LANGELLE PHOTOGRAPHY

Using the power of photojournalism to expose social and ecological injustice

Posts by photolangelle

The following is from Indigenous Environmental Network‘s Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director. This is the best analys pieces I’ve seen on yesterday’s decision of the government basically ‘standing down.’ (The government at least standing down for the moment). – OL

Water Protectors ‘Cautiously Hopeful’ After Army Corps Decision on DAPL

15202726_10154183099960642_8835988704842619369_nOur network is singing the victory song at the moment with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and thousands in the Oceti Sakowin Camp. However, we are cautiously hopeful that this is a total win. Dakota Access LLC pipeline (DAPL) will likely appeal the Army Corp’s decision, or go rogue and proceed to drill under the river/lake. If they appeal, this would mean the incoming President Donald Trump and his Administration would become the decision makers of this pipeline. Trump promotes fast-tracking and would probably reject any recommendations for a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It doesn’t look good. We might be here for the long haul.

If DAPL goes rogue and proceeds to drill under the river/lake, they could risk investers bailing. They will be closely monitored. They have indicated they will remain commited to finishing the current pipeline project. We will continue our prayers and ceremonies. We must continue the divestment campaign and initiate all options to cut the head off this black snake.

On another potential front, we suspect Trump will try to bring back the Trans-Canada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline development that was previously halted in the upper plains.

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I am running Standing Rock news on the Langelle Photography web page for many reasons. LANGELLE PHOTOGRAPHY is part of the Social Justice Media Program of Global Justice Ecology Project and we Stand With Standing Rock. Even though I am not in Standing Rock taking photographs, as a concerned photographer, my goal is to document and expose the reality of social and ecological injustice—much of which is linked with the struggle for the land— and to educate and change the world, not just to record it. For more up to the minute news please go to our ally’s site: Indigenous Environmental Network’s Standing Rock – Orin Langelle

PRESS CONFERENCE

Source: RT

Standing Rock activists said they would continue to stand their ground in the fight against the crude oil Dakota Access Pipeline, in defiance of a US Army Corps notice which stated that the location of a protest camp will be out of bounds from December 5.

Supporters of indigenous tribes oppose the 1,172 mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois over water contamination fears and its proximity to the Standing Rock Indian reservation.

In a press conference held at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, members of the indigenous community gave a united response to a letter sent to Standing Rock tribal chairman Dave Archambault II informing of possible evictions north of the Cannonball River.

Protesters, who call themselves water protectors, are currently camped on federal land alongside North Dakota’s Highway 1806 and the Missouri River.

On Friday, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to close the portion of federal land occupied by the water protectors due to “violent confrontations” and risks of serious injury due to the “harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”

In response, Dallas Goldtooth, a member of the Indigenous Environmental Network, described the Army Corps of Engineer’s letter as a “disgusting continuation of 500 years of colonization and systemic oppression”.

“It’s absurd for us to see such a declaration a day after Thanksgiving but that’s the state of affairs that we are in,” he told reporters at a press conference on Saturday.

He added that all tribes concerned with the pipeline will “stand strong”.

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The Beat goes on…

Thanksgiving Day, November 28,1986 first appeared in the chapbook Tornado Alley, with illustrations by S. Clay Wilson. Gus Van Sant then made a short film of Burroughs reading the text. This poem still resonates today as exposing what has gone horribly wrong.

For the water protectors at Standing Rock and to the struggle for recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day:

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Update – November 22, 2016

From the Indigenous Environmental Network:

0_w150_h150_s1_pr15_pcffffffSophia Wilansky (left) is in Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she was airlifted after being critically injured by a concussion grenade at Standing Rock, ND. She faces a second surgery today as doctors attempt to save her left arm.

Sophia is among the thousands of supporters who have been standing with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to protect their water from the Dakota Access pipeline.  On Sunday night, police and national guard attacked the peaceful water protectors with rubber bullets, pepper spray, water cannons and concussion grenades.  Sofia was hit with a concussion grenade fired by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

This was the latest assault in an escalated campaign of violence and intimidation by the police against those who have been asserting indigenous and human rights.  Approximately 300 injuries were identified, triaged, assessed and treated by tribal physicians, nurses, paramedics and integrative healers working in collaboration with local emergency response. These 300 injuries were the direct result of excessive force by police over the course of 10 hours. In addition to Sophia’s injury, at least 26 seriously injured people had to be evacuated by ambulance to 3 area hospitals.

Today West Roxbury pipeline resisters, including Sophia’s co-defendants – Karenna Gore, Tim DeChristopher and others – clergy, and other supporters will gather in prayer, song, and solidarity on the courthouse steps at 8:45am before Sophia’s scheduled healing and again after the hearing (end time dependent on proceedings).

Additional Context from the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council.

Photos of Sophia: headshot, with West Roxbury pipeline co-defendants on June 29, 2016 (photo credit, Marla Marcum). Sophia appears third from left in this photo.

In a historic moment of nonviolent resistance, thousands of people calling themselves protectors, not protestors, have gathered in North Dakota, to demand President Obama reject this dirty and dangerous proposal. If constructed, the Dakota Access pipeline would carry fracked oil from North Dakota to Illinois, cutting under the Missouri River less than a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux’s drinking water supply as well as through the Tribe’s sacred and historical land. This pipeline is a threat to Native heritage, their homes, and will be a climate disaster.

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Water Cannons Fired at Water Protectors in Freezing Temperatures Injure Hundreds

Joint statement by Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth and Sacred Stone Camp

November 21, 2016

Photo courtesy: SACREDSTONECAMP.ORG

 

Cannon Ball, ND– Hundreds of water protectors were injured at the Standing Rock encampments when law enforcement blasted them with water cannons in freezing temperatures Sunday evening.   The attacks came as water protectors used a semi-truck to remove burnt military vehicles that police had chained to concrete barriers weeks ago, blocking traffic on Highway 1806.  Water protectors’ efforts to clear the road and improve access to the camp for emergency services were met with tear gas, an LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device), stinger grenades, rubber bullets, and indiscriminate use of a water cannon with an air temperature of 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Some flares shot by law enforcement started grass fires which were ignored by the water cannons and had to be extinguished by water protectors. Law enforcement also shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal rounds.

 

National Lawyers Guild legal observers on the frontlines have confirmed that multiple people were unconscious and bleeding after being shot in the head with rubber bullets.  One elder went into cardiac arrest at the frontlines but medics administered CPR and were able to resuscitate him.  The camp’s medical staff and facilities are overwhelmed and the local community of Cannonball has opened their school gymnasium for emergency relief.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Emergency Medical Service department arrived on scene to administer medical services. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe also sent Emergency Medical Service vehicles to the Oceti Sakowin Camp to assist. Hundreds are receiving treatment for contamination by CS gas, hypothermia, and blunt traumas as a result of rubber bullets and other less lethal ammunition.

The military vehicles blocking the bridge were burned in a blockade fire on October 27, after law enforcement raided and cleared the “1851 Treaty Camp,” an occupation of the pipeline corridor and reclamation of unceded territory.  Despite the obvious public safety risk, and despite promises from Morton County that they would clear the road, law enforcement has insisted on keeping the vehicles on the bridge for weeks.  This obstruction of Highway 1806 threatens the lives of the water protectors and residents of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, as emergency services have been needed but unable to reach camp quickly.  The blockage also unjustly restricts the free movement of local residents and hurts the Tribe economically by cutting off travel to and from the Prairie Knights Casino.  Images of the burned vehicles have fed negative, distorted, and sensationalist media portrayals of the encampment.

Tara Houska, National Campaigns Director for Honor the Earth, says, “For weeks, the main highway to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has been cut off, with no movement by the state to address a public safety risk. Attempting to clear the road was met with police spraying people with water cannons in 26 degree weather — that’s deadly force, it’s freezing outside. They want to kill people for clearing a road? When will our cries be heard? Stop the Dakota Access pipeline. Respect the rights of indigenous people, of all peoples.”

LaDonna Allard, Director of the Sacred Stone Camp, says, “All I can say is why? We are asking for clean water, we are asking for the right to live, we are asking for our children to live. Instead they attack us, because they protect oil. Morton county and DAPL security are inhuman- what is wrong with their hearts?”

Dallas Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network, says, “It is below freezing right now and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department is using a water cannon on our people, that is an excessive and potentially deadly use of force. Tribal EMS are stepping up and providing services that should be the responsibility of Morton County, this is ridiculous. Because of the police enforced road block, ambulances now have an extra 30 minutes to get to the hospital. Those are life and death numbers right there, and Morton County and the State of North Dakota will be responsible for the tally.”

The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council released this statement: “The physicians and tribal healers with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council call for the immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28F ambient weather with no means of active rewarming in these conditions. As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions.”

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We live in troubled times. If one is paying attention times seem to get more and more troubled. Fear. Anxiety. Angst. Alienation. Trumphobia prevails while the Earth is burning. In the U.S. people are talking about getting a Democratic presidential win in 2020. Really? Haven’t the Democrats and Republicans screwed things up enough? Once there was a radical left in the U.S. If there is one now – it must be waiting. Waiting for what? Godot? Without system change, reformist regurgitation of working within the system will hasten the collapse of Earth’s life support systems for most, if not all, living things.

Fear runs through the streets of the U.S. and more and more people are succumbing to this mass psychosis and are turning into political dolts as increasing paranoia and obsession with the elections dull our wits. This has been going on for as long as I remember and will go one forever if people don’t stop listening to those psychopaths that run the gears of the machine and make people work so those same psychopaths can get richer. While the Earth continues to burn.

[A video of William S. Burroughs and his Thanksgiving Day Prayer is at the bottom of this post.] It’s connected to all of this. Everything is connected.

My hat goes off to all those who oppose those psychopaths and attempt to stop the gears of the machine. A machine can’t go on forever.  Wooden shoes were effective once.

For Standing Rock.

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photo: Orin Langelle

From Existentialism in Modern Art:

The philosophy of Existentialism was an influential undercurrent in art that aimed to explore the role of sensory perception, particularly vision, in the thought process. Existentialism stressed the special character of personal, subjective experience and it insisted on the freedom and autonomy of the individual. Jean-Paul Sartre was Existentialism’s most prominent advocate in the post-war period, and the bohemian circles in which he moved while in Paris included many artists. In this way, figures such as Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, Jean Fautrier and Wols became associated with Existentialist philosophy. It also had some impact in the United States, particularly through the writing of art critic Harold Rosenberg. The philosophy was often poorly understood, even by those who called themselves Existentialists. Nevertheless, it shaped discussion of themes such as trauma, anxiety, and alienation; ideas which were pervasive in post-war art.

Existentialism also contributed to discussions of figurative art in the post-war period, shaping responses to the work of Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon in particular. This is symptomatic of the popularization of the philosophy, which came to be widely understood as the intellectual expression of anxiety about the fate of humanity in the atomic age.

[NOTE
: …now including the fate of the Earth with a lack of both reason and systemic political analysis in the age of extreme climate change. – OL]

 

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Buffalo, NY–Just days before the Presidential election, photojournalist and ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art Director Orin Langelle will speak about his timely new exhibit If Voting Changed Things [1] during a First Friday artist’s talk at the Allentown gallery. The talk will take place at 7 p.m. on November 4th at 148 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. The event will include a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. including wine and hors d’oeuvres.

If Voting Changed Things documents protests at the Republican National Convention in Miami in 1972 as well as protests at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in New York City and Boston in 2004. This exhibit was timed to coincide with this year’s contentious election, and explores avenues for political change open to the public that are outside of the electoral system.

“The current uprising in Standing Rock, where indigenous peoples are trying to stop a new oil pipeline set to cross indigenous territory, is using many forms of direct action to protect sacred lands,” said Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project. [2] She continued, “The tactics used in this uprising, from civil disobedience to blockades of construction equipment, provide a stark contrast to the focus on the election as the sole option for having a say in what our future looks like.”

According to photographer Orin Langelle, “This Presidential election surely qualifies as one of most bizarre and fraudulent bread and circus reality shows ever designed to distract attention from the very real perils we collectively face.” Langelle added, “Clearly it demonstrates the need for fundamental systemic change. In the eleven elections since I shot those first protest photos at the Republican National Convention in 1972, things have only gotten worse. But not just worse. Catastrophic. We stand on the abyss of runaway climate change and are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction. Institutional racism is even more ingrained–with Buffalo being one of the most segregated cities in the U.S.”

David Reilly, a professor at Niagara University recently reviewed the exhibit [3] and said, “If Voting Changed Things… marginalized groups wouldn’t be in the streets. The electoral process in America has produced and validated a government that has produced institutional racism, militarization within and from our society, mass incarceration, crippling debt, perpetual war, homelessness, a failed health care system, eroding and ineffective education, and environmental exploitation.”

The exhibit is on display until December 2nd at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art. [4]

Contact: Kip Doyle, Media Coordinator, +1.716.931.5833 (office), +1.716.867.4080 (mobile) <kip@globaljusticeecology.org>

Notes:

[1] If Voting Changed Things

[2] Global Justice Ecology Project

[3] Reilly reviewed the exhibit for CounterPunch’s Weekend Edition on October 28th Complete the Sentence: an Exploration of Orin Langelle’s “If Voting Changed Things…”  and The Public on November 2nd At Buen Vivir: “If Voting Changed Things”

[4] The ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art was founded with the mission to utilize art and photography to present an historical look at movements for change, struggle and everyday life. It is designed to counter the societal amnesia from which we collectively suffer—especially with regard to the history of social and ecological movements and issues, and to inspire new generations to participate in the making of a better world.

The name of the gallery, ¡Buen Vivir!, is a concept stemming from Indigenous and other cultures of the Southern Americas. ¡Buen vivir! means life in harmony between humans, communities, and the Earth–where work is not a job to make others wealthier, but for a livelihood that is sustaining, fulfilling, and in tune with the common good. to utilize art and photography to present an historical look at movements for change, struggle and everyday life. It is designed to counter the societal amnesia from which we collectively suffer—especially with regard to the history of social and ecological movements and issues, and to inspire new generations to participate in the making of a better world.

¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art, 148 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY, +1.716.931.5833 buenvivirgallery.org

¡Buen Vivir! Gallery is part of the Social Justice Media Program of Global Justice Ecology Project

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Visual Arts

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At Buen Vivir: “If Voting Changed Things”

by Dave Reilly / Nov. 2, 2016 9am EST

To enter the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art and Orin Langelle’s new exhibit is to accept a challenge. Don’t expect a passive viewing of simple, aesthetically pleasing photography or a mindless stroll through apolitical eye candy. The challenge should be apparent from the title of the exhibit: It is a riddle, a fragment, an incomplete sentence awaiting your contribution. To view his display is to realize that there is no single way to finish the statement. Langelle invites you to see the complexity of the world through his lens, but to draw your own conclusions about the meaning of the images.

If Voting Changed Things… people would vote. They don’t.  Only 58% of eligible voters did in the last presidential election. Recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans feel disenfranchised by the 2016 presidential election process and candidates.  They aren’t proud or hopeful about the outcome, and half of Americans feel helpless.  There is no emphasis on issues that matter to them. Election discussion centers around voting for the least worst candidate, which makes civic duty seem like an exercise in self-denial and a concession that our aspirations are not achievable.

Of course, the counter is that if you don’t vote, you’re giving someone else the power to make decisions for you.  But that perspective ignores the range of opportunities for civic engagement and citizen action: Protesting, demonstrating, picketing, civil disobedience, rallies, striking, tax resistance, boycotting, sit-ins, sabotage, hacking and DDoS, tree-sitting, resistance, law-breaking, insurrection, rebellion, revolution.  Langelle’s images of protest activity outside of national conventions in 1972 and 2004 raise the question of whether voting, and the electoral circus that accompanies it, is about citizen empowerment or an explicit and ceremonial abdication of power by citizens to a status quo elite.  Which leads to the observation that…

If Voting Changed Things… they wouldn’t let us do it.  Chomsky wrote that “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of debate.”  Photographs from 1972 and 2004 capture moments outside of the system, beyond the framing of the acceptable discourse. Protesters explicitly reject governmental authority through symbols, slogans, caricatures, and artwork.  The elephant pulling a coffin through Miami’s city streets conveys a belief that political parties are leading us to death and destruction.  The black hoods and orange jump suits communicate that protesters in Boston, relegated to a “Free Speech Zone,” have become the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay detained terrorist suspects. It is not accidental that the media ignores or minimalizes these displays of collective action. In 2016 delegates—the people who were there (never mind viewers at home)—at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions remarked that they were unaware that protests were occurring outside throughout.  Langelle deftly illustrates that this is because authorities have increasingly managed and marginalized protest behavior. Which demonstrates that…

If Voting Changed Things… this exhibit wouldn’t be necessary. For many, Langelle’s work will be shocking because it lays bare the evolution of policing and the criminalization of dissent.  Photos of the 1972 demonstrations include arson, sabotage, gratuitous nudity, and graffiti that challenges, “Amerika—Love it or Destroy it,” and yet not a single police officer is identifiable among the activists. The activists are in the streets, climbing in trees, occupying fields and grassy lawns, neighborhoods and parks. Contrast this with images of Boston Police in 2004, appearing ready for war in riot gear; armed with Tasers, guns, clubs; a menacing and ubiquitous presence atop scaffolding towers. Because of new draconian laws, protesters have been herded into holding pens of chain link fences and razor wire, surrounded by surveillance cameras, concrete, and girders. The photos depict a world that has changed drastically in thirty years, and which has militarized against, marginalized, and narrowly framed the acceptable boundaries of citizen dissent. Moreover…

If Voting Changed Things… it wouldn’t contrast so distinctly with other forms of citizen action. There is a humor and a vibrancy to “the people” that Langelle juxtaposes brilliantly against the sterile and colorless state apparatus. There is a diversity of skin color, age, gender among the protesters. Their slogans are racy, their clothing is colorful and fun. They wield musical instruments, engage in “guerilla theatre” and share poetry. They engage in property destruction with irony—wearing clogs as they break windows and asking through their graffitti with (gallows) humor if the protest restraint area represents the “Land of the Free?” Their defiance comes in the form of patches, to be worn on the derriere, sold by a young girl in a flowered dress.  They paint their faces and wear straw hats.

The stark reality of the state is helmeted, with dark gray protective gear and weapons to enforce compliance.  The only colors are the red, white, and blue banners and flags that appear more as a hypocritical challenge to the popular movements than a patriotic display.  It is evident that Langelle sees a dour system that is oppressive and lifeless.  Voting is a part of that system, a reinforcement of its values and an affirmation of the status quo.

If Voting Changed Things… marginalized groups wouldn’t be in the streets. The electoral process in America has produced and validated a government that has produced institutional racism, militarization within and from our society, mass incarceration, crippling debt, perpetual war, homelessness, a failed health care system, eroding and ineffective education, and environmental exploitation. If Voting Changed Things… we wouldn’t have a 1 percent.  We wouldn’t allow the .01 percent, 16,000 Americans, to hold as much wealth ($9 trillion) as 80 percent of the nation’s population – some 256,000,000 people – and as much as 75 percent of the entire world’s population. We wouldn’t allow the five largest white landowners in America to own more agricultural land than all of black America.  If Voting Changed Things… demographics wouldn’t be used as a basis for electoral strategies.  We would vote away the cleavages that exist across generations, racial and cultural groups, religious affiliations. But we don’t, because we can’t.

If Voting Changed Things… would we be where we are? The work of Orin Langelle may offer you a lens from which to answer that question.  Or to find your own conclusion to the sentence.

ARTIST TALK: ORIN LANGELLE
Friday, November 4, 7pm
¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art
148 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY

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Dave Reilly is professor and chair of political science and director of international studies at Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he serves as president of the faculty union and moderator for the Black Student Union.

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This is essentially the same article that ran the weekend prior by Dave Reilly in CounterPunch

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cp5

By Dave Reilly

To view photojournalist Orin Langelle’s new online photography exhibit If Voting Changed Things is to accept a challenge.  Don’t expect a passive viewing of simple, aesthetically pleasing photography or a mindless stroll through apolitical eye candy.  The challenge should be apparent from the title of the exhibit: It is a riddle, a fragment, an incomplete sentence awaiting your contribution.  To view his display is to realize that there is no single way to finish the statement.  Langelle invites you to see the complexity of the world through his lens, but to draw your own conclusions about the meaning of the images.

c3_burlesque1_002_1-copy If Voting Changed Things… people would vote.  They don’t.  Only 58% of eligible voters did in the last presidential election.  Recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans feel disenfranchised by the 2016 presidential election process and candidates.  They aren’t proud or hopeful about the outcome, and half of Americans feel helpless.  There is no emphasis on issues that matter to them.  Election discussion centers around voting for the least worst candidate, which makes civic duty seem like an exercise in self-denial and a concession that our aspirations are not achievable.

Of course, the counter is that if you don’t vote, you’re giving someone else the power to make decisions for you.  But that perspective ignores the range of opportunities for civic engagement and citizen action: Protesting, demonstrating, picketing, civil disobedience, rallies, striking, tax resistance, boycotting, sit-ins, sabotage, hacking and DDoS, tree-sitting, resistance, law-breaking, insurrection, rebellion, revolution.  Langelle’s images of protest activity outside of national conventions in 1972 and 2004 raise the question of whether voting, and the electoral circus that accompanies it, is about citizen empowerment or an explicit and ceremonial abdication of power by citizens to a status quo elite.  Which leads to the observation that…

If Voting Changed Things… they wouldn’t let us do it.  Chomsky wrote that “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views.  That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of debate.”  Photographs from 1972 and 2004 capture moments outside of the system, beyond the framing of the acceptable discourse.  Protesters explicitly reject governmental authority through symbols, slogans, caricatures, and artwork.  The elephant pulling a coffin through Miami’s city streets conveys a belief that political parties are leading us to death and destruction.  The black hoods and orange jump suits communicate that protesters in Boston, relegated to a “Free Speech Zone,” have become the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay detained terrorist suspects.  It is not accidental that the media ignores or minimalizes these displays of collective action.  In 2016 delegates—the people who were there (never mind viewers at home)—at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions remarked that they were unaware that protests were occurring outside throughout.  Langelle deftly illustrates that this is because authorities have increasingly managed and marginalized protest behavior.  Which demonstrates that…

If Voting Changed Things… this exhibit wouldn’t be necessary.  For many, Langelle’s work will be shocking because it lays bare the evolution of policing and the criminalization of dissent.  Photos of the 1972 demonstrations include arson, sabotage, gratuitous nudity, and graffiti that challenges, “Amerika—Love it or Destroy it,” and yet not a single police officer is identifiable among the activists.  The activists are in the streets, climbing in trees, occupying fields and grassy lawns, neighborhoods and parks.  Contrast this with images of Boston Police in 2004, appearing ready for war in riot gear; armed with Tasers, guns, clubs; a menacing and ubiquitous presence atop scaffolding towers.  Because of new draconian laws, protesters have been herded into holding pens of chain link fences and razor wire, surrounded by surveillance cameras, concrete, and girders.  The photos depict a world that has changed drastically in thirty years, and which has militarized against, marginalized, and narrowly framed the acceptable boundaries of citizen dissent.  Moreover…

If Voting Changed Things… it wouldn’t contrast so distinctly with other forms of citizen action.  There is a humor and a vibrancy to “the people” that Langelle juxtaposes brilliantly against the sterile and colorless state apparatus.  There is a diversity of skin color, age, gender among the protesters.  Their slogans are racy, their clothing is colorful and fun.  They wield musical instruments, engage in “guerilla theatre” and share poetry.  They engage in property destruction with irony—wearing clogs as they break windows and asking through their graffitti with (gallows) humor if the protest restraint area represents the “Land of the Free?”  Their defiance comes in the form of patches, to be worn on the derriere, sold by a young girl in a flowered dress.  They paint their faces and wear straw hats.

The stark reality of the state is helmeted, with dark gray protective gear and weapons to enforce compliance.  The only colors are the red, white, and blue banners and flags that appear more as a hypocritical challenge to the popular movements than a patriotic display.  It is evident that Langelle sees a dour system that is oppressive and lifeless.  Voting is a part of that system, a reinforcement of its values and an affirmation of the status quo.

If Voting Changed Things… marginalized groups wouldn’t be in the streets.  The electoral process in America has produced and validated a government that has produced institutional racism, militarization within and from our society, mass incarceration, crippling debt, perpetual war, homelessness, a failed health care system, eroding and ineffective education, and environmental exploitation.  If Voting Changed Things… we wouldn’t have a 1%.  We wouldn’t allow the .01%, 16,000 Americans, to hold as much wealth ($9 trillion) as 80 percent of the nation’s population – some 256,000,000 people – and as much as 75 percent of the entire world’s population.  We wouldn’t allow the five largest white landowners in America to own more agricultural land than all of black America.  If Voting Changed Things… demographics wouldn’t be used as a basis for electoral strategies.  We would vote away the cleavages that exist across generations, racial and cultural groups, religious affiliations.  But we don’t, because we can’t.

If Voting Changed Things… would we be where we are?  The work of Orin Langelle may offer you a lens from which to answer that question.  Or to find your own conclusion to the sentence.

If Voting Changed Things can be viewed online at: If Voting Changed Things: Exhibit Online. It is also on display at the ¡Buen Vivir! Gallery for Contemporary Art in Buffalo, NY until December 2nd.

Dave Reilly is professor and chair of political science and director of international studies at Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he serves as president of the faculty union and moderator for the Black Student Union.

The above article by Dave Reilly was published in CounterPunch’s Weekend Edition / October 28, 2016 / Friday – Sunday

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