Artismyoccupation (AMO) was a project that offered direct support to artists & cultural producers working on the frontlines of the struggle for Economic Justice. Directly engaged with occupy and other grassroots movements, AMO supported artists across a diverse spectrum of artforms, from visual art to music to public interventions to videos to street theatre and more.
Support for Self-organizing: During it's height, AMO also served as communications infrastructure that facilitated decentralized, self-organizating. As the occupy encampments were in full swing in Fall of 2011, AMO compiled and published the most comprehensive database of events, actions, campaigns and working groups throughout the occupy network.
Communications platform: AMO also hosted the largest "interoccupy" conference calls in the occupy network, with bi weekly calls with over 120 participants. These calls linked occupy Arts & Culture working groups across the US and the world, allowing participants to sort themselves into self-selected breakout groups in real time, run stack and give facilitation 'hand signals' through the maestro system, which resembled occupy's real world organizational structure.
Movement funding: Most importantly, AMO was an experiment in finding ways by which funding could actually be effective within fast moving, decentralized, momentum-driven mass social movements.
Some key lessons:
"Small packets of FAST money are worth more than large packets of SLOW money." Mass social movement surges are a sprint, not a marathan. Speed is everything. Philanthropic and grantmaking institutions work on institutional timelines of 6 months to 2 years. In contrast, social movements dynamically respond to changing conditions in real time, often able to conceive, plan and deploy large scale actions in a matter of weeks, sometimes days. Political differences aside, the sheer mismatch in speed made these two systems un-coordinatable. AMO saught to reduce this interoperability gap by stripping away all unnecessary elements in the fundin structures. AMO moved over $25k from funders directly into the hands of artists within a period of months, many of whom had never recieved funds before. Here are a few of the key lessons that were learned.
Eliminate steps, hoops, and deadlines. Effective activists are not necessarilly experts in navigating the funding processes, and frankly, they shouldn't be. It's bureaucratic, biased and mostly unnecessary. AMO applicants were asked to only give us a few short descriptions to apply. Many grants were just pro-actively given to artists doing good work without them having to apply. There were no deadlines. Reporting was kept to a minimum. This meant that artists did not have to focus on jumping through hoops or 'proving themselves' to funders. Instead, they could spent their energy on what they were already doing, which is take action in the real world.
Acupuncture funding: Social movements inspire huge amounts of everyday people to participate, and as a result are rich in labor power, but cash poor. This means that sometimes the lack of money can create blocks that leave huge amounts of committed, passionate labor to a standstill. There is no space for people to work. A key tool or material is unavailable. Nobody has a car. Suddenly, the wave is blocked. However, very small amounts of money, when precisely pinpointed, can take care of things that only money can buy. This removes those blocks and allows significant amounts of labor to move forward. When movements are in full swing, funders can make incredibly effective interventions if they can precisely target their funding. This requires having omeone in the trenches, on the ground, who is able to find these blocks and quickly remove them, with small, but targetted use of funds.