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…

Monday, April 13, 2009

How Occupation Works (events)

The Anarchist Book Fair at Judson Church was nice. I bought Erick Lyle's book "On the Lower Frequencies," since it had been recommended to me by a few people. Surprisingly, it includes the story of a remarkable squatting action in the late 1990s... The AFB was a nice touristy thing to do during my internal vacation. Now that is done, and it's back to work for me. It's time to make the donuts, as my favorite Lower East Side malcontent Clayton Patterson says... (although I'm afraid he has been pissing in my batter!) One member of the ABC No Rio visual arts collective, Michael Cataldi, is starting work today on his University of Trash installation at Sculpture Center in Queens, and Nils Norman is flying in. I'll be blogging this speaking event coming up, a panel at the Left Forum next weekend; here's the dope:
SATURDAY, 12-2:00 PM
How Occupation Works
16beavergroup (Chair)
Kurt Hill - People's Firehouse
Father Frank Morales and Jerry the Peddler - Squatting Movement of the Lower East Side
Lynn Owens – Sociologist, on Amsterdam squatting movement
Take Back NYU : Ellie Kahn, Drew Phillips and Olive McKeon
New School in Exile: John Clegg
and Friends from Picture the Homeless
This workshop is concerned with occupation as a means of resistance: inspired by the latest NY schools occupations, the chicago's factory sit in and historical squatting of empty buildings in New York and elsewhere. We would like to investigate the struggles in which such tactics emerge and are useful and in addition develop a how-to of occupations in light of the current economical and political situation.
And another event -- “ we will occupy yet we're against your occupation” -- an open screening at the Migrating-Forms festival @Anthology Film Archives
Sunday April 19th 2pm 90 Minutes
Occupation is used to describe two entities: one related to the state, its strategies of control, and the other is part of the strategies of resistance, to occupy a building as a protest for example, or simply to occupy/squat a building to live in. In relation to this topic, everyone is encouraged to bring in a cued selection from a video or a film by others or themselves (Length: 1:00 to 5:00 minutes).
16Beaver is the address of a space initiated/run by artists to create and maintain an ongoing platform for the presentation, production, and discussion of a variety of artistic/cultural/economic/political projects. It is the point of many departures/arrivals.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"House Magic: BFC" Schedule of Events

[This is a place to post the events that I can edit, so this will be the most up to date post of them, I think. See also: ABC No Rio events calendar, and our emerging wiki website.]
This is the schedule of events for "House Magic: Bureau of Foreign Correspondence," the show about squatted social centers at ABC No Rio, NYC. For nine Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings we will have evening events. (The show will also be open during the day, beginning around noon.) Films about squatted social centers and related questions will be available to view in the gallery, and also will be screened in the evening, accompanied by discussions around a bowl of soup and bread – an evocation of the VoKü (Volxküchen, or people’s kitchen) of German and Dutch squats. The films will start at 7pm. A $5 freewill donation is requested to cover the cost of the films. Here is the schedule: APRIL FIRST WEEK Tuesday 21 Germany -- German films to be announced. Guest: Michel Chevalier, Hamburg.
Wednesday 22 United Kingdom -- “Take Over,” directed by Jordie Montevecchi. The film follows a group of Brighton, UK, squatters who take over an old church.
Thursday 23 Netherlands, Amsterdam – “The City Was Ours,” by Joost Seelen (time?; 1996; Dutch with English subtitles) Amsterdam squatting movement, 1970s to 1980s; Rijksmuseum occupation, 2008 & other short subjects
SECOND WEEK Tuesday 28 Spain, Barcelona -- Octavi Royo, "Okupa, Crónica de una Lucha Social" [Spanish & Catalan with English subtitles] Reflexión sobre el fenómeno de la okupación que empieza con el desalojo del Cine Princesa en Barcelona (1996) y termina en la actualidad; Dara Greenwald "Tactical Tourist" [English]; selected bangin' shorts from "Resistir es Crear: 10 años junto al Centro Social - Casa de Iniciativas de Málaga" Guests: Dara Greenwald, Brooklyn, others we hope
Wednesday 29 Spain, Madrid -- "Laboratorio 3, Ocupando el Vacio" (66 min.; 2007; Spanish with English subtitles); music videos from Casa Iniciativas, Malaga
Thursday 30 Italy – program to be announced
MAY THIRD WEEK Tuesday 5 -- “Visions of Utopia,” directed by Geoff Kozeny; Part One, the historical background (94 min.; 2009); and excerpts from Part Two, on urban communes Two (about 30 min); collective living discussion with James Andrews of Nsumi, other invitees
Wednesday 6 Zurich -- The Art Squat – “Dada Changed My Life,” directed by Lou Lou and Daniel Martinez (2004; time?) about the Zurich art squatting action that saved the Cabaret Voltaire Guest: Olga Mazurkiewicz
Thursday 7 Denmark, Copenhagen -- “Christiania You Have My Heart,” directed by Nils Vest (62 min.; 1991; Danish with English subtitles); talk with Rebecca Zorach on her visit to the Copenhagen free town
In the gallery: A rotating selection of videos about squatted social centers will be playing in the gallery, as well as the following artists’ documentaries: Oliver Ressler -- “5 Factories - Worker Control in Venezuela,” 81 min., Span./Ger./Engl., 2004 {with Dario Azzellini}, and “Disobbedienti,” 54 min., Ital./Ger./Engl., 2002 {with Dario Azzellini}; and “What Would It Mean To Win?” 40 min. / 2008 / PAL / Engl./Ger./French (with Zanny Begg),Marcelo Expósito, "Primero de Mayo (La Ciudad-fábrica) [First of May (The City Factory)]" (61 minutes, 2004) Span./Engl.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A review of “Occupy and resist! Examining the European Social Center Tradition,” by spud

This reblog comes from the City From Below public blog about the session I co-chaired in Baltimore. Spud beat me to it… “Submitted by spud on Sat, 03/28/2009 - 21:11. in [subject] * squatting social centers:
“I [that is, spud] attended this session in the basement of the Village Learning Place this afternoon. I arrived a few minutes late, and the smallish room was crowded to capacity. By the time I arrived, questions were already being taken from audience members, and there couldn't have been too much time for any lengthy presentation before that. I assume that it was intentional to have organized the workshop in an informal, conversational manner.
“Because there exists such a huge discrepancy between squatting in the US and squatting overseas [I disagree, but of course I’ll have my turn…], a fair amount of discussion revolved around the legal and strategic issues involved in moving into an abandoned space without immediate eviction. (The answer, broadly speaking, is two-fold: 1. don't announce yourselves if you don't have to, and hope to avoid detection, or [er, "and"] 2. build yourself a solid base of support amongst both your neighbors and the community you hope to build.)
“Both of the presenters, Alan Moore and Lynn Owens, are essentially researchers, and needed to defer to the first-hand expertise of audience members in a number of cases -- a woman from Barcelona and a long-time squatter in Rome provided helpful information about their specific experiences.
“Four other audience members, hailing from Durham, NC, chimed in with the hope of hearing more about the actual organizational structure of the Social Centers in Europe (but very little response was offered). These attendees belong to a self-styled "Social Center" in Durham and were hoping for tips from their analogs in Europe. They received none, but their description of their own organization, El Kilombo was itself inspiring.
“Overall, an interesting conversation, but not very useful in terms of any strategic information, and it seemed like a lot of questions went unanswered, though they raised enough points for a much longer session.”
* Add new comment.
Yes, Spud, you are right! [That’s me.] Our presentations were deliberately very short. The question is, What are the questions? That is not to be flip, but only to say that a strategic casebook, a "best practices" kind of compendium of what we need to know about EU social centers, is some ways off. And it begins with the questions you ask. I was delighted that the Roman woman responded directly to a question from the audience, something like, "How does a big social center run?" That's pretty vague... her answer was succinct but short. Hey, we are on our way! -- Alan W. Moore