Everybody is talking about the crisis, but how is it actually manifested? Have cities changed? Where do We-Traders come from and what unites them? And how can these and other questions be negotiated by the 2014 traveling exhibition? In October 2013, the We-Traders community worked on this at forums in Lisbon, Madrid, Turin and Toulouse. Here are a few pickings from our notes.
City and Crisis
“The problem isn’t a capitalist economy, but a capitalist society,” is the diagnosis of sociologist Claus Leggewie at the We-Traders Forum in Lisbon. Maria João Guardão and Maria Tengarrinha from O Espelho see a political and a media crisis. They launched their wall newspaper “the day that Angela Merkel came to Portugal.”
In their city, our co-curators in Turin, Lisa Parola and Luisa Perlo, identify not just the financial plight, but an acute identity crisis. Together with the urban geographer Carlo Salone they are warning about a “disneyfication” of culture in the light of the inflationary festival culture that post-industrial Turin is using to try and reinvent itself. At the Madrid We-Traders Forum, Santiago Eraso, one of those responsible for the 2016 San Sebastian capital of culture, calls for “anti-monumental activities.”
In Madrid, the crisis is directly experienced mainly by young people who cannot find work. Those who create their own jobs cannot find affordable spaces due to real estate speculation. “I can’t afford a proper office in Madrid. If I had more space, I could create new jobs,” reports our co-curator Javier Duero.
What are We-Trades?
It is certainly not about interpreting We-Trades one-dimensionally as a reaction to the crisis. “We are tired of the crisis being presented to us as an opportunity; it would be better if there were no crisis,” says Lisbon geographer Jorge da Silva Macaísta Malheiros on behalf of many We-Traders. If at all, it was a missed opportunity says Davide Ziveri from Turin’s Buenavista Social Housing. “I thought now everything will be different with the banks.”
“Are We-Trades reformist projects or do they want a change in the system?” asks Joël Lecussan from Mix’Art Myrys, while his counterparts in Toulouse from Bois & Cie quite pragmatically trust in their doer qualities. “Notre réaction, c’est l’action!” Frauke Hehl from the Berlin workstation initiative advocates continuing to hold the city responsible so that temporary solutions do not become permanent ones.
“We want work that we enjoy and that makes us better,” is how the Walkinn Coop describes its motivation to found a We-Trade. Non-hierarchic alliances and fluid identities play pivotal roles – “We don’t ask who we are, but with whom we can enter a relationship” (VIC) – and collective authorship – “The author of Campo de Cebada is Campo de Cebada.” We-Trades put meaning before profits. “AMAP gave me back my pride in being a farmer. Now, we are feeding people, not markets,” says Alain Gatti of Le Potager de Camille.
A crisis is the saddle point that decides the fate of a city, according to urban planner Sonja Beeck at the We-Traders Forum in Madrid. We are certain that at this point, We-Trades decisively contribute to the success of a city.
Text by Angelika Fitz and Rose Epple
© Rose Epple, 2017