Hybrid, extra-disciplinary collective art projects, public interventions, curatorial work, and political organizing
SOCIAL PROJECTS & CULTURAL ACTIVISM
MILES DE VIVIENDAS
In 2006 I had the unique pleasure of being invited as a ‘professor’
of Urban Pirate Practices at the Universitat Pirata, a self-organized
university based out of the legendary Miles de Viviendas squatted social
center in Barcelona. Miles de Viviendas, which translates as ‘Thousands
of Homes,’ was an extraordinary collective living project, art project
and political project. It transformed me deeply, as it did everyone
involved along the way. At the time I moved there, Miles was housed in a
highly-visible, six-story squatted former-fascist police-barracks, right
next to the sea.
DEPARTMENT OF SPACE & LAND RECLAMATION
The Department of Space and Land Reclamation (or DSLR) was a 2001 campaign that
attempted to reclaim all the space, land and visual culture of Chicago back to
the people who work for it, live in it and create it. DSLR brought hundreds of
artists, activists, and community groups together for interventions,
presentations, graffiti, trespassing, pirate radio, community meals, loitering,
hacking, guerrilla gardening, public performances, parties, and discussions.
A hub space and laboratory was set up as a 24 hour location where different
communities could come together, collaborate on projects,
and take them back out into the city, where over a hundred planned and
spontaneous “reclamations” occurred. Each reclamation was marked on a large map
of the city, corresponding to a wall of TV’s showing video from the field... [VISIT THE DSLR WEBSITE]
DSLR inspired a rash of public interventions in Chicago, the DSLR WEST in San Francisco,
and the DSLR-inspired 'October Surprise' in northeastern L.A.
Read more about DLSR in the book Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority
The GEOGRAFIA ESBORRADA, or GEOGRAPHY OF ERASURE is a neighborhood walking tour and critical tourism project, aimed to intervene in the tourist-driven gentrification of seaside Barceloneta.
The walking tours are led by residents, and highlight important locations in the neighborhood that have been subject to displacement and historical erasure; be it during the Franco dictatorship or during the speculative frenzy of the current era.
These tours are part of a broad cultural strategy in the high-stakes struggle for defense of the Barceloneta. I helped produce the first couple rounds of the ongoing tours and the Map of Erasure, which is available online here along with a self-guided audio tour and other media.
In 2010, Not An Alternative received a commission to
create props for a Wall Street Bailout protest organized by a national
coalition of grassroots groups. When they brought me on as a collaborator we decided
to build this stage-like 'Front' of an imagined foreclosed house.
We wheeled it throughout the Financial District, bringing the visual
juxtaposition of 'Main Street' to 'Wall Street', and generating
conversation at every turn.
When folks queried
where the 'house' came from, we would respond that it was "Formerly the
house of a now-unemployed schoolteacher/librarian etc., and
that the house now belonged to CHASE/ CITIBANK etc.
While the permutations always changed, people consistently believed the story-
unsurprised that a house facade could just tear away in a tornado of debt.
The Universitat Pirata, or Pirate University, was a self-organized university based out of the Miles de Viviendas social center.
It was founded on principles of piracy, meaning: the free circulation of educational access, the decorporatization and decommodification of knowledge, free culture, and the 'fever to share'.
Following these lines, the Pirate University hosted a plethora of co-educational experimental 'bloques', or classes.
Within the varied auspices of the Pirate University, I helped organize media programing and a neighborhood-based TV network, TV L'Ostia,
and I co-facilitated a ‘Branding for Activists’ course.
The Branding class often dovetailed with my activities in the
Open Source Sewing Studio, where we made costumes, fashion
shows, textile design, soft sculptures for protest, and sewing workshops
where we would often occupy public space. [MORE ABOUT U.P.]
[ click for slideshow ]
[ click for slideshow ]
'THIS IS CHAOS' CAMPAIGN
'This is CHAos' was a high-level public intervention and counter-PR campaign which threatened to implode the Chicago Housing Authority's careful rebranding of its controversial public housing policies.
It was made by an anonymous group, in consultation with public housing residents and other experts, who felt that the CHA's 'Plan for Transformation' was in fact an engine of displacement, corruption, and privatization of public land and services.
Listen to the short NPR radio segment about the Chicago Housing Authority's 'Plan for Transformation' and the 'This is CHAos' intervention.
Visit the original chicagohousingauthority.net PROJECT WEBSITE HERE
Read about the campaign in the Chicago Reader, 'Fighting Spin with Spin' or in the article, 'From CHAnge to CHAos', below:
DALEY VILLAGE AND OTHER INTERVENTIONS IN HOUSING
I was a collaborator on a cycle of experimental interventions in the
field of real estate speculation which took place in Chicago between 2001 and 2003.
The first intervention was known as Pioneer Renewal Trust; with artists
Dave Grant, Josh MacPhee, Laurie Joe Reynolds, Ben Rubin, Trevor Paglen,
Paul Sargent, and Nato Thompson developing a fake Real Estate agency
called “Pioneer Renewal Trust: Staking your claim in the Urban
frontier.” Pioneer Renewal Trust took a 3-story building in
gentrifying Pilsen and put it on the open housing Market. Real investors
and potential buyers could come to
a series of performative Open Houses, and over the course of the month, the development sign on the front of the building went from
normal to truly Absurd - advertising the subdivision of the 3-flat into
a 23-unit ‘Pilsonian Gardens Loft Homes’. The final open-house was
public forum on resistance to gentrification, where the ruse was up; and
several angry young home-buyers spoke out about feeling ‘Hoaxed’.
Later, when the City unveiled a serial public art project ‘Sweet Home
Chicago’, featuring decorated and homeless-proof living room dinettes,
this prompted a counter-public art project known as Daley Village.
Aiming to draw out the connections between homelessness and the
affordable housing crisis, a new collective created a guerrilla roll-out of
Mayor-Daley emblazoned shacks, each one meant to cover one of the Sweet
Home Chicago dinettes and to draw a contest over the purpose of “public
art” and city monies. Due to 9/11 security hysteria it didn’t happen as
planned, and instead were installed on an empty lot, along with a media
advisory for a ‘Groundbreaking Ceremony at Daley’s new Affordable
Housing initiative’. Only Univison found it newsworthy enough to show
THE AUTONOMOUS TERRITORIES OF CHICAGO
In 2001 I co-curated a utopian carnival called the
'Autonomous Territories of Chicago', which happened in the wake of 9/11
and featured groups who attempted in some way to work outside of the grid of
city, state, and capital. It featured emancipatory things like surveillance camera piñatas, Temporary Services, Nance
Klehm’s foraged food tours, Michael Piazza's Haymarket 8-hour action series,
Indymedia, and Gods Gang, an urban farming group from the Robert Taylor
Projects, who formerly fed hundreds of people and grew aquacultured fish
in abandoned public housing units, until their building was destroyed in
[ click for slideshow ]
StreetRec was a tactical media collective that was interested in upping the ante in visual protest strategies, as well as finding new ways to communicate messages and intervene in public space.
The collective's life was short, and lively, just like the protest movements which spawned it.
It leaves behind the meme of 'The Heads', as we called them, and the short documentary 'Retooling Dissent'.
THE TRANS-ATLANTIC BUSINESS 'MONOLOGUE'
Organizing against the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue..
( more soon.. )
[ click for images ]
THE CITY FROM BELOW
In 2009, I helped organize a conference in Baltimore called 'The City From Below'
"The city has emerged in recent years as an indispensable concept for many of the struggles for social justice we are all engaged in - it's a place where theory meets practice, where the neighborhood organizes against global capitalism, where unequal divisions based on race and class can be mapped out block by block and contested, where the micropolitics of gender and sexual orientation are subject to metropolitan rearticulation, where every corner is a potential site of resistance and every vacant lot a commons to be reclaimed, and, most importantly, a place where all our diverse struggles and strategies have a chance of coming together into something greater."
"In cities everywhere, new social movements are coming into being, hidden histories and herstories are being uncovered, and unanticipated futures are being imagined and built - but so much of this knowledge remains, so to speak, at street-level. We need a space to gather and share our stories, our ideas and analysis, a space to come together and rethink the city from below..."