We are Insurgent, We are Everywhere!
Interview with John Jordan
Where do you stand politically?
Politically I don’t stand, I’m horizontal, so definitely politically I’m a horizontalist, and fundamentally, I think, we should organize without leaders, or we should all become leaders, take control over our own everyday lives and our own situations. For me one of the most important things is to not have hierarchies, and not having coercion in social system, and not coercing people. So, mutual aid, horizontalism, social justice. I don’t like “isms” very much; most of my political theory comes from anarchism, but I don’t call myself an anarchist very much, partly because I think it is just very difficult for people to take away the image of the anarchists, as someone with a big bomb or seeing anarchism as a chaos and so on…But if I really have to say it would be I’m red, green and black. So, green for ecology, red for solidarity, and black for horizontality. But for me it is also the question of scale, and how we think about the scale of change. I think that one of the problems of 19th century, in a way, since the French revolution…so the French revolution had this idea of universal transformation, universal values, and then we have the Internationalism, the International Communism, and in capitalism, globalization, the whole world. And for me one of the importance is how do we rethink the scale in terms of political change. I think we have to rethink the value of changing locally and how that can have links to the global, but for me to change something you need to know it, and in a way this is like an art practice. So, if you work with wood, like trees here, you need to know the wood, if you are working with stone, you need to know the stone, if you work with this community you have to really know that community, if you are working with this social movement you really need to know the material, intimately like a material. And we need to have solutions that are very local and diverse and open to diversity, as opposed to this kind of global solutions, you know, the red book everywhere, or capitalism everywhere.
How do you organize your life entangled in total work; waged labour, unemployment, art, activism and personal relationships?
Well, it has just changed. For many years I have lived in a city, and I have just moved to France. I lived in London for many years, so for many years I was in a fairly normal life, as a couple living with my lover, my partner, who also I work with, and she had a full time university job, and we had a nice flat in London and we would work collectively with other groups, and so on. But for us it did not feel very coherent into our lives so we now moved to a farm two months ago. So we are living collectively, trying to be more coherent, trying to use much less money. My partner she left her university ten year job and we are setting up a community with local people, working with local peasant network, and also to set up a new school for art, activism and social ecology. And the idea is, like the Bauhaus, – it was a way to think about total art for the industrial age and try to teach total art for the industrial age, -so the idea is what would be the Bauhaus for the 21st Century? How would you teach total art for the post-industrial, post-capitalist society. That is a long term project, so we just literary got the land, it is a ruin, it hasn’t been touched for fifteen years, it has four meter high brambles all over it and the project is called “La Ronce” which is in French the name for the brambles. So the brambles are both spiky and they give fruit, they are very hard to get out once they grow down, the are rizomatic so they go through the ground but they also grow up to the air and then back down to the ground and grow roots, and they are also the protector of the forest. So when you clear the land the first thing it would come are the nettles and then the brambles come and then the little trees grow under the brambles, but they are protected from the animals by the spines of the brambles, and then the tree can grow through the brambles and by the time its up here, then the animals can’t eat it. So for us the metaphor of the brambles is a really strong metaphor, trying to create a space where we can teach activism, share skills in activism and ecology, and art, and its an acronym for “Resist, Organize, Nourish, Create and Exist”, …so our life has changed massively since January. So if you would ask me four months ago, I would say I’m living in London, etc. And the idea is also to live with much, much less money, to have our own food, to live collectively, and without debts and also trying to create models for living, you know, to create little cracks in capitalism, where you can live without the tide of money that is constantly coming and needing more money…
Politicization of Life: it seems that there is no way out, that the “enemy” became part of us… Does the production of subjectivity become a terrain of the central conflict and our struggle?
I don’t think is the main, for me we have to always connect everything up, we have to look at the world as a series of relationships, and not as objects or subjects, so post- Enlightenment tells us we are series of objects in the world, capitalism tells us we are individuals in the world, and actually I think that a lot of the work we do is to try to make people think ecologically and that is also about thinking of ourselves as systems, and that we are all just a series of relationships, so one of the first thing is I think we need to subjectively change is our consciousness around looking at the world, and instead of saying, oh I see a car, I see a camera, I see you, I see this plastic chair, to actually see all the relationships that there are in the world. So I see this plastic chair, I see the Chinese worker who made this plastic chair, I see the oil that is millions of years old that was taken out of the ground and turn into the plastic and piped down from Iraq, you know, this chair is a series of relationships and stories, its not just a chair, and we are a series of relationships and stories. So in the practices we do, we have this philosophy called premaculture, and premaculture, the idea is to be inspired by how a natural eco system works, but trying to use the designed systems of a natural eco-systems into a social system, and one of the keys is to create what is called beneficial relationships. So, for me a lot of the work is how do you create beneficial relationships between people, beneficial relationships between places, communities, social movements, artists, whatever, all are beneficial relationships that help each other, so that’s come from an understanding of ecosystem. So, if you look at forest for example, the Enlightenment thing would say, ok we have a tree, a series of trees in the forest, but actually in recent science its extraordinarily, showing the mutual aid in the forest. So you have a tree here and a tree here, and these trees are connected underground, not by their roots but by a series of micro-rizoes, which are the roots of mushrooms. So mushrooms, the mushroom is a fruit but underneath the mushroom there are thousands and thousands of roots, little white fibbers, that connect the roots of the trees, so the trees use the mushrooms, to talk to each other. The mushrooms are the Internet of the forest. So, the roots connects this tree, this tree needs the minerals from its roots, but this mushroom hasn’t got photosynthesis, so it needs sugar from the leaves, the tree then gives sugar there, and those then go if this tree here doesn’t have enough sugar, and they have done experiments when they cover the tree in a blanket so it can’t photosynthesize, and it can’t get enough sugar, this tree here will help this tree here by passing sugars using the mushrooms. So, it’s beneficial relationships, it’s all the natural world is about relationships, trying to find ways, that you can produce, and reproduce and be in production, but that you also using others and helping others…
At the same time, I think, our subjectivity, yes, capitalism, the front line runs through all of us, we are the frontline of capitalism and we have to change our sensitivity, so for me it is also a lot of practice we try to do, is to change the way we sense the world actually as subjects. So can we actually become more sensitive, so can I be so sensitive that actually, going into a shop for example, going into H&M, to buy a new T-shirt, it just feel so disgusting, because I really see the children working on that T-shirt, that I just sense, it’s as strong as going with the knife and cutting someone. So can we really change our subjectivities in that sense way, that we, that capitalism becomes so alien to us because it feels wrong in a way, and equally change our sensitivities that we are open to each other more, so I think there is a lot of work to do around re-sensitising our bodies, re-sensitising our subjectivities to be in a world in a different way. So, we use a lot of techniques of games, exercise and stuff, when we are trying to do that.
Who is the political subject today? Who are “we”?(multitude, precariat, indignados, 99%…?) What constitutes our possible commonality, how can we think and act as commons?
I think what is interesting about the relations of commonality is how do you have a commonality which includes diversity, and I think what the alterglobalisation movement did beautifully is to say, like the Zapatistas said, one No and many Yes-es.
One No to capital, but many Yes-es, many different diverse ways of reconstituting ourselves, outside and beyond capital in some way, and I think that is still the challenge for the political left actually. I think the political left still has this kind of concept of universal transformation, and global values, and you know, the common is everyone, and even the 99% is interesting in a way, it’s the mass, so again it comes to how do we push for a radical social change through creating radical forms of diversity, that can, you know, and I’m not talking about little enclaves, the diverse enclaves that never speak to each other, I’m really talking about trying to create commonality where each answer to capital is in a different place, it is different, because here, even here, in La Pau, the answer to capitalism in this block of flats is different than if you go on the metro and you go into the centre of town, it’s going to be different, I mean, yes it’s going to be commonality, but there is going to be big differences, let alone if you go across the Mediterranean, go to Tunisia now, or go off to China or whatever. So, how do we have a sense of commonality, and yet have this absolutely strong understanding of diverse solutions of, and diverse forms of struggle to capitalism, and I think that’s the real challenge. I think that what was beautiful about the Occupy movement and Indignados, and I didn’t get super involved, I have to say in London, because, I was in a process of moving into France and so on, but it was really diverse, and of course there was this constant attempt of having a single call, or a single demand, and lots of discussions, and resistance about having the single demand, which I think was really good, and I think it was really good that the Occupy refuse to have a demand, in a way, that it was really about creating space, and creating a discussion and creating a commonality in that moment. I think we have a long way to go, without seeing commonality as singularity, because in our heads its still a kind of singularity.
How and in what way the politicization of use of the new media technologies can be useful today to organize resistance of the connected multitudes in the network society?
I think it really depend, I don’t think there is a general answer to the use of social networks. What was useful in Tunisia it was different from what was useful doing for 15M in Barcelona, or what is useful now in Syria, is completely different from what is useful in Occupy Wall Street. Ok, some of the tools are similar, some of them are not, I mean in Syria, Twitter is useless but Skype is good because the Syrian government doesn’t have a back door into Skype, so they actually use Skype in Syria, but here you can use Twitter …
Activism before the Internet
Well, I’m old enough to remember doing this work before, before I had a computer, so I was organizing with a typewriter, and a telephone, not very much, but I was a bit, and got involved in activism just as people started to have computers, and then just as Internet came. So I got involved in 1993, and the Internet was invented 1993, the World Wide Web, and I remember when the Zapatista uprising happened on 1st of January, 1994. I remember someone telling me that he got an email and that it happened. But I did not have a computer and email, we did not all have computers and emails, we had one computer in the office, collective one, and just a few people knew how to use a computer, so no one else knew how to use it. It was like that for most people now, it seems like ten centuries ago, that’s the stone age.
What I think is interesting, I have a theory based on no research, and no empirical evidence, but it’s an intuitive theory, the one of the reasons that the 90s went so well, and there were many reasons, as always, all social movements grow for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that you had a community of activists, which had a memory of activism before the Internet, where face to face talking was super important: going to communities and talking, going and giving talks. I mean, if you look at all the 19th Century heroes and heroines of anarchism, Emma Goldman, Morris, Bakunin, whatever, they spend their lives talking to people, going everywhere in meetings, juts talking, talking…they did not spend their lives behind a computer sending emails and twitters, so you had that historical memory and skills, the necessity of talking to people, and also the necessity of material propaganda, so posters, putting posters up, handing out flyers, and you had that merged with new technology, you know the rapidity…so when we organized June the 18th, the Carnival against Capitalism in 1999, we spent a week putting flyers in London in envelopes and sending them out in social movements all over the world, still even then, you know, because people in Africa and India did not have email by then. There was this mixture, this two cultures, electronic and material, and I think that actually what happened afterwards, later, there was this period, this is kind of changing now with social networks a bit, where everyone thought you could make a website and you would have a revolution, literally. There were all this young kids, saying yes, alterglobalisation movement it is all done on the Internet, so we will make a call and if we have a letter and a number, like J18, will have M4, and there will be a revolution, and of course there wasn’t any revolution and five people would turn up, and they got depressed.
I think it changed now with social networks, and I think what is really interesting in a way about the occupy movement, is that you have this merge of electronic and the spatial material, so you really have the network, the social network media, which made the event happen, but then you have the event, and the space and the reality. And it’s interesting, I heard the guy in front talking the other day, he said most politics has three stages up to now, I would say four, he is trotskyist, but I would say there are four, I would start with sense, with a feeling, but he says you start with the ideology, so, with an idea; the abuse of women is wrong, or cutting down the Amazon rainforest is wrong, or slavery is wrong, etc. an idea, you then meet people who has similar idea, and then you go and do something, an action. So, an idea, meeting, action. So the action might be setting up a social movement, doing a direct action, political party, whatever, but there is an action. And he says that what happened with occupy is the inverse, so you basically have a call for action: Occupy, go to your square, you meet people, and then you decide what you are about. And that is completely different from a kind of three hundred years of revolutionary political organizing, you know, you came today because you share a common idea and here you are coming together because you want to go on the square, and you are with all this different people and then you decide what you are about. So, we are living in a whole new time, and also a lot of older activists in some places are like, what is this about, what is a whole occupy thing about, we cannot understand it, it is not a multitude, it is not a protest. And I think the other beauty is that it makes the event and space, because, I think you need, the event, an action, you know, you can put an image out on a social network because it is an action, it looks good, it’s hot, it’s an action, a space, like a social centre, squat, it is not alive, it’s just a place, so it’s not hot in that way, so it’s not so easy to communicate, but what is interesting when you merge those two, you have the action of occupying space, and then you have the space, that is not hot but it’s actually, much more open to people, from the outside, to come into, with an action normally it’s not so open, for people to come into. So, to mix the event, an action, and the space, frame that more people can come and get involved, it’s really interesting.
In what way the carnevalesque political irruption of the street parties prefigures the forms of protest within the rise of alterglobalisation movement?
Reclaim the streets came as resistance to a law, which was interesting, I mean, often repression creates new forms or new commonalities, or new collectives in a way. So, in England in 1992 and 1994, you had this big anti-roads movement, so it was a kind of horizontal, radical ecology, anarchist, ecologist movement against the motorway building. At the same time there was a massive movement of free parties, of rave parties, which were not Political, but there were people saying, we are going to the party, we have a right to party, and we don’t want to go and pay money in clubs, we want to be self organized, and we are going to squat, so they would squat big techno parties, …so it was a big very popular movement happening at the same time, and the government was like, no, no, no, we need the motorways and we need to pay for the clubs, and we want to control space so they brought this new law, which made dancing on rave music five people outside, illegal, so they had to define rave music in the government which is great, there was a big debate of how do you define rave music and everything, and the rave music was defined as a series of repetitive beats. So, if you play a series of repetitive beats, I think it was more than five, I can’t remember, then is illegal, immediately arrested, criminal activity, also it made direct action illegal, in terms what the ecological movement were doing, which was mostly trying to stop work, blocking a work, or someone else’s work, because before it would be a company, who would you be blocking and who would take you to the court, so it was a civil offense, but this new law said that is a criminal offense, and it also was the same law which was attacking traveller communities, there were people living in buses going across country and living on the edges of capitalism, it was no longer legal to have a bus and live alongside a road, gypsies, etc. really horrible laws. So there was a big movement against this laws, but it brought together all those people who were attacked by this laws, who would not necessarily be working together, so that created the commonality to fight the criminal justice bill which became an act in 1994.
So, Reclaim the streets came out of that in a way, so it was really a strange mixture of ravers, artists, ecologists, anarchists, a whole range of different people, and one of the key ideas was just a pleasure, you know, how do you do politics, without having pleasure, how can you really create a political movement, if you are just always in a resistance, always saying no, so out of that it came the carnevalesque, the idea of carnival, of the world upside down. Traditionally a lot of political theory has shown, that revolutionary moments are carnevalesque, like 1848 was seen as a great carnival moment across Europe, when the king became a slave, and the slave became a king, and men dressed as women and women dressed as men, so all the laws were broken down as carnival, and there was a lot of pleasure, and in Reclaim the streets we wanted to say, instead of saying, revolutions looked often like carnivals, we said, lets create a carnival that becomes a revolution, so lets create something that is more like a carnival and then becomes revolution, and also that does not look like politics, that has a different feel with your body, when you are going into it, that it has a different colour in your eyes when you see it, that the sense is not like radical politics, and of course that meant that a lot of people came to this big street parties, they were not necessarily political, many didn’t even see it as political, but that does not really matter, in a sense, the fact was that they were political, we were blocking motorways, we were talking about the privatization of public space by the motorcar, we have been talking about climate change,…So, I think that the reason its spread and it became part of alterglobalisation movement, so the pleasure, the rethinking of the way politics feels…
What would you say it is the potential of these tactics today?
Well, I think that what we saw then it was a kind of politics can bring together different kind of people, because everyone, it’s much easier to agree around kind of forms of pleasure, and so on, so it’s a particular point of politics, so in a way it’s much open, when organizing, I think that for me this kind of politics, it’s always going to be relevant, as soon as I see movements readdressing to, instead of being super serious and just talking about oppression, and of course we need to talk about all this things, but if you just talk about the oppression and become super serious, then you loose playfulness and creativity and fun, then you are not going to evolve, and also you become closed off to the world in a way. I mean, the other thing within the Reclaim the streets which was relevant, was trying really to connect social justice, and ecology together, and I think it depends when you go in Europe, but I know in Spain it’s still really difficult connection to make; there are ecologists and people making social justice work, and to me both problems of poverty and climate change are equal problems, I mean climate change for me is the war on a poor, the people who are affected by climate change are the poor. Those are the first people who are getting it in the neck, because of climate change, and the climate change is mostly created by the rich. So it’s a social justice question, a question of capitalism, but still there is this kind of disconnection, the green, the red and the black, and in Reclaim the streets we had this red, green and black flag, and in fact it was the same lightning thing you have for “acabar con el mal”. We had a 150 flags, I think we made, and they had three colours, red, green and black, so you could have a black flag with a red and green lighting, which would say, mostly I’m anarchist but I have elements of communism and ecology, or you could have a green flag, with black and red lightning, so it’s mostly I’m an ecologist but I have elements of anarchism and communism…So, there was this kind of polymorphous identification politics, bringing this three things together. I think it’s still super relevant actually, and will become increasingly relevant as climate change hits more countries in Europe, and I think we really need to connect a dots in a way.
How do you understand resistance in relation to performative tactics?What role do they play?
If we just try and imagine, if we shut our eyes and try to imagine what are the historical moments or the historical images of political activity or resistance that we think about, immediately they will all be performative. I mean, whether it is the guys on the podium at the Olympic games doing a Black Panther salute, the image that went across the world, that was a performance, they even thought of putting a glove on, it was totally a performance, or wheatear we think of Rosa Parks, on a bus, I mean, the myth that is told about Rosa Parks is that she was just a seamstress who decided to refuse to stand up for a white man on a bus. No, she was not a seamstress, she knew what she was doing, people have done it before, anyway, the whole thing it was a performance, whether we think of the Suffragettes, the big Suffragettes parades, their actions smashing windows to get a vote for women, just the fact that they were women with little hammers smashing windows, wearing big dresses, it was performative, it was completely conscious of the paradoxes, and contradictions of women with a hammer and dress, and even in 1911. So, I think that all powerful politics is performative in some way.
The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination
For me one of the reasons why we in the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination use performative practices, is also in a way as a window, to get people involved into the radical politics, who might not get normally involved into the radical politics. It’s also because I actually think, one of the most powerful tools in radical politics, is when you get artists and activists to work together. Because I think that artists are incredibly creative, poetic, they think outside a box, they think more intuitively, but they have massive egos, they are really scared to step out of line, and letting go of their cultural capital. While activists tend to be really courageous, they are passionate, courageous, they are really good at understanding the power of solidarity and collectivity, but often they don’t have much imagination. So, for me by bringing this two together, you can really create amazing things and performance brings these two activities together, in a way. And I think that another thing about performance is that through performance you can create a kind of, you know, the question of subjectivity that we were talking about in a sense, so a lot about the work we do, what is interesting there, is that training the body to be disobedient, you are creating this new way of being disobedient.
So, it was performative when you went on the street, you were performing, but also it was transformative, you were learning a new way of being in a world with your body in a sense, so it wasn’t just an intellectual practice or politics, it was not just, you know, we are not going to just sit and read Das Kapital and we are going to talk about Das Kapital for four months, and then we will have some ideas of what we will do. It’s like how do we transform now, and for me it’s about performing anticapitalism and postcapitalism now, it’s not about waiting, for the right moment, for the right revolutionary insurrection, it’s about really trying to create those cracks in the system now, I’m not a marxist in that way, I believe that it is possible to create cracks in capitalism, I don’t think capitalism has so destroyed all our capacities to behave differently between each other, feel differently, I don’t think it has, I don’t think it gets that powerful, it’s stunted them for sure, massively, but I think in a way it’s about performing the future in the present it’s what we need to do because in a sense I think that is, the future is constructed in a present. So we need to perform it now, we need to perform what we want, how we want to live together and in that way the means and the ends come together. Your political believe, how you think you should be after the revolution or in postcapitalism, you should do it now, not wait.
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army
It came out of the idea to bring together two things, of merging…I’m really interested in the use of storytelling and archetypes in politics. I think, for example the Zapatistas, the way the Zapatistas used the mask, its the archetype, everyone in Mexico understands the mask, the wrestling mask, the ritual mask, the mask is the archetype in Mexico. So, I think it was super interesting that the Zapatistas used that, and kind of immediately communicated something to people. The clown is also an archetype, in most of the world but particularly in Europe, and in America, you know, the clown, everyone understands the clown. The policeman, will have the story about the clown in his or her life, the politician will know what a clown is, so everyone relates to the clown figure. So, that was one of the reasons for choosing a clown, another reason was that it was a way of being clandestine, without being criminal, or without being seen like a terrorist, and it worked super well.
I mean, one day I did a G8 in Scotland, and in England we have this group called the Forward Intelligence Team, and they are police officers but they are not in plain clothes, they are in uniform and like in a meeting, here for example, if we were in England right now, and we would be planning an art-activist action like this, we would have right here a group of five police officers, juts there all day with cameras, video cameras, and cameras with the flash, because they are performing as well, so they would be taking pictures of everybody coming out, like super intimidation, and they are called the Forward Intelligence Team. And one day at G8 I met one of the guys whom I knew from the Forward Intelligence Team for years, he is a bastard, but I would say hello, because there are worst coppers. Anyway, I saw him and said “high I haven’t seen you for years”, like four years I haven’t seen him. And he said, “oh yes, I have been behind the desk a lot, but I was brought out again for the G8”, and he looks at me and goes, “the clown army, I really like the clown army, it’s very creative, I recognized you immediately by your teeth”, so what that meant basically is that he had been looking at all this photographs, and my clown when I was arrested for the first time, the officer thought I was a 22 year old female, and I was 40, but this guys from the Forward Intelligence Team have been looking through all this photos and hadn’t recognize me, but then he looked at my teeth and I have this little crack and he was like, “ah it’s John Jordan”. So, it worked fairly well the clandestinity, I just had to have a false teeth. So, that kind of worked.
And the other it was merging the clown with civil disobedience, trying to get people to develop new ways of being spontaneous and playful in the world, because that is one of the things that capital manages to do. It is to basically constrict, you know, children play, adults don’t play, or artist play but non-artists don’t play, so play and spontaneity and capacity to work more with our right brain it’s fundamental for our social transformation. So, the clown army was like trying to do left and right brain, connect them more and to learn to be the clown body, which feels the world, it has no skin, and it’s really like ecological, like a deleuzian body, like it’s connected to everything and everything is connected to it.
And I had seen a lot of young activist burning out, being really, building armours around their bodies, because they would start to get involved in activism, they feel a social injustice, they start to do research about social injustice, you know, the world is worst that they thought it was, and they start to get involved in movements, then maybe they get hit by the police, so maybe they get more radicalized by that, and then they start just to hang out with activists, so then in a way they loose their communities of other friends and slowly they build the armour around themselves. I have seen that to happen to a lots of activists. When they stop feeling in a way. So they stop the very thing that enabled them to be an activist in the first place and they are just full of anger. And so, the clown army trainings were based on braking down this armours to get you to feel the world again. So we developed a methodology and we worked with artists and activists and real clowns, and developed a methodology which involved a lot of playing, a lot of exercising, and quite difficult psychological stuff, like lots of eye contacts work, like quite ritualistic, and it worked on the streets, because it was trying to replace confrontation with confusion in a way, and believing that you could actually confuse the State sometimes more, they understand confrontation, they don’t understand confusion and in that way this kind of tactics needs evolving all the time, you know, because the State learns and in a way a lot of art-activism, we need to be really clear that there is one tactic and then the State it’s like a technological warfare, you create one technique, it will work for a bit, and then the State will work out how to deal with it and then to reinvent it again. But the reinvention needs the play and spontaneity, so the more we have this capacity to reinvent that tactics the better. And the reason for me that the clown army failed, and I was a dissenter from a clown army, I kind of just left it and it was really hard for me to leave because it was like a relationship, and it was very very hard, but the people started to consume it, because in a way it became very cool, very funny, very trendy, and people started to dress up as clowns, and go on demonstrations, it was like, no, it’s not about being a hippy clown on a demonstration, it’s about really developing your inner clown, and going to do a direct action as this other spontaneous, playful, being, that is more you that you are in a way…or more the free you. In a way is like living free now, is it as you are free in a way, and people started to consume it and it was also because we kind of, the scale was to big, we were like, yes, we are going to have a clown army, it is going to be all over the world, and we will have thousands of clowns, and actually we did not have the capacity to do that level of training like that, and it didn’t really work, because you can’t teach someone to be a clown on the Internet, you can’t just send them a pdf. with the exercises, we used to do it with our bodies and we did not have enough capacity to do that. So, it was an interesting question about scale, …and at the end, it ended up having lots of hippy clowns on the streets.
What is the use of fiction in the articulation of protest?
I hate fiction and I hate representation, I think the world has enough stories in it without having to create fiction of the story so what I’m interested in is to create actions, which stick because they are really powerful stories, and those stories they only have a middle, beginning and an end, they have characters they have conflicts, and resolutions, and transformations, all the traditional structures of the myth or the fiction. But I don’t think it’s about pretending, and one of the problems is that there are a lot of artists end up obsessed by pretending, obsessed about even political artists, pretend to do politics a lot of the time, of no we are not really doing politics this is an art action that is going to be in a museum and so for me what fiction is a bit of a distraction so maybe is more like myth-making or storytelling.
And I just have seen the power of how those stories can really spread ideas, really well, the famous stories, the one of the Reclaim the streets that I always repeat again and again, but it really is the one that thought me the power of myth and stories, when we did this big action on the M41 motorway, and there was one moment when we made this big carnival figure dresses and another guy who had this drill he wanted to do, he wanted to drill wholes in a motorway and plant trees, and they were both going into an action and he was like, “hey I could put the drills under your dress, and we could drill under the dress and plant tress on the motorway”, and she was like, “you are not putting your macho drills above my beautiful dress”, so it got that weird gender thing, so then she said “yes, fuck it, lets do it”, and what came out was this story that now became really famous, of this big dresses and people underneath drilling wholes on the motorway and planting trees. So, it was a kind of accidental coming together, and it happened and it created a story that got us work with people with whom we would never normally work with. So, we’ve got to work with Liverpool dockers who were like very traditionally worker group on strike, and they started to work with ravers, anarchists and artists and ecologists, because the story broke through the difference, and I think that is the beauty of stories, that it touches your imagination, and everyone has an imagination, and if you can tell a story that touches the imagination you could talk to people you would never normally talk to and you can make the politics desirable, and at the end it’s like, how do you make radical politics desirable? That is the main question, how do you make it as desirable as the brand new i-phone, or the holliday in Ibiza or the wedding, or whatever. How do you make, give it that sense of desire, this deep desire and the way to do it is to touch the imagination, and that is why we need more artist in politics.
So, if I should have one message to artists I should say, leave advertising, desert the world of advertising, desert the world of PR, desert the world of museums, of art galleries and art market, desert all those worlds because those worlds are wars against people and planet, and apply your creativity to social movements, and it’s more fun, it’s not full of really horrible people, it’s really fun of lovely people, and it’s an adventure, because you don’t know what is coming next, well, you know what is coming next in the art world: it’s the retrospective, it’s a vernissage, it’s another exhibition, and the beauty of social movements is that you never know what is going to come next. I didn’t know, if somebody would have said to me, it is going to be this mass movement of people occupying town squares, and they are going to be using this hand signals, which we have been using for years, and years and years, I remember coming to Spain and Italy, and I was trying to teach people the hand signals and people were going, “no, that is so stupid, we are not going to be doing this, it’s ridiculous, we are Latin, you know, that is serious politics here, this is so Anglo-Saxon”, so if you would say to me there is going to be a huge movement across the countries and everybody will be doing this I would have never believed you, so it’s beautiful, it is always the unexpected.
In what way “creative activism” presents the possibility for social change?What is its capacity of transformation?
I think that creative activism opens space. I think that is what it does, it opens up space to think differently, to behave differently, to perform differently, to be together differently, to resist differently. So, I think historically you can see how creative activism opens those spaces, so the example I often give, is history tells us that 1989 revolution at the end of the Soviet Empire, was Solidarnost and so on, and yes, they did help to bring down the Soviet Empire, but actually you go a year before, and then ten years ago, that kind of period, there was a lot of creative resistance happening, little tiny groups doing amazing things like the Orange Alternative, who were during years doing graffiti on the walls of dwarfs, and then they called for a dwarf action in the autumn of 1988, in a town in Poland, where there was a military dictatorship, and they have made thousands of little orange dwarf heads, and ten thousands of young people went to the streets dressed as dwarfs and the police did not know what to do, the army did not know what to do, they could not really shoot dwarfs, and they had demands, “down Gargamel!”…and that opened space, it opened space for resistance, because it did not look like politics, and I think creative resistance can hide itself, its trickster in this way…
Was Yo Mango a fashion show?Was it stealing or was it radical politics? Was a street party a carnival, was it a rave or was it a kind of political action for the commons? Is the clown army a really stupid bunch of people dressed up in costumes making silly noises, or is it a new form of civil disobedience?So, for me creative resistance can be this trickster edge thing when you don’t know quite what it is, but you now it opens up space, and you never know what is going to happen. When they were dressing up as dwarfs in 1988 in Poland and going on the streets, they never had any idea that Soviet Empire was going to collapse a year latter, but they were really a key in sawing seeds for what was to happen. And if we can see creative resistance like that I think it also gives us more hope…we don’t necessarily know what is going to create but we know that for sure it creates space
¿Cómo acabar con el mal? How to end evil?
I think evil is the system that reduces our capacity to be creative and to make new relationships, it reduces or potentiality as subjects, and reduces our capacity as subjects to create beneficial relationships between each other. For me that is evil. So, how do you end that? Well, you do the opposite, you create spaces where people can really develop their creativity, their subjectivity and create new forms of relationships, new friendships, new ways of being together, and creative resistance is pretty good in doing that, so may be it is a good way of ending evil.