DIY CULTURES: THE SUPPRESSION AND REALISATION OF THE PSYCHIC WORKERS!
- Written by DAMTP
Diy cultures although it doesn't bill itself as such is an event that brings together the Self organisation of psychic workers rather than on any political or artistic basis. It was organised by members of OOMK, Other Asias and the Free Talha Ahsan campaign.
3VOL said they would go and take the DesaKalaPatraGraph as well as a pamphlet version of the graph and copies of the latest DAMTP paper #8 as well as their latest cd "4REAL". Most other members of DAMTP were at the Silkeborg three sided football tournament. By playing their games they were disrupting NATO's quantum nuclear experiments.
It took some time to install the graph at RichMix as the organisers had initially asked for it to take only one metre squared but on the day we were able to install a previous version from "Performance and Documentation", which was larger, with the help of rich mix lighting technician Chimu. We also met Squid early on who leant us some scissors. I later chatted to Squid about gender identity and was reminded about my own privilege under patriarchy as we discussed strategies for resisting gender roles.
Image1: The DKPGraph being photographed – DAMTP material is next to Patrick Wray’s AMOK comic before it was removed – and the "Fine Cell Work" display
There were a few people interested in the Desakalapatra graph and it was a pleasure to make contact with them. I met with a couple from Hausmans bookshop and a librarian from the London College of Communication library. Also someone from Numbi collective discussed the proletarianist perspective with us. We met Hysteria and gave copies of the DAMTP paper and the 3vol CD to them and to Thunderbolt Comics. I made the mistake of not taking contact details so I ask anyone who met us to please contact us!
I was also joined by Patrick Wray whose freshly printed AMOK comik caused a controversy when a woman reacted very badly and accused him of showing rapes in his comic. She also took exception to him being a man in this relation. Whether the images in the comic show rape is debatable. I believe they do not. However I do think that pat may have deliberately left it ambiguous. I saw it as sexual fantasy - the women in the comic are having sex with butterflies and insects and the offended customer asked hypothetically if this could be consensual? Although this was a rhetorical question I think that it could be addressed seriously if we were to go deeper into the issues it raises. The woman then complained and DIYcultures staff asked him to either add an adult content warning or remove it from display. He of course removed it from the table and was clearly upset that the comic had generated such a bad trip for someone. The incident reminds us of how wary we must be with the psychic impact of our production. We do not mean to provide easy answers to anything and intend to defend ourself by all means against the stultifying forces of the spectacle - and yet we must be wary of offending or disempowering those who already are disempowered by capital.
As we were in the main space we could attend the talks easily and these were very good. There were some good talks and discussions. The one I attended most fully was the first talk of the day - "Decolonise It Yourself" with Black Feminists & OOMK zine #DIYBlack. Hudda Khaireh referred to the black surrealist Aime Cesare's "Discourse and colonialism" - compares colonialism to nazism and lead on to a critique of "international law" leading to a critique of international itself as European. Ashish Nandi’s "The intimate enemy" was also mentioned in this context.
Aurella Yussuf spoke of how "The act of making art is an act of decolonisation". She mentioned some names in giving context to this remark: Rasheed Araeen - engineer turned artist, Black Pheonix which later became Third Text – the 1980s black art movement – Himid, Saltan -
Lubaina community. The contrasting list of artists here drew a question as to the choice of artists and Orella stated that the divergence in the attitude of artists – some commercial artists – other activists – was deliberately done to show the variation in tactics strategies and working practices of black artists. The example of Algerian artists with many different cultures or ideas of liberation was also given.
I took the opportunity to introduce the psychic workers union and question whether we should not be rejecting the Art altogether. And focus on our own production - cultural or psychic. The objection that this is a semantic definition was raised to which I responded that this was not - it is a question of decolonising the mind. There were a few that agreed with me here and it was good ti further expand on our position with them afterwards. Again the kathiral or multitude of approaches was pointed to - the example of how black poets and writers have used and subverted the english language was put forward as a dual strategy to go with the rejection of english and the promotion of supressed languages.
We did not however have the chance to really expand on how we can create a real international form of organising in rejecting art, especially if we see internationalisn itself as indeed a eurocentric or european imperialism. This is something I would like to expand on in future meetings and discussions.
Generally I think the other talks and event was very good at putting forward how we resist capital on a very local level but little was explored of how this can be linked up. There were a lot of feminist, queer, black and other forms of identity or industry based resistance - ie how we resist capital in terms of identity or nation. But how we link up together to create a class based resistance is not explored.
Another point was raised on how the DIYCultures event managed to avoid being dominated by white male participants as so many other zine fairs or self-publishing festivals are. It was noted that “diversity” is often added on in lots of events as an afterthought and not a basis of it. It was noted that if people are not happy with how things are done then a change of management is required. Also, this event does not have an ethnic spin – it is not the “black diy cultures”. It also receives no funding and is thus not marketed or sold as ethnic yoot community art.
In other words in this case the narrative of sub-industry (samizdat/ selfpublishing) is superior to that of nation or ethnic identity. However I must note that there was no critical reflection at all on how samizdat relates to the publishing industry. Here I would like to see some sharing of how we survive as self publishing without funding or pay or distribution contracts of the capitalist market.
Image 2: The Decolonise It Yourself talk. Olympia by Manet is projected on the screen behind the speakers
In the Mental Health Zines & Anti-Psychiatry discussion there was a disagreement between the participants as to whether there is any evidence of medication working and whether mental illness is indeed a chemical imbalance in the brain. Some were against medication at all - ie the campaign against EST - and those that saw benefits in medication. I must say that as someone who takes medication for mental health issues I found this discussion very important again I think the problem is a lack of a critique of global capitalism and how to fight it. The issue is the control of capitalists eg the pharma companies and how we deal with them.
I only saw a little of the Prison Creative Solidarity Networks talks on Writers in Prison Foundation, Not Shut Up magazine, Moazzam Begg and Talha Ahsan. It was good to see CAGE present. I should note here that the DAMTP stall happened to be next to a stall selling cushions. At first I thought this quaint but found out later that the cushions were produced by prisoners from all over the country.
The Poetry Pamphlet & DIY forms with Annexe, Happenstance & Verse Kraken I missed altogether but the DIY Fashion talk;2 I saw the end of - Fashioning a new world with Tansy Hoskins, DIY Couture, Alice Kilroy There were some discussion of Rana Plaza disaster - the end of this also was a disagreement over the responsibility of consumers and it was good to see this neoliberal myth debunked. Here our own efforts to internationalise the workers struggle would have been good to input into the discussion but by this point I was worn out so could not contribute
The day before I had attended an NUT conference on GERM – global educational ‘reform’ movement. The strength of this meeting was a solid ant-capitalist understanding of the problems we face in terms of privatisation of education and general feeling amongst those I talked to that we must extend our struggles with other workers both locally in our schools and communities as well as globally with other teachers and schools around the world
This is where I think also psychic workers in samizdat need to push our efforts - to extend our own unionisation/ networking/ resistance across identities and groups communities/ to the wider working class locally as well as globally. Discussing the desakalapatragraph I was reminded that the graph shows where we are nor just as much as where we are. The same is true for the diycultures event in that the different zine collectives based around narrative/nation/identity show who we are not just as much as who is one of our kind (ie a na(ra)tive) - and therefore what our situation is in terms of its negative and distance or gap between us and the working class as a whole. That means as machopak or extrovert where we need to look for guidance in order to identify our and others situation and move towards union with the wider class.
This is why DIY cultures is much more interesting that standard Leftist festivals which always invite the same people - Owen Jones, Tariq Ali, David Harvey etc. global leftist celebrities with big publishing deals. In stark contrast, Tansy Hoskins, Alice Kilroy, Trade Union banners and Occupied Times addressed anti-capitalism directly and it would have been good to have carried out some interviews on the day. The inherent critique of bureaucracy in DIY cultures, critique of bigness and technology is all part of how this event is – as was spoken about in the NUT conference the day before – a local community of resistance. Hamja Ahsan, Sofia Niazi and Helena Wee were able to pool their own personal engagements with communities of resistence as well as self organisation as psychic workers to do this - without being caught up in politics.
It is perhaps its very workerist/ proletatrianist nature that allows it to do all this while at the same time not using these loaded terms – and thus it realises them. As unionised psychic workers we have always looked to a plurality of approaches and tactics – of kathiral - as we live through the contradictions of capital – As irational.org once termed it "do it together". But it should be noted that our union or wahdat is based on not just our common forms of production but our common attitude towards the means of production. Perhaps this is something that future festivals might address.
Fine Cell Work: http://www.finecellwork.co.uk/
Free Talha Ahsan: http://freetalha.org/
Black Feminists http://www.blackfeminists.org
Numbi Collective: http://numbi.org/
CAGE: http://www.cageuk.org/ and http://www.cageprisoners.com/
Hausman Books: http://www.housmans.com/
Patrick Wray: http://www.patrickwray.com/