BY MICHAEL SEMENEC
Desensitization? When I started my research for this response paper I wasnâ€™t looking for evidence of the paradigm shift from postmodern to post postmodern. I just wanted to find contemporary examples of desensitizing images in the media and then present them like Andy Warhol did in his Disaster Series. Warhol used pictures of gory car accidents, eery electric chairs, and brutal scenes from the civil rights movement to show that the media has created desensitization to these types of images.
Scott Olsen With the ongoing Occupy protests, I figured I would be able to find what I was looking for and I did. I was finding all kinds of images of police arresting and forcefully dragging people away. And then, I found what I thought would be the focus of my response, the Scott Olsen incident. Scott Olsen an Iraq War veteran who was protesting at Occupy Oakland, he was shot in the head with a tear gas canister by the riot police trying to disburse a crowd. The shot to the head fractured his skull and when others moved in to help the injured Olsen they were hit with a stun grenade. After the incident pictures of Olsenâ€™s bloody head were massively released through the media and internet. He became one of the first icons for the Occupy movement. I then experimented with the picture in a Warholesque way. The result was desensitizing.
Desensitization? Answer Yes. After collecting all this second hand research from the internet and newspapers I had a feeling that something wasnâ€™t right about my response. So I decided to visit the Occupy Boston protest. I traveled there with a camera to document my visit, but I still felt that something was not right with how I was responding. I experienced a lot full of some genuine protesters and then what felt to be un-genuine prostester. Directly after my visit I tried to buy some cannolis, I was three blocks away from the best cannolis in Boston, but when I got to the pastry shop the line was out the door and that made me upset. I went home and reflected on this trip and I realized that what Warhol was saying with his Disaster Series was true and it was true in me. It was an almost disturbing realization that I have a loss of feelings towards a movement that falls inline with my personal politics. I had more feelings about not being able to get a cannoli then seeing people give up a comfortable living in protest of our present society that has let the rich get away with everything and has made to poor pay for everything.
Finding The Shift I scrapped my response, I found it pointless to go on with responding to desensitizing images of a movement I had been already been too desensitized to care about. That was until I found out what happened on November 18th at an Occupy protest at UC Davis in California. After a squad of ordered riot police removed tents from the property, protesters surrounded and blocked a pathway in front of the riot squad. A chain of the student protesters sat arms locked together and did not move from the officers path. The police told them to move and even warned them that they would use force to move them. That is when Lt. John Pike began in a seemingly casual stroll to pepper spray the nonviolent student protesters. This was caught all on video and was immediately released to the internet. Thats when my generation responded in the way that proves this paradigm shift to Post postmodernism, they made an internet meme out of Lt. John Pike pepper spraying. As collective people of the internet generation made Lt. John Pike pepper spray everything, from little babies to Jesus. This collectiveness is the shift. Postmodern artists tried to make cultural work that had no one seeming author, but because we know these artist by their attempt to make this work means they failed. It is now in Post postmodern generation that the collective achieves this author-less response to cultural happenings. There is no one person who can take or be given credit for the work that has come from it. Just in a couple of hours of research I was able to secure over 150 different images of Lt. John Pike peppering spraying. In this collective response Lt. John Pike becomes an icon for a cultural unjust.
Conclusion My response ends with a satisfaction that I found a proof of a paradigm shift in visual art, but I am still dead to feelings of hope for change that could come. Maybe I have a disconnect because I haven’t lived through any of the troubles that have people protesting. I don’t have this fear of my looming college loans that I have to payback. It almost seems like a waste of time to occupy a park, but then I guess I am not as passionate about politics as others are. I’m still more upset about the cannoli then what the state of our country is. None the less my response is a response and that better than no response.