Thoughts on Argentina's Conjunctures :: Recuperating Work, Recovering Life (2005-2007)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Goodness - A play by Michael Redhill

I went to see Goodness on the weekend, a play about genocide, memory, and responsibility (see Toronto Now's write up ). I was moved. Here are some of my thoughts immediately afterwards:

What a deeply complex play, working on myriad layers. I love how Redhill wrote himself and the audience into it, problematizing his own role of writer as interpreter, the role of the audience as (passive) viewer, and, of course, the philosophical morasses of good and evil, action and inaction, hope and despair, and, as the older Altheia so provocatively and despairingly uttered, the "stupidity of humanity." Redhill also delves deep into the problem of "the story" -- i.e., narrative -- and the telling of the story: Whose story is being told? His? Altheia's? The victims'? The perpetrators'? How does the storyteller position him/herself within the storytelling? What "right" or moral/ethical/political authority does the storyteller have to speak for and about others? By placing himself into the story, he both showed how one can begin to approach such deeply complex -- and political -- issues of the narrative while simultaneously showing us -- the audience/reader -- his own moral/ethical/political struggles to articulate this very narrative. This is something Derrida and others talk about often.

And, the problems of good and evil and responsibility? Where to begin!? I'm still working this out. Probably will for the rest of my life. Argentina also suffered a holocaust during the 1976-1983 dictatorship where 30,000 of my compatriots were murdered in Nazi-like death camps or in the very spaces of their everyday lives (at home, at work, etc.) in organized ambushes. It's a part of my own history as an Argentine that haunts me like the Polish holocaust haunts Redhill. The play definitely left me thinking about how things like this can happen, and probably will for a long time. One thing that still resonates with me from the play is the notion of "invisibility" and the desperation and inhumanity suffered by persons -- perpetrators and victims -- who remain invisible, lost to the terror of perverse ideologies and historical contingency. Did the Nazi's, for example, embody and act out on the perceived or real invisibility and humiliation of the German people after WWI by attempting to scapegoat and eradicate -- invisibalize -- those who were Jewish in order to rectify their own historical fate?

Another is this: What is the explanation for a Third Reich, and the genocides experienced in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Argentina, East Timor, etc.? Are there ever simple explanations to these events? Or are there already-always less obvious and more elusive factors at play than the commonly-held belief that the perpetrators are "just evil people"? Besides this empty common-sense response (it's an "empty signifier" that gets reified by us, is it not?), what is it that pushes otherwise good people to do unimaginable evil? Is questioning and critiquing a statement such as "They're just evil people" justifying the heinous crimes, or ignoring -- and further invisibalizing -- the deep pain of the victim, Altheia? If you look at the six cases I mentioned, all were societies that were dealing with deep issues of socio-political humiliation or extreme poverty or geo-political marginalization. In such socio-political quagmires, it isn't hard to find the scapegoat that will temporarily alleviate such invisibility and peripheralization. How complex it is indeed when the victim becomes the perpetrator.

And, a final question? I wonder if Redhill chose the name Altheia for the character because in Greek it means"verity, truth" or "truth revealing". Altheia as the holder of various truths in Redhill's narrative, truths that the Redhill character in the play had to negotiate in dialogue with her, just as Redhill the writer had to negotiate the truths that lurk hidden and frustratingly-ellusive in his own history and creativity when he set thought down to paper and wove the script together. Truths, in Redhill's chosen topic, made more elusive by the fading from memory of his own family's experiences of genocide over time. Sketchiness, confusion, and even incredulity always plague the memories of such horrors. Perhaps for Altheia, in her always-already present, as she stated, the tragedy was still all too present in her own present. That is, she was condemned to re-live the horror for the rest of her life. Where does the truth lie when we are so close to the horror?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Here Be Dragons – Introductory Thoughts by TSCI

What follows are thoughts that I have been sharing with members of the collective that I belong to, Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry, on an enxhibit on critical cartography I've co-curated with TSCI : Here Be Dragons: Cartography of Globalization. We cobbled the thoughts together after collectively thinking about the show. I shared them in a brief lecture I gave on the exhibit to the first year Humanities class I help TA at York University -- HUMA1650: The Networked Imagination. I took the class on a tour of the exhibit this past Tuesday.

For those of you interested, the show is currently showing at the Toronto Free Gallery, at 660 Queen St. East in Toronto. It'll be showing until Dec. 17. (Here are some pictures from the opening on Nov. 12).

As part of the exhibit, we're also showing, amongst others, Bureau d'etudes' compelling -- and beautiful -- map on Argentina's newest social movements post 2001.

Here Be Dragons: Cartography of Globalization: Introductory Thoughts - TSCI
Nov. 22, 2005

Basically, the two overarching tactics that inform the show are:

1) How counter-cartography visibalizes the networks of power that remain hidden
within our complexly globalalized, overly administered contemporary epoch, and also
2) How counter-cartography makes known the networks of counter-power and resistance that arise as actions against those dense networks of power and as actions for more democratic, more humane, less commodified possibilities for life.

The maps are complex, dense, and intense and take time to process. You must spend time with them to understand them. This is, in part, a response to three integral dynamics at play:

1) The complexity of the networks of power. There are many lines, and branches
that radiate out from power’s nodes.
2) The thought and time that researcher-activists must spend in order to unravel the social, political, informational, and social-psychic structures of those power
3) The maps ask you to slow down and take time with them. This contrasts with the
ideology of speed and the practices of cultural distraction that global capital relies
on. Capitalist power wants you to be overwhelmed, to not know where to turn, to
rely on “experts” and “bureaucrats” and administrators to figure out life for you.
So, in taking time with these maps, you’re practicing a form of resistance: the
resistance is in your very act of – as a reader and interpreter of the maps -- placing yourself in a contemplative, engaging mode, rather than the mode of distraction and passivity that consumer culture invites. This has affinities to the Walter Benjamin essay we read: distraction/ vs. reflection.

Alo ask yourself, then: Is there an “aura” in these pieces? What about reproduction as resistance? How are these maps speaking too a radically democratic stance? What are they calling you to do?

What is the dragon in Here Be Dragons? The dragon is two-headed; that is, there are two heads, or two sides, to the dragon at play. Perhaps there are many dragons at play, too:

One head of the dragon could represent the structures of power networks that
remain hidden. Some of the maps speak to this more than others. This is the
dragon of control and domination. These areas of control and their complex
institutional structures remain outside the apparent, knowable world of our
everyday lives. Yet they directly and indirectly form a part of our everyday lives
in our contemporary high-capitalist/post-Fordist reality. The social relations and
institutions that ground this hidden reality help shape our individual and collective
consciousnesses. They frame our ideologies. They are, in reality, concrete and even geographical structures, as the maps illustrate. And they are also emergent and time-based. Recall what McLuhan and Innis have to say about
time/space and media.

The other head could be the dragon of resistance, of counter-power, of
emancipation. The networks of resistance are always fomenting, always present,
always active and creating new alternatives outside of the spheres of state and
corporate power. This is living power, power from below, as opposed to the dead
power of instrumentality and control. These counter-powers vizibalize where
power really emanates from: from below. After all, it is we – you and me -- that
legitimize power: Counter-power is situated in the local, in the neighbourhood, in
your networks, on the street, rooted in your everyday life.

The two-headed dragon also resembles the two-sidedness of technology, as we’ve been
discussing in course: Recall Postman and Ellul: technology gives something and takes
something away. Recall the stories of Pandora’s box, Prometheus, and Icarus, as well.
Technology can be used by power to dominate but can also be used by those that are
oppressed, alienated, or exploited, from below, to not only resist but to also create new possibilities: another kind of world. Technologies “open up” possible worlds. They also close off these worlds via ideologies of efficiency and “means” that instrumentalize and over-administrate life.

What “other worlds” are these maps proposing, explicitly and implicitly?

These maps are one way of using new technologies such as the Internet, databases, and
mapping software to begin to liberate us from the enclosures we live in. The Internet, for
example plays a central role in both organizing and designing these maps and
disseminating the information, especially with Bureau d’etudes and Govcom,.org. Ask
your self how these reappropriations of the technology can help us break free from our

Some of the themes in the exhibit:

1) How is power organized?
2) How are the structures of counter-power organized?
3) Making the invisible visable and making the marginal and peripheral visable, too.
4) Unconcealing the concealed. Making known the unknown.
5) Cartographic epistemologies (theories of knowledge; how can we come to know
what we know), techno-epistemologies.
6) Power is both centralized within hubs of power and diffused into spatial
territories, psychic territories, narrative territories, ideological territories. It is the structure of these actual and virutal terriorializations that’s being visibalized.
7)How are we, as individuals, lost in these power networks. What do they deny us
as individuals and communities? Or, in the counter-cartographies and networks of
resistance maps, how are we visibalized?
8) What do these maps help us see? What do they help us do?

Some of the theoretical touchstones that undergird the maps:

 Critical cartography (Brian Holmes and Richard Rogers, in particular (see below
for links to two essays)).
 Political economy of media networks (rooted in Marxist analyses of capitalism;
see also Manueal Castells, Frank Webster, Harry Cleaver, Nick Dyer-Witheford,
and many others.)
 Theories of power: Foucault’s bio-power, Deleuze and Guattari’s “rhizomes,”
Deleuze on Nietszche (active/reactive forces).
 Theories of hegemony and counter-hegemony (Gramsci, Lukasc), ideology and
“instrumental reason” (Marx, Marcuse, Horkheimer, structuralism and post-
 Globalization theory
 Philosophies of being/non-being: Heidegger’s concealment/unconcealment.
 Philosophies of technology: Heidegger’s “enframing,” technological
consequences/effects and technological pessimism and optimism (Ellul, Postman,
McLuhan, etc.), technological histories and epochs (Mumford, McLuhan, Innis,

These two excellent essays on counter-cartographies will come in handy for those that
wanting to do projects on mapping and perhaps tackle the question on the midterm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A brief article on the Argentine foreign debt.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

World solidarity over the latest struggles of the Hotel Bauen workers for legal recognition of their worker coop

Noam Chomsky, John Holloway, Eduardo Galeano, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Michael Albert and Avi Lewis, and others, in support of Hotel Bauen


It’s been just 24 hours since the launch of an international support campaign for the workers of the Hotel Bauen, the worker-run hotel in downtown Buenos Aires that is facing a dire threat of eviction.

There are already well over 1000 signatures from more than 30 countries.

People who have just added their names include:
Noam Chomsky, John Holloway and Eduardo Galeano, musician Zack de la Rocha, Scottish Parliamentarian Frances Curran, Irish author Michael McCaughan, and Air America broadcaster Laura Flanders

They join our original signatories, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Michael Albert and Avi Lewis.

Please join them by signing the petition! And encourage everyone you know to do the same.

The Bauen Hotel is an important symbol and beloved meeting place for Argentina’s inspiring movement of recovered companies, in which thousands of workers have reclaimed the dignity of daily work under the slogan “Occupy, Resist, Produce!”

Now is the time to redouble our efforts to save this precious democratic space!

Marcelo Ruarte, the president of the Hotel Bauen cooperative, says, “We're facing continuing threats here - they've tried to evict us four times this year. But what saves us is the support we have, both locally and internationally: it's crucial. We'll fight for ever to defend Bauen, because it belongs to us, and because it belongs to everyone.”

So please – take five minutes and think of 6 other people to send this email to. Who are the people that are constantly forwarding you emails? They will surely want to pass this one on. And please take a moment and send an email both to the president and to the interior minister of Argentina – they will only step in if they feel enough public pressure!

Below is a sample email in English and Spanish.

Many thanks,

The International Support Campaign for the Workers of the Bauen Hotel

President Nestor Kirchner

Anibal Fernandez, Minister of the Interior

Dear President Nestor Kirchner (or Minister of the Interior Anibal Fernandez),

We demand that you immediately take all necessary measures to stop the attack on the workers who have recovered the Bauen Hotel and pass a definitive and permanent law that recognizes them for what they are: the rightful owners.

Your name


Señor Presidente Néstor Kirchner (o Señor Ministro del Interior Aníbal Fernandez),

Exigimos que en forma urgente disponga las medidas necesarias para que cese el ataque a los trabajadores que recuperaron el Hotel Bauen y se apruebe una ley definitiva y permanente que los consagre como lo que son: sus legítimos dueños.

Saluda atentamente,
Tu nombre

Message from the compañeros of Chilavert, in solidarity with the compañeros of the Hotel Bauen:


A tres años de gestión de la Cooperativa, con el hotel funcionando en un 80% de la capacidad, sin ayuda de ningún tipo de subsidio y en medio de un boom turistico, aparecen intereses por parte de los mismos empresarios que lo dejaron caer. En respuesta al Proyecto de Ocupación Temporaria y Declaración de Utilidad Pública, el bloque macrista en representación de los intereses de los "dueños", propone la restitución del edificio a dichos empresarios. Ello implica:

entregar el inmueble a empresarios que no pueden acreditar ser dueños del lugar
liquidar la autogestión de los trabajadores para volver a una relación de dependencia bajo un patrón pseudo-empresario responsable de la pérdida progresiva de más de 200 tra

el proyecto obvia que el edificio fue construido con un crédito millonario, otorgado por un organismo estatal, que hasta el presente nunca fue pagado
cerrar el hotel durante un año para "acondicionar el Bauen", lapso en que el Estado se haría cargo de los sueldos de los trabajadores
dejar en la calle a mas de 120 jefes de familia, ya que el proyecto contempla incorporar a menos de 20 trabajadores de la cooperativa
A tres años de la gestión de los trabajadores se consiguio:

Recuperación de un edificio totalmente abandonado
150 puestos de trabajo genuinos con distribución justa y equitativa de ingresos
200 habitaciones puestas a punto, piscina y solarium en obra
7 salones abiertos a la comunidad
más de 60 proveedores prestando servicios e insumos, cobrando en tiempo y forma
2 salas de teatro
confitería y restaurant con shows musicales
actividades culturales
cursos de idiomas dictados por la Universidad de Buenos Aires
Cerca de un millon invertidos en infraestructura, seguridad y mantenimiento
convenios internacionales y capacitación continua del personal
organización de todos los trabajadores en cooperativa con participación plena en la toma de decisiones
conocimiento de todas las necesidades humanas, laborales y de servicio
3 años de gestión sin empresarios como patrones , sin subsidios y sin generarle gastos al Estado
presentacion de un Proyecto de Ley en Legislatura porteña para que el lugar sea declarado de Interés Público
Los trabajadores de la Cooperativa Bauen repudian esta actitud del bloque macrista y convocan a todos los ciudadanos a apoyar la gestión por un Bauen abierto a la comunidad y sin estafas al Estado.
El Bauen es de todos, la invitación a conocerlo esta abierta.


"Here be Dragons": Cartography of Globalization

An Exhibition initiated by Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry

12 Nov. - 17 Dec. 2005
Opening reception: Sat. 12 Nov., 8-10pm

Toronto Free Gallery
660 Queen St. East
Toronto, ON

Centuries ago, map-makers wrote the phrase 'here
be dragons' on areas that were outside of their
known world. Where should this phrase be written
on contemporary maps of political and economic

Recently, activists, artists, and researchers
have used the form of the map to visually
represent the distribution of power, the
circulation of information, and the organization
of control in the age of capitalist
globalization. These critical cartographers make
visible the vast networks of national
governments, transnational corporations, and
international institutions which channel massive
flows of people, labour, interests, dollars, and
meaning. Making the complexities of our present
more graspable, counter-cartography furnishes us
with pedagogical tools for cognitively navigating
the class-divided, politically administered, and
digitally mediated world we live in.

But the point of these maps isn't to say: 'Look
how trapped we are.' These networks are
contested, and vulnerable. And there exist
counter-networks, on whose nodes a multitude of
protagonists are searching for and inventing
emergency exits. Maps of these powers 'from
below' give expression to creative resistances
and workable alternatives. These are a different
type of dragon.

Believing that counter-cartography is a political
provocation, the Toronto School of Creativity &
Inquiry is initiating a series of participatory
events during the mapping show as forums for the
discussion of questions raised by these critical
cartographers. Where are the dragons today? How
might we navigate a course within, against, and
beyond the enclosures of the known world?

The exhibition features maps, texts, audio, and
video by Pierre Bélanger (Toronto), Adrian
Blackwell (Toronto), Bureau d'études (Paris), (Amsterdam), Brian Holmes (Paris),
Polaris Institute (Ottawa), and Kika Thorne
(Victoria). Richard J.F. Day (Kingston) occupies
the 24-hour Gallery.


Friday, November 04, 2005

Thousands protest Bush and the proposed hemespheric free-trade agreement in Mar del Plata

Google News links.

5:00, Eastern Time

Comments made to me by my colleague, Greig DePeuter: "Despite the particularity of the latter struggle [currently in Paris]--which is about the racialization of class inequality and the precarious migrant-- is intimately related to what is happening in [now in Mar del Plata, Argentina], specifically vis-a-vis the competition between 'contintental blocs,' and the organization of the labour hierarchy therein, i.e., EU vs. FTAA."

4:45, Eastern Time

The photo op with all of the North and South American leaders are a counterpoint to the looting and the protests on the street. The dichotomy of inequality between what the leaders represent and the protesters is stark.

4:34 pm, Eastern Time

Bush's motorcade has just left and is driving in the streets of Mar del Plata. I wonder how the protesters will be kept away.

4:33 pm, Eastern Time

The protest in Mar del Plata, Argentina against Bush and the Summit of the Americas has just turned violent while Argetine President Kirchner just spoke to the Summit of the Americas leaders. A Banco de Galicia branch is up in flames. The protests are being held throughout the resort city, culminating a few blocks away from the summit. Inside the summit, cultural performers are currently entertaining the gathering of the presidents of the Western Hemisphere. Police have been showing up armed with tear gas guns and armoured cars over the past 15 minutes.

Just a few hours ago, President Chavez and Argentine soccer star, Diego Maradona, addressed a jubilant alternative Peoples' Summit.

There's tonnes of news on it online and CNN and Newsworld are covering it live.

The struggle of Seattle, Quebec, Genoa, etc., continues...

4:14 pm, Eastern Time

The protest has just turned violent while, at this moment, Pres. Kirschner speaks to the Summit of the Americas leaders. A Banco de Galicia branch is up in flames. A mere few blocks away peaceful protestests have given way to violence. Police have just arrived armed with tear gas guns.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

First reports on first meeting of Latin American recovered enterprises in Caracas, Venezuela