DSLR was a wide ranging exhibition set up in Chicago, with a very Space Hijackers esque stance, here is their welcome/manifesto.
Welcome to DSLR
Department of Space and Land Reclaimation
Thank you for joining the Department of Space and Land Reclamation. Our mission is to reclaim all the space, land and visual culture of Chicago back to the people who work for it, live in it and create it. Reclamation projects, those that actively trespass with the intent to resist, are taking place across the city and throughout the weekend. Whether they are spilling out of the sewers, taking the parks, invading the steps of City Hall, scrambling up trees or cramming the sidewalks, these projects are actively engaging everyday life. A huge array of measures are being taken to infuse Chicago with the passion that a socially conscious movement demands. We invite you to take part in them. The DSLR hub is a space for developing a radical community. It is here that we hope participants will be able to plot actions, meet others interested in reclamation, attend inspirational discussions and glean hints of more socially charged modes of existence. Check out the schedule, talk with other participants and use the hub as a base of operations as you traverse the course of reclamation. This campaign runs all weekend and we want to use every hour. We invite everyone to drop by, stick around and get active.
The theme of this exhibition came out of discussions where we, a small collective of responsible citizens, recognized a pattern among a diverse range of art and activist practices. As the movement to resist capital and control grows to global proportions, artists/activists/radical citizens have once again found common ground. The umbrella term, reclamation, seems to encompass the wide array tactics in use. Whether this is through squatting, guerilla gardens, pirate radio, graffiti, hacking, billboard manipulation or performative public interventions, these practices all resist the encroachment of top down centralized control and private capital. Projects of reclamation situate the producer at a critical intersection of power. It is at this nexus that we intend to position the DSLR campaign. Important in this goal will be the connecting of people with disparate practices and backgrounds. Peeling off the sympathetic edge of art enthusiasts, activists and citizens, we hope to reveal connections and energize people on the robust range of strategies that are possible. These practices all resist the manipulative city.
The Manipulative City
“The spatial practice of a society is revealed through the deciphering of its space.”
-Henri Lefebvre “plan of the Present Work” and “Social Space” from the Production of Space (1974)
Global capital has reached such a point that both the physical and intellectual landscape have been completely purchased. To exist today means to tread on the property of others. The city has increasingly become a space completely built around consumerism. The freedom of expression has come to mean the freedom to advertise. Advertisements on billboards, advertisements on public buses and trains, advertisements on benches, advertisements on clothes, advertisements on radio, advertisements on television, advertisements on menus. Like a minefield of manipulative codes, urban space has been designed to maneuver us from one point of sale to the next. Racist and classist anti-loitering and anti-gang laws have been instituted across the country as increasingly individuals and cultures are illegalized to protect rising property values. The search for greater market returns and the increased role of the “global city” in the information age has resulted in an explosion of the phenomena known as gentrification. Gentrification reveals itself in the relocation of entire lower income communities out of the now coveted inner city. Generally, artists move into a low-income area paving the way for a steady stream of “young urban professionals.” Some forms of resistance to this process include community groups lobbying to retain rent controls, squatters refusing to leave their homes when they are evicted and somewhere in the North of Chicago, a glorious vandal has been spraypainting “Yuppies go home” on the doors of new condos. (Currently a $5000 reward is being circulated for her head).
Not only are we on borrowed land, we are also on borrowed ideas. The increased litigation over intellectual property rights has made simply the expression of ideas a nest of law suits and corporate intimidation. Whether this is in the form of patented genetically modified corn to patented AIDS medication to Mickey Mouse, the land of ideas has been fully purchased and commodified as well. Additionally, the entertainment industry has quickly moved in and absorbed every point of radical culture, with raves, Punk, skateboarding, and Hip-Hop rapidly dismantled it into salable pieces. Selling out culture is just another example of the manner in which the creative products of culture are quickly alienated and sold back to their producers. Escaping the Catch 22 of Political Art
In order to develop a stronger foundation, some myths about social action must be quickly put to rest. There is a familiar rhetorical trap that occurs around the subject of political art. Artists who’s work is too imaginative, reckless, wild, and beautifully useless are accused of being complicit within the structure of the status quo. Their own imagination ends up at war with the demands of their social conscience. On the flipside, artists whose work is straightforward and political are generally accused of being too didactic and lacking critical complexity. Their critics arguments tend to quickly show themselves as protectors of the art world and capitalist status quo. In the end, it appears to be a lose/lose situation and as such, it has turned off many an artist to the demands of being political.
What is to be done? Anything looked at in and of itself will eventually resolve itself in failure. One object/practice/person/idea can not encompass all the elements which comprise a socially conscious revolutionary movement. Quite clearly, the modernist conception of art as a separate aspect from daily life fails miserably and contemporary art has yet to take this lesson to heart. In isolation all things stand alone and are mute. It is through the rich diverse fabric of collective action that private expression gains meaning.
In the DSLR campaign, a motley assemblage of activists/artists/citizens have come together to launch a robust revolutionary movement. Artists whose work may appear fanciful or hermetic in isolation now gain the strength of participating in a radical community. It is through the commitment to a larger cohesive resistance that our individual actions take shape. Once peered through this larger lens, new practices can come into focus.
The DSLR campaign will only last for this weekend, but we do not want the energy generated to dissipate. We encourage everyone to join in on the May Day events this Tuesday and to attend our follow-up discussion and showing of the DSLR video documentary on June 9th at the Stockyard Institute 4741 S. Damen Avenue. We are quite serious in the belief that projects of reclamation both connect us in a struggle for social justice and also provide a blue print for more dynamic modes of existence. We believe our compass is pointing in the right direction. Take to the streets. Take back what is ours. Overthrow the systems of capital and control!