Hyper War art
Matteo Pasquinelli is a writer, curator and researcher. On the opportunity of his book Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons, Daphne Dragona and Ilias Marmaras discussed with him on endocolonisation, the creative cities and the new form of a productive sabotage.
Published in Konteiner 14
---In the post-Fordist age, as we are used to say today, there is no longer an outside of the capitalistic exploitation, in the sense that any space of life is exploited. At the scale of the city, this situation gives birth to a new form of colonization, or better ‘endocolonilization’. As Neil Smith underlines the city can be considered today a new sort of ‘urban wild nature’ to colonise, that is equivalent to the Western perception of Africa, Latin America and Asia in the past. Could one say that the new process of endocolonization is based on gentrification and does this defines a new form of class conflict?
> Gentrification is one of the symptoms of the new dimension of economic rent and speculation affecting material and immaterial production: this has been always clear in the case of the stock market but today even the real estate economy of the city is following the same destiny of the stock market. Indeed the dimension of the ‘new urban frontier’ was introduced by Neil Smith some years ago to describe the metropolitan space and the real estate economy as the new places of a new ‘primitive accumulation’ integrated with cultural production and the social fabric itself. Endocolonization is the financialisation of any squared meter, but also of something else, that is the speculation over our ‘bios’, the production of ideas, culture, communication, social life, etc. that is the exploitation of the whole ‘common wealth’ we produce outside the capitalistic system. To simplify, as we are doing an interview, we can say that: as once profit was extracted from the factory, today rent is extracted from the city. Which are the forms of conflict associated to economic rent? Gentrification is just one of this.
---In the era of biopolitics and endocolonization, the notion of ‘creative city’ emerged. In your writings you describe it as a hijacked idea that aims to serve economic profits based on real estate and rent profit. Can you explain us the origins and the strategies of deception that are in use to turn cities into ‘creative’ ones?
> The idea of ‘creative economy’ can be considered indeed a form of biopolitical governance rather than a proper economy itself (It’s not clear at all who is making money out of it! The creative workers? I doubt!). The image of the ‘creative cities’ are these glossy marketing campaigns to cover and disguise cognitive capitalism at the scale of the city. It is one specific form of capitalism. Cultural production and social capital are used here to increase the general rent interest of local investors and attract more consumers. On the other hand, the definition of ‘creative industries’ (that is a different concept), is a delocalized economy and it is usually separated from this ‘sense of place’, as it refers to immaterial production to which intellectual property revenues can be attached (copyright, patents, etc). However instead of complaining again and again in a moralistic way about the alienation of the creative industries, we should identify the axes if production and value accumulation. If the ‘creative city’ is a new institution of biopolitical governance and indeed it represent the institution of a ‘fictional common’, as a response new institutions of real commons should be conceived and founded.
---You also seem to believe that the multitude, the habitants of the ambiguous “creative cities”, often contribute to the gentrification process. You specifically write that gentrification is based on the collective belief empowered by activists, artists and resistant residents. Which mechanisms function for the formation of this new hype that you name as “gentrifiction” and who are at the end today’s gentrifiers? Realising that the current anti-gentrification tactics fail, and examining new possible forms of resistance, you are proposing the stance of sabotage; a sabotage which does not call for an uncreative or unproductive confrontation but rather for a positive and value productive one. Could you describe us the differences between the two notions and give us some characteristic examples?
> There is a family of biopolitical concepts like financialization, gentrification and precarisation that refer to new intensive lines of conflict trasversal to the extensive vectors of conflict of the past. But here the notions of endocolonization as well as biopolitics reprent the diagram of an impasse. This is the problem and the drama of all the political analysis that insist on this biopolitical dimension. How can you rebel against your own life, when it is your own life with its desires, need of communication social relations, lifestyles, etc. that became productive of value? How can you sabotage your own life? That’s ridiculous. It is not a surprise that the response to the anonymous form of financial crisis and metropolitan speculation is sabotage and riots. How to reply politically to the anonymous forms of financial capital and corporations? When command is faceless, it is clear that the gesture of resistance become even more desperate, disorganized. Biopolitics, gentrification, financialisation is this becoming faceless of power, where the dispositif of governance take the place of the institutions of government.
The point here is this typical impasse of the postmodern categories and dispositifs. The reason why a lot of activist prefer to focus on ‘traditional’ forms of protest (local governments, environment issues, antifascism, etc.) is because it is too difficult to identify and respond to to the new forms of rent, speculation and governance. How to respond to gentrification for instance? In Berlin they are trying to develop tactics of ‘sabotage of the symbolic capital’ that become ‘sabotage of economic rent’. Practically, they are trying to make some district less fashionable for the middle class, less attractive for hipsters and people without a political consciousness. Does it work? One of the problem of cognitive capitalism is that once symbolic capital is accumulated, it takes a while to de-accumualate it as it is indeed ‘immaterial’ and it is distributed on a global mediascape. The other way to respond to this ‘fictional common’ of the creative cities and hip districts is with new material institutions of the common, new local councils, a visible and not anonymous presence on the territory.
---Since last May, Greece is under the control of IMF, serving as a space of experimentation for the rest of the Eurozone. At the same time, the historical center of Athens is facing a full operation of gentrification. A coincidence, a symptom or a specific strategy in a specific time? A gentrification under siege and under pressure? What would be your point of view?
> I have been in Athens only one, so I dont know very well the context of these processes. Usually gentrification happens in period of economic expansion. However western capitalism is so desperate and approaching a neofeudal stage that I would not be surprised to see real estate speculation at work in time of recession. However gentrification should not be confused with the simple real estate speculation, it is material speculation (economic rent) associated to immaterial production (culture, symbolic capital, etc.).