ZEMOS98 is a team of cultural workers. We try to create critical thinking, we try to deconstruct the mass-media messages, we try to weave networks, relationships and communities. We try to work in the intersections and margins. We try to work (g)locally, behind the borders. We try to take care of our networks and we try to reuse and remix all of our contents. We try to organize a Festival every year and we try to create a New Media Laboratory called 98LAB to learn about this things.
So, basically, we try things.

The Vulnerables burning in the battle of life

Topic: Commons / Format: Text / Project: Copylove

A report by Sofía Coca translated by María José Rodríguez.

About a year ago, Copylove landed at the scenario of the ZEMOS98 Festival, bringing an apparently simple premise: investigating what are the relationships affection and care establish within a community of agents who are trying to generate common goods. Taking this hypothesis as a starting point, the coordination group for this investigation -Rubén Martínez, Txelu Balboa (Colaborabora) and me- called some residencies in February, March and April 2012; and there, people belonging to several groups with previous community experience could have a brainstorming of practices and ways of thinking related to the management of affections, commons and communities.

The key to this residency format is that it gives us the opportunity to dive into an exclusive time and space to build collectively the hidden potential behind something we had called “copylove”, just an invented word up to that moment. Therefore, the residency has turned into a natural place for meeting and thinking about all that it had to do with this concept. For the second consecutive year, we gathered in the Centro de las Artes (Arts Centre) in Seville; this time, our statement was even more radical: Welcome are you the vulnerables, for yours is the copylove.

The new ZEMOS98 Festival edition and the Copylove residency shared the same title: The Vulnerables. A simple way of crying out loud that we are strong because we are weak.

Before, all this was countryside
Commons, love and remix were the three initial concepts, they related to each other, they opened the field of play to start building collectively the meaning of “copylove”. We saw soon that they were three interwoven fields nourishing each other: Affections nourish commons and vice versa, placing affection in the spotlight, understanding commons is already part of a community, being able to see communities have constituent links and values; but also, in order for them to be sustainable, they require a caring task, a subjective built by affections.

As per our practices, experiences and situated knowledge, we realised that there were several resources and common experiences which somehow defined the ways of being in a collective group; visibility in the interdependence networks and affections was the dorsal spine, some times it is elastic, some other times it is diffuse; without it our community practices cannot be hold together. After three months of intermittent work, we reached two following conclusions:

All people need to be taken care of. This announcement is usually present in feminist environments, and now begins to occupy a relevant place in other autonomous environments for political expression. It is something that can be gathered just under a more and more familiar concept to us: citizens. This inspiring play on words between citizens and cares (in Spanish both terms, “ciudadanos” and “cuidados”, they look and sound very similarly), like the most delicious and interesting things in life are born by mistake (think for a moment in brownies or “torta del casar” -a kind of cheese), and it means that we claim the right and possibility of reorganising our society collectively, what many female colleagues call suggestively “radical cares”. Starting from the point that life is collective care or, as Cristina Vega says in Culturas del cuidado en transición (The Cultures of Care in Transition), quoting a text from Precarias a la deriva (Precarious Women Adrift): ”... we understand care beyond the specific practices which allow a sustainable lifestyle in a fixed context, such as attention or recognising that the life to be lived will be built interacting with other people”, life is resolved within itself and cannot be found out there (in the markets). That is why the citizens cannot tell between private and public (...)Today, life as sustainable lifestyle is a battlefield”.

Invisible commons. No doubt that the objective of the first edition of Copylove was to make visible all those ways of doing things, how to create a community where citizens are the core of it. Trying to become more specific about it, we wanted to recall those everyday practices so tightly attached to our everyday life that go unnoticed, they are essential to hold our lives together. We defined the invisible commons, as non-monetary resources, ways of doing things we have assimilated (for good or for bad), processes we have been taught or acquired in our community life and makes community sustainable. These commons are occasionally invisible because we have assumed they are something “natural” in our practice, but some other times (most of the times and especially those related to women’s labour work) they become invisible by the developmentalist regime we are living in, specialized in ignoring that what makes life livable.

Based on this legacy, we reached a new turning point in the investigation. We had to organise what we had learnt and pose new questions. Following this track, we thought that “invisible commons” was a good label for the things we have learnt up to that moment, and gave us the opportunity to keep uncovering those practices exceeding what is considered productive. In order to have a better understanding of all the resources and community processes we had to value and activate simultaneously, we started interviewing groups and associations from Bilbao and Barcelona, so we could obtain new questions for our Copylove residency.

We were searching a better understanding of these invisible commons, starting from three topics that were present in the early stages of the investigation, they would help us to go deeper towards the following stage. Three major concepts would be helpful and would make new questions about “copylove” arise: Community, Memory and Life.

Starting a journey: Community
Our perception changed from considering the communities as more or less predictive spaces, with no conflicts and easy to recognise, to zoom in and make us re-discover them as tense places where the intimate, collective or common issues are concepts constantly related and negotiated among them. The constant confrontation, between our personal interests and the common ones, creates exclusive and inclusive processes which lead the way of a community: if the community is open, it has strong rules, if it can grow, if it is closed, if it it is willing to dialogue with the outside world.

Throughout the several conversations we had, we found communities which considered themselves as a group of individuals, whereas in some others the community was first. The latter were considered “godzilla communities”, and we discussed about their complex structure with ETCS, a grassroot non-profit organisation created in 2004, and made up by 13 experienced people in and eager to work in several investigation fields, as well as in social and environmental intervention.

They say communities are not perfect, they cannot be grasped, they are monstrous. In “godzilla communities” they work collectively to add singularities against individualities, they converge when they dissent and there is a weird attraction to disagreement. ETCS taught us to work from the affective potential, so neither virtues nor problems in a community are the result of the individuals, but community attributes. “Godzilla communities” do not resign themselves, they are constantly forcing reality and suffer in silence the complex process of getting to know the other, not colonizing it. They say, one has to be able to defend answers, live with doubts, settle down in the uncertainty. “Push the limits of the community (...) is to make it burn. Lit the monster on fire can burn it, but it keeps it alive. The other option is to let it die in the cold, like the forgotten chamans”, Guillermo Zapata reminded us during the residency.

Beyond that, as Guillermo Rojo from ETCS suggested, we will realise that Godzilla is the moment we are living. The monsters have settle down in the streets and squares, and we have realised that once affection flows and airs out the closed rooms in our collective memory, we can transform the reality.

The ambivalence of memory
In Rubén Martínez’s words about the importance of the memory of collectives: “When we narrate, when we tell our community experiences, we usually attach to those things that give a better foundational sense to the project, something we point out over the rest of the experiences. An “official” account is sometimes taken by inertias, promoted by a way of thinking -the genealogy of groups non dialoguing with wealth-,produced by a number of memories which make the collective experience solid. “Copylove” has taught us that we need to “create/hack a common code for action” and, in order to do so, probably we need to do more than just a historiography of the hot spots in our projects”.

In order for the memory to create common codes that will put us into action, they should be able to be hacked, complex; they should be able to escape from fetichism and detect, once more, invisible commons. For instance, the new generation of social centres which are holding dialogue with public institutions or other groups of citizens. Centres which have come over the classical left-wing political identity, they have inherited the autonomous movements of the 90s and the occupation culture, and they are about to be opened and integrated. Once again, centres going through a “godzilla” process.

During the residency, we asked ourselves how the historical path of memory and collective imaginary in this kind of community can affect. The historic path that marks a community, it implies that we have to assume ways of doing things which, sometimes, did not help us find what we were looking for. We know that getting out of that path is not easy. Needless to say, hacking the memory is hard to do. If we want to change, transform ourselves, re-think, we need to dialogue accordingly with the cultural traces of our community.

Even if memory is a work of fiction, as Chris Marker said, the Atenéu Candela (a social centre in Terrassa which is quite interesting, there is no other like it in this new generation and actual scenery) is asking itself about the difficulty of entering a crisis of collective memory. When politisation of new resistence spaces is made of flesh, affections, interdependences; hacking the memory in order not to fall into the trap of fetishes and solid rules is a complicated task.

Life, what life? Are you asking me?
We were saying that “copylove” is “to place life in the spotlight”. No affection, care or the things which make us depend on each other are put in the background; instead, we have to place them in the spotlight, in our conversations; this productive force is our major treasure. However, and after having achieved enough maturity by the investigation made, we can confirm the latter, but new questions arise: What is the life we want to place in the spotlight? There is the suspicion that hegemonic regimes have been using the speech of affections and intimacy to make their monitoring sophisticated. Our lives have been managed in order to optimize a model that believes our bodies are resources to be exploited.

If we pose the following question: What is the aim of activating and making visible the invisible commons? There are two possible answers: to generate autonomy, self-managing and self-government or, on the contrary, to make our affections productive. The first answer has to do with citizens, the second one has to do with leviathan menacing life.

Carolina del Olmo, reminded us at the residency that affection is a pre-political concept: “The vulnerability, the interdependence are aspects which make us human animals”. Aa an example of that life which needs to be rescued from leviathan’s claws, Carolina spoke about breeding, being a mother without having had the experience of maternity. Being a mother is an attempt to become caring, and the care is the basis of social commitment, especially nowadays, when the advance of capitalism has been devastating our support network. The final touch on these thoughts came with the serene voice of Marina Garcés, which ended up this last “copylove” edition asking us how can we say “we” nowadays, making us think in the common life that binds us, is the one established by a social contract? According to Marina’s words, we will not reach the compromise through a political or vital decision, we are already in. Life is always life in common.

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