Beginning of the transcript…
It all started two weeks before the declaration of the Commune. Thousands of us invaded the incomplete structures of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. We took action when most of us were getting evicted from our homes after the rents doubled in the last few years. The occupation started as a form of protest, but quickly evolved towards a real alternative-society model. We set up camps on the hundreds of slabs of the towers and started to live in them in a new form of urban living. Multitudes of hoists were insuring the vertical communication of food, essential goods and reclaimed construction material from the ground.
The first time that the NYPD attempted to take back control of the site, we were disorganized and managed to make them retreat only after having outnumbered them. When they came back a few days later, our defensive strategy was more responsive, and the hundreds of policemen did not even succeed in entering the site. Every day we were gathering in small assemblies to debate and construct the particulars of our small society. Many people were exhausted and discussions could quickly become harsh and long, but only a limited number of people left the movement during the occupation.
One night, after a bit less than two months of common life in the towers, we were suddenly awakened by the loud noise of a flock of helicopters that quickly invaded our space with their powerful spotlights. While Special Forces were landing on the roofs, hundreds of police officers in full riot gear were climbing up the structures, arresting all the people they encountered. The surprise of the attack led to a general panic that reached a dangerous level on some overcrowded floors. It was only after few hours of systematized and serial arrests, when the towers were almost emptied, that the event that would make history occurred. Even today, it remains unclear what really happened. A small number of us were still on the ground, ready to be brought away in the MTA buses requisitioned by the NYPD, when we heard a terrifying scream and made out in the darkness of the dawn the fall of a frail body from one of the highest floors of the main tower. Whether it was a suicide, an accident, or a murder was irrelevant to us. What we knew is that this tragic event would have never occurred without the police’s armed attack. Our rage was growing on the way to Rikers Island, where the thousand of us who had gotten arrested were eventually corralled in the central courtyard.
Time Square on October 17th 2011 /// Photograph by Léopold Lambert
In March 2012, I wrote a text for my friend Lucas Issey Yoshinaga who was contributing to the Brazilian book Approach edited by Gustavo Utrabo, Juliano Monteiro, Pedro Duschenes & Hugo Loss. The other contributors ended up to be Graham Harman, Nannette Jackowski . Ricardo de Ostos & Bernardo Bento for a collection of five texts about our perception of the architectural discipline. I entitled mine Impetus, as a reflection on the current return of politics within the architectural discourse and education. This wondering/wandering was then based on the question on whether or not this new interest for politics was simply based on a opportunist trend or could potentially be crystallized and then engaged as a non-avoidable dimension of the architectural practice.
I recommend the reading of this very well made little bilingual (Portuguese & English) book that cultivates architecture’s sense of doubt about its role and action. The title, Approach, is a good indicator of its editors’ consideration for those texts which tries to avoid a peremptory tone to prefer a more dubious one. If you would like a copy you can write to mail(AT)alephzero.arq.br
by Léopold Lambert
all images are screenshots from Romain Gravas’ fim: Jay Z & Kanye West “No church in the wild” (2012)
The new videoclip of Jay Z and Kanye West, No Church in the Wild, directed by Romain Gavras is problematic to many extents. During 5 very aesthetic minutes of film, a slowmotion of a scene involving a violent fight between an angry mob (composed strictly of men) and a less angry -yet much more methodical in its violence- group of suppressive geared policemen. The scene is recognizably occurring in Prague and Paris, thus offering us a modern version of the various European revolutions and insurrections of the 19th century. The ‘aesthetization’ of violence is optimal in order to directly to address our testosterone which then helps us to identify to this hyper-male insurrectional standard which correspond in nothing to the various 2011 Arab revolutions or civic movements in various countries in the world. The society of spectacle is not interested in long pacific democratic construction and, through its various media (including the most serious and so called ‘liberal’ of them like the perfidious New York Times), prefers to capitalize on the violent side of the revolt imaginary in order to both discredit and co-opt a movement that was originally anti-capitalist. In this regard, it is not innocent that the rioters, in this video, do not seem to seek anything else than a simple fight with the police force (almost like a sport). It is Capitalism’s great strength to be able to include within itself its own antagonism, and furthermore to be able to capitalize on the latter. Jay Z and Kanye West are the perfect example of such phenomena as they represent the nec plus ultra of the anti-pro system components of a hip-hop music that was originally invented as a pure form of resistance against this very same system.
However, this short film is still interesting to look at, as it might touch a line of risk that capitalism is taking against itself. Capitalist’s cinema has been aesthetizing violence for quite a long time now; nevertheless when doing so, it is always careful to subject this violence against a tangible and specific form of otherness, whether the latter is embodied by aliens, enemy armies, gangsters, cops (but always corrupted and individualized in one way or another) or any other instance characterized by its binary mode of existence -it is either alive or dead, victorious or defeated. What a film like No Church in the Wild participates to, is the construction of an imaginary in which an intangible yet ubiquitous system is being fought against. Of course, the society of spectacle is still strongly present and the policemen are contributing to the anthropomorphism of an antagonism; nevertheless, it is clear that something outside of this visible fight is engaged and is therefore developed in our imaginary.
The following text was curated by Mexican magazine Arquine and is therefore available in a Spanish version on its website.
The exhibition Archizines is currently visible at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City and touring in ten cities of Europe and North America. This display of eighty architectural journals (including the funambulist’s friends from Studio Magazine and Beyond!) is a good opportunity for us to question this medium of communication of ideas. Fifty years from now, Archigram and its ten zines publications participated to a revolution of architecture from the modernist patronizing austerity to a bold and imaginative movement for a city liberated from its bourgeoisie. Nowadays, the democratic aspect of these journals lies more in their facilitated production than in their radical contents. This mean of publication has indeed evolved with the relatively recent creation of many self-publishing services and the potential communication about the printed issues via the internet. The price reflects such means of production and contrast with more established architectural magazines with a larger run. Nevertheless, the goal of a more democratic access to knowledge has still to be pursued.
May Day 2012 at Wall Street / Photograph by the author
Small Flowers Crack Concrete
by Sonic Youth NYC Ghosts & Flowers (2000)
Small flowers crack concrete
Narcotic squads sweep thru poet dens
Spilling coffe grabbing 15 yr old runaway girls
By frazzled ponytailed hair and tossing them
Into backseats of cop cars
The narcs beat the bearded oracles
Replacing tantric love with
Construction Workers strike in Las Vegas (2008) / photo: Trent Ogle
In his new book, Rebel Cities, David Harvey (see previous post here and here) observes that the new forms of proletariat exploitation in the the Western World changed from the factory paradigm to the one of the city. The Marxist filter of reading, that he knows very well for having teaching it for a couple of decades , is still very much appropriate to interpret the creation of surplus value through urbanization:
But there is a seamless connection between those who mine the iron ore that goes into the steel that goes into the construction of the bridges across which the trucks carrying commodities travel to their final destinations of factories and homes for consumption. All of these activities (including spatial movement) are productive of value and of surplus value. If capitalism often recovers from crises, as we saw earlier by “building houses and filling them with things,” then clearly everyone engaged in that urbanizing activity has a central role to play in the macroeconomic dynamics of capital accumulation.
Harvey David. Rebel Cities. New York: Verso, 2012. P130-131
Of course, D.Harvey invokes the recent examples of insurgencies and manifestation for what Henri Lefebvre was calling the right to the city; nevertheless he also bases his argument on historical example such as the 19th century Paris. The latter is indeed very illustrative as it was both subjected to an imperial transformation and several revolutions including the one that continues to fascinate me always more and more: the 1871 Paris Commune. D.Harvey’s reading is interesting in these two matters as his historical interpretation is slightly different from the one we usually give as architects. He address Haussmann’s transformation of Paris, not so much for its physicality but rather for its economy i.e. the implementation of a pure capitalist urbanism. As for the Commune he beautifully attribute this event to the reclaim of the city (what I would call the ‘urbs’ as both a physical environment and an assemblage of social interactions) by those who produced it. It is true that one of the fastest and most important decision of the Commune concerned the city itself as it consisted in canceling the rents:
Arthur Rimbaud by Ernest Pignon-Ernest
This Wednesday (7pm) in New York, will be held a conversation with Ana Méndez de Andés for Sixteen Beaver (thank you Greg). This event, entitled beautifully Swarms, Multitude, and Activism in a Time of Monsters, connected in my mind with the book that I just re-read, The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune (see previous article) by Kristin Ross. In this book, K. Ross interprets the poems that Arthur Rimbaud wrote during the Paris Commune in 1871 in relation to his extended work as well as its description of space. In a chapter entitled Swarms that Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt referred to in their book Multitude, she introduces (probably inspired by Elias Canetti) three poems by Rimbaud that describes what can be called the collective revolutionary body and its multitude of microsensations.
The use of the word ‘Monsters’ is perfectly appropriate to the comparison of this event with Rimbaud’s poetry. The monsters are not to be assigned to the oppressors here, but rather to us, the multitude, as seen by them. That is how Rimbaud evokes the irreversibility of the crowd, seen not by its body’s particles but by the dominant power which uses the terminology of abjection to describe it. “That Sire, is the Scum. It drools round the walls, it rises, it seethes…” The following text is an excerpt of K.Ross’s book:
Electronic Counter-Measures (2011) by Liam Young
Many of us are afraid of the development of drone technology in the army which regularly allows the US and Israeli Army to assassinate people without having to deploy a single man on a foreign territory. It is now well known that during the last ten years, the limits between Western police services and armies have increasingly became blurry both in the methods and in the equipment, the former requiring often the help or teaching of the latter. In this regard, I highly recommend the excellent coverage of Occupy Wall Street by Democracy Now on November 17th 2011. Amy Goodman indeed invited both the always excellent Stephen Graham and the former Seattle Police Chief, Norm Stamper to discuss about what she called Paramilitary policing.
It is relatively clear that it is simply a matter of time before national security drones would be implemented in Western cities (see the short pseudo-documentary I wrote last summer). On July 14th 2006, a drone (probably a prototype) was seen in the sky of Paris’ suburbs (see previous post) as what was probably a first real scale test of surveillance.
However, resistance against this quasi-irreversible movement towards a robotic management of national security seems to organize using the very same technology. In December 2010, some Iraqi insurgents managed to hack the video transmission of an American Drone (see previous post). On a more fictitious level, in 2009, Tim Maly was writing The Lost Drone Army which dramatizes the complete autonomy of a group of drones that escaped from the control of their former masters.
More recently, and on a not so fictitious level, Liam Young created now forms of drones, entitled Electronic Counter-Measures, within the context of his Tomorrow Thoughts Today (with Darryl Chen) and Unknown Fields Division (with Kate Davies) and in collaboration with Eleanor Saitta, Oliviu Lugojan-Ghenciu (see his GravityOne project and his guest writer essay on this blog), and Superflux. Their drones, inspired by the internet national blackout organized by Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 in order to prevent the Egyptian revolution to organize itself, provides a wireless internet signal to whoever is in their radius of action. The idea is to be able for a crowd to coordinate its action via the internet provided by these autonomous drones even though the dominant power would have shut the network down.
After the re-opening of Liberty Square following our numerous requests to the New York Department of Buildings (see previous article), whownspace started a new action to reclaim a public space that has been closed since September when it became known that the first occupation would precisely happen on this space: One Chase Manhattan Plaza. Since 2009, this space has been declared as a landmark and therefore requires a prior notice before any work that would alter its exterior aspect.
As written by Paula Segal for whownspace (click to read the full article):
Under New York City law, before doing work on landmark properties that will affect their exteriors, building owners or tenants need to apply for a permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Violations of the Landmarks Law occur either when work is done on a Landmark without a permit or when work does not comply with a permit. The fences around Chase Manhattan plaza clearly affect the exterior of the building, yet no one has applied for a permit for their erection (the only permit for exterior work filed in the last two years — scaffolding for the sculptures — is here).
Moderated by Caroline Filice Smith
Title of the Event/Island: Violence, Segregation, and Solidarity
Location of the Event/Island: 97 Kenmare St New York
Date of the Event/Island: Wednesday the 21st of December; 3-5 pm
Although statements of solidarity and non-violence can be heard at most General Assemblies and Occupations across the country; the urban and architectural typologies found within the Occupy LA camp defaulted into normalized zones of exclusion and segregation [ie:the gated community].
This ideological break between statements of inclusion, and the physical reality of segregation, implemented by arguably the most ‘radical’ of the camps inhabitants, begs the following question:
Why, when it came to urbanism, and architecture, did even the most ‘radical’ revolutionaries immediately default into the typologies most directly connected to/embedded in the system they are trying to overcome.
I [Caroline Filice Smith] will do a short presentation on the typologies of urbanism and architecture found within the occupy LA camp, how this physicality stood in opposition to the movements larger ideology of being ‘horizontal, democratic, transparent, and participatory’, and how this disjunction continues to affect the community structure at Occupy LA. Then we will discuss and speculate on what other alternatives could have been, and what the physical possibilities of an open, participatory and democratic architecture/community are given a climate of increasing militarization from outside forces [ie: the architecture of anarchism within a police state]
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of what has been called the Arab Spring as well as the three months anniversary of Occupy Wall Street which was celebrated by a certain amount of actions among which one appeared to me as particularly interesting in terms of the practice of the city. Following the arrest of fifty people for attempting to occupy a vacant lot in New York belonging to Trinity Church, we marched heading North with, as usual, many policemen on scooters along the sidewalk preventing us to occupy the street itself. When we arrived to the street that was supposed to be our destination, the latter was entirely blocked by a multitude of cops who had no intention whatsoever to let us in. This destination might have been a decoy to deceive them, as the crowd (about 400 people I believe) did not seem to care so much for the police and started to run on the sidewalk then turned to the next street, ran, turned, ran an one more block, turned again until finally the police, completely overwhelmed gave up to chase us. This allowed this crowd to walk for thirty blocks in the middle of the 7th avenue in a sort of very joyful parade, disrupting the banal order of the urban routine. I could not help but to think of this celebratory intrusion as the real embodiment of Michelangelo Antonioni’s street parade in the opening scene of Blow Up (1966).
Two months and half ago, at the beginning of the movement, I was calling for the invention of an “Algerian” labyrinth in the middle of Manhattan’s orthogonal grid in order for us to be able to respond to the police oppression. I was then far from thinking that this labyrinth could be created by the speed of our movement within this same grid, as well as the spontaneous and continuous reconfiguration of trajectory of a crowd that thus becomes unstoppable.
On November 15th, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg and Brookfield Properties, “owner” of the public space of liberty square triggered an operation that evicted the occupiers from the place in order to “re-open” the square to the public. One month later, the square is still barricaded and controlled by private security forces.
A while ago, I read the entire text that organizes legally the privately owned public spaces (see previous article) only to find that, if there was ambiguities in the law -that we could have used for our cause- they were certainly in favor of the owners. For example the public space at 180 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan is open only from Monday to Friday from 8.30AM to 5:30PM. Needless to say that this “public space” is organized in fact for the only people who works for the corporations of the block. Similarly, the space in which many OWS working groups gather at 60 Wall Street, was recently restricted by additional rules that restrains considerably its use for the public: for example the right to move the table and chairs around…
The group whOWNSpace decided to legally react to such abuses by inviting anybody to file a request for the NY DOB (Department of Building) to inspect Liberty Square. The New York zoning legislation indeed requires that at least 50 percent of the #public plaza# frontage along each #street line# or sidewalk widening line shall be free of obstructions.
Judith Butler spoke twice at Occupy Wall Street on October 23rd 2011 and, as an excellent theoretician of the bodies, brought this anatomical and biological dimension to the debate. Using the human mic has the advantage to force people who use it to reduce their speech to the essential, and in that case, gives us this beautiful ode to the physicality of the occupation: “It matters that as bodies we arrive together in public, that we are assembling in public; we are coming together as bodies in alliance in the street and in the square. As bodies we suffer, we require shelter and food, and as bodies we require one another and desire one another. So this is a politics of the public body, the requirements of the body, its movement and voice. “
I already wrote in my last article about the radical choice that we make when we occupy a space as a body and its fundamental importance in this movement. It as bodies that this system oppresses us the most expressively, we therefore have to resist as bodies or as Felix Guattari puts it in a superb text To Have Done with the Massacre of the Body:
We can no longer allow others to repress our fucking, control our shit, our saliva, our energies, all in conformity with the prescriptions of the law and its carefully-defined little transgressions. We want to see frigid, imprisoned, mortified bodies explode to bits, even if capitalism continues to demand that they be kept in check at the expense of our living bodies.
Guattari Felix. Chaosophy. LA: Semiotexts 2007
The following text is the one read by Judith Butler at Liberty Square:
Occupy the Brooklyn Bridge on November 17th /// Photo by Leopold Lambert
There has been few debates since the beginning of the Occupy movement about its very name. This name started with an assumed martial connotation against Wall Street and some of us, who could not dissociate this notion from a colonial context, were fairly surprised that this name was extended to the other “islands” of the movement. We were considering it as problematic and were trying to orient the terminology towards the more inclusive notion of 99%. However, I am now convinced that we were missing a very important point that was probably obvious to the occupiers themselves. There has been an important emphasis on the importance of “bodies” since the very beginning of the movement -I remember a General Assembly at the end of September that was already addressing this notion- and an acknowledgment that, while some people brings skills and knowledge on the table, some other simply brings their bodies. Our body can only be at one place in the world in a given moment. This place is the place we have been choosing to…occupy and although it is an unavoidable choice, this choice constitutes a radical political attitude in the exclusivity of the space it stands in and the exclusion of the ensemble of others.
Occupying a public space therefore carry a violence that is partially similar to the one unfolded by the colonial occupation -in the West Bank for example. However while the latter violates the right of a nation to govern itself and constitute a collective project, the former is the full expression of a right agreed upon at the foundation of the nation. In a country that brought the idea of freedom to the rank of pure ideology, we must turn back to Foucault, for who, freedom can only exist through its practice.
It is true that 21th century social movements are not the same than 20th’s ones thanks to the tools of communication that they are using; however we should not fool ourselves, the importance of the bodies’ presence, the occupation has never been so strong.
Privately Owned Public Space‘s policy
As I have been writing few weeks ago, one very interesting aspect of Occupy Wall Street consists in the re-appropriation of public space as what it is supposed to be by definition: public. The constitution of an agora accessible by all because territorialized in an open space is the certitude of the democratic essence of this movement. That is for this reason that I am calling my working group to gather in the public space rather than in a classroom at the New School as I have been also writing about recently. My feeling is that, not only a classroom makes us think differently and withdraw the urgency of the project we are trying to create, the Nomadic University, but the reunion of such a working group in a private space prevents any uninformed person to take part to such meeting.
I am therefore in charge of finding us one or several parts of public space in New York City in which we could meet, talk, work and be protected from the cold weather and thought that some of my readers would be the perfect people to ask about such a piece of information. If you have an idea of an adequate place, please send me an email at contactDOTfunambulistATgmailDOTcom.
Thank you very much in advance.
Manhattan Archipelago by Leopold Lambert, Oct 2011.
It would have probably not escaped to my regular readers that I am very much interested with the notion of archipelago. After celebrating the philosophy of Edouard Glissant, the poet of the archipelagos, after having created a metaphorical map representing the effective Palestinian territory under occupation as an archipelago, and after having launched a series of events external to the Academia with the same name, I would like to address the spatial implications of Occupy Wall Street via a similar filter.
It is true that this movement has been using the new technological tools of communication in order to spread its existence which was ignored by the Press; however it would be absolutely incorrect to assume that the “occupation” concerned here does not fund its principle on the presence of physical bodies on a given space in order to be effective. The practice of direct democracy exercised on this space registers the latter as a territory within a broader system, an heterotopia as Michel Foucault would describe this type of space, or more simply an island. Occupations started on Liberty Square, then on Washington Square Park, in Harlem, in the Bronx, in Brooklyn but also all over the American territory, thus composing an archipelago of “liberated” islands functioning in a precarious yet effective autonomy. This idea is fundamental in the construction of the movement as it differs from “traditional” revolutions that aim to conquer the centralized power’s territory but rather to propagate by the constitution of those islands that applies a form of society only for the bodies present on their territories. Of course, this territorial mean of acting is more difficult and requires more time than the traditional ones; however this seems to be the way to achieve an aware implication of each person on a given territory.
This model of the archipelago also helps us not to necessarily think in terms of totality but to accept the fragmentation of a territory in smaller ones on which it is easier to approach consensus. The very principle of the archipelago is to construct a collective essence with various individual -for each island- identities. The image of the interstitial water also allow to imagine a fluctuation of each island’s borders that can continuously evolve through time. In a general matter the archipelago spatializes a political system that diverse to be experienced. The Occupy Wall Street movement is a good opportunity to attempt such thing.
I clearly won’t reinvent the wheel with this article but I thought that I should share a strong architectural experience I encountered last Saturday. The working group at Occupy Wall Street I am part of, Architecture and Empowerment, and more specifically The Nomadic University (more on that very soon !) was invited to the New School as we would be provided with a classroom for us. The President of the New School, David E. Van Zandt seems indeed to be tremendously supporting the movement and wanted to be able to help one way or another (a full day of teach-in was organized on Saturday).
Nonetheless this generosity, a lot of people in the group including myself experienced the violent power of architecture as rarely before. It would seem pretty obvious to anybody that having ideas as a group of people in public space does not happen in the way than in a classroom. However, experiencing it is another thing: I have been writing a lot about the hurtful inherent characteristics of architecture’s physicality but I very rarely felt it that violently. We usually gather in the public space visible on the picture above, in a sort of open atrium often crossed over by pedestrians and the fact of having a working group meeting in that space is fundamentally expressing the openness and the generosity of the Occupy Wall Street movement. On the other hand, being in a class room on the 6th floor of an academic institution put us back in a very well known situation of a secretive detention of knowledge doubtless and closed on itself. Architecture changes the way we think and act. Walls have ears…and we certainly feel this way when we are in a closed environment. Self-censorship occurs and we find ourselves embarrassed to waggle our fingers as a sign of approval as we do on Liberty Square…
Liberty Square and its “cousins” around the world are places of production of knowledge. Not an academic one that can be peremptorily declared as correct or incorrect, but rather the formation of a collective knowledge which joins a theoretical background with a continuous experience of the real. The space in which such an alchemy occurs is never innocent and the issue might be that those who understands that the best are the ones who produce the spaces of alienation like the classroom or the prison.
Occupy Wall Street Working Group about Education in a nearby other Privately Owned Public Space (60 Wall Street) / October 18th
As it was pointed out in various articles, the mother-ship of Occupy Wall Street in New York addresses a very interesting spatial issue which, despite its specificity to NYC, opens the doors to a broader urban problem about public space. In fact, Liberty Square’s legal status is known to be a Privately Owned Public Space resulting from a 1961 deal between the City of New York and private corporations who wanted to transgress the urban code by building higher towers: In exchange of a significant area of public space on their parcel, corporations and private owners would be authorized to build their towers higher. However, this little zone of public space was not meant to be given to the city so those private actors remained the owners and controllers of this area. They therefore maintained the right to authorize or forbid activities from taking place or people from passing though those spaces.
Under an appearance of openness, privately owned public spaces are in fact extremely selective of their public. Employees working in the towers are of course welcome; those open spaces are part of a post-modern biopolitical capitalism that appears as taking good care of its subjects. People who spend money on those sites in order to buy coffee, hot dogs, or newspapers are also targeted for this type of public spaces. Others are regarded as unwelcome even suspect, and can be asked to leave in case of a “subversive” activity such as playing with a ball, taking pictures, or picnicking.
Both corporations and governments are satisfied with those public spaces. Corporations are able to build taller skyscrapers, provide open space for their employees, and develop commercial activities while governments see their public space being maintained by private actors and any potential space of gathering being controlled and supervised…until now.
The Occupiers of Wall Street therefore reclaimed a territory which should have been simply declared as public rather than let in an ambiguity that favors their owners.
Liberty Square on October 14th 2011
Since its beginning, the movement Occupy Wall Street has been called by many names but one comes back often enough to be analyzed here: protest. Of course, one can legitimately argue that terminology is nothing compared to action and that while some people are looking for words, other are directly acting. This is definitely accurate, nevertheless, this movement has been characterized so far by a great sense of self-awareness in order to maintain a strict non-hierarchical organization and it is therefore probably worth it to wonder which terminology to use to fathom what this movement is about.
Protest, not only seems pretty weak as a reaction, but is clearly missing a point. Protest is often legible on the various signs that are spread all around Liberty Square and expresses a real anger towards a system which cannot be called democracy per say. This is therefore what would emerge from a very shallow reading of the movement, the same that is reported by the Press which, subjected to the pressure of time and money, does not spend enough time on site to understand. What is happening there is not fundamentally anchored in the negativity of a criticism for what surrounds us but rather in the positivity of a construction of a collective alternative.
The General Assembly, held every day, is a good and visible example of such construction but its slowness due to the amount of people present and the mean of communication used (see previous article about the Human-Mic) makes it more a tool of communication for everyone as much as a instance of approval for every proposition submitted to it. At a different scale, the numerous working groups that are born from the movement and gather regularly to participate actively to this construction are tremendously important.
Liberty Square on October 9th 2011
It’s been more than three weeks now that Wall Street is occupied and the amount of participants keeps increasing everyday. Now that the Press cannot ignore anymore the movement, criticisms and mockeries -usually done with a clenched smile which reveals much about their authors- are coming by hundreds. The main excuse for criticism that seems to emerge from this sea of contempt consists in the fact that the movement did not have yet came up with any consistent demand. This observation is symptomatic of a deep misunderstanding from some people (including long timer leftists) for this movement: There is no demands for the good reason that there is nobody to address those demands to. The very principle of this movement consists in the recognition for no leader, nor even for any form of representation of a collective power. Any demands would only enclose the movement to a system it refuses at its base.
For the last three weeks, hundreds of New Yorkers (and from elsewhere) have experienced and demonstrated what a system of direct democracy looks like. They did it without asking the authorization to anyone and gained their legitimacy to do so retroactively by salvaging an absolute openness and strict leaderness to this occupation. “This is what democracy looks like” is not just a mere slogan, this is a manifesto of what is happening right now. What comes next, detached of the thread of the present has no importance, only the continuous effort to make this movement lives according to its collective principles is.
This process is a beautiful thing to assist at and participate to. Each person comes to Liberty Square with a set of skills that (s)he can, teach, communicate about and, more importantly, apply in a the most direct way. The following film, Right Here All Over directed by Alex Mallis & Lilly Henderson is a beautiful ode to this spirit in which everybody has something useful to bring in.