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Stopping the world for three days to write a message in a bottle

16.06.2015 by Silvia Nanclares

Photos by Julio Albarrán (cc)

A wicked fanzine-style chronicle narrating in first person the plural voice of table 6 at the 17th ZEMOS98 Festival #Hackcamp. Original language: spanish («Parar el mundo durante tres días para escribir un mensaje en una botella»)

Sometimes in life it is good to have crazy plans. Impossible to accomplish. And then fulfil them. Like, for instance, bringing together nine [1] persons from different backgrounds to think and do intensely for three days. Plus using globish: that international rendering of English no British native understands. Sitting them together at a table. Leaving at hand some stationery and office material, a printer and a photocopier and giving those people a task: creating a fanzine. A fanzine tackling a subject as abstract and complex as the one that served as an umbrella not only for our working table but for the whole Festival: #Caring4thecity. Oh My…

These kinds of mental and physical spaces, this map without a destination, this delirious plan could only take place in the always exciting context of the ZEMOS98 Festival, that weirdo week in April that has occurred in the city of Seville for the last 17 years and, thanks to the coarseness of most of the city’s cultural institutions (they sure are not in the vibe), has decided to jump off the extenuating train of scarcity and seek a better life: the good one, that of care.

On top of that, during the three-day parallel world that arises in the Seville Arts Centre (CAS) during every edition of the Festival, our island of concentration around our fanzine at our workshop table was surrounded by five other tables with five different goals (none of them less wild and sexy). An archipelago of scattered, impossible plans to be brought to a good conclusion at the end of the tree-day event, including its drifts and storms, if the Goddess of the commons saw fit.

When one is trapped on an island it is a good idea to meet up with the rest of the castaways and debate about the message to send to the world. With our rearguard covered by oranges, water, coffee and «St. Martin de Porres» cakes (basic principle of any organised resistance), we could focus on reaching a minimum consensus on several points, the two most important being: what we would talk about when discussing «caring for the city» and what concept of fanzine we’d deal with.

In tackling the first question we started to draw from personal experience. Shared radical subjectivity is a good path to building a common corpus. We started to share memories connected to our favourite urban commons: a particular table at the British Library, a corner in a Bilbao bar, the exterior of a Finnish sauna, the «Prospe», a people’s cooperative school in the Madrid neighbourhood of Prosperidad … The purpose of starting from the first person singular was, apart from a previous step to reach the «us» subject, putting into practice an idea that worked as a driving force throughout our work: we didn’t want to explain the idea of «caring for the city» but instead tell how each one of us lived it. From those remembrances we opened the narrative debate (creating little pieces and stories, images and words, collages and diagrams, cultural references…) about what made our cities more liveable and what threatens that quality. The idea of the defence of the commons, starting from care and protest, began to arise as a basic theme on which we could start converting the pieces into dialogue.

The second consensus had to do with format. On the second morning one of the castaways, the furious and wicked Elena Cabrera, proposed a series of possible formats arising from the ideas of the previous day: the formal entity began then to be clear. We would make an Instructions Manual for revitalizing or keeping the urban commons. Yes! We already had our bottle in which to launch our message to the rest of the nearby islands, to the world, the city, the river Guadalquivir… And as if summoned by the first signs of smoke outside, guests with unsuspected and magic knowledge like Txelu Balboa, Carolina León, Javier Rodrigo, Nu Rodríguez o Josian Llorente arrived at our shore to encourage us. And they joined in around the fire.

One of the pages of «Regame los Commons» fanzine

Thus, during the third day, in one of those unlikely choreographies that happen in collective processes - full of cross-outs, some snorts of annoyance, getting it together and going forward, three times «sorry», one ok, let’s go, pass me the Pritt and nothing happened here - we managed to complete twenty copies of Regame los Commons , a Toolkit for Caretakers! Folded and ready to be taken, shared, used and opened out.

Carmen Maura seems to challenge us on the front cover, defiant in that classic still from the film The Law of Desire (La Ley del Deseo). She reminds us of the miracle: through collaborative work we have achieved such a «Castilian» common cultural memory (that meme) and have managed to share it with people who had never heard of that film or that actress. The fact that it made sense nevertheless is proof that we can understand each other and together build feeling from fiction. So that was how our process ended: message created, inserted, launched, squeezed out (the experience was exhausting) and ready to sail the seas beyond our fanzine photocopier. People from outside interested in reading us and therefore saving us arrived very soon.

The atmosphere of our archipelago during those three days had an emotionally charged intensity that seemed to permeate every gesture of this, the Festival’s last edition. Only comment that ZEMOS98 got the message: mutate or die. If the context is the new text, the Festival dies as a container, but survives as a (con)text. Here’s to many new spaces for the creation of fanzines, games, collective archives and more ideas to come! «We are home». Endless thanks.

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