I was arrested on Monday, August 1, performing in a piece called Ocularpation: Wall Street, by artist Zefrey Throwell, on two counts: ‘disorderly conduct’ and ‘exposure of person’. [NY Times coverage here…]
To me, the performance was about exposure, calling attention to the microcosm mechanisms and mysteries of Wall Street. Ocularpation was about stripping off layers of assumed understandings, the false sense of security in something we now know inherently we cannot trust. It was a statement of protest, as well, for the illegal practices taking place with or without government support, that have lead to a crisis point. Ironically, it was much easier to get arrested on Wall Street as a person respectfully and peaceably objecting, than for those who have been specifically proven to have violated the interests and safety of the American people.
I got involved because I’ve been getting to know Zefrey, and have been very interested in his particular form of public interaction/intervention. I think it’s great to surprise people, shock them to various degrees, create little waves of non-normalcy. We are all able to be hyper-sensitive, and at the same time over-sensitized, and I think Zefrey somehow plays to both of these with his pieces.
I was pretty scared about getting naked – the vulnerability most especially, but I also think there’s something completely and wonderfully democratic about the body – without clothes on, we’re all just bodies with the same basic needs and functions and desires. I think the naked self is the most pure and scary version of us. So I was terrified.
I watched as Zefrey and one of the other performers, Eric, were getting undressed, and the police were telling them to get clothed again immediately, but they were not making arrests, so I chose to continue with the performance. As soon as I was naked, an officer ran over to me and told me to put my clothes back on or I would get arrested. I said ‘OK’ and began getting dressed immediately. I responded with respect and deference to the circumstances. However, as soon as I was pretty much fully clothed again, the same man came over to me with handcuffs and told me I was under arrest. When I asked him why, telling him I had done exactly as he had asked (and obediently, without any confrontation), he replied “I changed my mind”. I was then handcuffed and led to the curb, later put in the police car and driven to the precinct. They then took all of our personal effects, and we were put in the holding cell for about an hour and a half while they processed our arrests. I was given two summons – one for “exposure of person” and one for “disorderly conduct”.
While I can understand getting ticketed for exposure, I am pretty angry about the disorderly conduct, and the subsequent statements by the police force in the press. I acted with complete composure and compliance, never once raising my voice or acting against orders. I was ‘acting’ as a stock broker/banker, and was on an imaginary phone call the whole time I was performing. If being on a cell phone on Wall Street is disorderly conduct, then this is definitely a shocking precedent.