Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Art + Squat = Pichifest

It’s been a busy time above ground these Days of the Dead. I spent those holidays preparing publications and displays for the Pichifest zine fair here in Madrid. I was glad to be in town for this one, and Friday was the day…
First a run to a morning meeting of the assembly of the Archivo Sol (Centro de Documentacion 15M) at the 3 Peces 3 center in Lavapies. Arriving late, I pitched a proposal for a series of zines to the small group of archivists assembled there. The 3P3 storefront is small, and since my last visit it’s been redesigned. It seems much larger. It’s cleaned and clear, with shelved books from floor to ceiling on every wall.

I made zines out of my blog posts, the ones especially germane to the theme of a zine fest in an occupied space. “Art + Squat = X”, of course, a 2010 text recently translated into Portuguese and published in Brazil; and a couple of talks I gave at the Reina Sofia about New York City art stuff – NYC in the ‘80s, and films of David Wojnarowicz. Those texts were well translated, not by machine.

Future Plans

My proposal to 3P3 is to make a series of zines about famous occupied social centers in Madrid. There have been many, most long since evicted, but these projects are little known today. Recovery work on radical history, is always important since it gets silted over so quickly in the media environment. But this work seems more urgent now since the great break in action which the pandemic and its lockdowns created.
The Black Lives Matter movement arose in the USA from urgency despite the prohibitions on gatherings. Today many of the mass protests against the Israeli bombing of Gaza are proceeding despite government proscription. But the quotidian occupations in Madrid were evicted during lockdown because the activists couldn’t muster the crowds to defend them. There is a need now after some years of the Forgetting to reintroduce the most successful and inspiring projects of the occupation movements to younger people who are its potential activists.
“It isn’t left-wing, Marxist or anarchist,” I declared. “It’s anti-capitalist adventure!”
It’s what folks can do to break the stranglehold institutions and governance have over both culture and politics. There are clear precedents and procedures for squats and occupations of all kinds, “rulebooks” as it were, which have been published. Some have gone through many editions.


One realization came from a suggestion made by one of the assembly at 3P3 – she’d been a bibliotecaria at the long-evicted CSO Casablanca where Archivo Sol had its first site. She suggested I visit with the group of filmmakers, documentalistas at 3P3, who have made work on the okupas and social centers in Madrid. They have scripts for those moving image projects, and archives, texts and images used in the development of their films which can be the building blocks for publications.

Blog = zine = film.

“Terror/Error" Amongst the Creepers

This edition of the Pichifest was held at La Enredadera (the Ivy) in the barrio of Tetuán. It's a squatted space, a cavernous delapidated building with three floors. The 1st floor (2nd US) had factory-type skylights, although we couldn't be under them because they leak in the rain. Sorry, no photos – the assembly of La Enredadera prohibited them.
The theme of the fair was "Terror/Error", and the organizers asked presenters to come in costume. I chose gnome (el gnomo), which is a common off-the-shelf costume ensemble here.

The gnome has radical connotations. It was a kind of insignia for the Dutch movement of Kabouters. I read the recent Autonomedia book by Coen Tasman Clearly Kabouter: Chronicle of a Radical Dutch Movement, 1969-1974, when Jordan Zinovich was getting it into shape. “Kabouter” is Dutch for gnome. I also attended a presentation by Major Waldemar Fydrych when he launched his book on the Orange Alternative activism in Poland in the ‘80s. The Orange folk also embraced the gnome identity as they deployed their "socialist sur-realism" in absurd street-painting and large-scale performances comprising tens of thousands of people dressed as dwarves. Fydrych handed out orange gnome hats at the NYC event.

“Lose the Beard,” She Said

This is pretty obscure. Of course I had to explain it to anyone who even glanced at my table. Actually, the organizers’ suggestion to come in costume was brilliant. It cut the weird vibe in all art fairs of this kind, between the browsing spectator and the anxious artist who is desperate to explain themself to all and sundry. Being in costume takes the edge off that interaction. Folks can just smile at your character without having to engage the material you display.
Prep – preparation of the display – was a lot of work. I cut a stand out of a cardboard box, painted it, put in wooden struts, and draped it with fabric to hold my zines. Most of those are pretty old stuff, principally the “House Magic” series from 2009 to 2016. (The PDFs used to be online, but Google demounted the site, and the mirror site was hacked and never repaired, so… get ‘em in paper or forget ‘em. [That’s not totally true; see links below.])

My 2015 book was based on the "House Magic" zines. Cover by Seth Tobocman.

I have some new stuff: “Martin Wong en sus proprios palabras”, with texts in Spanish by Martin Wong, Barry Blinderman, Miguel Piñero, Yasmin Ramirez, et al. Martin’s show is touring Europe – it opened in Madrid, and is now in Amsterdam. And, as mentioned above, several hastily “zineified” blog posts.

“Celebrate Peoples History”

As it turned out the hit of my booth was the venerable “Peoples History” poster series curated by Josh MacPhee of the Interference Archive. I had copies of the first volume of his Celebrate People’s History in book form, and many color printouts of the posters in A3/ledger size. These were left over from the 2019 exhibition of the series at ABM Confecciones in the Vallecas barrio of Madrid. That was a great show, but a fracaso in terms of attendance, with even the jokers from Carabanchel who produced JACA (Las Jornadas de Arte y Creatividad Anarquista de Carabanchel), of which the ABM show was a part, not bothering to attend. (Kvetch, kvetch, but really, you don’t build a scene unless you support it with your body.)

The Pichifest offered this extraordinary material a second life in Madrid.

Text Message Log
Friday, 6:15 PM

Gnomo: Pretty fantastic space. No fotos allowed, however. [Squatters often prohibit photos of their sites.] I can foto my own stuff I assume.

She: Very good. I like it
Gnomo: There is light enough to read by, but it's not a good "selling environment".
She: Put more zines visible, and the books in the rack. It is difficult to see the house magic stuff.
Gnomo: People are stopping. It's obviously about squatting. I don't think people are that interested in squatting. If they are, nothing will stop them from engaging. Plus most of it's in English. Mostly the stuff here is "arty", about cartooning and the like.
First sale! Martin Wong. And a conversation....
Now it's really crowded – 7:22 pm
A Slovenian guy passed by. He worked in the infoshop in Metelkova! Very political...
[This fellow was wearing a Lenin cap, and didn’t speak Spanish. He didn’t think much of my stuff.]
Mainly I am getting ideas about how to do this again, and better.
[The first “Celebrate Peoples History” sells. It is the “Co-Madres” poster from El Salvador. The young woman who bought it said, “I heard about this from my aunt. She’s going to love this. She is a graphic designer.”]
Another Slovenian passed by...

The zinester in costume, with a house-made poster on the wall in background

She: Remove the beard please!!
Gnomo: One hour and 15 minutes to go.... this is actually work! – 8:45 pm
The guy next to me arrived late. It seems he has dozens of friends.
[That was a young cartoonist – Miguel, @ekim.comics – The fellow on the other side of him was dressed as a ghost.]
I'm packing up... and along come a couple of archivists! They wanted to buy things I can't sell. One said, "Now I have long teeth for these" [“se me ponen los dientes largos”].

What I could not sell; only one copy

Gnomo: La comida de cena fue rico. Tacos veganas.

Saturday 12 noon to 20:

[I amped up the “Peoples History” poster display.]
Gnomo: My neighbor today is dressed like a rock
She: And your display?
I lucked out to be next to the Erededera supply shelves so I could hang up the posters. You should come! It's very relaxed and fun.

They're pouring in now -- 2PM
I'm fading. I'll try to give it another hour to catch the after-lunch crowd – 5:15pm
This hat actually is pretty warm. Silly but functional. Those gnomes knew a thing or two

The explanation of the "rock man"

She: Que tal va todo?
Muy bien. Al final uno de los organizadores pasan y compran. Hablamos y voy a hacer un entrevista con la colectiva
She: 👏👏👏
Gnomo: My neighbor gave up. I squatted his space
"Big rush at the end" he said, and it's true.
Now the posters are selling fast.. -- 7:30pm
Crazy last minute when everything sells... I'm out of here now. -- 8:45pm
She: You must be exhausted
GnomoNot so bad when there's a lot to do. No customers and the time drags painfully.

NEXT: Hopefully an interview with the Pichifest crew.


Pichifest linktree

Centro Social Tres Peces Tres

“Art + Squat = X” text
Art + Squat = X (ENG) // Arte + ocupações = X (PORT)
by Alan W. Moore, City University of New York (PhD): NYC, NY, US
Henrique Piccinato Xavier, traductor
Universidade de São Paulo (USP) São Paulo SP, Brasil
Estado da Arte, Uberlândia, Brazil. 3 n. 1p. 345 - 383 jan./jun. 2022
Portal de Periódicos UFU
https://seer.ufu.br › article › download

"Arte en Nueva York en los ochenta: Espacio, Permiso, Aspiración" [2 parts; also in English]

"Deathtripping: Filming the East Village"(1980–1989); July 2019
(This talk was not blogged)

Clearly Kabouter: Chronicle of a Radical Dutch Movement, 1969-1974, by Coen Tasman

Lives of the Orange Men A Biographical History of the Polish Orange Alternative Movement by Major Waldemar Fydrych (Author); Gavin Grindon (Editor); Yes Men (Foreword)

Google has gobbled up its older sites, like House Magic - Google Sites
Oct 24, 2013 · Bureau of Foreign Correspondence "House Magic: Bureau of Foreign Correspondence" is an ongoing informational project about the global movement of direct …
maybe try the Wayback Machine? Or… Archive.org, has some --

“Peoples History” poster series

Celebrate People’s History: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution, edited by Josh MacPhee. 2020. 264 pages. This is volume 2.
A visual representation of people's history through political posters.

Art Gangs blogspot, “Interference Archive: de Brooklyn a Madrid”
Una exposicion del autonomo Interference Archive con carteles de la serie "Celebrate Peoples History”, con catálogos y revistas, y otra propaganda gráfica producido por miembros de JUSTSEEDS, una red norteamericano de artistas radicales, trabajando para y dentro de movimientos sociales.
Fue parte de JACA 2019 extendida

Laura L. Ruiz, “La otra cara del barrio de Carabanchel: JACA, la creatividad anarquista,” 06 junio 2019

El Comité de Madres de los Desaparecidos y Asesinatos de El Salvador (Co-Madres)

Poster from Half Letter Press