Animal Spirits – A Bestiary of the Commons

Matteo Pasquinelli

Hoe groter de geest, hoe groter het beest.

[The greater the spirit, the greater the beast]

Traditional Dutch saying



What constitutes the common? While I was exploring the dark sides of digital commons and culture industry, the awakening of the animal spirits of the financial crisis during 2008 became in fact the horizon of the political debate. The idea of investigating the animal spirits of the commons was actually conceived a few years earlier, when the global mediascape following stock indexes were fed by the pornography of war terrorism. Yet the irrational fears and forces struggling behind media networks were never illuminated by critical thinkers and politi- cal activists or, more specifically, considered as a productive component of economic flows. John Maynard Keynes once defined ‘animal spirits’ as precisely those unpredictable human drives that influence stock markets and push economic cycles. Similarly, in his recent work, Paolo Virno has underlined how all institutions (from the nation-state to contemporary digital networks) represent an extension of the aggressive instincts of humankind. In this reading, language and culture form the basis of the common (networking), but also new fields of antagonism and chaos (notworking).

While the playground of Free Culture is celebrated and defended today only on the basis of copyright legalese like Creative Commons, a vast bestiary of conflicts is propagating beneath the new factory of cul- ture. In this book, while avoiding any reactionary position on such phe- nomena, I explore how animal spirits belong to the contemporary notion of multitude and also positively innervate the production of the common. Against the ‘creative destruction’ of value characteristic of stock mar- kets that has become the political condition of current times, a redefini- tion of the commons is needed and urgent. Besides the familiar mantra of supply-and-demand, a purely imaginary fabrication of value is today a key component of the financial game. What might occur if the urban and network multitudes enter this valorization game and recover a common power over the fragile chain of value production?

The common is not an independent realm. It is a dynamic object that nevertheless falls into a field of forces surrounded and defined by the laws of value and production. The new parasitic forms of network econ- omy and monopolies of communication (from IBM to MySpace) can easily exploit, for instance, the generous stock provided by Free Culture without imposing any form of traumatic enclosure or strict regime of intellectual property. To debunk a fashionable and superficial politi- cal posturing, this book pursues a spectre, a sub-religion of separation that has come to dominate media culture, art critique, radical activism and academia over the last decade. The chapters of this book point to three different but contiguous domains that have been conceptualized and celebrated as autonomous spheres or virtuous economies: digital networks and the so-called Free Culture, the culture industry and the European ‘creative cities’, the mediascape of war terrorism and Internet pornography neutralized by intellectual puritanism.

The separation of these media domains is patrolled by a legion of postmodern thinkers, that are widely employed by cultural theory (especially in the field of art criticism). Authors such as Jean Baudril- lard and Slavoj Žižek are taken here as a symptom of a typical Western language fetishism that locks any potential political gesture in the prison- house of Code. In this confinement, any act of resistance is inhibited as fatalistically reinforcing the dominant ideology. The Empire is suffering its own diseases, but postmodernism indulges its curious claustropho- bia. An investment in this critique, however, does not mean a naïve return to good old materialism, but on the contrary, aims to illuminate the frictions and conflicts in the interstices between material and im- material, biological and digital, desire and imaginary. Each sphere of separation cultivates its own inbred languages: digitalism and freecultur- alism in the circuits of network economy, the hype of creativity for the culture industries and new city policies, the hysteric left-wing puritanism against ‘warporn’ and ‘netporn’. Each sphere hides its peculiar kind of asymmetrical conflict. Undoubtedly, as Giorgio Agamben suggests, the profanation of these hidden separations is the political task of the coming political generations.

Crucially, these three separated spheres are coextensive with three forms of commons, whose glorious autonomy is haunted and infested here by three conceptual beasts: the corporate parasite of the digital commons, the hydra of gentrification behind the ‘creative cities’, the bicephalous eagle of power and desire ruling the mediascape of war pornography. This bestiary is introduced to advance a non-dialectical model for media politics and radical aesthetics. In particular, such beasts represent new biomorphic concepts to replace the binary abstractions of postmodernism, such as simulacra and symbolic code. Moreover, they are not necessarily evil creatures: an alliance with them is the un- told of radical thought. The parasite discloses, for instances, the tactical alliance of Free Software with media corporations; the hydra reveals the conflictual and competitive nature of labour in the culture industries; the bicephalous eagle incarnates the fetishism for power and desire that seduces any political imaginary. Together, they constitute a primary bestiary for the age of neo-archaic capitalism, and can hopefully inspire a generation of new political animals.

This book attempts a sort of linear Dantesque journey along a steep mediascape: descending from the gnostic plateaux of digitalism and pure peer cooperation to the reptilian unconscious of the metropolis beneath the benevolent totalitarianism of the Creative Industries, deep into the underworld of netporn and warporn, unveiling the shadows of an ap- parently immaculate digital colonization. As an old Dutch-Jewish say- ing puts it, ‘the greater the spirit, the greater the beast’. All immaterial commons have a material basis, and in particular, a biological ground. Seeking a new political terrain for media theory through the concept of an energetic unconscious, I try to incorporate the Zeitgeist of the biosphere (energy crisis, climate change, global warming) into the belly of the me- diascape. This energetic interpretation of technology directly contests the dominant paradigm of Media Studies that reduces and neutralizes the network to a dialectics of two internal coordinates: (digital) code and (desiring) flows. In contrast, I argue that any system should be defined by the external excess of energy that operates it. Similarly, the puritan activist imperative to ‘consume less’ will continue to remain ineffective until the capitalist core of production is questioned. Between code and flow, a dystopian vision of desire and economic surplus is introduced.

In fact, what is the creative gesture that produces the commons? A widespread belief considers creativity as naturally ‘good’ and immacu- late, energy-free and friction-less, untouched by compromise or conflict. A famous slogan shared by the supporters of Free Culture and the wealth of networks alike reads: ‘Information is non-rival.’ In reality, beyond the computer screen, precarious workers and freelancers experience how Free Labour and competition are increasingly devouring their everyday life. Digital commons have become pseudo-commons, an ideal space detached from the material basis of production, where surplus-value and exploitation are virtuously expunged. Indeed, the ‘age of digital re- production’ has accelerated both immaterial commons and competition in a more general sense. Global financialization, for instance, and its volatile derivatives are also made possible by digitalization. The slogan ‘information is non-rival’, therefore, has its doppelgänger: accumulation of information on the one side feeds speculation and new communica- tion monopolies on the other. The new commons are fragile if they are established only from a formal perspective like that of Creative Com- mons licences. This book strives for a stronger political definition of the commons and, in particular, investigates the wider material impact and ramifications of the cultural capital.

The ephemeral Creative Cities rising across the European skyline are the latest attempt to incorporate the collective factory of culture into corporate business and real-estate speculation. The artistic mode of production has innervated the economy of European cities, but more for the sake of gentrification than for cultural production itself. This critique, however, does not lament the malicious nature of the cultural economy. On the contrary, an invigorated cultural scene can only be established by reversing the chain of value generation. By legitimately expanding the notion of ‘creativity’ beyond economic correctness, this book explains how sabotage can equally be seen as creative and productive. Against the old political museum of Fordism, a dynamic and combative definition of the commons is advanced. Neoliberalism first taught everybody the sabotage of value. Sabotage is precisely what is considered impossible within the postmodern parlance (where each gesture supposedly rein- forces the dominant regime), or conversely what Antonio Negri consid- ered a form of self-valorization during the social struggles of the 1970s.In a dynamic world system shaped by a lunatic and an irrational stock market, the power of creative destruction must likewise be understood as belonging also to the contemporary multitudes and the common.

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Martha Rosler – Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism


Jackson Pollock in his studio.

When Abstract Expressionists explored the terrain of the canvas and Pollock created something of a disorientation map by putting his unstretched canvases on the floor, few observers and doubtless fewer painters would have acknowledged a relationship between their concerns and real estate, let alone transnational capital flows.

Space, as many observers have noted, has displaced time as the operative dimension of advanced, globalizing (and post-industrial?) capitalism.1 Time itself, under this economic regime, has been differentiated, spatialized, and divided into increasingly smaller units.2Even in virtual regimes, space entails visuality in one way or another. The connection between Renaissance perspective and the enclosures of late medieval Europe, together with the new idea of terrain as a real-world space to be negotiated, supplying crossing points for commerce, was only belatedly apparent. Similarly, the rise of photography has been traced to such phenomena as the encoding of earthly space and the enclosing of land in the interest of ground rent. For a long time now, art and commerce have not simply taken place side by side, but have actively set the terms for one another, creating and securing worlds and spaces in turn.

My task here is to explore the positioning of what urban business evangelist Richard Florida has branded the “creative class,” and its role, ascribed and anointed, in reshaping economies in cities, regions, and societies. In pursuit of that aim, I will consider a number of theories—some of them conflicting—of the urban and of forms of subjectivity. In reviewing the history of postwar urban transformations, I consider the culture of the art world on the one hand, and, on the other, the ways in which the shape of experience and identity under the regime of the urban render chimerical the search for certain desirable attributes in the spaces we visit or inhabit. Considering the creative-class hypothesis of Richard Florida and others requires us first to tease apart and then rejoin the urbanist and the cultural strains of this argument. I would maintain, along with many observers, that in any understanding of postwar capitalism, the role of culture has become pivotal.

I open the discussion with the French philosopher and sometime Surrealist Henri Lefebvre, whose theorization of the creation and capitalization of types of space has been enormously productive. Lefebvre begins his book of 1970, The Urban Revolution, as follows:

I’ll begin with the following hypothesis: Society has been completely urbanized. This hypothesis implies a definition: An urban society is a society that results from a process of complete urbanization. This urbanization is virtual today, but will become real in the future.3

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Taken from

Are you working too much?

By Eva Kenny

E-flux’s new book, Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art, is a collection of texts from their online and print journal that have, over the past year, dealt with the subject of art as work and art-related workers in the post-Fordist economy.


Post-Fordism is a term that refers to the conditions of contemporary work as it has changed from a factory production line based model. In the latter part of the twentieth century, shifts towards making the workforce more flexible in terms of hours, more specialized in what they do or make as dictated by market demands, and more precarious in terms of rights and benefits as well as an increase in the growth of service industries are generally agreed to be characteristic of Post-Fordist labor conditions. Given that every part of the political, public or civic sphere is now dominated by the economy, it makes sense that the art world be submitted to the same analyses and in fact, the case is made here that art work and art workers are actually paradigmatic of the new conditions of labor.  Occupations that previously would not have been considered artistic, like medicine or governance, have learned from art how to be quixotic and virtuosic or, in Diedrich Diderichsen’s expression, “intense.” This develops the argument made by Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello in The New Spirit of Capitalism: that capitalism has learned from and incorporated many of the critiques directed at it by avant-garde artists and counter-cultural critiques from the 1960s onwards. In the essays by Diedrich Diderichsen, Mariane Von Osten and Hito Steyerl in particular, there’s a historical look at the changes in the roles played by art and by capitalism in the popular imagination. Diederichsen’s text “People of Intensity, People of Power: The Nietzsche Economy,” describes an advertising company in Dusseldorf in the 1970s that employed an ex-Fluxus artist with “the specific task of interfering with business as usual.” The artist’s brief is to show advertising executives how to be intense and nonconformist: intensity, previously the preserve of artists, is brought into the mainstream to disrupt traditionally managerial thinking and encourage a more creative work environment. When there is a stable Fordist father figure delegating and deciding at the head of the company / firm / state, Diderichsen explains, this system works very well, but Boltanski and Chiapello and the essays in this book diagnose the opposite problem, one of the over-identification of capital, from the top down, with its critics. The question posed by this book, on the back cover, is this: what’s good about art when what used to be good about it (“flexibility, certainty and freedom”) is now what’s bad about the capitalist system?


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The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scen

by Simon Arms

Art critic Emilie Trice has called Berlin “the graffiti Mecca of the urban art world.” While few people would argue with her, the Berlin street scene is not as radical as her statement suggests. Street art in Berlin is a big industry. It’s not exactly legal, but the city’s title of UNESCO’s City of Design has kept local authorities from doing much to change what observers call the most “bombed” city in Europe. From the authorities’ point of view, the graffiti attracts tourists, and the tourists bring money to a city deep in debt.

This article looks at the development of the Berlin street art scene, from its beginnings as a minor West Berlin movement in the late ’70s to its current status: the heritage of a now unified city.

After the few East Germans who crossed the Berlin Wall in the ’80s blinked and pinched themselves, what do you think was the first thing they saw?

They saw big bubbly letters, spelling out words in German, English and French. They saw political slogans, either carved indelibly into the concrete or sprayed temporarily onto surfaces, commenting not only on the situation in Germany, but on the whole political world: “God Ble$$,” “Concrete Makes You Happy,” “Death to Tyrants.” As far as they could see, covering every inch of wall, was layer upon layer of zest, life and color.

Wall-final2 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

If they’d crossed in the ’60s, however, they’d have been tempted to jump straight back. Abandoned buildings, derelict streets, piles of rubble — the immediate areas around the wall were reminiscent of World War II, and it would take another 10 years for the first communities to settle there.

Even then, those early settlers weren’t “real” Berliners, but outsiders: draft resisters, anarchist punks and Turkish migrants. They either opened businesses or formed squats and, with no resistance from the West German government, began turning walls into monuments to their own thoughts and beliefs.

By the end of the ’70s, a new wave of graffiti artists, arriving with innovations such as stencils and spray cans, were contributing genuine works of art. Our East German friends would have been staring not just at the defacement of Communist property, but at what graffiti artists had by then claimed as their Mecca.

After The Wall

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the graffiti artists marched straight into East Germany. Mitte, Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg — all of the areas that the military had occupied became a new playground for the Western artists and became a new world for the Eastern artists who joined them. Few doubted that the East Germans’ work was weightier. It wasn’t that they were better artists, but that they could express — with authority — the one concept close to the hearts of all people now living in the city: what it meant to be free.

Friedrichshain in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene
A street in the East Berlin area of Friedrichshain a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

One East Berliner to make an impact during this period was “Tower.” With his name printed in a variety of colors and fonts on what looked like car stickers, people must have initially mistaken his work for advertising. But the more they saw it — on lamp posts, on post boxes, on trash cans, on fences — the more they understood what he was trying to communicate: Tower, as in the communist TV tower; Tower, as in the skyscrapers that dominated the skyline of almost every major city — built not for the people who lived there, but for the egos of the people who ran them. Tower’s aim was to reclaim the word as a symbol of strength and, in doing so, proclaim that the majority, not the minority, should be shaping the public space.

Tower9 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

A Case Study: Linda’s Ex

In the summer of 2003, posters of a boy bemoaning the loss of his ex-girlfriend, Linda, began to appear on walls and fences in the Friedrichshain district. Sometimes he looked like a boy ready to kill himself; sometimes he looked like a man ready to kill. Whichever way the artist drew him, his sad eyes always asked passersby the same question: “Where’s Linda?”

Eyes1 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

At first, people either ignored the posters or were mildly curious. But as both the pictures and messages increased in intensity, they had no choice but to take notice. On one poster, Linda’s ex told his estranged lover that he would be waiting to speak to her at a certain bar every Saturday and Tuesday night. People were starting to believe that his suffering was real. And if his suffering was real, then they did not doubt that he needed help.

Lindabar in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

“He loves you, Linda” one person wrote in a newspaper ad.

Angel in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

A caller to a radio show wasn’t so kind. “He’s a cad,” the person said to Linda. “Don’t go back.”

Dec1 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Everyone seemed to have a point of view, and the more they expressed it, the more posters appeared.

Lindapic-e1308773587848 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Takemihand in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Finally, a year later, Linda’s Ex, the alias of artist Roland Brueckner, faced the public. There was no Linda, he confessed. The whole campaign had been a hoax.

The New Artists

Linda’s Ex was successful because he communicated with and responded to his audience almost every day. If he had stopped, even for a month, the public’s interest would have dissipated.

The critiques below examine the artwork of three Berlin street artists working today — maybe at this very moment. Like Linda’s Ex, XOOOX, Alias and Mein Lieber Prost make certain that their work remains in the public eye, constantly.


Berlin has the typical street art spots… but I like more the classical writing scene, with the huge street bombings and the masses of tags.

To most people, the letters xoooox represent hugs and kisses. To XOOOOX, they represent symmetry and strength, for no matter how much he rearranges them, they remain a powerful signature that could belong to no one but him.

This tells XOOOOX’s public as much about him as they need to know: what you see is what you get. For instance, many people would like to believe that his black and white stencils are an ironic, anti-capitalist statement. But as the artist claims himself, they are a straight homage to the fashion world.

His fascination with fashion began when he discovered a pile of his parent’s old fashion magazines in the cellar. He would cut out parts of the pictures, mix them up and stick them on the walls of his room.

Collage still fascinates him, but he says that on the street, stencils are far more practical. At home, he creates a stencil from one of his fashion magazines — including everything from Harper’s to Vogue — and then, armed with his spray paint and stencil, he replicates the image on the streets.

Sample of XOOOOX’s Work

Piss in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Xooox-3 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Xooox-2 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Analysis of XOOOOX’s work

People enjoy XOOOOX’s approach because of his objective treatment of his subjects, presenting each model as neither happy nor sad, neither warm nor cold. He even draws one model urinating on the ground; while some might interpret the piece as a sign of arrogance, XOOOOX’s signature, flowing from her head like a thought bubble, persuades sensitive observers to judge her on a more humane level. She is, he suggests, just like everyone else.

What sets her apart is her beauty. The artist highlights this by always spraying her image on the grayest and ugliest of concrete walls, amidst the most innocuous of graffiti scrawls. Like the pretty girl sitting alone in a bar, passersby rarely walk past without giving her a second glance.

Overall, XOOOOX’s images show an artist with a genuine appreciation of conventional beauty. In a scene that likes to subvert conventions, this must make XOOOOX the most unconventional artist working on Berlin’s streets today.


My motives are often introverted and emotional, but… they brand… themselves on the memory of people passing. They are supposed to inspire people to interpret the motives on their own.

Judging from the number of his pieces, Alias must rarely sleep. His artwork certainly suggests someone at odds with society: black and white pictures of hooded skater types staring at the ground, and young kids unknowingly sitting on live bombs. One senses that something is very wrong with Alias’ world.

Alias left school early and moved to Hamburg, a city with its own impressive array of street artists. Developing his skill there to an advanced level, he moved on to Berlin, where people soon recognized his work as among the best in the city.

Sample of Alias’s work

Alias2 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Alias1 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Alias-2 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Analysis of Alias’s Work

Alias’ dark and somber images make him the city’s most serious artist. He stencils each of his pictures with great care, and always places them in a spot that best communicates his message. His picture of a man asking people to keep his identity a secret is stuck not on the wall of a busy thoroughfare, but at the bottom edge of a staircase. It gives the impression that, beyond the playfulness, he genuinely wants to keep his identity a secret.

Alias’ signature then is essential to understanding his work. The picture of a hooded teenager with a blank face communicates a need to give outsiders a voice. The irony is that the one person humane enough to give them that voice, a street artist, has to remain anonymous. That, Alias suggests, is his reward for daring to question society.

Mein Lieber Prost

All that’s come out is a result of my happiness, my courage, my fantasies or my disappointments. All great artists are great not for their technique, but their passion.

Most people will walk by graffiti without even noticing it. It hides in the corners of doorways and blends in with its surroundings. Prost’s characters, however, point and laugh directly at passersby. The characters are often a simple black outline. On occasion, Prost takes the time to fill the characters in with red, white and black. Whatever the method, he places his artwork in just about any free spot he can find: side streets, high streets, advertisements, doorways, signs. Nowhere in the city is safe.

And yet the public knows little about the artist himself. For legal reasons, he safeguards his identity. At a more artistic level, the anonymity enables him to present the smiley faces, and not himself, as the essence of his work.

Sample of Mein Lieber Prost’s Work

Prost-1 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Prost-3 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Prost-2 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Analysis of Mein Lieber Prost’s Work

It’s easy to miss the point of Prost’s smiley faces. On the surface, they look like the simple one-minute doodles of a high-school student. And the artist probably drew them in half that time. But that simplicity is what makes Prost’s faces so interesting, for two reasons.

First, it allows Prost to put his images in places that few other artists would dare to go. Alias, for example, needs time to place and spray his images and, therefore, works in more secluded spots to decrease the chances of getting caught. Prost has only to draw a quick outline, and then he’s finished. In fact, he has now drawn so many that he no longer needs to leave his signature: his work, rather than his name, has become his identity.

Secondly, the artist positions his characters to look like they are taking in their surroundings, laughing aloud at something happening right at that moment. It is natural, then, on seeing Prost’s characters pointing at them, for people to wonder what the joke is, asking themselves: is it me? Each character forces passersby to question their surroundings and (hopefully, if they don’t want to leave paranoid) to find a satisfactory answer.

Moving Into The Mainstream

Visitors to Berlin tend to ask the same question: is the street art legal? It is a difficult question for Berliners to answer. In central parts of the city at least, there is variously so much and so little criticism directed at it that no one quite knows. Head of the anti-graffiti team, Chief Detective Marko Moritz, insists, however, that the city views graffiti as a crime.

In an interview with The Local newspaper, he states that his team’s main goal is to catch the tagging crews whose work has its roots not in art, but in gang culture. In what he calls bombings, crews will spray whole trains and sometimes buildings with their signatures and colors. But Moritz is concerned not only with the defacement of public property; some crews, he claims, are starting to carry firearms.

Unlike19 in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

Their behavior, while disturbing, is a byproduct of the authorities’ attempt to turn the street art scene into an industry. When UNESCO named Berlin as a City of Design, few people doubted that the thriving street art scene was partly responsible. Local businesses and even local authorities hired artists to paint murals on the fronts of their buildings. Most famously, on a wall in Kreuzberg, the artist Blu painted two men trying to rip each other’s masks off — symbolizing, he claims, Berlin’s struggles during its first few years of reunification.

Today, such work has made the street art a tourist attraction. Kunsthaus Tacheles, once an artists’ squat and still a focal point of the scene, holds disco nights downstairs and sells urban art books upstairs — its bar is as expensive as anywhere in the city. Artists such as XOOOOX, Mein Lieber Prost and Alias have started to exhibit and sell in galleries. They still work on the street, but they are no longer impoverished artists — if they ever were. They can afford to travel and work in countries across the world.

Murals in The Heritage Of Berlin Street Art And Graffiti Scene

While these artists believe that street art needs to appeal to a wider audience, the local, more traditional artists, such as the tagging crews, disagree. They argue that street art derives its power from being on the margins of society; only from the outside can they address problems within it. That difference of opinion is opening a space in the scene that can be filled only by the mainstream. In the next few years, street art has the potential to become a social movement as inclusive as anything from the ’50s and ’60s.

Taken from

Αφιέρωμα – Gentrification

Γεωργία Αλεξανδρή, Πολύβιος Μουκούλης

Οι πόλεις έχουν συχνά κάτι το μεταφυσικό, μια υπόσταση που ξεπερνάει, όχι μόνο εμάς που ζούμε σε αυτές, αλλά και τα κτήρια, τους δρόμους, τα αυτοκίνητα, τις πλατείες, τα μνημεία, τα μαγαζιά, τα σκουπίδια και ό,τι άλλο υπάρχει στο πολυδαίδαλο αυτό σύστημα. Είναι σαν γίγαντες που μπορούν όλα να τα λιώσουν στο πέρασμά τους ή όλα να τα ενσωματώσουν. Σου υπενθυμίζουν διαρκώς ότι θα είναι εδώ και μετά από σένα όπως υπήρχαν και πριν. Είναι το ζωντανό αποτύπωμα όλων των δυνάμεων που παλεύουν διαρκώς πάνω τους, συγκρούσεις και συμμαχίες, αντιθέσεις και συνθέσεις, ζωές πάνω σε ζωές, γενιές πάνω σε γενιές, και αν το καλοσκεφτείς μια πόλη είναι στην πραγματικότητα πόλεις πάνω σε πόλεις.

Στο αφιέρωμα του Κοντέινερ φιλοξενούνται απόψεις και προσεγγίσεις, για το κέντρο της σύγχρονης πόλης, τις αναπλάσεις, τις εσωτερικές «μετακινήσεις πληθυσμών», το σχεδιασμό για το μέλλον του κέντρου της Αθήνας και τα προβλήματα που συσσωρεύονται. Τελικά, ποιοι ζούνε πού και γιατί; Ποιος αποφασίζει,τι και για ποιον; Υπάρχει ή όχι γκέτο στο κέντρο της Αθήνας; Σε αυτή τη μεταιχμιακή εποχή, όλα μοιάζουν να είναι οριακά και να «παίζονται» ενώ γειτονιές και περιοχές ολόκληρες περνούν από την υποβάθμιση στην αναβάθμιση και πάλι τούμπα. Εδώ και αρκετό καιρό, και εφτά ολόκληρα χρόνια από την ιλουστρασιόν απατηλή και «καθαρή» Αθήνα των Ολυμπιακών Αγώνων ακούμε, βλέπουμε, παρακολουθούμε τις συζητήσεις γύρω από το «ιστορικό κέντρο» της Αθήνας, συζητήσεις που όσο τις προχωράς, τόσο φτάνεις πάνω στα μεγάλα πολιτικά και κοινωνικά προβλήματα. Την ίδια στιγμή, στο καθημερινό βίωμα, αντιμετωπίζουμε νέες καταστάσεις που δεν σημαίνουν για όλους το ίδιο: κάποιοι βλέπουν τα όρια της ανθρωπιάς τους να δοκιμάζονται, άλλοι νιώθουν αμήχανα, άλλοι έχουν βαλθεί να καθαρίζουν δρόμους και πλατείες, άλλοι στήνουν επιχειρήσεις «σκούπα» καθαρίζοντας ανθρώπους, άλλοι εξοργίζονται, άλλοι φοβούνται και κάποιοι άλλοι, είναι απλά ανακουφισμένοι όταν μπορούν ακόμα να βρίσκουν μέσα στο χάος ένα υπόστεγο να κοιμηθούν ή μια τρύ-πα για να κρυφτούν.

Το «gentrification» αλά ελληνικά βρίσκεται σε εξέλιξη και ακολουθεί με τα δικά του τοπικά χαρακτηριστικά, τις αντίστοιχες εξελίξεις σε πολλά αστικά κέντρα σε όλο τον κόσμο. Τα κείμενα που ακολουθούν εκφράζουν πολλές και διαφορετικές απόψεις, κάποιες μάλιστα βρίσκονται σε ευθεία σύγκρουση.


Gentrification ή εξευγενισμός, μερικές σκέψεις γύρω από την έννοια και την ιστορία της.

Πρόσφατα ο αγγλικός όρος gentrification αναφέρεται σε όλο και περισσότερα δημο- σιεύματα και έρευνες που καταπιάνονται με το κέντρο της πόλης. Τι σημαίνει όμως ο όρος αυτός;

Ο όρος πρωτοχρησιμοποιήθηκε από τη βρετανή κοινωνιολόγο Ruth Glass to 1964 στην προσπάθειά της να περιγράψει τη διαδικασία κατά την οποία μέλη των ανώτερων κοινωνικών στρωμάτων (gentry) εγκαθίσταντο σε υποβαθμισμέ-νες εργατικές περιοχές του κεντρικού Λονδίνου, αναβαθμίζοντας το κτηριακό απόθεμα και εκδιώκοντας-εκτοπίζοντας παράλληλα τους παλαιούς κατοίκους. Η διαδικασία αυτή παρατηρήθηκε σε πολλές, αν όχι στις περισσότερες, μεγάλες πόλεις του ανεπτυγμένου (και όχι μόνο) καπιταλιστικού κόσμου, μετατοπίζοντας το ενδιαφέρον προς τις αιτίες που δημιουργούν τέτοιου είδους φαινόμενα και θέτοντας συχνά σε δεύτερο πλάνο τις επι- πτώσεις των διαδικασιών αυτών. Οι κυρίαρχες ερμηνείες που κατά καιρούς έχουν δοθεί μπορούν να κωδικοποιηθούν σε τρεις πολύ βασικές αλλά και αλληλοτροφοδοτούμενες συνιστώσες. Η πρώτη από αυτές είναι η μαρξιστικής προέλευσης οικονομική/δομική θεώρηση όπου τα φαινόμενα gentrification προσεγγίζονται κυρίως μέσα από μια διαδικασία σπέκουλας πάνω στη γη μέσω της οποίας το κτηματομεσιτικό και το κατασκευαστικό κεφάλαιο προωθούν την απαξίωση περιοχών με πραγματικούς ή/και συμβολικούς όρους ώστε αγοράζοντας φτηνά στη συνέχεια να αυξήσουν τις τιμές γης, αποσπώντας όσο το δυνατόν μεγαλύτερη υπεραξία (με τη μορφή της αυξημένης γαι- οπροσόδου) από τη γη και το κτισμένο περιβάλλον. Η δεύτερη συνιστώσα, αυτή των ατομικών προτιμήσεων/νέων προτύπων κατανάλωσης που προτάθηκε από προοδευτικούς ανθρωπολόγους, θεωρεί ότι το φαινόμενο του gentrification αποτελεί μια διαδικασία που συμβαίνει στις μεταβιομηχανικές πόλεις και είναι άμεσα συνδεδεμένη με τη μεταβολή της οικονομικής βάσης από τη βιομηχανία στον τομέα των υπηρεσιών, το συνεπακόλουθο νέο κοινωνικό και χωρικό καταμερισμό της εργασίας και την εμφάνιση ορισμένων νέων μεσαίων στρωμάτων τα οποία είναι θετικά διακείμενα προς τις πόλεις και το αστικό περιβάλλον και αρνητικά προς την ομοιογένεια των προαστίων.

Η δυναμική που η κάθε γειτονιά αναπτύσσει προσδιορίζει και την ίδια την τροχιά του φαινομένου που σχεδόν όμως πάντα καταλή- γει στον εκτοπισμό ασθενέστερων ή/και ανεπιθύμητων κοινωνικών ομάδων.

Όμως, καθώς όλες οι καταναλωτικές προτιμήσεις του κόσμου παραμένουν «ασήμαντες» χωρίς την απαραίτητη χρηματοδότηση από το κεφάλαιο, αλλά και οι επενδύσεις σε μεγάλα projects είναι καταδικασμένες σε αποτυχία αν δεν υπάρχουν οι απαραίτητοι αγοραστές (κάτοικοι και εν γένει καταναλωτές σ’ αυτήν την περίπτωση), απαιτείται και η συμβολή μιας τρίτης και καθοριστικής συνιστώσας. Η συνιστώσα αυτή είναι η (έμμεση ή/και άμεση) κρατική παρέμβαση. Ο ρόλος της κρατικής παρέμβασης στις διαδικασίες αυτές εκτείνεται από απλές ρυθμιστικές-σχεδιαστικές παρεμβάσεις μέχρι και την εκπόνηση σχεδίων αναπλάσεων ολόκληρων περιοχών, την κατασκευή έρ- γων ναυαρχίδων (flagship projects) με απώτερο σκοπό την αλλαγή του χαρακτήρα μιας ολόκληρης περιοχής ως και την ωμή καταστολή ολόκληρων κοινωνικών ομάδων που «χαλάνε» την επιμελώς καλλιεργούμενη εικόνα της περιοχής (επι- χειρήσεις σκούπα σε μετανάστες, εκκενώσεις καταλήψεων κ.λπ.). Βέβαια, το ποια ακριβώς θα είναι η διαδοχή των τριών συνιστωσών επηρεάζεται από τις ιδιαίτερες κοινωνικοοικονομικές και πολιτικές συνθήκες που διαμορφώνουν όχι μόνο την πόλη αλλά και τις επιμέρους περιοχές της. Η δυναμική που η κάθε γειτονιά αναπτύσσει προσδιορίζει και την ίδια την τροχιά του φαινομένου που σχεδόν όμως πάντα καταλήγει στον εκτοπισμό ασθενέστερων ή/και ανεπιθύμητων κοινωνικών ομάδων αλλά και παραδοσιακών δραστηριοτήτων της περιοχής προς όφελος κάποιων νέων και περισσότερο προσοδοφόρων.

Από την Πλάκα στο Μεταξουργείο: 30 χρόνια «πολιτισμού» και «εξευγενισμού».

Στην Αθήνα το παράδειγμα που μπορεί να χαρα- κτηριστεί ως καθαρή περίπτωση gentrification είναι αυτό της Πλάκας. Στη δεκαετία του 1970 η Πλάκα ήταν μια συνοικία «παρηκμασμένη» στην οποία κατοικούσαν εργατικά στρώματα και νοικοκυριά χαμηλών εισοδημάτων ενώ οι χρήσεις που συνέθεταν τον αστικό ιστό της γειτονιάς είχαν να κάνουν με βιοτεχνίες και με στέκια ροκάδων και ροκαμπιλάδων ενώ ταυτόχρονα στους δρόμους της γινόταν διακίνηση και χρήση ναρκωτικών. Συνεπακόλουθα, οι τιμές γης ήταν πάρα πολύ χαμηλές, η παραβατικότητα υψηλή και μόνο τα φτωχά νοικοκυριά, που δεν είχαν την πολυτέλεια της μετακόμισης σε κάποια πολυκατοικία, έμεναν εκεί. Ωστόσο η Πλάκα διατηρούσε ακόμα κτήρια με αρχιτεκτονική αξία και βρισκόταν σε εγγύτητα με τον Ιερό Βράχο και το κέντρο της Πόλης. Στη δεκαετία του 1980 το κράτος θέσπισε πολεοδομικούς νόμους που ουσιαστικά συνέβαλαν στην πλήρη μεταβολή της εικόνας της περιοχής: η διακήρυξη κτηρίων ως διατηρητέων, η απαγόρευση έλευσης οχημάτων και οι πεζοδρομήσεις άρχισαν να ανεβάζουν τις τιμές γης. Οι μέχρι πρότινος κάτοικοι της Πλάκας αναγκάστηκαν να φύγουν λόγω της συνεχόμενης ανόδου του κόστους ζωής (κοινώς εκτοπίστηκαν) ενώ στη θέση τους σήμερα βρίσκονται διάφοροι επιχειρηματίες και νοικοκυριά υψηλότερων εισοδημάτων. Οι χρήσεις γης που διαδέχτηκαν τις προηγούμενες έχουν να κάνουν κυρίως με το εμπόριο, τον τουρισμό και τη νυχτερινή διασκέδαση. Βλέπουμε λοιπόν πως και στην περίπτωση του δομημένου χώρου μέσα από τις διαδικασίες gentrification ουσιαστικά συντελείται η πλήρης εμπορευματοποίηση της γειτονιάς, η αλλαγή στη σύνθεση του πληθυσμού με βίαιους όρους και η μεταβολή των χρήσεων γης. Για να έρθουμε όμως στα πιο πρόσφατα: Από το 2000 κεντρικές και υποβαθμισμένες περιοχές της Αθήνας έχουν μπει σε τροχιά «αναγέννησης». Τα πολυθρύλητα, κοινωνικά κατασκευασμένα, νέα Sohos του αθηναϊκού downtown δημιουργούνται, αναπτύσσονται και παρακμάζουν με ιλιγγιώδεις ταχύτητες. Τα παραπάνω συνοδεύονται και από μία σειρά άλλες έννοιες και πρότυπα, σχετικά άγνωστα στο ευρύ κοινό τις προηγούμενες δεκαετίες (π.χ., λοφτ) διαδικασίες δηλαδή που έχουν την «αίσθηση» gentrification.

Οι καλλιτεχνικές χρήσεις που εγκαθίστανται σε μια γειτονιά μπορούν να διαδραματίσουν ρόλο gentrifier θέτοντας σε κίνηση την αγορά real estate. Για παράδειγμα, ο τρόπος με τον οποίο συνδέονται οι κρατικές στρατηγικές πολιτισμικής και καλλιτεχνικής ανάπτυξης ή «ανάπλασης» με την αγορά ακινήτων στη γειτονιά του Γκαζιού γίνεται εμφανής μέσω της μετατροπής του εργοστασίου Αεριόφωτος σε Τεχνόπολη και τη διάνοιξη του σταθμού μετρό «Κεραμεικός». Οι δυο αυτές κρατικές σημειακές παρεμβάσεις ήταν καταλυτικές στην αλλαγή του χαρακτήρα της γειτονιάς η οποία από περιοχή κατοικίας μετατράπηκε σε περιοχή διασκέδασης. Οι Ρομ και οι τσιγγάνοι που έμεναν στο Γκάζι από τη δεκαετία του ’70 εκδιώχθηκαν άγρια και τη θέση τους πήραν τα διάφορα μπαρ και νυχτερινά κέντρα. Η όχληση που παράγεται από τη βιομηχανία της διασκέδασης απειλεί και τους εναπομείναντες κατοίκους. Ταυτόχρονα η αγορά real estate έχει κινητοποιηθεί επενδύοντας σε ακίνητα τύπου λοφτ και διαφημίζοντας την περιοχή ως «loft-living» της Αθήνας. Αυτό που μένει να διερωτηθούμε είναι κατά πόσο είναι πολιτισμικές οι χρήσεις αυτές, σε ποιους ακριβώς απευθύνονται και τι ρόλο διαδραματίζουν στην κίνηση του κεφαλαίου στον δομημένο χώρο.

Οι Ρομ που έμεναν στο Γκάζι από τη δεκαετία του ’70 εκδιώχθηκαν άγρια και τη θέση τους πήραν τα νυχτερινά κέντρα. Η όχληση που παράγεται από τη βιομηχανία της διασκέδασης απειλεί και τους ενα- πομείναντες κατοίκους.

Πρόσφατα διοργανώθηκαν σε υποβαθμισμένες περιοχές του κέντρου της Αθήνας υπό την αιγίδα επενδυτικών ομίλων οι οποίοι χρησιμοποιώντας την Τέχνη και τον πολιτισμό (και μάλιστα σε μερικές από τις ριζοσπαστικότερες εκφάνσεις τους) ως απλά διαφημιστικά τρικ προώθησης τών, από καιρό και προσεκτικά σχεδιασμένων, επενδύσεών τους σε συγκεκριμένες περιοχές. Εδώ γίνεται εμφανές το πόσο εύκολα, ριζοσπαστικά κοινωνικά και καλλιτεχνικά ρεύματα (στην προκειμένη περίπτωση οι καταστασιακοί και οι ψυχογεωγραφικοί τους χάρτες) στρογγυλεύονται έτσι ώστε να απομακρυνθεί η οποιαδήποτε μορφή αμφισβήτησης εμπεριέχουν, και στη συνέχεια είτε προωθούνται προς επανακατανάλωση σε ένα ευρύτερο κοινό ή απλά χρησιμοποιούνται από το κεφάλαιο ως ένα επιπλέον μέσο για την επίτευξη των στρατηγικών του.

The Murder of Creativity in Rotterdam


From Total Creative Environments to Gentripunctural Injections

This essay deals with Rotterdam’s recent attempts to win the title of ‘Creative Capital of the Netherlands’. (1) In particular, it focuses on two recent housing developments in Rotterdam in which the ‘creative class’ features as a central referent: the Lloyd Quarter development in Delfshaven and The Poetic Freedom housing project in Spangen. The main argument of this essay is that if creativity is as bad off as it is often claimed today – instrumentalised as it is through perverted schemes by city-managers – the only option left for creative forces is to perform a similar act as the Greek mythological figure Medea: to stop what is most dear to her, her children, from being the object of a cruel manipulation by her unfaithful husband, Jason; instead of trying to protect them at all costs, she killed them out of love. In a similar vein, we plead for creative agents to tactically act uncreatively in the face of the aggressive usurpation of creativity by government and market forces.

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