Overpass Light Brigade

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Overpass Light Brigade
OLB Recall at Bradford Beach December 13, 2011.jpg
"Holders of the Light" above Lincoln Memorial Drive, adjacent to Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, advocating the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, December 13, 2011.
Artist Lane Hall, Lisa Moline, Joe Brusky and collaborators
Year 2011 (2011)-present
Type electronic, performance
Location Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Overpass Light Brigade (OLB) is an activist collaborative public art project based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and organized by American artists Lane Hall and Lisa Moline and photographer Joe Brusky. The artwork is an episodic performance originally created as part of the 2011 Wisconsin protests to raise awareness about the campaign to recall Governor Scott Walker.[1] OLB was co-founded by Hall and Moline, then, soon after its inception, Brusky a community organizer and co-founder of Occupy Riverwest joined the Overpass Light Brigade, and facilitated the project's continued growth and social media presence.[2]


The artwork consists of a series of LED-illuminated Coroplast, corrugated plastic panels each of which displays one letter of the alphabet. Performers, known as "holders of the light," assemble in a line with each person holding one sign/letter.[3] Together, OLB performances presents a timely message or political slogan. The Overpass Light Brigade performs at night to increase visibility. Members typically make arrangements for performances and disseminate documentation via social media platforms.[4]

Hall manufactures the panels in his shop.[5] He describes his process on the Daily Kos blog to encourage others to use the group's tactics.[6] Photographs taken by Brusky and collaboratively-produced videos are distributed by the group members and fans on the Internet.[4] Brusky joined Hall and Moline in March, 2012, to help with social media and the live-streaming of bridge actions.[7][8][9][10][11]

The Overpass Light Brigade often organizes its nighttime demonstrations on bridges and highway overpasses.[12] It also mobilizes members to participate in political rallies and vigils. Actions have included collaboration with national labor advocates regarding Walmart's labor practices,[13][14] the Chicago Teacher's Union (CTU) Strike,[11] environmental advocacy with organizations such as 350.org and Global Climate Convergence,[15][16] and social justice causes, including police violence, indigenous rights and related issues.[17][18][19][20]

Appearances have also have included picketing with striking Palermo's Pizza workers,[3] a pedestrian bridge to the Milwaukee Art Museum,[1] an event with Nuns on the Bus,[21] and vigils mourning the 2012 Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting[5][22][23][24][25] and the Boston Marathon Bombing.[26]


Hall and Moline developed the idea for the Overpass Light Brigade through their personal reactions to the movement to recall Governor Walker. They originally used a single panel and string of Christmas lights to create an illuminated "Recall Walker" sign, which they carried at a local rally.[27] When images of the sign were circulated by mainstream media outlets ranging from The Rachel Maddow Show[8] to CNN,[28] Hall and Moline decided to continue their efforts. Their next step was to create six individual signs that spelled RECALL. After attempting to install the signs on the chainlink fence covering a pedestrian bridge across the Interstate (I-43) and learning that doing so is illegal, Hall and Moline enlisted others to help carry the signs, as a legal form of display. This participatory dimension to the work gives Overpass Light Brigade gatherings "the feel of a celebration, with scores of people gathering on the pedestrian overpasses," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[9]

For the artists, their work with the Overpass Light Brigade is a "demonstration of citizen engagement...a Situationist paradigm of performativity within the contested and liminal zones of public space"[29] and a navigation of the tactics of visibility.[30] They cite French critical theorist Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle as an inspiration. Debord explored and explained how contemporary media creates spectacle that is essentially devoid of content. A founder of the artistic and political movement Situationist International, he sought, through the construction of "situations," to create multiple strategies for reclaiming an individual's self-determination from the sedative effects of ubiquitous spectacle.[31]

Hall and Moline had a history of making collaborative work, often about environmental issues and animal subjects, but rarely pushed beyond the boundaries of traditional art spaces.[32] As a result of the Wisconsin Protests, the artists became involved with activist work, in which the use of signs was pivotal. They also worked with other artists, activists, social scientists, and teachers to set up a short lived political action committee called The Playground Legends and began working within some of Milwaukee's African American communities on voter education and Get Out The Vote campaigns.[30] The group, with the central notion that public space and public discourse were necessary for functional democracy, set up "parties in the parks" for neighborhood groups, and used these relational activities to help create cohesion around a political purpose.[33]

Brusky, a public school teacher and union organizer, became an integral part of the OLB core after live-streaming focused actions. He is credited with expanding the greater OLB community through his relationships with national Occupy networks.[34]

The OLB organization relies on a loose network of volunteers dedicated to “peaceful protest and artful activism.” [35]


Affiliated Light Brigade organizations have been established in different cities across the United States and internationally, and have organized to form the Light Brigade Network.[2][36][37] Hall emphasizes the importance for groups to consider how a collection of lighted letters can be recombined; to document the action through quality (night-time) photographs, videos, and blog posts; and use of social media to amplify the reach of the message.[38] The Light Brigade Network includes 46 chapters around cities in 21 states in the United States and 6 chapters outside the USA in Croatia, France, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom.[39][40]

Notable Light Brigade Network Actions[edit]

Light Brigade groups organize actions around issues pertinent to their communities, and often collaborate on larger, national or international campaigns. Some noteworthy actions include:

• On 10 April 2014, the PEN American Center organized an event protesting China’s efforts to silence Ai Weiwei and other Chinese artists and writers. This event featured the NYC Light Brigade, holding lighted signs spelling “FREE EXPRESSION” in English and Chinese.[41][42]

• On 7 January 2015 after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, what has become the Paris Light Brigade brought lights spelling “NOT AFRAID” to a vigil in Paris.[43][44]

• Throughout December 2015, homes and businesses in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn displayed signs as part of “Mi Casa Es No Su Casa: Illumination Against Gentrification.” This project is a collaboration between local activists, the Mayday Space and NYC Light Brigade.[45][46]

• The Chicago Light Brigade has been involved in numerous projects – on their own and in collaboration with other groups - to promote social justice for communities of color. They participated in the Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth (May 2014) with the “Locked Up and Out” Rally, and protested the police shooting of Laquan McDonald in December 2015 with the “Memorial Blockade” in downtown Chicago.[47][48]

In Short Films[edit]

The spectacle and "mediagenic quality" of OLB actions have made it a subject of more than one film project. Overpass Light Brigade, a short documentary by filmmakers Matt Mullans and Dusan Harminc, was released in 2013 and has been screened in over 25 venues, including Woods Hole Film Festival, Marfa Film Festival, and the PBS Online Film Festival.[4][49][50][51][52]

Also in 2013, Planned Parenthood, with 371 Productions and documentary filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, created the “Be Visible” campaign, with a video highlighting women’s stories and featuring the Overpass Light Brigade.[53][54][55]

Photographs of Overpass Light Brigade in Action[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Schumacher, Mary Louise. "Overpass Light Brigade Targets Scott Walker". Art City. JSOnline. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Schneider, Pat. "Overpass Light Brigade's illuminated protest signs spark a national network". madison.com. The Capital Times. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Striking Palermo’s Workers to Join Overpass Light Brigade for Historic Bridge Action". occupyriverwest. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c "Overpass Light Brigade, Filmmakers Host Screening at Historic Oriental Theatre" (PDF). WisPolitics. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Kaufman, Dan. "Lights in Oak Creek". The New Yorker. New Yorker News Desk Blog. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "'Make Diary': DIY LED Signs to Light Up the Night". Daily Kos. Kos Media. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  7. ^ Johnson, Kirsten (May 30, 2012). "Charge of the Overpass Light Brigade in Wisconsin". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Brevväxling, Royal. "Overpass Light Brigade mixes social media, "physical commitment of real people"". OnMilwaukee.com. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Miner, Barbara. "From 'Recall Walker' to 'Question Austerity': A Movement Continues". Purple Wisconsin: A View from the Heartland. JSOnline. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Pabst, Georgia (27 Aug 2012). "Palermo boycott organizer files complaint against deputy". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  11. ^ a b OConnell, Kit. "Overpass Light Brigade is Challenging Free Speech Restrictions". Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Mahon, Narayan. "Rallying in a Flash". The New York Times. The New York Times Agency Photos. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  13. ^ OConnell, Kit. "Nationwide Overpass Light Brigades Join #WalmartStrikers". Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  14. ^ Lockwood, Denise (November 23, 2012). "Protesters Head To Walmarts To Support Employees Trying To Unionize". Patch. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  15. ^ "Bill McKibben and 350.org on the 'Do the Math' Tour". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  16. ^ "Guide to Imagining Light!". 
  17. ^ Whitten, Cameron. "MY FREEDOM RIDE STARTED IN FERGUSON. I DIDN'T EXPECT WHERE IT WOULD END.". Bitch Media. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  18. ^ Quirmbach, Chuck; Lorenzsonn, Erik (October 15, 2014). "Milwaukee Police Chief Fires Officer Who Shot Dontre Hamilton". Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  19. ^ Zeese, Kevin; Flowers, Margaret. "Indigenous Nations Are at the Forefront of the Conflict With Transnational Corporate Power". TruthOut. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  20. ^ Eidelson, Roy; Lyubansky, Mikhail; Malley-Morrison, Kathie. "Building a Racially Just Society: Psychological Insights". Truthout. Psychology Today. 
  21. ^ "Nuns on the Bus to Join Overpass Light Brigade and Palermo’s Pizza Worker Picket Line". occupyriverwest. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  22. ^ Singh, Amardeep (August 7, 2012). ""Nous ne sommes pas des musulmans": la réaction qui inquiète des membres de la communauté sikhe endeuillée". France 24. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  23. ^ "Ex-girlfriend of gurdwara shooter arrested, faces weapon charge". Hindustan Times. 8 August 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  24. ^ "For Many Sikhs, Wisconsin Attack Has Troubling Echoes". The New York Times. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  25. ^ Watson, Leon (8 August 2012). "Candles and prayers for the Sikh temple massacre victims as hundreds of people of all races gather to remember them". Daily Mail. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  26. ^ Clifton, Allen. "An Emotional Reaction to the Boston Marathon Bombing". Forward Progressives. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  27. ^ Maddow, Rachel. "Wreckoning". The Rachel Maddow Show. MSNBC. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  28. ^ Welch, Chris. "Crunch time for recall volunteers". CNN Politics. CNN. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  29. ^ "Overpass Light Brigade, the Law, and Building a Movement". Daily Kos. Kos Media. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  30. ^ a b "Wisconsin's Overpass Light Brigade and Drive by Seeing". Daily Kos. Kos Media. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  31. ^ "Mythic Tractors March On Madison". Daily Kos. Kos Media. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  32. ^ Stern, Nathaniel. "The Overpass Light Brigade: Art + Electronics in the Wisconsin Uprising". Furtherfield. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  33. ^ "An Activist Manifesto or Hot Fun In the Summertime". Daily Kos. Kos Media. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  34. ^ "Joe Brusky Joe Brusky Tactical Mediator Overpass Light Brigade". Netroots Nation. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  35. ^ "Overpass Light Brigade". Overpass Light Brigade. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  36. ^ "Light Brigade Network". Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  37. ^ "Overpass Light Brigade & the Light Brigade Network". Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution. 
  38. ^ "Light Brigade". Beautiful Trouble. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  39. ^ "Overpass Light Brigade Network". Overpass Light Brigade. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  40. ^ [ps://www.facebook.com/zagreblightbrigade/ "Zagreb Light Brigade"]. Facebook Community Page. Facebook. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  41. ^ Schumacher, Mary Louise (April 11, 2014). "Overpass Light Brigade, started in Milwaukee, part of free speech protest". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  42. ^ "PEN American Center Defies Chinese Government, Brings Ai Weiwei to New York". PEN America. PEN America. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  43. ^ "Not Afraid : "Ça nous paraissait important d’exprimer un message universel"". Liberation. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  44. ^ "Charlie Hebdo attack vigils – in pictures". The Guardian. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  45. ^ Fishbein, Rebecca (Dec 29, 2015). "Bushwick Woman Fights Gentrification With Christmas Lights: "Your Luxury Is Our Displacement"". Gothamist. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  46. ^ "Activists in Bushwick Hope to Illuminate Gentrification". NY1 News. December 24, 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  47. ^ "Chicago Protest Against Cop-Involved Shooting Blocks Traffic". NBCUniversal Media, LLC. NBC Chicago. Dec 15, 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  48. ^ Hayes, Kelly. "Memorial Blockade: A Love Letter to Communities Resisting Police Violence". Truthout. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  49. ^ "Overpass Light Brigade (2014)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 8 March 2016. 
  50. ^ "Overpass Light Brigade Screenings". Overpass Light Brigade The Film. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  51. ^ "Overpass Light Brigade, short film by makers of Forward, shows in PBS Online Film Festival". Urban Milwaukee. Jun 27, 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  52. ^ "2014 PBS Online Film Festival". pbs.org. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  53. ^ "Be Visible". Vimeo.com. Planned Parenthood Saves Lives. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  54. ^ "Be Visible". Overpass Light Brigade Blog. OLB. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 
  55. ^ "371 Productions About Us". 371 Productions. 371 Productions. Retrieved 9 March 2016. 

External links[edit]