Guilt as Sin The Trial of Reverend Billy and the Exorcism of the Sacred Cash Register -Tony Perucci
TONY PERUCCI • Department of Communication Studies - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill • Ph.D., Performance Studies - Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, New York, New York. • 1998 M.A., Communication Studies - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. • 1993 B.S., Performance Studies - Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.
Reverend Billy • Bill Talen (born May 25, 1950) • Created “The Church of Stop Shopping” in 1999, Times Square, New York Mission • Above all we try to complexify the moment of purchase, to snap people out their hypnosis and back into the mystery of being human. We remind people that things come from somewhere, that products have a resource past, a labor past. Someone made It, and It is made of something, we trace the route a product took to get on the shelf, the life it might have when we throw it away. We animate the objects that surround us and in so doing we re-animate ourselves. We become citizens again.
Big 5 • Topic Performance idenity and social change • Focus Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping • Method Legislative anaylsis, ethnography • Target of Anaylisis The People of the State of California v. William Claire Talen • Goals to discuss the trail of Reverend Billy and Performance identity
Intro: Billy on Beck • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wxjl2ERhnI • The most powerful church in the world is the Church of the Stupefied Consumer. This is a fundamentalist church run by famous televangelists. Recent leaders include Jerry Falwell, Michael Eisner, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Saddam Hussein, and Phil Knight from Nike. Children, we’re in this church and we don’t even know it! That’s how fundamentalist it is ... Oh, stop your shopping! Stop your shopping! (Talen 2003, 49)
The Church of Stop Shopping • On Christmas Day 2005, Reverend Billy and his choir performed an action at Disneyland. • Reverend Billy and his choir traveled to Washington, D.C. in March 2007 to participate in an action against the war in Iraq, "Don't Buy Bush's War," organized by Code Pink Women for Peace, where they roamed the halls of the U.S. Congress preaching and singing their anti-war message. No arrests were made. • On June 29, 2007, Billy was arrested on charges of harassment in Union Square, Manhattan while reciting the First Amendment to police officers through a megaphone, during the monthly bike ride Critical Mass • On April 19th in 2004 The Church of Stop Shopping went to perform and act in a Starbucks in Northridge, California. • “We were exhilarated by the fifteen-minute performance, and joked that the cut that ‘‘miraculously’’ appeared on Billy’s hand was actually a stigmata. However, later that summer, Billy received two letters from Los Angeles Superior court*the first a restraining order forbidding him from coming within 250 yards of any Starbucks in the state of California, and the second subpoenaing him to appear in court to face charges of malicious vandalism and trespassing” (Perucci/322/2008)
The People of the State of California v. William Claire Talen • “The trial functioned to regulate the practice of performance and its potential to interrupt the smooth operation of capital at the site of exchange, which is termed in the California state law covering trespassing as a move to disrupt the flow of business”(Perucci/316/2008) • “City Attorney’s case, and her closing argument in particular, reveal the ways in which the state (in collusion with and compelled by the Starbucks Corporation) recognizes the interruptive power of performance as threatening what she characterized as the ‘‘sacredness’’ of the flow of capital; in her sanctification of the flow of capital, the City Attorney reveals the ways in which Reverend Billy’s performance was not only criminal but also a sacrilege against market fundamentalism.” (Perucci/316/2008)
The People of the STate of California v. William Claire Talencontinued • Starbucks as a privatized public space • “In the trial, City Attorney Rodriguez put the ‘‘performance issue’’ center stage. First, she worked to establish Starbucks as a privatized public space*an open public space, but one limited by privatized rights.” (Perucci/322/2008) • “Third Space” • As a means to head off First Amendment claims, Rodriguez repeatedly guided her witnesses back to the notion of the ‘‘third place,’’ which she defined in her opening statement thus: ‘‘The third place means people should be safe in their homes, safe in their business, and safe in Starbucks’’ (California vs. Talen 20). Here, third place is reconceptualized as a place where one can expect private property protections rather than an expansive publicity • Performance issue (Why it’s a criminal offense) • “We have heard a lot of talk about performance art and theater. Well, Mr. Talen said he didn’t make any reservations to do any performance art or theater at Starbucks, nor does he have*he can’t go down to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and just put on a play, walk in and put on a play after the security guards have asked you to leave. This was, you’ll see, an activist workshop, and the activities that Mr. Talen intended to do was disrupt the business of Starbucks.” (California vs. Talen 256) (Perucci/323/2008) – City Attorney Rodriguez why it’s a criminal offense
The People of the STate of California v. William Claire Talencontinued • Market Fundamentalism • He intentionally interfered with business, he did interfere with business, and this was beyond, beyond any right any of us have to go in and have a skit, have a play, have any actions, because there is a sacredness, there are places that people can’t go and grabbing registers and disturbing the flow of business. That’s beyond. (262) (Emphasis added)(Perucci/324/2008) His performance wasn't considered a protest, but a criminal act
The People of the STate of California v. William Claire Talencontinued • “Reverend Billy was not only guilty as sin, he was guilty of sin*the sin of heresy against the God of capital.” (Perucci/325/2008 • Official Charge: Guilty of Criminal Trespassing • Reverend Billy was sentenced to three days in a Los Angeles city jail, of which he served two. • Discuss: How do you feel about the decision of this trial.
Starbucks Message • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cj6HfWfNrN8 • No this is LIKE the neighborhood, it is IN the neighborhood, but it IS NOT the neighborhood. It’s Starbucks, and where it that? Where is Starbucks? IT’S NO PLACE. In fact, we are tourists in our own lives, there’s a disconnect. Our words have a barely discernible echo. ...WE’RE IN THE FAKE CAFE, AND WE CAN’T KNOW THE REAL COST OF THAT LATTE. (Talen 2003, 14) • Children, let’s look at these lattes, at the cups of coffee on the tables in front of us. Children are dying to make this cheap coffee available to this company. The C.E.O. of this company has a billion dollars on the other end of the economy of Starbucks. Families are impoverished. There are six- and seven- and eight-year-old children out in the fields all day long trying to increase their family’s income. That is not good. That should change the taste of these coffee products.
Overall Messsage Reverend Billy is a constructed identity created by William Talen. Is this performed identity strong enough to get his message across? Are there any other people or groups that use this method of performance identity?
Yes Men https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QvpBO-W5OM They have an unusual hobby: posing as top executives of corporations they hate. Armed with nothing but thrift-store suits, the Yes Men lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate targets in ever more extreme ways - basically doing everything that they can to wake up their audiences to the danger of letting greed run our world. -Yes Men Website