The Politics of Destruction
The Free Cooper Union Players
SOLO SHOW: e-Flux
On the evening of November 24th, 2013 at e-flux, Free Cooper Union held a performative reading of the 41-page Board of Trustee meeting transcript leaked by the Village Voice in July 2013 and first performed by Free Cooper in May 2013 during the student occupation of the Cooper Union President's Office. For the Performance, students play the roles of trustees and Jamshed Bharucha’s lines are played by a computerized text-to-speech tool.
Weak coffee and mini-hot-dog hors d’oeuvres were served, and the performance was reviewed by Hyperallergic. My personal experience and role in the performance, pulled from a November 2013 blog post, after the jump..
As I listened and watched a group of students clad in ill-fitting suit jackets and bathed in red light. It looked something like the above video. While all this was going on, I looked back through my text messages to the day that transcript, or minutes, or whatever it is, came from — the September 19, 2012 board meeting. The screenshot at the top of this post is what I found.
It’s a group MMS sent to about 10 fellow Cooper students. I was trying to get a crowd outside of that meeting. No one knew what exactly was going on in that meeting, but we all knew that it had something to do with the hijacking of the mission of Cooper Union and a pending announcement to begin charging tuition at the school. All of this was months before the name Free Cooper Union existed, before the mailing list or the twitter account was even an idea.
So I sat at e-flux tonight, wearing the same exact shirt I wore while outside of that meeting. I listened to a brilliant group of people who I have come to love and trust far more than most over the past 14 months, and as they performed I posted photos and tweets to the various Free Cooper Union social media accounts, each with thousands of followers.
As I tweeted from e-flux this evening, I couldn’t help but think, “damn we’ve come a long way from a 10 person group MMS”…and it’s true, and it’s humbling — incredibly so.
I am deeply proud of the work that Free Cooper Union has done, and all that we have achieved and learned along the way. I’m not tooting my own horn here…indeed, if I learned anything other than the political machinations of the Cooper Union over the past 14 months, it’s (at least) a little humility. What I mean to say is: thank you to everyone who made this possible — to everyone who contributed in small ways, big ones, visible, invisible and everything in between. Thank you all from the bottom of my tuition-free heart. I’ll never be able to say it enough, but I’ll continue to try.
Now at Cooper Union, we have far more than a handful of students outside of a board meeting. Today we have a fucking campaign and a movement to uphold and maintain the idea and importance of free education.
As the one student who speaks in the transcript, I read a single line towards the very end of tonight’s performance. I ask the trustees what their names are, and then the whole thing ends. The truth of the current struggle at Cooper, however, is that it ain’t over yet…but I am certain that the students will have the last word, no matter what the outcome…so stay tuned.