Author Archives: countercartographies

Chainworkers in the Sevilla meeting

This post focuses on issues not covered in the larger report back about Sevilla meeting on “Precarizacion, Crisis del Estado de Bienestar y Nuevos Derechos Sociales”.

It includes conversations with two members of Chainworkers and m+s reflections on “organizing the creative class”

1st conversation with Alex Foti

new initiatives in Europe such as the Radical Europe network- which is supposed to include various fronts of activity at the Europe wide level such as: legal resources, a ‘precarious syndicate’, and a “think-tankâ€Â. For the think tank the idea is to claim a territory for the thirty-something intellectuals not just the old ones from always (the Ramonets, Negris, etc.).

There is supposed to be the emergence of a sort of European Summer university for social movements in Vienna- need to find out more-

Reflection Note (RN): Interesting here the idea of “think-tanksâ€Â and alternative universities, as well as the Euro wide level- this question of thinking at the Euro level has come up quite a few times over the past month and there is quite some debate about how to do it-whether to do it, etc.

2nd conversation with Alex and Zoe:

Walking through a beautiful park in Seville after garlic with bread for breakfast. We learned about some of the political scene in Italy: Strength of Centri Sociali in Padua, divergences between PGA network and some strands of Autonomia in Italy (a sort of commie vs. anarcho thing happening);

The beginnings of chainworkers- Zoe and Alex after visiting the US in ’99 (Alex had lived in NYC several years) got quite inspired by things like examples of Mc’D-s workers in Canada trying to unionize, No Logo- they were reading stuff on the plane and decided to try and start a new brand of grassroots funky unionism relevant to a new young workforce with very different values, alienated from older unions, and having grown up in the midst of hyper-consumerist branded society.

They helped to kick off the EuroMayDay process with the first protests in Milan- around 2001/2 or so

We discussed whether or not precarity was a relevant category anymore- i.e. the language that has emerged is that of “miseria precariaâ€Â- does this speak to folks that are considered the ‘creative class’ living it up in the new europe even if precariously? Do we need new languages-memes? Zoe stressed the usefulness of precarity in labor struggles in Milan and how it resonates with many people coming to into struggles and meeting chainworkers for the first time.

The theme of “whither precarity’ came up quite a few times during the encounter and has been mentioned elsewhere.

Special note:

The Radicalization of the Creative Class:

One interesting thing that come up was the idea of Radicalizing the “creative classâ€Â and using precisely the Floridian language to do so. Foti from chainworkers stressed this as a new possible vein for movements in Euro/the North to pursue.

RN: Something we noticed here was that discussions around new forms of capitalism- cognitive cap, production of language as productive activity, production of surplus value through production of human relations etc., stimuli of creativity, etc- in Europe seem to be done primarily form a critical angle- with lots of theoretical work, and activist work around this (work by folks such as Lazzarato, Corsani, Negri, Virno, Bifo, …). It seems in N.America where one finds the majority of these discussions circulating is in the work of folks like Richard Florida and notions of the creative class.

We discussed this and inspired us (m+s) to think like the following in terms of conceptualizing and organizing:

If Richard Florida is going around lecturing to town halls, city councils, etc.; if the idea of the creative class and the policies needed to establish and guarantee that form of accumulation are circulating among those in power, local and regional governments community development corporations, etc.,- why not experiment with a sort of hack or re-appropriation of the idea from an autonomous position? If they’ve called an economic creative class into being- why not call a political one into being? Some of the notions that accompany supporting a “creative classâ€Â model of economic development: like diverse neighborhoods, transport infrastructures, public spaces for people to “rub elbowsâ€Â and produce original ideas- could be hacked into an interesting series of demands.

The idea wouldn’t be so much to guarantee that Florida’s dream come true- rather to facilitate the emergence of a new radical discourse that speaks to powers that be on a different level: i.e. instead of demanding quality affordable public transport only because of notions of human dignity/ rights, etc., you can add an “economicâ€Â argument.

Instead of demanding a sort of bourgeois corporate coffee shop utopia that sometimes seems to be the result of applying “creative classâ€Â solutions to urban development- one could articulate a list of radical demands such as: if productive ideas and capital accumulation come form very different types of people being able to meet and interact regularly and inhabit similar spaces, then other demands could be made: not just Starbucks but what about reinforced affirmative action in housing? Quality and accessible housing in different parts of a town city- instead of class and racial segregation; quality public spaces- parks, plazas- not just strip malls and Walmarts; free or cheap public transport that goes to all parts of the town/city in order to facilitate the necessary mixing that creates the base of profitable idea creation; blah, blah, blah…

Additionally the idea behind pushing a radical autonomous re-appropriation of the ‘creative class’ idea is to find a means of politicizing the potential of so many folks in those types of industries. People that may often be alienated by traditional forms of politics but at the same time do not fit into categories of “the oppressedâ€Â or the “poorâ€Â therefore their demands as a class are not often taken seriously by other social movements folks in the US.

It seems that some folks have already begun to talk about this a bit- a piece we saw on the Denmark squat defense mobilizations take this angle to a degree (see link here and critique of the same here), and a new piece by Sergio Bologna as well (see link here [in Italian).

So is this an avenue worth exploring, in particular in the US where ideas of Florida’s are in such demand? Even Florida himself has apparently distanced himself from some of the more neoliberal version of his argument.

A question- what would a form of autonomous (as in- at the very least not subject to the whims of a Community Development Corporation) struggle on the part of the ‘creative class’ look like? Besides the typical repertoire (marching, sit-ins, strikes, direct actions, petitioning, etc..) what could it mean. We could try and take a cue from Florida himself again and see if that leads anywhere productive. A recent work of his was titled “The Flight of the Creative Classâ€Â; thus authorities, states, municipalities, in this schema, do what they can to avoid that flight. So what could it mean to threaten ‘flight’? Besides actually moving from one place to another (a bit hard to do on a regular basis), what might it mean in a political practice of struggle? Could it mean temporary flight in the form of some sort of ‘creative strike’ or work stoppage- and what would that look like? What about threatening putting patentable ideas into the public domain- the class doesn’t fly but its production does? Or could groups of folks actually ‘move’? Not their whole lives, but from one company to another, concentrate their activities in one part of town over another- or in a different town (as a form of threat)? If in some sense the work of the creative class is done outside the confines of office/factory/gallery/classroom/etc. then this threat could possibly become feasible to pressure in cases. This isn’t the place to hallucinate further- but could this avenue of action be worth considering? Is it already afoot?

Anyway, we thought the idea was worth mulling over and taking to a group/collective or two in order to figure out if its is a line of work worth pursuing. Maybe not, but having the “creative classâ€Â just settles into a slightly controlled bohemian version of what is called ‘middle class’ doesn’t sound that appetizing either.


(lo original en castellano abajo..)

A call for a seminar/intercambio with participants involved in political art, collaborative and cooperative artistic practices, and creative political collectives from diverse sites from two continents…

If there is something to be highlighted in the current protest cycle (which, in a few strokes of the pen, has periods of maximum visibility such as the arc stretching from Seattle to Genova or the world demonstration against the Iraq war, founding moments such as the Zapatista uprising in 1994, effects on a macropolitical scale such as the processes of institutional change in Latin America, etc.) it is definitely the way in which innovation is a structural feature of the new forms of political action and construction which are at the base of that cycle. 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, as they have done at other moments, to be mutually exclusive.

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.

In Sydney, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Kassel, Berlin, Havana … they are taking place, with diverse magnitude and fortune, activities with institutional visibility with new practices of political art that differentiate substantially from their replicas enclosed in the contemporary international art circuit. For the mentioned institutional moments are only flashes, although descriptive, points in a continuum that flows many times completely outside, sometimes between inside and outside of the artistic and social institutions. Someone has called these other practices “dark matter”: like the matter that, despite constituting the majority of the weight of the firmament and having a decisive influence on the evolution of the visible universe, remains to a large part hidden. It operates tirelessly between visibility and invisibility; it flows between different constitutions and forms.

This seminar looks to find similarities and differences between some concrete and recent cases of this dark matter. The central question that we propose is the following: with what forms, modes and tools these modest flexible machines are equipped, for which there is no radical politics without creativity in practices, without permanent invention in the forms and modes of construction of the self.


Un pequeño seminario informativo, didáctico y de intercambio con participantes en grupos de arte político, prácticas, artísticas, colaborativas y cooperativas, colectivos polí­ticos creativos de diversos lugares en dos continentes.

Fechas: Martes 20 y miércoles 21 de febrero de 2007.

Lugar: Aula 1 del Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (Macba).

Horario: 17h-21h. Entrada libre.

Algunos nombres participantes en el seminario (y grupos y experiencias en las que toman parte): Daniel Lima y Joana Zatz de Sao Paulo (Contra Fila, Frente 3 de Fevereiro, A Revolución Será Televisionada,  política do Impossível), Juan Manuel Díaz y Verónica Iglesia de Buenos Aires (La Comunitaria TV), Loreto Garín de Buenos Aires (Etcétera, Internacional Errorista), Natasa Ilic de Zabreb (What How & for Whom [WHW]), Branka ĆurÄÂić de Novi Sad (, Pilar Monsell y Javier Toret de Málaga y Sevilla (Centro Social Casa de Iniciativas, Entránsito, Otramálaga, Fadaiat, Indymedia Estrecho), Gerald Raunig de Viena (eipcp, transform), Ateneu Candela de Terrassa, Oficinas de Derechos Sociales (ODS), etc.

Si hay algo a reseñar en el actual ciclo de protesta (que, por describirlo a vuelapluma, tiene periodos de máxima visibilidad como el arco comprendido entre Seattle y Génova o la manifestación mundial contra la guerra de Irak, momentos fundacionales como la insurrección zapatista de 1994, efectos a escala macro política como los procesos de cambio institucional en América Latina, etc.) es seguramente la manera en que la innovación constituye una característica estructural de las nuevas formas de acción y construcción  política que están en la base de dicho ciclo. Pareciera darse en estos años una verificación de la imagen de la máquina que Guattari y Deleuze utilizaron para denominar la necesidad de formas organizativas abiertas y flexibles para la creatividad  política, para las cuales las dimensiones molar y molecular, micro y macro de la  política, pudieran dejar de ser, como en otros momentos lo han sido, mutuamente excluyentes.

Dicho simplificadamente, nociones como máquina o creación  política nos permiten acotar un territorio desde el que pensar de una manera radicalmente novedosa la relación entre arte, comunicación y  política, puestas en práctica ahora como componentes entre sí imbricadas o concatenadas, sorteando el clásico juego de sumas: arte “más” política,  política “más” arte,  política “más” comunicación. Desde hace al menos una década acumulamos experiencias, que se han dado en todas las partes del planeta, de prácticas muy heterogéneas entre sí cuya multiplicación no ha podido ni podrá darse si no es pensándolas como genéticamente imbricadas en el ciclo de protesta global en curso.

En Sydney (, Buenos Aires (, Moscú (, Kassel (, Berlín (, La Habana (… se suceden, con diversa magnitud y fortuna, actividades de visibilidad institucional de nuevas prácticas de arte político que se diferencian sustancialmente de sus réplicas encerradas en el circuito internacional del arte contemporáneo. Pero los momentos institucionales mencionados son sólo fogonazos, aunque reseñables, puntuales en un continuo que fluye muchas veces totalmente fuera, a veces entre el adentro y el afuera de las instituciones artísticas y sociales. Alguien ha llamado a estas otras prácticas “materia oscura”: como la materia que, no obstante constituir la mayor parte del peso del firmamento y tener una influencia decisiva en la evolución del universo visible, permanece a grandes rasgos oculta. Opera incansable entre la visibilidad y la invisibilidad; fluye entre diferentes constituciones y formas.

Este seminario busca poner en común y contrastar algunos casos concretos y recientes de esta materia oscura. La pregunta central que proponemos es la siguiente: de qué formas, modos y herramientas se dotan algunas de esas modestas máquinas flexibles para la cuales no hay  política radical sin creatividad en las prácticas, sin invención permanente en las formas y en los modos de construcción de sí.

Esta actividad se piensa en continuidad con dos realizadas el pasado año: los seminarios Otra relacionalidad (segunda parte) ( y Capitalismo, fuerza de trabajo,  política, movimientos antisistémicos (; está vinculada también con el área Imaginación  política del Programa de Estudios Independientes (PEI) del Macba. Organizada en colaboración con Brumaria (

Algunos enlaces:

Gerald Raunig: “Algunos fragmentos sobre las máquinas”

Gregory Sholette: “Dark Matter: Activist Art and the Counter-Public Sphere”

Click to access 05_darkmattertwo.pdf

Javier Toret y Nicolás Sguiglia: “Cartografía y máquina de guerra”

3Cs_Maribel Casas-Cortés y Sebastián Cobarrubias:
“A la deriva por los circuitos de la máquina cognitiva”

Amador Fernández-Savater, Marta Malo de Molina, Marisa Pérez Colina, Raúl Sánchez Cedillo: “Ingredientes de una onda global”

Click to access 1969-2bis.pdf

Marcelo Expósito: “La imaginación política radical. El arte, entre la ejecución virtuosa y las nuevas clases de luchas”

Click to access 1969-1.pdf

Etcétera + Internacional Errorista

La Comunitaria TV

What, How & for Whom (WHW)



Centro Social Casa de Iniciativas



Indymedia Estrecho

Oficina de Derechos Sociales (ODS) Sevilla

Ateneu Candela

[mapping madrid] ya esta alquilado!

sebastian+maribel (+little gabriel) here starting the communication from mayrit. The first post from madrid is related to the housing situation in spain. This may not be as acute an issue in other countries of the European Union, but urban development is a big deal currently in spain. Just to give you an idea, the EU cannot complete the Kyoto protocol on C02 emissions because of the cement production that is used for construction in spain. Despite these high rates in housing construction, the lack of access to housing is one of the most striking in Spain’s recent history [and has actually been denounced by a UN representative on housing]. Young people with precarious labor situations are suffering these current contradictions the most. In our apartment search in madrid we (slightly) lived through that stressful situation during several months of search, first via internet, and then, in situ. . The prices are amazingly high, and not only that, everything is rented within what can seem like seconds of posting a “for rent” add in the local newspaper or the major internet renting sites. After identifying the affordable and convenient ones at 7am when the newspapers go out, the round of calls started. Many of them started up by saying: Ya esta alquilado! It is already rented.

step-by-step guidelines for drifting – maggie’s visit cont.

Before starting to post about getting to Madrid, we got inspired by the notes on 3Cs blog about our discussion/drift in Open Eye Cafe on spaces of labor/no labor on Sunday. We would like to contribute to the 3Cs note taking enterprise about maggie’s visit with what we remember from the last bits of our conversation with Maggie: the Step-by-Step guidelines for drifting & mapping discussion @ Weaver St. Market. We are paraphrasing because we took mental notes, apologies in case we don’t remember well”

-But really, how did Precarias a la Deriva go about doing, performing, making, putting together a drift? It is not so obvious when you really want to engage in drifting a la precarias’ …

-It is a long, but at the same time, expectable process”first, a deriva/drift makes no sense if there are not previous discussions on the main themes the group is concerned about and wants to start investigating in a collective way. From a series of group discussions, a set of thematic axes comes up as guidelines for the drifts. A couple of people linked to a particular axe, volunteer to organize one drift. These people know about that particular topic well because of personal experience -working in that sector for example- and have quite a few contacts. These point people strategize an itinerary identifying places that would speak to the issue in question, also contacting other possible participants that could also be interviewed/have a taped conversation with during the drift. That previous work is essential in order for the drift to work and be worthwhile. Then the rest is more or less explained in our different texts. Basically a group of people with note-taking equipment engage in an itinerary guided by a couple of guides who are experts in those spaces, those particular routines, that concrete sector. After visiting places, and having conversations within those locations and also in transition from place to place, each participant goes back ‘home’ and starts writing about the drift: being descriptive, emotional, reflexive, etc depending on the mood. Then all the texts are shared and collaged.

-Drifting feels like mapping, isn’t it? And actually your book includes some cartographic representations of 3 particular drifts? Did you ever follow that path as a venue for your militant research project?

Yes, and actually the precarias research project started as a mapping project. we wanted to document the different everyday itineraries of women workers to put together another vision of the city of Madrid. But it did not work, logistically but also conceptually: all that colorful drawing somehow did not work, the message that came across was not so powerful, and it really did not provided ways of collective organizing. We found out that the idea of actually performing the itineraries together and talking on the way, on the move, allowed for much more powerful communication and mutual understanding developing a sense for commonality and at the same time a sensitivity for diverse particularities.

-So it was a kind of mapping 1 to 1 scale, right? That’s what we are thinking for the mapping the university project”[tim and liz replied]. TO BE CONTINUED in future conversations”.

Precarias in the Triangle

Maggie Schmitt has been in Chapel Hill/Carrboro in Nov.30-Dec.4

She fascinated us with her energy and her talks sharing the experience of Precarias a la Deriva in Madrid. Our group has been following the steps of this Madrid-based group, been always very inspired by their method of feminist/precarious derivas.

Following her advice and the Precarias a la Deriva quasi-obsession for documenting every day events and collective itineraries, we could start our blog by remembering Maggies step-to-step description of drifing and recapitulating our fist attempts of carrying on one while her stay with us. These are the different activities we did with Maggie about drifting (maybe each could be the themes for following posts):

-Brainstorming axes/themes and possible locations @ Mediterranean Deli

-Collective discussion on spaces of labor/no labor on Sundays @ Open Eye Coffee

-Step-to-Step guide for drifting & Mapping discussion @ Weaver St. Market

[drifting with precarias] notes from dec. 2 drift

The 3Cs drift with Maggie Schmitt started at 3:57 PM on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2 in a crowded Carrboro coffeehouse, Open Eye. 3Cs commandeered an unused corner of the cafe for our homebase, and started with a discussion of what themes we wanted to explore in the drift. Themes proposed were:

  • How much do we work (as student/in other roles)?
  • How much is our time worth?
  • Soft exploitation and self-exploitation (what forms do they take in our daily lives)
  • Where does UNC happen on a Sunday?

It was a rainy day, and we spent some time trying to decide what methodology to use for the drift. Should we walk to campus and visit workspaces (likely to be empty, except for lab buildings)? Visit places around Carrboro? We started off with a group interview on the question: what do you do on a Sunday? (In these notes, Im going to include only responses, no names)

    Sunday activities:

  • working occasionally at UNC Planetarium (funded by Union Carbide); avoiding work/trying to work at home
  • at home; working on the couch at a friend’s house, working at Weaver Street or Open Eye (need other people around to concentrate)
  • working (always at home)
  • Sunday morning mass, brunch with friends sometimes, working at home, phone call to parents, dinner with friends (make a point of not going to campus)

Opting to stay at Open Eye and delve further into the topics of University work on a Sunday, we started a discussion about the nature of University work, workplaces, and the intersection of social space and labour space.

Open Eye has been described as Carrboro’s living room — a place people visit to meet friends and to relax and to do work, more often all three. On the day of the drift, we counted 75 people in the cafe, and 45 laptop computers. Only three people weren’t working (or, weren’t trying to look like they were working). Work permeating the social environment to such an extent is something we realized we’d often taken for granted, and the discussion which ensued focused on the relationship between work and social space.

Sebastian: “One of the cute/destructive things about this sociality is that whenever we see each other, we’re reminded of work we haven’t done. We [married couple with a young baby] used to come to Open Eye and bring work, and it’s interesting that there’s no barrier between work and café. You only have to be at the University for so many hours, but you’re expected to do hours of other work.”

Maggie: “Things are very different in Spain”

Maribel: “Agreed”

Maggie: “Right.. work doesn’t happen in cafes, it happens in the overcrowded libraries. The whole notion of a café for workers doesn’t exist. You go to a café to hang out/smoke/drink/play cards.”

Liz: “Still, there are some benefits to having this collective space – I remember one time all of the folks in one of my seminar classes happened to be here at the same time before a big due date for a paper, and we all collectively decided not to do the assignment”

Sebastian: “But you were all anthropologists; that’s important – only certain departments come here. Lab sciences have to be physically in the lab to work, and they’re there most of the weekends.”

Tim: “Yeah, so all of South Campus [the medical/sciences complex] is busy on the weekends, while North Campus is quiet.”

Maribel: “Maybe it’s a political/cultural thing?”

Maggie: “There’s also this added value of networking – you can’t read everything but you can know enough people who have. Does this space become important as a site for affirming casual relationships?”

Tim: “It’s not just University work though. Weaver Street Market [a co-op grocery with café, down the road] is sort of a creative class hub. You see architects meeting clients there, business meetings, job interviews.”

Maggie: “So does the quality of the work people do change at Weaver Street or Open Eye? Why go there instead of home or the office? What is that choice about?”

Maribel: “There’s also the issue of public space – we don’t have much of it.”

Maggie: “If this is our plaza, what does it mean that everyone is plugged-in and focused on their own work? Why come here?”

Liz: “One of my friends and I used to make plans to come here and work, and not talk to each other.”

Reno: “I kind of feel like this is the way life happens. You don’t go outside your bubble, you use a laptop as a shield to help protect your bubble. Or, maybe, the laptop creates a feeling of isolation and you come to a public space to help mitigate that?”

Craig: “One of the other cafes around here bans laptops at night. My old roommate used to be a programmer, he got really mad at that.”

Maggie: “What is the history of the café workplace? Coffee shops go back to the 1980s, right? Why cafes as workplaces?”

All (chorus): “Now we have laptops! Digital labour!”

Maribel: “What a strange object! The laptop is a digital workplace, a portable workplace, and yet we all associate good feelings with it.”

(Sebastian runs out to count laptops and engage in an informal survey of laptop work. Results, 45 laptops in the building; many of them in groups of people working together, each on their own laptops. We also discover biologists, environmental scientists, and medical students all working at Open Eye. End scene.)