The Octopus is kind of everywhere these days.
Since I started working on The Octopus Suit, I may just have been noticing them, but it’s more than that. Especially if you associate octopi with Occupy, which is in the news, and on our minds, every day.
The idea to do the suit wasn’t because of Occupy, although the Japanese octopus that inspired me may have stirred what was already lurking around my subconscience. (I went to the first local Occupy meeting, but when the organizer handed it over to a representative of the city who wanted to schedule a good time to protest, I left)
The octopus has long been a symbol of dissent. The blog Vulgar Army (referencing the Latin name Octopus Vulgaris) has images of Octopi like this one from post-war Austria. I found the “Occupy Everything” poster there too, which was being used by a group called Occupy California in early 2010, over a year before Occupy Wall Street set up camp in Zuccotti Park.
Octopi are said to be the most intelligent of invertebrates, along with squid and cuttlefish. And some even have psychic abilities, like the famed Paul, who called every game in the 2010 World Cup.
It had to have been more than luck to say Serbia would beat Germany, who missed a penalty shot for the first time in 28 years.
While it didn’t take above-average brains to pick Spain over The Netherlands in the final, Paul is likely distinct in being the only octopus to have his obituary in People Magazine. Animal rights groups said the oracle oddsmaker should be set free, and they probably had a point, although his participation was the highlight of the World Cup for me.
There’s been a lot of talk about co-opting Occupy, which, given their relevance and skilled promotional ability, is almost inevitable in today’s media-driven world. I heard a podcast on Truthdig critical of Occupy co-opting by MoveOn.Org, about a Beverly Hills party and art auction benefit selling high-priced works by well-known artists. They mentioned one featuring an octopus, by Robbie Conal.
Conal is the son of union organizers, who sells his work but is also focused on anti-establishment content. He has a long history of using posters to protest the abuse of power. This one addresses the sub-prime mortgage fallout, depiciting some of its Big Fishes beneath the octopus (aka “our revenging cephalopod”): Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., John Mack, COB of Morgan Stanley, and Brian Moyhnihan, CEO of Bank of America.
This cartoon from 1882 demonstrates the long history of the protesting Octopus (not to mention corporate greed). While it’s not so great to watch the ideals of Occupy overtaken by more media-savvy, celebrity endorsed groups like MoveOn, mass protest and rhetoric against the status quo is nothing new, and nobody owns the rights to it.
Although also not so great is when zillionaires like Jay-Z get on the bandwagon, helping T-shirt moguls profit off mass produced merch.
The Octopus is as far from off-the-rack as it can get. Every part of the construction was done by hand, including the buttonholes. Sure, the seams and embroidery were done with machines, but non-computerized chainstitch is as rare as a suit made entirely by one person.
I hope to soon have pictures of The Octopus being worn! Its new owner is a fine country troubadour, who patiently waited while the suit took shape, and arrived for one fitting, at the artisan-ish, fashion-y mens store where I was working at the time, wearing a kilt. I was surprised at the discomfort that seemed to generate.