Self-management and activism in the post-industrial age
Self-management and activism in the post-industrial age
Espacio G stands for an artistic agenda beyond the merely academic, distributing knowledge freely and disrupting established structures.
Artivism, collective mapping, the infographics of protest, hacktivism and permaculture are tactics that can achieve change in a mass-media dominated society, offering a viewpoint different from that presented by the multinational controllers of the information sphere.
This is the setting for the emergence of initiatives such as CRAC Valparaíso, mapa.valpo or Espacio G in Valparaíso – a world heritage site and also a city with one of the highest levels of unemployment in Chile. These initiatives have developed self-management strategies that dissolve preconceptions of design, visual and media arts imprinted on the present model of the cultural market, marking out possible routes to freedom from an unsustainable social and economic framework.
The arts cooperative Espacio G (Space G) was launched more than a decade ago with a special objective: “We wanted to decolonise ourselves from the academic environment that dominates the local art output. So we initiated a process, a particular way of knowing and experiencing precisely at the point where the gaze of the aesthetic-political regime tries to objectify and evaluate the circulation of art in all its various manifestations.”
The space is managed by Jocelyn Muñoz, who holds a master’s degree in visual culture from the University of Barcelona, and Mauricio Román, hacktivist, who together guide the ideals of Espacio G: to share, collaborate, cooperate and enjoy what they do.
Strange, and a completely new challenge
Espacio G was founded in September 2004, on Pasaje Fischer, Cerro Concepción, in Valparaíso, Chile. The site chosen for the endeavour was a house with a large warehouse attached, used at the beginning of the twentieth century as women’s public baths. According to Mauricio: “We came to this new place as four friends who had worked on an earlier project, Pabellón G. It was strange, a completely new challenge, to establish an independent space, free and self-managed, dedicated to contemporary art and with the vision for its long-term sustainability.” He goes on: “In this building, the top three floors had been abandoned for decades, and we decided to recover them and organise an exhibition entitled Nuevo medio: crisis/acción (New medium: crisis/action), a response to something the institution of the university had never offered: a space appropriate for showing art in Chile, and particularly in Valparaíso.” At the time, they called it Pabellón G. The name was rooted in the large-scale pavilions they had to work with. Later on the friends changed the name to Espacio G. “We decided to add the letter G for various reasons, some of them secret and others very obvious, leading to a great deal of speculation”, says Mauricio.
Transversal, organic, yet to be decoded
Espacio G operates out of an organic, transversal approach, that is from the individual body to the collective body. The members of the collective understand and implement the right to freedom of expression, distribution of knowledge and disruption of the established structure, creating an organic, social and artistic agenda that goes way beyond the merely academic.
The members of Espacio G are people of varied interests, of different tastes, using different computers, sounds, fixed and moving images, sharing a collective working space for self-management in the fields of counter-culture, open networks and food. They practice an economic approach that the traditional political structure has not yet managed to decode.
Biological, horizontal, connected
The art cooperative networks with other spaces linked in the Circuito de Espacios Domésticos (CED) [Domestic Spaces Circuit]. And Espacio G itself consists of sub-projects, for instance the food supply initiative La Lechuga (Lettuce), described as a place to practice a “collective, cooperative and independent economy, which acts to remove the immunological roadblocks installed in all of what we eat. The kitchen is therefore also a place to try to transform our living conditions, exploring through self-organisation and self-development in daily life”.
These “immunological roadblocks” are reconfigured as a “biological” initiation, a gateway to other areas of social complexity; in defending ourselves against transgenic foods, we have to form an awareness and practice also regarding the freedom of web content.
This points to horizontal cooperation, practiced for instance in the creation of Valpo Mesh, a free data transmission network between nodes distributed around the city. This network was recently boosted by a visit from the philosopher and hacktivist Elektra, who came from Berlin for the Second Digital Culture Conference (Segundo Encuentro de Cultura Digital). During her visit, she set up the B.A.T.M.A.N. online protocol – based in the Freifunk community (Berlin) – symbolically linking the two cities through a common code or language.
Survival or collapse
But what is this hammer striking? What’s being shaken up? It is always complicated to find a structural balance, especially for those whose worlds of culture, arts and architecture have been absorbed by neo-liberal dynamics. Chile was a testing ground for Milton Friedman and the Chicago School during the Pinochet dictatorship, and the ancestral Chilean oligarchy was a sad participant in this history. From the political emancipation of the sixties and early seventies, the country went straight to being a pioneer of capitalist suppression.
By contrast, the network surrounding Espacio G offers alternatives to the system. In the tough, intense setting of Valparaíso, Espacio G stands out for its community work, a tremendous collective endeavour that is growing, changing and moving forward as time goes by. It depends on everyone for its survival or collapse.