Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Poetry/Arts/ Politics --Culture Jamming on the Riverfront

A Proposal
Arts and Poetry Event
The River in Winter: Toward a vision for the future of the waterfront

An open call for Philadelphia artists, poets, laborers for the cause of social justice!
That we might come together to celebrate with art and poetry--to sound our voices for justice, to protest corporate greed, the corruption of the democratic process, and to begin to create through art, an alternative vision for the future of our city and it's waterfront!

Please RSVP


---you are interested in performance, in reading poetry or related work the afternoon of the event?

----you are able to contribute time or other resources to help coordinate and organize?

----you are a video artist who would like to record the event?


At the end of September I participated in a protest at the site of the proposed Sugarhouse Casino on Delaware Avenue; 14 of us were arrested in a symbolic blocking of the construction site. It occurred to me that this might be a good occasion for a poetry reading/demonstration--maybe a token benefit for the legal team, in appreciation for their willingness to take on civil liberties cases pro bono. I mentioned this to Debrah Morkun and Adam Merea a few weeks later at a Writer's House event; they both thought it would be a great project. Debrah and I met a few weeks later for some general brainstorming and walked to Penn Treaty Park from the Rocket Cat Café to check it out as a possible site. We agreed that it has a lot going for it. It's adjacent to the two neighborhoods most affected by the proposed Sugarhouse site, Northern Liberties and Fishtown, and the great view of the river suggested a wider focus--not just anti-casino, but pro park, pro development of the riverfront for public use. Right there in front of us you could see the potential that would be lost if Sugarhouse succeeds.

In the meantime I discovered the Arts and Culture group of the Media Mobilizing Project (MMP), a group whose members are involved in different disciplines and are devoted to looking for ways to make the arts a force for justice and social change. Beth Pulcinella, who’s designed work for other demonstrations, was enthusiastic about the idea and thought she might be able to create some graphic pieces for the reading.

Back to the Future!

When Debrah and I met we were thinking about a date some time in January, maybe the second or third Saturday after New Years to give people time to recover from the holidays. But a second meeting with MMP opened up the possibility of something perhaps more interesting than a Reading for a Good Cause. Why not look at the whole event as work of art? No reason we should stick to the conventional arrangement--with poets and speakers, in a face off with an otherwise disconnected audience. Why not think about how we can involve everyone? Scatter the poets through the audience and through signals--visual or sound, lights or tossing a bright colored ball, 'ignite' and turn on one poet hear to read, and than another at another point... maybe passing out copies of the poem being read--or have the poet visible by fancy headdress, say, and let the audience do the selecting. I can see maybe--a graphic work.. suggesting a torch or baton... handed to a member of the audience who then 'turns on' the next poet, and passes on the signal object to someone else who does the same. I'm just brainstorming here--nothing is fixed or set, but if this is worth doing it's worth making into a something that will be fun--that will make a good video, one that might serve as means to communicate our ideas...

For that, I think it's more realistic to set a February date... maybe Saturday the 13th. I'd be open to doing it later, but having it before the February 16 trial date makes sense--and without a realistic deadline, projects die a slow death of procrastination. We should also file an application for use permit with the Fairmount Park Commission. If there is any chance there'd be 50 or more people--this is required by law. So we need to get cracking.

I can volunteer to pass on information, to solicit poets, to apply for the permit, to coordinate meetings as needed, but I need to know who would like to be in on this... a preliminary RSVP to see if there is enough interest to make it happen. We can leave lots of room for spontaneity--let it come together as a grassroots effort, but need to know who will be doing what--and we need to start talking to one another, by email, face to face--can anyone set up a Listserve discussion board?

Up to this very moment I'd been thinking that we need to formulate a clear statement of purpose... but it occurs to me that maybe THAT should be a part of the purpose.. Some will come because they believe in civil liberties and stand in support of those who defend them. Some to oppose the corporate powers that have usurped democratic process to build a casino Tax Farm to take money from the poor so the rich won't have to pay. Some will come to the riverfront to celebrate their love of art and poetry without borders. Some because this is the site where William Penn eschewed conquest by arms to sign a treaty of peace with the original inhabitants of the land. Let us bring with us our own ideas and motivations that we might begin to discover through the vision of our several arts what is common to us all.

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