Adrian Parsons' Hunger Games A D.C. artist starved himself for 25 days in the name of D.C. voting rights. What’s next on his plate?

Page 3 of 5

Parsons’ embrace of the D.C. cause came at a time when the Occupy movement, having started out protesting a big, national issue—income inequality—started to focus on more parochial matters. Occupiers have recently begun asking questions about local housing policy, weighing in on, for example, a Foggy Bottom zoning dispute in which a developer wants a low-income housing requirement waived.

Like any activists with a broad ideological cause, it’s understandable that Occupy types would look around for specific examples. And locally, the District’s colonial status in the constitution is the most basic of justice issues. So it was perhaps inevitable that Occupy activists, particularly actual area natives like Parsons, embraced the statehood cause. But would the statehood advocacy community—which for years has sought to brand theirs as a mainstream, all-American cause involving nothing more radical than the notion of no taxation without representation—embrace a guy who mutilated his genitals in the hope of somehow slowing violence in the Middle East?

“Quite frankly, I was surprised that they were even aware of the issue. It doesn’t have a national constituency,” says Mark Plotkin, political analyst for WTOP and a statehood absolutist. Plotkin, though, won’t label Parsons a dilettante or a danger to the cause: Any effort that turns attention to District disenfranchisement, he says, is worthwhile. That said, a hunger strike might not be Plotkin’s preferred tactic. He’d like to see, perhaps, a Democratic candidate oppose President Obama on the voting rights issue in the D.C. primary.

“Everything helps,” Plotkin says. “I’m not going to criticize them. I think it’s courageous. Whatever they do, short of violence to themselves, to get attention—it’s a given that it’s welcome.”

Jesse Lovell, communications director for D.C. for Democracy, says he visited Occupy D.C. to talk up statehood early on. But, even after Parsons’ hunger strike, Lovell says he doesn’t know whether the occupiers specifically support—or know about—H.R. 265, Norton’s “New Columbia Admission Act” legislation, which is the focus of his group. “I would want them to know what these bills are about, so we’re not talking in generalities,” he says. “That’s a much better way to get people motivated.”

advertisement

The most prominent D.C. voting rights organization, D.C. Vote, issued tentative statements of support for Parsons and company during the strike. But Executive Director Ilir Zherka couldn’t resist some quibbling over methods and tactics. “My immediate response was, one, Congress is leaving in a week, and two, what’s the end game?” says Zherka. “A hunger strike can end because you achieve the goal, or it ends because a person dies. It was unclear to us here what could be accomplished in a short period of time, especially over the holiday season.”

Still, attention is attention—and Parsons got more of it than Zherka’s group ever had. With the end of his fast in sight, Parsons and the former strikers held a press conference on Dec. 30 to announce three new D.C.-related initiatives. They did so in a fashion more in keeping with Occupy D.C. than with D.C. Vote: The protesters introduced their manifesto of demands using the call-and-response human mic check.

“We pride ourselves on trying to work with and coordinate with all elements of the movement,” says Zherka. “As of now—as long as they’re organized and working—they’re part of that movement.”

Our Readers Say

Why is the City Paper wasting time reporting on this person? As a DC resident...I am all for voting rights, but Parsons' self-aggrandized egotistical attention whoring is drawing the wrong type of attention. Holding a hunger strike when Congress isn't even in session...what does that accomplish? This faux "fight for the cause" (wait which one...there seem to be several...real or perceived?) has accomplished nothing. He cannot even intelligently articulate what it is he is trying to accomplish and how he will go about doing it.

This whole "Dude...what deep and meaningful art it would be if you projected a livefeed of me while shoving doritos in your mouth..." really? Spare me on the hypocritical...I'm representing the 99% while I play on my ipad and use up resources (tax dollars and shelters whose beds and help could be used by actual people in need). It all seems a bit misguided.
DC can do without this spokesperson for DC voting rights he is nothing more then an attention seeker and has no real interest in DC voting rights. The City Paper has cheapened itself by even covering this jerk-off
Kriston – when you pitched this story to your editors, did they know that this guy is your friend? Seems like a serious conflict of interest, you writing so much about him. It's also blinded you to the fact that nobody gives a shit about this guy.
Jeez....the City Paper sucks more & more each week as they glorify this clown.
@ MA - If you missed the cause for which Parsons was hunger striking, you should consider working on your reading comprehension. Look up - see the tag after the title of the article? "A D.C. artist starved himself for 25 days in the name of D.C. voting rights."

As for what he's trying to accomplish, I think Adrian Parsons has made it blatantly clear: bring awareness to the DC voting rights issue. He also made it pretty clear on how he would accomplish such a thing: through a hunger strike! The fact that DC voting rights groups are happy for the attention shows that his hunger strike wasn't a piece of self-aggrandizing performance art, but rather a creative and useful form of activism.

As for the "Dude..." bit you seem to have invented out of thin air, you attack Parsons as a hypocrite because a friend of his used the live feed of the hunger strike for artistic purposes. And what's wrong with drawing attention to the problems of the 99% and having an iPad? The 99% are the folks who buy most iPads, anyway. Also, are the 99%ers staying in homeless shelters? They've erected tents, but tents that weren't being used by the homeless to begin with. Again, I'm not sure how you're making that argument...

@ Big Ant - starving for 25 days is incredibly dangerous. It's life-threatening. That's why people sometimes die from hunger strikes. Risking one's life certainly counts as a "real interest in DC voting rights." I'm not sure what could demonstrate a bigger interest. The guy went all the way to NH to show support for a NH lawmaker who has proposed a resolution supporting DC voting rights. I am not sure I'd go to NH on purpose, ever, let alone drive there for something I support, like DC voting rights. Parsons did a great job bringing more attention to an important civil rights issue.
I never fail to be amazed at how ignorant DC residents are when it comes to their voting 'rights'. Do they not realize that the Constitutionl itself would have to be amended to make the District a state?

The unending series of bizarre behaviors in the District government almost since its founding only serve to reinforce the Founding Fathers' wisdom to specifically and formally designate it a 'district' and not a state, no matter how much 'feel good' politics gets slathered on top.

As an artistic contemporary of Adrian's (and a big fan of his work) I have to say that I fully supported his hunger strike. Most of you are a bunch of lames who wouldn't stand up for something you believe in. Have fun in Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Glover Park, Cleveland Park or wherever you lot hang out. Those pints you're downing at happy hour won't do jack to get you real voting representation.
Another hippie loser wasting his life. He probably smells like shit to complement his total lack of grooming. Publicly circumcising yourself and then going to the hospital - this guy is a fucking IDIOT. He does NOT deserve medical attention- I didn't realize it was possible to be that stupid. Lead your hunger strike, hippie - you're accomplishing NOTHING. If you want to accomplish something,t hen get LOOK and ACT respectable and then people will take your seriously. I know, I know...you're trying so hard to be anti-mainstream. You're failing and you look like an idiot. I'd say you gave a new definition to "starving artist," but I don't think you even have any artistic talent.
Adrian founded a weekly DJ/lounge event called Beyond that I was fortunate enough to be involved with from 2007-2009. That event was probably the most important thing I've done to date - people still ask me about it, and it gave fringe DJs and artists a place to escape the thumpy/synthetic electronic music scene that has so thoroughly dominated the DC evening cityscape.

I couldn't care less about DC statehood, and I haven't kept tabs on Adrian's art of late. But the guy has a presence. He dances, haltingly, on empty dancefloors. He's brilliantly sarcastic, yet surprisingly friendly and warm. And he's a performer extraordinaire who isn't afraid to say "this is how you express all of those crazy things bubbling up inside of you."

So I think it's more than relevant to follow this guy. If only to remind yourself to take the plunge into whatever metaphorical 'deep end' you may be perched above, shivering.
If he's an artist who wants to be involved with political causes, that's fine, but I don't like the idea of him as a representative of the voting rights movement. His hunger strike wasn't a piece of performance art and it accomplished nothing constructive. He's not asking community leaders for their opinions and ideas, he's not trying to get involved with city politics, he isn't looking into the history of the whole problem. He just has an opinion and, because he's an artist, we're apparently supposed to listen to him. No thanks.
It's unfortunate that an idiot whose primary talent is to appear physically appealing to naive young women gets a 5 page article while 100's of legitimate artists in the city work full time on practical, legitimate projects with tangible community impact go unheard of.
So you guys are criticizing:
*his appearance
*the fact that he got attention
*that he is a "hippie"
*that the writer of the article knows him
*that someone made art based on his protest


Live journal says:

current mood: jealous
Also--

Much like the "active member of the art community" who helped Adrian would die during the strike-- you critics have chosen to remain anonymous.

Current mood: cowardly
It seems the darkest side of human nature to heap vicious criticism on others in an 'anonymous' setting like this. My hunch is that most of you commenting on the Parsons story are of the same age cohort, mostly male, many artists as well. What in the world don't you understand about art and the freedom of expression? What is art if not controversial, a prick to the senses and the mind in one form or another? This kid's art makes one wince and laugh and wonder at the same time. You may love it, you may hate it. You may think he is a total narcissist. But there is no question that he gets some attention. Want him censored? What does that make you? Or your art? Enough with the ugly hateful talk. As a long time activist, and DC resident, I know it takes a tremendous amount of integrity, self-knowledge, and fortitude to stand up and fight for basic rights (as in DC Vote). These young people, including Parsons, Jewler, Bucket, the Occupiers, and all of their families deserve our great thanks for their dedication, time, and willingness to put up with losers, like you, who would never be caught dead, canvassing door to door, or protesting at Congress, or City Hall, or taking any meaningful action to improve your community, world. Get real, dudes!
1) Is this guy even a DC resident? He is living with his iPad in a shelter...has he ever paid taxes in DC?

2) His friends who took him to the hospital and attested to his sanity should be held accountable, that is just plain irresponsible.

3) I'm not sure whether this article was written because the City Paper has such a low standard of quality or because there is just nothing else more interesting happening in DC but either way its depressing.

Just to be clear, I am totally cool with his appearance, I love hippies, kudos for becoming famous solely on the fact that you circumcised yourself and didn't eat for a month, I would even pay money just for the pure entertainment of seeing this guy do some crazy shit for attention....I'm criticizing here because if I had to make a list of all the people in the world that could be labeled by the media as the face for DC voting rights, I seriously (after reading this article) could not think of a single person I would want less than this guy.




I'm not against the supporting of local, under-represented artists or making political statements with one's art, which are two things I think he's attempted, in a mangled way, to do. To the credit of Kristen Capps, she captured the tongue-in-cheek way in which Adrian's attempts should be viewed. He's a performance artist, but for most people who've met him on his bumble-bee path through life, it's easily viewed as an on-going standup act (and for people who may take this as a call to censor him artistically, Lenny Bruce is a hero of mine). So in summation:

1) Please redact the mention of his attending St. Mary's College of Maryland. It does neither him nor the institution credit to be associated with the other.

2) An endeavor such as this hunger strike is primarily a (poorly phrased) political statement. To view it as an artistic expression is to try and obfuscate the fact he really has no freaking idea what it is he wants to accomplish politically. Once its considered art it is no longer acceptable to say "Hey that doesn't make sense and may actually hurt your goals by associating the movement with your lunacy" because an artistic statement has a much freer license than a political statement.

That is all. Bye
He's alright by me. I think it's a hoot we have our own artist mascot.
"Performance art" of this vein is grandstanding self-promotion at best, Darwin-esque idiocy at worst. He succeeded on the first part with a five page spread, a few more days of a hunger strike and he'll succeed in the latter.

Anyone supporting this knucklehead should get over themselves. The only difference between this jerk-off "performance artist" and the wierdo hustling for spare change on the street corner is...well, for one thing, this skinny white dude hasn't started asking for spare change, yet. Give him time.

And yes, anonymous comments are brutal. Welcome to the internets. Electronic performance art straight from the Id, sans foreskin.
Thank you Adrian.
Most hunger strikes have focused extremely important issues such as stopping torture, genocide and the like. DC Statehood is an important issue but I never really understood from reading this article why someone would want to put their life in mortal danger so one political party can gain an a relatively unfair advantage in the Senate and the wonderful bunch of clowns in City Council can get more money to waste. Did the reporter even bother to ask this question?
Conceptual Art is dead. Can he draw? Realism's where it's at now, man...
DC is filled with the stupidest bunch of smart people that I have ever seen.
Oh, you crazy white people doin' white people things at Occupy DC, where the 1% who can't hate on the 1% who can.
This guy is one of the many reasons God gave Cystic fibrosis to 1 in 5 white Americans.
Ironically, commenter number 21, Ben, is correct. Realism is the new avant garde.

Besides, a real artist would have just cut off his entire dick and then sent it to Congress in a box. That's art.
Ha, pretty hilarious to see someone criticize someone else as a "hippie." I missed the time machine trip back to the deep South circa 1969. Also pretty funny to see someone on the other side bash people for drinking at happy hours. Yeah, drinking is lame!

More troubling is that the City Paper's editors seems to think it's OK to let people make anonymous personal attacks on others in their articles. And that there has to be so much surplus snark to go along with the "news."
Beau -@ Big Ant - starving for 25 days is incredibly dangerous. It's life-threatening. That's why people sometimes die from hunger strikes. Risking one's life certainly counts as a "real interest in DC voting rights." I'm not sure what could demonstrate a bigger interest. The guy went all the way to NH to show support for a NH lawmaker who has proposed a resolution supporting DC voting rights. I am not sure I'd go to NH on purpose, ever, let alone drive there for something I support, like DC voting rights. Parsons did a great job bringing more attention to an important civil rights issue.
_________________________________________________________________________________
The City Paper could have covered the other half dozen more creditable people fight for DC Statehood this guy has done nothing really except bring attention onto himself. I would have been much more constructive for him and his supports to camp out in the Senate Offices of the Congress men and women for don't support DC Statehood
he is a brave man but quite ugly
http://wp.me/p1VwoO-7o
@ Big Ant - yes, City Paper could have and perhaps should have, but that's not on Parsons.
I dunno, life is funny. I went into this article with preconceived notions how I was gonna hate this guy much in the same manner as all the critics who have weighed in so far. But then I just got caught up in Adrian's previous and recent activities and the flow of the article in general, and somehow wound up enjoying the piece.

I still mostly agree with the critics, yet somehow my rage factor is silent today - I just enjoyed the article at face value, because despite my possible objections to Adrian's political notions or artistic sensibilities, he is active and interesting (which isn't a fact dependent on my approval), and that made the article engaging and entertaining.

It's important to remind ourselves that the perceived worth of an article isn't wholly invested in whether or not we approve of what the protagonist is up to.

Gregg:

Let me explain to why there are a lot of critics of Adrian: many of us know people involved with Occupy DC. Overall, they have done a FANTASTIC job of pushing the boundaries of protest and pushing forth the issue of the marginalized in DC. HOWEVER, most of the people involved toil in obscurity and happily do so. Adrian is part of a group who constantly pushes boundaries even further but more in the interest of being attention whores.

To qualify DC voting rights as a civil rights issue is questionable. One of the reasons that Washington DC doesn't have representation is because it was set up that way to keep power from tilting towards the capital of the country. A disproportionate amount of Federal money already goes to Maryland and Virgina which has created entrenched interests. DC was never intended to have permanent residents. Unfortunately, it does marginalize what is now a majority African-American city. However, that is changing. African-Americans are moving to Maryland and Virgina and like New York City, the international elite is moving into the city. How happy will you be if that class suddenly has voting rights? It would create an even more disgusting nepotistic nexus of power than we have now.

Sometimes, in trying to solve problems, we create bigger ones.

DC voting rights is largely a symbolic issue which has very little to do with African-Americans getting more representation and more power in the United States. While you may not perceive the frame 'civil rights' issue of DC voting rights as such, that is the root of the argument when people bring up the idea of civil rights and DC voting rights.

This hunger strike was not in the rubric of core occupy issues.

Where were these people at demonstrations over Joseph Kabila clinging to power in the Congo, his dictatorship propped up by Western commodities entities who want the cheap minerals used in Adrian's precious 'never very far away' iPad? No where.

This 'gentleman' will bring attention to the DC arts scene, which is good. However, his self-promotion will also alienate more people from Occupy. Most people are not the type to constantly pull stunts and cut their private parts with a Swiss Army knife or a plastic knife or the hand of a Barbie doll or whatever passes of as art among people who have never heard of Chris Burden, who did this same stuff decades ago when it meant something to the art world.

"Scheduler, who am I meeting with today?"

"Oh, sir, that dude who cut his own penis."

"GREAT! Make sure the Grand Rapids Press lets everyone back home that I met with Mr. Do-it-yourself-Mohel. My constituents want to know that I'm open to the performance art community."

There are many other young people involved in Occupy who are going to have an incredibly positive impact on American politics and the social scene. We don't hear about them because they are not completely out for themselves and like most people who do things that matter, their contribution is substantive and boring.

Why not do an article on all the young people from the Middle East involved in the DC occupations who are using their voice here to change their homeland? SNORE! Give me circuses!

At the very least, this attention will encourage him to do something even more over the top like shave the likeness of Clarance Thomas in his pubic hair. Or something like that.

Shock value is not shocking, it's boring.
I bet money, Adrian Parson's isn't a D.C. resident, taypayer, and voter. This guy sounds like a nut case wanting attention.
To Christopher and Mike:

Your ignorance of this completely valid and incredibly important civil rights issue is astonishing, particularly since you lambaste everyone else for not understanding it.

"I never fail to be amazed at how ignorant DC residents are when it comes to their voting 'rights'. Do they not realize that the Constitutionl itself would have to be amended to make the District a state?"

No, a simple act of Congress make a state. You only need a simple majority of Congress to pass the act. You do not need to amend the constitution. The constitution provides the maximum limit for the district, but not a minimum. Congress can reduce the federal "District" to non-residential areas of government buildings, leaving the rest of the territory to be its own state or to be retro-ceded to Maryland (if only they would take us). Find out more facts here: http://dcstatehoodyeswecan.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=293&Itemid=152

"To qualify DC voting rights as a civil rights issue is questionable. One of the reasons that Washington DC doesn't have representation is because it was set up that way to keep power from tilting towards the capital of the country."

We are the ONLY democratic country in the world to deny full political autonomy and voting rights to the residents of its capital city. When the Constitution was written, the entire country was comprised of fewer people than currently live in the District. The District had a mere 3,500 residents. Now we have a population that approaches that of North Dakota, a state whose residents have full representation in Congress and political autonomy that comes with being a state. Your antiquated justification for denying the basic rights that the revolutionaries fought for is absurd in 2012. DC residents pay taxes (higher than those in MD and VA), go to war and serve our country in many other ways. And yet we have no control over our own money, our own laws, and no say in the work of this nation. Why do we support democracy everywhere but here?

Adrian and Co. have brought new attention to this issue, which many people in this city of transients have absolutely no clue about. If they can draw the attention of young people to this issue, more power to them.
No, sir, V, YOUR ignorance is astonishing. You are a bandwagon jumper. There are core, near-constitutional reasons for DC not having voting rights. The reason is to keep the majority of power and resources drawn to the capital. Where did you learn your history, Sidwell Friends School?
Just because an issue is cool doesn't mean you have to support it.
Now go drink some Natty Boh and get outraged.
I have to be honest, I didn't finish the article--I didn't have that much time to spare.
But from what I DID read, I was embarrassed for both Parsons and the City Paper. I was even embarrassed to be holding the paper, and quickly put it down and walked away. Sigh--I expect more from you, CP.
Hi there, just wanted to say, I loved this article. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

Leave a Comment

Note: HTML tags are not allowed in comments.
Comments Shown. Turn Comments Off.
...