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.

Forte Prenestino


"No TAV" movement

“Capitalism, Nature and Socialism” journal

ETC Dee's posters for Movokeur

Infousurpa, Barcelona
SqEK, eds., "The Squatters' Movement in Europe: Commons and Autonomy as Alternatives to Capitalism"

Scup! social center

Teatro Valle Ocupato

Fondacion de los Comunes, Spain

BaBeL e SCIATTOproduzie


Angelo Mai

“How Italians are keeping priceless artefacts out of private hands,” by Daniel Trilling

Marc Herbst “On The New Abduction of Europe Conference”

Ugo Mattei. "The State, the Market, and some Preliminary Question about the Commons (French and English Version)" 2011

CSOA ex-Snia

studioUAP architects' map of the “Agro Romano”

SqEK minutes

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

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.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The New European Rapture

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

MoRUS museum book appears

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