ESTABLISHING CONFLICTS TOWARDS NEW INSTITUTIONS
Macao is the name of a new self-organized centre for arts in Milan, a city that until now has not managed to create neither contemporary arts museums nor community centres for experimental arts.
Macao was born during a national uprising that has led to the occupation of many public spaces for a more accessible culture through a radical process of reclaiming centres for the township.
A widespread movement that involves citizens, performers, entertainers, artists and cultural workers, a movement that crosses, encompasses and describes a new map of political action of the last 20 years. This map is pinpointed by different political experiences: Teatro Valle Occupato, Cinema Palazzo, Angelo Mai in Rome, Sale Docks and Teatro Marinoni in Venice, Asilo della creatività e della conoscenza in Naples, Teatro Coppola in Catania, the Cantieri Arsenale and Teatro Garibaldi Aperto in Palermo. In the Milan area many of the artists involved in Macao are active within the Isola Art Center, a grassroot movement that is fighting jointly with the local community of Isola to promote the creation of arts centres against the massive gentrification of the neighbourhood.
THE ARTIST AS A WORKER: HOW TO ESCAPE THE DEBT TRAP
For a little more than a year a group of visual artists, critics, audio technicians, video editors, musicians, designers, arts managers, coreographers and electricians from all over Milano have set up open meetings on a regular basis to discuss their social role as workers.
During these meetings we discuss some of the delusions which are the foundations of our exploitation and the direct cause of injustice. Not to mention the fact that show business, media, entertainement, fashion and design areas are the pillars of the industry in Milano, with more than 66000 new employees every year.
An army of overly trained and educated professionals who have invested big money in postgraduate courses, degrees and certificates lands in a job market which is ready to exploit them, underpay them and and eject them subsequently.
Capitalism captures and exploits the value added produced by the risk that each worker is now forced to pay directly because both the private and public sector are not willing to pay the price for it anymore. All workers, more or less consciously, endure a general feeling of frustration due to lack of artistic success. Both the employer and the Government teach us to stay humble because we supposedly own them someting each time they give us the chance to fill that void created by our incapacity to self-realization.
Thanks to this mechanism, we’ve lost rights and contractual leverage, we’re considered isolated individuals meanwhile the various monopolies, the stock market and Government accumulate more and more economic and political power, increasing exponentially the equality gap and hurting the redistribution of wealth.
ART AS THE PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION: FIGHT IS A LANGUAGE
From the 1st of April 2012 Macao is online, as a new centre for the arts and culture in Milano. It starts then a countdown of a month, part of a viral campaign that would terminate in the occupation of Torre Galfa, a skyscraper that was abandoned for more than 15 years in the heart of Milano.
Torre Galfa is property of Salvatore Ligresti, one of the most infamous real estate brokers in Milano, who was sentenced more than once for corruption and Mafia-related crimes.
The acronym Macao is a mock-up name of the various Moma, Macba, Mambo, Maxi, Macro and other large institutions but offers a new perspective on the idea of museum: a museum made by militant artists.
Macao acts as an alternative to Art as an autonomous concept, endorsed and enhanced only through the circuit of galleries, private collections, and evaluated only by critics on a leash, deprived of any potential revolutionary power.
Furthermore Macao rejects the wide-spread tendency to turning fights into something purely esthetical, according to which the commercial distribution is mainly interested in critical contents and fights only as long as they are out of real context and entirely dignified as commercial products. Macao strongly states that any direct action intended to transform reality can be a performance that involves all our talents as artists, communicators, theoricians, philosophers, architects. Sharing all our knowledge and talents in a radical fight is the solely way through which Macao intends producing arts and culture.
FINANCIAL BUBBLE, REAL ESTATE SPECULATION, POLITCAL IMPEACHEMENT
In few days Macao fills the skyscrapers with thousands and thousands of citizens ready to give their time, abilities and goods to build a a new museum. Self-organized teams of architects, performers, theoricians, video artists, web developers, communicators, hackers, gardeners, electricians, plumbers, bar-tenders and the staff from the main universities and academies have started planning their classes at Torre Galfa. The images of the skyscraper of 109 meters illuminated by blue lights, a true museum of art built by the citizenship, circulate widely through the web: it’s a product of collective consciousness, born from local communities, from day-to-day struggle, from pure political action.
What is the true meaning of an empty 32 storey skyscraper in the heart of Milan, abandoned for 15 years, meanwhile new skyscrapers are being built at high speed in a neighbourhood that clearly disapproves them and doesn’t need new thereats to its scarce green areas.
It means that in times of crisis, a big part of real estate speculation in this city is directly functional to financial speculation with no value whatsoever for the community of citizens that actually live there.
It means that the owner of the real estate has no interest in renting or selling property because real market would devaluate it and thus he’s more keen in keeping the property as a warranty for bank loans. So it goes: many buildings are useless to the city but are worth billions to banking funds through societies such as IMCO and Sinergia in partnership with the insurance company Fondiaria-Sai, main debtor to MedioBanca and Unicredit (two giant groups of the Italian banking system) and future acquisition prize to Unipol.
Needless to say that these roped parties hide the interests of the main Italian political parties
WHAT’S LEGAL AND WHAT’S LEGITIMATE? THE CRISIS OF RAPRESENTATION AND DIRECT DEMOCRACY
Despite the support of Nobel prizes, international cultural institutes and countless supporters, we fight against very strong enemies. During the occupation of the skyscraper we feel the urge to write an official caution letter to police forces and the Public Ministery. Together with the finest italian experts of Italian Constitution we state that based on article 3, 9, and 43 of the Italian Constitution a political movement of citizens has the right to take charge of private property in case of clear misuse of the space and proven damage to the community related to that misuse.
With this legal document we state through the practice of struggle, that private property is not a dogma, but need to be subdued to a larger frame of public utility, that sees in the building of a community and in the practice of direct democracy objectives that are as legitimate are those of private property supporters.
Repression is the immediate answer. The Minister of Domestic Affairs Annamaria Cancellieri gives direct order to the Chief of the Police of Milano to evict Macao from Torre Galfa.
Few days later we discover that Piergiorgio Peluso, the son of the Minister of Domestic Affairs, is the manager of Fondiaria Sai, the very company that owns the skyscraper.
A group of criminals who’s been speculating for years in the city with direct damage to the citizens teaching us what’s legal trough the use of army, meanwhile a multitude of citizens finds it legitimate to give freely all their time, effort and capacities to build a common good. Democracy needs people to rediscover the political value of self-organization, dismissing representation systems which have proven ineffectual, insufficient, if not plain harmful.
COMMONING: BEYOND PUBLIC, BEYOND PRIVATE
After five days of the occupation of Via Galvani, the street in front of the skyscraper, Macao calls for a press conference: Macao officially launches in front of newspapers and journalists a occupation, right there and then. The crowd at the press conference is led trough two subway lines to mislead police forces. After a joyful move, hundreds of us enter Palazzo Citterio, a beautiful abandoned 700’ building in the neighbourhood of Brera, Milano. This building is the object of a renovation plan aimed at creating a massive museum complex based on the model ogf the Louvre project: truth is that it’s been empty for forty years. The project has never been implemented and two years ago, public managers have stolen funds previously addressed to that project for the interesting sum of 52 million euros.
Macao invites everyone to build a new community museum involving citizens and asks for transparency and clarity from the public Administration in regards to its project and how it will be funded.
The Minister of Culture promptly replies: “My personal conviction, and I believe it’s not just mine, is that no truly cultural movement, no truly cultural production can spring from an act of unlawfulness. Few days later Macao is cleared away with a massive display of police forces and army.
To the well-doers who consider Macao just a deranged group of youngsters in need of space for arts and a bit of work, we reply with the occupation of the most important museum project in town, claiming justice and trasparency for common goods managed both by the private sector as well as the public sector.
Macao is currently occupying the former Slaughterhouse of The Fruit and Vegetables Market, stating that a self-organized museum can be as legitimate as any istitutional project and is heating the public debate on the subject of law regulation and innovation as a solution to the effects of a financial and democratic crisis.
Common goods are not just given by Mother Nature: they are born from the daily struggle of citizens claiming their need for common goods and finding a way to organize them. These new forms of self-government are a concrete and real answer to the mass suicide organized by our system of neoliberal governance.