Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies

Collaborations: MFA CD Blog

OCCUPY Portland: Musings and Observations Part 1

Text by Danielle Olson MFA ’13

Photo via Merrick Monroe

The following is a story of my involvement in the Occupy movement, specifically Occupy Portland, and how it has influenced my academic experience as an MFA Collaborative Design Student at PNCA. The Occupy movement’s purpose is to intervene in a system: a system where the government is heavily influenced by wealthy corporations.

Where it begins: October 15th

My first visit to the Occupy encampment was amidst the Global Day of Action; although I can’t say from first-hand experience, it felt like a throw-back to 1969. The organically formed tent city, sprawling with people, music, and colorful signage, was reminiscent of a bazaar.

After spending some time talking to people at random, I found myself wanting to hear their personal stories: why they were there, and what they were trying to make happen. Spurred on by this inspiration, I decided that I would return to interview more people for the intervention project required in our Systems Thinking class. The requirements for this project were to come up with some kind of action, public art, etc. that would find a way to intervene in a system. By intervening in the Occupy system in a way that strengthens it, I could also hope to make an impact on the larger systems of government and corporations. I wanted to ask questions that would get people thinking about what the Occupy movement is about and what needs to be done; to evoke the thoughts of not only those being interviewed, but those who might watch the footage online.


My first interviews! October 23rd

Alejandro and Reya both talked about the compassion and rich interaction they had experienced through Occupy Portland. Reya expressed the inner thoughts that led her to become active in the movement, “I love working with children, and in analysing the current state of the world I’ve realized it’s something I’m not proud of handing to them.”

Serenading a CEO: November 3rd

I recorded several more interviews and spent a few hours at the camp along with one of my classmates and one of my mentors. Joel, a seasoned activist there, had some profound things to say. I spoke with people who were involved in various committees and working groups, including Troy who was homeless and came to the occupy camp to help manage and make art for the art tent. We walked to the Hilton where some people were protesting Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, who was speaking to the Portland business alliance. They were singing to the tune of Love Potion Number 9, “Lord knows you’ve got to change Jaime…the truth is, you know it, you should be in jail!” The singers included some very creative verses. To top off that event, we watched a swat team ride by: about 9 officers in all black, hanging out of windows and doors on all sides of a white van.

Photo via Michelle Rafter

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