A final day of rehearsals for our debt performance piece “Yours In Debt!” I know people who always practice their talks ahead of time and I’ve done this when I have time. It’s always worth it. Workshopping a set of discussions like this with people skilled in performance has been very interesting. They have been gentle with me and very careful to be subtle about pushing me in a different direction. Over the course of the brief time that we’ve been able to work on the talks, they have notably changed nonetheless.
The simplest way to describe this shift is one away from a fact-laden analysis towards the emotional and spatial experience of being “in” debt and what it would mean to get “out” of debt. In short, in classic Occupy fashion, it’s starting to feel like an exploration of what it would mean to give people permission to view these issues with something other than shame and subjection.
One indication of how far there is to go came from the only question posed by a Bed-Stuy dwelling, bike-riding alternative theatre person, who watched the tech run: “What about people who do pay their debts?” So we talked about how it was likely that many if not most people would not be happy with the bank or other creditor and might well think that they deserved more favorable terms of repayment. It still seemed clear that the idea of strike debt, let alone a debt strike, was something that made her quite uncomfortable.
Nor did anyone at the theatre who was not part of OWS recognize the red square that I had thought was now widely recognized. I suppose I have naive assumptions that alternative arts people are necessarily aware of political issues, like my friends in OWS and at places like the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. But then most politics people don’t get what’s going on with performance.
Right now, Occupy Theory has two slogans for Phase Two.
From base to disperse.
From Occupy to strike.
The point is that these are goals, not statements of what has been achieved. It’s a change of approach. Projects like this make me feel both that we have a long way to go and that making progress with it, at least at first, won’t be as hard as you might think.