12 05 06

Posse of Precarious People

Elisabeth Steger

Posse of Precarious People

1. of May, 2006, 2 o´ clock p.m., Vienna

Let´ s start with the beginning and first cite a Hannah Arendt sentence, the philosopher of the birth - a sentence she wrote in her first book about Love: “Only the world which is loved is bad”.  It is one of my favourite sentences because it makes clear what stands behind critics or better in the front, it speaks about the condition, the pre-condition. Practising critic, training it,  does not mean that you are suffering from a kind of deficiency symptom - which is what a general fearful reaction wants to tell you in more or less friendly words - but it means cultivating this old  thing called Love. And I mean “cultivating” in a gardener practice sense of: “let it grow like a plant”.

Let´ s have a look at the first steps of the parade. I am totally addicted to starting. Flexibly working transformed me into a starting fetishist, enjoying this pushing kick of the New – comparable to the feeling of falling in love to somebody ( or bodies ) repeatedly. Let´ s focus the moments when the parade tried to start, the parade of the “performative movement”:  we/they  are gathering on a market place, becoming more and more. Sun is shining. After months of cold winter you wish to slow down and enjoy the first rays. In a few minutes the whole situation turns into an info stock exchange. A samba group tries to animate people for marching. But it´ s not that easy. You see couples standing around, talking, reading, waiting for something or somebody.  Others get nervous, want to start: we are here to march into the may after all.  Some single persons are crying: That´ s the beginning, here it goes! No re/action. Slow re/action. A sluggish thing, such a gathering critical mass. 

2. It´ s just an example: A banner carried by a single person at the parade, excited my attentions: “The Day of  Labour-Judgement” was written in black letters on the red fabric. After reading “the Trial” from Franz Kafka a few days before I was sensitive for this religious metaphor. And if you have open eyes to the “developments” in labour politics,  it is obvious that a lot of people stick to institutions ( for example the AMS, the Austrian institution for the unemployed ) which are “grown” historically, stick to them as if they has been made by Gods and therefore should last forever and ever and stay sacrosanct. I am choosing THIS institution because exactly in front of it there has been the eklat at the Viennese parade - not by chance. To say it loud, that there are pressures and needs and therefore possibilities to change institutions, seems like breaking a law – is it relevant what kind of law ? Law is law. And law breaking - is not everybody´ s favourite job. For sure it is important how to say things with words, how to formulate ones or our wants.  To create an equation like “to shit = to work” and to write it on the walls of the AMS somehow puts the bio-political circumstances in a Viennese actionist style quite well ( replacing “to shit” by “to be” would make it a little bit more holistic )

3. Njetworking!

Let´ s get more  trans-national, if I am not still doing it by speaking about the Euromayday machine. Another way to cause a lot of fear ? If I may tell you some of my experiences in talks about inter/national affairs/ the crisis of the nation state/borders, I can tell stories of the immediate rising angst of my vis-à-vis, an angst  about loosing something, about being robbed of an identity. Imagine: through a small talk!

Let´ s get more trans-metropolitan! “A lot of bad journalism followed“, a participant of the EMD mailing list wrote in his report after the event in Helsinki. There are other cities than Paris and Paris and Paris. Because “Mayday” is not centred in those wannabe-centres which have the power to attract medial attention or in a city historically connected with “Revolution”. Let´ s not repeat the mainstream failures.  I admit: “burning cars” is not an uninteresting phenomenon – I think “the automobile” is one, if not THE  fabrication of mankind with most badly and grave consequences for all of us (  precarious people – precariousness is dealing with living in a city- till now ) but we have already a lot of texts about these flaming examples. Anyway I give a little addendum:

In Vienna you cannot see cars burning. In Austria you can hear journalists talking about this status symbols in the public sphere. For example in a radio broadcasting about a prize for social projects which is awarded traditionally on 1. of May : The journalist asked the private founder of the Unruhestiftung why she is not buying a car – obviously she or they ( it´ s a rich couple without kids ) have the money to buy at least a huge car. The answer of the donor: “Oh, I have one and do not need another one.” You see: the whole thing sounds a little bit feudalistic coming to a head: WE, the great donors of our private/public institution, supporting social projects which WE honour and support and the state does not support, WE are talking in the public about OUR private honourable work. Oh, aren´ t WE admirable and real social ?  Welcome back in the past !

You also can hear reports about horrible AMS -courses in the radio, you can see reports about the “freeters” ( precarious organized people in Tokio ) ... but the point when this reports could become interesting because of a real critical message will never be reached. There are autonomous medias, o.k.  But to do interventions into the traditional medias is an idea which should not be forgotten: the Intermittents who crashed a TV-show. Or a younger example: a Swedish Precario,  who took part in a TV-show all alone to practice anti precarious politics in this more un-political spectacle. At least the group got an useful amount of money – he won the prize of the show – and the  balance of their account could be filled up, at least for a while. EMD´ s do political work. Regard the frequency with which key words of the movement are used now in daily politics ( some say, it became fashion to speak about precariousness. Remember Walter Benjamin: “I put the phrase, that in any case the eternal is more likely a frill at a robe than an idea” ) and you see that  a certain influence from the European “underworld” is not disputable –  basic democratic life is evident, it is so without an animation from above ( or Latino-American sound around produced in an hierarchically setting ) I am speaking about networks, organized networks ( see: Ned Rossiter´ s text  )

4. Occasion

Being first socialised to assume an un-scrutinized respect against institutes – a development of prejudices followed and permanent thoughts like: “be careful with them”. I do prefer njetworking.  To the proposed minimal institute and the seriously granted MBA title: don´ t we yet have an ABA ? Better known as the academy of fine arts  ? Shall I start collecting sounding titles, which promise a power I am disapprove of ?  At that moment of my institutum vitae - to choose a real noble description for an almost totally absence of life planning in précarité -  there is no desire for getting a new title, at a new school, from another teacher. Virno is writing: “The imitation of institutional roles or special privileges is wrong and results in a paralysis of the movement; wrong – because actually it would be necessary to put these roles and privileges in question; paralysis – because performing stays un-effective in this way.”  I would propose a conference and would invite the “epicentre” ( founder: Boris Nieslony/ ASA Köln  ). We do have minimal institutes:

"E.P.I. centre ( Europäisches Performance Institut ) is an always nomadic moving place, a -place of movement-. That means also, it is a precipice, a vacancy, a kind of permanent beginning. What E.P.I. centre treats and puts into practice are the tectonic shifts and shocks in todays social and cultural reality, which sometimes could be understand as -critical junctions- and outlined seismographical. At some day E.P.I.  centre in its abyss fundament will be probably the -time-net-adequate- mode of knowledge, its mediation and transfer, both in a theoretical and practical sense. Because the shocks and tears who appear suddenly in the epi centre, will soon provoke all social and cultural areas."

Elisabeth Steger