“…capitalism has a knack for devouring and absorbing everything in its path—including any critique of capitalism.” (from Notes on Conceptualisms)
When I taught an experimental writing course to undergraduates this past winter my students and I were most surprised to discover, through some of the class exercises, the extent to which we are not free to express ourselves. There is a disconnection between our perception of our rights and freedoms and what we are actually allowed to do and say. Unless we are trying to push these boundaries, it is often something that goes unnoticed.
I adapted an assignment from Kenneth Goldsmith’s book Uncreative Writing and asked the students to do a non-permanent graffiti project in which they were to put an outdated slogan or old quote in a public place and document it with a photograph. One student tried to put up a sticky note in a lingerie store with the Picasso quote: “What is beauty anyway? There’s no such thing.” She tried to put the note “among all the sparkly bras” but got kicked out of the store. She went to Chapters and tried to put the note beside the beauty magazines but got kicked out. Then she went to a grocery store and tried to put it beside some beauty products and got kicked out again. In a final attempt, before class, she tried to put the note on the mirror in the women’s washroom on campus but “behold,” the student says, “a wild custodian” appeared and threatened to call the campus police. Finally giving up, she says, “I took down my art and left.”