Demands on Education: Things, We’ve Learned …

Editor’s Note: Last summer, I met the artist Eva Egermann in Vienna. She was a key organizer of the 2009 occupations of the Academy of Fine Arts. The occupations there were contemporaneous with a broad wave of occupations in Europe, occupations at The New School in NYC and the first wave of occupations across the University of California system. In the piece below, Eva and Elke Krasny discuss the ongoing struggle initiated by the occupations, with a particular focus on duration. Their exhibition 2 or 3 Things, we’ve learned explored, “by way of a subjective collection and discursive as well as performative interventions, the demands that art, education and social movements make on each other. The central issues are those of space, image and collectivity. The search is focused on the eruptive moments and the consequences of ongoing interventions and change over a long period of time, as well as changes and interventions that last.” – MW

EVA EGERMANN AND ELKE KRASNY IN CONVERSATION:

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In our discussions the connections were always key. We talked about connectivities, but also about conflicts and contradictions between the fields of art, of education and of movements of protest. Herewith we refer on one hand to the protest movements at universities in Austria and in Europe during the 2009 winter term and thereafter, but also movements making demands on other forms of education. Our research is a collaborative journey along these sometimes conflicting yet connecting lines. Institutions of teaching and learning can be seen as spaces of possible change, as soon as one starts to reflect, to desire and to demand things from an intervening and activist’s point of view.

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We were interested in projects and discourses actively dealing with the educational system, offering educational criticism or intervening into mainstream educational contexts. What approaches can be found, offering a different reflection upon education or proposing educational alternatives and self-organization? Which projects cover the topics of teaching and learning? In addition to these issues, the criticism by the protest movements and the eruptive moments created during the universities’ occupation became important. These situations created a potentiality, an extraordinary situation where other ways of learning were possible.

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An impressive collective agency was manifested. On one side, there were demonstrations. For example 50,000 people demonstrated on one evening and 40 universities all over Europe were occupied. On the other hand, normality returned quickly. How could we create another kind of permanence, another kind of lasting moment, out of such intense political activity, collectivity and discussion? How can we translate these eruptive learning activities and shifts into long-lasting, permanently altered circumstances? The title of the exhibition project should therefore not be understood in the sense of a lesson, but in the sense of a discussion on the intersection of artistic production, critical pedagogy and the protest movement.

After the politicization that students and tutors experienced through protests, there were also self-critical moments: What have we really changed? What has remained? Just a few things changed. It was a moment to pause and reflect, an interim time to take stock, reflecting other extraordinary situations ranging from the recent strike to former protest movements.

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The project pursues the perspective of protest and functions as a kind of collection in multifold ways. The exhibition space becomes a place where objects, artifacts, photographs, videos, processes, workshops and discussions meet. Artworks confront contradictions in the debate. On the one hand, this will open up space for confrontation, and on the other it will create a collection, which documents the artistic projects and the processes of educational critique.

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This subjective collection is not an archive in the classical sense, or a finalized documentation, but an (educational) method. It is a gathering of collective experiences. The question of what a collective could be or how collectivity could be organized expresses itself as an unresolved desire. The exhibition format we are creating is again a space, where collectivities meet each other: on one side through collected things, through works of art and artefacts, on the other side through different positions. In the documents, magazines and materials of AG Hexenpower, Art Work, of the seminar Zwischen Kunst & Bildung of the Free Class Frankfurt, Rosa Kerosene, of Manoa Free University, Meine Akademie, W…WirWissen, the School for Non-productive Learning, of rum 68 or <reformpause> long-lasting debates within art as a form of educational criticism become traceable.

Figures 14.1 and 14.2: 2 or 3 Things, we’ve learned. Intersections of Art, Pedagogy and Protest, storefront with wall-newspaper. IG Bildende Kunst Gallery Vienna, 2010 (photos: Eva Egermann)

The spatial intervention of Julia Wieger is working with reproductions of this collected material on black and white posters on the façade of the IG Bildende Kunst building. This creates an expansion of the exhibition space into the street and the collection is made public/accessible in the most literal sense. The façade becomes a wall newspaper. Citations chosen from the archive material are presented in new neighborhoods and contexts.

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The various thematic lines within the exhibition can be described as following. First: the fundamental connection between the fields of education and art as well as interferences, interventions and transfers between them. The project Hidden Curriculum, for example, deals with hidden curricula in educational institutions. The term ›hidden curriculum‹ refers to rituals and habitually practiced patterns, rules and norms, which are conveyed as the hidden agenda in schools and universities. In collaboration with students from three different schools, Anette Krauss asked about these practiced patterns.

The field of art is also a system with coded patterns, manners and rituals, comparable to a socialization process. Rainer Ganahl uses art spaces to organize reading circles within. Texts written by Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Rosa Luxemburg and Franz Fanon are read collectively in the White Cube, in a gallery or in a limousine during an Art Fair. Which role does the respective context play for the reading and how are collectivities and situations created?

H.arta Group (Maria Crista, Anca Gyemant and Rodica Tache) situate their work in the contexts of processes of the civil society, spatial formations, different publics, conception of history and gender relations. The ›transitionality‹ marking Romanian everyday life becomes the initiating moment to create other escape routes in history and other educational concepts.

H.arta Group drafted an alternative schoolbook for art classes, which defines the starting points for teaching art in a completely new way.

Sofia Olascoaga works in various contexts and is part of the School of Panamerican Unrest. She is dealing practically and theoretically with contexts of experimental pedagogy and artistic practice in Mexico. One reason for the critical debate with the connections of artistic strategies and alternative education methods is the reduction of resources for public education in Mexico. Another motivation is the interest in alternative educational history with historical references to collectivity and collaboration, artist groups like Proceso Pentagono, No-Grupo, Grupo Suma or TAI Art and Ideology Workshop.

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The second thematic line leads to works of art, but also to material, dealing with educational protest movements in the past. What were the historical 

struggles for education, their discourses in other times and in other places? What did people learn and un-learn from this and what could we build on today—how could we apply the knowledge of former struggles—in the sense of a genealogical practice—to present debates and arguments? The projects pose the question: whose history is documented and whose is not? What will remain? We want to examine other historical processes, amd show the continuity and discontinuity of protest movements. A broken continuity that is leaving traces…

In her work, Heidrun Holzfeind interviews activists in Mexico, who occupied the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) in 1968. The former students of the University of Mexico drafted a programme against the prevailing forms of repression and called for strikes and occupation. In interviews, they point out the importance of this movement for Mexican society, politics and culture. Sabine Bitter/Helmut Weber examined the archive material at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver from the 1960s. In their series Events Are Always Original they demonstrate, through photographs taken one day after the end of the protests, that these documents can also be perceived as an archive of tracing movements—as an archive of the traces of a production of space in the sense of Lefebvre. The archival materials were the material basis for a change in the contemporary perspective. On one hand they were looked at from a contemporary perspective and their meaning for us today. On the other hand, which is equally important, the materials were also re-read and used to reveal the traces of the production of protest from an emancipatory perspective. Originally these photographs had been taken in order to comply with the necessities of insurance and damage assessment. The contemporary reading in the work of Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber constitutes an intervention into the archived representation turning the representational logic of the assessment of damage into a representational logic of the assessment of empowerment, change and the traces of the production of another possible space within the university.

Marion von Osten and students and tutors of the University of Lüneburg researched within their project <reformpause> the history of educational reforms from the 1960s to today, and the tradition of criticism within university spaces. The research resulted in posters and a newspaper discussing how universities should be reformed and on what kind of historical traditions this argumentation is founded. These materials were included in the exhibition; copies of the newspaper were made available for the visitors to take home with them. Madeleine Bernstorff presents the screening En Rachachant by Daniele Huillet/Jean-Marie Straub based on the narrative Oh! Ernesto by Marguérite Duras. The relation between classroom, pupil, mother and teacher is shifting. Marijan Crtalic examines the present meaning, reception and presence of sculptures, which were made in the workers’ settlement of the Croatian steel factory Sisak in the context of a factory-run educational programme. The processes, which Crtalic documents artfully, bear witness upon a period of over 40 years of the making of these educational sculptures.

Cecila Wendt and Emma Hedditch rediscovered a forgotten document of a self-organized situation establishing an alternative form of learning. They came across the Free Women’s University Project that was founded in Italy in the 1970s. It was documented cinematically by Adriana Monti and photographically and in text form by Paolo Melchiori. The desire for learning broke every time limit and spread from the metal workers and chemical workers to the housewives and the unemployed: Scuola senza Fine/school without end From the initial 150 Hours of Courses emerged the Free Women’s University.

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Compared to these historical and documentary works other projects operate in a fictional or half-fictional/docu-fictional form. This is the third thematic line.

The O.T.K. Crumpers dancers, depicted in the drawings of Petja Dimitrova, demand non-violent education and self-determination and connect post-colonial theories with the practice of a critical, non-hegemonic form of image-production, but also the specific local reference to Vienna- Ottakring. The Factory of Escape by the Copenhagen Free University criticizes a neoliberal educational machine through the production of images as a visual and spatial strike. By connecting theory and performance, Dolce & Afghaner interact, react and intervene into real situations of demonstrations or occupation of spaces and create new fictional situations with real criticism and real demands within these exceptional situations of protest.

Fourth, we come to the question: What are the promising, alternative forms of education/learning? How can eruptive protest and learning activities, with regard to their settings, be transformed into changed relations? How can the disturbance within thinking be used for movement to facilitate collective involvements that last? What could queer education be?

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During the Anti-Bologna-Summit at the Vienna Unicampus in March 2010, we participated in a workshop, dealing with feminist/queer demands on education and the sexism within the educational protest movement. This was organized by students (some from the group Kollektive Involviertheiten/ Collective Involvements).

Following the stories on the spaces and the speaking positions within the occupation, we got the impression that gender egalitarianism is still not to be taken for granted in the context of educational situations. The history of feminist movements is one of discontinuity. The creation of continuities, spaces and interventions — or, for example, Women’s Movement for Everybody is a practice of the group Collective Involvements (Moslam, Pfingstl, Wagner, Weissman, Schasiepen), who discuss, practice, improvise and work on queer-feminist education concepts in collaboration with the Büro für fremde Angelegenheiten, Vipfek und Schwere Schwestern in the context of the exhibtion. Treat me right! was a party performance at Marea Alta which took place in conjunction with the exhibition.

Figures 14.3 and 14.4: 2 or 3 Things, we’ve learned. Intersections of Art, Pedagogy and Protest, inside the project space. IG Bildende Kunst Gallery Vienna, 2010 (photos by Eva Egermann)

Share a skill step by step is the instruction for the event Show & Tell, which was hosted by Marthe Van Dessel. The pedagogical format of Show & Tell was turned into a collective production of learning from each other. Katharina Strubers’ visual work deals with the situation of protests, public lectures, held on the streets as part of the strikes, on Piazza Navona in Rome. On 29 October 2008 in Italy, a resolution was passed about new educational laws. Behind the protesters, occupying public space, we can see the ministry down the lane—the workplace of Berlusconi and minister Gelmini. Struber challenges the limits of documentation.

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What all these projects have in common, apart from questioning the organization of collectivity, is the level of possible interventions and shifts. They initiate something. The artworks in the exhibition and collection create other images, visual experiences: imaginations on education and learning activity as well as possible shifts in predefined spaces of education or of educational contexts.

The spatial intervention of Nanna Neudeck and Titusz Tarnai translates the eruptive moments, displaced and distorted situations into an opportunity of action for visitors to the exhibition. The monitors, traditional slide projectors as well as digital projectors were installed on tripods made out of steel supports and euro palettes as platforms. Steel handles made it possible to turn the projecting devices placed on the tripods. Each turn made by visitors created new perspectives within the exhibition. Each turn created new shifts, alternative constellations, sometimes even a layering of projections. Each new position created by the turns of the visitors changed the exhbition as a whole. The neighbourhoods reflect the contexts. The installation of the display created the potentiality of visitors’ intervention.

The blog by bolwerK http://www.ooooo.be/2or3thingswevelearned is a growing space for debate, controversy, shift, intervention, discrepancy and links.

Space is educating, space is formed, space is forming. The social production of space, as Lefebvre is pointing out, can be taken a step further through conceptualizing space as the third educator. Who else is educating? What educates oneself? What forms oneself? To put it as a question: We walk past the previously occupied auditorium of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. How do we perceive this space? Do we see it as occupied with all these bodies, their inscriptions and volatility? This disposed imaginary leads us again to the relation of moment and duration …

Whereas before the strike, the auditorium was not seen as or associated with a place of self-organized intervention and inhabitation, this has changed. It is now a place with possibilities. This happened with many places and is a substantial shift. Additionally, the protests led to the founding of new structures, of networks and magazines, to the formation of political consciousness. These accomplishments, be they newly created spaces or political structures and projects, however, are mostly fragile and precarious. They will always have to be re-established and re-claimed, over and over again.

Figure 14.5: Email from the Camel Collective, January 2011

This text derived out of the project 2 or 3 Things, we’ve learned, an exhibition project in the IG Bildende Kunst Gallery in Vienna, autumn 2010, in which the space RE:solutions conference was happening and was translated in the course of the preparation of the 2nd World Congress of Free Artists, November 2010 in Aarhus, organized by the Camel Collective.

The preceding text was first published in: Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer (eds.), Space (Re)Solutions: Intervention and Research in Visual Culture, Bielefeld Transcript 2012

An Open Letter to UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy White


On Thursday, January 19 I spent a good part of the afternoon as a member of the crowd protesting outside the UC Regents meeting. I stood with students I’d taught, students I knew from their work with campus organizations, and students I’ve seen at other demonstrations. I stood with faculty, staff, Occupy activists from the region, and students from other campuses.

I stood right behind a barricade formed from placards painted after the cover of books used in our classrooms. This book-barricade was both a visual intervention (asserting knowledge as our choice of defense) and something that helped us to maintain our shape as a crowd.

In the two hours I was behind that barricade, we didn’t move forward or back. We just stood there, chanting, talking, expressing our anger. The crowd got bigger and louder, but its peaceful character didn’t change. The crowd successfully used Occupy Movement practices to control itself. Nevertheless, toward the end of the Regent’s meeting, a UCPD officer declared through a bullhorn that our gathering was “an unlawful assembly.”

The crowd chanted, “Tell us why! Tell us why! Tell us why!” It was an honest request.

No one on the other side made even the slightest gesture to respond to our question. And no administrator made even the slightest gesture towards negotiating with us. To do so would have been to admit that the UC Regents were trapped inside the building. To do so would have been to admit that the University of California Regents had grossly underestimated UC Riverside when it chose the campus for its meeting.

Our campus is “docile” by some standards. We don’t have Berkeley or UCLA’s history of activism. A lot of our students commute, which means that our campus environment is less condensed, less volatile.

UC Riverside is an open campus – perhaps the most open in the University of California system. Parking is relatively cheap and easy. Our students are so diverse it’s hard to imagine what person would think, “this campus doesn’t represent me.” If Berkeley and UCLA are often the sites of large protests it is partly because those campuses represent the system – participating in an action there has a unique symbolic function, as those campuses are “flagship” campuses.

Our campus represents something else. Our campus is rich with transfers from the community college system, rich with returning students, veterans, parents, kids who are the first in their families to graduate from college. Dreamers.

In the University of California system, our campus has one of the most organic relationships with its region. This makes for good press, but it also means that of the UC campuses we are the most reliant on state funds. We are the most vulnerable, our life as a public university feels quite precarious.

On some level, the people planning this meeting banked on that precarity. They banked on the notion that our students are too busy working to pay their tuition (and/or their parents’ mortgages) to get involved with a protest.

The people coordinating the Regents meeting seemed surprised by the size of the crowd, and by its persistence. The UCPD and the administration’s confusion struck a lot of us as dangerous.

When the UCPD declared our demonstration an “unlawful assembly” it implicitly announced its intention to use force to break up the crowd without seeking another way to address the situation: negotiation of an exit for the Regents. With a negotiated exit the Regents risked not violence, but the embarrassment of being shunned.

The only instruction given to us was to not advance. In two hours, there’d been no motion from the crowd indicating that we would do so. There was discussion about moving forward and also if we should back up, since many of us were crowded on stairs and if the UCPD advanced on us there, we’d likely be hurt. But we did neither. We held our ground. The barricade formed at the front helped us to do that.

Word got out that the Regents were trying to leave via the back of the building (protesters were also there, but in smaller numbers). The crowd at the front broke up as we tried to reform at the building’s service entrance.

When we got to the back of the student center, those forming the book barricade tried to take their protective stance at the front of the crowd. Someone took one of the metal barricades and pulled them towards the protesters, as we’d been doing all afternoon at various points around the building. No one had previously interfered with this.

The UCPD found their chance, though – as the crowd regrouped at the back of the student center, they used force to prevent the formation of another blockade. Later, they would describe the attempt to form a barricade as violent. When the protesters went to move barricades (again, as they’d been doing all day with no interference), it was not an act of violence. There was nothing threatening about it – the threat was that the activists were going to successfully block the street. At this point, people were shoved to the ground, dragged across the pavement and plastic pellets were shot at the crowd. I saw wounds left by these pellets on students I’ve seen in my own classrooms.

The UCPD threw people to the ground, the UCPD shot their new pellet guns into the crowd, the UCPD used force on us. There is ample video out there showing this.

By this point, I should add, people had been peacefully protesting for hours – at any point the UCPD or the campus administration might have sought another path by engaging us in dialogue.

The next day: UC administrators organized an Orwellian campaign to represent the violence of that incident as caused not by the UCPD but by the protesters. Even more bizarre was the eagerness for the administration to blame not students, but the public – as if the two should be distinguished from each other. In his weekly letter to the campus community Chancellor White claimed that “the disturbance of a few individuals” ruined the demonstration, and that they did not represent the “non-violent students and community members engaged in peaceful protest and exercising their right to free speech.” (January 20, 2012) But the people beaten and shot at by the UCPD are our students; they are our colleagues. And they are our neighbors. We were all in it together. They are the public, and the public is us.

Tell us why, Chancellor White. Why you stopped seeing yourself in us.

 

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As you know, dear reader, in the Autumn of 2011, objective economic conditions mobilized many people living in the United States. From the perspective of someone isolated in Ohio who, despite Endnotes, still cares about communization and anarchism, the developments in New York City couldn’t have gotten off to a falser start.  What happened last year in NYC was not a start at all: the current historical series of international occupations began in 2008 and 2009 at the New School and on UC campuses. The campout at Zucotti Park largely co-opted these events for the sake of a “mass movement.”

Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, but people didn’t actually occupy Wall Street. They gathered in New York City’s privately held Zuccotti Park. The campers had been called-forth by a Vancouver-based liberal consumer activist group known as Adbusters™.  Although some have mistaken Abusters™ for an anti-capitalist organization, prior to OWS, they were safely ensconced in the capitalist marketplace of ideas and goods, having done nothing but create an “environmentalist” “alternative” business. Posing as neo-Situationists, they ran various campaigns of “subvertisments” which subverted nothing, as if what used to be called detournment has the same effect today as it did 5 decades ago when capitalism was still expanding.

Adbusters™ instigated gentle flash mobs and “Google™ bombing,” confining their activities to the level of ideas and avoiding militancy at all costs.  Their material interventions consisted of selling. Adbusters’™ goods included a glossy magazine available at bourgeois gourmet co-ops, and Blackspot™ shoes made of recycled vegan materials by slightly-less-exploited workers in Portugal. They might as well have had an ownership position in the Anti-Mall in Irvine California.  None of these practices conflicted with Abusters’™ moronic ideology, which centers on the claim that we all have “authentic selves” that need to be rescued through heroic acts such as avoiding video games and spending some time away from the Internet.

In 2009, an editor at at Adbuster’s magazine, Micah White, attended one of the first occupations in the current historical series, at UC Berkeley ‘s Wheeler Hall. Despite the fact that those occupiers were motivated by a desire for communization brought on by deteriorating material conditions at the university, White decided that the action was about building “a mental environment movement [sic] capable of smashing corporations, downsizing consumer spending and building egalitarian communities” along with other such idealist nonsense. White and the rest of the Adbusters™ crew went on to co-opt the form of occupation for their own program to capture emerging revolutionary energies for a citizen’s movement made up of people already represented in the cesspool of citizenship. Needless to say, they left behind the historical content of the first occupations.

Although Adbusters™ and their associates have pretended to be revolutionaries,

they organized a reform movement aimed at getting corporate money out of politics. That sole initial demand was enough to unmask Adbusters’™ anti-capitalist front as well as any pretense they had of understanding how capitalism works. To make matters worse, anthropologist and lifestyle-anarchist David Graeber helped them plan the September event. He added to the mix a simplistic understanding of horizontality, a love for counter-revolutionary general assemblies, the myth that the people of Tahrir Square were non-violent, and a total failure to realize that the Spanish acampadas had been utterly useless.

 99% + 1% = 100%

On September 8, 2011 posts started to appear on a tumblr™ called We Are the 99 Percent set up by a new york activist seemingly known only as “Chris” and Priscilla Grim, development and marketing director for the New Media Collective. Objective conditions allowed the symbol-managers’ eponymous slogan to go viral. The posts on We Are The 99 Percent mainly feature photographs of people holding up signs bearing the rather long, touching stories of their financial misfortunes. In general, the narratives go a little something like this: “I played by all the rules, tried to be a good citizen, ended up with massive debts anyways and had to suffer consequences.”  Grim and “Chris” clearly intended the phrase and the blog to offer a point of political identification in order to grow a mass movement.

Unfortunately, mass movements function as apparatuses of capture. Despite the many entries on the blog, few, if any, posts articulated a systemic critique of capitalism. The founders of the tumblr™ did nothing to encourage such a critique. #Anyone can understand that they did not do so because such critiques would be against their interests. Grim’s job depends on the continuation of capitalism. Such critiques, too radical for quick consumption by a truly mass public, would limit the viral contagion of We Are The 99 Percent.

The United States, protector of market democracy, was the 99%’s homeland.  Grim and “Chris” seem to have derived the figure from data distributed in popular venues by players such as former World Bank Senior Vice President Joseph E. Stiglitz. Though such articles make international references, they define the top 1%, and the other 99% in terms of the US economy. The rhetoric of articles such as Stiglitz’s address the zombie citizen-worker. The labor of that zombie establishes her national civic belonging complete with rights and responsibilities. It excludes those unwilling to submit to labor or law. Sets defined by percentages of Amerikans, such as the ones drawn by Stiglitz, limit social conflict to one between people in, and largely from, the United States. They exclude those within the US who can’t, or won’t, enter representation’s hall of mirrors. Despite their claim that they want to make themselves visible, the 99% already get represented. They want to represent themselves in a new way, aspiring to become managers of capital for 100% of citizens. Steiglitz’s article typifies the economic thinking from which the 99% emerges, a reformist Keynesian scenario within which the supposed revolutionaries desire a better distribution of capital, not its end. #Anyone who has thought about revolution for more than a day can see that Keynesian regulation constitutes part of the boom and bust cycle of contemporary capitalism.

Many of those who gathered at Zuccotti Park in September identified with the 99%. The tumblr™ title became the campers’ more or less official slogan. The national data that provided the basis for the 99% figure spoke to their barely repressed love of country. The campers patriotically renamed Zuccotti Liberty Park. Instead of challenging the dominance of capital, much of the discussion there turned to rescuing the Amkerikan dream, a rhetoric that latched onto various pre-existent slogans among electoral politicians. From the beginning, the campers dragged the tradition of politics as we know it along with them. The 99% was on a brief vacation from voting, but were destined to become a voting bloq once again.

One ought not to feel surprise that the 99% call only for a reform of capitalism and not for an end to capital. They exist in a not-so-secret complicity with the 1% that they pretend to revile. Together, the 1% and the 99% constitute 100% of those assimilated within social representation. The material interests of the 99% force the group to support the democratic process. Electoral democracy is a phenomenon indistinguishable from capitalism, while direct democracy and economic democracy are nonsensical terms. The 1% and the 99% make up “society” as a whole and they need each other.

As Herbert Marcuse pointed out a long time ago, only forces from outside a given whole can negate it.

“The outside about which I have spoken is not to be understood mechanistically in the spatial sense but, on the contrary, as the qualitative difference which overcomes the existing antitheses inside the antagonistic partial whole […] and which is not reducible to these antitheses. […] [T]he force of negation is concentrated in no one class. Politically and morally, rationally and instinctively, it is a chaotic, anarchistic opposition: the refusal to join and play a part, the disgust at all prosperity, the compulsion to resist. It is a feeble, unorganized opposition which nonetheless rests on motives and purposes which stand in irreconcilable contradiction to the existing whole.” [Herbert Marcuse, “The Concept of Negation in the Dialectic:’ Telos (Summer, 1 971): 130-132. Cited in Tiqqun. This Is Not A Program. Joshua David Jordan, Trans. Semiotext. LA 2011.]

In the contemporary United States, the 1% and the 99% make up Marcuse’s “antagonistic partial whole.” Nonetheless, the 99% has revolutionary pretenses despite being lodged firmly within the empire of capital like Leopold Bloom in Dublin. Even once and future Obama voters enjoy saying the word “revolution.” When they do, it loses all meaning.

The 99%, acts as the loyal opposition within the capitalist society. It cannot even formulate a critique of the system let alone start a revolution. Incapable of understanding itself as a diverse collection of relations, it mistakes itself for a group of individuals bound together by a desire for reform. The least radical common denominator unites the 99%. Such a low level of consciousness is an immutable feature of mass movements within the contemporary biopolitical fabric, one perhaps more pronounced in mass movements inspired by marketing professionals with day jobs that rely on the demographic logic at the heart of biopoltical governance.

Obviously, the 99% has a purely demographic form. When those who call themselves the 99% occupy a space, they do so in order to establish a provisional territory within which they can be counted. To a certain extent, elements outside the 99% have been able to instantiate other forms of life inside the provisional territories, but the 99% has so far prevented the new forms from shifting the biopolitical terrain surrounding them. The 99% can’t make war on capital’s form of life because they are part of the numerical regulation of life indissociable from democratic capitalism.  They forget that they have been counted from the time of their birth and have occupied a territory since the genocide that took place in the Americas. No co-optation necessary: the 99% can’t prevent themselves from becoming a voting bloq. Starting with its name, the 99% assumes that something different will come from within the 100% and the economic relations that determine it.

The 99% simply figures a new spirit of solidarity — one that so palpably gerrymandered that even its Galbraithio-Keynesian priests quickly started to revise the percentage downwards while claiming that 80% should count as 99%. The professionals of identity among the 99% have realized that they are an overwhelmingly white group and make condescending overtures to bourgeois people of color to join them. They look away from #anybody outside of society, or even those on it’s margins until it becomes politically expedient to acknowledge them. As a result, they can narrate their identities as the exploited, but can’t tell a story about the origin or end of exploitation. Nowhere has this been better articulated than by this reading group from Baltimore, perhaps because, in addition to knowing the literature of political economy and insurrection, they get excluded from the 100% by the 100% because of their bodies.

#Anyone who bothers to look can find a fierce pride in being Amerikans – a pride that structures the 99%’s reformist citizen-consciousness. That pride finds its clearest expression in the 99%’s naturalized rules of membership. If the set included all of the people on earth, the 99% would become part of something close to 1% of the wealthiest individuals globally. In order to survive, they must pretend their poorly drawn Venn diagram refers to an actual state of affairs. The 99%’s new spirit of solidarity is, in fact, an old and vindictive one. It arises from the fact that their wealth comes from the exploitation of others. They conceal this from themselves by abstracting, homogenizing, and objectifying the concept of exploitation, as if it were milk in a supermarket. The 99%’s citizenship-drug produces the delirium of rights, among them the right to representation, while paralyzing the movements of 99% so severely that they can’t act in any way proscribed by the rules set up for them by capital. Incapable of seriously considering armed struggle or the seizure of indoor, unambiguously private property, they want to rebuild the Amerikan dream and voice their belief that it will “live again” and that “the Ameri[k]an way is to help one another succeed.” Sadly, Mayor Bloomberg was correct to assert that both the 99% and the 1% dream of a return to boom times — boom times based on the extraction of surplus value from someone, somewhere.

Only the magic of reification allows the 99% to understand their spirit of solidarity as a static thing that paradoxically grows while obeying strict but disavowed principles of inclusion and exclusion. The repression of the contradictions that define their membership allows this process of reification to succeed.

Neither every visitor nor every camper at Zuccotti Park was fully captured by the ideological apparatus called “the 99%.” A former student of Marcuse’s, Angela Davis, was one of the few celebrity speakers to openly discuss the striations structuring the campout and the 99% in general. She stressed the importance of a dialectic of differences, of struggle within the struggle. Davis spoke of developing the occupations’ revolutionary potential, but did not make the mistake of calling the current occupations revolutionary and thereby hollowing out that word even further.

Clearly, and perhaps less than fortunately, Davis wants to “meet people where they’re at,” so she uses the rhetoric of  “the 99%,” but at least she seems to use the figure to name an element in a dialectical process that has an inside and an outside. She has been affiliated with a rather pathetic electoral politics, running for national office as a Revolutionary Communist Party member and continues to engage with Obama and his cronies. Nonetheless, she has consistently invoked those excluded from a society that pretends to be universal. In fact, she is one of the excluded. At the end of the Q & A that followed her talk in Zuccotti, she recommended that the campers identify with Troy Davis and “learn to become a dangerous class” from the prisoners who rose up at Attica in 1971.

The incarcerated and those on death row exemplify the outside described by Marcuse. In the simplest sense, society confines felons and denies them representation through voting along with other aspects of citizenship. Locked up felons don’t teach us to how to expand the 100% so that it includes them, nor do they teach us how the 99% can overcome and absorb the 1%. They teach us to destroy — to negate all extant social relations.

Naturally, Davis’s suggestions were immediately shot down by low-octane racist wannabe managers of semi-socialized capital. These Galbraithio-Keynesian’s wearing Leninist clothing felt the 99% should associate themselves with those who have power. Her attempts to change what “growing a movement” means and the reactions to them shine a light on the self-contradictory nature of the 99%.

The new spirit of solidarity reveals itself as nothing but the current face of the diffuse spectacle, social relations mediated by images which substitute death for life. The 99% clarified this when, in Washing DC, they arranged their bodies into a mass ornament, writing out 99% in a collective pose meant for aerial photography. They behave as if the spectacle were determined by the production alternative images and narratives, rather than by sets of economic relations. Predictably, their tactics and goals reflect the assumption that groups of individuals rather than sets of relations determine economies. In short they live as if trapped in a reflection on the surface of death’s mirror.

0%

Given the renewed veneration of the first full picture of the earth taken from the moon in certain European philosophy seminars, one might think that the empire of capital has universalized death’s mirror and no one escapes potential representation as a citizen and capitalist subject. We are all reflected through a glass eccentrically, but we make a mistake when we think we have no choice but to aspire to become symbol-managers who must organize “messaging” capable of invoking a multitude desiring the socialization of capital. When we willingly accept the specular sensorium of capital’s biopolitical metaphors, we collaborate with the forces that turn us into our own bosses. Due to a parallax effect determined by class composition and the division of labor, the spectacle only reflects a part of the social whole properly, showing them to themselves as silent individuals. Some of us see on death’s mirror only distorted images of our relations. We remember that we have ears and mouths as well as eyes. Not every acoustic phenomenon communicates. As Empire’s LRAD teaches us, vibrations involve physical force.

We can make noise loud enough to break mirrors too.

Those who have no right to representation and those who refuse the stasis of rights and representation, the non-citizens without any desire to become citizens, don’t form a set.  Their noise is the very possibility of the outside Marcuse wrote about. When we move as 0%, we refuse to join and play a part, we sing disgust at all prosperity and articulate our compulsion to resist with the tinkling of shattered glass. We seek to take the cities, not because we have a right to them, but because they must become communes. Position, not solidified specular identity, defines and delimits our “we.” #Anyone who moves away from capital’s empire toward the outside, #anyone who resists becomes us.

0% movements produce chaos in capital and empire. Their force increases along lines of affiance and separation based on concrete relations with others. Affiance and separation are anything but the growth associated with the 99%’s demographic counting. The constitutive disorganization and anarchistic fragmentation of 0% resistance has taught those involved that being too small to fail sometimes releases more power than being too big to fail. The lone warrior, the cell, the gang, the alliance that can shut down all the ports along a coast, the commune capable of occupying a whole city, collective sabotage, mass default: all of these 0% movements gain effectiveness from internal and external friendships and conflicts.

Although 0% movements vibrate across the globe, the region around San Francisco Bay resonates turbulently at the moment —  Oakland in particular. The forces of the outside have emerged so strongly in Oakland and vicinity because of its concrete history of struggle with capital’s watchdogs. Police departments in the Bay Area have a long history of murdering unarmed men of color.

The killing of Oscar Grant on the night of December 31st  2008 to January 1, 2009 is the best known of series of deaths at the hands of police.

Those killings led to 0% actions among diverse groups whose internal conflicts and separations worked on each other to intensify the local rage. Because of these actions and the radical character of the UC occupations of 2009,

by the time OWS spread to Oakland, the anarchic forces of the outside could operate it much more effective than they could in New York City. The Oakland Communetook a plaza in front of City Hall and renamed it after Oscar Grant. Clearly, the communards do not intend to set up a co-operative alternative space, or a temporary autonomous zone. They intend to keep fighting until they turn the city itself into a commune that can serve as a base for the intensification of struggle around the world.

In Santa Cruz, communards took an abandoned Wells Fargo Bank building on Front and River Streets.

Though the city was eventually able to evict them, their action showed the importance of collectively taking private, indoor property as a base of operations. By exposing the willingness of the State Repressive Apparatus to act violently in defense of private property, the communards demonstrated the real stakes in our struggle. The fight against capital is a fight against the system of private property, understood as a set of social relations. The bank isn’t a quasi-public space such as Zuccotti Park. Taking it involved attempted expropriation. Unlike foreclosure occupations, the plans for a community center at the bank did not include outside activists going to a more oppressed community and doing radical charity work. The bank was taken from capital by a collective of diverse forces for the benefit of all. If we are to occupy places within which to care for one another, within which to develop our positive capacities, within which to plan, we have no choice but to defend ourselves against the intensified conflict that the state and capital will bring to us. Lessons learned in the Wells Fargo occupation have already been applied to a coming building occupation in Oakland.

Conflict also intensified on UC campuses.

The willingness of students and faculty to stand down campus police showed an ability to struggle at an increased intensity, as if, upon returning to the locations of the beginnings of this historical series, occupations had become sublated during their global travels and expressed themselves at a higher level upon their return. Communards among the activists were able to use this incident to start working on eliminating the UC administration and ending campus police forces.

The power of the communards to resonate was never clearer than during the shutdown of every port on the West Coast.

100% – 0%

Those who will not be counted do not struggle against the individuals in the 1% or against their actions; 0% struggles resist the system that produces the 100%.

The fractures created by 0% vibrations begin with positive capacities and will end in in the negation of the totality of capitalism’s economic relations.

0% movement merges lines of affiance and separation in a dialectic open to all, synthesizing the violence of capital with that of necessary resistance.

#Anybody can move through 0% positions, whether through direct action, support, care or the intensification of positive capacities.

0% noise does not sing a spirit of solidarity, it sings a circulation of bodies.

As objective economic conditions continue to deteriorate and the resistance’s diversity of tactics comes increasingly to include armed struggle imposed on it by the 100%, a dialectic of separation will redeem our vulnerability and aging.

To move through o% positions, get in where you fit in.

 All power to the communes!

2011: Occupied

The following is a list of essays and features appearing on occupyeverything.org during 2011:

January 8, 2011
A Counter-Conference: Strategies for Defending Higher Education
organized by Bob Samuels; video by Cameron Granadino

The 2011 MLA Counter-Conference took place during the annual Modern Language Convention in Los Angeles, January 8th, 2011 at Loyola Law School.  While thousands of people were meeting at the traditional convention, this one-day event centered on discussing actual strategies for making higher education more just.

 

January 10, 2011
A Socially Anti-Social, Dialogically Autonomous, Psychedelic Social Practice
by Marc Herbst

Occupy Everything because everything has already been occupied.
Occupy Everything because everything is a site for contestation.

 

January 11, 2011
knowledge commons, power, pedagogy, feminism and collective practices
interview with Cara Baldwin by Paula Cobo

 Art institutions have historically operated as corporations, with varying effects/affects. At this particular moment what interests me in terms of collective practices are those that are incredibly open.

 

January 30, 2011
Masks, or The Illusion of Power
by Ken Ehrlich

So… when our actions become too rehearsed, we search for ways to re-animate our own sense of what constitutes collective, direct action. We try to shake off the distracted paralysis and the tormented mask. We look for ways to inject into our cynical narratives moments of off kilter gestures, we try to most of all to surprise ourselves.

 

February 22, 2011
Operational Aesthetics: Briefing Script
by Michael W. Wilson

An operational aesthetic is perceptual capacity in movement. Rather than seeking the productive end (communism), it seeks the procedural dynamic (communization). In doing so, it moves its focus to systemic functionality without fetishizing design. This dynamic is, by necessity, located within a system of exchange. When the operative threatens the circulation of existing goods, services and/or values, (s)he risks losing a position within that system.

 

March 4, 2011
Ask About An Autonomous University: 5 Exam Questions For Life
by Louis-Georges Schwartz

Common university ideology makes us feel that our work is a labor of love, yet resentment and fear fill our days. Exhaustion grips us to such an extent that we have no choice but to withdraw, but rather than fleeing into our families, the latest 3D entertainment or the hippest new bar, perhaps we could collectively seek refuge in an autonomous school we might tolerably call our own.

 

March 9, 2011
Notes on Labor, Maternity, and the Institution
by Jaleh Mansoor

How do others less lucky than I make it in the global service industry (in which education and so called higher education now takes it place, now that Professors at State schools are classified as mid level managers?) How do women who have babies and work make it? They pay to work; they pay with their children. Sacrificial economies.

 

April 13, 2011
OCCUPY EVERYTHING [I]ntimacy and Scale
by Cara Baldwin

I am first struck by the foreign impression of my own hand hitting paper. To set out to write in this way is to see my own handwriting for the first in a very long time. It’s grown sloppy. I dreamt last night I was looking at my writing from years ago. How clearly cloying my penmanship was then. It expressed a sincere desire for legibility and understanding–even approval.

 

June 17, 2011
Three Crises: 30s – 70s – Now
by Brian Holmes

What we face is a triple crisis, economic, geopolitical and ecological, with consequences that cannot be predicted on the basis of past experience. Can we identify some of the central contradictions that will mark the upcoming years? Which institutions and social bargains have already come under severe stress? In what ways will the ecological crisis begin to produce political responses? How will class relations within the United States interact with crossborder and worldwide struggles? Is it possible to imagine — and work toward — a positive transformation of the current technopolitical paradigm?

 

July 7, 2011
CONTENTS #1: USERSHIP
by Stephen Wright (introduced by Sean Dockray)

The first issue of Contents is a contribution from Stephen Wright on “Usership.” For the past few years I’ve been fascinated by Stephen’s ideas about invisibility, use, and redundancy, all of which come into play in the writing below. In particular, I’ve wondered about the relationship between “the user” and “the worker” – on the one hand, the difference is one between playing the role of a consumer and that of a producer; but on the other hand, as users, our activity is producing value somewhere (websites, telecoms, IP holders).

 

July 22, 2011
The Summary Execution of Kenneth Harding and Reaction to Police Terrorism in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Timeline
by Louis-Georges Schwartz
August 5, 2011
An Introduction to Tahrir Documents
by Tahrir Documents

Tahrir Documents collects printed matter from Cairo’s Tahrir Square and its environs. Since the first week of March, volunteers in Cairo have gone to the square, usually on Fridays, to gather documents distributed at protests and rallies. The archive continues to grow as new groups emerge, rallies continue, and the production of printed material keeps pace. We also accept scanned or  photographed submissions sent in by individuals not directly involved in the project, such as friends in Alexandria documenting the appearance of printed material there.

 

August 5, 2011
Tahrir Documents: A Guide
by Tahrir Documents

The following is a sample of some of the documents we have collected from Tahrir Square, translated, and published in English alongside the Arabic originals. They are arranged here alphabetically by title and linked to the full-length translated document, along with a PDF of the original, on our website.

 

August 9, 2011
Tolerance or Universality
by Kailash Srinivasan

In August 2010, The Guardian ran a graphic segment on female genital mutilation, which represented extremely violent imagery of victimized women and girls. The piece produced, however, a mix of fascination and guilt.

 

August 16, 2011
CONTENTS #2: they are several
by Cara Baldwin (introduced by Sean Dockray)

An introduction to Cara Baldwin’s contribution, they are several. At the end of April, when Cara was compiling links related to a situation in which Facebook shut down the pages of dozens of anti cuts groups in the UK, I invited her to use the platform of CONTENTS (at that point more of an idea than a platform) as a tool to organize and make public this research.

 

August 23, 2011
Notes from Tehran (a Green Movement after the Arab Spring?)
by Milad Faraz (introduced by Jaleh Mansoor)

Two years after what has emerged as a “Green Movement”, it is the author’s critical understanding of the movement, its historical significance and the threat posed to it by what is characterized as its liberal and secularist articulations. The piece draws on critical reflections on conceptions of “religion” and “secularism” and argues for a historical understanding of such concepts in making sense of Iranian modern politics.

 

August 31, 2011
Eat the Rich
by Brian Holmes

Americans like to keep things simple and direct, so here it is: they rule. For the simple reason that they (the ruling class) have all the money. The top 5% of US citizens own almost 2/3 of the country’s wealth, or 63.5%. Compare that massive share to 12.8% for the bottom 80% — that is, “the rest of us,” as Rhonda Winter puts it in the excellent article from which this pie chart is taken.

 

October 4, 2011
The Time of Crisis
by Joshua Clover

 The class is not that of Multitude, of dematerialized labor, but is the class of debt — and the politics of time, I think this is an inevitable conclusion, is that of debt default. Debt default — and perhaps this is my only claim — is the temporal complement to the specific or general strike, and is the route of solidarity with material labor, with the place of exploitation.

 

October 10, 2011
Open Letter Re: OccupyLA—Solidarity, Critiques, Reinventions
by paracaidistas collective

Many of us are not shy about expressing our hatred for capitalism itself, and the entrenched institionalized inequalities that stem from it. We do not believe that a legislative solution will lead us out of this crisis; the entire legislative system exists in the service of structures of power designed to privilege the few at the expense of the many, and based on profound disrespect for the needs and perspectives of the majority of the humans on this planet (not to mention the planet itself).

 

November 1, 2011
The Oakland Commune
by Louis-Georges Schwartz & Michael W. Wilson

 The Oakland Commune doesn’t grow by seducing public opinion in order to enlarge its membership. It grows by showing what it can do. The Oakland Commune can make Oscar Grant Plaza habitable for a large number of people; itcan run a library; it can resist assault by the police; it can fight other factions in the 99% for the right to actively defend itself against state violence; it can retake the territory from which it had been evicted by the brutal force of the police; it canspark direct action by 0%ers as far away as New York City; it can declare a general strike.

 

November 22, 2011
The “Pepper Spray Incident” and the Inevitable Radicalization of the UC Student Body
by Eric Lee

The participation of thousands of students across the state in the anti-Wall Street movement represents the rapid radicalization of California students, which in itself is indicative of the quick move to the left by millions of movement sympathizers. The radicalization of the students manifests itself on the busses, in the restaurants, and in the coffee shops on and around my campus, where discussion of political strategy dominates. Of course, these anecdotes mean relatively little—but the politicization of the student body is significant nevertheless. Though the process of politicization is experiencing its birth pangs, it is emotionally moving that the process has finally begun.

 

December 15, 2011
How Many Sexual Assaults Happened at #OccupyLA?
by Micha Cardenas

To those who would say this is a peripheral issue, I absolutely disagree. I propose that the question as to whether we can create spaces which challenging existing institutions of violence, such as economic inequality, without reproducing and even worsening other institutions of violence, such as a patriarchal rape culture, must be central to the occupation movement. Whose liberation and equality is this movement about?

How Many Sexual Assaults Happened at #OccupyLA?

[trigger warning]

I just got back from having dinner with a friend of mine who spent many nights at OccupyLA. This is a person who I think has a good understanding of gender politics and of what happened at OccupyLA. I was shocked to hear him tell me that there were probably over 10 or over 20 or more cases of sexual assault at OccupyLA. As someone who has been following the tweets, articles, blog posts and when I can the live feed for OccupyLA very closely since it began, I was incredibly disheartened to hear these numbers. My understanding was that there was one case. This says to me that people have been keeping these incidents out of public discussion to protect the movement, which is incredibly upsetting because if the Occupy movement thinks that sexual assault is tolerable in any way than I will be so ashamed that I ever supported them in any way. Clearly, a movement that is so multiplicitous and with such fuzzy boundaries as the Occupy movement can’t be said to hold many or possibly any opinions or priorities, but I would say that it seems like there may have been an effort by many Occupy organizers to keep the number of sexual assaults a secret.

Why is this such a problem? Don’t the people experiencing assault have the right to their privacy? Yes, of course they do, but as a woman and a trans person, I feel like I would have not been safe sleeping at OccupyLA and I wouldn’t have known it until I was there, possibly until it was too late because the issue was kept so well under wraps that someone following the news every day and talking to everyone they knew, including participants, organizers and scholars following the occupations didn’t know at all how prevalent the issue was.

I felt unsafe from my first time at Occupy LA, the first march to City Hall. That day, I was with my girlfriend and two men tried to hit on us and one even grabbed her arm with no invitation at all to do so. I knew from that first moment in the bright daylight that this was not a safe place for me to sleep.

I was so sad to hear these words come from my friend’s mouth, he said that every night you could hear someone yelling “get out! get the fuck out of my tent!” and that there was so much booze and drugs. He also said that the claim that there were many assaults was being used as a right wing “troll” tactic, but that is no excuse for hiding the problem if it exists. He also said that even at the General Assembly, where the issue of assault was discussed two nights, that while many people came to the mic to say that the issue should be discussed (for 10 minutes) that still many others came to the mic to say that the camp is about wall street and not about this issue. Additionally, my friend said that very few women were staying in the camp towards the end near the eviction.

I have also had numerous people ask me, when I bring up the issue of sexual assault at occupations, if this is above the usual number of assaults that happen. As if it mattered? That response is clearly a way of minimalizing and normalizing the issue of sexual assault instead of taking responsibility for the fact that as people who support this movement, even by writing and tweeting about it, we may be supporting the creation of a space where people are sexually assaulted. Now we have to certainly distinguish between different occupations, but if organizers are keeping this issue a secret how can people even know?

I am so incredibly disheartened by this news and I think that as participants in this movement, which I consider myself having been to many rallies and events, and as supporters, we need to understand the extent of this problem. Perhaps this is something that the #OccupyData hackers can try to find, a number of cases of sexual assault at different occupations? How can people accept this? I refuse to participate in a movement which would attempt to create intentional space to envision a new world in which sexual assault is acceptable and should be kept quiet.

 To those who would say this is a peripheral issue, I absolutely disagree. I propose that the question as to whether we can create spaces which challenging existing institutions of violence, such as economic inequality, without reproducing and even worsening other institutions of violence, such as a patriarchal rape culture, must be central to the occupation movement. Whose liberation and equality is this movement about?

UPDATE: 1:49pm: I want to add, to be clear, that I am fully in support of prison abolitionist and community based strategies for responding to and preventing sexual violence which increase community autonomy and do not depend on police. That is precisely why the handling of this issue in these autonomous spaces is so important to me, because we need to develop strategies collectively that do not cause more harm. Additionally, I want to add that I am in no way trying to reproduce a gender binary, white centered, class privileged analysis, I fully acknowledge that people of all genders are affected by sexual violence and the most affected groups are transgender women of color and sex workers.