From the Cooper Barricade to a Gallery Van: Aaron Graham in conversation


Untitled, Image, 2013


Louis Doulas: It might actually be interesting to start with your mother. I didn't know she was an artist until you mentioned it the other night. She makes collage work similar to your own (or is it the other way around?)

Aaron Graham: Although there's a huge generational gap between my mother and I, we find ourselves in the same sort of position: how do you access an art world, or an audience? For example, my mom considers herself an artist, and is one, rightfully so, but who does she show her work to? She doesn't really have an art world connection or gallery plug—she's also not necessarily interested in that either. Anyways, I find myself in a similar situation. It's funny, I graduated from school, and am looking for the next step, but when I look towards the art world and all the galleries, I can't seem to muster up the interest in playing that game, and I think much of my attitude, or position, stems from my political involvements with Cooper. What was really significant for me was the Cooper lock-in we did in December, which was my first real experience with direct action. That lock-in lasted a week and it was one of the best weeks ever. I think that once you taste these things, it's hard to go back to anything else.


Revolutionary Convergences: History and Symbolism in Anonymous and OWS Art


Left: United Nations Officials with an unofficial U.N. flag, 1947, Right: Anonymous members with flags in the UK from flickr, 2008

Anonymous operates under a well-designed logo. Does it belie their dispersed identity or siphon power from historical symbols to disrupt our own associations to them? The aesthetics of past revolutionary movements point more towards the second possibility. We see this link to history in the poster designs of Occupy Wall Street — new digital tools under visual constraints produce an early 20th century screen printer’s aesthetic with formal motifs of the same era.

New technology and historical technique are converging, and so are the symbols being used to deliver the message. The visual traces of current aesthetics draw on the deep roots of history and the powerful associations images and symbols therefore possess, allowing us to make quick associations to the power of the Roman Empire or the strength of the Greek Gods all in a glance at a tiny logo. Turning back to Anonymous —What can we learn by systematically decoding their symbolism? And how do their aesthetics relate to their actions as international and anonymous activists? 

Searching for these convergences online often reveals infinite Platonic shades of nearly identical images. But occasionally, if you sift past the first helping of results, you can uncover some remarkable connections.

Born in part from the image boards of 4chan, internet image culture was Anonymous’ early stock-in-trade. But above the rabble of trollish GIFs and dinosaur ASCI art they have developed themselves into a brand. Their logo, which dramatically leads many Anonymous affiliated YouTube videos, is wrapped in screen interference, reminiscent of military surveillance cam signals, and backed by equivalently dramatic classical sound clips. On the AnonOps blog the logo lives in static forms; black and white, ironically layered against a sea of 1s and 0s, and as the favicon...