Congress 2011/Theses to the Congress
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Nuclear fusion in image-city: The crisis of the neoliberal city
Let us begin with the joyless one. And there is more than enough of it: The current urban development model tightens social fissions and segregations, produces spaces of exclusion, doorman-houses, creative quarters, business improvement districts, residence obligation, free trade areas, social hot spots, contaminated badlands. Let us start at the meta level to have a closer look at the city to analyse the interrelation between the global and the regional, between the inner and the outer urban and let us dissect the ideological layers of the neoliberal city.
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Hostile embracement: participation & recuperation
Those in power respond to the increasing protests against neoliberal spatial politics with elaborated instruments: offers of cooperation set in frameworks defined from above here, reprisals there. Multicultural imagery in an image-pamphlet, controlling of migrants in the subway. Interactive art in Wilhelmsburg, obstruction of public referendums on the city level. Resistance itself is being depoliticised, culturalised, personalised and defused. How can we oppose this participatory cuddle-attack off? Are there any ways out of the trap of recuperation?
PPP – pop, production, precarisation
Towards the end of the Industrial Age, cities gain importance as sites of production – this time of meanings, images, networks, attitudes, subcultures, which constitute the core of the new capitalistic creation of value. The “subjective factor”, once a feminist objection against the functional reduction of life and politics in the factory society, serves as the creative resource of the precarised “enterpreneurial self”. The latter depends on networked, open neighborhoods. These gentrified areas are the reverse image of the declining areas on the edge of the city – and even more, to the exploitative production of goods in the maquiladoras of the global South. Because their heavy labour, which is vital for everyday commodities at cutthroat prices, is the dark secret of the “creative class”.
Which new alliances offer possibilities of resistance in the fully integrated urban factory? What does a selforganized urban economy look like, that refuses to work as a partner in crime of global exploitation? An old promise lingers at the horizon: the appropriation of the means of production.
What «pop» is meant here?
Since the term is featured in the title, adjacent a term positively connoted within the Park Fiction project («wish production»), and it is mentioned no further in what follows, I can only offer a few contradictory readings, in hope that the issue be cleared up by the organizers.
1/The critical reading of the term in the music field. Simon Frith (Pop Music, 2001): pop is not driven by any significant ambition except profit and commercial reward, Its history is a history of serial or standardized production.
2/The critical reading of the term in rejection of 1960s art-market artists. Boris Lurie (Statement for the Exhibition Art and Politics, 1970): Pop-art is reactionary – it celebrates the glories of consumer society, and it mocks only at what the lower classes consume – the can of soup, the cheap shirt. Pop-art is chauvinistic. It sabotages and detracts from a social art for all.
3/The affirmative reading in the German art-market scene. Andrea Brodbeck/Veit Görner (German Open Catalogue, 2000): Above all, pop still means destroying ideologies and hierarchies in the Warhol mode. First of all, pop offers space for individualism.
4/The affirmative reading in the «Pop-linke» Hamburg music/politics scene. Diederich Diederichsen: (Spex, 1988): Sonic Youth are Madonna-fans, they are a pop-band, and the fact that pop can only happen for them, and today in general, in a sort of expanded underground-scene not only means that one doesn't have to rule out or despise the overground-pop-culture, but that one is not allowed to do so (...).."
I am sorry if this seems too insistent, but the ambiguity touches on issues of ideology (and, again, production) which should, in my view, be central to any project claiming to challenge «neoliberal » capitalism.
Tools, Tricks, Dances: Vive la Difference!
Cities are a condensation of differences. Sounds trivial, but marks a monumental break with political agendas which insist on homogeneity, fixed identities and clean classifications. The anti-gentrification debate is often criticized for an assumed xenophobia. But right-to-the-city-activists postulate the right for difference, for deviance from behavioral and gender norms, for the right of unresisted migration. How could an emancipatory practice look like, that accepts these differences, and that makes suppressed voices hearable – instead of excluding them? We perceive the multiplication of platforms of exchange and new ways of speaking at the latest captured places by right-to-the-city-activists. We are interested in practices, tools, tricks, spaces of collective self-organization, which leave the path of standardized forms of "plenum" or "demonstration". How can we use different languages and forms of knowledge to learn from each other?
Access All Areas! Fights for the right to the city
It was not long ago, that there seemed to be no foothold for resistance on the slippery terrain of post-fordism. But suddenly spatialized social struggles flare up and start to connect. Is this the outline of a new social movement? When social questions are asked as spatial questions, they open up new possibilities for collective action: occupied spaces get linked with resistance against mega development projects, against gentrification, against privatization of public services. Artist collectives, small enterprisers looking for work space, and unsatisfied tenants become companions. Let's combine the appropriation of spaces and resources with the defense of inner-city neighborhoods against a policy of demolition! Let's combine the initiatives of homeless persons with the resistance against evictions! Let's strengthen tenant initiatives with vacancy campaigns! Let's connect the opponents of environmental degradation with the fights of immigrants for their right of residence! Let's broaden the space of action for civil disobedience by artistic and militant, clever and symbolic, virtual and direct actions!
Utopian spill-over: A city for all
Finally our most loved category: utopia! Henri Lefebvre writes "there is no thinking without utopia, without exploring the possible, the elsewhere." And because the impossible-possible shows through at some places, we want to encourage questions like: which strategies exist against the current social injustice? How can we take our right to the city? Can these fights be linked between cities, across countries and continents to create a powerful rhizome? How should transnational networks look like, when they are organized non-hierarchical and bottom up? How can urban resources and commons be distributed justly and sustainably? What happens, if the wishes leave the houses and walk the street...?
Web-page with general information about the congress: kongress.rechtaufstadt.net
Wiki-page for the documentation of the congress: Kongress 2011