It has been four years since the financial collapse of 2008 set off the greatest world economic crisis since the 1930s. “Reform” measures put into place to stop the hemorrhaging have succeeded only in exacerbating socio-economic inequalities around the country, with the poor, once again, bearing the highest costs. Nowhere is this more apparent than the right-wing attacks on public workers, unions, and pensions. It comes as no surprise to teachers that they find themselves on the front lines.
On September 10th, educators began a citywide strike in Chicago, home of the third-largest school district in the country. Despite arrogant threats from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff for President Obama, the Chicago Teachers Union and community leaders have fought back against measures that have been described as “educational apartheid” by concerned parents. Under Emanuel’s hand-picked school board – largely devoid of actual teachers and mostly stacked with millionaire CEOs, privatization wonks, and real-estate developers – corporate operators have worked to seize public schools, enact longer school days and school years, and force blanket metrics for evaluating teachers and students. Teachers will be expected to do more work for less pay.
The Chicago establishment is known for this sort of thing. Milton Friedman, the spiritual forefather of deregulation and economist of the Chicago School of Economics infamously said:
“Only a crisis—actual or perceived—produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function … until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”
Emanuel has fully embraced Friedman’s ideas, taking advantage of the economic crisis to eliminate liberal arts classes, displace hundreds of teachers, weaken teacher health benefits and tenure, and privatize essential services. He’s also demanded teacher evaluations be tied to standardized tests results of students, an idea that hurts poor students as teachers in crowded inner-city schools are forced to narrow curriculum. Instead of planning lessons that teach students to inquire, students will be force-fed facts to be demonstrated on exams. Students will no longer learn, they will memorize.
As CTU President Karen Lewis proclaimed to thousands of teachers and parents at a Labor Day rally in Daley Plaza, “This fight is for the very soul of public education, not only in Chicago but everywhere.”
This is no exaggeration; Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools and architect of the privatization scheme he called “Renaissance 2010,” was appointed by President Obama to be secretary of education. His policies have been embedded in Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative, a union-opposed program that requires states to make reforms to get federal education funds. The anti-teacher Democrats in Chicago have another tie to the White House; Arne Duncan headed the CPS under Mayor Richard Daley, the brother of William Daley, who replaced Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff in 2011.
We are beginning to have as little choice between the two major parties at the national level in educational policy as we currently have on civil liberties and war-and-peace issues.
We are beginning to have as little choice between the two major parties at the national level in educational policy as we currently have on civil liberties and war-and-peace issues. Even Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, has been explicit in his support for Emanuel. “Rahm and I have not agreed on every issue or on a lot of issues,” he declared, “but Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teachers’ union strike is unnecessary and wrong.” He added that “education reform is a bipartisan issue.”
Unfortunately, Paul Ryan is correct. But if bipartisan efforts continue to pander to the hedge-fund bigwigs behind the charter school movement and ignore efforts at improving our public schools, our hopes for a better educated generation will be suspended, permanently. _________________________________________________________
Dr. Zakk Flash is an anarchist political writer, radical community activist, and editor of the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA). He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
Workers Call on Walmart to End Unsafe Working Conditions, Illegal Threats, Spying and Intimidation by Management
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Warehouse workers went on strike to protest unfair labor practices they have faced on the job Wednesday morning, following months of working in hot temperatures under extreme pressure in a major Walmart-contracted warehouse in Southern California.
Workers—who do not have a recognized union—walked off the job during the first shift at an NFI warehouse in Mira Loma, California to call for an end to retaliation and unfair labor practices. Workers have been fighting for more than a year for safe working conditions and for Walmart to take responsibility for conditions in the warehouse.
“When we spoke out to change terrible working conditions, workers were suspended, demoted and even fired. They spied on us and bullied us, all because we are fighting for dignity” said Limber Herrera, a warehouse worker for four years.
The strike comes one day before workers and their supporters begin a 50-mile, six-day pilgrimage from the warehouses to Downtown Los Angeles.
Workers face inadequate access to clean water, work under scorching heat that reaches well over 100 degrees, and have little access to basic healthcare, regular breaks, and properly functioning equipment. Their wages are low –$8 per hour and $250 a week, or $12,000 per year. Workplace injury is common.
But when workers tried to offer solutions to fix these abuses, they have been met with illegal threats and intimidation by management. Workers are employed by NFI and a temporary labor agency, Warestaff. Both companies are Walmart subcontractors, but the retail giant has ignored repeated attempts by workers to meet and address the inhumane and illegal conditions in its contracted warehouses.
As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart dictates the standards of operation in the logistics and distribution industry.
“These workers have exhausted all options,” said Guadalupe Palma, a director of Warehouse Workers United, an organization committed to improving warehousing jobs in Southern California’s Inland Empire. “Walmart must stop ignoring warehouse workers and intervene to uphold its own stated “Standards for Suppliers,” eliminate inhumane and illegal working conditions and sit down directly with warehouse workers to hear about their experiences in the warehouses and figure out how to improve working conditions.”
More than 85,000 workers labor in warehouses in Southern California, unloading merchandise from shipping containers that enter through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and loading it onto trucks destined for retail stores like Walmart. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating numerous federal charges filed by the warehouse workers.
WHAT: Press Conference to Launch Warehouse Worker Pilgrimage
WHEN: 10 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 13
WHERE: 601 S. Milliken Ave., Suite A, Ontario, California 91761
WHO: Warehouse Workers
Assemblymember Norma Torres
Rev. Eric Lee, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Art Rodriguez, President of United Farm Workers of America
Members of the clergy
VISUALS: Warehouse workers and their supporters will hold a short press conference in front of a warehouse and then commence marching up Milliken Ave. with signs and a backdrop of some of the world’s largest warehouses.
Warehouse workers will embark on their 50-mile march Sept. 13. They will sleep on church floors and rely on community organizations for support and meals. Marchers will be joined daily by supporters and elected officials. Workers will hold daily media events and will be available for interviews in English and Spanish throughout the entire march.
Follow the march on social media using the hashtag #WalMarch
Increasingly comprehensive overview of actions taking place in the SF Bay Area on May 1st. Listings of various planned direct actions, union and autonomous strikes, marches, occupations, shutdowns, etc. with the option to add/announce your own. Links to other similar sites : Chicago, Seattle, NYC.
May 1st is recognized worldwide as International Workers’ Day, a holiday originating in response to the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where workers fought for the establishment of worker protection measures, namely the eight hour workday. However, while the rest of the world marks May Day as a celebration of the working class, the United States is left with Labor Day—a banker’s holiday hurriedly passed through Congress by Grover Cleveland in an attempt to appease the outrage generated by the murder of railway workers at the hands of United States Army troops during the Pullman Strike.
May Day, along with notions of radical worker action, has largely been ignored in the United States in recent years. But the time for complacency has passed. While a worker walk-out may have been born from the secessio plebis of Ancient Rome, English Chartist and radical preacher William Benbow brought to modern times the idea of general strike as a “sacred month” in the first mass working-class labor movement. In 1877, the Great Railroad Strike began the first major labor action in the United States; centered in East Saint Louis, the strike shut down all industrial railway traffic through the National Stockyards, letting only passenger and mail trains through. In 1936, early in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, a series of strikes spread; half a million textile workers united in states across the country, dock workers and their associates in San Francisco, and radical Teamsters in Minneapolis all fought against the violence of police and armed strikebreakers. These strikes, and the unemployment councils that cropped up to encourage progressive change, pushed Roosevelt to enact bold reforms to the American system.
Over the course of two days in December of 1946, radical action brought City of Oakland to a standstill. The general strike there inspired the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act that President Truman called a “conflict with important principles of our democratic society,” even as he used it twelve times over the course of his presidency. The act essentially killed the general strike as a tactic for the labor movement.
The power of the working class, however, is not tied to mainstream organized labor; concessions by the AFL-CIO to the government’s National Labor Relations Board have made the organization little more than a special interest group for the Democrats, even as they pass anti-labor and anti-free speech legislation. While the working class needs the strength of militant unionization—the IWW Food and Retail Workers United union in the Pacific Northwest being a good example—the policies of the National Labor Relations Board are decidedly anti-worker. Capitulation of reactionary unions to NLRB demands, and to the Democratic Party, constitutes abandonment of the working class.
Knowing that union leadership would be refused the blessing of their Democratic Party masters, rank-and-file members of labor joined with the Occupy Movement to speak for themselves; in October 2011, the General Assembly of Occupy Oakland voted overwhelmingly to shut down the city on November 2nd in response to the military-style crackdown on demonstrators by eighteen different police agencies, including the critical wounding of Scott Olsen and Kayvan Sabehgi, two veterans of the war in Iraq. The convergence of radical labor and Occupy Oakland made it possible to shut down the Port of Oakland, the fifth-largest container port in the nation, disrupting millions of dollars of capitalist income. This is only the beginning.
“Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking!”
-William Butler Yeats
In December of 2011, Occupy Los Angeles called for a general strike on May Day, to “recognize housing, education, and healthcare as human rights.” This revival of May Day has been echoed by Occupations from wealthy Wall Street to poverty-stricken Oklahoma. Already, nationwide strikes have rocked other countries hit hard by the capitalist crisis, including Spain, Iceland, Portugal, and Greece. Austerity measures in these countries have been enacted solely to appease unelected European Union technocrats, protecting the interests of wealthy investors and multinational banking cartels. The civil war that capitalism calls “peace”is intensifying universally; the May Day General Strike will be our response to their crisis.
On May 1st, 2012, we will revive the May Day the ruling class has tried to erase; we will celebrate International Workers’ Day in the United States as a political manifestation of class consciousness and international solidarity.
However, our demonstrations on May Day cannot be an exercise in paying homage to the past days of the global justice movement; instead, they must embody concrete preparation for the future. The anarchist concept of prefigurative politics demands that we lay the foundations of future society solidly in the present. By retaking May Day, we stand in solidarity with a legacy of international struggle against neoliberal capitalism and authoritarian control. Values such as classlessness, autonomy, self-management, diversity, and mutual aid preclude borders; the internationalism of May Day is only one step in a long march towards an international solidarity.
The atmosphere across the globe seems pregnant with a revolutionary fervor unseen in recent years. The occupation at New York City’s New School in 2008 provided a glimpse into the possibilities of occupation when students seized their school building as a show of solidarity against the policies of a broken administration. The nascent student movement later reclaimed campuses across California, inspiring actions nationwide with the release of an influential text called “Communiqué from an Absent Future.” At the same time, organizers linked themselves to demonstrations in Greece over the police murder of a 15-year old anarchist in the neighborhood of Exarcheia.
With the European crisis beginning in late 2010 and Arab Spring blossoming in early 2011, international resistance to gutter government became not only widespread, but populist in nature. In Greece, the “I Won’t Pay” movement took shape as normal citizens ignored tolls, transit ticket costs, and bills for healthcare. Governor Scott Walker’s anti-labor actions designed to eliminate collective bargaining were met with thousands of people descending on the Madison, Wisconsin State Capitol. Later that spring, the May 15th movement known as los Indignados took over public squares in Spain and Greece and demanded a radical change to the political milieu.
Millions of people around the world are waking up to the realization that capitalism is a pyramid scheme.
Our unity with the workers of the world extends beyond May Day. Radical movements must seek more than an end to illegitimate and authoritarian governments; we demand the recognition of universal rights, respect of individual autonomy and local decision-making, and an end to coercive and subordinate relationships in all areas of our lives. As Bob Black writes inThe Abolition of Work:
“To demonize state authoritarianism while ignoring identical, albeit contract-consecrated, subservient arrangements in the large-scale corporations which control the world economy is fetishism at its worst … Your supervisor gives you more or-else orders in a week than the police do in a decade.”
Our struggle has to be more than mere conflict with a rigged economic system. Economics do not exist in a vacuum, but at the convergence of complex political, financial, and military interests. Historical, social, and legal dimensions come into play with the understanding that markets perpetrate inequities by favoring those with more power, wealth, and privilege. To avoid essentialism, we must strike hard at the intersections that prop up systemic inequality, even as we focus on unbridled market fundamentalism itself.
One of the most dangerous institutions that undergird capitalist economic structure is the military-industrial complex.
On May 20-21st, tens of thousands will gather in Chicago to demonstrate against the NATO military bloc. Serving as the armed will of the U.S. and Western Europe, NATO accounts for a staggering 70% of the world’s military spending, money that is used to control strategic resources of the Global South on behalf of a Western capitalist economic minority. While the majority of the planet lives on less than $2 per day, NATO swallows $2 billion per week on a war that nobody seems to want. The reasons are simple: poverty and wealth are functions of politico-economic entanglement; when resources abroad like oil or precious metals are determined to be matters of national security, the politics of who deserveswhat comes into play.
Contrast the billions spent by countries on weapons and war technology and the amount of money spent on help for the poverty-stricken children, women and men of the Global South. A stark picture is soon painted.
As spokesman for the Coalition Against NATO/G-8 War & Poverty Agenda, Andy Thayer reminds us that Richard Nixon, President of the US in ’68, was no friend of the working class. However, even despite being “ideologically… far to the right of any previous post-WW II president, and a notorious racist and anti-Semite to boot,” Nixon enacted a series of measures “that marked him as by far the most “progressive” president since the Great Depression—far to the left of, yes, President Obama.” Despite his conservative principles, a mass movement of citizen agitation forced Nixon to enact Affirmative Action, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), expand food stamps, nominate a Supreme Court that gave us Roe v. Wade, and finally, a wind-down of the Vietnam War.
Young men and women who join the military, many for an education or a job opportunity, are being slaughtered around the world as the American Empire advances, using poor countries as proxy in many cases. As many soldiers refuse to reenlist, the temptation of tactical nuclear strike grows for the Pentagon. Without an immediate demand for disarmament, a global nuclear war is almost certainly on the horizon; already, we see the case built for attacks on Iran and North Korea. Thayer’s call for continuous and forceful action against warmongering is an urgent one; the opportunity to act against imperial militarism must be seized in Chicago as Obama takes the stage in his effort make the NATO summit the centerpiece of his reelection campaign.
Chicago 1968 marked the beginning of the end for the Vietnam War. Exposing NATO’s military expansionist policies in Chicago 2012 may provide a valuable victory for Occupy Wall Street and for the global justice movement as a whole. War must be understood as a critical underpinning of the capitalist agenda.
The call for a general strike and the mobilization of opposition to NATO’s military stranglehold, however, must only be the beginning of a growing and sustained process of radical organization: of fellow citizens in the workplace, in our neighborhoods, and in our schools. Our movement must include the homeless, the working poor, the uneducated, the societal marginalized—those most disadvantaged by capitalist exploitation. Radical mo(ve)ments such as these serve as a wake-up call, not only to socio-political elites faced with a critical mass demanding change, but to the entirety of the working class who have realized the power they seek lies in their own direct action. Profound social transformation must be at the root of any economic recovery.
We live in a time when half-hearted notions of “reform” are served only as a recuperative mechanism for capitalist greed, where governments pledge that the only escape from financial crisis must come through workers surrendering their rights, where the commons is privatized and the rights of all are turned into a bargaining chip that benefits only a few. Women’s bodies are turned into battlegrounds as politicians fight for office. Social services, education, and jobs are being slashed in a scorched-earth campaign to preserve power.
Historically, government has failed in its responsibilities, unless forced by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war. Today, we can be sure we will not see any change from the status quo … unless popular upsurge demands it. The best way to make our demands known? Hit capitalism in its pocketbook.
I’ll meet you at the barricades.
Dr. Zakk Flash is an anarchist political writer, radical community activist, and editor of the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA). He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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