Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition

Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition
Library Shelf Location 06.POLI
Publication Date 2016



  • Includes bibliographical references.


  • "The collision of activism and contemporary art, from the Seattle protests to Occupy and beyond Activist art experienced a new beginning in the Seattle anti-globalization protests of 1999, reaching a zenith over a decade later with Occupy Wall Street, a movement initiated in part by artist-activists, and structured around creative direct actions and iconic imagery for the social media age. In parts of the mainstream art world, radical ideas were gaining traction over the same period, but remained confined within its institutional apparatus. Art critic Yates McKee recounts these parallel histories and their collisions, highlighting the limitations and complicities of the art world, and reviving the notion of art as an emancipatory practice woven into political struggle, whether around issues of debt, climate justice or police violence. Strike Art!'s claim is that Occupy fundamentally changed the horizon of contemporary art, whether or not the art world knows it yet"--
  • What is the relation of art to the practice of radical politics today? Strike Art explores this question through the historical lens of Occupy, an event that had artists at its core. Precarious, indebted, and radicalized, artists redirected their creativity from servicing the artworld into an expanded field of organizing in order to construct of a new-if internally fraught-political imaginary set off against the common enemy of the 1%. In the process, they called the bluff of a contemporary art system torn between ideals of radical critique, on the one hand, and an increasing proximity to Wall Street on the other-oftentimes directly targeting major art institutions themselves as sites of action. Tracking the work of groups including MTL, Not an Alternative, the Illuminator, the Rolling Jubilee, and G.U.L.F, Strike Art shows how Occupy ushered in a new era of artistically-oriented direct action that continues to ramify far beyond the initial act of occupation itself into ongoing struggles surrounding labor, debt, and climate justice, concluding with a consideration of the overlaps between such work and the aesthetic practices of the Black Lives Matter movement.Art after Occupy, McKee suggests, contains great potentials of imagination and action for a renewed left project that are still only beginning to ripen, at once shaking up and taking flight from the art system as we know it.
  • Review: "This irrepressibly vibrant page-turner is the first art historical reading of Occupy Wall Street, and a canny account of politically engaged art before, during and after the events of 2011. I'm tempted to call it the sequel to Artificial Hells, but this would do a disservice to its enthusiastic approach to activism. No left melancholia here-just a powerful commitment to the liberatory horizon of both progressive art and politics." - Claire Bishop, author of Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship "A lucid and sure-footed guide to today's renaissance of art radicalism. A participant as well as a critic, McKee knows exactly what he is talking about, and the result is red hot." - Andrew Ross, author of Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal "McKee's elegant and illuminating book investigates the intersection of activism and contemporary art in a way that transforms our understanding of both." - Michael Hardt, coauthor of Empire "Why in this era of neoliberalism and its diktat-Commodify Everything!-has art increasingly become a critique of commodification? Is this anomaly an expression of the peak of cynicism-with artists making money by criticizing it-or is this the prefiguration of a new connection between art and anti-capitalist revolution? If these questions concern you, then Yates Mckee's Strike Art is a book you need to read." - George Caffentzis, author of In Letters of Blood and Fire "In this lively and engaging book, Yates McKee turns the old concept of the Art Strike on its head. Strike Art asks its readers to move outside the art system and get ready for the artist as organizer. A must-read for activists, visual or otherwise, everywhere." - Nicholas Mirzoeff, author of How to See the World "In this inspirational and engaging analysis, McKee positions art as more than mere protest graphics, rebellious puppetry, or subversive chanting: the energies of social, economic, and political transformation go right to the heart of Occupy's world-changing creativity. Art in the post-Occupy condition-one that addresses climate justice activism as much as Black Lives Matter, Strike Debt as much as post-capitalist commoning practices-surpasses the containment of art institutions, daring to reinvent the very terms of life today." - T.J. Demos, author of The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis "A profound and insightful book that asks us, using descriptions, history and theory, if there can ever be art without movement, or movement without art." - Marina Sitrin and Dario Azzellini, authors of They Can't Represent Us!: Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy "Strike Art is, above all, a book of cultural documentation, one that relives the events and "ethical spectacle" of a radical political moment that seems to be giving way, in the usual manner, to a pursuit of electoral success rather than wholesale reform. The art that McKee discusses is often transient by design, produced by collectives or anonymous bodies, and distributed freely or slyly entered into the circulation systems of the culture at large." - Harper's


  • Yates Mckee is a historian and critic of contemporary art, and a political organizer with various post-Occupy projects including Strike Debt. His work has appeared in The Nation, October, South Atlantic Quarterly and Artforum, and he is the co-editor of Sensible Politics: The Visual Cultures of Nongovernmental Activism. He lives in New York City.


ISBN 9781784781903
Quantity 1
Pages 296 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm.
Author Yates McKee
Format Hardback
Publisher Verso Books, London and New York
Category Art by Subject
Keywords Strike, Occupy
Language English

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