Grace Ndiritu interviews Nancy Popp for Educating Rita 4.11.17

a Post-hippie, Skate, Surf, Street, Neo-Tribal Fashion book project

Nancy Popp
Los Angeles
visual artist, educator and yoga teacher

NP: I guess I hear what you are saying. There are public uses of the body and there are private uses of the body. And it is really important to differentiate between them. One of the things we can do when we protest is engage in the public use of the body for private means. This is the AIDS crisis, right? You are used the body in public in a way as a protest but you are actually dealing with private issues and reflecting private issues. In an interesting way that Texas protest that you’ve brought up, which is about private use of a simulated body part, is about female pleasure as opposed to male dominance — so it is very complex. Judith Butler gave a talk in 2011 in response to the Arab Spring and the uprisings in the Middle East. In it she talks about the body in public and how the body can be used in very unique way to hold space, how important it is to hold space as a community body. The talk is called Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street. I used it a lot in reference to protest, especially around Occupy where you had these masses of bodies in public space. In Los Angeles at the of the turn of the century, there were so many political movements in Los Angeles — anarchists, publishers, union halls, lobbyists- and the history of much of those organizations were completely lost and not passed on. But it is important to realise how much action there has been historically. I mean, AIDS and ACT UP is very recent. There is a great printmaker and historian named Nicolas Lampert who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has written a book called The People’s Art History of the United States, taken off of Zinn — Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States. And in this book he links a lot of art practices that were supportive of political movements from the mid-19th century onward. It is a very, very, very long history. In LA in the early 20th century there were laws banning public gathering in public spaces. It was illegal to gather; it is nothing new. This is what the US was intended to foster, this kind of lack of public protest in reaction to a lot of the social movements that they saw happening in Europe for decades and centuries. The US was in some ways directly founded to eliminate that kind of possibility for public movements, social uprisings. It is hard to organize here.

GN: Why? Why is it harder than anywhere else, in other countries?

The full length interview can be read online for free