JUST:TEXT is a provisional archive of social justice documents displayed in conjunction with a 2011 lecture on the SUNY New Paltz campus by MIT linguist and political scholar Noam Chomsky and writer/film maker Anthony Arnove in honor of social historian Howard Zinn.

The display includes texts submitted by faculty, staff and students on the New Paltz campus, texts on loan from the Zinn family as well as extensive documentation of the emergent Occupy phenomena. This archive is accompanied by Rebecca Heyl’s documentary photographs of the West Bank and Israel entitled Windows in the Walls as well as images of graffiti from the separation wall taken by Emeriti professor and activist Jane Toby. Noam Chomsky and Anthony Arnove’s lectures were preceded by the amazing puppetry of Redwing Blackbird theater as well as public statements from several local activist groups. A video of Redwing Blackbird’s parade is available here. This exhibition also included a statement about the historical precedence for the Occupy movement and its cultural impact by Ohio University professor Ray Klimek available here.

Social justice has been frequently discussed as a struggle against disenfranchisement and the unequal distribution of power across a broad spectrum of issues. Rather than simply defining it as a negation of inequality, we might think social justice as a site of production, where new modes of experimental becoming can be tested and employed.

Spatiality, the complex weave of social and material processes that construct space, has been a key component of social justice and the ongoing Occupy movements. When recently speaking at Occupy Wall Street, the contemporary philosopher, Judith Butler stated “we’re standing here together, making democracy, enacting the phrase, ‘We the People’. The assembly of bodies, joyously embodying democracy unfolds not solely in the realm of ideas, but in space and, for space to be public, it must be performed publicly. It is this political affect, the movement of bodies in space, the crystallization of emotion and the circulation of ideas that produces change.”

Slavoj Zizek, pointing to the tragic failure of social creativity has stated that, It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. Has the horizon of our imagination become so impoverished that we cannot envision a political and economic system other than one that demands that the top 10% of the population own 71% of the wealth, while the bottom 40% own less than 1% (Domhoff 1)? Can we persist in the belief that the United States is a beacon of freedom, while we continue to have the highest rate of incarceration in the entire world (Prison Studies 2)

These documents do more than simply critique existing social institutions and practices, they imagine the impossible – a world where justice is distributed equitably, allowing new forms of living to emerge.

-Matthew Friday, Assistant Professor of Critical Studies, Graduate Coordinator, Department of Art

Domhoff, William G. Wealth, Income and Power. 2011. Dept. of Sociology, University of Santa Cruz, California. Nov. 11, 2011. http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html)
International Centre for Prison Studies. 2011. University of Essex, Nov. 11, 2011.(http://www.prisonstudies.org/info/worldbrief/wpb_stats.php?area=all&category=wb_poprate)

This exhibition would not have been possible without the fantastic collaboration and support of:

  • Rebecca Heyl
  • Jane Toby
  • Ben Junge
  • Redwing Blackbird Theater
  • Gary Kenton
  • Sylvia Zinn and Family
  • Jamie Levato
  • Ken Burge
  • Peter Brown
  • Francois Deschamp
  • Iain Kerr
  • Petia Morozov
  • Morgan Gwenwald