Charter to Europeans
Charter to Europeans
Text written in 2013 for Universidad Popular de los Movimientos Sociales (Social Movements Popular University), after taking part in a workshop for several days with the professor Boventura De Sousa Santos and several social movements at state level. Based on the topic “The Reconstruction of the Democratic Thinking: European Democracy”, they suggested us to write a letter to Europe based on our own experience.
We write you from Basurama, from the hidden face of the cities.
Our birth as a group took place in the pro-European and pro-development heart of Madrid more than ten years ago, in an architecture school that dreamed to build (with bricks and steel) a future without questions, excited by an impeccable global context.
This way, our formal learning process was developed framed by a self-compliant European construction that was considered final objective of the development and progress initiated by our parent´s generation (“we finally are Europa”!). if we really were a generation that had all and nothing to lose, it seemed that everything was already learned, the only thing left was to put into practice.
But the reality and the practice made Basurama to grow without being blindfolded by Europe, due to opportunities and especially, of our wish to learn. More than half of our practice have been done far there, mainly in Latin America (and later in Africa too), being almost mule our experience in Europe, here, apart from the one in Spain. Those experiences far there have radically changed us as individuals and us as a group in the ways we operate with our environment. We have been euracas in practice.
- Learning about How to Learn: learning together/de-learning together.
Before starting to think in which are the experiences that we can learn from others, we are mainly concerned about the way we do it. It is not about generating or extracting possible lessons but building communal learning spaces. And this communal space will bring a lot of necessary de-learning. De-learning so we can learn together. Lessons are imposed on us and silence us, they annulate our specific abilities; learning/de-learning open a space to us, mix us with other, gives us options. But, how can we open that space? How can we make that mixture possible?
Hence, more important than knowing WHAT to learn/de-learn, is more interesting to learn/de-learn HOW to do it. The key would be to think in how to make a tool that allow us to walk together. No giving lessons to anyone, no receiving lessons from anyone. The ideal space would be to break the bi-directionality of learning and to generate a pedagogic space based on communal work and learning by making together. Nowadays there are many took that make possible to do it together, but the key is to have the willingness to do it. Willingness to generate an space of interaction without falling in paternalisms or moral superiorities, one of the weak points of our democracies. It is necessary the creation of new formats and work frames where distributed and horizontal development strategies can be developed.
So, the key is to achieve learning/de-learning together without having to disparage other´s knowledge. And also without taking them as mythical and unquestionable, because that many times forces us to imitate without thinking, to follow without questioning. Is that possible?
This question drives us to a first evident problem: a big cultural/social/aesthetic/politic cultural abysm between the different agents, between the “here” and the “there”. Between Europe and the others, between the others and the others, between them and us, so to say, between all of each other.
A proposal to consider would be the collective establishment of an School of Translation. How to translate contexts and concepts among distances (physical, mental etc.) Translation is based on the impossible and there is what its danger lays, but also its potential. Translation ends up being a tradition in plenty of official media-. Who translates? We have to be aware that we are translating all the time, we are not outside the game. What does it mean “work” in Argentina, for example? What is “escrache” here or there? What is “justice and punishment” in Madrid? Us, the ones from here and the ones from there, have the power to translate. We have to be translators by ourselves.
At this point, the best and most exciting, is that we are certain that that possible space of common learning, -not the one about imposing lessons-, ¡it is already taking place in the liveliest part of the city environment! where citizens initiatives take place, from here and there, now we only have to connect them in a more direct way. It is a bottom up process that has to, and will reach the top, to you, to the politicians and to the European Institutions.
- Learning about What to Learn: two specific learnings
Once the question about the how has been raised, we would also like to share with you how Europe had two very specific projects and at the same time very open projects that we have managed to identify in our Latin American experience as euracas.
2.1 The hybridization of life. The rupture of specializations. Hybrid formats in Latin America
During all these years doing projects in collaboration in more than a dozen of Latin American cities, we have had the opportunity to work with a diverse range of artists, architects, activists, informal waste collectors, institutions, and in general, with individuals and collectives with a high degree of implication with their local reality. The particularities in each of them are much more numerous than the generalities. Among all that actors, we can find extraordinary examples regarding the quality of the drafts, originality, implication and working competences. A broad range of attitudes, philosophies, ways of understanding the relationship with the context, and, in short, ways of living. It is impossible to define with some broad lines such an heterogenous group (we think that is in such variety and freedom of formats where its main virtue lies).
However, a more in-depth analysis of all these experiences shows us work lines and common frameworks that characterize somehow all the projects that we have carried out and represent “a way of doing things” quite different to the dynamics and cultural processes that we are used to in Europe, and more specifically, in Spain. A show of attitudes towards creation that has in some way got ahead of the reality that we have lived until now and that we identify as a sample of what we are going to live.
The first revelation has to do with the limits of actuation, or more specifically, with the transgression of said limits. The daily reality in which people live in many of the places in which we have worked push their agents to develop new working possibilities beyond their own inertia shaped by their training or professions in an orthodox sense. A design study is able to organize actions of conceptual art in the same way that an architect can develop new communication codes in the urban context or an artist can collaborate just as with a community of informal waste classifiers.
The scenery upon we work is completely informal, it lacks rules or tracks to follow. For many of them, their scenery changes in the daily. All the time a new intervention space that didn´t use to exist is being built. It is possible that in many cases this need of creating new horizons is related to the difficulty of accessing cultural infrastructures and the lack of a consolidated creative network. But there are many other cultural-like factors that weigh more and which define a more open attitude when developing a project, such as creative impetus, lack of prejudices and as a whole, freedom of movements in a more primary working space.
That freedom that we identify with the Latin American artistic practices derivates in flexible organization, with a great capacity to adapt and a compromise with reality truly uncommon in our local Spanish context, where we can find examples of “activism” and “political art” which defend compromise and “put into question” the public institutions, and at the same time receive funding in a less public way (and less advertised) from the same entity that apparently criticize.
Against this reality, in Latin America we can find true jugglers in the daily. Artists and creators, that without a life-saving boat that allows them to jump into this way of “formal compromise”, are forced to dialogue with every kind of agents, to find new negotiating spaces with institutions that need of a much bigger compromise than the merely formal or just words. This tense situation means that the relationship with the context is much more direct and that there is a real confrontation in contrast with the exercises of the already mentioned “media protest”.
What initially can be considered a survival strategy in a more aggressive and poor in resources context, ends up becoming a compromising factor and a much more powerful capacity of transforming. In contrast to the attitude of denounce and contraprogramation (typical of modernity), in Latin America we can find practices that, arising from necessity, show their capacity to negotiate and transform reality in an effective way, at the same time that they build an contemporary discourse that is independent from the modern protest tradition.
Currently we are seeing a rupture with the tradition that has defined the scenery of the artistic practice in Spain since the 90´s. New hybrid formats are constantly appearing and they define a new negotiation scenery without explaining themselves to anyone. Somehow an analogous effect to the one that we experienced in Latin America appears. The more the pressure from the context, the biggest the capacity to reinvent. Social reality changes and our object of interest is in those negotiation and transforming dynamics that constitute a new model of creation and relationship with social and institutional context. The model that has signaled the way in the last years has died, a new undefined space appears, without rules or constraints, so the hybrid formats can take the initiative.
2.2. An ecological view of the day-to-day life. Learning/de-learning from the waste.
The relationship of Basurama with consumerism has been the starting point, the way and the object of our work in Basurama. Waste, that for us has been a place of subversion for free, in the midst of a consumerist society, against the excess and the daily capitalism in which we live. But waste, far there, is completely intertwined with necessity, with survival, with social exclusion, with poverty. That was our first translation work, when we fought tooth and nail in our first Latin American experiences.
Waste, or trash, is any material that has been wasted and that doesn´t have an use anymore, apparently, at least. It is a source of material and energetic resources, but one that in a state of over-abundance of production, consumption and waste such as the one we live in in the so-called developed countries, tends to go under the radar. In Europe, we have to de-learn everything about waste. We consider waste to be something negative and we want to keep it far from us. However, in conditions of need and precarity, getting close to what other have classified as trash appears naturally. Waste starts to be what it always has been: a material, a basic resource, both for its selling as a raw material or as a second-hand object as well as to be used as a building material. Waste always has value, and additionally, in Latin America it always has a price.
The “classifiers” o “collecters”, the people who earn their living by classifying waste, are one of the fundamental elements needed to understand the waste phenomena in Latin America. Due to the system that they use to pick the resources (at the street, charging in exchange of them etc.), they treatment that they give to the resources is closer, and also more human. Both factors are very interesting for an hypothetic consume reduction program: when the waste is seen, manipulated and assigned a value, then it is taken more into account.
The case of waste collection in Mexico DF is an interesting example to understand the ecologic value of all of the informal agents implied in the process. The careful separation carried out by all the classifiers achieve to make that the recycling system -and, this way, the reduction of the waste that ends up in the wastelands- more efficient of what it could be, for example, if it only would feed from the budget of the Government of DF. On the other hand, the carts drivers or “carretoneros”, who are classifcators that work with a cart, constitute an efficient reutilization network of materials and furniture. Some of the goods collected, or simply bought, are reselled in the second-hand flea markets, avoiding this way that the end up in the wastelands or go through recycling processes. In contrast, in Spain, voluminous pieces of waste are official transported to the wastelands or selled to as material to the recycling industry -a big business-. So, indirectly, the administrations encourge consume by making easier the wasting of objects, they pick them at your door for free, which makes easier to buy another one to replace it. Opposite to that, the work of the carretonero is an efficient way of reusing furniture through their selling in flea markets.
The action of taking out the waste so everyone can see it fulfills a basic function to build an urban landscape far from the “clean” version that the cities in developed countries always want to offer, a rethoric that hides the saying that “a clean city is the base of a bad management of waste”.
With these two very specific examples, learning/de-learning from hybridation and waste in its Latin American context, we would like to point out the need of not falling in known mistakes, but to highlight the power and the joy of walking together. We only need to make it possible in a more radical way. Because of that, Europe of the Institutions, we suggest to make spacce for this possible space, to break you in a thousand pieces if that is necessary and to make you permeable so you are accesible, because from down here, far away there, and near here, we are already doing it: walking together.
With fondness and afection, waste and love
Love from the Latin American love songs
Protest from the protest song
And the songs that are sung in football stadiums.
Then, the modern city, the only one that really exists
Second-hand and third-hand flea markets
And creativity due to need
The ESCRACHE, the yes we can, the judgement and the punishment
The recollectors and their collection systems. Reciclyng is love
The sociologic value of the cardboard workers or “cartoneros”.
The mobile carts in the streets as nodes of social production
The informal sales
Music in all the places (buses, shops, brain, body…)
And dance as the language of communication
The cartoneras editorials
The popular printing
The power of handicraft
The beauty of the dirt and the ugliness of the untainted
And the importance of the SOUT
The chicha morada, a drink that is not CHICHA neither LIMONÁ.
Ecologism, environmentalism, or whatever you want to call it
And the good life
The barocco (How did we use to create?)
The potato (What did we use to eat?)
The tomate (Would have the Napolitan salad existed before it?)
And countless natural juices (unimaginable!)
The syncopated rhythyms
The “cajón”, that is not a flamenco one
And the tranquility of impuntuality
Talking without pulling any punches
The size of the world
The poetic attitude
The wildest poems
And the conscience of us