The tactic of culture jamming
If culture jamming is anything, writes Mark Dery in the foreword to Culture Jamming: Activism and the Art of Cultural Resistanceit is “the dream of reclaiming our sense of ourselves as citizens in a culture that insists on reducing us to consumers – wallets with mouths, in advertising jargon”.
The term can be defined as negative, as in the blocking of commercial messages, or it can be likened to a musical jam session, an experimentation with cultural forms, and becomes something more creative and constructive, “artfully seeking to invent new views of the world”. future,” according to Marilyn DeLaure and Moritz Fink in their introduction to the same book.
Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping see their role as illuminators in helping people reclaim a sense of themselves.
They have been doing this for over 20 years, under the direction of Savitri D, through the sermons of Billy Talen and the passionate performance of the choir.
As part of their actions against Bayer/Monsanto, they filled an Environmental Protection Agency hearing with gospel-style music, chanting “Monsanto is the devil, no glyphosates”, and they walked in in a glyphosate chemical plant.
They “exorcised” a Starbucks and danced through the streets of New York with Mickey Mouse on a cross. “A lot of our work is just to make things visible. Running with a giant neon arrow and pointing at something is a vanguard position. It’s here, the crisis is right there,” said Savitri D Resurgence & Ecologist.
So the work of groups like BP or not BP? focuses heavily on media coverage and social media to disrupt the one-way flow of corporate messaging, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir have a different focus.
“Our mission is to bring wilderness into public space and open public space to a different kind of behavior,” says Savitri D. It shows in the way they interact with people on the street , singing and dancing. Many spectators turn and watch: some look shocked or turn away, some laugh and some even join in.
“The street is a busy space because there are players you can’t control, pressures you can’t predict,” says Savitri D. “The police, throwing them in the room, for example. The street contains the unknown in a very powerful way.
This ‘savage’ must come from within, continues Billy. “Savagery must come from an invitation to savagery, to dance with savagery, to become savagery. And let the attacks on the wilderness, by Bayer/Monsanto for example, let them be the aliens and meet them from the wilderness so you have that strength.
At a time when it’s all too easy to get sucked into doomscrolling the latest world news, an injection of humor is welcome.
Whether through “subversive” advertisements on billboards and the dissemination of information on social networks, or through flash mobs and creative actions in the streets, the jamming of this consumer messaging is a huge relief.
It gives us the space to step out of our market reality and see it for what it really is. The successes of the campaign against oil patronage of the arts also show that it works.
Savitri D and Billy Talen take this peaceful protest a step further by inviting us to look away from the ads and see each other.
Marianne Brown is editor-in-chief of Resurgence & Ecologist. This article first appeared in the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine, now available.