Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Christiania Futurological Symposium, September 24-26, 2015


I am unhappy I cannot go. But maybe you can? These events are great...
INVITATION to those who might be interested
Hello friends of Free Cultural Spaces,
We hereby invite you to participate in the 5th Symposium, a Futurological Symposium, on Free Cultural Spaces (FCS), which this year takes place in Freetown Christiania, Denmark, on the 24th, 25th and 26th of September. The headquarter of the Symposium will be in our big beautiful Grey Hall with a circus tent in front.
The Futurological Symposium on FCS is a platform for exchanging ideas and inspiring each other, but also for making plans to work together.
Last year the Symposium was held at the Boom Festival in Portugal and was a follow-up to three previous ones all held at Ruigoord, Holland, which took place during the summer Landjuweel Festivals in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
At Boom we focused on The Importance of Festival Cultures, and this year our theme will focus on The Individual Versus the Collective (within FCS).
Christiania is a permanent autonomous zone so big, that there is always a kind of festival atmosphere here. Christiania’s size facilitates both permanent autonomous zones and temporary ones. Christiania has the character of both structural types, and we celebrate her 44th birthday on Saturday the 26th of September – the last day of our Symposium!
In 2011 Christiania celebrated her 40th anniversary. On that occasion Ruigoord established an embassy here; and in 2013 – when Ruigoord celebrated its 40th anniversary – Christiania established an embassy in Ruigoord.
In 2013, at Ruigoord, the Futurological Symposium became a transnational conference embracing participants from many parts of the world. This conference was a central element of the celebration activities. One of the aims was to create a physical network that complements various ’virtual’ ones – a network promoting the collective interests of activists, artists, musicians, writers, performers, ecological farmers, native representatives and many more.
Oral traditions – as when people join and interact – play a prominent functional role during the symposia, and with them come the exchange of ideas. In 2013, for example, a Declaration on the Universal Right to Free Cultural Spaces was debated.
Our collective aim is to co-create a dynamic, lasting, sustainable, and non-hierarchical global network among FCS, and to further the exchange of ideas about the form and content of free cultural circuits and independent cultures.
We all participate to create a transnational free circuit between permanent, temporary, virtual, and nomadic free spaces. We promote exchanges between north and south, west and east; Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and America; farmers, architects, musicians, poets, actors, artists, painters, clowns. . . whoever, whatever, and wherever you are. . . We stand for durability, ecological approaches, and social experimentation.
When you call yourself a ’free society’, you appear to set yourself up in opposition to an ’unfree’ society. But we don’t have to be against something to stand for something else. Autonomy, although derived from anarchism, is not the same as anarchism. Anarchism opposes repressive political systems, autonomous groups do what they think best. We see FCS as autonomous, and believe we are the ancestors of our future mini-societies. By working on our mini-societies, we give value to the society at large.
Despite the stresses of the process of institutionalization, it can bring about cooperation. If, for example, Christiania and ThyLejren (Denmark), Fusion (which, like Boom, is a festival that is slowly turning into a permanent autonomous zone) and UFA-Fabrik (Germany), Doel (Belgium), Ruigoord (Holland), Umbrella House and Autonomedia (USA), Projecto Nuevo Mundo (Mexico), Eco Center IPEC (Brazil), and Boom (Portugal) all join forces, stronger statements can be made about aspects of freedom, ecology, and culture in general.
The symposia bring us together in order to meet, to plan and to realize. We collaborate without becoming a corporation, board, foundation or any other kind of umbrella or centralized organization. There’s no hierarchy, no central office, and there are no functional roles ¬¬– but there are fixed relations. It’s a handshake, and always the activity of the people themselves.
Every society needs oxygen to exist in harmony.
Enclaves of freedom exist for people of all ages and all cultures and have existed throughout historical time. In the language of the global business elites, every corporation with respect for itself has a laboratory for research and development. Let the Futurological Symposium on FCS be to the communities and countries involved what a developmental research laboratory is for a global business corporation.
Stevphen checks his phone during Ruigoord symposium, 2013. (Photo by Alan Dearling)

Above everything we value HOMO LUDENS – the playful human being!
So show your face. Let’s meet and work together ¬– hopefully with some new participants! When we know each other better, we can formulate joint projects.
Practical information:
First of all we invite one or two representatives from the different groups, who have previously participated – but also interested newcomers – to make a short speech and a power point presentation about their Free Cultural Space.
In our big Grey Hall it will be possible to hang things on the walls ¬– after consultation. So we would ask you to bring an object with you that represents your own FCS. If you want to have a booth or a table for your FCS material, please let us know.
There will be inexpensive food and beverages for everyone.
We will try to do our best to find places for you to stay during the Symposium – but IF you can find arrangements yourself, that would be helpful. Christiania unfortunately doesn’t have a hostel yet, so we are searching for accommodations with private families and elsewhere.
On the other hand – for our specially invited guests – who will make longer speeches and are paticipating in organizing and running the Symposium – there will be food and drink tickets, as well as accommodation possibilities.
Concerning traveling costs we will ask you, if it’s possible to find your own funding – for example through your own FCS/association – or in some other way.
The development of the program is still in process. At the moment we are mostly choosing the main speakers.
Write to us quickly, and let us know if you are interested at all – and IF YOU ARE – how many of you expect to come, and when you want to arrive.
When we know how many are coming, you will receive more detailed information.
Kind regards
on behalf of the FCS Symposium Group and of Christiania Cultural Association
Ilene Lucinda, Nina, Ligia, Majya, Frants, Mikkel and Britta
Christiania Cultural Association The Coordination Group
c /o Britta Lillesøe, ’Laden’, Mælkebøtten 127 A, DK - 1440 Copenhagen K, Denmark
tel.: (+45) 2064 0834 e-mail: mail@cakultur.dk www.cakultur.dk
Britta Lillesøe / Cultural Coordinator
(+45) 20 64 08 34 / (+45) 32 57 08 34
mail@cakultur.dk
britta@brittalil.dk
www.cakultur.dk
www.christiania.org

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The places where the future is invented


This text is in Spanish; now you have my translation, and the original below. It is an important manifesto for the urban spaces of Madrid. Some are legal, some are not. All of them matter... The manifesto hasn't been published -- it's still in formation. But it makes a case, and it's brightened my day, so I share it, and put in some links to the projects discussed.
[este documento está abierto a la participación de cualquiera que quiera aportar o modificar]
MANIFIESTO POR LOS ESPACIOS URBANOS DE MADRID.
MANIFESTO FOR THE URBAN SPACES OF MADRID
Madrid, 16 de marzo de 2015
One of the most fruitful situations which has marked our periods has been the multiplication of self-organized urban spaces. They have appeared as an enormous raising of consciousness among the citizenry, a signal that they must take part in the organization of their city and their space.
Self-organized spaces of every kind -- public spaces, social spaces, cultural spaces, spaces in the center and in the peripheries, citizens' spaces, neighbors' spaces, whatever you want to call them. There are both spectacular places and spaces of reflection. They have hybrid organization: they are from the city or independent; they are busy (ocupados), they are squats (okupados), leased, rented, ceded space, liberated... They are areas which return to the city and the street the essential functions of stage setting and atmosphere for life in common. These spaces have proposed that Spanish cities be made livable for everyone and everybody. These especially are the places that make Madrid the lively city in motion that it is today, instead of a gray city that can only eat the offal of the crisis. They are the laboratories where the future is being designed, where the possibility of happy lives is designed.

Macao occupation in Milan, Italy, 2012

Thousands of people have participated in the "Stop Desahucios" (evictions) campaign, and the movements of resistance out of pure common sense, in all the neighborhoods threatened with gentrification -- the house at Ofelia Nieto 29 in Madrid, the barrio of Cabayal in Valencia, or the Averly factory in Zaragoza.
The real possibility of another organization of the housing crisis has been proposed by the PAH [Plataforma de Afectados de Hipotecas/Platform of those affected by mortgages, the anti-eviction movement], involving the Las Corralas [housing complex] of Seville, the blocs of PAH in Sabadell and Cava, Leona and Manuela and Cadete in Madrid -- a great change of attitude is offered by the PAH to a society stricken with the sickness of real estate.
The prototypes needed to think a future of public space for common benefit are put into play every day by, among others, El Forat de la Vergonya and Recreant Cruïlles in Barcelona, El solar Corona of Valencia, El Campo de Cebada, Esta es una plaza, and el Solar de Grilo in Madrid -- all the urban gardens that have proliferated throughout the country, and all around Madrid. In Tetuan, among the people of Vallecas, the social bonds between diverse groups are reconstructed while vegetables are cultivated.
Places as diverse as the Espacio Vecinal Montamarta in San Blas, the CSA Tabacalera in Lavapiés, La Morada in Chamberi, the social center Seco and Villana in Vallecas, or the bridge of colors of San Cristóbal de los Ángeles, have allowed urban organization "from below" to spread throughout the city of Madrid, increasingly organizing reality. We must not forget the various places reclaimed by the people of Moratalaz, most recently an abandoned office of the Caja Madrid bank. (Shortly before, many of those activists were arrested in a chilling manner for displaying a banner in a city meeting.)
The trajectories of the veteran spaces also deserve note -- La Casika of Móstoles, La Casa Invisible of Málaga, and the Patio Maravillas of Malasaña, which, after many years and overcoming many aggressions, have to keep fighting for their spaces as hard now as ever. It is as if nothing has been learned about them, with them, or from them.
Astra in Guernica, and Can Batlló in Barcelona are unstable mutant successes, unthinkable before they occurred, even in the midst of brutal attacks and the destruction of Can Vies. The relative stability of the Ateneu Candela de Terrasa, the Harinera of Zaragoza, or the HirikiLabs of the Tabakalera of Donostia, and the ability to listen of Medialab Prado and Intermediae in Madrid show that these places are possible, that they are not only the flowers of a day, flowers of an exquisite aroma and early death. These movements have a persistence that is not confined to the four walls they try to hold on to, but which can mutate and adapt to their context. This knowledge only needs to be alerted to awaken again.
In addition to the constant threat of criminal evictions for thousands of families, many of these places are threatened these days. Since the shuttering of the Casa Invisible in Málaga at Christmastime, since the preventative eviction announced for the Patio Maravillas this Friday, how our cities are organized is really at stake; our lives are at stake.
Last week, the Campo de Cebada announced their weariness on their Facebook page. They are tired of the violence and neglectful behavior by the thousands who use that space. This place has been waiting since December for a new agreement which had been offered to the neighborhood.by the city government to use the space for five more years. The Solar de Grilo, meanwhile, has been threatened with eviction, just at the moment when it was becoming most publically visible.
We still feel the treacherous eviction of a block of social housing organized by the PAH, "La Cava," where 13 children lived, the demolition of the house at Ofelia Nieto 29, and the social center Can Vies in the barrio Sants of Barcelona, and the occupied social center La Traba. That led to the staking of a claim to a market of fruits and vegetables for the neighbors in Legazpi, organized as the Espacio Vecinal Arganzuela (EVA), who meet now every Tuesday at Matadero Intermediae together with many friends including the FRAVM (the regional association of neighbors of Madrid). Very close by and suddenly, the city government has announced the quick construction of an enormous commercial center, against all social and urban logic, a project which EVA us determined to oppose.

Throughout Europe and the rest of the world there are similar ventures, and similar experiences, but the Spanish examples have been admiringly studied by all. Always the collective intelligence stands out -- that in turn generates a management of the crisis in which we are all immersed. One must also realize the pride among those who are closest, who care for, build and defend these projects now, because to defend these projects is to defend our lives. A possible life more dignified and happy for everyone. We must defend them now before they disappear, for only then will we realize that we cannot live without them.
The stakes are really, how we live, manage, design and build our cities. Tomorrow will be too late. We know that in the spring of 2015, with its accelerated election cycle, things will start moving. But no politician who think that politics is only to vote every four years can destroy our lives and our cities.
For all these reasons, we demand the right to the city. We demand that the citizens and institutions of Madrid care for and be responsible for these spaces by helping them to grow and continue to exist, that they can continue their doing-in-common. We could start with the relocation of the Patio Maravillas to a muncipal area, and the suspension of its eviction until that space is given with full guarantees.
We know very well that even as we maintain our requests, the need for a social center never vanishes after its eviction, and that the conquest of new territory in the city is in our hands, and in our ability to organize. New locks will find new picks, and new hegemonies will find new balances.
The urban territory is a hostile environment, and people need to humanize it. We go on.
We also call from here on for the defense and caretaking of all those spaces that have allowed us to be and do in common.
#STOP DESAHUCIOS [evictions] #ElPatioseQueda.
VIERNES 20 DE MARZO
8 a.m. Calle Pez, 21. Malasaña, Madrid.

MANIFIESTO POR LOS ESPACIOS URBANOS DE MADRID.
Madrid, 16 de marzo de 2015
Una de las situaciones más fructíferas que ha dado nuestra época ha sido la multiplicación de espacios urbanos autogestionados, que han venido aparejados a una enorme toma de conciencia de la importancia que debe tener la ciudadanía en la gestión de la ciudad y del territorio.
Espacios urbanos autogestionados de todo tipo: espacios públicos, espacios sociales, espacios culturales, espacios centrales y periféricos, espacios ciudadanos, vecinales o como lo quieras llamar. Hay espacios espectaculares y recoletos, los hay de gestión híbrida, municipal o independiente, están ocupados, okupados, cedidos, alquilados, liberados… Espacios que han devuelto a la ciudad y a la calle su función imprescindible de escenario, entorno y ambiente de la vida en común. Han sido los espacios que han propuesto ciudades españolas vivibles para todos y todas, y en concreto, los lugares que han hecho de Madrid la ciudad viva y en marcha que es hoy en día, en lugar de la ciudad gris que le deparaba comerse los despojos de la crisis. Son los laboratorios donde se diseña el futuro, donde diseña la posibilidad de las vidas felices del futuro.
Los miles de personas que han participado en Stop Desahucios, y en los movimientos de resistencia por puro sentido común, como son todos los barrios amenazados por la gentrificación, la casa de Ofelia Nieto 29 en Madrid, el barrio del Cabanyal en Valencia o la fábrica Averly en Zaragoza.
La posibilidad real de otra gestión de la crisis habitacional que ha propuesto la PAH, y que suponen Las Corralas de Sevilla, los bloques de la PAH Sabadell y la Cava, la Leona, la Manuela y Cadete en Madrid, así como el gran cambio mental que la PAH ha ofrecido a una sociedad inmobiliariamente enferma como la nuestra.
Los prototipos necesarios para pensar el futuro del espacio público como bien común que ponen en marcha cada día, entre otros, El Forat de la Vergonya y Recreant Cruïlles en Barcelona, El solar Corona de Valencia, El Campo de Cebada, Esta es una plaza, y el Solar de Grilo en Madrid, así como todos los huertos urbanos que han proliferado en todo el estado, y también en todo Madrid, de Tetuán al pueblo de Vallecas, donde se reconstruye el lazo social entre grupos muy diversos que cultivan su sociedad mientras cultivan verduras.
Lugares tan distintos entre sí como el Espacio Vecinal Montamarta de San Blas, El CSA La Tabacalera de Lavapiés, La Morada en Chamberí, el centro social Seco y la Villana en Vallecas, o el puente de colores de San Cristóbal de los Ángeles, han permitido que la gestión urbana "desde abajo" se extienda por toda la ciudad de Madrid, gestionando cada vez más realidad. Sin olvidarnos de los varios lugares que ha ido recuperando la gente de Moratalaz, la última una oficina de Caja Madrid abandonada, (poco antes de que muchos de sus activistas fueran detenidos, la semana pasada, de la manera más escalofriante por sacar una pancarta en un pleno municipal).
Nota aparte merecen las trayectorias de las veteranas La Casika de Móstoles, La Casa Invisible de Málaga, y el Patio Maravillas de Malasaña, que tras muchos años y después de haber superado muchos procesos de agresión, tienen que seguir luchando por sus espacios tanto como el primer día. Como si no hubiéramos aprendido nada en ellas, con ellas, de ellas.
Los inestables éxitos mutantes de Astra, en Gernika y de Can Batlló en Barcelona, siempre prototipando caminos y soluciones que eran impensables antes de que ocurrieran, incluso en medio de agresiones tan brutales como el derribo de Can Vies. La relativa estabilidad de el Ateneu candela de Terrasa, La Harinera de Zaragoza o los HirikiLabs de Tabakalera de Donostia, o la capacidad de escucha hacia Medialab Prado e Intermediae en Madrid demuestran que estos espacios son posibles, que no sólo pueden ser flor de un día; flores de olor exquisito y de muerte temprana. La persistencia de movimientos que no se ciñen a las cuatro paredes que los intentan contener, que tienen capacidad de mutación y de adaptación al contexto. El saber que solo hace falta una alerta para despertarnos de nuevo.
Además de la amenaza constante de desalojos criminales para miles de familias, muchos de estos espacios están amenazados en estos días. Desde el cierre de La Invisible en Málaga, esta Navidad, hasta el desalojo preventivo anunciado para El Patio Maravillas este viernes, nos jugamos mucho de cómo gestionar nuestras ciudades; nos jugamos mucho de nuestras vidas.
El Campo de Cebada anunció su hartazgo la semana pasada en su Facebook, hartos de violencia y falta de cuidados por parte de los miles de usuarios de ese espacio. Esta es una plaza está esperando desde diciembre la respuesta del Ayuntamiento para sacar adelante un nuevo acuerdo de cesión del espacio que ofrecen al barrio desde hace más de cinco años. El Solar de Grilo, por su parte, ha recibido una amenaza de desalojo recientemente, justo en el momento en el que consolida su dimensión más pública.
Aún tenemos frescos el desalojo a traición del bloque de la Obra Social de La PAH "La Cava", donde vivían 13 menores, Los derribos de Ofelia Nieto 29, de Can Vies en Sants, Barcelona y de El Centro Social Okupado La Traba, que condujo a la reclamación del Mercado de Frutas y Verduras de Legazpi para los vecinos, que se reúnen cada martes en Intermediae Matadero amparados por muchos amigos, entre ellos la FRAVM. Haciendo oídos sordos, el ayuntamiento ha sacado ese edificio a concurso; para instalar usos tan necesarios en el barrio como una biblioteca gastronómica y un Spa. A pocos metros de allí se anuncia la construcción de un centro comercial que atenta contra toda lógica urbanística y social.

The poem painted on the adjoining walls of the evicted Miles de Viviendas in Barcelona. (Photo by Emily Forman)

En toda Europa y en el resto del mundo hay propuestas y experiencias similares, pero el caso español supone siempre entre todas ellas motivo de estudio y admiración. Siempre se resalta la inteligencia colectiva que ha supuesto y que, a su vez, genera para la gestión de la crisis en la que todos estamos inmersos. Debería suponer, también, motivo de orgullo para los que los tenemos más cerca, y además de disfrutar de ellos, debemos cuidarlos, construirlos y defenderlos ahora, porque defenderlos es defender nuestra(s) vida(s). Unas vidas posibles más dignas y felices para todos. Defendámoslos ahora, antes de que desaparezcan y los echemos tanto en falta que no sepamos vivir sin ellos.
Nos jugamos, en realidad, cómo vamos a vivir, a gestionar, diseñar y construir nuestras ciudades. Mañana será demasiado tarde. Sabemos que la primavera de 2015, con su acelerado ciclo electoral, será movida, pero ningún político que piensen que la política consiste en votar cada cuatro años podrá destruir nuestras vidas ni nuestras ciudades.
Por todo ello, exigimos el derecho a la ciudad. Exigimos el cuidado y la responsabilidad de las ciudadanas e instituciones de Madrid, para continuar creciendo y ayudando a que estos espacios puedan continuar existiendo, puedan seguir haciendo-en-común. Podríamos empezar con el realojo de El Patio Maravillas en un espacio municipal, y la suspensión de su desalojo hasta que ese espacio no esté cedido con todas las garantías.
Sabemos también que no mantendremos tan solo nuestras peticiones, que jamás desaparece la necesidad de un centro social tras su desalojo, que la conquista del territorio en la ciudad está en nuestras manos y en nuestra capacidad de organizarnos, que nuevas puertas encontrarán nuevas ganzúas, y que las nuevas hegemonías encontrarán a nuevos contrapoderes.
El territorio urbano es un medio hostil y las personas necesitamos humanizarlo. Seguiremos en ello. Llamamos también desde aquí a seguir a defendiendo y cuidando todos aquellos espacios que nos han permitido ser y hacer en común.
#STOP DESAHUCIOS #ElPatioseQueda.
VIERNES 20 DE MARZO
8 a.m. Calle Pez, 21. Malasaña, Madrid.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Long Silent -- A Big Return


I have been silent on this blog nearly half a year... But we have all been very busy on the project of spreading information about the squatting movements. The SqEK group is planning a major conference now in Barcelona, Spain, May 21-24, 2015. (There is a call for participation on their website now; it will soon be posted to this blog as well). This writer has been working hard on a book for this conference, a report on cultural in squatted spaces. It is a final result of -- well, it is explained below!
Here is the table of contents of this forthcoming book, which will be posted on the internet as a PDF in the months to come. It's being designed right now by Alan Smart and Jack Henrie Fisher.
The cultural report of the Movokeur project is a final product of a 3-year research project on squatting in Europe, funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, and directed by Miguel Ángel Martínez López. This book concerns the cultural engagements of squatted spaces – the arts and cultures of occupations. The publication draws mainly on the 5 years of the House Magic journal, and the engagements of the two co-editors, Alan Moore and Alan Smart. The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest will publish and distribute the volume. It will likely appear online at the end of March, 2015, and in a printed form somewhat later. All materials will be freely available as a PDF on the internet.

Making Room: Cultural Production in Occupied Spaces
edited by Alan W. Moore and Alan Smart
Preface
by project director, Miguel Ángel Martínez López
Introduction to the Movokeur project. A short discussion of its methodology and ambitions.

Introductory section
“Urban Movements and Paradoxical Utopianisms,” by Miguel Martínez López
Reflections on squatter culture
“Mental Prototypes and Monster Institutions. Some Notes by Way of an Introduction” (2008), by Universidad Nómada in Transversal
Autonomous squatted spaces in relation to cultural institutions
“Whether You Like It or Not,” by Alan W. Moore
Some ways of considering cultural production in occupied spaces
“Beneath the Bored Walk: Autonomy and Self-Organization,” by Stevphen Shukaitis
a theoretical consideration
“Metelkova mon amour: Reflections on the (Non-)Culture of Squatting,” by Jasna Babić (2013)
Autonomous culture of the large Metelkova cultural squat in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and how it was challenged by institutionalization
“Telling Squatting History in New York City,” by Amy Starecheski (2014), excerpt from Oral History Review
museal and memory initiatives by NYC squatter artists

Amsterdam, Netherlands
“On Nomads and Festivals in Free Space,” by Aja Waalwijk (2012), from House Magic #4
The festival culture of squatters in the 1970s and its continuation today in a “network of free spaces.”
Interview with Geert Lovink, by Alan Smart
Lovink was editor of the 1980s and '90s squatter journal Bluff!, and currently director of the Institute of Network Cultures
“The Autonomous Zone,” (De Vrije Ruimte), by Vincent Boschma
Comparing projects in New York City and Amsterdam
“Our Autonomous Life,” produced with CASCO Projects in Utrecht, by Casco Projects
a soap opera based on research on squatters' lives

Copenhagen, Denmark
“Christiania: How They Do It and for How Long” (2010), by Jordan Zinovich, from House Magic #2
A timeline of significant events in the life of the long-lived Christiania free community, including changes in their governance and relation to the city and state governments
“Christiania Art and Culture,” Christiania Cultural Association, Britta Lillesoe
a manifesto from Christiania
“On the Youth House Protests and the Situation in Copenhagen” (2008), by Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, from Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, No. 6
“Bolsjefabrikken: Autonomous Culture in Copenhagen,” by Tina Steiger
text on the Candy Factory cultural squats and occupations

London, England
“Partisan Notes towards a History of UK Squatting (1980 to the Present), by Chris-X of the 56A Infoshop
“'Our Enemy is Dreamless Sleep': On the Cult-ish Creation of an Autonomous Network,” by Kasper Opstrup
Squatter communities following the band Throbbing Gristle, Dianetics, etc.

Paris, France
“Squats, Art and Politics: Situationism and its Influence on French Anarchist Squats,” by Margot Verdier
the influence of Situationist ideas on squatting in France,
“Mediated Emergence and Institutional Recognition of Artistic Squats in Paris,” by Vincent Prieur
introduction, and survey of government attitudes
Interview with the artists of La Générale en Manufacture, Sèvres, by Alan W. Moore (excerpt; 2011), House Magic #3
art squatters in central Paris were moved to the edge of the city
“A Truly Underground Movement,” by Jon Lackman (excerpt; 2009)
On the UX group of Paris, which did clandestine repair work on national monuments, and performances in the catacombs
“Vive la Miroirterie,” by Jacqueline Feldman
with the squatters of the music venue La Miroirterie, as they await eviction
French-speaking Switzerland – Geneva
Discussing the eviction of the Rhino squat (1988-2007) at “House Magic” exhibition (2009), from House Magic #1

Italy
Introduction to squatting in Italy, by Pierpaolo Mudu and Gianni Piazza
Bologna
“Telestreet: Pirate Proxivision” (2010), by Patrick Nagle, House Magic #2
Evolution of guerrilla street television connected to the social centers, and its beginnings in the pirate radio projects of the '80s
Milan
“Macao,” by Emanuele Braga
Rome
“Forte Prenestino,” by Alba Solaro (1992), translated by Steve Wright for Affinities (2007)> describes the workings of this enormous social center in an abandoned fortress v “Negative/Positive Aspects of the Social Centres” (1997), Senzamedia, translated by Steven Wright for Affinities
some results of a survey of 16 Roman social centers with written comments on the negative and positive aspects of the centers
“Teatro Valle Ocupato,” Rome (2014), by the assembly of Teatro Valle
This occupation project argued that culture is a commons, and that all places for culture should be considered commons; evicted in June of 2014, the collective continues

Germany
“We Don’t Need No Landlords” and “Squatting in East Germany,” by Azomozox
An overview
“Gender and Squatting in Germany since 1968,” by Azomozox
A view of the many projects undertaken by sex-identified squatters
“Activism and Camping in Documenta X, XI and XIII,” by Julia Ramírez Blanco
Major institutional engagements with direct action occupation projects
Berlin
“A Tour of the Regenbogen Fabrik/Rainbow Factory,” by Alan W. Moore (2010), from House Magic #3
Kreuzberg co-working squat of the 1980s
“Autonomy!” by Ashley Dawson (2010), from House Magic #3
the squatted street of Mainzerstrasse in the 1990s was a major center of Berlin squatter life and culture
“A Stay at the Rote Insel in Berlin,” by Alan W. Moore (2010), from House Magic #3
militant house project squat of the 1980s
Tobias Morawski, “Reclaim Your City – Urbane Protestbewegungen am Beispiel Berlins”
interventionist street art in support of squatting
Hamburg
“Gängeviertel Artists' Squat,” by Nina Fraeser
analysis of the successfully institutionalized artists' squat
Discussion about the Rote Flora silkscreen workshop, and the ARCHIV radical history project, by Michel Chevalier (2009), House Magic #1
texts from Park Fiction group, from the Creative Time “Living as Form” exhibition in NYC (2011), from House Magic #4
these panels discuss the Gängeviertel squat, the Unser! Areal popular development plan, the Right to the City network, and Park Fiction itself
German-speaking Switzerland – Zurich
“Zurich: Temporary Urban Paradises,” by Mark Divo (2011), House Magic #3
artist active in Cabaret Voltaire occupation discusses the scene

Spain
Madrid
“Necessary Squats” Miguel Ángel Martínez (2013), House Magic #5
Reflection on the life and times of the evicted CSOA Casablanca, Madrid
Patio Maravillas' Anti-Gentrification Campaign against the TriBall Group,” (2014), by Stephen Villaseca
“'Without Us the World Doesn't Move!': Presentation at the Eskalera Karakola” (2014), by Julia Lledin
two groups present at the squat which is home to Precarias a la deriva, a feminist collective of militant research on domestic and sex work; activity of an exhibition at Reina Sofia museum
“Ciclocostura: From the Engine to the Body” (2014), by Eli Lorenzi
“cycle sewing” sessions held in both squats and institutional spaces in Madrid to make clothes for urban cycling
“Managing their Own Image,” by Julia Lledin
alternative media in the Madrid squatting scene
Barcelona
“The Wall Poem,” by Stephen Luis Villaseca
The surprising end to an eviction in Barcelona

Annie looking through the window at a rave in Badalona, Spain, from the book 'Out of Order' by Molly Macindoe

Málaga
The Casa Invisible story, a legalized squat

International Movements, Project, Scenes
“Squatting for Justice: Bringing Life to the City,” by Miguel Martínez López
Why squatting is important in the development of the contemporary city
“The Struggle for Creativity: Creativity as Struggle,” by Tino Bucholz
the role of squatters in the discourse of the “creative city”
“Hacklabs and Squats: Engineering Countercultures in Autonomous Spaces,” by Maxigas
A major text on the evolution of computer centers in squats, and their contributions to the free software movement
“Puerto Rican Occupations in New York City,” by Alan W. Moore with Yasmin Ramirez
“Squatting and Migrants in Europe,” by Sutapa Chattopadhyay
The position of migrants in Europe today, and their relation to the squatting movement
“The Universal Embassy: A Place Open to the World” (2003) by Tristan Wibault, from Transversal
A project in Brussels in solidarity with migrants and sans papiers
“Squatting, Mainstream Media Discourses and Identity,” (2014), by G. Debelle dos Santos & E.T.C. Dee
“Fair Trade Music,” by Spencer Sunshine
The economics of the punk music circuit (important in the European squats)
“Squats and Parties” (2014), by Mujinga
Mass free festive culture that fed into the British squatting movement
Squatter zines (2014), by Mujinga
Squat films, by (2014), by Mujinga

And there's more! We're doing a big exhibition in Barcelona for that conference as well, and another issue of House Magic, concerning the conference, and material that didn't fit in the book.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Squatters of Rome


Rome is a big old town. And, as we discovered, it's full of squats. The SqEK group of researchers and activists met in the Eternal City in May. We had the rare chance to visit some of the largest, most impressive self-organized social centers and housing occupations in Europe.
My trip began with arrival at our first sleeping place, the Forte Prenestino in the early evening. Walking through the park-like grounds, the first sign of the place is a large metal sculpture of an over-sized skeleton pope, reaching out a cadaverous hand. The Forte is a huge symmetrical military complex, built at the end of one of Rome's ancient roads during the late 19th century. After crumbling away for decades, it was occupied in 1986. Some two dozen collectives work there, doing all sorts of work, mostly cultural. There's a big kitchen behind the cafe, a couple of indoor bars, and a few more outside. The Forte is known for giant concerts. It can hold thousands.
Nino met me, one of a number of Forteans who live in the place and take care of things. He showed me to the dormitory. There some 20-odd beds were waiting, and I plopped down on one. As the evening advanced, I saw I was sharing the room with some nesting swallows. They flew in and out, gathering the evening's insects. The walls were covered with graffiti from the many crews that had come through, musicians, grafiteros, political groups. Later that night, a handful of SqEK folks arrived to join me. We added our own crew name to the wall.
In the morning we made for the first of our meeting points, the Centocelle center. It's a cozy basement under a school. Centocelle was squatted in the 1970s by a neighborhood association when the school was abandoned. Because they took care of problems in the neighborhood, the place became well established, and was legalized with a nominal rent. Recently a group from the larger Forte Prenestino started to work there. They changed the orientation of Centocelle away from the purely local, and “it became a social center.” The big issue these days is the TAV, a high speed rail link Italy is trying to build from Turin to Lyon. Militants have joined the people of the Valle Susa to defend their mountain agricultural communities which this construction of “useless infrastructure” would destroy. The fight has brought together all the radical elements in Italy, Eliseo told us. “Demonstrations are really articulated.” In response, the Italian state has militarized the area. (Salvatore's journal, Capitalism, Nature and Socialism, will soon bring out an issue dedicated to this struggle.) We enjoyed bottles of “No TAVino” for lunch and dinner, gifts from the vintners of the Valle Susa.
At the meeting at Centocelle we heard about the multi-year Movokeur project comparing squatting in different European cities. In a series of poster presentations ETC Dee's easily took the cake. His graphically exciting posters documented historical squatting activity in Brighton, London, and Rotterdam, all cities where he worked as an activist. (These need to be seen in squats around the world.) Claudio Cattaneo analyzed data from the Barcelona publication Infousurpa (est'd 1995) to see the cycles of the squatting movement there. The early ones in the 1980s had long lives. (Even now the average age of a center is 6.3 years.) Then punks learned from visiting music bands that to make their own concerts they needed to squat a place. In 1995, squatting was criminalized in Spain, and the movement picked up. (This is the seeming paradox Miguel Martinez has pointed out – repression breeds resistance.) The spectacular eviction of the Cine Princesa in 1995 unified the movement. (This story is told in the video by Octavi Royo, “Okupa, Crónica de una Lucha Social” [occupation, chronicle of a social struggle], 1996.) From 1995-96 was the “golden age” of squatting in Barcelona. Those years saw the biggest growth in squats and a well-functioning intersquat assembly. From 2000-08 Claudio calls the “mature phase,” with 40 to 50 social centers and a high rate of activity. Subsequently the number has decreased, in a phase of “decadence,” or “post-maturity.”
(Only days after our meeting, the long-lived Barcelona social center Can Vies was violently evicted by demolition, a repressive act that touched off days of rioting. If the cyclical theory holds, the city may be on the verge of another golden age of squatting. SqEK's 2015 meeting will be in that city, so we will have a chance to take the temperature of the movement.)
Eliseo and Bruno presented on the squats of Rome. (There is a highly informative chapter on this in the new SqEK book just out from Pluto.) In Rome three big groups are doing squatting for housing. People in emergency situations go to them and put their names on the list. Most are migrants, many are students. Then they are put into a training program, half a year of discussions, construction training, attendance at evictions – “You see what you have to do to protect a squat.” The group that is going to squat coheres its identity so that everyone knows each other. Then there is a squatting day for the whole city, with the three groups coordinating occupations. The last one was called “Tsunami Tour.” Usually between six and nine buildings are taken. Afterwards there is a negotiation; some are kept, some buildings are given up.
Most of the squatters are not politicized. They are simply excluded from the high cost housing market. While there is a lot of discussion, these groups have clear leaders. The assembly “functions as the place where decisions are made visible.” The next evening we saw a film, the final cut of a new documentary on one of these groups (“Casa Nostra” by Livia Parisi and Lucilla Castellano). The leader of this group was a woman, a crusty communist, who spoke to us afterwards. Their struggle has been hard. After eviction, dozens of the activists and the squatters they organized are being investigated for criminal conspiracy and extortion.

Tables at the Forte
The next morning we awoke in our dormitory with the morning swallows rushing in and out. It was time to face the cold showers. Thereafter Edward and I wandered up onto the ramparts of Forte Prenestino, a level above the main courtyards. There are little houses stuck in along a rampart so overgrown it's hard to see the features of the architecture. Some of these arch-fronted dwellings are ramshackle, with dirty yards, and others are neat and nicely planted. Cats played in the sun.
We soon moved to Scup!, a social center based on sports and education. There we had breakout sessions, with different groups concentrating on different problems. Three “tables” formed, one on internal conflict in collective houses, another on repression and eviction, and a third, my group, on institutionalization. Luisa, a Roman studying urban planning, noted that squatting and related practices have generated strategies of urban regeneration. These are being co-opted. Now, even as many squatted places are being shut down, autonomous practices are being aligned with the free market. How do we deal with these strategies of cooptation, and “avoid certain traps of pacification” so that the “antagonistic potential” of occupied spaces can unfold?
The Berliners outlined three main approaches to squatting by states: First is selective neglect, to put conflict on the back burner. This happens in Italy. Squatting becomes a problem that doesn't exist because no one talks about it. Second is the repressive strategy – stigmatization, criminalization, waves of eviction; the movements are dealt with like dangerous, subversive conspiracies. The third approach is institutionalization, temporary allocation of space for temporary uses. This entangles the movement in bureaucracy, as licenses are required and regulations applied. The squat is included, but integrated into city branding policies, as an aspect of the creative city or a feature of urban renewal. In Berlin, the recurrent IBA architectural exhibition (Internationale Bauaustellung) became a motor of institutionalization for squats.
In Italy, the squatting movements since the 1970s have generated different policies which resist or include them. After long struggles by the Leon Cavallo center in Milan, 1995 saw the passing of a law which permitted assignment of spaces for social centers. This law was proposed directly from the movement – but they still have to enter into a system of regulation. In the case of squatting for housing, new laws governing social housing and assignment of space for squatters were passed in 2004.
Now the Teatro Valle occupiers are raising a new question. They argue that culture is a commons, and that all places for culture should be considered commons. They have created a Foundation for the Common Good. (It is a kind of sister to the Spanish Fondacion de los Comunes, which produced the recent Rapto de Europa conference in Madrid where I met activists from Teatro Valle and the Milan-based artists' squat Macao.) Their cultural appropriation is generating new questions. Now Teatro Valle is working with constitutional lawyers, and working as well with other insurgent practices to find a solution for a self-managed commons in Italy. They have drafted model laws about commons.
This commonsing approach is related to the work of the Right to the City alliance. Activists' emphasis is shifting from the state as guarantor of rights to affecting the discourse on civil society. Later Eliseo spoke again about this tendency in the Italian movements. “The debate today,” he said, “is not on legalization at all. We are in another phase. The debate is on the kind of space you are producing. In the '90s we were producing a new public sphere. Now it's a common. What is a common? How do you define a common?”
Lucrezia stepped us back to 1995, passing out zine copies of a text of those times from the Italian movement – “Against the legalization of occupied spaces.” She and Claudio had discussed it via email. This argument, he said, is that in a way the best thing a social center can aim for is its own eviction. That is, you should not really aim to get kicked out, but to be antagonistic. In Lucrezia's summary of this text, legalization is the state's most effective remedy against subversiveness, against the “autonomous tradition of the totality of existence” from whence political squatting comes. Squatting, the writers argue, is and should be egotistical, so that what is taking place is authentic to the people who are doing it. It shouldn't devolve into providing welfare services, and being community organizers. “Occupation arises from the necessity to satisfy real needs.” When squats provide welfare services to the marginalized, add to the image of a creative city, or work as containers of youth culture, the result is the death of subversive activity. Regulated, restructured and controlled by the state, they are no longer antagonistic. Ergo, legalized spaces are counter-revolutionary.
This was not received without argument. Edward recalled that in Brighton years ago, the argument was whether or not to go the legal route. But now, after criminalization, the squatting movement is destroyed, everyone's forgotten the argument, and we are left with the few legal spaces. In the UK, he said, legalized spaces are “driving the scene.” He works at the Cowley Club, an owned space in a tolerant city. “It's important for me to go there, to feel strong, to feel part of the movement.” An emerging problem is people joining who are liberal, and bring their own values to project. How do we maintain antagonistic values?
Later in the day we returned to Forte Prenestino. We met in a courtyard, under a pavilion. Alan Smart set up his book machine, a metal framework designed to hold and present paper, so that we might visualize the long-running popular book project. After our discussions, we were given the grand tour of the place.
The fortress, built at the end of the 19th century from the tufa stone of this region is one of a number, built at the end of the main avenues of Rome to check a feared attack by the French. It is the only one you can visit. It is in the form of two symmetrical squares, in three levels. The level above is bucolic and overgrown. There are houses, as there were for military people in the past. Some houses have staircases inside so the residents can go downstairs directly. The squares below were for military training. The part underground is called “centocelli” for 100 cells, an allusion to Roman times. Munitions were stored there.
When they took the place in 1986, they found everything there – boxes, dead bodies, washing machines. They discovered old Nazi uniforms and a lot of military stuff. This went into a giant bonfire in the courtyards. It took 10 years to clean up all the rooms. They still have not explored all the place, especially the underground stuff.
We wandered with Francesca, an architect, up a path from the courtyard to the ramparts. We were in a Roman garden under a clouded darkening sky. There are many trees, like mulberries, fruiting when we were there. One tree is tart, another is sweet. Bees are kept, and gardens of vegetables. They had marijuana parties in the past. Now not many events happen upstairs. During anniversary parties at Forte people are everywhere. One time Mano Negra, played and people could not even get in the place. An electro festival that ran for 48 hours had four big stages and two small. 7,000 people came each night. They are not sure about the capacity of the place – “maybe 10,000.”
Many Roman squats came out of raves, momentary dance parties held in unusual places. In the 1990s they did raves in gardens and abandoned buildings. This started in 1994, and was mobilized by radio. “If you happen to be in this district tonight...” They went into one factory and danced for hours on a carpet of discarded photocopy toner. They only knew it when the sun rose and they saw each others' blue faces. On the other side of the Forte is the dormitory, a massage parlor, yoga gym, theater, and van parking. There is a kitchen for the travelers. They plan a place for camping also. Last week there was a convention of agricultural producers; 50 people needed to sleep, and they overflowed the dormitory. The wood shop makes fixtures for the place, benches, etc. The auditorium is fitted for jazz music. It is in one of two big bays, while the bay on the other side is a cinema. In the summertime a big screen is set up for an outdoor cine fest.

Underground Comics
We also ventured underground. A big international comics exhibit in mid-June called CRACK, “fumetti dirompenti,” makes use of the underground centocelli. A few of us explored these earlier, and saw many strange mural paintings in each room. At the end of the long corridor of cells the space opens out. Here is the underground Enotica, an ecological wine project. The walls of the corridor leading to the bar are hung with pictures of ecstatic tasting and erotic encounters. The largest of these underground rooms is a two-story barrel vaulted party space with a wooden platform built for the DJ.
After the tour of Forte, we listened to a couple of architects who had worked at Forte for many years. Their group started in university, when they met after an occupation of their school. They chose the Forte as a place to work, and started making installations and other things in wood and iron. They organize a festival called BaBeL, “an independent biennial of critical housing.” An activist from Poland is featured on the cover of a recent publication of the festival. She fought against the privatization of social housing. She organized the tenants of her building against the many evictions. She was beaten, then abducted and killed. A reporter investigating her murder was also killed. The organization she built, however, continues to fight. The article was written by people in a social center now evicted. It's the kind of story that is marginalized in universities. The architects are part of the Right to the City alliance. Their website contains texts on this network, as well as conceptions of “creative citizenship” – “using creative power to get our rights.” They are working now against a proposed law attacking self-organized housing and social centers. The law would refuse legalization to any squat or social center, and cut off the inhabitants from any public services, basically taking away squatters' right to be in the city.
The great Forte Prenestino is an old-line classic social center, a counter-cultural world unto itself built inside an abandoned fortress. Metropoliz, the “mestizo” complex built inside a disused salami factory, is something else. It's an entirely new kind of formation. It's near the highway to Naples in an area called Omo. The factory is big, with many open courtyards and areas to hold the pigs which were processed into salami. The Fiorucci sausage factory moved away because the costs of upgrading the sewage treatment were too high. At first it was made into a kind of graffiti museum, and the walls are decorated with many old tags. Some 500 gypsies, Roma people, were encamped on the adjoining property. They came through a door in a masonry wall to use water from Metropoliz. When the Roma were evicted, the 30-odd squatters invited them to move into the big factory building.
In showing us the place, Leroy followed the “route of the pigs” from their holding pens to the salami factory. We saw the time clock, the changing rooms and showers. Now this is a quarter of Moroccan people called the Casbah. Leroy told us he had met a worker from the old plant who lives nearby. The man gave him this same tour, miming what he used to do at work. Where was once a yard full of pigs is now a football field. Kids were practicing for the fourth annual intersquat national football festival happening the next week.In a paved courtyard under a pavilion wash was hanging to dry. A man was finishing a tubular welded metal structure. We met an elevator repairman planning to make a basketball court.
Younger kids were playing around a ramshackle rocket. The squat museum has an outer space theme, and this was one of the larger projects. Combining social housing and an art museum is at the core of the mestizo concept of Metropoliz. Artists who want to make a work in the place come and propose their projects to the assembly which accepts or rejects them. Most conflicts, Leroy said, arise around political and critical art works. The outer space or “cosmic” theme, then, is ecumenical.
Continuing along the route, we came to a big nice house, the home of the guardian and the chemical laboratory of the plant. The run continues to where the pigs are herded into the factory. There is a cut-out door which goes to the veterinarian's office if a pig looks sick. We passed the giant boilers, “the most beautiful machines in the factory.... Here the pigs have a shower, then they die.”

A Roma Village
We drifted around the factory area, with its conveyor belt for pig corpses – hams – and a grisly mural. This is the “museum,” full of artworks, mostly wall paintings, one of the three levels of Metropoliz, the “museum of industrial archeology and art,” combined with a Roma village. Here there is also a big bar and dance floor, a cinema, and a cafe where we finished up for dinner. In the main factory building, the Roma have built houses inside each of the capacious floors. The corridors between them are like streets, with people passing continuously. Here and there are artworks painted on the walls.
Leroy talked about how they configured the space. One area of the floor is open, “the public square of the first floor,” where they hold parties. “We meet with them and find out what they need. We worked hard to leave this place empty.” They built a “convivial entrance” – like a stoop, out of concrete, where many people could sit by the door. A group working for Roma rights in the camp followed the community into the Metropoliz squat. Many volunteers come to study with the children.
Of the painting projects, I thought the best was one in French, big letters – “L'espace est a n/vous” – “the space is for us/you.” The painting was done by the artist with the people living here. Art is nice, but the main work here is about making living space. One man proudly showed us inside his house, which had been full of solid masonry, cisterns, which he had to demolish to clear the room.
We went to the roof, which looks over a vast abandoned military barracks next door. It's the biggest in central Italy, Leroy said, unused but held in reserve, and still visited regularly by soldiers. This (de)industrial area is full of gypsy camps and Chinese factories.
When do you think you will be evicted?
Not tomorrow is my guess. Like when you play with cards, you take a risk. You invest time and energy, but you don't pay rent.
After our tour we watched a film and talked with activists of the Metropoliz. The only way for people to claim their basic right of citizenship in the liberal tradition, we were told, is by violating the law. Most – 80% – are migrants. They have jobs, their kids go to school, but their right to housing is not fulfilled. The state attacks not illegality specifically, but only a part of illegality. Sixty or 70,000 people in Rome are living illegally, but they are attacked when they self-organize to manage things for themselves. In other countries criminals can control the squatted areas. Here people self-organize, and for this reason they are attacked. In Italy, Roma people can only go to camps. Metropoliz is breaking this logic of segregation.
The migration of today has little to do with colonialism. People are only seeking work opportunities. These migrants tend to be highly skilled, even PhDs, speaking multiple languages. They have helped to reinvigorate the agricultural sector after the emptying out of the Italian countryside. They contribute to the treasury of an aging population. They take care of the elderly, doing caring functions which are necessary to state. Italy always thought of itself as an out-migration country, sending workers abroad. Now, Italy has become a destination for migrants.
Another activist picked up the thread. Metropoliz is of the Blocco Metropolitano, she said, a collective formed in 2006. We were precarious workers who organized to satisfy our own needs. We were trying to put a spanner into the works of the neoliberal city, which appropriates through dispossession. The owner of this place is a big construction company. They planned to build condominiums no one would buy. This is part of the neoliberal city. We are deprivatizing this space. It is part of the history of Rome, its industrial archeology. Now it is a liberated occupied factory. The idea of Metropoliz is mestizo [mestizaje] – a coming together of people from different political and ethnic backgrounds to attempt another way of living together based on heterogeneity. The Roma is the most discriminated against minority in Italy. Out of diversity and sharing, we are challenging the neoliberal state. The law on housing was advertised as solving the problem of social housing in Italy, but really it favors the big financial interests and criminalizes those who cannot afford to pay a rent. A former communist party operative in the government was responsible for criminalizing squatting.
After these talks and a film, we repaired to the spacious cafe for dinner, then danced to a DJ playing contemporary gypsy rock. Oddly enough, one of the artist squatters was selling shots of classical absinthe, strained through a sugar cube, so between dances we enjoyed our own “heure verte.”

Culture and the Commons
The next day was more sober, with a panel on “Squats and Urban Relationships” convened in the civil and environmental engineering department of Sapienza University. One of the presenters was from the social center Angelo Mai, an important art center very recently under siege by the police. She told us that the housed people, the residents, “are in relation to artists and theater people.” Occupancy is undertaken not to gain leverage for access to public housing, but as a project of collective self-construction in a commons. Angelo Mai was “one of the first experiences that merged housing and cultural needs.” The right to housing and the right to culture are unified. The center runs summer camps for kids in nearby schools, and “thousands of workshops” there and in other housing occupations. There is no city cultural program for artists in Rome. There are no plans for social housing. “Rome is an open laboratory of occupation.” (An article in the new SqEK book from Pluto describes the five year development of these new kinds of Roman occupations.)
We heard from workers at the occupied Teatro Valle. “We are show business workers,” said Mavik, a category not really recognized in Italy. Teatro Valle is a classic Italian theater with a long history, located near the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the senate of the Italian republic. (Hans and I visited this beautiful old theater later, and spoke with some of the occupiers, among the dynamic Valeria Colucci who toured a New Statesman journalist last year. I met her in Madrid in April, at the “New Abduction of Europe” conference; Marc Herbst has blogged about that important event.)
The government closed this historic theater, and was thinking of privatizing it. A group of artists and workers there occupied it. “We entered as a joke,” Mavik said, “a three-day symbolic occupation. Three days became three years. We are still there.” The abandoned theater is a cultural and geographical metaphor. We “rethink this vacuum not in the order of service but the order of need.” Artists in Italy have suffered a void of institutions for a long time. Now we are rethinking the relation between artists and citizens, and that is new. Teatro Valle is open 24 hours a day. We never do shows; we free the stage. We take care of that place, think of it like a home open to everyone, where the public takes on an active role.
Mauro, a television actor, said that the theater was in a heavily gentrified center city area, “once a neighborhood, now no more.” They seek to counter this tendency to “make the center of Rome a museum.” They try to present a model of culture as common. In relation to his craft of acting, Teatro Valle is “like a 24-hour improvisation, doing art and life together.”
I asked if Teatro Valle or any of the other occupations had been supported by institutions. Mauro referenced the work of jurist Ugo Mattei, who has written a manifesto of the commons. A historian responded that Rome has a long history of occupation: “The catacombs were ancient occupations by the victims of ethnic cleansing” in the early Christian period. The Swiss Institute in Italy has run juridical seminars on the commons, which supports their efforts to stake out a legal position based on the Italian constitution. Some cultural institutions have tried to take advantage, he said, using our phrases and making them their own. Then a minority of political people, very minoritarian politicians support us. From time to time in assembly we touch the delicate issue of institutionalization. Our future. “What will we become when we grow up?” But our freedom has allowed rich experimentation. We like to talk about basic rights without institutionalizing our project. We like to compare it with the rights of a child born of a couple that doesn't want to marry.
That afternoon we visited CSOA ex-Snia, and attended a session about Roman gardens held in a new building in a park. On either side are abandoned squatted factories. Behind one is a complex of gardens which we drifted through after the talk. A talk on “renaturalization of the metropolis” introduced us to the history and particulars of some dozen land occupations in the Rome area. These urban gardens on occupied land are “islands of resistance” against speculative urbanization where a “degrowth philosophy” can be put into action. They stimulate “inclusion and solidarity” among cultivators. Rome is the greenest European city with 40% agricultural land. (Architects at studioUAP recently mapped the “Agro Romano.”)
Among the gardens discussed was the Garbatella, an “anti-speculation” urban garden started in 1992. It came from a popular mobilization against a plan to build 1.8 million square meters of housing. The area became public and was assigned to a “garden service” agency. At first it was funded, then the money was withdrawn. Citizens' groups started to occupy the land, in a form of political pressure based on urban agriculture.
Another we heard about was Eutorto, a garden run by former technical workers who lost their jobs in 2010. They wanted to stay together to “protect their political mobilization” and to provide food for their families. They worked against the “social and productive exclusion” of the unemployed. They protested, but also gardened together.
The speaker concluded that these and other forms of informal urban gardening practices are “profaning devices of power” (the reference is to Giorgio Agamben). The most interesting cases are those that “produce publics.” “Institutions should experiment with insurgent networks.” So far as the question of... (the speaker lost pace on that word, and Martin and Claudio pronounced it for him in unison) institutionalization, it should be a “soft targeted intervention.”
Afterwards we toured the gardens and visited the social center next door. We arrived too late to have a discussion with the fellow who was waiting for us. So we visited the bicycle shop in the back. Eliseo explained some things about the history of the place, how it was discovered during a rave. The lovely garden plants came from a rooftop exhibition by an artist at the U.S. embassy which gave them the plants to take away.

Costs of Knowledge
On our last day in Rome we learned that we could not return to the Forte Prenestino. The party on Saturday night had lasted until 6 a.m., and everyone was either sleeping or cleaning up. We held a kind of debriefing auto-critique with the Romans, reflecting on the week's meetings. The Rome meeting was quite amazing, but because of its size and length, some structural problems emerged within our group. (Those interested can look at the notes posted online.)
Eliseo explained that the Roman squatting world was so big and so involved it was impossible to give a general framework, only an introduction. We just met some groups. Other important centers we didn't visit. “There are over 160 squats, it's a jungle.” The organizers tried to avoid being identified, manipulated, or incorporated in some groups' agendas. “We could have a Disobedienti briefing, but then we would be identified with them,” and others would be offended.
Andrea – “I wish I slept more” – started with the question what are we?, meaning the SqEK network. Academic researchers in Italy usually don't come from working class backgrounds. Looking at ourselves, there's not much ethnic diversity. All of these questions – around diversity and class and gender – are expressed in tensions between researchers and activists. There is no way to have a structured meeting in the Roman movement, Eliseo said. It's not a normal situation. You are under eviction. The police can arrive at any moment, and then you have to decide what to do. We do not invite foreigners into these kinds of activities because they don't speak Italian, don't know what the police are doing, the lawyers don't speak English. Also me and Andrea have to survive this meeting. “We are under examination” within the movement. The next time you come to Rome we cannot go with you in a social center. “We cannot put our face in more than we did.”
The Roman movement is dynamic, remarkable, and very little-known. They are constantly producing solutions to urban problems which an idea-poor and corrupted government seems to have simply given up on. We were very lucky to have had this glimpse of it. Nevertheless, the knowledge SqEK is building both individually and collectively, comes at a cost.

LINKS LIST for Rome
Forte Prenestino
http://www.forteprenestino.net/

Centocelle
http://www.100celleaperte.org/

"No TAV" movement
http://www.infoaut.org/index.php/english/item/8574-a-short-intro-to-the-no-tav-movement

“Capitalism, Nature and Socialism” journal
http://www.cnsjournal.org/

ETC Dee's posters for Movokeur
https://sqek.squat.net/database-results/

Infousurpa, Barcelona
http://usurpa.squat.net/
SqEK, eds., "The Squatters' Movement in Europe: Commons and Autonomy as Alternatives to Capitalism"
http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745333953

Scup! social center
http://scup.sonarproject.net/

Teatro Valle Ocupato
http://www.teatrovalleoccupato.it/

Fondacion de los Comunes, Spain
http://fundaciondeloscomunes.net/

BaBeL e SCIATTOproduzie
http://www.babelbabel.net/

Metropoliz
http://metropoliz.noblogs.org/

Angelo Mai
http://www.angelomai.org/

“How Italians are keeping priceless artefacts out of private hands,” by Daniel Trilling
http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2013/09/how-italians-are-keeping-priceless-artefacts-out-private-hands

Marc Herbst “On The New Abduction of Europe Conference”
http://www.joaap.org/diablog/reportback-from-on-the-new-abduction-of-europe-conference-marc-herbst/

Ugo Mattei. "The State, the Market, and some Preliminary Question about the Commons (French and English Version)" 2011
http://works.bepress.com/ugo_mattei/40

CSOA ex-Snia
http://www.exsnia.it/

studioUAP architects' map of the “Agro Romano”
http://europaconcorsi.com/projects/77151-studioUAP-LAND-Milano-Srl-T-SPOON-Parco-Radicelli-e-complesso-sportivo

SqEK minutes
http://sqek.squat.net/category/conference/

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Can Vies: The Reason of Force in the Barcelona Police


from Revue Argelaga, translated by NOT BORED!

When the force of reason is subjugated by the reason of force, no one can evoke laws and rights. In such a situation, the laws are arbitrary and their application does not derive from a State of rights, but a State of abuse in which the violence monopolized by the government is placed in the service of privileged interests. In such a case, resistance to abuse is legitimate; even better, the right to resist and defend oneself is the only veritable right. Consequently, from the point of view of liberty, dignity and reason, which are the veritable sources of rights, the protests against the demolition of the occupied and self-managed space of Can Vies, [FN2] which is located in the Sants-Montjuïc neighborhood, were perfectly justified. Its demolition hasn’t served as a pretext for intolerable violence by the itinerant minorities who “take advantage of grievances,” as the authorities (and the police’s UGT union) claim: it has simply been a proof of institutional, gratuitous and savage barbarity, as usual.
  The city called Barcelona is no longer a roomy colony organized by a community of inhabitants, as it was when it was founded; it is no longer an industrial town full of workers employed by the manufacturers, as it was previously; the Barcelonese agglomeration is only an open and peaceful space for consumers, at the heart of which all human movement must be regulated and supervised in order to guarantee its transparency and functioning. Barcelona is not ruled by its inhabitants but by a caste that is political and financial, vertical and authoritarian, parasitical and usurping, and this caste has made urban management its privileged way of life. What matters to these leaders is the “Barcelona brand,” that is to say, that which gives it a smooth and calm image, like that of a commercial center or theme park, favorable to business, to shopping, to commercialized leisure and tourism. It is obvious that the spectacle of a consumable Barcelona needs a space without contradictions or ambiguities, one completely subjugated and available to the buyer.
  This new urban model cannot allow the existence of truly public places, without mediations or barriers, and still less can it allow the existence of horizontally managed sites: on the contrary, everything must function in a hierarchical, monitored framework in which technologies, regulations, the real estate market and urbanism work in the service of rapacious leaders. The exercise of [any] authority in these conditions is fundamentally a police operation. In this phase, politics becomes confused with repression; management, surveillance and order are one and the same thing, which means that governmental authority is exercised through the Ministry for Public Order, especially. Politics is no longer the affair of politicians, but the implacable security forces. All political and social problems that this aberrant town-model constantly cause will never be recognized as such since the population has no right to complain about this best of all possible worlds. The only response from the dominant power that has confiscated popular decision-making is violence.
  In the affair of Can Vies, it is clear that the municipal authorities never intended to propose alternatives that departed from the official, bureaucratic circuit and that any meeting was condemned [in advance] to manipulations and lies because, by proposing the existence of a space placed under unacceptable administrative supervision, they only sought to suppress this [formerly] free space. The disproportionate police force used for the eviction shows this. They hadn’t foreseen the help of other collectives or the support of the neighborhoods in the town center. They also didn’t expect the solidarity of other neighborhoods, as was the case on that fine morning. This was why the forces of law and order were initially surprised. Where was the ultra-sound cannon, and why didn’t the cops make immediate use of their “sticky foam” bullets? This is what the representative of the police’s SMT-CCOO [FN3] union wondered, because the repression was the work of the salaried mercenaries regulated by an agreements that authorized foam projectiles, and the trade unions want a thorough repression without any risk to their members. Everyone can see the results. The quasi-military occupation of the neighborhood, indiscriminate police violence, arrests and injuries. . . .
  All the media efforts by Mayor Trias, Minister for Public Order Espadaler, and District Councilor Jordi Martí have been designed, first and foremost, to defend the violent actions of the police, “guardians of the right to property” and “executors of a clear decree from the Supreme Court.” In fact, they haven’t given too many explanations: “I don’t know what would happen if the police had to justify themselves” (Espadaler); “the forces of order were right. When the Mossos [FN4] go into action, there is a reason for it” (Trias). Furthermore, their efforts aimed at presenting the protests as the work of infiltrated violent groups and at dividing the protesters into peaceful and “anti-system” radicals in order to “find the formulae of consensus” with the former and to bludgeon and imprison the latter. In short, this was an old political tactic that is useful when force hasn’t produced the countedupon result. These demagogues are disgusting, but then again they always are. We don’t accuse the authorities of lacking subtleness. The only thing they need is a lack is scruples!
  Thus we are not faced with an unusual and isolated event that took place in a perfectly democratic framework in which everyone has a voice and the possibility to be heard. In reality, the iniquity of the authorities and the brutality of the police forces will be more and more usual if the population doesn’t resign itself to doing what they are ordered to do. Because if the population is never right, it is not sovereign because it has no force or, rather, it does not have the monopoly on force that the law of domination grants to power. The total domination of Capital demands a type of urban space that is managed like a business and pacified like a prison. In such a space, there is no place for assemblies or the forms of life that exist at the margins of the market economy. In this space, the framework cannot be any more authoritarian, and politics cannot be distinguished from social control. In a world oriented towards totalitarianism, political management is repression.
  Can Vies was a stumbling block for Barcelonese power. It seems that it wasn’t removed without difficulty. Resistance to the demolition was exemplary in more than one way, which proves that there are people who haven’t adapted themselves to the slave behavior that has been demanded of them. This is a reason to rejoice. And because stumbling blocks will not be lacking (today there are many occupied places), we count on many others in the near future!
  The struggle continues. Visca Can Vies!

Photo: Laura Figuis/ACN, for La Vanguardia

NOTES
1 Originally written in Catalan and published by Revue Argelaga under the title “Can Vies: la raó de la força a la Barcelona Policial” on 28 May 2014 (http://argelaga.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/can-vies-la-rao-de-la-forca-a-labarcelona-policial/). Published in French by Paroles des Jours (http://parolesdesjours.free.fr/antiindustrialisme.pdf) as “Can Vies: La raison de la force dans la Barcelone policière.” Translated from the French (with recourse to the Catalan original when necessary) by NOT BORED! 10 June 2014. All footnotes by NOT BORED!

2 A squatted and self-managed social center, Can Vies was founded in 1997. Ostensibly owned by Barcelona’s transportation authority, the building was evicted and demolition of it began on 26 May 2014. These were actions that touched off three consecutive nights of protest and rioting, not only in Barcelona, but in other cities as well.

3 CCOO stands for “Comisiones Obreras.”

4 The Mossos d'Esquadra (“squad lads”) are the police force in Catalan.

 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gängeviertel: No More Pats on the Back


The efforts of the Gängeviertel artists are widely considered a success. Not everyone, however, is still thrilled by the project.

Editor's introduction: The artists' occupation of the antique Gängeviertel buildings in Hamburg in 2009 excited hope among many. It is an island of creative activity in a desert of big business skycrapers. The city legalized the squat, and the artists entered the long process of bureaucratic renovation, taking their place as poster children of official tolerance for alternative lives. In 2012 a book appeared commemorating the first three years of the Hamburg Gängeviertel, “Mehr als ein Viertel.” The book is beautifully designed; a gorgeously produced online "trailer" for the book is at http://buch.das-gaengeviertel.info/. It concludes with a link to a 33 minute video by Jessica Weichmann (in German).
Very shortly thereafter, this critique of the emerging conditions of the Gängeviertel project and its role in the development of Hamburg was written. It was intended to appear in “House Magic” #6, but that number was delayed. We present it here now.
  by Michel Chevalier, Lena Kaiser and Rahel Puffert
  HAMBURG | Three and a half years ago, on August 22, 2009, approximately 200 artists squatted the run-down buildings of the inner-city Gängeviertel quarter, thereby saving the remaining historical buildings from demolition. In so doing, the Gängeviertel protagonists drew attention to the fact that their strategy was an unusual one for squatters, collaboration with consevative media outlets (especially the Axel Springer-owned Hamburger Abendblatt) being one essential component. Success came: the city bought back the buildings a few months later, the occupants founded a non-profit, and are currently administering the buildings themselves.
An agreement signed in 2011 between the city and the artists states that the buildings are to “remain open to the broadest possible cross-section of the public through affordable spaces for housing, business, and sociocultural use.”
Current perspectives: salaried squatters?
The initiative is currently seeking an institutional status, and city-funding in accordance, for one of its buildings, the Fabrik. The situation is such that, according to Gängeviertel-spokesperson Christine Ebeling, “the Fabrik cannot continue to function on a volunteer basis on the long-term.” Eleven salaried positions are planned: three 30-hour-a-week jobs for general management, booking, and gastronomy management, five part-time jobs for additional scheduling, bookkeeping, custodianship, and technical support of events, and three further 10-hour jobs for continuity, fund-raising, and curatorial planning. The considerable support requested, €250,000 per year, was turned down by the city government. The initiative is now considering if it can streamline this plan or find additional funding.
The city is currently subsidizing the project essentially through low rents: the renovated areas of the complex cost 1€/m2. Single exhibition projects also receive funding. The Gängeviertel non-profit organization is itself operated through contributions and membership fees. Single projects are funded by various foundations.
Extensive renovation work of the twelve buildings will soon begin, at a total cost of €20 million paid by the city, Hamburg housing construction loans, and private capital. The buildings themselves are to thereby remain under the control and administration of the non-profit.
The sociocultural center the Gängeviertel initiative has strived for –  to include spaces for cultural events, exhibitions, and offices – is to open in 2015.
  An Exemplary Project … but of what?
Since 2009, the Gängeviertel has taken on a significance beyond the Hamburg region, standing for successful resistance against both gentrification and deteriorating working conditions for cultural producers. But not all is rosy in the Gängeviertel: many one-time activists have abandoned the project. And not all cultural producers in other Hamburg spaces are happy about the Gängeviertel.
The Gängeviertel gave the city a chance to cast its policies as progressive and open to the creative scene. But one should not be deceived: other art spaces, such as Südbalkon (a bastion of critique of the upcoming IBA city-development extravaganza in the Wilhelmsburg district) and the experimentally-disposed Blinzelbar have had to close shop due to harsh local realities and city policies that fostered them. And so the city's message to the aforementioned creative scene has lately been, simply: there will never be another Gängeviertel.  The city's willingness to compromise with artists in other locations has receded at a quick pace ever since the Gängeviertel agreement: if artists or cultural producers ask the city if they can use empty buildings and spaces, the city invariably turns them down. The variegated art-space scene has thinned out parallel to the Gängeviertel story, falling victim to ubiquitous rent increases. Many say they stand no chance in the shadow of the Gängeviertel. At the same time, criticizing the Gängeviertel openly is a taboo few are ready to break.
Meanwhile, the Hamburg Cultural Affairs Office offers young artists the option of undertaking a socio-cultural project in the Gängeviertel – so long as they carry out the complete renovation of the location. Starting something new, parallel to the Gängeviertel, is not an option.
And what had once been a locally heated debate about notions of art and their relations to and consequences for public space –  of cultural policy (such as the Tamm-Tamm artists' protest against the dubious Maritime Museum of former Springer editor Peter Tamm) –  has in the last three years faded into a battle for studio space and affordable rents. A chapter of the recently self-published Gängeviertel book, “Mehr als ein Viertel” (More than a Quarter), which commemorated its third anniversary, is symptomatically titled: “Gängeviertel as a Prototype for Sustainable City Development Policy.”
Now that the project has been secured, the next question will be: which artistic direction should it take? Specifics have as yet been avoided, with the artists referring to the “Gängeviertel-as-Gesamtkunstwerk.” They have wanted to “keep things open” and view the complex as a “space for exchange, as a form at once of life, of work, and of habitat.” Art is thus a way of life, be it someone painting pictures and selling them in a gallery, planting flowers, or repairing bicycles.
Questions of what art should or shouldn't be were never raised, at least in the first days of the occupation, according to Gängeviertel activist Hannah Kowalski. “Discussions were more focused on social and economic conditions that need to be satisfied if one is to create art.” Negotiation strategies were the order of the day.
It is a curious fact that the significance of the Gängeviertel as it is perceived from outside seems thoroughly independent of what actually happens there. The location's power of attraction derives from the mood of insurrection, of a newly conquered location. The Gängeviertel  has become a magnet for tourists, for whom it is a stage of a seemingly unfathomable assortment of activities.
  Everywhere both something and its opposite
The pluralistic openness, the welcoming of anything one moment and its opposite the next, has defined the structure of the Gängeviertel since its start: it has been deployed both naively and tactically. Yet it carries its risks. These are another topic of the book “ Mehr als ein Viertel,”  in which the project also reveals glimpses from behind its scenes, for the first time. In one section, activists who have dropped out of the project share their thoughts and criticism.
Beyond the efforts necessary to preserve the studio-buildings, beyond the frequently evoked success-story, this book shows that discussions about programmatic orientation are no longer to be avoided.
Demands for collective or artistic possibilities hardly arise when freedom is reduced to “doing whatever you want.”  They arise through negotiation and a certain relish in friction and difference to others.  This is the process by which each can sharpen the contours of his or her contribution to a commonly pursed project that avoids the rut of networking, teamwork, and a colorful potpourri.
  The Gängeviertel's “pluralism” concept marks no distance to the culture-political mainstream. The latter posits all artistic forms and demands as deserving equal treatment, as if there were no difference between conservative and progressive, old and new, conformist and critical. Everything becomes equally irrelevant. Yet it is precisely such politics of trivialization that need to be confronted today.
   Quick Facts        
  The Gängeviertel in Hamburg's central Neustadt district is the last representation of an architectural and building approach that was common in the city in the mid-seventeenth century.
The buildings were home to harbor workers and day laborers.
The city of Hamburg sold  the property to the investor Hanzevast, which planned to tear down two of the buildings. On 22/23 August 2009 a group of artists and activists announced a “courtyard-party” and occupied the buildings with the goal of restoring them and establishing a self-managed, social, and creative neighborhood.
In December 2009 the cultural producers celebrated the city's repurchase of the property for € 2,8 million as a step towards victory.
In September 2011 the city of Hamburg and the Gängeviertel concluded an agreement on renovation and future use of the buildings.
In 2013 the estimated renovation costs are €20 million.

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.