Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Special “House Magic” zine for RESx, NYC, April-May 2014


We're doing a bunch of shows next month, April '14, which will leak into the "Lower East Side History Month" of May. They commemorate – and we hope re-animate – the 1980 “Real Estate Show.” That was the temporary occupation of a city-owned commercial building on the eve of the Reagan Era, in order to make an art show about development issues facing the community. Then and now. (The NYC venues are listed below.)
A special zine was prepared for this show. It's not “House Magic” #6, but a supplement, directly related, but out of the main course of that publication project. It's called “Imagine...,” and contains a lengthy essay on the genesis of the “Real Estate Show” itself, which led to the creation of the ABC No Rio cultural center. ABC was squatted during an important phase of its life, and today remains a beacon of the “culture of resistance.”
“Imagine...” contains a long text about the exhibition itself, its organization, lockout, publicity, and negotiations with officials of the City of New York that led to ABC No Rio's beginning. There are also texts about the long-forgotten Tompkins Square Community Center, an occupation of the Christodora House skyscraper of social service during the 1970s. Susan Simensky-Bietela, who took part in the squat, recalls her experiences. The renowned Lower East Side artist and novelist and Yuri Kapralov began a full-scale investigative book on the place – this work was cut short by his death, but as far as he got writing it is included.
Sarah Ferguson recalls Yuri Kapralov's life and personality, and Libertad Guerra puts in a poster show about the CHARAS-run El Bohio social center that took place behind the Christodora since 1979, until it was evicted some 20 years later. The building has been vacant since then.
The PDF of “Imagine...” is at: http://collaborativeprojectsarchive.wikispaces.com/Real+Estate+Show
Links to any further websites that develop during the course of the shows will also be posted at that site.

“The Real Estate Show Revisited” is at
James Fuentes Gallery
55 Delancey Street
April 4 – April 27, 2014
artwork from the original Real Estate Show, recreations and documentation

Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space of the Artists Alliance
April 19 – May 18
new work questioning the looming changes in the neighborhood dominated by SPURA development, presented as part of Lower East Side History Month

ABC No Rio
April 9 – May 8
new work on the theme of real estate, land-use, and the right to a safe home.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The New European Rapture


This blog has been asleep 'cause I'm writing a book. But I need to write up something about this rich, dense, interesting conference that just finished, “The New Abduction of Europe” at the Reina Sofia museum here in Madrid. Antonio Negri was the keynote speaker, and hung around the whole time, wearing his jaunty little hat and often a big smile. Overall, it was kind of an inquiry into a zone of relation between institutions and social movements, with panels on debt, democracy, and cultural production. Why culture? Well, because we are all susceptible to a good line, a representation that can seem to bring our dreams to life. (I'm thinking Russell Brand just now, fancy shoes and all, 'cause Paul Mason loves him, and he's pretty funny and pretty fucking convincing – in English.)
I was in the “table” (mesa, en Espanol) on cultural production, of course, which centered on the problems of institutions in relating to their audiences, the changing role of spectators in the period of becoming-participants, and, to a great extent, the autonomous spaces created – (squatted, hey, let's get real) – by cultural producers themselves, artists, acting in assembly, with a commitment to horizontality. Institutional stars of the two-day intensive in camera show were the Van Abbemuseum, which sent two of their people to explain the programs which the remarkable director Charles Esche has authorized, and the shadowy Fundación de los Comunes sponsor itself. (Oh come on, it's got a website, with a section in English even. Yes, I know, but it sounds better if it's a little mysterious. The conference was a joint production of the museum, L'internationale, which is some kind of consortium of museums, and the Fundacion de los Comunes, and was paid for by a EU culture programme grant.)
The non-institutional standouts were activist artists from the Milan occupation Macao, and the Rome Teatro Vale Ocupato, talking about how they do things, and how they threaten institutions, and how they are trying to get law on their side through ongoing open consultations with constitutional lawyers. The final assembly with reports from the three working groups, was pretty good. It reflected ongoing efforts by movement organizers to draft strong consensual statements – all sounding very constituent, very instituting, very, um, deeply political. The guy from Slovenia, who floated around the edges of the talk without saying much, was speaking of his group which had gone on from the Workers & Punks University project in the squatted social center Metelkova to start a political party. More or less.
This is great, but it doesn't sound like a lot of fun. Marc Herbst of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest was there from London/Leipzig/LA/NYC. He talked a lot, and immediately posted about the gig – “Though I'd hoped we'd be enacting towards how our diverse positions might contribute to an activated commons in light of climate change and crisis rhetoric, it did end up about the identity crisis of Progressive European Museums. But you take what you can get.” More or less, yes. Marc back-rubbed me, too – “Alan W. Moore's brilliant naming of the museum as subaltern in relation to its crowds presenting an decidedly avant-garde work might be either mad, social, useless and hallucinatory took our breath away. His caveat too about avant-garde in the American sense, in the sense which hasn't lost its power to the state project, was rapturous too in light of his classist critique of elite institutions.”
Thanks, Marc, but I wasn't even aware that what I said, sort of chatting sporadically into the mix of the group, in the end amounted to much. What I was looking to see – and I think it's almost on the edge of kind of getting started – is what in the end I called a tool, or a joint, like a plumbing fixture, that would connect the cultural institutions that remain under state control, operating with hierarchical structures and arrangements which they cannot realistically change, with the disobedient spaces, the squatted social centers and assembly-based occupations of cultural workers. Curiously, Madrid has institutions – (or, as the government darkly muttered recently, “programs, not institutions”) – which do this work, i.e., Medialab Prado and Intermediae, which were not in attendance.
The live stream of a lot of the “Rapto” conference is online somewhere; but I am not going to seek it out for you right now. I haven't even looked at my notes before blogging this up. But I promise to come back to it when I have the chance – a week or so from now, I think, and at least post some of the great links and ideas. Meanwhile, OWS Arts & Labor are calling for an end to the Whitney Biennial. Cheez!, guys, who cares? It's nice to remember your radical art history, and it's important to work locally and deal with what you have in front of you, but putting yourself in an intermediary role between cultural institutions and social movements is, um, where it's at, innit? Oh well, go on, and do what you wanna do. What a strange Rome is New York today, full of barbarians speaking in strange tongues which the inhabitants need not trouble to understand....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

MoRUS museum book appears


I haven't blogged here for quite some time. I'm writing a book -- "Art + Squat = X," although it won't be called that. And I'm not a split focus person... Anyhow, I wrote this essay for a recent publication from the indispensable Journal of Aesthetics and Protest called "A Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space Opening—a moment’s Catalog; December 8, 2012." It's edited by Benjamin Heim Shepard. (His blog is also pretty great, if you wanna know what's up with a bicycle-riding street-pranking scholar adventurer.) You can order the book -- which is a kind of deluxe thing -- at Hannah Dobbz' new "SQ distro" distribution website for squat-related literature:
I just finished a chapter on Occupy Wall Street (whew! functionally impossible), and came to this part of the book, so -- a share.
The opening of the MoRUS museum was an unexpected surprise. I don't any longer live in the city, so to arrive on the big day and see a crowd of young people behind the desk as well as the usual crowd of ne'r-do-wells, miscreants,* and Don Quixotes drifting around and parking their widening butts on the freshly painted benches was delightful. What are all these NYU students doing here? Could it be that the singular squatter subculture of New York City was in some way reproducing?
Why are they here? What draws these young people to work on this project of material remembrance of social movement activism that helped some people get cheap apartments and a community get a precious garland of sometimes-open green spaces? (Though birds can always use them.)
I didn't ask. I was too busy greeting old friends and comrades. Even those who never liked me seemed to smile and nod, so happy were we all that MoRUS had actually come to pass.
The NYC squatters' movement is a strongly cohesive tribal subculture, an “elective family” of sorts. They won significant victories – territory for homes and gardens, and a recognition of their social and cultural significance. All of this was carefully and painstakingly constructed over many years of grinding construction work, living amidst squalor, negotiating conflict, battling police, gentrifying politicians, and unsympathetic conniving neighbors. The squats and gardens were constructed in resistance.
Their movement was also built through art – that is, continuously fronted, explained, and outwardly faced with representations. Music, stories, drawings and cartoons, fashion, inventive public actions, all played their role in making the Lower East Side squatter a familiar figure of the '90s, and a kind of urban legend.
The founding of the MoRUS signals a historicizing self-reflective bent that has taken hold of some among this tribe. The Squatter Rights and Times Up bicycle activist archives that were put together for the Tamiment Library several years ago were an early sign of this, preserving important political and subcultural movement documents for study. But the MoRUS is much more ambitious. It is also held together by young people, volunteers who sit the desk and run the errands. So there must be something in it for them, some information and experience they need to negotiate their lives in these times.
Squatting has recently been made illegal in two of the countries which fed the New York movement, England and Holland. Open public social occupations still happen, but they are a lot harder now. They are evicted sooner and with more force. The English movement continues with bravura short-term projects and the support of leading intellectuals. The Dutch put their faith in ameliorative quasi-governmental compromises and mediating agencies.
In the USA it seems, people simply accept that the rich run everything, and if you aren't making a profitable business you aren't doing anything worth bothering about. As the late mayor Ed Koch once said, if you can't afford NYC, “M-o-o-o-o-ve!” This is no way to live, especially not if you are an artist whose work, like most of us, does not have a high economic value. So how do you live? How do you work?
To get the provision they need for no-money cultural and political work, in New York and other U.S. cities, people just have to take it – take it from the vast storehouse of lands and buildings “banked” by owners with no use for them. Popular appropriation of the rotting use value of these places will be evicted and resisted. But squatters need to be persistent and undeterred if they are to get past the dogs guarding the empty mangers.
Although it may be illegal, squatting is not a crime, and squatters aren't crooks. They are workers doing necessary urban development using their labor, not capital. Every occupation is radically contingent, and circumstances vary widely. Every encounter related to an occupation project – every neighbor, every cop, every landlord, every judge – is a negotiation. Evey squat development project needs to be handled carefully, conscientiously, and networked with others. Every squat is, by its very existence, a work of public education in social possibilities.
Many squat projects have been institutionalized as part of the city's permanent cultural and social facilities. The MoRUS is a reminder that these kinds of actions are possible, that they are necessary, and that they can yield good results and broad social benefit.
It is important to bear in mind as well that the direct action New York City that MoRUS represents is only part of a global picture of people taking action to fulfill their legitimate needs for urban space. The struggles of many of these movmeents are chronicled on Squat.net (recently redesigned), as they have been for decades. Their intellectual and mainstream advocates network through initiatives like Right to the City.
As the MoRUS develops, it wiill be exciting to see if they can reach out and embrace the international squatting and occupation projects which have long been blacked out of the U.S. media, and present the ture lineaments of the global occupation movement.
Clearly, the MoRUS is going to be a teaching museum...
* Affectionate slander: but truer than I knew, “Middle English miscreaunt, from Anglo-French mescreant, present participle of mescreire to disbelieve, from mes- + creire to believe, from Latin credere...” (merriam-webster.com). These squatter people believed in a way outside of capitalist relations.
bio:
Alan W. Moore is an independent researcher and teacher, and a co-founder of ABC No Rio. He edits the “House Magic” zine of occupation culture, and is currently writing a book on art and squatting. He lives in Madrid.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Occupations & Properties" is 'Tumbling'...


It's a lot of work writing a good blog post. Now especially that I'm writing a book. If I have a snarky comment or some thing to pass on, I thought, why not Tumbl it? Well, despite that I have only a vague idea how Tumbling works, I've gone and done it. Now there's an Occuprop Tumblr. It's at: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/awm13579, yes, that's here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Made Possible by Squatting" Opens in London


Jaime Idea writes: "Hello! I'm in London taking part in the Made Possible By Squatting exhibition. It's amazing! The Guardian just wrote about the show and I wanted to pass it along. http://www.theguardian.com/news/blog/2013/sep/10/squatting-exhibition-outlawed-but-still-relevant the map linked at the bottom of the article is the project I have been working on with Edward and Eric Brelsford and can also be found here: londonsquatsarchive.org

Friday, September 6, 2013

Humboldt in Kreuzberg


For most of August I was in Galicia, in northwestern Spain, doing a heavy summer of Romanesque architecture, vertiginous one-lane roads, cliffs over rivers and ocean, and pristine beaches with ice cold water. After that I visited Berlin to get back on the track of writing my book on art and squatting.
I came to attend the RC21, the “Resourceful Cities” conference of urban sociologists at the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin Mitte. My comrades in SqEK (the Squatting Europe Research Kollective) had invited us to attend, since a few of them were organizing sessions in the meeting. I'd like to give a rundown of that great conference, but... I am supposed to be writing this book, and organizing this and that, so – that will have to wait. Enough to say that squatting research, far from being a cul de sac, is blooming. That's not for ideological reasons – not mainly from interest/desire for/concern with the disappearing commons, lack of public space, yada yada. It's because the deprived people of the world's global cities, the service proletariat, are insisting that they be allowed to live in the cities where the work is. Since they can't pay the rent, they have to squat. In the millions. How do they do it? Sociologists need to know.
The papers at RC21 showed that the question of squatting is broadening out. It's been an under-researched broad scale popular movement for a long while now, and as this conference considered global cities and their changes, it became increasingly clear that squatting and land occupations are a shared phenomenon. And it's not just shantytowns in never-visited cities of the global south. It's favelas and chabolas on the doorsteps of cities throughout the “developed world,” as under-employed hopeless pissed off people throng the vacant spaces saying “hmmm” – or “illegal, Scheiss-egal,” as the German squatters say.
With the urban sociologists, I heard how “informal settlements” are being managed, with governments choosing to assist residents to improve their self-managed slums rather than bulldozing them and resettling folks in housing blocks. These new approaches connect directly to the social movements – the organized squatters – who have achieved electoral leverage through their increasing level of organization. The kinds of innovative initiatives being tried, partnerships between NGOs and governments, are ripe for use in the U.S.A.'s more benighted regions where the denial of homelessness and criminalizing measures have a firm hold.
SqEK had a meeting in Berlin a few years ago, and I fondly remembered the Regenbogen Fabrik (rainbow factory), which we had visited on a tour. This time I stayed in their hostel. It's swell: a courtyard of 19th century low-rise factory buildings, made over into a garden yard. Kids swarm in the kindergarten during weekdays. There's a free women's repair clinic run out of the bicycle shop which is always crowded. The RB Fabrik runs the hostel, of course, and a cafe. In the back the kitchen has breakfast for guests and a very popular blueplate lunch special for the neighborhood. Their other projects are a woodworking shop and a film screening room. We visited the latter, and instead of normal seating they have rows of old couches.
The hostel crowd was divided between the single rooms, which seemed to be mostly older German women and the multi-bed dorms, where I was. The dorm crowd was pretty normal hostel guests, hang-around drinkers, and so forth. But also some street musicians. One of these, Changa Mire, was from Zimbabwe. He told me of increasing repression of street musicians in Berlin, which explains why I didn't see hardly one around. Changa is an instrument builder. It is his ambition to build the world's biggest marimba. I tried to think of where they might want to do that...
Saturday saw a big street fair, just up the steet from the RF Fabrik. This was one of several in the Kreuzberg district, all on the same day. This one was marked by its strongly political character. The whole crowd seemed to be dressed in black in a weird punk throwback to the 1980s. It felt like an Autonomen party, and I was delighted to wander among them. I had lunch there at the “VoKu,” a Volks Kuchen run by a group of African immigrants – a vegetable stew with rice, lentils and a big glob of flavorful peanut sauce for a few Euros, a tremendous deal for more food than I could eat. I bought some tough t-shirts from the political tables.
I saw some friends from the conference at the street party, Armin who organized an excellent panel, and Martin who had hosted SqEKers in their house, the Rote Insel. A few of us also made a formal presentation outside the conference, at the New Yorck Bethanien. (I was continually interrupted by a drunken punk from Brooklyn, a subcultural version of the ugly American.) It was striking and a kind of reversal for me to be in a squat next door to an art space – the Kunsthaus at Bethanien, which is having a show of New York artists in mid-September. I had written a text addressing the art/squat split (although finally I didn't talk about that). It's a hard one... A former Kunsthaus Bethanien director at one point tried to get the New Yorck occupiers evicted, claiming they were “bad for culture.” (See “House Magic” #2.) The well known sociologist and gentrification specialist Andrej Holm told me at a party for RC21ers that Kunsthaus Tacheles was resented by the squat movement because they had made a deal with the city early on, and supported civic redevelopment initiatives like the Berlin bid for the Olympics. Only when they were on the point of eviction did they appeal to the movement for help.
"Artists are whores," I told him.
But not all artists are rank opportunists or neoliberal accomodationsts, prepared to fight squatters for public space. After months of emailing, I finally caught up with Jaime Idea. Jaime worked with Basekamp to edit the giant compendium of conversations with artists' collectives called “Plausible Art Worlds.” She's a multimedia artist, a former Flux Factory resident who came to the SqEK meeting in New York in 2012. She is shortly planning to participate in a show in London called “Made Possible by Squatting.” This is a play on the famous “white book of squatting” put out by the Dutch movement a few years ago in a failed bid to stop the criminalization statute from passing. The Dutch also put up signs in different cultural venues that had started as squats – there are dozens of them – to remind people what they could lose if the occupation of vacant speculative properties was curtailed. The London show is underground, clandestine, so... we'll see what goes. (A report has been promised here.) As her contribution, Jaime is working on an online add-on map of evicted squats in London, a useful geographic tool for demonstrating the long-term prevalence of the movement there.
We met Jaime and her friend Jordan from Brooklyn (isn't everybody now?) in the Bauwagen platz called Lohmuehlen along the Spree River. This is one of the last of the places travelers can park their house trailers, and part of it has been fitted out as an open air cafe with a bar and a big stage. Lohmuehlen does public events, concerts, screenings, exhibitions and the like as part of their engagement with the neighbors, to muster support for their staying there in the face of developers' pressures to get them off so that oh-so-important luxury housing can be built.
Like every Sunday, this was “tea and cake” day at Lohmuehlen, and we feasted on cheap desserts and talked on benches under the rare Berlin sun. Jordan told me his story of Surreal Estate, the famous New York City collective house which was twice targeted by NY police in collaboration with federal agents for the subversive activities there. The place was important for organizing media work around demonstrations, he said. The last time it was violently evicted – illegally; they just won a settlement – was during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations when Vlad Teichberg and his comrades were live-streaming the demos worldwide. For a government whose military gunned down journalists in Iraq – as Bradley/Chelsea Manning's leaked video shows – shutting down inconvenient truth-tellers stateside is all in a day's work. As a long-time lefty American, I can't say I'm surprised. But as a near-senior citizen, I can say I'm dismayed at how brazen the police state has grown.
After the sweets we climbed on our bikes and pedalled off, hoping to catch lunch at a vegan VoKu which was making pizza. (All these kinds of events at autonomous spaces are listed in the indispensable Berlin publication “Stress Faktor,” available at many lefty places. The VoKu was in a bar inside a courtyard, the ground floor of a building rented for a communal house project of the kind that motivated many past squats. The bar was dark, graffitied, and full of lounging vegan punks. They had a great infoshop table, and I bought a bunch of cool patches – a red rat with a match, another of a hand holding a match to the moon over a cityscape (what is being contemplated?), two in Spanish, and another: “Life is ecstatic intercourse between destruction and creation.”
I loaded up with stuff for the Brooklyn-based Interference Archive. One flyer I nabbed read “We Stay United,” the Wagenplatzes stay, and also Koepi. They have bought the whole city. Koepi is still ours! Not for Fucking Sale! Another taught “guerrilla backpack messaging” (figure it out!), a zine about forest occupations, and a few with transgender messages. The comic character “Trouble-X” finds hirmself queried in gendered bathroom, then, finally, appreciated – “I never made out with anyone like you. Don't you wanna kiss me?” “NO. I don't want to be consumed...”
Happily, despite the German government's determined hardcore repression of all new squats, the culture the movement generated persists, living off the deeply rooted naturist spirit of German youth. A character map of Kreuzberg I bought called “Kiezplan” features a sniffiing dog, a running cat, and a curious rat. The banner outside the Koepi read something like “We don't want your yuppie flats/ We are happy with our rats.” Equal partners in occupation? An eviction of the Koepi, the largest remaining public social center squat in Berlin, would mean open street war with the remnants of the squatting movement and young people from all over the region. That and the local politicians Kreuzberg has elected mean there is some chance they can continue their long-term ragtag occupation, and their partying ways. Since the cleanout of the accomodationist art squat Kunsthaus Tacheles late last year, Koepi is about all there is left. Ringed by Bauwagen encampments and strong fences, it would be tough to evict without a small army.
Still, very nearby the Koepi are now apartments with private elevators for tenants' luxury cars, an excess pioneered in NYC's Chelsea district, not long ago the stomping ground of meat market tranny streetwalkers. So.... we'll see.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We Be Futuring


The first night of the Futurological Symposium at Ruigoord closed out with a performance by Kent Minault, an original Digger from San Francisco. It was a monologue, with slides, of Kent performing his experiences with the cabal of radical activist who functioned as the soul of hippie 'Frisco before and after the “summer of love.” Kent came out of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, an innovative radical theater group based on the commedia dell arte tradition with a dose of Brecht. The Mime Troupe had a hit with “The Minstrel Show,” and when Kent came back from a U.S. tour in '66, he found his fellow troupers plotting something... the year of the Diggers. This began with free food giveaways to street kids and anyone in Golden Gate Park, and continued through the “Death of Hippie” street procession, the free store, an encounter with a pre-Black Panthers Huey P. Newton, and a mysterious half-night orgy theater in the church. All of this narrated in engaging style by a magnetic actor who lived it.
The conversations on the day that followed, the “theoretical sessions” (the first day was “historical”), were dense and winding. Felix Rottenberg emceed the arguments. The main current was around the question of institutionalization, legalization of free cultural spaces and the compromises it entails. (This, as it happens, is a line of investigation for our SqEK group.)
Ivanjka Geerdink spoke about his Novaglobe project to link up “flowtowns” on the world wide web. Geerdink's idea germinated when he began to use his mother's land in northern Holland whilst she was on holiday. He and his friends party and try to build a community. Now his intention is to use his formidable IT skills to build an online infrastructure to help in “keeping a flow alive, a spirit alive in places” – Flowtowns. IT for him is the “ring of power” that can do this. Ivanjka is a “hippie with a plan,” building on concepts like the “trusted global community” behind couchsurfing.org, the “Route Soleil” of seasonal human movement – which he compared to the French seasonal migration of cattle, the transhumance.
Rutger van Ree, who pontificated so well the day before, asked Ivanjka how he will deal with “the angry outside world?,” that is the people who hate migrants, gypsies, travelers, and all manner of temporarily present human beings. Alan Smart observed that the project smacked of technocratic utopianism. “If you replicate this system of network, can't you take some poison with it?”
Rural occupations in the increasingly depopulated countryside is getting to be a hot project, even in the political squatting world, as police in the cities bear down heavy on new and old occupations alike. Ivanjka's faith in (a well regulated) network of mutual trust is not so “hippie,” useless, naïve and misplaced as to warrant the routine dismissals that come from both left and right.
David Graeber explains money in his necessary opus “Debt: The First 500 Years.” Drawing on decades of economic anthropology, Graeber reminds us that money came into general use with the advent of moving armies who needed some way to regularize their commerce with local peasants who relied almost entirely on systems of mutual aid and credit for subsistence.
Ergo, those of us “on the grid” are living like soldiers, alienated from the source of all we need to subsist, and entitled by our coin to ignore any scraps of human relations that might adhere to our smooth monetary transactions.
While I liked Ivanjka's project – and believe something like that is going to matter a great deal in the very near future – the toughest talk for me came from Jaap Draaisma. (“Tough” BTW, in my youthful surfer days meant “cool,” but more in the sense of really real.) Jaap was a squatter in the hardcore punk squat Vrankrijk (Frahnk-reich; est'd 1984), during the days when the Amsterdam squatting scene was political – but “not so political as in Germany!” He later worked for the city government organizing the controversial Breeding Places program that legalized many squats. With this experience, he worked on the legalization of Ruigoord and their Landjuweel festival. In that work he was always practical. But he acknowledged the dilemma that “If you follow all the rules it's expensive, so you exclude people.”
Contrasting the attitude of the hippies who came to squatting a generation before him, Jaap said “You build your paradise for yourself or you want to change society,” making “collective action for a tribe's benefit, or for the larger good.” Now the political situation has turned bad, and squatters are being regularly arrested. In Berlin and New York they have formed a strong Right to the City movement. Maybe, Jaap asked, something like that could happen here? “Can we make a political agenda as a tribe?”
After Julian Jansen, a demographer with the Amsterdam city planning department explained the population statistics of greater Amsterdam, a squatter from the nearby ADM, also in the harbor area, explained their work there since 1997. Bev – (I did not get her full name, since the program changed radically, and she ended up not on it) – explained, “We organize as little as possible. We work together” as artists.
Bev, who grew up off the grid in New Zealand, is an ecologist trained in earth sciences. She studied “transformation management,” that is, “how to change the world.” You can't do that from within; “you need places for new ideas to develop.” The squatters at ADM developed and protected a lake which harbor authorities wanted to fill in. Her mission: “Protect the ecological systems in the harbor area.”
After the sessions Maik of the Robodock group explained a little of the “cultural defense” strategy at ADM. The owner of the building, he said, were “mafia,” who came around at various times in a limo with thugs, bouncers, wrestlers, and “cage fighters,” and later with demolition machines. Robodock was the answer to these intimidations and attacks. This highly successful festival, which “grew bigger than ADM,” used machine components, fire, and circus, working with NYC's Madagascar Institute. Their motto: “Safety third,” after “fun” and “fear.”
There was ever so much more... presentations by the “ambassadors” of Christiania, the spokesman for the nomadic Mongolians who never appeared, held up by visa problems at the various borders they had to cross. And sometime soon the audio of the conference should be posted on the website.
This symposium went on in Hippieland for real, as the purposively fantastic Landjuweel festival slowly gathered steam during the course of it. To send my emails I sat on a stump, my bare feet in the sand outside the “Salon” house with the wifi as Ivanjka the theorist strummed a guitar nearby... a woman approached carrying a frying pan. The bright-eyed musician who shared our tipi the night before lit up a hand-rolled cigarette. Two stiltwalkers dressed like Michelin people in costumes of orange and green walked in front of the church blowing bubbles. A woman passed pushing a child in a bakery trolly. And Aja Waalwijk dashed by, clutching conference papers. Aja does not wear a watch nor carry a cel phone. “His friends remind him what time it is.” Amazingly, things came together very well.
There is a lot more to be said about the rich load of information, about instances of alternative movements, and there were many realizations. There is also an analysis to be made of the symposium discourse, what was said and what was not said, what was allowed and what was not. I certainly want to know much more about the Ruigoord artists' community – I'm looking forward to the “ethnography” of the beaming Rumanian student Anna.
While I did not smoke the poros of hash and tobacco that were circulating, I certainly contracted a “contact high” from the lush hedonistic environment of happy people, hippies both for the weekend and lifelong, milling about and looking forward to their festival. Finally, though, I had to leave, although everyone was telling me not to, that there was nowhere to go better than this. Maybe so, and I surely feel the siren charms of the Landjuweel. But really, it is too late for me to reach for that kind of life. I felt better immediately with the city sidewalks under my feet, with soap and water close at hand. And in the end, I will have to fight for the right to the city, not the right to be left alone in the country. Although it is always so nice to come for a visit!