Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chicago Spring

Oh man, I didn't realize how far behind I was on blogging this show! "House Magic: BFC" has been up and running for a week. It was a nonstop exhausting ordeal, but the two more weeks it has to run should be smoother sailing. We had a great first week, with Michel Chevalier of Hamburg Target: Autonopop group presenting. Michel also spoke about the social center Rote Flora, and brought some beautiful distinctive posters they had made to advertise their schedules. Next we showed Jordie Montevecchi's short film "Takeover" about Brighton squatters, which is a really tight, affecting piece of work. And the week finished with the "De stad was van ons"/"The City Was Ours," Joost Seelen's remarkable documentary on the Dutch squatting movement 1975-88. (It is online at videos.) And we still have two weeks to go!
This weekend a “suitcase” version of the “House Magic: BFC” exhibition is in Chicago, at the Version>09 (or Versi9n) arts festival. This multi-venue artist-organized festival is themed around “Immodest Proposals." This included “temporary housing structures, independent contemporary art space networking, one day only exhibition formats,” a “free public school” and etc., etc. (thru May 3). It is coordinated out of the Co-Prosperity Sphere art space in the Bridgeport neighborhood, a place run by Ed Marszewski. I slept last night on the floor of “Edmar”’s studio, and this morning I browsed his bookshelves. Koolhaas “Content,” Bruce Mau “Massive Change,” Mike Davis “Ghost Cities,” Chris Marker films… Edmar also publishes a magazine called Lumpen. The current issue reprints an interview with Max Rameau of Take Back the Land in Miami. As part of the Versi9n, the large window of the CPS art space contains two installations. One is a ghostly office, with huge electronic consoles, and two enclosed bunk beds. It looks like a spaceship. This morning there is a crumpled pair of jeans, shiny shoes and a beer bottle on the floor in the window, because a party-goer is sleeping it off in one of the beds. The corner window shows a model for the community of Bridgeport after Chicago Olympics redevelopment is done with it – a totalizing wipeout, the Bridgeport Superphere Olympic Village megacomplex. Is this for real? I don’t know, but Chicago is a candidate city for the Olympics, and that usually means massive redevelopment and often displacement. The other window shows the offices of “Reuben Kincaid Realty” which advertises properties to squat. Very cute!
The “House Magic” display is set up in the lobby of the Nfo Expo, and extends into the Free University. Today is the last day. I am coffeed up and ready to talk! Last night I visited the Experimental Station for a children’s evening, the King Ludd’s Midway Arcade. These were beautiful hand-made games by Material Exchange,
There I met Karen, who started the Massolit bookstore in Krakow, Poland. She was very interested in Rozbrat, the social center in Poznan, and offered to facilitate communication. She introduced me to Jack Spicer, one of those who had started the Experimental Station by squatting University of Chicago land to make a community garden. Just as we began to talk, my ride was leaving. These were the people of Incubate (Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and the Everyday – whew!). When “car guy” moves in a big U.S. town, you must move with him/her. It was that or face an hour long bus ride through the poor parts of Chicago on late Saturday night. Sigh.
Besides Karen, I talked with Emily of St. Louis. She told me of a group of squatters who had started a community garden and greatly improved their building in a derelict neighborhood in St. Louis. The city evicted them. Discouraged, they moved to Kentucky. Many cities are tearing down vacant buildings as quickly as they can. The fear is that they will become drug dens, crack houses, dens of vice. Those cities that cannot distinguish between socially productive squatters and criminals will simply drive motivated young people away from their failing cities…

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