You know, the culture of celebrity in this country leads us away from democratic ways of thinking and into this hero worship. And so of course, one man cannot swoop in and fix everything on his own. It’s much more complicated and difficult than that, and progressives in this country since then have had to come to terms with the fact that we need to do more than actually get out of our house and vote. It’s an ongoing process to turn the tide.
I think that’s what we’re seeing now, and thank goodness! People are really starting to rise to that occasion.
AB: It’s incredible to think how much has changed even in the past year too, from the Arab uprisings to Occupy, on and on.
AD: Yeah, when I was in England I visited Occupy London and I was talking to people there. Like you say, it’s happening in the Middle East, there’s a people’s uprising in Nigeria. And all over Europe there are mirroring encampments and activists building energy and education and organizing along with every city in the United States. It’s an incredibly hopeful atmosphere; one that we haven’t seen in a very long time. I think that, as I was making this album over the past few years, that spirit of hope was not yet in the air, but I think it was brewing in the same way it was brewing in the rest of the ninety-nine monkeys!
AB: Well said! [Laughs] I want to get back to Katrina and New Orleans in a bit, but I also have a follow-up question. There’s this running theme on ¿Which Side about growing older and evolving as a human being and artist. You’ve been making music for somewhere around twenty years, and throughout you’ve remained completely independent. Is there a lot you’ve seen change in those twenty years?
AD: Oh big changes! Big, big changes! You know when I was a teenager in the ‘80s, I was the only girl in the guitar shop. Now if you walk into a music store, it’s mostly teenage girls. It’s great! It’s an expansion of possibilities for young women, finding a way to tools even if they aren’t directly handed those tools by adults.
Of course, when I was eighteen I decided I was going to have my own label; I wasn’t going to be a whore for a big corporation. There wasn’t a lot of precedence for it and there wasn’t a lot of respect for it! One of the huge things I experienced in the early years wasn’t just exclusion but condescension. Now, it seems that to be independent of a major label and just plug away on your own—there’s more of a respect for it. In fact, there is more of a necessity for it as the major record industry implodes. So certainly lots has changed since I started doing this.
AB: At the same time, though, there’s a lot that still has to change. The song that comes to mind off of ¿Which Side is “Amendment.” Could you tell me about that?
AD: Well, that song in particular addresses the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. You know, I was talking to a young fellow in a recent interview and he was like “oh, wait! That didn’t pass?” Folks sort of assume it’s law, but it hasn’t even passed! It really indicates this sweeping under the rug of not just women’s issues but the work of feminism. A lot of people just think it’s old news. Like I say in the song: “Chicks got it good now / They can almost be president!” We’re all emancipated in this system right? But of course, globally, women are still the underclass, and even in this society there are very poignant disparities that still exist.
For instance: abortion. This still isn’t considered a civil right in the modern world for women to be totally free. It’s still daily contested and fought, and it’s still a state-by-state, moment-by-moment right that could be taken away any minute. It’s also, as the song puts forward, a very powerful device that the conservative right uses to divide people. They have encouraged us over the years to hate each other over differences of opinion about abortion. And therefore, they divide workers and get them to fight each other and vote against their own interests.
So this was a song that I labored over a lot! It was an arduous song for me to write, it’s an arduous song to play; it’s long, it’s got so many words and concepts in it. And I have to stand so firmly in my boots to try and deliver it to people successfully and in the right spirit. But I thought if I don’t write this song, who’s going to? [Laughs] This is apparently my job in life and so I’ve got to rise to it!
I think I’ve always been the kind of person to push the envelope in music, politics, art. So I challenged myself to push it even more, like “how about the world ‘abortion?’ Do I even sing the word ‘abortion’?” When I first wrote that song I was really scared to play it onstage. Even though you might think everyone who shows up at an Ani DiFranco show is a progressive, people come with their own contradictions and come to my work from a different place. I’m not always just preaching to the choir. So I really worked hard to write a song that could really put out concepts of women’s civil rights, feminism, the evolution of our relationship with abortion without alienating people. I wanted to make it a song that even somebody of a different opinion could hear and might plant a seed for a future change of mind.
AB: Getting back to Katrina, you live in New Orleans now, and the song “J” really puts out there some of the incredible burdens that the city and the Gulf continue to bear. Could you tell us a bit more about that song?
AD: Well, there are so many things to talk about, aren’t there? One of the other elephants in the room for me other than patriarchy is slavery. I think when a society has such a profoundly dark and awful evil such as slavery in its history, then it leaves scars that are very, very deep. And unless we collectively address them and really put our effort to healing them, they’ll perpetuate. The United States of America are still suffering from the echoes of slavery. I think we’re still reeling from all the pain that is a result of it, and that’s a reality.
The song “J” I wrote last year as the BP oil spill was happening. You know, they were burning the oil on the surface of the Gulf every day for weeks and weeks and the smell just blanketed New Orleans, and we were all breathing it in! It was this daily reminder that we are all plummeting in the wrong direction, squeezing the Earth of the last few drops of blood, not only toward environmental peril but into international wars over this dwindling resource.
One thing that Obama promised, one thing that we all know we must do is evolve our industry and our technology to being green and sustainable. We need to move away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, both of which I think spell doom for human society. I was trying to make a lot of connections in that song “J,” including a lot of connections that I was aching to see made around me. People were hit very hard economically and environmentally down here, and immediately you’d see people putting up posters that said “Boycott BP!” It seemed very narrow in focus to me and didn’t make the connections in addressing the root of the problem.
AB: Final question: What role do you think music has in changing the world and are you hopeful about its prospects in doing so?
AD: Oh yeah! Music has as many roles as people make it. I traveled to Burma once years ago to witness the people’s struggle for democracy, meet some people and learn some stuff. And I had this incredible experience over and over again in the Burmese jungle or refugee camps or health clinics with very oppressed, very devastated people. I show up, and I’m white and I’m American and I’m privileged and I have an experience that these people can’t fathom and vice versa. There was this huge chasm when I met people for all good reasons. And then, in these meetings, what would invariably happen was that a group of children would get up and sing an invocation, which opened people’s hearts up a bit. Then the guitar would come out, and I would sing along with the people I was traveling with.
As soon as that happened, everyone there was family. And it was a daily reminder of what music is and what it can do. It can connect people from opposite realms of experience or the planet or the universe, and it can bring them together. It was an amazing trip that really reminded me why I do what I do. So yes, I do believe that music has an intense power to connect us together, to inspire us to become ourselves. I think that’s why I gravitated toward music when I was younger. I was attracted to a lot of different art-forms—dancing, painting. But there’s something about music that people hold so close. It’s such a powerful art-form, and that’s why I live for it.
The Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective, an organization of artists and cultural workers standing for social justice, roundly condemns the lock-out by the management of the New York City Opera. We also stand in full solidarity with the company’s performers and musicians and the American Federation of Musicians local 802. Without these artists and their union, their would be no NYCO.
Music might be a labor of love, but it is still labor on the part of those who create it. The musicians and performers at NYCO have roofs to put over their heads and families to feed just like anyone. Management, led by artistic director George Steel, seems to believe that this should be possible on a mere $4,000 a year and no health care.
This amounts to a ninety percent pay-cut! Meanwhile, Steel, whose directorial decisions have lead to a disastrous decline in both attendance and subscriptions, maintains a generous yearly salary of $400,000. Amanda Edge, a ballet dancer who has worked with NYCO, hit the nail on the head when she called Steel “a true example of the 1% in America.”
Though Steel and the rest seem to believe culture to be a privilege, NYCO was founded on the principle that it is a right for all to enjoy. Founded by then-mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1943, it was nicknamed “the people’s opera,” and has in the seven decades since brought the people of New York such legends as Placido Domingo, Beverly Sills, and Jose Carreras. It’s produced works from Bernstein, Gilbert & Sullivan, Sondheim, Puccini, Gershwin and countless others with the intent of making these legends accessible to the people of New York.
Steel and the rest of NYCO’s management appear content with ruining this brilliant legacy. As Edge writes, what they have done is “unconscionable; the pompous, selfish, elitist group has blithely defaced the people’s opera. The artists of the company, who were offered 80% below the 2011 national poverty level of $22,350, are the casualties of war. It appears that New York has lost New York City Opera, once a vibrant jewel in the artistic crown of this great city.”
The artists of NYCO deserve better, as do New York’s 99%. We extend our full support and solidarity to them, and urge readers to do the same.
All Ages, but The Empty Bottle is a 21+ club so ALL MINORS MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT (1 adult can be the chaperone for a group)
Ephemeral Sunrise- 12:00pm-12:25pm Give Back- 12:35pm-1pm The Bajas- 1:10pm-1:35pm Going Backwards- 1:45pm-2:10pm Waste- 2:20pm-2:45pm THE CATHY SANTONIES- 2:55pm-3:25pm WHEN FLYING FEELS LIKE FALLING- 3:35pm- 4:15pm
A Big thanks to the School Of Rock for providing the back-line!
If you haven’t been to Occupy Chicago down at Jackson & LaSalle here’s their website! http://occupychi.org/
Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance
1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.
2. “Fortune” is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.
3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.
4. People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices.
5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.
6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.
7. Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.
8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.
9. People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.
10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.
11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.
12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.
13. 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.