Artists defy structure restrictions at Occupy Cal

Kanwalroop Singh/Staff

Deep in the center of Sproul Plaza, lies an eight-pointed star. It consists of a conglomeration of odds and ends:crushed cans of coconut juice, Red Bull and Dr. Pepper, orange peels, wooden shavings, flowers, twine balls and pumpkins; a blue can stuck to a computer chip, a rusted pill box and a Tibetan goddess miniature; two concentric circles made of branches; and a small peeping Yoda statue. It is a curiosity for passerby, an oasis of natural beauty on a cement desert.

As Cody, one of the contributors says, the art is proof that, “Trash can be beautiful, if it is used in the right way.” Using waste to create wonder, this is recycling at its finest.

Yet this is only one element of the art that occupies Sproul. Higher up on the steps, students Nick Lake and Hannah Hoffman paint white letters on a large banner that reads, “Welcome to the Open University.” They are members of the arts committee for Occupy Cal. They have been organizing the space since the movement began: bringing couches, rugs, heaters and pianos, and building tepees out of sticks.“ The couch changes the environment, it becomes a living space,” Lake says.  It seems that the art is about transforming the impersonal, impenetrable, institution of the University into a home.

The artists’ work has been confiscated, crushed, bulldozed, and sprayed down by the police. Even still, they keep at it — rebuilding what has been ravaged.  The police told them they couldn’t put up any structures. “We think creatively about restrictions,” Hoffman says. So
they haven’t put up a structure, instead a pile of leaves and a crate of rocks lay on the steps, waiting to be reformed into the latest clever construct.

In a way, these artists have absorbed the violence, bearing the batons of the law with grace. They create art. It violates rules. They compromise. And they do it better than our politicians.