22 04 07

MACHINES: Sharing Tools for Intervention and Assembly

Maribel Casas-Cortés and Sebastian Cobarrubias

Machines is the name given to a unique encounter for sharing experiences among creative activist collectives from diverse sites along the Atlantic. This workshop-reflection event took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA) during February 18 and 19, 2007. As the call to this encounter reads, the given name is not arbitrary but captures a kind of common political ground among the participants:

“If there is something to be highlighted in the current protest cycle [...], it is definitely the way in which innovation is a structural feature of the new forms of political action [...]. In recent years there seems to have been a confirmation of the image of the machine Guattari and Deleuze used to refer to the need for open, flexible forms for political creativity, for which the molar and molecular, micro and macro dimensions of politics, could cease to be mutually exclusive as they have been at other moments.

To simplify, notions such as machine or political creation allow us to mark out a territory from where we can radically rethink the relation between art, communication and politics, put into practice now as overlapping or interlinked components, avoiding the classic game of addition: art ‘plus’ politics, politics ‘plus’ art, politics ‘plus’ communication. For at least a decade we have been accumulating experiences which have occurred in every corner of the planet, practices quite distinct from one another which have not and will not multiply unless we think of them as genetically involved in the global protest cycle in progress”.

As the call to the two day seminar suggests, the groups involved seemed to embody the notion of war machine in their practice. Tools, concepts, objects (such as maps, artistic interventions outside/within artistic institutions, actions) are used to concatenate various social actors and forms into a complex body of movement and action. Although sharing the use of a particular machinic object, these same actors and forms are not structured by it in any fixed sense.  The “machines” used by these groups are precisely to open up/break apart the striated structurations of particular concepts used by the state or particular institutions that order behavior, action and knowledge. In the case of the first day’s groups there is an attempt to crack open the notions of security currently deployed in modes of governance, and for the second day’s groups what qualifies as public space --or even as a ‘public’-- is challenged through social action. The fixity of these notions is traversed or broken up to open new possibilities for intervention and new ways of ‘being’ in common [1].

The two-day encounter was divided by transversal themes. Instead of limiting the sessions solely to self-referential presentations by each group, each day was organized around a series of shared issues. During the first day, a set of groups focused on how their own projects dealt with the questions of i) security, ii) policies of criminalization and control, and iii) non-regulated education to combat those. The groups of the second day discussed i) how their projects problematize the production of public space, how is it constructed, how is it subverted and intervened in? as well as ii) the relationship between struggles and institutions.

Day 1: The two groups from Buenos Aires shared a humoristic take on the question of security that has gripped the country in recent years. Subverting the media generated fear, La Comunitaria TV presented Segurisimo, a mock TV commercial selling personalized cages readily delivered with a cell phone call at any time in order to surround and protect you at all times from “others” --street criminals and radical militants-- around. The Etcétera Collective presented the Internacional Errorista. Armed with cardboard Kalashnikovs, pistols and RPG’s; masked with make believe kuffiyahs, the “errorits” assumed all stereotypes and mediatized images of terrorists during their direct actions, such as the one against the summit of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) meeting of political leaders in Mar del Plata 2006, as a way to defuse the tensions around anti-terrorist security laws. The projects from Sao Paolo --presented by two participants from groups such as Contra Filé and Frente 3 de Fevereiro-- focused on questioning different aspects of the control society, playing with mass media attention and assuming its unknown consequences. One of the projects, La Catraca, popularized the concept of control in everyday life through the image of a turnstyle, after stealing one of those and placing it as a public monument in a square, the media invented a verb to refer to this concept. This new word-image became popular and even appropriated by different Brazilian social movements dealing with issues of privatization and free access to public transport. Two members of diverse collectives and political initiatives in Andalucia (Entránsito, Fadaiat, Centro Social Casa de Iniciativas de Málaga, Indymedia Estrecho...) presented a a cartography of the European Southern border: the Gibraltar strait that separates Spain from Morocco. The map visually shows the increasing militarization, survey technologies and control mechanisms placed at the contours of the currently being produced Fortress Europe. This map also showed the different sites and techniques of resistance to that security paranoia showing the density of networking among social movements among the two sea sides. 

Day 2: Thinking through the production of space issue, the North Carolina based group 3Cs Counter Cartographies Collective focused on how the American university is usually constructed as a discrete bubble distanced from reality and thus politics as well. Trying to subvert this spatial thinking, the 3Cs put together a DisOrientation Guide that portrays the university as a factory, as well as a material body, part of a dense network of social, ecological, racial relations within the knowledge economy. In a different venue, the curators’ collective from Zagreb WHW (What, How & For Whom) approached the issue by looking at the tensions of public/private space in a post-socialist country through different art works and exhibitions. For example, through performance works and interventions in the public space by Sanja Ivekovic, the body is put to work as a political actor. Also, through exhibitions such as Normalization and Alternative monuments to Tesla, they are trying to contribute, and constitute in themselves, different notions of public space. Also from the former Yugoslavia, historically traced the growing disappearance of organized civil society in its area (Novi Sad, in the Vojvodjna region of northern Serbia) at the same time underlying the rich variety of forms and actions that they have developed in recent years (telematic activism, encounters and discussions, printed and online publications, digital and material archives with open access, research work about the relations between art-politics in the region around 68, promotion of alternative spaces and centers of socio-political encounters). All of these forms contributing to the revitalization of autonomous organizing forms in the post-Tito and post-Milosevic eras. Finally, Ateneu Candela based in Terrasa talked about the Oficinas de Derechos Sociales (ODS) [Offices of Social Rights] as a way to rearticulate previous struggles over urban space, looking towards the creation of a kind of alternative institution focused on emerging figures such as the precarious, migrant and cognitarian workers, as well as those suffering from “real state violence” and other issues related to precarity. The goal being to reinvent a public space able to put in common the diverse subjectivities in struggle.

            This kind of encounter --besides debates over within/without institutions-- provides a temporary space for mutual infection where the different projects create resonances with each other, coming back to the distinct locations with eagerness to hack, assemble and reinvent new strategies in diverse territories. According to some of the participants, these encounters are not to be understood as an end in itself, but rather as part of a process of exchanging tools, strengthening networks and multiplying parallel projects for social struggles everywhere.

Maribel Casas-Cortés


Sebastian Cobarrubias


other languages

MACHINES: Sharing Tools for Intervention and Assembly Máquinas: compartir herramientas de intervención, montaje y agregación