Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Listening Mini Lesson

Listening Mini Lesson
Topic: Talking about occupations
Age: 14 - 15 minutes
Level: High Beginners
Previous Knowledge:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Squat + Art

The “art part” of the House Magic zine is the most difficult part to assemble. So many creative people are turning political, there is an extraordinary wealth of materials to choose from. The case study in this issue focusses on the former “art squat” – a classic of the genre – in the ritzy London district of Mayfair in 2008. The “Da collective” did their work with and for artists, which sets them apart from the more recent movement-connected Bank of Ideas occupation, for example. Even so, the Mayfair squat was more traditional. The politicized international artworld – the substantial subset of institutionally supported artists who work in the social sphere – has been preoccupied with Occupy, trying to digest the implications and outcomes of the revolutionary year of 2011, and producing unuusual events in the attempt.

The Mayfair Squatters
A key recent example of a classic art squat was the 2008 action by the “Mayfair squatters.” Inspired by their experiences in Paris, this gang grabbed an empty mansion in London. It was a case of high-profile upscale squatting, the kind that can't be said to encourage gentrification, and the brazenness of it captivated the media.
Graeme Robertson set the scene, writing in The Guardian: “It is one of London's most exclusive addresses. Michelin-starred restaurants are just a block away, the US embassy is around the corner and Hyde Park is at the end of the road. To share the same postcode ought to cost millions. But the new residents of 18 Upper Grosvenor Street, a raggle-taggle of teenagers and artists called the Da! collective, haven't paid a penny for their £6.25m, six-storey townhouse in Mayfair.” Robertson also details the ownership of the building, one “Deltaland Resources Ltd, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands.”
The Da! collective named themselves after a sign on the storefront window. They further cemented their media credentials by hosting the kind of fabulous dissolute parties that are a mythical part of the London city image. The Ravish London blog covered the project as “the realisation of an artistic vision, in the creation of a small piece of London Art history.”
Sometime later, after their eviction, the leaders of the squat talked to Tallulah Berry of Libertine Magazine.
In this talk, they say they had met at, and been inspired by “Chez Robert” – that is the 59 Rivoli squat in Paris, squatted ca. 2000, and legalized today as studio space.
That history is told at:

Showing Occupy
Next, “House Magic” takes a look at the “Occupy Bay Area” exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco over the summer of '12. The show included not only posters and photographs from Occupy SF and Oakland, but creative work for earlier political struggles, including the Black Panther Party, the International Hotel in Manilatown (1968–77); the ARC/AIDS Vigil at City Hall (1985–95); the Occupation of Alcatraz (1969–71); the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley (1964–65); and the San Francisco State University protests to gain programs in ethnic studies (1968–69).

Occupy Meetings
There have been two prominent efforts this year to integrate elements of the global Occupy movements and art institutions. The Berlin Biennale’s 7th edition in the spring, and “Truth Is Concrete,” this year's version of the Steirischer Herbst in Graz, Austria, both took on the challenge of displaying (in the first case) and hosting (in the second) key movement participants. The Graz conference, “Truth Is Concrete,” was partially streamed, and now is archived. That event was much better funded than the Occupy part of BB7, and differently conceived. From all accounts, BB7 was a collision of activist and artistic cultures. TIC attempted a synthesis, but it was curated, a congress of invitees with an audience.

Berlin Biennale, Spring 2012
The 7th edition of the Berlin Biennale took place from April 27 to July 1 of 2012. This large exhibition engaged numerous specific political themes directly. It was curated by Polish political artist Artur Żmijewski together with Joanna Warsza and the Voina art collective of St. Petersburg as associate curators. (The Voina group, named from the Russian Война, or War, included Pussy Riot members, and is known for confrontational street actions.)
Artists' works in the BB7 had titles like “how would you like to die?,” “Germany gets rid of it,” and “Happy New Fear,” and projects like a giant “key of return” sculpture and a passport for Palestine, a “Club of Political Critique” in Kiev and Berlin, a “Self #Governing” newspaper for Belarus, a report on German arms trading and the Mexican drug wars, an “alternative parliament” for organizations labelled terrorist, and a program of solidarity actions between BB7 and other art institutions.
Among these were events in Rome produced by the Swiss Institute with activists from the LUM (Libera Università Metropolitana), which sprang up in the ESC occupation in Rome (including Claudia Bernardi, whose interview on this subject is included in this issue of “House Magic”). They wrote: “we found commonalities between the political collective ESC – Autonomous Atelier in Rome and the Polish group Krytyka Polityczna. We are supporting collaborative actions between them and Swiss political activists, especially those involved in the Occupy movement, as part of our 'Solidarity Action'.” This event may have been the most direct contact with an occupied social center and a cultural institution during this phase of art activity. (Jeudi Noir was invited and featured in Graz as well.) Another solidarity project was “Rebranding European Muslims,” produced by an Israel-based group at the Steirischer Herbst – (that's “Styrian Autumn,” Styria being southern Austria, formerly part of Slovenia) – which event is considered below.

BB7 Projects

The Berlin Biennale 7 generated a raft of texts including a newspaper and a book. The show was most notable for giving over the largest exhibition space to activists from the 15M movement in Spain and Occupy Wall Street in the U.S. (mostly New York City). “House Magic” reprints some of the online texts, including the joint declaration of the “Indignadxs|Occupy” at the start of the BB7, parts of letters from Spanish, German and U.S. activists, and, finally, a set of instructions of “How to Build Up Horizontality.” These address a central concern of BB7 curator Artur Żmijewski. Because of the conflict and discontent in the cultural community around the development of Berlin, Żmijewski wanted the BB7 to be the place to draft “a new social contract” between artists, art workers, and politicians.

Website of the Indignadxs|Occupy project in Berlin

The occupybiennale blog on the official BB7 website

The BB7 represented some serious political initiatives within the artworld. Nevertheless, the critical reception by the art press and many other artists was unsympathetic. A review published on the blog of Afterall, a joint publication of the Cal Arts (Los Angeles) and Goldsmiths (London) art schools, was a partial defense. Even so, the writer called curator Żmijewski's open call for proposals a “lame and populist tactic.” The Indignadxs|Occupy encampment was void of “political force,” since they were “sanctioned” in a gallery and taking public money. Żmijewski also sinned by including his own work in the show, indeed of making the show into his own “Gesamtkunstwerk” (total artwork). Visitors were annoyed at having to interact with people on the site – at “the unavailability of a well-oiled viewing machine.” She reflects on the ultra-ironic artistic strategies derived from Laibach – “which takes the system more seriously than it takes itself.” Finally, though, this reviewer realizes that with “the invitation to the Occupy Movement and the Indignados, with their artful resistance to appearing decisive or united, to take up residence” in the BB7 is part of a biennial that “leaves much room for working out what else art can do today” besides offer itself within a viewing machine.

Monika Szewczyk, “Courage, Comrades: The 7th Berlin Biennial”

“Truth Is Concrete,” this year's Steirischer Herbst, in Graz, Austria, September 2012
The art annual Steirischer Herbst produced a “24/7 marathon camp” called “Truth Is Concrete” for one week in late September. Around 200 artists, activists, and theorists were invited to “lecture, perform, play, produce, discuss, and collect artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art. All day long, all night long. It is a platform, a toolbox, as well as a performative statement—an extreme effort at a time that needs some extreme efforts.” “Truth Is Concrete” was styled like a camp, after Tahrir Square or Occupy Wall Street.
What made BB7 interesting was the clash of cultures between the artworld and the democratic social movements, and the efforts of grassroots internal reform of an artworld system fatally entrained to the fast-moving invisible flows of global capital. The conference in Graz was more interesting in terms of content. The panel descriptions and the archived Livestreams are fascinating. But, in a sense, it was more normal. It was a conference, an expanded seminar with a novel form imitative of a protest camp or squatter convergence.
Gavin Grindon reported on the convergence – “not an exhibition but a cultural festival” – in his blog post “Protest Camps and White Cubes” at While the producers made a live-in camp, they invited and subsidized the participants, which is different from “groups willfully collaborating for their own strategic reasons.” Grindon criticized the frustration born of days of lecture presentations with inadequate time to discuss. The Graz TIC meetings seemed to borrow from, and expand upon, the format of Creative Time's Summit series, an annual large-audience event with international presenters giving brief talks. The records of both of these events – the “Truth Is Concrete” conference and the Creative Time Summit – offer a great resource for understanding the strong current of social and political work by artists today.
At this point, “House Magic” #5 is bulging, and it's not clear how much of this can go into the print edition. (There's more, besides, especially architecture...) Nor have I sifted the online conference materials thoroughly for squat-related, building occupation content. (Then there's the books!) It's a symptom of just how big this whole thing is getting. While it's hard to report, I'm happy to see it's far and away out of control.

Gavin Grindon, “Protest Camps and White Cubes” at: 012/09/28/793/
( is an excellent blog, coordinated by Anna Feigenbaum, which revolves around the camp formation, not only recently but in the past; there is, for example, a recent consideration of attacks on the Greenham Common women's peace camp in UK during the 1980s.)

“Truth Is Concrete,” the Steirischer Herbst cultural festival, September 21-28, 2012 in Graz, Austria.
Texts, commentary, and Livestreams of many of the talks – the tactic talks, particularly – are archived at:

The Creative Time Summit is a conference “exploring the intersection of art-making and social justice,” a forum for “for the expanding global network of people who believe in the power of artists to make real social change.” Presentations at the four summits – “Confronting Inequity,” 2012; “Living as Form,” 2011; “Revolutions in Public Practice 2,” 2010; and “Revolutions in Public Practice 1,” 2009 – are online at:

PHOTO: Occupy Berlin in the Kunst Werke, Berlin Biennial, 2012. Photograph: © Marcin Kalinski. Courtesy Occupy and Berlin Biennial. Clipped from

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Let's Have a Party

Popular festivals – a preview of content from the forthcoming “House Magic” journal #5.

Big, popular short-term cultural events – festivals – have long been a principal cultural product of the 1970s occcupations. Call it convergence, rendezvous, or festival, these periodic celebrations play key roles in the life of land occupiers, reigniting the excitement and affirming the solidarities of the initial occupation, and the camaraderie of encampment. (See the story of the Amsterdam Balloon Factory of the Dutch free community of Ruigoord in House Magic #4, “Aja Waalwijk on TAZ.”)
The nomadic festivals of the Rainbow Family in the U.S. began in 1968 with a “be-in” in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The “gatherings” continue to this day on U.S. government park land, a demotic shadow of the upscale Burning Man festivals in the Nevada desert. Governments in the U.S. have never stopped trying to put the lid on these festivals, however.
Michael Niman, author of “People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia,” maintains a website of numerous documents relating to the group's struggles with government agencies managing the lands they encamp
Ryan Neeley, “The Government's Secret War on Music Festivals” details the trials of Jimmy Tebeau, musician in a Grateful Dead tribute band called The Schwag, who has held numerous festivals on his privately owned land; ownership does not protect these festivals from government harassment
The 1970s counterculture festival tradition continiues in the periodic events organized by urban “art squatters” in Europe. A number of them were held this year.

A Flop, with Beatings
In July, an Intersquat Festival was called for late July in Fribourg, Switzerland by a coalition of Swiss groups. The organizers, however, did not hide under cover of culture, but brandished their militancy. They chose to attempt a major occupation as the opening of the festival. Not surprisingly, it was violently suppressed. There were 52 arrests, accompanied by police “batoning anything that moved, including passers-by and people already on the ground, arresting people in cars and trains, in cafes, shopping” – arrestees were swabbed for DNA. It became an exhibition of police violence and a celebration of activist masochism.
call-out for the Fribourg Intersquat Festival
event report of the brutal repression

Cops join the party during a demonstration of students in Torino, Italy // from World Riots (students' faces are blurred in the photo, not masked)

Emigration, Secession, Mass Shovel-In
Festival lies behind the recent strategies of the Dutch Damoclash group, working with the cultural squatters of Schijnheilig. They use the form to make very specific political points. In August of 2011, 50 Dutch artists and activists traveled from Amsterdam to Prishtina, Kosovo. “The Dutch budget cuts and severe police brutality towards squatters and cultural activists in The Netherlands is pushing artists into exile. Therefore we're seeking asylum in Kosovo.” In July they opened a temporary embassy of the “new Damoclash free state” in the Vondelpark of Amsterdam to prepare the trip.
In September of 2012, the Dutch squatters staged Damoclash, a one-day festival. “Damoclash is a recurring free and chaotic, culturally and non-commercial festival that merges protest art, politics and debate into a fun event.” The target of the temporary occupation was a patch of unbuilt land at Oostpoort, Amsterdam, where a publicly funded development was planned, the kind of mega-project they see as “very risky.”
Under the theme of “Gentrify It Yourself!,” they called people to “Take a shovel in hand, come to Damoclash and become one of our Cultural Partners (OCP). Show that you want to help build the city of Amsterdam. Come in your builders clothing, safety helmet, lights, battery drill.”
Who are the Damoclash?
Damoclash: 2011 trip to Kosovo
Damoclash call-out for 2012

Charter of Occupation
Festival was also themed politically for three days this September with the Festiv' Aligre, produced by the “Free Commune of Aligre” in Paris. This sudden government was declared by the organizers after local officials denied them a license. The demand was familiar – public participation in the planning decisions that would affect the community. But this faux government first declared themselves “guardians of public disorder” for a period of festival, evoking the oldest traditions of European carnival. Street food, music concerts (all types), story-telling, dance (“garbage ballet”), cycling activities by the collective Vélorution – all are artfully described and intermingled with discussions on “this famous question, how to occupy public space.” These discussions were purposive: to frame a “charter” on how to manifest public space to be “hailed” as the school year starts. Naturally, the project is supported by numerous collectives, the town hall, city and state cultural ministries, and, significantly, the Fondation Abbé Pierre, named for the renowned French squatter priest, and local tenants' groups.
Festiv' Aligre
Abbé Pierre
Next: Classic Art Squats

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

“House Magic” #5 Is on the Front Burner...

image by Eric Drooker
This blog is part of the “House Magic” research and information project on the culture of squats and occupations. The fifth number of the journal is now in preparation. It will include texts proudly pirated from around the worldwide web. Most of them, produced during these last two revolutionary years, must be edited for a limited paper space. As part of the editorial process, I'm putting up some of these texts now as links for readers of this blog to see. Analytic comments and glosses as well as personal experiences and viewpoints are welcomed. (Had I the skills and time, the whole thing would be available online in an expanded version; in the meantime, this is how it goes.)
The SqEK Group NYC Conference Proceedings
SqEK – Squatting Europe Kollective conference in New York City: Academic Papers February of 2012 saw a SqEK conference coinciding with the AAG meeting. A day of academic sessions took place at the Hilton Hotel – all the abstracts of the papers are posted at:
“Squatting in Europe Now”
A public talk at the Living Theatre, NYC. A nearly complete transcript is posted at:
Many of the talks were recorded and mounted to YouTube by Sebastian Gutierrez. There are four; the first is “SQEK I -- Squatting Europe Collective.” They include brief descriptions of the situation with squatting in the Netherlands, Italy, France, United Kingdom, and Spain.
“The Necessary Squats,” by Miguel Martinez
Miguel of SqEK wrote this account of the eviction of CSOA Casablanca in Madrid in September of 2012. He was closely involved in that collective.
“The Sabotaj Story”
Story of the 2011 squat of a vacant supermarket in Brighton, protesting the supercession of a family-owned business by a chain store.
String of Evictions of Madrid Social Centers
Short reports – La Salamanquesa in Salamanca barrio, in May of '12; La Osera in Usera, and La Cantera in Vicálvaro in July.
La Salamanquesa –
La Osera –
La Cantera –
“Creative Destruction,” by Jens Balzer
New York Times blogger argues that the final eviction of Tacheles in Berlin is a “normal” part of gentrification. Now young people must get together and buy properties.
“Contaminating the University, Creating Autonomous Knowledge: Occupied Social and Cultural Centers in Italy,” an interview with Claudia Bernardi
Bernardi discusses ESC, the Rome social center as an “occupied atelier for self-education.” She also talks about the relationship the extra-legal project has with the university, and ESC's work with immigrant communities. The recent theater occupations she says come from the idea of culture as a common good.
The Victor Martinez Community Library, Oakland, California
Abandoned library brought back to life.
“Spain: The Big Squat,” by Ter Garcia
This March 2012 roundup of squatting in Madrid focuses on the relationship between the 15M movement, the neighborhood assemblies, and the banks.
“Real change needs massive support. Art affects only a minority” – An interview with Jeudi Noir
This December 2011 interview concentrates on the tactics and aesthetic techniques that the Paris-based housing group uses in their occupations. Includes a timeline. By curatorial consultant Anne Faucheret for Steirischer Herbst arts festival.
“Notorious Possession: Occupying Foreclosed Homes With Art” by Robby Herbst
A September 2012 story about artist Olga Koumoundouros, and the foreclosed house she occupied in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles, California. Discusses her engagement, techniques, and the neighborhood groups she worked with.
“Call for ‘No Borders’ – Borders Exist to Exclude,” by Sutapa Chattopadhyay
An extensive article by SqEK member, based on her interviews with Bangladeshi immigrants at the CSOA Casablanca in Madrid.
“Non vengo dalla luna: Short Report of a Political-Theater Experiment,” by Carla Vitantonio Account of a 2010 tour of Italian social centers by two theater artists.
SqEK member Mujinga produced #7 of "Using Space" in August of 2012, a zine about squats, social centres and alternative ways of living. It includes an update on the criminalisation of squatting in England and Wales, and excellent memoirs with lessons learned by squatters in London and Seattle.
28 pages including cover; formatted for double-sided printing
“Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles,” edited by the Squatting Europe Kollective
forthcoming from Autonomedia in 2012
Table of Contents is at –

Next, Art and More...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Good Night, Casablanca

The social center Casablanca was evicted this week from an abandoned luxury apartment building in central Madrid. It is only the latest squat to be cleared in Madrid, as the rightwing government has gone on an eviction spree to wipe out the logistical organizing bases of the 15M movement throughout the city.
Organize for Occupation in New York has called for a peaceful protest at the Spanish Consulate on Tuesday, September 25th at Noon, 150 East 58th St (Between Third and Lexington Avenues).

Yesterday morning, Wednesday 19 September 2012, the self-organized occupied social center Casablanca in central Madrid was evicted by state police. Large demonstrations have been held to protest this sudden police action against an important center of activity for the 15M (15th of May) movement in Spain. Even now, the 10,000 volume library of the BiblioSol, the relocated library of the Puerta del Sol encampment of the 15M movement, is held hostage inside the closed-up building.
Miguel Martinez* writes: “It has been a very strange eviction because our legal case was won by us many months ago and the owner had no chance to claim the property again. We did not receive any notice about the new demand, except a brief note in June to which we replied. It was illegal not to be notified in advance of the eviction. We suspect that there are political motivations behind this fast eviction. There is a call to surround the Parliament on September 25 [and call for a new Constitution], and one of the groups organising for this action was holding their meetings at Casablanca. In the past few days, some people have been arrested and identified by the police due to their participation in this forthcoming action. We feel really sad because Casablanca had become the main venue for alternative politics and culture in the inner centre of Madrid. Today some text books for primary and secondary school were going to be exchanged and freely distributed among people who need them. And thousands of books and materials from the Sol Camp are now shut up in this now-fortified building.”
(See Miguel's longer text (in Englsh) on this event at:
READ: The Diagonal online journal piece about the eviction (in Spanish)
for reports in Spanish, follow on Twitter:
see "CSO Casablanca cerrado por razones políticas: 25S"
(Casablanca closed for political reasons: 25S [25th of September action]” (in Spanish)
3-minutes – Images of the eviction and street full of demonstrators.
"C.S.O.A. Casablanca se queda, no al desalojo!"
(C.S.O.A. Casablanca remains, no eviction!)
(in Spanish)
This 4-minute video shows images from the succession of social centers established and evicted by the assembly of Casablanca, culminating in early images of Casablanca.
Address letters of protest to:
Cónsul General, D. Juan Ramón Martínez Salazar.
Consulate of Spain
150 East 58th St., 30th floor.- New York, N.Y. 10155
Communique from the Casablanca Assembly immediately after the eviction Wednesday September 19, 2012
Today, at 7 am, the police have forcibly evicted without notice the squatted and self-managed social center Casablanca, situated at calle Santa Isabel 21-23, in Madrid, Spain. This was a totally illegal eviction. A magistrate's court and the Provincial Court of Madrid firm filed the criminal case started building ownership. It is illegal to reopen the case, and it is illegal we have not been notified of the decision to evict.
In two and a half years, Casablanca has been a meeting place open to everyone in the Lavapies neighborhood and city, as well as creation and development of social and political consciousness. Working and creating a safe space and a benchmark of solidarity, mutual support, self-management, horizontality, autonomy, and asamblearismo care. The community center has been built from the conviction that another world is possible, rejecting the capitalist system and corrupt patriarchy.
In CSOA collaborate over 30 collective, developing projects related to: Creating and critical thinking: Casablanca has served as a meeting place for various groups working and popular neighborhood assemblies and student movements, through countless lectures, learning journeys, empowerment and social criticism.
Education: a project for living free and learning with children two to six years ("Tartaruga"), a cooperative project between parents for the care of infants under one year ("Common House"), a Spanish teaching project for migrants ("the library"), reading workshops, a management project loan of more than 10,000 books donated during the camp popularly Sol and exchange of textbooks, in which more than 200 people involved in situations of need every Wednesday ("BiblioSol"), the physical file Sol …
The self, as an alternative to the model of consumption: a sewing, construction, bicycle repair, silkscreen printing, photography, computer …
Art, culture and personal health: theater workshops ("Timbuktu", "Impro theater"), dance ("Dance Lab"), yoga, queer culture ("Queer Tango Workshop"), swing, hip-hop, film (Casablanca Cinema) …
Social development: a project of support among people living with HIV ("HIV Madrid Critique"), a legal aid office to migrant groups, women's groups, the Office of Okupación Madrid, theater group ("Dystopia" ) …
Alternatives to consumer model: free store, consumer groups ("Tomarte Rojo", "BAH"), urban gardening, vegan dining, bike shop … It would be impossible to name all the people and groups who have been here for two years.
All this took place in a closed building, owned by the builder Monteverde SL, bought what was to become a college luxury homes. But came the bursting of the housing bubble and the crisis and were unable to continue speculating with it, the building being closed for more than three years. This company processes involved in corruption (Operation Malaya II), is part of the real culprits of the current political-economic context. Therefore, the proposed Casablanca has the legitimacy that they lack.
The political line of Casablanca, which has been developed for years in the occupied centers of La Escoba (the Broom; 2006), La Alarma (the Alarm; 2007), Malaya (2008) and La Mácula (2009), has become and remains a project of political struggle. This line has always believed and worked on the development and articulation of networks outside the mercantilist system. We believe in collective work as a means of achieving self-management of our lives and mutual support. We support the model of cooperation as an alternative to the model of competition and we continue to fight.
We realize that this eviction was not casual. It is the product of a process of growing repression of movement places arising from fear, and is closely related to recent calls for civil disobedience to demand the recovery of popular sovereignty. In this context, the eviction of Casablanca is now part of the strategy with which the elites of economic and political power face a new stage of social mobilization. Those of us who want to build a different reality have moved from a position of strength to a direct confrontation on September 25th, which will be a turning point. If you've come here because we have spent many months working, sharing, knowing, fighting, we are no longer fragmented people and groups. So this social center has been one of the areas where this has taken place, but the eviction is not the end of what has grown up here.
Another eviction, another squat.
Casablanca CSOA Assembly
/////////////////////// STATEMENT OF SUPPORT by Regional Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Madrid (FRAVM)
The FRAVM rejects the eviction of Social Center Casablanca
The Regional Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Madrid (FRAVM) rejects the social center eviction Casablanca occurred this morning and regrets that, with it, the building will be empty to become fodder for speculation as it closes its doors one of the few social spaces open participation of grassroots collectives.
Around 7 in the morning of 19 September 2012, several National Police agents have entered the social center Casablanca, located at number 23 Calle Santa Isabel, to evict. They put so well, by order of the magistrate court number 38 of Madrid and at the request of the owner of the building, more than two years of intense activity.
The building, abandoned for years, was occupied by a group of youths in April 2010. Since then, the community center has hosted numerous cultural, educational, social, political, educational ... Such as workshops to fix bicycles, employment, theater, concerts, screenings, presentations fanzines ... A self-managed program for some of the many groups that make up the active social network of Madrid and the result is richer than that offered many cultural centers run by the government and supported by public money.
At the time of eviction, the social hub Casablanca housed over 10,000 volumes Bibliosol, a library built collaboratively by people who give life to 15M, theatrical equipment ... The eviction today, added to that occurred in the past Usera July (The Osera Usera) and those before them back to emptying a building that will fall into utter neglect for the sole purpose of become pasture land speculation.
The Regional Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Madrid (FRAVM) demands respect to self-management projects promoted by collective basis in order to build meeting spaces open to the participation of all citizens while contributing to the creation of a living social fabric , democratic, independent and transformer.
/////////////////////////// * Miguel Ángel Martínez teaches in the Department of Sociology II, Faculty of Political Sciences and Sociology, University Complutense of Madrid – his blog:
This text by him connects the 15M and squatting movements in Madrid: He has just written this entry on the Casablanca situation (in Spanish) – He is a member of the SqEK research collective: Squatting Europe Kollective --, and
Details about Monteverde Grupo Inmobiliario S.L., the real estate group that owns the building, (in Spanish) are at:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Voyage to the Black Rose

[I am busy moving this summer, so I reblog Ernie Larsen's recent great email. Ernie is a filmmaker who has been showing his work in Greek social centers for some while. This text describes his voyage to the beloved OSC Rosa Nera. Lots of cool photos, but, as he didn't post it, only emailed it, I can't link to them.]
All but two of the dozens of flat-screen TVs on the many upper decks of the giant ferry E. Venizelos (now en route from Piraeus to Chania) were tuned to the faceoff of the Eurocup football match between Greece and Germany. The three of us, including Nikos, had taken refuge on Deck 8 in seats several yards away from those last two hold-out TVs, thinking ourselves remote if not safe from a few hours of nationalist uproar. Nikos said, with a smile, that it might be better for the Greeks if the Greek team lost--as was expected-- so long as it wasn’t totally thrashed. Either way we were pleased to be insulated from the spectacle about to commence—but no, we were mistaken: a ferry employee in nautical uniform appeared as if on cue to change the channel on both regrettably, the TV-enhanced color of the football fan's jacket is lost here.
Seconds later, the TV camera’s attention switched from the digitally-enhanced natural green of the football pitch to alight on the irradiated vomit-green of Angela Merkel’s jacket in the immense stadium in Kiev. The impresario of austerity had traveled all that way to cheer on still another dimension of humiliation to be sternly administered the Greeks by an ace squad of her loyal subjects. Since football is a game with precise rules how could the supposedly rule-flouting Greeks ever expect to triumph?
Nikos and I climbed up to the open-air pool deck. The pool was empty, a net thrown over it, to dissuade the foolhardy , the inattentive, and the suicidal. The only brand of beer available at the bar was Mythos. An inconsequential detail that in my present state of exhaustion I found dimly resonant—a gulp of mythic spirit(s) while afloat on the Aegean—or something. A group of Athenian anti-authoritarians soon turned up. They stayed up all night. Drinking and talking.
Dawn arrival at the port of Chania. Bleary-eyed, we stumble out of the maw of the E. Venizelos, dragging our bags. It’s already warm, very warm. We’d slept through our chance to see the long series of NATO installations that dot the hills along the way into the channel. Though broke, tiny Greece boasts Europe’s largest defense budget (per GDP). Having gutted wages, the government is busily taxing everything in sight and aims to privatize every resource with the exception of public outrage.
However, there’s still some spare change left for the cops in Chania to bring a drug-sniffing dog to the dock to greet the anarchists, anti-authoritarians and autonomists here to celebrate the eighth anniversary of Rosa Nera, a squatted social center regarded with a considerable reverence by many in Athens and Thessaloniki. The consensus is that this canine cop theater amounts to a warning: We know you’re here, we’ve got eyes on you, the cops are saying. But the German shepherd, as a well-trained fragrance connoisseur, could care less about cops having eyes on anarchists. His discriminating nostrils are excited by the baggage of a hiker. The dog is so proud of himself that one cop has to restrain him from ripping into the bag that another cop is avidly searching, garment by garment. We miss the denouement: everybody piles into one of the two cars awaiting us and we are driven off to the extraordinarily picturesque old port. Rosa Nera (Black Rose) overlooks a restored Venetian lighthouse and the remains of a fortress breached by the Turks in the fifteenth century and by the Nazis in 1941. Or to be more (though not completely) accurate about the port’s history: Minoan then Greek then Roman then Byzantine then Arab then Byzantine then Venetian then Genoan then Venetian then Ottoman then briefly Cretan then Greek then Nazi then Greek. Even before parking in the private square we are told about fascist attacks on immigrants a few days earlier and an 88-day miners’ strike still going in nearby Heraklion. Two of the attacked immigrants, both Algerians, are among those staying at Rosa Nera. One sports a cast on his right forearm. Such an injury could have resulted from an accident playing football--except it didn’t.
Two nights later, following a discussion about the Heraklion strike, in which two of the striking miners participate, we screen our video, “Rock the Cradle,” in the square. (The video focuses, for the most part, on the aftermath of the December 2008 to January 2009 insurrection in Greece.)
A View from a Squat -- as seen from Rosa Nera square...
Afterwards an anniversary feast for 500 guests is spread in the square (500 real plates!) while local musicians play and sing, sing and play. We sit at one of the long tables, drinking local wine and eating lamb, risotto, and salad from plastic--rather than china--plates. How did that happen?
The only Americans in attendance, we talk for some time to an Athenian woman in her early thirties, who describes being among the half-million protesting the imposition of anti-austerity measures for five long hours in front of Parliament (“five hours, 500,000 people,” she repeats, more than once) a few months earlier--and then Parliament went right ahead and voted against the people. She speaks as if she still can’t believe what happened. “And then when the police attacked it was the anarchists that defended us,” she says. She’s been in Crete for three months now, in quiet retreat while mulling over what to do next. She’d quit her academic job. When Sherry says what an inspiration Greek resistance has been--and still is--to so many in the U.S. it isn’t clear that she believes or perhaps even quite hears what Sherry is getting at. In the present context -- in the midst of the lively communal celebration of eight years of unbending resistance going on around us—her somewhat unyielding expression of a doubt which surely everyone feels at times is disconcerting. But I wonder if there is anything more inevitable—given enough time, a stumble, a route or a rupture -- than such occasional rumbles of doubt. Late the next morning the musicians are still playing, still singing, with only slightly less energy, even though their audience has dwindled to a handful of diehards and sleepy-eyed insomniacs. The persistent tradition of folk melody, songs of work and desire that everybody knows and shares, among its many other benefits can be an effective salve for the lingering psychic scrapes doubt exacts.
A few days later, when we’re back in Thessaloniki, 34 anarchists, whose cell phones have been tapped for months, are arrested on felony charges of belonging to a criminal organization. In the past few months, fascists have attacked immigrants dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times. No arrests. Syriza had promised, if it won the election, to purge the police force of its fascist elements. It is well-known that the police are heavily involved (perhaps to the tune of 50%) in Golden Dawn, the fascist party that garnered 7% of the official vote count.
A few months ago, New York’s Mayor Bloomberg boasted: “I have my own private army,” a bloated statement reminiscent to some of the early stages of fascist consolidation of power. But of course it’s silly to imagine that this billionaire mayor, who had the law limiting the election of a mayor to two terms changed when he decided that he wanted to be Mayor-General for the third time, whose private army purged Zuccotti Park of the Occupy Movement, when, tiring of its excess, he so ordered, should be mentioned in the same breath with any of the tinpot fascists who rose to power, way back in the second and third decades of the last century. And maybe that’s correct: people here in Greece are beginning to speak of a molecular fascism, built from the ground up, which is not indebted for its increasing influence to the skillful demagoguery of a charismatic leader. And no one in their right mind ever accused Bloomberg of being charismatic.
Ernie Larsen, August 2012

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Showing "Occupy"

Two current exhibitions address the Occupy movement, one in Austria and one in California. “Occupy Everything” and “Occupy Bay Area” take different approaches, however, based on different understandings of the movements that arose in 2011. (Caveat – this is not a review of shows I've not seen; it's a digest of PR.) The San Francisco show is diffident about the movement, and limited in its goals. Occupy has “generated both praise and condemnation”; a sensitive audience is warned that it is controversial. It is “a direct response to the financial instability, subprime mortgage crisis... [and] problems in the labor market.” Occupy Bay Area focuses on the political poster artists who message the politics and culture of the movement, supporting its goals and aspirations.
This sounds very modest and limited. Nevertheless, the Occupy Bay Area includes as well some record of the important underground history of occupation there, including the Free Speech Movement at University of California, Berkeley (1964–65); the San Francisco State University protests, to gain an Ethnic Studies program and Black Student Union demands (1968–69); the International Hotel eviction struggles in Manilatown (1968–77); the Occupation of Alcatraz by Native American Indians (1969–71); and the ARC/AIDS Vigil at City Hall (1985–95). All of these struggles used the tactic of occupation. The show disclaims any intention of being a “fully executed social history”; instead it is a testament of the power of images to evoke the emotional expression of popular and wide-spread sentiments.” Yes, well – even with the rapid back-pedaling, it sounds like a good job.
“Occupy Everything,” an exhibition organized by Oliver Ressler for “Regionale12” in St. Lambrecht, Austria, has a much shorter run, but it is conceptually more ambitious. The historical sequence of 2011 is right – “ the 'Arab Spring', the movement of the squares in Spain and Greece, and the Occupy movement starting from the USA.” (People in the U.S. somehow tend to see their Occupy as first.) Ressler is a political artist concentrated in filmmaking. He concentrates on the common character of these largely non-communicating movements – “They are regionally active, non-hierarchical movements that reject representation and use direct democracy to make decisions. Occupying central public places serves as a catalyst to form and develop political projects and working groups. Successful occupations in one place can often inspire occupations in other cities.”
The show includes an on-site documentary of Tahrir Square by Stefano Savona, “tactical and symbolic infrastructure” for NYC Occupy developed by the collective Not An Alternative, and a collection of posters from Occuprint. Finally, Ressler mounts video projections which show discussions he staged with activists from 15M in Madrid, the Syntagma Square movement in Athens, and Occupy Wall Street in New York. The video installation “re-enacts the working groups of the square movements; it deals with issues of organization, horizontal decision-making processes in the assemblies and the meaning and function of occupation of public spaces.”
These are two strong indications of the path cultural institutions are taking in explaining and supporting the Occupy movement worldwide, the first excavating a largely unknown local municipal history of occupation, and the second exploring the common political processes which have constituted this new movement.
A video about the artists --
called "Occupy Bay Area: The Artists"
Occupy Bay Area July 7-October 14, 2012
“Occupy Everything,” an exhibition organized by Oliver Ressler for “Regionale12” in St. Lambrecht, Austria, June 23 – July 22, 2012