Saturday, 26 December 2009

Funny things. Squats.
On the plus side, you can knock holes in the walls and no one really seems to mind, on the other hand they do tend to be little beacons for absolute-batshit-crazy.

Kesselburg as a case in point. They had really nicely kitted wood and metal workshops, and a couple people there were super proactive and productive, making all kinds of stuff and trying their best to improve the place. Whereas the other two thirds were still, after years, living under tarpaulins in the woods and the only work being done on the existing buildings (it's an old Stassi training facility) was in making them worse.
This I found really surprising. I'm used to communities in New Zealand, where the first thing you do is build some kind of amazing house for yourself.

It seems a common thread in these types of places, and the problem seems to be openness. Basically, if you are somewhere that anyone and everyone can stay, you end up with all the people who have nowhere else to go. And of course junkies and the profoundly mentally ill need as much as anyone somewhere to live, but you don't necessarily want to be the poor bastard who has to deal with them.

It was the same at the Open University squat in Berlin. It was set up a while ago as a free space for learning and art, and for the first couple years it was, but then the government started shutting down support for the mentally ill, and a lot of them ended up there because it was nearby and no one had the heart to physically throw them out. As more came in the originals got fed up and left, now the place is basically uninhabitable.

Kesselburg wasn't anywhere near so far gone, in fact it was mostly pretty sweet, but there was definitely a fair bit of crazy going on.
I had a good time, nonetheless.

And now I'm in another squat, in Malaga. La Casa del los Monos.
But this isn't an open squat. You can't just walk in and find yourself a corner to sleep in, it's more like a normal flat. I'm here because two of the originals passed through Kesselburg and invited me.
So the place is a lot less crazy, and generally more proactive.

Funny things communities; that the only way to make a space where people want to live is to prevent most of them from living there.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Ever since reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy I've wanted a portable Somebody Else's Problem field. The practical advantages of unobtrusive invisibility for someone who does a lot of sneaking around and pitching tents where he shouldn't are fairly obvious.

If only I'd known all these years about the inherent irony of High Visibility.
The effect is identical to an SEP field, people can see you, they don't trip over you or anything, they just assume if you're wearing any kind of flourescent green vest that whatever you're doing, whatever you're doing, you're meant to be doing it.
I've walked into festivals, directed traffic, painted over billboards, and just the other day; stole a bike.

I say stole. The way the solarflower is shaping up, the majority of materials are coming from old bikes. And usually this is a good thing as they can be found just about anywhere. But not really in Malaga. In fact the only one I managed to locate was an obviously abandoned and half missing scrap of a thing securely locked to a fence on a busy street by the university. So, day before last, round noon, I grabbed my hacksaw and an old cycling green hi-viz vest, and cut the bastard loose.

At least fifty people saw me do it. No one batted an eye. They were probably glad the council was finally removing the thing.

And there's even a version for my tent: