“City Shadows and a DIY toolkit for art in abandoned spaces”


“A small but energetic non-profit, Mahatat has taken it upon itself to do two things since its inception in 2012: bridge gaps between contemporary artists and the public, and explore new spaces for art. Its main activities have centered around creating opportunities for artists to show their work in public spaces in Cairo and, perhaps more importantly for a country with such a centralized arts scene, beyond the capital, with a focus on Damietta, Mansoura and Port Said.

Egypt is full of abandoned spaces, but this new project’s pilot experiment took place in Port Said on July 16 and 17 in an derelict yard behind two buildings. One of these is the remarkably grand and ornate romanesque building known as Villa Fernand on Abdel Salam Aref Street — it’s among the city’s many neglected heritage sites and is slowly disintegrating.

Entitled City Shadows, the pilot was a two-day exhibition curated by photographer Nadia Mounier that included her work, old found objects (such as a Titanic soundtrack CD case, a toy gun and a tea cup), and selected works from local artists. It revolved around Port Said’s popular culture and inhabitants’ relationship with the city’s history and urban fabric. Mounier incorporated dim yet colorful lighting, a projected film, and an experimental performance by Cairo-based musicians Nancy Mounir on violin and Omar Mostafa on electronics. On the second night, musicians from Port Said came with their instruments to jam with Mounir and Mostafa.

Fernand Deligny: Mapping Autistic Gestures and Trajectories, and the “Wander Line”


“Fernand Deligny found many ways of describing himself: primordial communist, nonviolent guerrilla, weaver of networks, cartographer of wandering lines. A visionary but marginalized figure often associated with the alternative and anti-psychiatry movements that emerged in the decades after World War II, Deligny (1913–1996) remains difficult to categorize — an enigmatic sage. Beginning in the 1950s, Deligny conducted a series of collectively run residential programs — he called them “attempts” (or tentatives, in French) — for children and adolescents with autism and other disabilities who would have otherwise spent their lives institutionalized in state-run psychiatric asylums. After settling outside of Monoblet in the shadow of the Cévennes Mountains in southern France, Deligny and his collaborators developed novel methods for living and working with young people determined to be ‘outside of speech’ (hors de parole).

It was [outside Monoblet] that Deligny consummated his longstanding preoccupation with mapping the gestures, movements, and trajectories of the autistics living within his networks. He first experimented with cartographic tracing in the late-1960s in collaboration with a young militant filmmaker, Jacques Lin, who joined the group’s small desert encampment. Deligny, Lin, and their collaborators began to follow their autistic counterparts as they made their way through the Cévennes’s rocky terrain, making rudimentary line drawings to indicate their direction of movement across the rural encampment and into surrounding wilderness.

The tracings soon became a central aspect of the group’s activities, and the maps grew steadily more detailed and elaborate. They developed visual systems for designating the various sounds and gestures encountered along their pathways, and started to use transparent wax paper to trace the children’s daily routes. No attempt was made to interfere with their movements, or to explain or interpret them. The focus remained on the process of tracing itself. Yet distinct patterns began to emerge: certain trajectories tended to be repeated from one day to the next, and Deligny noted that some of the wandering lines seem to correspond to the conduits of underground waterways.

In his writings, he calls these cartographic trajectories lignes d’erre. This phrase might be translated as ‘wander lines,’ ‘errant lines,’ or ‘lines of drift’…The concept of the wander line…condenses, in a single stroke, his lifelong pursuit of ‘draining off stagnant humanisms’ by unsettling the primacy of speech. He undertook the process of mapping the lines ‘in order to make something other than a sign.’ Before phrases, words, and letters can form, there must first be lines. Tracing the quotidian trajectories of his autistic collaborators, it seems, was an attempt to return to writing’s origins, before it became codified or standardized, and when it still resembled the outlines of things encountered in moving through the world.”

Thanks to Liz K. for the link!

Not Just Dots on a Map: Life Histories Alleviate Spatial Amnesia in San Francisco


“There are the indignities of being priced out, of being evicted, of doubling up with family members and friends, of not being able to hang out on the streets of your own neighborhood. There is the insidious realization that folks from outside your neighborhood are entering it as consumers, buying expensive, boutique versions of the food you eat and the clothes you wear. Certainly, there is never any shortage of rumors, legends, or nostalgic laments about the way things were. But really—how were they? Who remembers?

One problem is, there’s no sense of the whole—the scale of change throughout the city. Worse, there’s no sense of the history of these changes, of the protracted dialogue between two or more communities that has been taking place for decades. Being able to buy $8 artisanal mayonnaise in Bushwick isn’t an abomination of only the last ten or fifteen years. These ironies are the results of processes that unfold over the course of entire life histories; and life histories, in turn, can help us encapsulate and preserve the original spirit of these neighborhoods.

That’s [Manissa] Maharawal’s intervention, in the context of the San Francisco tech boom. The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project: Narratives of Displacement maps no-fault evictions and collects and attaches interviews with the victims of these evictions, creating a living archive that deconstructs the collusion between tech-industry corporate interests and the city. It’s a wedding of data visualization and narrative that ensures no one is reduced to a dot on a map. And these aren’t eviction stories alone—they’re life narratives, which come much closer to capturing the complex, subtle processes comprising neighborhood change that we are embedded in. These ‘located’ narratives provide an antidote to our spatial amnesia…

Life narratives can powerfully expose the nexus of gentrification and ever-entrenched structural racism that, unfortunately, so many in this country still deny. Taken together, maps and narratives allow us to pinpoint each tragedy in time and space, and ask, How did we end up here? At once, the viewer is able to perceive the killings concretely, as events, and abstractly, as structuring a status quo. In this way, the project informs public dialogue by providing a spatial and temporal awareness that contextualizes the disturbing and often bewildering visible symptoms of these obscured and elongated processes.

Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless: On Negotiating the False Idols of Neoliberal Self-Care


“The wellbeing ideology is a symptom of a broader political disease. The rigors of both work and worklessness, the colonization of every public space by private money, the precarity of daily living, and the growing impossibility of building any sort of community maroon each of us in our lonely struggle to survive. We are supposed to believe that we can only work to improve our lives on that same individual level…

The isolating ideology of wellness works against this sort of social change in two important ways. First, it persuades all us that if we are sick, sad, and exhausted, the problem isn’t one of economics. There is no structural imbalance, according to this view—there is only individual maladaption, requiring an individual response. The lexis of abuse and gas-lighting is appropriate here: if you are miserable or angry because your life is a constant struggle against privation or prejudice, the problem is always and only with you. Society is not mad, or messed up: you are.

Secondly, it prevents us from even considering a broader, more collective reaction to the crises of work, poverty, and injustice…

The harder, duller work of self-care is about the everyday, impossible effort of getting up and getting through your life in a world that would prefer you cowed and compliant. A world whose abusive logic wants you to see no structural problems, but only problems with yourself, or with those more marginalized and vulnerable than you are. Real love, the kind that soothes and lasts, is not a feeling, but a verb, an action. It’s about what you do for another person over the course of days and weeks and years, the work put in to care and cathexis. That’s the kind of love we’re terribly bad at giving ourselves, especially on the left.

The broader left could learn a great deal from the queer community, which has long taken the attitude that caring for oneself and one’s friends in a world of prejudice is not an optional part of the struggle—in many ways, it is the struggle.

Sisters Uncut’s East London Occupation


“For two weeks now, activists from feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut have been occupying an empty council home in Hackney, East London, to highlight the lack of support for survivors of domestic violence…

‘For us, community and community organising is totally key to our work,’ continues Petra. ‘We want to build more of a mass movement. It doesn’t have to look like what we are used to it looking like either.’

Despite most of them having full time jobs, these women have given up their emotional and physical labour to educate, support and do the frontline work that our Government and councils should be doing themselves.

They have been in occupation since Saturday 9 July 2016, and do not plan to leave until their demands are met. They have four key demands; firstly, they want to fill all of the 1047 empty council houses. Secondly, that hostels should not be used for survivors of domestic violence. Thirdly, another house should not be lost to regeneration as currently 915 are due to lost. And, lastly, the council should refuse to implement the Housing Act.”

Cash-Strapped Towns Are Un-Paving Roads They Can’t Afford to Fix

Into the Stormy Taiga

“When Montpelier decided to rip up a pothole-riddled asphalt road and replace it with gravel in 2009, it didn’t see itself at the forefront of a growing trend in public works. It was simply responding to a citizen complaint.

City Hall received a hollering from a couple living on Bliss Road in the Vermont capital who wanted to sell their home, but feared the horrifying pavement in front of the house would scare away buyers. They had reason to be pissed off: The city of 8,000 people ranks pavement on an index of one to 100. Bliss Road scored a one.

Repaving roads is expensive, so Montpelier instead used its diminishing public works budget to take a step back in time and un-pave the road. Workers hauled out a machine called a ‘reclaimer’ and pulverized the damaged asphalt and smoothed out the road’s exterior. They filled the space between Vermont’s cruddy soil and hardier dirt and gravel up top with a ‘geotextile’, a hardy fabric that helps with erosion, stability and drainage.

In an era of dismal infrastructure spending, where the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the country’s roads a D grade, rural areas all over the country are embracing this kind of strategic retreat. Transportation agencies in at least 27 states have unpaved roads, according to a new report from the National Highway Cooperative Highway Research program. They’ve done the bulk of that work in the past five years.

Airbnb Ate Up 10% Of NYC’s Available Rentals In 2015


“Airbnb hosts in New York City who take advantage of the platform by illegally renting out entire apartments for at least three months each year took about 10% of the city’s available rentals off of the market in 2015, according to a report out this week from a duo of affordable housing nonprofits.

‘Airbnb’s own data demonstrates that the illegal short term listings of residential units on its site exacerbate the acute affordable housing crisis that plagues our city,’ said Marti Weithman, a supervising attorney for MFY Legal Services…This week’s report also found that more than half of 2015 Airbnb listings, about 56%, violated the Multiple-Dwelling Law, which prohibits New Yorkers from renting out entire apartments for under 30 days at a time if the tenant on the lease is not present. This finding is in line with Airbnb’s own December 2015 data dump.

At the neighborhood level, the report shows that impact listings are concentrated in Manhattan and Brooklyn, from 599 in the East Village to 105 in Fort Greene. The table below shows what percentage of potential rentals in these neighborhoods were lost to Airbnb. In Crown Heights, for example, Airbnb hosts allegedly withheld 12% of available rentals.

‘Landlords will displace long-term families, only to operate illegal rentals or hotels,’ said Crown Heights Tenant Union organizing director Kerri White in a statement. ‘Today’s report proves what we know from our experience in the neighborhood to be true.’