Abstracts Multitudes 31 (2008)

7 January 2008
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Jesko Fezer et Mathias Heyden. L’ambivalence de la participation et l’urbanisme situationnel
There has been a proliferation of self-construction groups in Germany today in response to the political abandonment of public housing. But these self-contained groups made up of the middle classes are operating within the framework of this politics. These groups aim for individual ownership of housing. They have no interest in the urban integration of their enclave. By contrast there is another type of situational urbanism, not well tolerated by the authorities, that is developing on the margins, in remote places. The participative urbanism movements were very different, whether these were the Advocacy Planning of the 1970s which developed alternatives to urban projects, or Community Design Centres which worked with ethnic minorities. But this form of organisation tends also to be reclaimed by projects of homogenisation. So what, should be the conditions of intervention for a situated urbanism that is genuinely pluralist and non-hegemonic?

Jochen Becker. Un activisme informel?
Urban action is ordinary action, like the old man who persists in living on the Champs-Élysées. Urban action finds itself in contradiction with urban politics, as understood by the left, which organises resistance against evictions, when it is too late. What is this city that resists? A sense of it can be given, parenthetically, between the icons of modern architecture and the informal Turkish shantytown huts of the 1950s, which inspired a whole theatre having as public the middle classes, who welcomed old squatters into their midst: President Erdogan himself lived in one of these huts! But now there are new refugees arriving from other countries who do not have this peripheral space in which to build their own lives.

Teddy Cruz. De la frontière globale au quartier de frontière: pratiques d’empiètement
In spite of the dramatic images broadcast from the US/Mexican frontier, the border still remains porous. Illegal migration continues northward while piles of waste moves in the other direction to be recycled, and to be re-used in the construction of a counter-urbanism that includes numerous tunnels that pass under this border and make up this illegal inhabitation. In reaction to urban segregation, an urbanism of transgression is developing via specialised enterprises and their alternative prototypes. It is in this context that the non-governmental organization Casa Familiar works in the border neighbourhood of San Ysidro, California. A zone of alternative affordable housing has been designed including a series of “open air rooms” that contain electricity, serving as site for a variety of neighbourhood activities. On the border, a new housing programme is developing: affordable and socially sustainable.

Aswhin Desai. Entre destruction néoliberale et construction du commun: le pouvoir des quartiers
New community-based movements have been appearing in South Africa since the end of apartheid, dominated by women, youngsters, the poor, where everyone participates. They are struggling against the ANC, refusing to pay for public services as a way of compensating for their diminishing rents, they are trying to invent new services. The old militants of national liberation are being forced to reconsider their alliances and to merge instead into this horizontal movement. History is rewritten, outside of those compromises that were made with the coloniser during the struggle for independence. It is now a matter of fighting against the politics imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and, in concrete terms, fighting against the expulsion from homes and the privatisation of public services and urban spaces. The community has ceased to believe in the State as father figure. And so, filling empty homes with people chosen by themselves, they muddy the frontier between the legal and illegal. They draw inspiration from the struggles of the piqueteros in Argentina, and from what they have heard about Seattle.

Christoph Schäfer. Sur les palmiers, la neige
This is a phrase that alludes to a new landscape created at Hamburg’s port through an action entitled Park Fiction. It is an action not that much more extraordinary than the action of skaters who set out one day to go skating, freely. Anywhere. Art is not about simply making the world look at itself from a different point of view, but to make it be used in a different way. In Hamburg an ongoing action of animation, exhibition, agit-prop, fuelled by humour, has ended up convincing the local council that the inhabitants have a real need for a garden by the port, and that they are bound to realise this according to the plans they have put forward. Though not entirely, because the council does not understand why it is necessary to make an archive of this action, that is open to the public. In fact, the council denies the artistic dimension of the project, and retains only that which is functional. But Park Fiction is now sought-after by investors, whose advances they have so far eluded through the development of international activities.

Pascal Nicolas-Le Strat. Multiplicité interstitielle
Interstices represent a still resistant element within the metropolis, that which resists the stranglehold of regulation and homogenisation. They are, in a sense, a reserve of the city’s “availability”. Because of their provisional and uncertain status, interstices are left open to imagination or provide a glimpse of another process of fabricating the city, open and collaborative, reactive and transversal. They remind us that society never coincides exactly with itself and that its development leaves behind a number of possibilities not yet invested in. The interstice certainly constitutes one of the privileged spaces where repressed questions are made to be heard, where certain hypotheses rejected by the dominant model affirm their presence, where the numerous fates of minorities, disadvantaged, impeded, prove their vitality. In this way, the interstitial experience provides the perfect metaphor for what could be said to be the movement of antagonism and the contradiction within the post-Fordist city: a movement which affirms its own experimentation along the way, which grows in intensity thanks to the modalities/mood of life and of the desires that it liberates, which resists the haughtiness which it is susceptible to inventing and creating.

Michel Agier. Des politiques urbaines sans auteur
How does something turn into an event, how does it appear and makes itself felt with impact? The situation is different from Latin America to Africa, even if there are borrowings, even if in the local there is everywhere something that is being globalised. There is an appropriation of space here at this moment in time, an occupation, which frightens the authorities. The model we have is the carnival, but the community television channels that are appearing on African television screens are of a different order, as was the case with the township theatres. The important thing is the interstitial space out which a creation can emerge, an activity with a ritual dimension. An anthropology of emergence exists as much as an anthropology that unearths traces of the past. It means looking at the world through events and situations rather than through structures. It is the movement which needs to be understood, not the negotiation that takes place afterwards and which merely reinstates known structures: it is the image which remains after change that is important. What is happening in Africa at the moment is the return of the children of immigrants who want to set up a market. The anthropologist passes on the story of the events, the description of those intermediate spaces that are being maintained between the camps and gated communities.

Anne Querrien. L’exode habite au coin de la rue
While the “street corner society” is mostly masculine, women seek out common spaces: school gates, around-the-clock/24-hour surgeries/ medical practices/centres, social centres, and nowadays the garden. There is an artistic and political practice, that has been grafted onto this need, for the construction of waiting spaces where it is possible to breathe together. In the major European cities, “vacuoles” (Cf. Félix Guattari) are being created on the initiative of artist-activists, places where the inhabitants of a deprived neighbourhood can pool their ideas and set down their dreams, making themselves available for the event. The collective construction of multiple languages, that of local migrations, is framed by a work of analysis and common effort, by the slow building up of a “plan of consistency” (Cf. Félix Guattari), translocal and transnational.

Brian Holmes. La géopolitique do-it-yourself, ou la carte du monde a l’envers
Situationist critique has transformed art into a practice of the everyday. Punks have added themselves to that massing of self-organised groups committed to subverting the means of mass communication. In underground circles, video art and sound systems have done the rest. The internet has been able to extend counter-culture across the world. On 18th June 1999, several financial centres, most notably London, were attacked by the multi-coloured masks of Reclaim the Streets and other disparate groups who have multiplied their joyful activities for a couple of years. net.art relays these carnivals through the self-expression of these insurgent multitudes.

Toni Negri. Qu’est-ce qu’un événement ou un lieu biopolitique? Discussion avec Constantin Petcou, Doina Petrescu et Anne Querrien
There have been several struggles to claim the city recently in Germany, Denmark, Italy. The urban actions presented in this edition are situated on a different level, that of artistic intervention and of the inhabitants of a neighbourhood. How does one link up these types of action? This discussion is an opportunity to return to several basic concepts as diagram and bio-political axis, as constituent power…

Constantin Petcou et Doina Petrescu. Agir l’espace. Notes transversales, observations de terrain et questions concrètes pour chacun de nous
Based on actual experience, the authors of this paper show the political dimension of micro-urban tactics and the reconstruction of spaces of proximity from the margins, boundaries and interstices of the capitalist city. These interventions permit the creation of a collective and synaptic subjectivity that is capable of porous territorial appropriation and political transformation out of the everyday. A continuous democratisation of spaces of proximity through “agencement jardinier”, an interstitial and biopolitical action that starts “on your doorsteps”.

Adrien Guignard. Sokal et Bricmont sont sérieux ou: le chat est sur le paillasson
The following text seeks to identify the origins of what has come to be called the Sokal hoax. It appears that these origins remain problematic insofar as they cannot be thought without engaging into intrinsically duplicitous thinking. Thus, “originally”, the gesture of the hoax is indeed “productive and conflictive, and no self-identity, no unity, and no inherent simplicity can possibly precede it”, as “he” said, but “he” was disseminating, as we say. But that is precisely the “strength” of the “form” of the Sokal hoax. With the delicate question of origins as its stumbling block – a stumbling block which may also be the question of irony – , the present text takes its cue from an passage from La Barbarie à visage humain and proposes to reveal the constructive consequences of the affair triggered by the hoax, while constantly paying tribute to its performance. Whether my argument will make it possible to distinguish the consequences from the origins remains moot: post hoc ergo propter hoc. One must remember that this is a sophism.

Yann Moulier Boutang. André Gorz, pour mémoire
Without André Gorz we would never have witnessed the successful grafting of the anti-institutional post-68 left onto an anti-productivist and therefore a-socialist ecology, which has given rise to everything still in search of a leftist project worthy of the name.

Alain Lipietz. André Gorz et notre jeunesse
Gorz’s Reform and Revolution was published in 1969, and it taught me to mistrust the “all or nothing” of the mythical Big Day when the relations of production would be changed all at once (which wasn’t an easy lesson, in the exaltation following 1968). I learned there was an enormous range of possible transformations inside capitalism, as we would demonstrate with the research program of the Regulation School. As a politician, I have always upheld this radical reformism.

Jean Zin. André Gorz, la richesse du possible
Not only did André Gorz have a political conception of ecology that links it to history and social struggles, he also proposed a full-fledged ecological alternative at the service of individual autonomy. Though he may have appeared a traitor to his own camp on several occasions, it was always to remain faithful over the long run. His critique of the alienation of labour led him to look for an exit from salaried productivism in the forms of guaranteed income and “cooperation circles” – perhaps as a prelude to the free interchange of the immaterial economy…

Frédéric Neyrat. L’affirmation autonome jusque dans la mort
With its recent multi-partner environmental negotiations, France has sketched the outlines of a new growth model and a new regulation of capitalism, complete with the behavioural norms required by this model. Andre Gorz predicted all that, from 1974 onwards. To read Gorz is to understand the gradual onset of a bio political capitalism, an endurable capitalism. His texts are an assertion of autonomy, against what Illich called “the bureaucratic management of human survival”. With Gorz, we necessarily declare ourselves anti-capitalist. A true understanding of political ecology knows that life cannot be capitalized.

Elisabeth von Samsonow. L’Anti-Électre. Totémisme et schizogamie
For about a hundred years since the invention of the Oedipus complex, Electra stands for its feminine counterpart even though Freud would not have it thus established because he granted the female sex no claim to its own sexuality-marking complex. Electra is the mannequin on which Oedipus hangs like a coat on a coat rack.

Élisabeth Lebovici et Giovanna Zapperi. “Découvertes excitantes”: emplois et contre-emplois du féminisme dans les expositions
In 2007, various exhibitions, conferences and special issues of journals focused on the relations between art and feminism, while Documenta 12, which was heavily criticized for its conservative approach, may remain in history for having been the first Documenta in which half of the artists were women. By inquiring into these various phenomena, this article looks at the question of the temporalities of feminism, as opposed to the linearity of the narrative of art history, and suggests a strategic usage of feminism in the aesthetic realm.

Géraldine Gourbe et Charlotte Prévot. La figure du pirate ou la désobéissance civile: militantisme et art contemporain, vers des perméabilités réciproques
By focusing on the questions “what is the individual from the standpoint of domination?” and “what is the individual from the standpoint of resistance, struggle and subversion?”, we will analyze the relation between the militant group Women on Waves and certain contemporary artistic practices. In its necessary and efficient perturbation of borders and limits to actions (territorial, political, social, legal or artistic), this association seems to us to frontally pose contemporary art the question of commitment and especially the possibility of robust ethical action. The very principle of the Women on Waves is the idea that responsibility justifies disobedience. We will see in what way this civil disobedience is able to create singular relations between artistic action and associative groups.

Published 7 January 2008

Original in French
First published in

Contributed by Multitudes
© Multitudes Eurozine


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