Saturday, March 11, 2023

Inside the Helmet: The Laboratorioccupato Morion in Venice

Third report from Italy – the OSC Laboratorioccupato Morion in Venice, the Venice Climate Camp, cruise ship resistance, squatting boarded-up public housing, the Transfeminist march – “as long as we scream together, we are free” – and, of course, Banksy.

It’s dreamy to be in Venice, as a resident at the Emily Harvey Foundation. I’d hope the late great promoter of the Fluxus art movement would approve of my project – a renewal of the program of research on the autonomous occupied social centers of Europe.
The form of this political activism may be said to have originated in Italy in the wake of the Autonomist communist organizing of the 1970s. It is Italy, as we saw in the recent post from Milan, where the largest examples of occupied social centers are to be found.
So it’s unsurprising that there are long-established occupation projects in Venice. They have issues, fights and struggles, and they have culture, music and art.
We visited Laboratorioccupato Morion the first week we were here. The 30+ year old Venetian social center is open Friday evenings for bar and concert events.

LO Morion when it's jumpin'. A pic from Restaurant Guru website

Morion is a big open high-roofed space decorated inside with masses of posters on the walls. It’s on the site of a 14th century hospice for poor women, popularly named for the helmet-shaped sign of a nearby shop in those days. Outside the walls are painted with colorful murals done in the style of Black Panthers artist Emory Douglas. A crew of some half dozen young women were bustling about preparing for the evening’s events when we arrived, a bar at 7pm; musical acts, a DJ, were planned for later that night.
We sat down with Marta, an activist of the Lab and a fluent English speaker. She explained a bit of the history of the place, and the engagements Morion has with both local and international issues and movements.
Morion is in a vacant city warehouse. The first occupiers of the space in 1990 were evicted, but they camped out in a garden in the center of town until they got an agreement to use the present building.
The most recent big movement effort in Venice was the third September ‘22 Climate Camp in the Lido. Marta was an organizer. She works on the Morion’s environmental committee. The Climate Camp welcomed activists from around Europe, and was organized through the network of social centers throughout the region of Veneto, working with the German movement, Ende Gelände.

An assembly at the Venice Climate Camp, 2022

“We are fighting for the city itself,” Marta said. The famously perilous condition of the city of Venice is aggravated by rising sea levels, making climate change a vital issue.
The environmental movement in Italy began in earnest with industrial disasters in the ‘70s and ‘80s – a toxic dioxin cloud, the Chernobyl meltdown. The movement is strongly inflected with eco-feminist ideas; the Venice Climate Camp was “in dialogue with” another meeting on the theme of degrowth.
The city’s second occupied space, the Sale Docks, is focussed on art (more on this place soon). Sale Docks organized a session at the Climate Camp in which Austrian artist and filmmaker Oliver Ressler showed excerpts from his climate video project “Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart”.
The fragile city in the lagoon is trampled into a theme park every summer by massive influxes of tourists, most egregiously the thousand-people loads from mega-cruise ships. A popular campaign led by Morion activists saw a puny attack by small boats on the mammoth cruise ships, under the slogan "La Laguna paura non ne ha" [the lagoon is not afraid; I got the t-shirt]. The Climate Camp featured a session of networking with other places that are suffering cruise ship overloads.

Fabulous quixotic attack on a cruise ship in the Venice lagoon

Venice has always been a great place to visit. But, more even than most other touristic cities, Venice has been distended by its reliance on and obeisance to the hospitality sector. The population has actually shrunk.
Marta also works with the ASC – Assemblea Sociale per la Casa, an assembly of people in public housing. Affordable housing for Venetians is a major issue, and Morion is involved in squatting actions to preserve public housing. There are over 1000 empty public housing units in Venice, and little will in government to renovate and allocate them. Social services, both housing and public health are cut. In the authorities’ view, “It’s to be a tourist center, period,” Marta said. The Morion activists work against this kind of logic, maintaining that “the city is alive”.

The public housing committee of the Morion

There are some 25,000 students in Venice, both from the public university and the art academy. The university owns much property in the city, and they are working with the city to create hotels.
We trotted out to the Dorsoduro barrio of Venice for the March 8th Transfeminist march, the Morion-organized event for International Womens Day. We saw the assembling of groups, including Queer We Go, who marched that day in cities throughout Northeastern Italy.
In the spirited words of the Padua center Pedro CSO: "We are women, whores, indecent, ugly, fat, lesbian, trans, farts, dirty, blasphemous, disabled, bisexual, activists, mothers, anti-capitalists, abortionists, anti-fascists, transfeminists, but most of all, as long as we scream together, we are free."
Walking around our barrio of San Polo – one must walk around in Venice – we paused in front of a shop of beautiful bags made from recycled plastic signage. It turned out to be the shop of #Malefatte the #MadeInPrison program. On the door jamb was a possible Banksy stencil of a jaunty Venice carnival rat.

It turns out the UK artist was here to crash the Venice Biennale in 2019, engaging with his work precisely the issues the Laboratorioocupato Morion and its fellow OSCs are concerned with – cruise ships and climate change, and the failure to rescue migrants and refugees at sea. One is a mural of a migrant child holding a distress flare painted in a canal; the second was a kind of performance of art vending. Banksy set up shop in a plaza where painters put their easels. The multi-panel “Venice in Oil” reveals a cruise ship plowing through a medley of gondolas. The police shut him down.

Banksy performance, "Venice in Oil"

The mural of the migrant child was “claimed” by Banksy in an Instagram post. It is poignant again after the February 26 shipwreck in Calabria. Just as we arrived in Italy, 72 (at least) failed to do so.
The angry, mournful words in a statement from the Pedro Centro Sociale Occupato in Padua cast the blame on the Italian political leadership, which has made hay like Trump over the issue of migration: "The massacre of Sunday 26th February was determined by a delay of the rescue operations cynically wanted, politically wanted. People could very well have been saved if rescue operations had been activated in a timely manner. The boat had already been reported by Frontex but the authorities did not move, despite the weather conditions and the 200 people on board.... We immediately demand the freedom to sail for every ship dedicated to rescuing people in the Mediterranean."

The image is also a reminder that this new “middle passage”, with its thousands of deliberated deaths, will not be forgotten by generations to come.


The Emily Harvey Foundation

Laboratorioccupato Morion | Venice - Facebook
Instagram – @cso_morion

VENICE CLIMATE CAMP | 3nd edition - 7th-11th Sept. 2022
Rise Up 4 Climate Justice and Fridays for Future Venice/Mestre are pleased to invite you to Venice Climate Camp! Five days of camping for climate justice

Ende Gelände

Rachele Ledda, "Women’s presence in contemporary Italy’s environmental movements, with a case study on the Mamme No Inceneritore committee", Genre et Histoire, Autumn 2018

A resource website on the theme of Degrowth notes that "’la decrescita' in Italian refer to a river going back to its normal flow after a disastrous flood" -- which we might think of as capitalism itself.

“Everything’s coming together while everything’s falling apart”, A 6-channel video installation by Oliver Ressler, 2016-2020

Simone Fierucci, “Presente e futuro delle navi da crociera nel Mediterraneo. Il report del dibattito al Venice Climate Camp” Domenica 25 Settembre 2022 17:23

"La Laguna paura non ne ha" [the lagoon is not afraid]: i manifestanti lasciano il canale della Giudecca
A brief video of a 2019 demonstration, an ‘attack’ on cruise ships by small boat

Assemblea Sociale per la Casa – A 2014 discussion of the ASC’s work on behalf of occupiers of social housing

Global Project report on transfeminist marches in the Northeast of Italy: “8 Marzo: la marea tranfemminista è il grido collettivo di chi vuol cambiare il mondo”, 9 March 2023

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

"Art of the Cancelled": Stalker's Sites of Internal Displacement and Decolonialization

Forgotten historic evictions, massacres and “sudden lakes” are explored in the performative works of the Stalker group in Rome. Using a wide variety of aesthetic social practice tactics, the group resurrects historic memory, agitates for biodiversity, and enacts solidarity with evicted migrants.

John Halpern and Emily Harris set up an online interview with a Roman architects' group called Stalker. Their work in aid and solidarity with community groups and migrant squats in Rome is inspiring, important and fascinating work. The entire talk is online [all links are below]; what follows are my notes.
The two interviewees, Giulia Fiocca and Lorenzo Romito, work under the name of Stalker, Giulia since 2007 and Lorenzo since the beginning in 1995 when he and five friends founded the group and named it after the Tarkovsky film of 1979. The story of that movie is about the Zone, an area that is forbidden to enter – maybe polluted, radioactive – it’s never made clear. The Stalker is a kind of guide who regularly goes into the Zone despite the peril. In the film he leads an artist and a scientist.
Giulia and Lorenzo are both trained as architects. They became politicized in 1990 with the occupation of their university. This talk reminded me of the important role architects of all kinds have played in supporting squatters, and adapting guerrilla occupation tactics directly into their work.
The duo presented three projects: one a recovery of historic memory about a Roman shantytown of left persons evicted from the city during fascist rule; the second on support for the public appropriation of a “sudden lake”, the result of illegal property development; and the third support for a big-building squat of migrant persons in Rome.

The first project was presented in the form of a film, “Borghetto Prenestino” made by collaborators Myrice Tansini and Pierre Kattar. That was "La Zattera" (the Raft), in January 2021, This complex project was an investigation and animation of a piece of waste land in Rome which had been a shantytown, cleared in 1980. It was built as the outcome of a 1939 fascist law against Italian migrants which was re-animated by Berlusconi in 2009 to use against foreign migrants. The "La Zattera" project, then, was conceived as a "time warp, linking present and past".
A bit hard to follow, the project began with a newspaper, informing participants – residents nearby, relatives of the families from that time – about the place. This education, part of a School of Nomadic Urbanism founded in 2018 by Giulia and Lorenzo as the educational tool of Stalker activity, has as its brief to surface the "invisible and forgotten memory of the city of Rome”.
The film includes an elder who speaks of his mother who suffered this law in fascist times, who was bussed to this "clandestine zone" to live in the shadows of fascist Italy. His grandfather arrived in Rome in 1927, then was internally deported as a resistant to fascism, a "dissident to the state".
I transcribe throughout this text very roughly from the speakers:
Lorenzo Romito: These situations we organize we call them "circumstances". We get out, choose a site, and then we work on it, through a schooling process, the school is open. We gather researchers in different disciplines, but also inhabitants, migrants, very diverse people, with diverse knowledges and competences on spaces, on stories. We put together different time frames, memories that are forgotten, or have been cancelled. They're not part of a main narration. Then we entangle them, with a moment that is social but also performative.

The idea, he said, is “to create a dimension of co-existence by exploring memories…. to create a rite, a myth, to reconnect people to the place”.
The second project, was done in support of a state appropriation of ecologically significant land, the Lago Bullicante, or Lago ex-SNIA Viscosa. This is a newly arising lake created by an illegal development in 1992. It’s called "ex" for the SNIA Viscosa factory which produced rayon. They closed in 1956; the area was abandoned until bought in 1990 by enterpreneurs. After numerous corporate title transfers, an ill-advised shopping center construction project began. Excavation for a parking garage broke into a buried river and an ancient geological acquifer, flooding the site and creating a “sudden lake”.

Said Giulia, "nature stopped" the developer. Since then, nature has had the time to retake this space as a “spontaneous ecosystem”. The lake area is tremendously biodiverse, with over 500 plant species, and 72 counted birds. The water is pure enough for swimming.
A local agitation for the lake as public domain began in 2013, and Stalker joined in the fight to preserve this new urban wilderness for public use. In 2014, the local agitation led to a small expropriation by the government of part of the land. The developers, however, didn’t stop their work.

Rome as terra incognito

Rome seated above Chronos is a cave in a 17th c. image

In 2021, together with the Forum Territoriale Parco delle Energie, community groups, schools, and other institutional actors, Stalker launched a campaign to preserve more of the land. They produced a kind of “rite”, a procession to the government center walking across the city carrying branches that had been cut down by the developer. This was the “walking forest”, an allusion to the play Macbeth, in which an advancing army camouflaged with trees signals the end of the usurper king.
Another project of historic memory coincided with an exhibition about the famed film director Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Lorenzo Romito: The issue, the unsaid, the cancelled was Italian colonialism in Africa. In Italy we didn't have to go through the Nuremberg process, because the Allies decided, we don't want to get rid of all these right-wing fascist people because then the left could take over. So a lot of criminals in the colonial times, the fascist times, never had to pay for their crimes. We didn't go through a process of decolonization, where the colonized claimed their independence, we simply lost the war and lost the colonies. So there is this idea that Italians are good people.

Forgotten is the massacre of 1937, called "Yekatit 12". This followed a failed assassination attempt on an Italian general, viceroy of Italian East Africa (present-day Ethiopia).
A 2017 history estimates the dead at 19,200, a shocking 20 percent of the population of Addis Ababa.
LR: So we wanted to share the knowledge, starting again with the school of the city. Sometimes the knowledge of the past is terrible. But we also want to discover the beauty of the present, Ethiopians in Rome. So we made up this new ethnic group, the Ethio-Romans, to understand what happened then and why we never talk about it.
This project was also about a building occupied by 800 Ethiopians that was evicted in the middle of the night.

LR: So we linked the different questions, the massacre of the '30s and the eviction of the migrants today. But we also had the pleasure to share rites, and ways of living, and we brought in the issue of Pasolini. At the site of an exhibition about Pasolini, we made a collapse and overlap with the colonial exhibition of the '30s at that site which was inaugurated by Mussolini himself.

After the eviction of 2017

We called this a scene from a movie never made about the past, present and future of Africans in Rome. We placed a plaque in the Piazza dei Cinquecento (the square of the 500, commemorating Italian soldiers killed in the invasion of Ethiopia), a central crossing of stations of Rome. We renamed it Piazza delle Cinquecetomila, the 500,000 estimated victims of Italian colonialism in Africa.

Giulia Fiocca: In the same moment that we act on this memory, we act in the public space, and we become an archive of ourselves, leaving it to the future.
John Halpern asked if the actions were permitted by the authorities.

GF: We don't ask permission. It is our city. This is public space. We are not dangerous. We are in Rome, we are not in the United States. [Blush.]
Rome as a civilization was founded on the idea of including the other, in a wide sense, Lorenzo said. He cited the Asylum, a site in ancient Rome which gave the word to the idea of hosting foreigners. He read an image of Rome (allegorized as a woman) atop Saturnus or Chronos (time) in a cave, and recounted a dense mythological background of the city.
The work they began in 1995 took this idea of the Zone from the movie "Stalker" to stand “for us, and for all the territories in this geographically enormous wide city which we don't know…. Rome emerged like a new planet" from their analysis.
John Halpern asked about the group’s relation to the squatting movemet. (The question I would have asked if I’d been able to stay awake.)
They replied:
Our work is an intellectual expression of squatting. We explore contemporary ruins, seeing through mythology how Rome regenerates itself, how it is inhabited by excluded communities, from Aeneas of Troy forward.
We work with abandoned areas taken over by nature that we put in contemporary position. We link the community to the genius of the site [in the ancient pagan sense it seems], and create a gathering.
We are 20 years at this, following the narrative that nature is giving, rather than the explanation of the situation by human society. The territory can change your perception; that nature is doing.
In Rome there are a lot of occupied structures. It's one of the few places in the West where the Occupy movement didn't die out, but survived, and then found new energy through the presence of migrants. We are working in a squat next to our house where there are 26 languages spoken. There's 450 people living. At the same time it's a public building, squatted in 2013. It has a lot of spaces. And these spaces started to be spaces for social and cultural activities, so this brought in a link between the squatters and the community.

For us it was most interesting. We've been in the years past promoting this kind of action, and then we saw it taking place, and we started to participate there. In the basement of this building we have this space which we call MAd'O, the Museum of the Act of Hospitality. So there we were able to expose and share the incredible co-existence of people from 26 different languages in an informal settlement. That is something that public housing never achieves, but it works there because they're self-organized.

We proposed the MAd'O museum after Sébastien Thiéry, fellow at the French Academy’s Villa Medici in 2020, proposed including the act of hospitality in the list of UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. We staged a procession to promote the application. Among the projects for this initative, We worked with visiting African young artists to make images that contest the Italian restrictions on citizenship. There is no birthright for migrant children born in Italy; that is only available after age 18 upon application.

Their conceptions are actualized in their teaching. Lorenzo is teaching in Linz, Austria, where he has asked the students to occupy a space and figure out what to do. Giulia is teaching in Rome, asking students to pick a place like the lake ex-SNIA where nature is redefining the space.


Episode 38: Stalker, Tuesday February 28th, 2023

I talked to Emily and John about my own researches on squatted social centers a couple of years ago. Episode 16: Alan W. Moore, Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

website of journalist and filmmaker Pierre Kattar

the "sudden lake" -- Lago ex-SNIA Viscosa

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Yekatit 12 [massacre]

The last edition of the newspaper done for Circostanza Pasolini- yekatit is linked here, together with the other editions:

The Guardian was among the news media which covered the massive 2017 evictions of migrants and struggles in Rome – Italian police evicted 800 Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees...
25 ago 2017 —Police use water cannon as refugees evicted from Rome square
24 ago 2017 — Police in riot gear clash with refugees near main train station after about 800 were evicted from office building on Saturday. 'I love Rome, but Rome doesn't love us’...
19 feb 2018 — A building which used to be squatted by refugees on Via Curtotone in ... Violent evictions of refugees in Rome reveal inhumanity

No way to find home: common stories of Eritreans in Italy and the Netherlands; Refugees cannot start a new life if they are not allowed to create homes for themselves.

"The area remembered as the site of the sanctuary established by Romulus to attract new settlers"

I was in Rome 10 years ago with SqEK. I told the story in the book Occupation Culture (2015). since this blogger was last in Rome. At the time, I posted “Squatters of Rome” in 2014. In poking around online, I see that Stalker is involved with some of the projects we saw then, which, like Metropoliz, continue.

The cafe in Metropoliz, with its science fiction themed mural, recently photographed by an artists group installing in the museum

Friday, March 3, 2023

Un-Fashion Week in Milan: Calusca City Lights

Gucci for Fall, 2023

First post from our Italian trip recounts a visit to Cox 18's bookstore, a failed excursion to Leoncavallo, some New Yorkers who've been to Milan, and the overwhelming presence of Kim Kardashian. Regrets, the ghost of Bostik, and the many many times before. And a nice short movie!

I’m back on the squatting trail this spring with an intensive period of work in Italy. It’s aimed at a publication on social centers, the large form of occupation, along the lines of a “popular book” I proposed to our SqEK group years ago.

On this trip, we first visited Milan, the city of 7 million which was a hotbed of Autonomist militancy in the 1970s. We arrived at the central train station, a 1931 fascist construction which is gargantuan in scale. This nearly ludicrous steroidal classical structure matches the Brobdingnagian late 19th century galleria Vittorio Emanuele alongside the Duomo cathedral, one of Europe’s first and surely biggest shopping malls – gallerias, or arcades.

That plaza, with the Duomo cathedral alongside bedecked with over-sized writhing Baroque figures, the soaring shopping arcade, and massive crowds, among them a knot of dancing singing Ukrainian protestors, was an experience to be forgotten. An ecstasy of authority and consumption
That's the city. Now to the squats. We made it to the famous Archivio Primo Moroni and Libreria Calusca in the squatted social center Cox 18, and loaded up on books on the Milanese squatting movement to study during a month in Venice. Toto showed us around the place, including the murals NYC artists Seth Tobocman and Peter Kuper had made there nearly 20 years ago.

Murals by Seth Tobocman and Peter Kuper

Later we trucked out to the venerable Leoncavallo CSOA for the pop kitchen, announced on the website and the often mal-informing Google. It was closed. Comments from "local guides" on Google express disappointment over the deteriorated atmosphere at evening concert events there. Closed, streets deserted, the compound Leoncavallo encloses is huge – very Milan.
I could not return at night for one of the concert events. I don’t have the energy anymore to bomb around EU cities to squat spots, which are usually remote. We’d even intended to return to Archivio Primo Moroni the next day to look at posters, but a visit to the Pinacoteca Brera beforehand destroyed us. Old bones.
The Archivio and Calusca City Lights bookstore is in a fairly normal-looking Milan neighborhood. From the Metro stop you walk past big apartment blocks, rather bleak-looking in the fog on the day we went. Cox 18 is on a pretty street with low houses, and a cool art deco bar on the corner. It's rather tight for a social center, with the library, archive and bookstore (two stories) and a courtyard and a concert space.
It was bigger in the past, Toto told us, but parts have been demolished. Cox 18 has been there for many years. Originally squatted in 1976, it was evicted, and resquatted, evicted and resquatted yet again. The bookstore dates from 1992, when the activist bookseller and publisher Primo Moroni and partners put their store there.
That story is told in an informative text on the website by Jacopo Galimberti.
For a "cold call" visit to an archive, it was very productive. I loaded up with some half dozen books and looked at a few more. I have plenty now to digest at leisure in Venice, together with many leads to follow up online. {Digestion can be slow, as I don’t read Italian, and auto-translate is cumbersome.}

The next day we launched our ineffectual try for Leoncavallo, which of course has no regular hours. I say "of course" because that's how it is with social centers; you can't expect regularity. They aren’t businesses; they’re volunteer operations. Maybe unless you know one of the cooks, you wouldn’t know when that Cucina Pop was really open. We did not have any contacts in Milan. Emanuele Braga, a principal in Macao, and member of the Institute of Radical Imagination which has met before in Madrid, was out of town.
Emanuele recommended Torchiera, a rural site which looks fantastic online -- check out the painted walls! They were having a presentation of a new Wu Ming book "UFO 78" on the day we arrived. But again, the place was too far away for us to make it in time.

The Torchiera bird sweeps away a fascist helmet and dreams of water (the commune gets theirs from a public fountain some distance away)

"Did you eat at Il Brutto Anatroccolo trattoria?" asked comrade Matt in a Facebook comment. (That's the "ugly duckling".) Well, no. Shuttling around on a rather opaque and over-crowded (in February!) transit system limited us. Beautiful century-old electric trams would rumble by, but it was impossible to catch one going where we wanted to go. (Google maps and transit signs in Milan frankly suck, BTW.)
Matt traveled in 2019 with 1960s revolutionary Ben Morea an authentic anarchist celebrity on his book tour.

Radical Milan was in hiding from me, though. Besides the Archivio, I didn’t see any signs of radical life on the streets at all – no stickers, no posters, no graffiti, nada. No radical books in the bookstores. Was it only the districts we were in, the touristic center, with its architectural gargantuanism? It was Fashion Week, and enormous billboards of insolent looking models were hanging everywhere, even on the churches. A 20-story high Kim Kardashian!

We were only three days in Milan. And it’s clear a deep soaking is needed to find the personal and material traces of the powerful social movements in that city.
So I’ll “hit the books” – both materially and virtually. I’ve just now started looking through the books Toto sold me. Almost the first one I picked up was Adriano BK Bostik Casale, “L’Edificio Occupato: le centoventigiornate” (Autoproduzione/Agente Provocatore, 2016). Bostik turns out to be an important Napolitano activist and artist.

I corresponded with him briefly in 2016. The artist known as Fly was with our group SqEK in Rotterdam, before traveling on to Naples for a conference recalling the CSO Tienament (named for the Chinese square where students were massacred, and Neapolitan dialect for “remember” or "keep in mind"). That meeting was three days to “remember the history of the antagonistic movement” in Naples. (Jim Fleming of Autonomedia publishing and theorist Franco "Bifo" Berardi also attended.)

NYC artist Fly in Naples, 2016

I thought “I’ve got to meet this guy Bostik”, DJ and animateur, before I realized that wasn’t going to happen. He only recently died. You can watch a short movie he made online, "La Comune di Berlino" (2006; 32 min.; ENG subs).
It’s beautiful, very atmospheric. It’s about a Berlin of the recent past, seen as a commune, of "existential refugees" fleeing the "sane society" of the capitalist west. "The Wall was the commune's walls." But it ended, and “I was driven away. Now I have returned to rediscover what remains” -- 1989 + 15.

The principal in the short is a taxi driver, windshield hung with Italian symbols. He drives around the city talking voiceover, cruising in the night life of Berlin, especially Italians in Berlin. He delivers a singer to her show. Talks to all kinds of deviants, "I met them at their headquarters, Kotbusser Tor, the square which was the summary of all deviances". Visits with junkies, whom he romanticizes as Rimbauds.
Images of carnivalistas, festive bodies. Thumping trance music. He visits Wagenburg, the travelers who live in house-wagons (since evicted; the subject of a show I saw in Hamburg), and a very punky club. He explores this "laboratory of life". He talks to Italian people, and overlays fragments of their talk. Q's implied: "How long have you lived in Berlin?" and "Why did you stay?" -- “For women!” A photographer in the taxi snaps them out the window. A woman with her baby gets in the taxi.
"Squatter moms" managed the squatted zones and spaces for children [called "kitas" auf Deutsch]. In these, he tells us, one experiences "essential emotions", "incommunicable". Finally, "What I was looking for had taken on another form." Where now is the Berlin Commune? The taxi driver parks, gets into a bicycle taxi and is pedalled off.
"Tu wat", he says. "Do something".
The allusion is to the Tuwat-Kongress of 1981, a key moment in the history of the German social movements.


SqEK, or Squatting Europe Kollective, or Squatting Everywhere Kollective, has a kind of website, and has published several books. My own book Occupation Culture tells of my time with them

Cox 18

Leoncavallo Spazio Pubblico Autogestito
Il Leoncavallo SPA (Spazio Pubblico Autogestito) è un centro sociale occupato. Nato nel 1975 a Milano, svolge attività politica e culturale.

The Agency of an Activist Archive. The Primo Moroni Archive
Jacopo Galimberti, 2016

Cascina Torchiera

The archive at Torchiera

"Nella controcultura anni Sessanta: intervista a Ben Morea" di minima&moralia pubblicato mercoledì, 7 Aprile 2021
Fascinating; auto-xlts clearly. He delves into "into the question of 'becoming bandits'" after the failed revolution of the 1960s and before.

Adriano BK Bostik Casale, “L’Edificio Occupato: le centoventigiornate”
Autoproduzione/Agente Provocatore, 2016

"La Comune di Berlino" (2006; 32 min.; ENG subs). on YouTube

Tuwat-Kongress – Wikipedia

Friday, December 30, 2022

Germany in Autumn #3: The “Trout Farm” and the Free Party Scene in the ‘90s

Image from the anti-gentrification street opera "Laura Tibor"

Third post from my recent German trip to research the effects of the squatting movement in Berlin and Hamburg. What matters now is archival stuff – the famous “Queeruption” squat of the Tuntenhaus, the epochal free party scene in squatted East Berlin after the fall of the Wall. All of it well remembered decades after its end in museum exhibitions and books. As always now, links are at the bottom of the post.

Repression has capped the squatting movement in Germany. Nothing like the 2021 mini-wave of squatting in Amsterdam seems possible in Berlin or Hamburg. A simmering rage exists against the continually rising price of housing. Recently it was expressed in a protest opera, “Laura Tibor”, a highly produced street production that envisions a socialist utopia… which is definitely not coming to pass.
The exhibition “Tuntenhaus Forellenhof 1990: Gay Communism’s Short Summer” was easily the best recollection of Berlin’s squatting history I saw during this trip. A multinational labor of love, this show at the Schwules Museum recalled the several-month occupation of buildings by gay activists (called “Tunten”, roughly ‘queer’). The brochure (link below) sets the squatting action in the context of the years after the fall of the Berlin Wall – called die Wende, when East German anarchists and their Westie comrades squatted in the Friedrichshain district.

Tunten at play, 1990. Photo by Michael Oesterreich

1990 was a moment of hope for the left – (Nelson Mandella was freed, the US-backed Nicaraguan “contras” surrendered) – and growing fear among gays – (Keith Haring died of AIDS in February; retroviral treatments don’t come along until ‘96). Berliners were seized by a sense of euphoria at the possibilities. Adventures began.
The Tuntenhaus occupations grew to 12 buildings on Mainzer Strasse after May 1st of that year. The squatters named it the Forellenhof (“Trout Farm”). Predators lurked; Nazi skinheads squatted buildings as well, and carried on a lethal gang war against the Tunten.
During this wild interregnum, before the two Germanys were integrated, Tunten met and breakfasted in a common room recreated in the exhibition. This heart of communal life was built as a set after a few moments in the documentary film. “The Battle of Tuntenhaus” (1991) was made by queer US filmmaker Juliet Bashore. The film shows the strong community of differently loving people, and the threats they face, including “everyday fascism”, the hatred of many neighbors. And street fights.
The era is evoked in the Schwules installation: “to ward off the expected nazi attacks, there were homemade shutters of fine-mesh chicken wire…. A typewritten telephone tree was stuck on the wall, for the ever-menacing emergency.” Details were added by participants who remain alive. (Among them is the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, recently celebrated at the NYC MoMA.)

Tuntenhaus dining room reconstructed at Schwules Museum

Library, bookstore, cafe, bar, communal houses – definitely Autonomen. What in the end was an entire squatted street with a dozen houses was evicted in an epic street battle. The state, as predicted, had ended it.

“It” was a realization of communist ideals by a bunch of queers. Curator Bastian Krondorfer writes, “communism – queer or otherwise – is like a shy deer. Sometimes it appears in a lonely clearing at dusk, before we pick it up, it has disappeared into the thicket of the forest.”

For the exhibition, discussion events returned Juliet Bashore to Berlin. SqEK comrade Andrej Holm, onetime Berlin city housing minister. The “trout farm” and the many other squatted communities throughout Berlin during the late 20th century is a history taken very seriously today.
After the evictions, many Tunten moved to Kastanienallee 86, with its metal "facade exhibition" reading "Capitalism standardizes, destroys and kills”. The Tunten met again in the cellar nightclubs of former East Berlin. It was in these dives, holes and palaces that techno dance music arose, another key outcome of the culture of the squatting movement.

In considering the after-effects of squatting in Berlin, a broad view of the movement culture is needful. So I’ll back up now to theory, and say that just as in the time of the Happenings in the 1960s, the form of the art event itself became a creative medium during this period.
In a 2014 interview Neala Schleuning, author of Artpolitik, a book on "social anarchist aesthetics", spoke of Theodor Adorno’s concern that artists stay “aloof of any kind of capitalist aesthetics.” In Adorno’s notoriously twisty conception, the social context of creative production is embedded in the form of art. “The liberation of form,” Schleuning quotes, “...holds enciphered within above all the liberation of society…. form… represents the social relation in the artwork”.
The artwork’s autonomy – its freedom from spectacular capitalist culture – carried “the dream of revolution into art and into the confrontation with contemporary society”.

Book cover ("Dream and Trauma") shows the aftermath of the Mainzerstrasse evictions

This became clear for me in reading artists’ texts from the catalogue of the 2013 show “Wir sind hier nicht zum Spaß!” (We’re not here for fun), focussed on collective and subcultural structures in Berlin in the ‘90s. (I copied the English translations from the book at the NYiB library; artists weren’t identified in those, so I give the page numbers.)
The Tuntenhaus was the more raucous and spectacular part of a vast and variegated cultural landscape in Wende Berlin. For the animators of that free party scene, Berlin was an urban landscape in which authority was temporarily confused. Suddenly and unexpectedly unified, Berlin was “two very strange halves” (p. 128). With so many abandoned buildings in the East ripe for inhabiting, there was a feeling that this city was where it was happening in western Europe.

Crews of artists began to throw psychedelic parties in industrial wastelands, working with music, light, images and more. Their tactic was, “we throw an illegal party somewhere.” “It was the summer when almost anything seemed possible. The Western system wasn’t yet imported in the East, and the Eastern system had fallen apart completely”.
There were huge empty apartment buildings open for squatting, most with public spaces. Allowed to continue, the squatted streets “could have evolved into something like Christiania in Copenhagen – or perhaps something completely different” (p. 129).
As state-run factories closed down, immense stores of materials and machines became available. One artist scored 50,000 glass lamp tubes and made “techno chandeliers”. They later opened a shop with all their scavenged booty, the Glowing Pickle (p. 130).
One U.S. artist present during those days, Christine Hill, applied the same procedure to the residues of a business in Soho,NYC. Her “Volksboutique Small Business” took up the remaining inventory of my favorite classic old stationery store, Joseph Meyer. She then ‘inhabited’ the stuff in art gallery installations.
‘Shebeens’ and impromptu bars popped up all over Berlin during the ‘90s. “This attitude of squatting places,” one artist wrote, “of not using an already available location but transforming some unknown place by improvising a bar and a PA for just one night – that was the mixture that electrified us. Our motto was: ‘Pop up and vanish!’” (p. 132).

“At the same time, money was not an issue at all. It was always spent for the cause – to keep the luxury alive, which we ourselves have created” (p. 133).
Photo by Mattia Zoppellaro from an article on the free party scene of Berlin in the '90s at

This isn't the "fully-automated luxury communism" of accelerationist "Lenin-goes-to-Silicon-Valley" types. It's a no-rent utopia that actually existed in a momentary vaccuum of capitalist control.

With the turn of the century the free party scene, like the squatting scene, came to an end with a return to order along Western capitalist lines. Squats were evicted. Buildings were sold off and flipped, and stiff rents imposed. Big business started to sponsor the free parties. “From a group functioning without money it changed into who’s important in the new game? Who should you kiss up to in order to become important, to finally make money with what you’re doing?” (p. 142).
Profiteers can’t keep their fingers off of fun. (Are nightclubs even possible without mobsters?) This is the same dynamic of appropriation Aja Waalwijk reported happened to the free festivals organized by groups in Amsterdam in the early 1970s. (See "On Nomads and Festivals in Free Space", House Magic #4 Spring 2012).
Perhaps the fate of the commercialized techno music rave culture is symbolized by the Love Parade. It began in Berlin's open space in 1989, became massive, and ended in 2010 with a crowd crush disaster in Duisberg. Just this year it has partially returned in July with the Rave the Planet parade in Berlin. Billboard reported that long-time organizer, the DJ Dr. Motte, “called for an unconditional basic income for artists and for Berlin’s club culture to be listed as intangible heritage by UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural agency”.
UBI for artists only? Why not for everyone? To unleash widespread popular creativity and civic consciousness, free from the enforced discipline of labor, aka wage slavery. The Institute of Radical Imagination, based in Italy, has proposed just that in their "Art for UBI (Manifesto)”. For when parties become free again in a post-work world.


“Oper über Gentrifizierung in Berlin,” 2021 – performed on the street!5774848/

Der Protest Oper film, 2022
Die Oper gegen den Ausverkauf der Stadt!

Michael Oesterreich(?), "Tuntenhaus Forellenhof 1990: The most anarchic summer Friedrichshain has ever seen", 19 October 2022; by a participant

PDF of the Schwules Museum’s comprehensive “Tuntenhaus” brochure (ENG & GER):
Broschuere_Forelle_A5_44c_32S.indd – Final_Broschuere_Forelle_A5_44c_32S

Juliet Bashore, "The Battle Of Tuntenhaus Parts I & II" (1991; 45 min.)

Geronimo, Fire and flames: A history of the German autonomist movement, 5th edition, 1997/translation PM Press, 2012
free download –

Christine Bartlitz, Hanno Hochmuth, Tom Koltermann, Jakob Saß, Sara Stammnitz, Traum und Trauma. Besetzung und Räumung der Mainzer Straße 1990 in Ost-Berlin (2020); this is not the only book on the subject

Tuntentinte (queer ink) blog, named for the ‘90s zine

Blog of the Tuntenhaus at Kastanienallee 86

catalogue of exhibition, “Wir sind hier nicht zum Spaß! Kollektive und subkulturelle Strukturen im Berlin der 90er Jahre”, Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, 2013.

Aja Waalwijk, "On Nomads and Festivals in Free Space", House Magic #4, Spring 2012
Online as: house-magic-4.pdf – [Squat!net], and elsewhere

Love Parade

"Art for UBI" (Manifesto) is a platform around on the role of art and art workers in the struggle for social justice and a transition towards post-capitalist forms of life

Monday, December 12, 2022

Germany in Autumn #2: Picking Amongst the Textual Ruins

"No Power for Anyone" -- cover of the Ton Steine Scherben songcomic

This is the 2nd post in the account of my visit to Germany in Fall of 2022. I’m looking for the traces of squatting in EU cities, returning to the trail I followed in my work with the SqEK group from 2009 to 2016. In this I tell of my visit to a squatted institution in Berlin, the search for Peter Missing, and rave geek Tobi’s big new book “Please Live”. I connect with old artist comrades Wolfgang Staehle and Philip Pocock, and ruminate about others.

For my second day of research in Berlin, I visited a comrade living in the old Bethanien hospital complex. Among its several projects, NYiB houses a Collective Library and poster archive. There I learned of some important recent books and historical exhibitions that have come along since I last paid attention.
New Yorck im Bethanien adjoins the Georg Rauch Haus, one of the earliest Berlin squats. They have their own song – "Hau ab: Rauch-Haus-Song" ("Get lost”; “Das ist unser Haus!") by the band Ton Steine Scherben. The band is beloved, and I picked up a graphic comic book done around their lyrics. When I passed by, the Rauch Haus was still very colorful with its graffiti slogans and encrustations of political posters.
It’s tricky to get hold of comrade X. He asked me to install Signal, an encrypted messaging app. This wasn’t so easy, but it was worth it, an excellent meeting in which X showed me several important sources.
“Comms” in general on this trip turned out to be quite a problem. Expat U.S. artist Peter Missing only uses Facebook messenger. I don’t have FB on my cel phone. We set up an appointment to meet, and Peter wasn’t there. “Something came up…” It was a trek out there, and fruitless. I tried to catch him on the swing back from Hamburg to the airport in Berlin. Again, no dice. “Today I realized I have to be at a funeral.”
Peter Missing is the squatter artist par excellence. He was in the thick of the movement in NYC in the ‘90s, fronting a band called Missing Foundation notorious for a graffiti slogan of an upside-down martini glass and the epigram “Party’s Over 1933”. Later he moved to Hamburg, where he also squatted. (I saw his martini-glass tag there in 2010.) I last saw him in the yard of Kunsthaus Tacheles, the giant Berlin art squat before it was evicted in 2012. Ten years on, Peter Missing is painting large-scale murals in his dense colorful jigsaw puzzle style. He did one recently for the Berlin Urban Nation street art museum. Finally, he said, “mail me your questions”.

(A recent screed of his is stuck at the end of this blog post.)
Comrade X showed me his recent essay in Rebellisches Berlin: Expeditionen in die untergründige Stadt (Gruppe Panther, 2021). He also had the book Tacheles: Die Geschichte des Kunsthauses by Stefan Schilling (2016), which is o.p.. The Urban Nation library couldn’t find their copy when I visited in spring.
The biggest book find at NYiB was Bitte Lebn (Please live), a new fat tome edited by Tobias Morawski. I met Tobi when he did Reclaim Your City in 2014, a slim book on political graffiti in Berlin. Tobi then was involved in a party-production group called Mensch Meier. I got the idea that he’d given up working on political graffiti and was down for making music business money, like that guy in Amsterdam.
But it looks to be more than that – “We are a venue,” MM write, “A platform. A collective. We are all about grassroots democratic solidarity. We are Mensch Meier. And you are, too, when you are here.” Yes, they do music, and more. The name seems to come from song by the Ton Steine Scherben group, a talkin’ blues about an Everyman. The MM gang is mostly into techno & rave. Their website is splendidly designed.
Rave people and culture played a central role in squatting during the 1990s, a story which, unlike anarcho-punk, remains still to be told. ETC Dee, another SqEK comrade, was a DJ with a free party tribe which roamed Europe during those years.
I had a visit in Berlin with expat Canadian artist Philip Pocock. He’s been posting photos from the early 1980s squatting scene (see my last “Occuprop” post). Philip is still hiding from Covid, but he emerged into the open air for a while to talk. Philip recalled his days amongst the squatters. Some of their buildings fronted directly on the Wall, and they would ‘entertain’ the East German border guards in their towers with public sex acts and rooftop jazz concerts.
Philip is a photographer who has burrowed deep into technical processes. He regaled me with his past art adventures, which included a globe-trotting expedition to survey the equator. One of collaborators he worked with was Wolfgang Staehle, founder of the early online community The Thing.

Image from "AI Realism Qantar" by Almagul Menlibayeva in "The Thing Is" exhibition

When I caught up with him, Wolfgang was in the midst of a new Thing exhibition, “The thing is…”. He and Caspar Stracke hosted me for a book talk about my new memoir (see the related blog: “Art Gangs”). The best part of that was a video jam of old ‘70s and ‘80s cable TV work rescued by the XFR Collective and posted on Viel spass!
Berlin buzzes with a multitude of art projects, many riding the border of starkly present political issues. It’s a serious town. In addition to the multi-sited Thing exhibition (I only had time to glance at one of them), I caught a book talk by Jacopo Galimberti on the artists of the Autonomia movement. The meat of his talk was strictly art historical. He had interviewed artists who worked on Autonomist journals, examined their archives, etc. His iconographic analysis connected radical grahics with classical themes, much like the "many-headed hydra", an emblem for the people – the rabble – in revanchist 18th c. discourse.
So far as a classic art historical analysis of the squatting movement artists goes, I can't follow that path, although I hope someone does. Nearly all of the artists who paint in and on the exterior walls of squatted buildings are anonymous. Of course they all have names. This work builds rep for street artists, but it's an underground I don't know. Bitte Lebn may open some doors on this question when I get around to studying it.
For my "Occupation Culture" book (2015) I recounted direct experiences with squatters and squat researchers. This trip I focussed on remnants. There are quite a number of anniversary publications of squat projects which I have yet to sort through. Berlin, like NYC, has been about processing its radical pasts for quite a while now. Opportunities for experiment and innovation when foreclosed still become archival products and events. And tourist attractions.

As for literal remnants of the period – (even exactly what is that? i.e., how to periodize, another classic historical question) – I saw one last giant steel sculpture still standing in Goerlitzer Park. In ‘86 there were many of these monstrous metal constructions to be seen, rising like transformers throughout the park. Where did they go? Were they "squatter art"?
I was told that Josef Strau was set to make a history about them for a show in Berlin in '04 (“Now and Ten Years Ago”, Kunstwerke, Berlin) but he decided against it. That show was also intending to draw a line between NYC and Berlin in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I loaned ABC No Rio materials to it. But the focus shifted (curatorial shit happens), and the catalogue remained unpublished.
Some textual remains sit on Stephan Dillemuth’s rabbit-hole of a website, “Society of Control”. He and Strau worked together on the important artists gallery project Friesenwall 120 in Cologne in the ‘90s, laying the ground work for the genre of the artists research exhibition.
Christine Hill, an artist with Ronald Feldman Gallery, had one of her first shows at Kunsthaus Tacheles, called “Hinter den Museen” (Behind the museums), in 1991. She was an early “services” artist She told me of wandering with her little red wagon amongst the Berlin squats in those days when I sought her advice at her ‘office’ in the gallery.

Tacheles in ruins
Tacheles when I passed it in October. Artists long gone.

On this trip, both Philip Pocock and Wolfgang Staehle told me they knew artists who’d been closely involved in the Berlin squats. More work to do, in my follow-up visits.
This is pulling up threads from a pile of rememberings, like digging through my boxes and coming upon scattered notes that seem to hang together. Artists have taken inspiration from squats, have worked and lived in them, but it’s a thread of art history which hasn’t been picked out – in fact, it’s been suppressed.
Which is why I go on.

NEXT: Tutenhaus and the “Communism of Love”; Hamburg, the “Dangerous Neighborhood”.


Collective Library and poster archive at New Yorck im Bethanien

Tobias Morawski, “Reclaim Your City” (2014) - PDF Free Download

Mensch Meier


Rave culture: “My city: Berlin with Andreas Schneider”, who runs the analogue synth mecca Schneiders Büro in the city. The post includes a video about Schneider's analog synthesizer shop

Josef Strau

NYC texts on Stephan Dillemuth’s website “Society of Control”

Martin Beck in conversation with Stephan Dillemuth about the Cologne gallery project Friesenwall 120

Christine Hill

Stephan Dillemuth, "Shnitzelshanke back from storage", image from Society of Control website. The yard of Tacheles is visible in lower left.

“IN THE DEAD CENTER OF BERLIN =oranienburgerstr ==== the old berlin is gone circa 1990 - present ; but the memories are burned into our subconcious / tacheles kunsthaus (photo} /===== and the new berlin is set up to kill culture / and force people into submission / the rents will be the final nail in the coffin this'' capital ''city we all knew in 1990 this time would circle around ...# unfreindly place # dead energy # babies puppies & yuppies # unliveable prices # a place to waste time # only tags survived # sitting in cafes for no reason”
– Peter Missing, Facebook, December 2022

Friday, November 25, 2022

Getting Popular: Back to Berlin, Part One

Poster from Rebel Disorder store -- "Peace to the Huts, war to the Palaces", with an image of Georg Rauch, for whom a famous squatted house is named

Like everywhere these days, the German cities of Berlin and Hamburg were unseasonably mild in early November. I came there after a long time gone to pick up the trail of squatting for a new book project, a dream deferred.
The squatting movement is pretty low now, and nearly sunk in Berlin. You have to sniff like a hound to catch a whiff of the acrid flame of its spirit smoldering beneath the rubble of bourgeois consumption society.
I have in mind now a book on the after-effects, the leavings, the important accomplishments of the European squatting movement in some of its major sites – most of which are long gone.
My first stops on this trip were archives – the Papier Tiger Archiv in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, and a library in the New Yorck im Bethanien. Moving on to Hamburg, I visited Park Fiction and Gaengeviertel, and failed to find the Rote Flora and its Archiv der Sozialen Bewegungen open. I met a few folks and chatted, and lit the lamp for the German part of my project. A lingering ideology of revolutionary resolve is part of that.

Gone, Gone, Gone

The most salient thing about the famous Berlin squatting movement of the 1980s and ‘90s is its near total invisibility today.
The extent of the old movement can be grasped in the map of “Berlin Besetzt” (Squatted Berlin), which locates and briefly describes most of the Hausbesetzung (squatted house) projects in Berlin in the last several decades.
It was vast. Our research group SqEK (Squatting Everywhere Kollective) was toured through its then-quite-evident remains over 10 years ago.

Squatters in Berlin, 1981. Photo by Tom Ordelman

The streets of Kreuzberg tell the story of today. Great tall kiosks are covered top to bottom with the same commercial posters, kiez after kiez (i.e., barrio). Corporate monoculture and its wage slaves are winning against the ragged hordes of volunteers of yesteryear. And the artists who aren’t stadium-commercial seem to have largely checked out of street communication. Graffiti is plentiful, but it’s aimless pointless name tags.

“When Kreuzberg was wild” (title of an article on a tourist website)

Now, besides colorful stories and the memories of old folks in their co-op apartments, what remains of the movement?
An enormous revaluation of property is what. The Guardian wrote in 2016 that “rents in Kreuzberg were on average the highest in the German capital.” Exactly the same thing happened in “Loisaida rebelde”, NYC. David Harvey was right – rent-seeking is the new basis of capital accumulation in cities today. And first come the squatters and the artists, then come the speculators and developers.

When developers were afraid. "Fire and Flame" in 1981. Photo by Paul Glaser

I began in Berlin by retracing some steps from our SqEK meetings there of long ago. In May I had launched my new book Art Worker in Berlin, and passed by the Regenbogen Fabrik (Rainbow Factory). This early squatted complex celebrated their 40th year in 2021. One can never get a room in their hostel as I’d hoped, but I could see that the principal projects in this live/work complex were still active:

What Is Still Going On at the Fabrik

– A wood workshop, established soon after the occupation of 1981, when the urgent task of restoring squatted buildings was uppermost.
– A bicycle workshop, at one time the largest in Berlin. (The city was a bicycle heaven a decade ago, but that seems to have changed a lot. There's still a morning commute, but bikes on the streets are much less common today, and the many rental spots for tourists have vanished.)
– A cafe, which I was told is open now only one day a week, although on Facebook they say it is reformulating yet again, with migrants as cooks; – A movie theater, the most unusual aspect of the complex, which continues to host regular events.
– the children’s care center – the “kita” – was a key early project, and they still describe themselves as a “childrens, cultural and neighborhood center”.

– I spotted a bookstore setup in a window there, but that was closing and I could not see it clearly.

The Regenbogenfabrik was and is committed to concepts and organizational forms of a “solidarity economy”, a way of living that is proactively anti-capitalist. It’s a public micro-utopia, an important vestige of the squatting movement of the 1980s.

The Papier Tiger Archiv

I had an appointment to visit the renowned Papier Tiger Archiv. This Berlin archive of left movements is where Josh MacPhee and Dara Greenwald collected scans of German political posters for their important 2008 “Signs of Change” exhibition at Exit Art. That show preceded the couple’s founding of the Interference Archive, an active autonomous archive in Brooklyn.
The PT Archiv also houses the library of Kukuck, the Kunst- und Kulturcentrum of the 1980s, but I forgot to ask about it. Although Sarah Lewison contributed photos and a brief text on it from her time there to our anthology Making Room: Cultural Production in Occupied Space (2015: PDF online), what Kukuck was is still vague to me.
“Punx”, who was sitting the archive that day, didn’t seem very jazzed by my project. I wasn’t well prepared. There’s a lot online I haven’t processed, and secondary books which I’ve yet to see.

Philip Pocock's photo of a Berlin squat, 1982

I explained I’m on a search for the residues, the important outcomes of major squatting projects in different European cities. Besides the enormous raises in rent, which I recall led radical Baltimore housing activists to call for the houses of squatters to be attacked, I proposed that bookstores are important cultural artifacts of the squatting movement in Berlin. I got that flash from a photo by Philip Pocock of a Berlin squat from 1982 posted which shows a newly squatted building with an incipient bookstore announcing itself with a banner.

Fumbling Around

We spoke about places like Oh21, where I later ordered the Autonome in Bewegung book which was stolen from me in Philadelphia. I’d bought that a decade ago from a weird street fighters’ gear shop run by a guy in a wheelchair – Hans-Georg Lindenau. He’s a Kreuzberg character, it turns out, whose M99 shop was evicted around 2016.

Oh21 bookshop in Kreuzberg today. Note the posters hanging above the display of books. Posters and other propaganda is distributed via movement bookstores.

The PTA is an important repository of radical left documents. A young woman arrived as I was there to work on the Autonomen.
An artist in our Colab group, Diego Cortez visited Germany in ‘77. He went with Anya Philips to Stammheim prison to try to meet Holger Meins, an imprisoned member of the RAF. Meins had been a filmmaker. He studied alongside Harun Farocki. Diego wanted to interview him for our X Magazine. I learned later that a film was made about Meins – Starbuck Holger Meins, which includes some of his film footage. “Starbuck” because he was the helmsman like in Moby Dick, the strategist of the RAF group.
This is a cross between art and the most extreme left activism. German Autonomen were famed for their fights with cops. Still the book of their history has an oddly whimsical cover image – a masked street fighter seated in a shopping cart – “in movement”.
Joseph Beuys’ engagement with the German Green party before he was purged was also a moment when art and politics crossed strongly. Punx suggested the Green Party archives could illuminate that. That may be a little too far for me to go; the recent epic biography of Beuys is still untranslated.
We talked about the Tutenhaus, the mythical squatted street. And he pointed me to an exhibition “Tuntenhaus Forellenhof 1990: Gay Communism’s Short Summer” still up at the Schwules Museum. I made it there some days later (details in next post).
Social centers, I suggested, were places where working class young people could become involved with cultural activity. Punx laughed at that. He said squatters were middle class people.
That’s something of an open question, I think. I wonder also about alternative kids, commune brats. To what class do they belong?, since their upbringing and schooling etc. removes them a little from the normal runs of class reproduction. Is that a small thing? Miguel Martinez is the only person I know who has interviewed enough squatters to give some kind of answer to this question.

NEXT – New Yorck im Bethanien, Georg Rauch Haus, “Bitte Leben”, Peter Missing and Hamburg-- Gängeviertel and Park Fiction, Vokü at the Haffenstrasse.


“Berlin Besetzt” (Squatted Berlin) map of squatted house projects in Berlin!id=6
PDFs of my zine, “House Magic: Bureau of Foreign Correspondence” from 2012 and 2013, with records of our German visit can be found here:

"launched my new book"
It's a memoir of my years in the NYC artworld: Art Worker: Doing Time in the NY Artworld (Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, 2022)
in paper and e-book at: INS BITLY

“rents in Kreuzberg“
Philip Oltermann, “'State enemy No 1': the Berlin counter-culture legend fighting eviction”, Wed 10 Aug 2016

Regenbogen Fabrik

Papiertiger Archiv

“Signs of Change” exhibition at Exit Art. The full program of this show is on an Italian website:

Philip Pocock

Lily Cichanowicz, “M99: Berlin’s ‘Corner Shop For Revolutionary Needs’”, 20 December 2016

AG Grauwacke, Assoziation A e.V., , "Autonome in Bewegung: Aus den ersten 23 Jahren" (2003; reprints up to 2020)

buchladen oh*21 -

"Tuntenhaus Forellenhof 1990: Gay Communism’s Short Summer" at the Schwules Museum, Berlin

The M99 shop before its eviction in 2016