Interviewed by Lisa Vihos, November 25, 2015
Overpass Light Brigade was developed by myself, Lisa Moline, and Joe Brusky. The kickoff gathering was in our neighborhood, during the time of the Walker recall. We asked ourselves, What could we do for an evening action? Why not make the signs with light? It was coming up on Christmas time and this coincided with the availability of LED lights. The first sign said Recall Walker. That night it got on Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz.
From there, we got the idea to go up on the overpass. It grew quickly. We showed people how to make signs and this grew the Light Brigade Network. There are now 50 chapters with one in Paris, two in Germany, and one each in the UK and New Zealand. In the US, there is the New York City LB, San Diego LB. Viewers gravitate toward the message, toward the Light.
Such a simple thing has opened up a nighttime space as a messaging space. We affectionately refer to it as “The People’s Bandwidth.” I think some of the more powerful things we’ve done are the events that speak to gun violence.
It is a physical form of embodied text, and one of the things that is so interesting is that it goes from being a graphic display to being a community building endeavor. People from all different backgrounds meeting, standing next to each other, holding the Light. Becoming aware of the collective nature of the effort. Each letter is separate, meaning is made when the letters are held together by cooperating hands. Performative text.
Lane Hall is a multi-media artist, writer and professor in the Department of English at UW-Milwaukee. He is a co-founder of the Overpass Light Brigade, a direct action group aimed at DIY political messaging, visibility, and the creation of community through the power of play.
“Wisconsin Poetry Activists” is a flash interview series by Lisa Vihos, which grew out of research that she conducted for an article in Wisconsin People & Ideas, Turning on the Lights, Spring 2016.