Occupying Editor 04: Cara Baldwin

For the next few weeks, Cara Baldwin will exert total editorial control over this site.

Baldwin is an artist, writer, researcher and theorist whose work focuses on militant art practice, public art, and intersections of cultural production and political organizing. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Arts: Art History, Theory, Criticism and Practice at UCSD and a 2001 graduate of CalArts MFA program. A recipient of the Soros Foundation Open Society Grant for the establishment of the Los Angeles Independent Media Center, Ms. Baldwin is also a founding member and former editor of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest editorial collective whose activities include the a print and online publication, Journal Press, a public lecture series, curatorial work, public art projects, and activist organization. With the editorial collective of the Journal, Baldwin has contributed to TRANSITOry PUBLICO | PUBLIC TRANSITorio and The Political Equator, Civic Matters, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles; Fine Print: Alternative Media, P.S.1, New York; Atlas Project, Pist Prota, Copenhagen, Denmark; and the documenta 12 Magazine Project Archive, Kassel, Germany. She has also presented work in museums, universities, art colleges the international Mexico City Book Fair, A Los Angeles Llegaron y por Hollywood se Pasearon. She recently participated in The Performing Archive-Restricted Access, an exhibition by Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz. Her work was published in the periodicals pros*, Bedwetter, InterReview, and MAKE_shift, as well as exhibition catalogues for Poetics of the Handmade, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. 45 years of Art and Feminism, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. Through her work in MOCA’s Curatorial department she contributed to the realization of several exhibitions of contemporary art including: WACK! Art and The Feminist Revolution, Poetics of the Handmade, and Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas. Current editorial collaborations include an anthology of writings with Orianna Cacchione and corresponding lecture series Public Culture in the Visual Sphere lecture at UCSD and Beyond the UC Strikes, Continental Drift. She is also currently collaborating with artist and theorist Ginger Wolfe-Suarez on a series of writings specific to art criticism in Los Angeles over the past decade.Areas of expertise: Conceptual and Performance art; Latin American art; feminist art; relational art practices; artist and media collectives.

Beyond the UC Strikes, Continental Drift , The Public School

Public Culture in the Visual Sphere, UCSD

The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest


Civic Matters


It Doesn’t Just Get Better, This is Political

“There is nothing “universal” about the university anymore except the universality of emptiness. Students and professors spend their waking lives covering up this void with paltry declarations and predictable nonactions. The void should no longer be avoided; it should be unleashed.

Seceding from the university is no longer enough. One must bring it down as well.”
– Preoccupied, The Logic of Occupation by the Occupiers of the New School

“A future that would not be monstrous would not be a future; it would already be predictable, calculable and programmable tomorrow. All experience open to the future is prepared or prepares itself to welcome the monstrous arrivant, to welcome it, that is, to accord hospitality to that which is absolutely foreign or strange.”
– Points, Jacques Derrida

Update: Students at the University of Puerto Rico are about to begin a new student strike, amidst massive efforts by the university to stop them, including actually removing the gates of the university. [video]

Last week was the first Queering the Campus Mixer at UCSD, organized by SPACES and the Transnational Queer & Transgender Studies Research and Curriculum Group, including a large effort from Sarah Shim. I wanted to add a comment to the discussion in the open forum, but I left the event crying and didn’t really feel like talking to people at that point.

Early in the conversation, the group was discussing the need they feel for more queer and trans spaces on campus. One person in the circle, to paraphrase, said that they feel that this campus is the most homophobic environment they’ve ever been in. This person went on to say that they don’t know how the rest of us manage to do it, to come here day to day and face the coldness, the hostility, the feeling that everyone here is against you. Going on, they said that they feel like this campus is so cold that it goes beyond just homophobia, that everyone ignores each other, that the buildings feel like they are against you, the air, the cement. It’s like death, they said, this place is like death.

I hope I’m not sharing too much here about what was said, but I’m trying to share some it to get to my point. A number of people responding talking about the queer spaces that exist on campus and how they’re underused, or about how they share those feelings, or about how much work goes into creating queer and trans and People of Color (POC) spaces on campus that goes unnoticed. I raised my hand to say how grateful I am to have been able to teach, even if only for one quarter, in the Critical Gender Studies department, and how it’s the most amount of time I get to spend with other queer and trans people in my life. That’s when I started crying, embarrassed and trying to talk through it to get that last part out.

But what I wanted to say after that is that it’s important for us to understand our feelings about this place, UCSD and the space of University in general as political, not just as personal. As unwelcome as the person who spoke first at the Queering the Campus mixer feels, as unwelcome as you or I feel in this space, this feelings must be compared against the people we see on this campus everyday who look beyond comfortable, who look entitled to be here. The question I want us to ask is: who feels welcome here? And why? Certainly some people feel very welcome on this campus, from the looks of how they walk around. I’m sure you have someone in mind who you’ve seen on campus recently. Since the mixer, I’ve been haunted by this question, reconsidering what I see at this school.

The question of who feels welcome and comfortable here, who these universities offer their greatest hospitality to, leads me to think of the “It Gets Better” campaign in response to the large number of suicides of LGBT youth in the past few months. The framing of this campaign completely disavows any institutional responsibility for violence against LGBT people. If we consider the recent attack against Colle Carpenter, a transgender man at Cal State University Long Beach, and the recent incidents of hate across the UC, with openly racist gestures by students and attacks on LGBT centers, we can begin to look at the institutions we inhabit are wholly responsible for our safety. When I ask who is comfortable here and who is welcome, that question also results in considering who is unwelcome, uninvited and unsafe. Every communication by the university shapes their depiction of who is welcome here, from emails to architectural decisions, and the result to date is a very hostile environment for a lot of people, including myself. When we consider who is welcome and why we might feel unwelcome, I hope that people can then move on to imagining their own demands for how the university needs to be changed. For example, it’s clear that having more gender neutral restrooms on campus would reduce the number of violent attacks like the one Carpenter was the victim of, having the word “IT” carved into his chest with a knife. While the university wants to say that these are one off occurrences, I disagree. As long as I’ve been on this campus, I can remember incidences of sexual violence occurring. I argue that the very structure of the university, including the curricular decisions, creates the situation where these actions are permitted to happen. It doesn’t just get better, someone has to make it better. And “it” is not an it, but an action that someone does. Who is doing it, and how can we stop it. The university space is not urban or suburban, but a unique environment with demographics hand picked by administrators. The social dynamics on this campus are largely a product of choices made by the university to decide who is welcome here and who isn’t, on what kinds of merit, and who should be a 3% minority in this space and who should be a majority. If you feel that it’s hard to build community here because there are so few people like you, then that is because of choices made by the administration.

As I considered these issues, I realize more and more that those of us in academic, students, faculty and staff, live our lives inside of outdated institutions that do not represent us, much less welcome us. I realize that I live much of my life inside of this institution created and structured in 1960, in a time in which misogyny, homophobia and racism were far more accepted. Jorge Mariscal, a professor at UCSD, has researched the founding documents of the university and revealed a great deal of the actual language of institutional racism in the founding documents, such as in the decision about where to geographically place the campus. As we find ourselves to be aliens, or unwelcome monsters from the future, in these outdated institutions, it is up to us as participants in them to change them or leave them behind. Today I am still hoping that the dream of education can be served to some small degree in these outdated institutions and so I’m willing to put in the work to change them. Projects such as Agitprop’s upcoming 2837 University continue the long history of creating free universities to provide people with a space to imagine what education can and should be.

What finally motivated me to sit down and write this is the experience of watching myself, my friends and my loved ones scramble for jobs, experiencing all of the stress and sadness that come with economic uncertainty. In our department, 25% of the jobs for graduate students are being cut next quarter, quietly, without much fanfare or protest. I’m leaving my time as a temporary lecturer because the class I’ve been teaching is being cut in response to budget cuts, and I’m not sure if I’ll have employment next quarter. Again, the economic decisions that the university are shaping who is welcome and supported here and who isn’t. Again we can see the paradigms of state of exception discussed by Agamben playing themselves out, as any time of crisis and budget cuts is an opportunity for the university to get rid of people and projects and departments they find problematic. As my last post here stated, I am hugely inspired by the occupations currently occurring across the world, including the UK, Italy and tomorrow Puerto Rico. I just hope that as we all scramble for jobs or for a feeling of daily physical safety, that we can come together and talk about why we’re in this situation and keep in mind that maybe now is the time to stop scrambling until we get the changes we want. Hopefully we can create new environments and structures in which we can be safer and more supported, structures open to monstrous possible futures, but we have do it in a hurry.


Occupying Editor 03: Micha Cardenas

Micha Cárdenas is an artist/theorist whose transreal work mixes physical and networked spaces in order to explore emerging forms of queer relationality, biopolitics and DIY horizontal knowledge production. She is a lecturer in the Visual Arts department and Critical Gender Studies program at UCSD. She is an artist/researcher with UCSD Medical Education and the b.a.n.g. lab at Calit2. Her recent publications include “I am Transreal”, in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation from Seal Press, Trans Desire/Affective Cyborgs, with Barbara Fornssler, from Atropos Press and “Becoming Dragon: A Transversal Technology Study” in Code Drift from CTheory. Her collaboration with Elle Mehrmand, “Mixed Relations,” was the recipient of the UCIRA Emerging Fields Award for 2009. She has exhibited and performed in biennials, museums and galleries in cities around the world including Los Angeles, San Diego, Tijuana, New York, San Francisco, Montreal, Egypt, Ecuador, Spain, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, Dublin, Ireland and many other places. Her work has been written about in publications including Art21, the Associated Press, the LA Times, CNN, BBC World, Wired and Rolling Stone Italy.


A Call for Disassembly

UCSD OCT 7 action co-opted as sit-in / photo-op by members of the Cross-Cultural Center (a UCSD-funded student body)

strategic expropriation and redistribution

No more General Assemblies • No more Statewide Conferences• No more Days of Inaction

The fiasco of the Oct. 7th “sit-in” demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of the General Assembly: a political form more effective than tear-gas or billy-clubs in bringing an action to a close. In our fight against the university administration, we have ceded our power to administrative mechanisms that are little better.

How is it that an institution widely regarded last year as farcical came to assume ownership over the university struggle, to assert yet again its supposed sovereign power to broker all meaningful decisions? How can we assure that the General Assembly never again comes to assume the power to neutralize, silence, and demobilize?  How can we finally demystify the GA’s absurd self-presentation as a space of democracy, participation and openness?

It is tempting to think that the failures of the General Assembly are those of personality, ineptitude, and opportunism.  As we all know, the GA is run by a small clique of “socialist” organizers and future politicians who follow a political script unchanged, in its unflagging failure, since 1983. These are people who have, at every turn over the last year and a half, opposed proposals for direct action, or deferred them to some never-arriving future moment when they have “built the movement.”

Because of the very events last year — ones that were compelled to bypass the GA simply to proceed with planning — it is now impossible to hold a day of action that does not, in fact, feature action. The GA’s call for a sit-in was an acknowledgment of this fact, and of last year’s successes. But the organizers of the GA only conceived of the October 7 sit-in, it is now obvious, as a masquerade intent on borrowing the charisma of last year’s events in order to shore up their failing political project. They had no actual desire to sit-in or occupy the library, and so the millstones of circular proceduralism — the canned speeches, irrelevant proposals, votes on whether or not we would vote on taking a vote  – were hauled out to crush any spirit of actual resistance in the crowd, to preempt any discussion of the potentials of the present moment, or to address the practical, ready-to-hand exigencies. Were we going to stay in the space?  Were we going to let the police surround us? Would we call for support from fellow comrades, make preparations for an extended sit-in? None of these things were discussed until it was already too late. Rather, we talked about what we wanted to do next week, next month, next year. Seeing the “action” for what is was – a meeting about more meetings – people fled in droves. The facilitators were doing the work of the administration and its hirelings for them, and none of the hammer-and-sickle icons stamped on their faces could disguise this fact. Watching from the doorways, the cops smiled and ordered pizza.

The problems with the GA are structural and ideological, and no change of facilitators will make this form work within the present political landscape.  The GA is a failure because it assumes, from the start, principles of unity, majority rule and sovereign decision-making power that are incompatible with the university struggle as such. We do not need an assembly (usually composed of fewer than 50 people) to vote on what “all of us are doing” – we need a political form based upon collaboration and affiliation, whose basic communicational unit takes the form of “This is what we want to do. Will you help?” Those who worry that this will mean a fragmenting disunity should realize that there are different forms of acting-together; there is a spectrum of consensus and dissensus, and not all forms of unity must resemble liberal-democratic parliaments.

In any case, the unity of the GA is a false one: many, many people on campus do not identify with it except as a form of alienation, an external imposition. It is a protocol that assumes, in advance, what is and is not possible. It guarantees “plans” at the lowest common denominator, whose main function is not to be disagreeable — we must ask, is this a tenable platform for real struggle? Obviously not. We must overcome the hollowness of this small, anodyne plurality. Not by wandering away, atomized and dispirited, into the evening that had so recently promised so much — but by abolishing the General Assembly that stands in the way of that promise, of real struggle.


A related point concerns the “statewide coordinating committees”—these are bodies that have, at the highest level, done nothing but call for various “days of action.” What action? When will that be decided? What counts as “action” — another meeting to plan another day of action?

The situation here is much the same: when did we cede our power to a group of 30 people to establish the timeline for the university struggle? At what point did we agree to confine our political agitation to preappointed days, always too far away, the better to be ignored by our antagonists with their tuition bills and billy clubs?

Political struggles have rhythms, carried forward by alternating waves of optimism and despair, attack and counterattack. Actions occur on certain days and not on others, until, perhaps, one reaches a prerevolutionary moment. There is no avoiding, at least for now, the day of action. But we can be choiceful and artful and strategic in deciding when and where we will fight. We can  investigate the relationship between the actual, affective rhythm of political antagonism – the state of the struggle – and the abstract calendar laid atop it by the coordinating committee. How does the current calendar interact with the real temporality of our movement? Does it augment or diminish its power? What would have happened in the Spring of 2010 if there had been no call for the March 4th Day of Action, a day into which people poured variously exaggerated expectations? It was a good hook for journalists and other semipro chit-chatters to hang their hats and hopes on. Wouldn’t it have been better to begin building from the energy of the previous semester, without hesitation or loss of momentum? Certainly there is a power to coordinated, multi-sector and multi-campus action. The general strike model is a good one. But the days of action have, so far, produced diminishing returns as a statewide or national education movement. We shouldn’t sacrifice the possibility of contestation for a “grand day” which never arrives. It is unclear that many successful general strikes have been called by coordinating committees. Such strikes, when they do not last for merely a day or so, when they really direct their power at capital and state, are built from the bottom-up, by resonance, contagion. We were more effective in the fall of 2009 during the Regents’ Meeting, when multiple campuses rose up, despite the absence of a statewide committee.


Once again, the UCOP has proposed a further fee increase of as much as 20%, a year after they voted in an increase of 32%. Will we stop them? Or will we hamstrung by the politics of failure?


Stop the De-tenuring of Ricardo Dominguez

Ricardo Dominguez (Associate Professor, Visual Arts, UCSD) is currently being threatened with criminal action and the revocation of his tenure by UCOP and several UCSD senior administrators. This is a long, rapidly-developing story. Time is of the essence