Tuesday, July 4, 2023

In Venice with Marco Baravalle of S.a.L.E. Docks -- Part Two

Assembly of the "Biennalocene" in Venice

While in Venice this spring I spoke with Marco Baravalle, a principal in the autonomous art space S.a.L.E. Docks. He told me about the place and its politics, part of the wave of “Occupy”-era commonsing from over a decade ago. In this second part of the interview, Marco discusses the network of social centers of the northeast of which S.a.L.E. is a part; the new governance of Italy by a fascist-descended political party; the resistance to giant cruise ships entering Venice; the relationship of S.a.L.E. Docks to the Biennale; the "Dark Matter" exhibition of 2018, and much more.
Marco and his colleagues are on to other things now. For this biennale summer season, S.a.L.E. Docks has launched a program of discussions and assemblies about precarious labor in the cultural sector.
The "Assemblea di Biennalocene" [#biennalocene] strikes against “the idea of not being able to say no to iniquitous working conditions [because of] the feeling that there is always someone ready to take our place, even in worse conditions…. So let's break isolation, get organized, let's make sure that the other person isn't the one who replaces me, but the one who supports me, stands by me.”
Marco Baravalle and his Milan colleague Emanuele Braga were just in Lisbon to talk about the manifesto of a Universal Basic Income. That’s what they are doing now…
But in this second part of our April interview we talked about the project of the S.a.L.E. Docks itself.

AWM: You said, “Sale survived for 15 years because we are part of a city and regional network of other occupied spaces”. How does this kind of solidarity protection work?
MB: It’s more than a solidarity. We are an actual organization, where each social center has its own autonomy, but the general political line that we follow is discussed in an assembly of each social center which gather more or less once a week. And it has been such for many years now. Maybe we have a few differences, but this is our great strength, this network of social centers. It’s closer than a network, it’s not that loose. It’s called Centri Sociali Del Nord Est, Northeastern social centers. And it puts together, it includes six or seven social centers from six or seven cities in Veneto, and beyond Veneto, one in Trentino.
AWM: There have been many attempts to organize social centers in Spain. But the organization fades away, and when the right wing comes to power in a city, they start to pick them off. This is what happened in Madrid, they started to close them, and there wasn’t a strong coordinated resistance; only isolated demonstrations by those affected.
MB: I don’t know what will happen here. I don’t want to lie. We are very united, but the situation in Italy sucks. The political atmosphere is very bad. We have signals that in some of the cities the municipality wants to evict social centers. We will try to be together, and this has been working for the last 20 years. We didn’t have any evictions. No matter what political color was in charge, either nationally or locally, we were able to defend our spaces. That’s why Sale is still there. The mayor of Venice was a right wing mayor, very conservative, an entrepreneur and ultra-neoliberal. So far he didn’t really try to evict us, not because the Sale Docks collective is so strong per se, but because he knows that if he wants to evict Sale Docks he will have to deal with Morion, with Rivolta, he will have to deal with different situations. He will be met with resistance. And that is something we are still able to put on the ground. I think that this municipality is not ready to pay this political price. I don’t know if it’s going to be like this forever. Things are getting worse on a general level. So we expect, for example, new attacks from the institutions. We expect new attacks from street fascists. Because it’s unfortunate – it’s their time. We are sort of resilient, but the wind is not blowing our way. But so far this unity helps us. We have social centers in Venice, in Marghera, which is part of the Venetian mainland, in Padova, in Vicenza, in Schio, in Trento, and each social center has its own satellite projects. So maybe like a boxing gym, for example, or a beautiful space in Vicenza, Caracol Olol Jackson in honor of a comrade who died too young. They have a peoples’ hospital with doctors volunteering, from dentists to psychologists. They have an osteria, a popular restaurant. They have run a great food bank during the pandemic for mainly migrant families who could not provide food for their kids.
AWM: That is returning to the Leoncavallo social service provision idea.
MB: But all over Italy, one of the few positive things about the pandemic was that it fueled a great wave of mutual aid, which is older than Leoncavallo. It has its roots in 19th century workers mutualism structures. Here in Venice we organized during the pandemic groups which went to buy food for elderly people who could not go out, or financial aid for families who were struggling because they lost their jobs. Or even online help for students – especially women, who were burdened with all this reproductive labor during the pandemic. And this happened all over Italy. This was a great thing to see happen, and it was mainly carried out by social centers, self-organized groups. This was another thing in which social centers were involved. As well, Morion has been involved with the Comitato No Navi (No Big Ships Committee) since it was founded in 2012. [This is the campaign to keep giant cruise ships out of Venice.]
AWM: I got a flag to send to Brooklyn, the Interference Archive. [It was delivered in May].

MB: Fantastic. Since then it was really the place, the engine of the committee. The committee is much larger than simply radical activists. It includes young and old people, people from different classes, from different political orientations, but the energy, the propulsion of the committee really came from Morion and the group of Morion.
AWM: I wanted to roll back to the questions around art. Morion seems to be very much embedded in its role as a center of nightlife. It’s a beautiful space. It’s perfect for that. Wandering around we passed a tiny little hole in the wall which says, “This is the only nightclub in Venice”, somewhere around Dorsoduro. That’s clearly not true. Morion is clearly the nightclub of Venice. With a very strong group of young women, they were all getting ready for Friday night when we passed by. And also Sale Docks, it’s a contemporary art space. It’s beautifully fixtured. There’s such a clear role for these places. Among the different social centers in Madrid there are some that are historically self-isolating, preserving their subculture. There are others that seem better integrated into their neighborhoods. Historically some social centers in Madrid have had close relations with institutions. The Laboratorio okupas 1, 2 and 3 inspired the program of the institutional Casa Encendida, as an exhibition of their history now acknowledges. On the other hand, La Ingobernable was evicted as soon as the right wing too over city government. And the institution with which it had the closest relation, as well as geographical proximity was dissolved. The Medialab Prado building, purpose-built for them, is now a redundant museum of historic art, one of many such useless, moribund institutions in Madrid. That question about the relation between institutions and occupied social centers, resistant spaces which understand themselves as resistant to neoliberal market models and top-down institutional governance – that relation with normative cultural institutions is important. In the SqEK research group we talked about institutionalization like it was a dirty word. But sometimes occupations become normative art institutions, like the Shedhalle in Zurich, Metelkova in Llubjana.
I was reading Pierpaolo Mudu, an academic who was involved in the Roman social center movement, and he writes that one thing social centers do in Italy is stand in opposition to mega-events. Like the No TAV movement against the high-speed railway, for example, with which the Catanian centers are deeply involved. And this gives the centers and their activism an international presence, and resonance. So Sale Docks in relation to the Venice Biennale is in a really key analogous position. You did the “Dark Matter Games”.
MB: With Gregory Sholette.
AWM: This project spoke to the issue of labor – the “dark matter” of the artworld. I discussed that essay with Greg when he started it. I was studying artists collectives for my PhD. I looked to the studies of Pierre Bourdieu, Lawrence Alloway, Howard Becker, and before that Alois Riegl, at the field of cultural production to analyze more broadly rather than only to look at the super stars. They of course are market investments. You don’t want them to fail. It’s like a bank failure if suddenly Warhol or Basquiat or Jasper Johns plummets in value. These artists must hold their value. And the “dark matter”, which Greg Sholette analyzes is like the general economy, that is everybody working. In the Accademia [museum of classic Venetian art] here in Venice they have stuck videos about all the people who maintain the artwork, restore it and so forth. All these people are the “dark matter” of classic art in museums.

MB: First of all Sale is not against the Biennale. The Biennale is an important part of what Venice is. It helps Venice from falling into provincialism, into localism. The problem with the Biennale is that it has been neoliberalizing itself a lot, at least from the ‘90s onwards. The Biennale is not something that is helping Venice develop its own art scene. It contributes to a model of Venice as simply a touristic city, as a place where people come and consume culture, in this case contemporary art, and then they go away. This leaves nothing in terms of cultural aliveness in Venice, and then the scheme repeats itself year after year after year. It also helps real estate rent to parasite on art. In the Biennale period there are hundreds of exhibitions all around the city. These exhibitions are maybe very radical in content, but they all pay the rent to big real estate owners of the city. Big and small. Art in Venice is a real synonym of rent; it’s all a synonym of renting. Many in Venice present themselves as art operators, but if you look closer what they do is basically renting out spaces.
AWM: One of the top hits on the internet for the Banksy mural in Venice is from a real estate company that says, ‘Hey! It’s our palace that he painted on that is for sale!’
MB: Exactly. The Biennale is a machine which favors real estate rent a lot in Venice. The other problem is the amount of precarious labor involved in the Biennale where you meet all the shades of unpaid, black, gray [market] labor.
AWM: This is not a source of local jobs?
MB: It’s a very important source of local jobs for some. The economy of the Biennale creates firms that work in transportation, in art handling. But at the same time it is also a machine of precarious labor. It is a seasonal event in which young workers get stuck for a few years, and then they are forced to move away. It’s a city where it’s very difficult to make a stable income, to pay for rent, and so on. These are the points of view from which we criticize the Biennale at Sale Docks. We criticize it when it is a multiplier of precarious labor, and when it is an occasion for real estate frenzy. We do demonstrations, and so forth. The other problem, which is more general, is what does it mean, art in Venice? Venice works as a very prestigious place for rich people or rich private foundations to place their spaces, but there are only very rare cases in which they build a constructive relationship with the city. Art is somehow synonimized with big private capital. So Francois Pinault, big French billionaire, tycoon of luxury industry who came here around 2007-08, and first bought Palazzo Grassi, which was previously owned by Anelli family, founders and owners of Fiat factory. With this post-Fordist substitution Pinault bought Palazzo Grassi, and then invested a few millions of euros in the restoration of Punta della Dogana. The city assigned the space for 99 years. So Pinault, Thyssen Bornemiza –
AWM: Thyssen is here?
MB: Of course. The Ocean Space, which is probably the best space in their relationship with the workers, and with the territory, the city. The workers there are satisfiied with the treatment they get. But again, this Ocean Space, which is dedicated to the relationship between art and water, art and the oceans, art and climate change is directly financed by Francesca Thyssen, by the Thyssen Bornemisza foundation. Or Anish Kapoor, who buys a palazzo in Venice to install a permanent foundation. Or, even worse, the VAC foundation. The VAC foundation is now closed because of the war [in Ukraine], but the VAC foundation has a huge building at Zattere, and it’s owned by Leonid Mikhelson, who is a Russian gas oligarch, CEO of Novatech, and very close to Putin. So Venice is this type of place where all these fuckers, these rich global billionaires come and open their own exhibition spaces. Sometimes of course because they are collectors themselves, and they want to boost the value of the things they buy. Sometimes in the case of Mikhelson they want to do some art-washing, because basically he’s a fossil fascist. So Venice is this type of place. And basically Sale Docks is an attempt at –
AWM: [Shows Peggy Guggenheim’s autobiography] I bought this, I couldn’t resist. She’s kind of the original come to Venice and make a big contemporary art thing.
MB: Exactly, but those who followed were much worse. Or at least, many of them. So Sale Docks wants to be an alternative to this equation art equals money which is very clearly present in Venice. We are a self-managed space. We have our own assembly. We don’t have rigid hierarchies. We have flexible programs. We invite people to join the assembly if they want. For us art is a tool to inquire [into] reality, it’s a tool to criticially intervene within, or to participate in the struggles for the right to the city, etc. So exactly the opposite of the idea which is conveyed by these billionaires.
AWM: I was also curious about the Institute of Radical Imagination, and that network of larger solidarity which is sustained by the Reina Sofia museum. I’ve been puzzling on the question of “new institutionality” since I began working here in Europe in 2009, when I talked to Jesus Carillo. He was vague at that point, and as the years went by it became much more specific. And there ended up to be the conference in Malaga to support the Casa Invisible.
MB: “Picasso and the Ciudad Monstro”.
AWM: And I saw also Charles Esche whose institution was very important in early social practice participating in events at Sale Docks.
MB: The Institute of Radical Imagination was an idea that I think comes from the Reina Sofia museum. I was involved since the beginning more than five years ago. The idea was to create a hybrid network between these official institutions, museums like Reina Sofia, and other museums belonging to the network of the Internationale, and social centers around Europe, and dissident scholars or artists, mainly in the Euro-Mediterranean zone, although including Chto Delat in Russia, which is a collective of Russian dissidents now exiled in Berlin since the beginning of the war. And I’d say that is now beginning to work. It is an important tool to break the barriers that separate serious art, high art and activism. Through this strange even asymmetrical alliances with big institutions such as Reina Sofia, we are able to penetrate the institutional field of art and play our little struggle for hegemony there. And we get recognition from institutions. This is another valuable protection for a space such as Sale Docks, to be put on the map of international art spaces. It is also like a very interesting group of people. It creates the ground for common collaborations which otherwise would be difficult to make happen. It is a good ground for collective discussion and collective projects such as Art for UBI [Art for Universal Basic Income], or art for radical ecologies. So these are all results of the IRI. And without this permanent or continuative ground for collaboration these projects would have never seen the light.


Part one of the interview with Marco Baravalle is here: http://occuprop.blogspot.com/2023/04/in-venice-with-marco-baravalle-of-sale.html

"Art for UBI" is part of the German pavilion of the architecture biennale in Venice this year, part of the series "Peforming Architecture"

S.a.L.E. Docks

In 2015 Marco described the S.a.L.E. Docks project succinctly to the Creative Time Summit audience.

2018 "Dark Matter Games" catalogue PDF

Thursday, April 27, 2023

In Venice with Marco Baravalle of S.a.L.E. Docks -- Part One

Conversations at Dark Matter Games, 2017. Those I know are Charles Esche (short sleeves), Marco Baravalle (center), Gregory Sholette (speaking, holding his book "Dark Matter", and Noah Fischer (top right). Photo posted by Macao, FB macaomilano

While I was resident in Venice recently, I had the chance to speak with Marco Baravalle, a principal in the autonomous art space S.a.L.E. Docks. As its Facebook and website tell, "S.a.L.E. Docks is an independent space for arts and politics initiated in 2007 by a group of activists who decided to occupy an abandoned salt-storage docks in the heart of Venice." As well as a principal in that space, Baravalle is an academic and curator. He researches creative labor and the position of art within neoliberal economics. He is a composed, even austere figure, and although I’ve met him a few times – in Madrid, in New York where he was a research fellow at my home institution, and this time in Venice – he remains something of a puzzle. There’s a lot to unravel with S. Baravalle, not least his extensive writings and work with the Institute of Radical Imagination. And we didn’t get to most of it. But in the first instance, I present here in two parts a transcript of our interview in March where Marco speaks directly to issues around occupation and art. And explains in a nutshell the occupation movement of which he was a part, and its solidarity with the traditions of Italian partisans.

Alan W. Moore: You gave an interview to an Italian partisan organization recently, and said you began working in the Morion social center in Venice. Were you involved in the original occupation?
Marco Baravalle: I wasn’t involved, because the original occupation is from 1990. Morion has been around for decades now. This was the moment in Italy when this adventure of centro sociale began, in 1990. We are talking a decade [or so] after 1977 when the Italian social movements, especially the movement of 1977 was defeated. [Wright, 2002] It was defeated with this operation led by a judge Calogero. He was linked to the Communist Party. But the CP didn’t have a great relationship with the social movements and with Autonomia in particular. So on the 7th of April 1979 the judge Calogero ordered the arrest of hundreds of militants of the Autonomia movement all over Italy with the accusation that basically the Autonomia was behind the kidnapping of Aldo Moro. And his thesis was that [radical philosopher] Toni Negri was among the leaders of that organization that kidnapped Aldo Moro, a thing that was proved absolutely wrong and totally absurd.

Image of a demonstration from a portfolio at my-blackout.com
But basically after 7th of April 1979, that syMBolic date for the radical leftist movements of the ‘70s in Italy, it opened up this decade of desert for Italian social movements: the ‘80s. The ‘80s were a period in which the Italian economy was booming. Silvio Berlusconi opened his first private TV channels. It was a moment of market euphoria. And even culturally speaking it was a moment in which post-modernism came to occupy the cultural, philosophical and artistic scene of Italy. Somehow it was a decade that wanted to forget the so-called anni di pioMBo [the years of lead], the years, the decade of the ‘70s which was characterized by armed positions, by terrorism and so forth.

AWM: La lucha continua. [Points to poster for relief of Alfredo Cospito, in prison under harshly punitive conditions, an international anarchist cause.] This guy was not a sweetheart.
MB: No, definitely not. But at the end of the ‘80s, early ‘90s, those who were still somehow inspired by radical left social movements – some were anarchists, most were autonomists – mostly young people who wanted to restart the social movements, or restart where Autonomia got interrupted at the end of the ‘70s – began to occupy spaces. This practice of squatting spaces was already present in the movement of the ‘70s, but it became really the core stuff, the engine that made it possible for social movements to restart in Italy, and to have a sort of presence among the youth of Italy in the early ‘90s. The idea was basically the necessity to find free spaces for sociality that were free from market logic, with low prices, independent music, with the possibility to gather around values that were not the usual market values that were affirming themselves so radically in the ‘80s.
AWM: Leoncavallo was from the middle-’70s.
MB: Yes, this was already present as a practice. It started in the ‘’70s. It was interrupted in the ‘80s. And then there was a wave of occupations and social centers in the ‘90s. And Morion is exactly part of that wave. I arrived in Venice in 1989, but I only got really involved with the collective of Morion in 2005. I went to Morion before, but more as someone who went there for concerts and other initiatives that Morion was doing.

I blogged my visit to Morion earlier.
AWM: There are different generations involved in the social center movement. Leoncavallo starts from a kind of desert of social services. They want very basic things. And Morion is now a fully functional cabaret, a cultural space, with a bar, a beautiful stage, lights and everything. It seems that it comes from a cultural need, not so much from –
MB: I would say that it’s all connected. The ‘80s were a decade that saw the spread of heroin. So many people, so many activists died because of heroin. Social centers wanted to provide a safe space, a space against the sociality led by the market, and also against heroin. Heroin was seen as put into circulation by the system itself in order to destroy the will to rebel of the youth. And it worked. So in these first social centers, the slogans were for free socialization and against heroin.
This was also something that characterized Morion. Morion was also a center for the struggle for housing rights. In Venice the prices of houses are crazy, rents are skyrocketing, and so on. But even then, when Venice was much more populated than now, Venice was undergoing this neoliberalization of housing rights in which you had less and less public housing and more and more houses on the market. Morion was in the struggle for housing rights. Again with this idea is to aggregate around other values that were not market values. Of course anti-fascism was and still is very important. It was and still is a staple of what Morion is. Even militant anti-fascism.
AWM: Compared to Spain, which had a fascist government for 40 years, the anti-fascism here comes out of the partisan movement.
MB: It does.
AWM: And that was armed struggle against first Mussolini, and then the Nazi occupation. The partisan movement in Spain was starving guys in the hills, and expatriate exiles. Then with the return to democracy there was a grand bargain that, although the fascists expropriated all the Republicans’ stuff, and murdered all these people and filled mass graves all over the country, we’re not going to talk about that. It’s coming back now as a return of the repressed. It’s not the kind of continuous thing that I assume is more the case in Italy.
MB: Well, the Red Brigades [Italian armed struggle group of the 1970s] saw themselves as a direct continuation of partisan struggle. They saw themselves as those who had to avenge the resistance that was, according to them, betrayed because fascism wasn’t extirpated as it should have been after 1945.
The partisans of the war era are dead by now. And the ANPI [Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d'Italia, which published the 2018 interview I cited] is a social association of Italian partisans. For many reasons it is a very noble association, and we as social centers like to collaborate with them. They do very important work on memory of the partisan struggle. But their political positions are very mild. They are linked to center left parties in Italy, and dismiss any type of militancy. Even if the situation is different from Spain, Italy is not a nation that has dealt with fascism the way it should have. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a prime minister who is a direct continuation of fascism. She comes from the MSI [Nuovo Movimento Sociale Italiano], which is part – now she founded FdI [Fratelli d'Italia] which is a new party, a new face, but the historical and political roots are within the fascist party. That’s how complicated the situation is in Italy.

AWM: That’s the federal government.
MB: But even the region of Veneto has always been very conservative. Very Catholic, and also somehow very fascist. Also with a strong, nurtured group of right wing terrorists that were based in Veneto or in Venice. People who put boMBs in the ‘70s, and people who got involved in state killings. Those terroristic acts happened in order to create disorder and to boost the repression against social movements which were very strong in the ‘60s and the ‘70s.
AWM: The fascists now are not so active in that way in Spain. When they stick their head up and start things they get legally sanctioned and resisted on the street. Many Spanish social centers are dedicated centers of anti-fascist activism.
MB: We had to fight on the street in Venice. In 2013, maybe ‘16, I don’t remeMBer, but I will check, when Forzo Nuova, one of these fortunately small, but violent radical neo-fascist parties came here. They had a whole campaign in Venice for a couple of years, to root themselves in Venice. They wanted to open their own space. They organized a years-long campaign to somehow conquer Venice from their point of view. And we had to go very radical. We had clashes with the police that were protecting the fascists in Piazza de Roma and in front of the train station.
AWM: In the U.S. there was a rise of fascists under Trump. They didn’t call themselves that. MB: Yeah, alt-right, or whatever.
AWM: And the fight against them was led by anti-fascists, anti-fa, which for some reason the news media ended up calling “an-TEE-fah”, so as not to say the “f” word, I guess. This was mostly mobilized in the anarchist milieu. A nuMBer of radical media outlets report on these fights, but the mainstream media did not choose to understand these as battles between fascists and anti-fascists in the way that would be very clear in Europe. They didn’t sympathize, or even report on anti-fascist struggles in the US, even after classical anti-semitic fascist violence in a synagogue massacre.
MB: From what I saw they criminalized the anti-fa movement.
AWM: The U.S. is in denial that they had a big fascist movement during the ‘30s. Even in New York City in the ‘70s you could see Mussolini t-shirts in Little Italy.
MB: Even now. I saw them in the Bronx.
AWM: In Fordham Road.
MB: A market where you had mozzarella, and ham and Mussolini pictures all over. The Italian-American community is pretty conservative, I guess.
AWM: I lived in Staten Island.
MB: So you know.


S.a.L.E. Docks

In this 2015 video Marco described the S.a.L.E. Docks project succinctly to the Creative Time Summit audience.

Salvatore Marchese, “Su fascismo e antifascismo: intervista a Marco Baravalle del Laboratorioccupato Morion”, n.d. ca. 2018. Auto-xlt’d to ENG.

Steve Wright, "Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism" (Pluto Press, 2002; pirated at libcom.org)

Movement of 1977

Judge Calogero

Mike Greco the salami king

Sunday, April 23, 2023

More Police, Less Music? “I See That, and Raise You a Marble”

I am coming up to Eko now, and the police are out front
When does the left become really dangerous? When it starts being interesting and exciting, when it starts to stimulate the imagination in ways threatening to the system. “That’s when I reach for my revolver”…
I’ve been trying to process the Italian experience I’ve recently undergone in Venice and Milan, and to panic-organize for Milwaukee this August, and with all that – and the Covid interregnum – I’ve lost touch completely with Madrid’s social center action.
So, when a great event at a place I know popped up on some social media feed, I rushed out of the house. It headed to the social center ESLA Eko in the barrio Carabanchel for the climax event of a week-long electronic music festival, “Sync! 2023”.

Closing day program of the Sync! festival at ESLA Eko
Instagram: @sync_npc // Festival de música electrónica de Carabanchel. 13, 15, 20, 21 y 22 de Abril en E.S.L.A EKO y Nodo de Producción de Carabanchel.
It looked to be great, the many rooms of the enormous Eko social center would be occupied by sound artists and musicians. All of it put together by a group called Nodo Produccion Carabanchel.
So I’m out of the metro and heading towards Eko around 6pm, and I meet a comrade on the street. She’s part of a large crowd heading away from the event back towards the metro.
“Eko has been evicted!” she says. “WTF?! But that’s a building owned by a union! They can’t have asked for that.”
I arrive, and a gaggle of municipal poli are alongside the front, lights flashing. A few of the event organizers, one wearing the event t-shirt, are out front. I start to ask, What’s going on? No one wants to tell me.
“It’s closed now. You can come back tomorrow and drink a beer here.”
“I didn’t come across town to drink a beer, thank you.”
A senior among the officers salutes me. I return his salute – “A mistake,” my ever-critical friend tells me later. “They will think you are with the police.”
When I’ve obviously attracted police attention, I don’t want any further encounter. I’m not a Spanish citizen.
It’s unclear why this event was closed – noise complaints, over-capacity, an allegation of rape. The organizers wouldn’t talk to me.
“Of course it was closed,” says Ms. Critica, “they need permits to do an event like that.”
“But it’s a fucking okupa! They never have permits! This is outrageous!”
There is nothing online yet about why this happened. There may never be anything. But when I look for that report – se = “festival de musica cerrado por la policia en Carabanchel” on Bing, I see the police have been closing down festival events in Carabanchel for years, starting in 1976.
At least I’ve found the group who organized this now. And it seems somehow urgent to talk to them soon. These folks are lineal descendants of the Vaciadoros, the group whose fiesta Bernardo Gutierrez described in his book "Pasado Mańana. Viaje a la España del cambio" (Arpa Editores, 2017).

A young anarcist artisan writes on her Instagram, in a passage that could have come from Bernardo’s book:
“I'm excited because things are moving in Madrid… From the transformation of @eko_carabanchel into an increasingly self-sufficient space, from which to do endless things on the sidelines of the system, both in values and structures (as in many other self-managed spaces); to ‘The Carabanchel Production Node’ and ‘The Social Currency the Marble [la canica].’
“As a libertarian communist (anarchist) that I am, this is not exactly the end I aspire to, as I do not believe in any concept of "money", however, I currently continue to live in the Madrid-Matrix, and within that context, I find alternatives necessary and great. I will talk more in depth about these projects. But the key is that they are horizontal, self-managed production and consumption networks by us ourselves, with firm values and practices alternative to slavery and exploitation.
“For example, last year I used to go a lot to the vegan pizzeria of @sr.boniato [Mr. Sweet Potato], in which I paid in "marbles", a virtual currency of our network. I used to get the marbles selling my crafts made from recycled material.
“We now have a new venue, with kitchen, ovens, workshop, tools and collectibles.. and lots of projects, of all kinds, about to start. It's time to get serious about self-management, from farm production to city life.. You can find more info by looking on the Internet about the Carabanchel Node, the Social Currency La Canica, the ESLA eko…”
--#kristinakokoro on Instagram / machine translation

Photo by #kristinakokoro

So, while the institutional movement towards a realistic future has taken a nose-dive under the current right-wing provincial and municipal administration, and social centers in Madrid have been evicted en masse, there remain burning embers of futuristic hope and striving. Not to sound like a Pollyanna, but we are not all the way down here yet.
Speaking of Bernardo, although he has moved on to other things, he is proud to note on his website that he worked on this book. It’s a token of all that the current mayoral administration has destroyed in its return to the mercantile, its neoliberal absolutism: “The Laboratory of Collective Intelligence for Participatory Democracy (2016-2019) is a project that arose out of Medialab Prado in coordination with the Government Area of Citizen Participation, Transparency and Open Government of the city of Madrid. Its work has been very connected with the analysis, reflection and innovation found on the digital participation platform Decide Madrid. The project has also organised many workshops and conferences that have brought together hundreds of people from the world of participatory democracy. This publication summarises the project’s core working principles as well as the open activities it has hosted over the course of these three years. These pilot experiences offer a possible vision of the future of democratic governance.”
Future Democracies: Laboratory of Collective Intelligence for Participatory Democracy (2019)
The social center La Ingobernable, across the plaza was evicted by the right-wing mayoralty soon after their election. Very soon thereafter, the Medialab Prado was dissolved, er, or “relocated” far from the center of the city. I spoke to a worker there who said the staff had been reduced from 15 to 3. Needless to say, there will be no more conferences on the future of democracy.
The end of a festival? The festival is just beginning.


e.s.l.a. EKO – Espacio Sociocultural Liberado Autogestionado


La Canica, la moneda anarquista de Madrid

Bernardo Gutierrez

Future Democracies ; Laboratory of Collective Intelligence for Participatory Democracy (2019)

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... https://news.cgtn.com
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" https://www.digitalaugustanrome.org/records/asylum/

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