FREECOOPERATION IN AN OCCUPIED SPACE

Horit Herman Peled

 

A novel roaring echo has been scattering over the virtual rizomatic terrain in the last year --FREECOOPERATION.†† A voice calling for the gathering of the 'lost tribes', avowed in an urgent utopian proposition on the edge of global social and cultural abyss.

 

The call was welcomed globally with exuberance by all.

 

In the so-called Center, in the Outposts, and in the Peripheries, most of humanity experienced an accelerated cognitive exigency as a response to the visual samplings and reproductions of the 9/11 event. Two and a half years have passed, and by now the public space is under occupation.While the Center is regulated by law and order forces, the periphery is controlled by armies.In the March 20th demonstration against the war in Iraq, which took place in Manhattan, the law and order forces fragmented the demonstrators by enclosing them in separate street blocks. In the occupied lands, throughout the globe, the public space is blocked by a net of checkpoints.

 

Anxiety and fear, incited by different modes of terror, bring forth a static, binary, conflicting reality, hostaged by political leaders and resulting in paralysis, complacency and the abandonment of public space. The voided space then forcefully collapses into the grids of neo-liberalism, a prevailing ideology under which human dignity is being corrupted.

 

The abject state of existence inflicts reciprocatory acts of futile terror, where the multitudes are the victims of senseless oppression. However, one may never forget that there is no symmetry between those who inhabit the Center and those who roam the Periphery.A terrorized civil space, a quasi war zone, posits the virtual as a civil Agora. It is here, in the virtual, that equality prevails for all who possess access. The virtual is an affordable 'New Zion' for the chosen ones who mostly reside in the privileged Center. This grazing land is not a futuristic idea but a material reality. The encompassed space produces the conditions for cooperation, contemplation, free exchange of ideas, artistic production and other possibilities, among them the possibility for internal exile.

Furthermore, the advanced technological means of industrial production render a shift in the traditional relationship between art/cultural producers and the social means of production.This paradigm shift endows cultural producers with a non- alienated working perspective: creating within the means of production, abolishing the artistic speculative exchange value and producing works with a social use value tag.

 

The horizon for cultural works carrying a use value in a FREECOOPERATION context is wide open. However, engaging in such an endeavor calls for a commitment to human/political involvement, in contrast to the prevalentcommercial engagement in non-social or seemingly social digital works, whether collaborative or individual.

 

Cultural production in search of use value is folded in the social/political domain, as is attempted in my work, http://www.horit.com//machsomwatch.htm

The land of the occupied West Bank is injured by hundreds of checkpoints.

The system of intervention in the Palestinian public space is all-pervasive. It is designed to harass and humiliate the Palestinians in order to make them relent on their struggle against the occupation. Rather than fighting terror, this network of checkpoints actually encourages it, in that it turns human beings into helpless objects of oppression and drives them to the point of total despair. These military transit barriers are transparent, non-existent, for Jewish Israeli settlers living in the same territories.The inhuman intervention in the daily routine life existence of the Palestinians impelled the formation of a non-hierarchical collaborative group of Israeli women from all walks of life and all ages.†† While the majority of Israeli citizens are complacent, the MachsomWatch (checkpoint watch) group monitors and intervenes on behalf of the Palestinians at the checkpoints, at regular time intervals.Devoid of any specific political association, the women write reports describing in detail their witnessing accounts and post them on a collaborative online list, thus creating an archive for the future.

 

What is the bodily, material witnessing function of this collaboration?

Each woman in the collaboration carries her own personal views and their collaboration as a group is based on the principle of unanimous consent. Therefore, the group is not committed to any specific political ideology.Thus, while clearly opposing the oppressive Israeli government with its cruel treatment of the Palestinians, the group has not committed itself to any political position with regard to Israelís occupation of the Palestinian territories.However, as events unfold, the women's intervention at the checkpoints on behalf of the Palestinians intensify, in negotiations with the Israeli soldiers. In numerous cases attempts are made at preventing live bullets from shooting Palestinians kids who are throwing stones on Israeli soldiers, at the Qalandia Checkpoint near Jerusalem, as an example. The bodily risky and brave engagement at the checkpoints, and the active live collaboration in the virtual, form a model that may proliferate to other stressed public spaces as well.

 

All the production of art in a neo-liberal economy, whether it is dissent, engaged art, political art, social art, commentary art, etc., once packed as objects and inserted in designated luxurious spaces defined as art contexts, reverses the creative intention.On the other hand, detouring around the structures of the art fields, metamorphosing into the virtual and engaging in the public space in the form of political and social art might result in a challenge to the prevailing concept of'What Is Art'in the political era of the hostile public space.

 

Still, one may always remember the privileged position of the cultural producers in the Center and the Outposts, the privilege of inclusion, in sharp contrast to those in the Periphery who are excluded even from this assessment.