+ Why do you work with the community?
Margarita d’Andrea .- I’m a lawyer. I work with the law in all its aspects, from immigration laws to copyrights, and an experience with a multi-faceted community as L’Asilo, which gives me the chance to experiment what I study with a completely new interpretative approach, thanks to the contact with people of all fields: artists, musicians, people with different abilities and ideas. This gives the chance to take part as a lawyer and as a person, and this is translated into a huge professional growth. The concept of collaboration among the arts and different professions is the future for the social organization in its own complex.
Giuseppe Micciarelli .- The community can’t do without, and the most difficult part is which community we’re talking about, what’s the reference community that can use a space, who are the workers of the music art and entertainment of Asilo. What is a community? To see how a single community made by different individuals who can make decisions together in a common sphere is exactly the problem of democracy. These are the things I study as a philosopher of politics and law. I am fascinated by seeing them manifesting at the eyes of the specific practice and the daily difficulties of the union among different people, you can see all the problems of a political group. The second aspect is the fertility of a meeting, when philosophers and lawyers meet artists of different kinds (cinema, theatre). In reality they have the opportunity of meeting a set of knowledge that normally don’t coincide or coincide this way. The only people that have the ability of benefiting this type of transversal intersections of different topics are the ones that in the “shared economy” are every time bigger, instead of imagining to take out that “interdependence“, as we call it in L’Asilo, a social and political value and without the economic profit ot the people as an objective is a huge thing. The meeting I had with musicians, actors, people different from my field, to develop topics of reasoning that I’m working on, such as common goods, the crisis of democracy, the government, they are values that other philosophers and jurists would find difficult in their research.
+ Communication with the community: how do you handle it?
M.- Communication can be of several kinds depending on what it’s necessary to communicate. If it’s communication about an event (somebody needs a space in Asilo) a communication is made to promote the event. Apart from this, there’s a kind of political communication that goes with the exhibition of cultural events. In each event or experience, although it’s born from the necessity of an individual of communicating themselves, we have the intention of turning it into a collective practice in which a political argument can be started, because culture is politics. It’s not simply information about the event throughout Facebook, it gives it more responsibility because it goes further than the simple event you can find on Facebook. To build a network between the bias, this way, they experiment the perspective of exchange and collaboration and not division or competition.
G.- The problem of the communication is the objective. L’Asilo is a political experiment. It’s a case of theoretical studio but it has the political objective to see how a democracy can work in a different way to the sediment and empty of political energy rituals. One of the elements we try to communicate in all our experiences in Naples is that these spaces are liberated and who want to use them just has the duty of sharing the principles of anti- fascism, the fight against sexism, explained in a declaration of use we write. The compromise doesn’t have to be there just to organize things for ourselves, but to give a hand to the others. To communicate this principle of other people is hard because we’re used to using public spaces as if they were hotels we get in, use them and leave. For this reason, many places of our cultural heritage are addicted to a lack of care. We often complain that architectural or historical buildings are awaiting for the public or the private bodies take care of them (besides, private interests often clash with public interests). Our idea is to start a collective caring system. From the point of view of communication, one of the tools we use the most is “relation communication“. Since the spaces of L’Asilo are always open to free rehearsal, it’s a chance to gather. We live in a society where meeting points have increased by many social networks, but these spaces barely fulfill different topics from a cultural and work viewpoint. In general all the “profiling” system is not only on social networks, but in other intermediary social bodies who are being educated, they are working on adding homogeneous groups. That runs the risk of building an archipelago of individuals who radicalize their own activities, and sometimes, even their thought, without getting in contact with the radicalizations and the problems of the others. In this sense, the national communication, which is the base of the use of a shared space, it’s an element this society lacks. And these cultural spaces can somehow give an answer.
+ Stages of this type of projects?
M.- The historic stages tend to be divided into two general macro-stages:
The first one is the conflict, throughout the squatting of the space in March 2012, a world culture forum, an unsuccessful structure because it was isolated from the urban context. It promoted activities without a connection with the city, with the needs of the artists of the area. That creates a distance with the public because it wasn’t at the community’s service, which lived in a wonderful place but it wasn’t enjoyable because it wasn’t accessible. So the first act was a war act due to the squatting, which had to be a symbol initially, and it only had to last for three days. But it was later developed with time and the amount of artistic and political requests we’ve received to keep going. I find it interesting that at that time I wasn’t there, like me, many other people joined later, because the political wish is to welcome people, to create the link among different people. I joined during the second phase, and I was just told about the first phase, but like me, all those who are now part of the community love it and live it every day.
The second phase saw other protagonists, the legal recognition. A recognition that started from the idea that the law isn’t a place of literal interpretation and through law we can innovate the way we live now. So we’ve interpreted the civic and collective urban use again, from a social and contemporary perspective. Due to that legal practice, we did a regulation of the civic and urban public use, a declaration where we wrote our practices that we tried to simplify, and our principles. This has crystallized in a series of practices that were already started, which were essentially from the subdivision of the meeting with the management. So we meet every Monday and we welcome external projects, or debate the political lines and the management of the space, we do meetings with people who are part of the artistic and cultural activities related, so the process of the working groups (the TAV: library, infrasound). All the working groups are done so that they can merge into new projects, thanks to the collective sharing of needs each project can have. It’s a meeting point of ideas and projects. This creates a continuous step in the space.
A new stage, because the recognition we’ve had fought for, throughout a series of resolutions, the first one in 2012 and the last one was December 28, 2015. It was passed with a resolution issued together with our policy/declaration of the civic and collective urban use. That way the legal value of the regulation we had worked on in the open and participative working groups was recognized. That phase was completed and it sets the need to face new challenges, like the management of a shared space that takes into account the cognitive impairment. This is a topic we’re wondering, a challenge that we expect to receive in a close future, the idea of assigning these intervals to the sharing of this space with individuals going though an economic crisis, who considered themselves rich before and now have serious difficulties. There’s a moment in the re-making of our way of doing arts and culture.
G.- What’s behind all this Margherita said?
It’s perfectly true there are several stages. The first one is the conflict, which is what happens with any movement that searches for a collective answer to needing a plurality of individuals. And a typical moment of any political claiming. The problem is that after the conflict stage, there’s the multiplication of the conflicts, claiming of the rights of the democratic spaces. Where do those requests fall? Where are they accepted? The problem is that they are often places unable to develop the requests in something permanent in a stable way, because we live in an institutional transformation operated by government processes, which are setting a plan in which the strong social factors are wild private powers (as Luigi Ferrajoli calls them), the entities which do “lobbing” activities, are often called as if they were evil tools, but actually they are not. They are actually private subjects in especial conditions, which have a weight nowadays in the overthrow of the political and economic relations, managed by the “governalization” of the state. In this context, the idea of becoming an institution is an element that can change the scenario because it doesn’t just request the public to provide for the need, but it’s aware of the the state of the crisis, that sovereignty is in crisis, the system of political decisions and political responsibility are in crisis, so they accept the challenge and therefore, help to build these other places in a public and political way. Democracy was born with the idea of self-government. It was created with the idea that those who obey the laws are just obeying themselves, and there was always a tension against true democracy, the true decision. All of this, of course, in the complexity of the organization on contemporary societies is difficult. We can’t join in a plate and do the Greek “Boule“. There’s a pluralization of the spaces. Another possible decision is not to use the law as a strategic defense to create an association to get the concession of a space, but to look for a different way from what we’ve achieved. We imagine how we can build a new institution in the theatre, in culture, in art but also as an experiment that somehow talks to the whole institutional process. To think about this means thinking about revolution, in the real sense of the term, in the sense of a radical change in which we make decisions about the common spheres. And to do it from practice to question the action: the action of a conflict in a perspective of radical transformation, without imagining a “Hyperuranion“, a sun city where we imagine a system of institutions that is “the best possible government” but to lead an action daily, an action made by many micro-conflicts, many work areas and many areas that interfere the social sectors, that crosses the needs of the neighbourhoods. All this to confront the construction of impacts, which we shouldn’t turn to existing institutions, but to be able to invent new ones, since it’s a life fact that existing institutions in the contemporary system are tired and they aren’t able to give an answer with a timing.
So now is the moment when even the citizens who aren’t part of the great powers, start to reconsider the institutional system in a moment in which the change of thought is exactly the object and objective of so many others. Because when we talk about CETA, TDEP, the White Book about the European Union government, in reality there are people in the world who are considering how to redesign the decision at a local and global scale. This reconsideration definitely dismisses the first blocks of construction of the democratic way, that is, the idea of liberation of the decision of the oligarchy to help make the most ample and transparent possible decision. We are falling again on a circuit of opposition feedback and an attempt of these practices is to open laboratories with other ways of decisions.
+ What are the roles in these processes?
M.- There aren’t any specific functions in a self-government community: it’s a community in which the concept of the function understood as a responsibility in the sector, or as a coordination of the sector, doesn’t exist. There isn’t art management for example, and this is a very precise choice because it’s useful for the variety of ideas that crosses the space, and to give the possibility to those who, for example, make a temporary dwelling in the space, to welcome the thoughts and perceptions that characterize the artistic activities, with the necessary time so this can take place, without the economic characteristics. This is opposite to what happens many times in the theatres or to the musicians, they’re required the production within time in a specific place and way to assure the economic side, so everything that happens is in a hurry. In our time we work in a volunteer way, there isn’t any kind of imposition of this type, there’s a division of the working groups, there’s a subdivision of the abilities that depend on the individual passions, there’s the self-government group, which of course doesn’t only have jurists, but there are also people who are interested in the legal and political path of the space. Same as in the working group of arts, which isn’t made up by dancers and actors, but also by many people who are just interested.
I think the idea of this role is what we reject. But on the one hand, there’s the need of organizing the spaces logistically, the absence of a role or specific individual responsibilities doesn’t imply that there isn’t a logistic organization and there aren’t individual responsibilities that are in the space and is perceived every day […].
G.- We need to put the role element in their functionality. The organization is essential to execute any process of this kind, and in this sense, there are roles from the organizational point of view. But since there aren’t any roles in the management of L’Asilo, I must clarify this point.
From my point of view, there’s always an element of multi-management, even in places where people try to get rid of heteronomous management, because decisions are made together and there’s a self-government. Then, the objective of not defining clearly the functions of the management is not because, in a naive way, we believe we can erase the unpleasant reality of the power. But because actually, to do these elements revisable, to give a better answer in comparison to the modern tradition of assigning functions. […]
In the system of tables, for example, we write that once institutionalized, you don’t have to decide about a given sector, but a pluralization of decisions in many areas, and that makes it easier that there are different people with different abilities and these people change their roles in the continuous process and in a continuous dialogue. In this context, the control over the competences is made daily and this allows a permanent process of “make common cause”. It also allows the apparition of new figures, a fact that wouldn’t be possible if our roles were fixed. It isn’t a naive element, but an antidote for a process of a pathologic degeneration which is immanent to the formation of collective processes.
+ Economic sustanibility.
M.- The idea is to guarantee the inner welfare, to be able to allow the access to the courses with great masters, cutting down the expenses which are assumed by the participants who can afford it and also by L’Asilo. This is very important because it’s the opposite to what the government does in this context.
As for social sustainability, L’Asilo has a different way of understanding the human relationship to what there was historically in social spaces, in which the collectives followed a path of political identity, and they dictated a more simple line, a more simple structure, because it was based on similarities, on similar ideas and on people who entered these contexts because they recognize themselves from a political viewpoint.
L’Asilo, instead of that, makes that people with very different cultural and political identity […]. We notice it’s a more varied generation.
G.- The objective of working in public right is the regulation of the civic and public urban use. It’s an attempt of not thinking about themselves like freelances only capable of economic auto-sustainability for a simple reason: Asilo is historical heritage by the Unesco, it’s been restored with € 7,000,000. It needs attention, competences. Same as other many spaces that are involved in this process. They were liberated and made accessible by compromise and sacrifice, because entering an abandoned places exposes it politically and legally. There’s the risk that the weight of this opening falls from an economic perspective over the citizens. For this reason we also wanted the concession of the building, not just for our idea of a new institutional process, potentially open to all citizens, but for not to assume maintenance expenses, which is impossible for a single juridic person, and it’s an indirect way of not giving public responsibility that we don’t want, because it runs the risk of another type of privatisation. For this reason, with the regulation of the civic use of the urban collective, we’ve kept the public as owners of the space. We imagine the propriety on the one hand and the common and collective use on the other hand, this let us think about a different perspective about the economic profile.
Many of the art workshops that we have in L’Asilo are carried out by masters in the art field, so here we work in another phase: quality. Because sadly quality is an element of class discrimination: those who can afford a course with a great master can grow, whereas others who have the chance to access a basic cultural offer…it’s the type of distinction in which public school divides us, and in the professionalisation of studio courses. […] We want to ensure high quality cultural services from an artistic point of view, for example, the great actor that arrives in the theatre workshop, the dance master who comes to the seminar. We want to enter the classic mechanism by which these courses economically speaking, are narrow circles.
+ How to make an evaluation?
G.- One of the most important elements of Asilo that has been useful for other spaces is the fact of attaching a calendar of the initiatives carried out to the administrative act.
This idea was born with the dialogue with the administration, which has worked to show the economic viability of the process with regards to the administration, since separating- as we’ve done- the propriety of the decisions about the use of the space, it means to give burdens to the public administration. For example, the burden of putting guards to open and close the space, a lift, paying the electricity bills. Those burdens are normally the ones the public assumes for the management of a square for example. We think they should be responsible for all this type of things, also for the spaces that have non-profit social aims. There’s a cost problem: they city of Naples has a municipality almost in economic deterioration. So one of the strategies we’ve adopted is the civic profitability: we count the quantity of initiatives and meetings that took place to tall the city’s benefit, not just the collective. […] This produces a kind of self-management laboratory of a horizontal community.
From another point of view, if this process would have been done by the city hall, assuming the burden of the economic management, how much would have it cost? The accountants of the municipality calculated the cost would be € 1,200,000 per year to do all what the community has made, based on the principle of cooperation and union. This also assures as that it’s sustainable from the cost point of view, because it’s an external verification.
+ Challenges and money?
M.- We don’t have any type of self-rent, what we do as militants and because we believe in a process that can develop a capacity, an economic sustainability and that also allows in a future to create forms of civic profit, instead of true rent.
What we’ve called grants and all that has to do with workshops, that still allow the ones who organize these workshops to get a reimbursement, it’s a first step. All what L’Asilo gets from the economic point of view is obtained through other ways of donations. There are no-binding contribution that are given to the space, but they serve to provide a way of self-rent for those who organize the activities of have logistic functions, and also to equip the spaces with production tools that can be shared later. It’s precisely an economic circuit, in the sense that these means of production are available for those who can’t afford having workshops and who often come to Asilo, even to reduce production costs they’d have to face.
The challenges are linked to this third phase. Once the legal recognition to manage and organize the city was obtained, by providing a new way of self-government to the individuals, not just by being users of the space. The new challenges will be all those to assure the brainstorming about means of productions. Also opening the concept of production into a new one, of new content, for example, means of virtual production, computers, co-working, etc, what allows us see ourselves not as competitors and to have a collective growth which gives us the chance of being free and choosing new individual paths, throughout the creation of cultural contexts that makes room to individual wishes of professional and individual growth.
G.- Just for being a heterogeneous community, we have a lot of challenges: for some, the challenge is to reduce production costs to use the space for free, for others, the challenges is to build a horizontal community, capable of making decisions in a non-hierarchical way.
I say all the challenges that go through absolutely acceptable needs and wishes. I add the possibility of building another way of use and care of the public spaces with the aim of reconsidering the categories we were talking about (democracy, autonomy, sovereignty). That actually means another way of political decision, which in history was always crossed the wishes of the political parties. The idea is to build a laboratory that it’s not possible to imagine a way of government, the good, calm government, but rather a political way in which decisions are a continuous conflict, a contained conflict in a different institutional recipient, that already works in Asilo and one day it might work for many other situations. The problem is that before imagining new ways of government, we have to follow a slow path which could last some decades to educate people and ourselves, a way of decision and collective attention we’re not used to. In fact, everyone says exactly the opposite: to think about yourself, decide quickly and for yourself. Instead, to start the construction of laboratories in which operating is in a group and not so fast, with different parameters and principles. When this rehearsal has a legal channel, it can carry an element of copy of this system, that is, the chance to avoid that these social spaces have to be on the defensive, but, instead to have the chance to think about the future in this new legal framework.
All this means that there’s an attempt to spread another way, in which deciding doesn’t mean people in protests but to practice, because the practice is much more difficult and we’re not used to it. L’Asilo doesn’t have the solution, Asilo is trying, with other spaces in Napoli, to build a network called “Massa Critica” that can face the challenge of nowadays. I’d be interesting if this network didn’t think of ways of self-rent, like beer, fundings, concerts…that’s good in the initial stage but I guess there are many professionals who often come mortified, the same as immigrants who come here and their professionalism is erased. Here we don’t get to that tragic level, but when I participate in these spaces, there are lots of professions: lawyers, philosophers, workers… What I think is to run these places have an importance than can even help in the work, for example, the people who do the communication for Asilo have the chance to add it in their CV. I can imagine the possibilities they all have to get fundings, not only for them but also for the space. […]
The distinction in the start-ups in a “shared economy” is once this collective intelligence is initiated from where you come from , it needs to be replaced. That will give us the capacity of improving our capability and prestige in the different work fields. That helps us in our main challenge: to “compete” with the ruling oligarchic classes, whose professionalism comes from the best international schools from all over the world. Against that, we can’t oppose that because those schools cost dozens of millions of euros. So, here we have other types of professional schools: the collectives and the movements. To work for this means to challenge the “wild powers” in their same filed, without forgetting where we come from and where we’re going.