Tuesday, 22 December 2009

::22 12 09::

NGOs and civil society groups have accused Denmark of obstructing the democratic process after nearly 2000 people were arrested in Copenhagen during the UN climate summit.

An official letter of complaint will be written to the Danish Police and the UN after the “outrageous way that Denmark prevented people from exercising their democratic right to protest," said Kirsty Wright, Senior Campaigns officer for the World Development Movement.

Friend’s of the Earth, the World Development Movement and the Jubilee Debt Campaign will use the pattern of mass arrests during the summit as well as raids on parties and activist sleeping quarters and the arrests of high-profile spokesmen and women as examples of the divisive tactics used by police to disrupt the organisation of demonstrations.

Their frustration comes after the UK Ambassador for Denmark Riis Jergensen wrote to a group of NGOs ahead of the COP15. He ensured the group that a revision to Danish laws to give police the power to arrest people who they thought might provoke violence would not infringe upon people's "legal right to protest peacefully” in Denmark. Yesterday Mr Jergensen reiterated that, “Events during the last fortnight do not contradict my statement. Police solved the tremendous challenge very professionally."

Jonathan Stevenson, Campaigns Officer for the Jubilee Debt Campaign, believes, “Denmark wanted to avoid the embarrassment of protest playing a central role in the summit. Their efforts went so far that now the embarrassment has swung in the opposite direction. We will investigate police behaviour fully to ensure that the outlawing of public participation will ever happen again."

Saturday, 19 December 2009

::19 12 09::

It had become almost routine when police decided that once again the peaceful protest outside the Bella Centre last Wednesday was immediately illegal. As they drew their batons and lay blows to the shoulders of unshielded activists the crowd had learnt after a week of similar encounters that linking arms was their only hope. Pepper spray was landed in the eyes of a 68-year-old Dutch woman and the chain broke when her husband and son ran to her rescue. As a similar fate met individuals who crossed the canal on an inflatable raft any sort of People’s Assembly clearly had to happen outside the centre’s grounds.

Two things wont be the same again after over 50000 activists came to Copenhagen for the UN conference on climate change: the ability to demonstrate against the state in Denmark and the shape of environmental activism to come.

For many, the purpose of the COP15 was to create a global environment movement that would continue to push for fair and sustainable solutions to climate change for the global south after this conference had ended. As news of the accord filters through the absence of such a deal means that a lot of fighting lies ahead. However, from now campaigners will feel an international family supports their efforts, thanks to the two weeks that grassroots organisations have spent learning from each other.

Now, delegates and demonstrators wait at plane and train stations for a ride home, ironically their journeys are being delayed by an extreme turn of cold weather. For activists, the new sense of collectively found here will feel warming. However, they leave behind them a debris of legal litter will make protesting in Denmark even harder.

The illiberal stance taken by police towards protesting made this occasion remarkable. The Danish government hurried through laws ahead of the conference that gave police powers of preventative arrest. Like a bull in a china shop, their powers were used to smash demonstrations and soon the temporary warehouse-prisons in the south of the city became full. Amnesty International have called for an independent investigation into the 1989 people who were arrested but not charged during the conference and other NGOs are writing letters of complaint to the Danish government.

Police led a persistent campaign to keep activist groups on edge. They targeted people who they thought were influential in the non-hierarchical activist network Climate Justice Action (CJA), and invaded activist parties with teargas and dogs ahead of Reclaim Power day last Wednesday.

Despite this, activists continued to show their strength to demonstrate in the face of demonization. Neither temperatures of minus 5 or the tight cage of police riots vans froze the day into a pathetic fallacy. Reclaim Power day was deemed a success by organisers.

The Dutch woman regained her vision again and said, “My family came here because this situation is too important to ignore. Copenhagen has started a new era for environmental activism.” The spray had left her with a white mask around her eyes. “Come on, it’s just a bit of pepper,” the seasoned campaigner said. For others, Copenhagen would have been their first taste of such encounters. They will take a lot of away from the last two weeks as their attention turns towards Mexico next year.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

::16 12 09::

Danish authorities say that three years preparation has gone into policing the activism around the UN climate conference in Copenhagen. As demonstrators travel from all over the world to participate in Reclaim Power day today they say the illiberal stance police have taken against protesting has not put them off, despite 1500 people having already been arrested.

This figure continued to rise yetsterday as Tadzio Mueller, a spokesman for the organisers of today's event, Climate Justice Action (CJA), was arrested by plainclothes police as he left the Bella centre. He will be charged in court today. A police spokesman said, “We are charging him under sections 119 and 134 which involve violence against police and inciting unrest in the city.”

Jonny Lunberg, from Copenhagen police, said, We have tried to keep a good dialogue between NGOs and ourselves and hoped that no arrests would be made during the conference.” 194 people were released at 6am yesterday morning and activists were recovering after a night in which teargas and molotov cocktails were used in clashes with police in the Christiania area of Copenhagen. Climate Justice Action (CJA) were hosting a meeting to discuss today’s event and Naomi Klein was speaking. The riots happened after an otherwise peaceful day of protesting.

The trouble began at 11pm when police entered Christiania, an autonomous neighborhood in Copenhagen where families live. After a young group of people set fire to barricades that blocked the entrance to the neighborhood, Henrik Suhr of Copenhagen Police said, “We entered Christiania as a preventative measure so things wouldn’t get out of hand.”

However, eyewitnesses report that police were already within Christiania before there was any fire. “It was really frightening”,
said one resident who wanted to remain anonymous, “Police were chasing everyone through the streets and forcing their heads into the ground before tying their hands behind their backs. I didn’t know what was happening but ran a fast as I could to my house.”

The meeting had taken place in Woodstock bar and people began dancing and drinking afterwards. Another witness said, “It was really surreal. All of a sudden there were bangs. I looked outside and saw people being arrested whilst everyone inside was having a great time. Then police came in and made everyone sit on the ground.”

Amy Jacobs had left the party with a friend and her three-month-old baby. “I heard bangs and explosions but we kept calm inside. The police banged on the door and even though we explained 'We've got a
baby in here' they just smashed the windows before breaking down the door and coming in. It was as if they were looking for someone"

Ed Thomson of CJA agreed, “The way people were acting it was like they were on the hunt. All the Danish people who were arrested have been kept in detention until January. “ A police spokesperson responded to the accusation that they were looking for specific people by saying, “We wanted to arrest people who we identified as being troublemakers. We had police buses waiting in the area because we knew that was where activists went to after the protest during the day.”

Police have received over 200 official complaints over the treatment of people in Copenhagen and Amnesty International has called of an immediate investigation into the legitimacy of the many arrests. “When nearly 1,000 people are arrested and then all but 13 are released it means that many of those people were just innocent people,” said Ida Thuesen, of Amnesty International Denmark.

Olly Stubbs, a graffiti writer from London, was arrested on Friday for wearing a scarf whilst walking towards a demonstration. He described the detention centre as, “freezing, especially because they don’t let you wear any shoes. A group in the pen next to me were sprayed with teargas after they brought their benches together.” Police confirmed that pepper spray was used during this incident.

The police have been following activist forums and websites ahead of today’s protest. Jonny Lunberg said, “We have allowed the demonstration to happen as you have the right to protest in Denmark and we have agreed that the march will only be aloud to a designated field where the Bella Centre can be seen.”

Ed Thompson of CJA said, “There’s a widespread feeling that people have tried to avoid getting arrested before today. It’s the big one, it’s the most important one of the lot and hopefully police incitement won’t result in people just throwing bricks and bombs. It would totally detract from the aim of the day, to create a people’s assembly.”

Delegates from Latin America are expected to participate in the people’s assembly today. This is due to take place at the gates of the Bella Centre but Mr Lunberg warned, “It will not happen there. I know we will be successful in halting the demonstration at the field and any event will happen at the field.”

Sunday, 13 December 2009

::13 12 09::

Frontline, Princess Nyah style

Police arrested hundreds more people in Copenhagen yesterday during aweekend in which even peaceful protest seems to be unacceptable during the UN conference.

Buses arrived to remove 256 people from the scene when police halted the demonstration after having gained information from indymedia.com that activists were planning to force themselves into a locked part of the harbour to stop production. A police spokesperson, Flemming Munch, announced, ‘We decided to set up a search block and stop everyone who was in the march. Initially we had a good dialogue and said if we found nothing on people we would let them through but a lot of them
wouldn’t cooperate and then it became an aggressive situation so we used force and arrested everyone.’

The protest, Hit the Production, began at Triangen in the Osterbro area of Copenhagen. Kate Cuthbert, said, ‘We’re hitting the harbour because shipping is a perfect example of how our whole economic system is responsible for climate change.’ Organisers say 500 people began to walk towards the harbour but after 100 meters police had surrounded
the group on all sides. By the time it had reached Oslo Plads they were met my riot vans, dogs and a wall of armoured officers and immediately detained in a controversial kettling tactic.

Karen Davidson, from the civil rights group, Parents Against Police Brutality, said, ‘The force used here was completely disproportionate to the level that was needed. People who didn’t want to be searched were immediately pushed to the ground. Soon, the police had surrounded everyone and began placing them in plastic hand ties.’

Henrik Ama was one of the initial few to get away. He said, ‘Only six of us were let through before police became violent. They smashed the window of a car that was travelling with us and took gasmasks and bolt-cutters from it. They have my bag still but it only has a sandwich in.’

Munch said, ‘We saw that there was gasmasks and equipment to break into a locked part of the harbour so decided to take action.’ However, when The Independent pressed to find out how these tools were spotted,
Munch said this was classified police information.

Meanwhile, members from the German environmental group, Robin Wood, who scale buildings to hang banners, were hauled over a bridge by police and bundled into riot vans. Daniel Hafner escaped arrest because he had a press card. He said, ‘Our message said simply, Pay Climate Debt, but within 10 seconds police grabbed the ropes and yanked the climbers back up.’

Throughout the day police helicopters continued to hover over Copenhagen whilst riot vans sped sporadically through the streets. Whilst new laws were passed ahead of the conference that allow police to detain people for 12 hours without cause, the Danish public believe that their illiberal powers are a result of rioting between the police and youths in 2006.

Organisers of today’s event were part of the activist network Climate Justice Action (CJA). For police and protestors the focus is now on Reclaim Power day this Wednesday when activists will try to enter the Bella Centre to create a 'people’s forum'. After 968 people were arrested on Saturday after the same preventative measures were used CJA is encouraging people not to be put off by the inevitability of arrest. ‘This is a historic moment and police should know that nothing they do will deter us from what we’ve come here to demonstrate.’

Saturday, 12 December 2009

::12 12 09::

2006 was a brave year for youths in Copenhagen. After the city mayor chose to evict the cultural youth house, Ungondshuset, protests were enacted on the streets for a year afterwards. Since then, youths and police have been pitted against one another in a battle that's altered laws and protests today.

Earlier tonight, a police spokesperson announced at 7.30pm that a group of 700 people had been arrested after a window at the Danish Foreign Ministry was smashed and fireworks had been let off. News reports run this a their line tomorrow and police have successfully detracted from the fact that the day had otherwise been a success, for peaceful protest and the environment movement as a whole as 100000 took to the streets to show their support for the action on climate justice.

Arrests were made on Amagerbrogade (street name) soon after the largest environmental gathering in history, The Flood, organised by Friend's of the Earth, left its halfway point in Parliament Square in Copenhagen. Once the march past Torvegade bridge and enter the Christiania district of Copenhagen Police employed a controversial tactic known as kettling to sever a group of 700 from the back of the demonstration. A police spokesperson said that this was because a number of people in the crowd had masks on.

There was no violence at this stage and a police spokesperson admitted this group were unprovoked. Protestors report the mood being 'happy' and 'like a carnival' when a group of 50 police entered from the back of the group, forcing a number of protests to sit down whilst cornering another group and picking out the masked few. The police spokesperson reiterated that in Denmark it is illegal to cover your face during a protest under new laws past ahead of the COP15 and that police have the right to disrupt any form of protest.

After detaining the group of 700 for 5 hours public buses arrived to take them to a temporary compound facility on the outskirts of the city.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

::11 12 09::

Wu Tang Bring Da Ruckus

::11 12 09::

Music is the highest form of art…Hegel

In fact, it keeps proving itself to be the highest form of anything (although maybe not food, despite Shakespeare’s early efforts to tie the two together, if music be the food of love, play on).

Tomorrow will host the first major action to take place in Copenhagen during the COP15. Demonstrators have called the day Our Climate Not Your Business and will focus their direct action on highlighting the fact that corporations have no role to play in democracy. Expect action against typical victims of anti-capitalist attention such as McDonalds, C&A, Microsoft and Netto.

In praise of these activists they tend to practice what they preach and take pleasure in abstaining from these corporate demons. Their action thus is an effort to persuade others to adopt a similar way of life to the ones they lead. However, for all their effort, their performance becomes immediately fetishised by mass media and their lifestyles remain in the margins.
But how to get around this? Only music has the answer.

Similar to anti-capitalist rhetoric, music has its own range of lifestyles and cultures. It possesses a mainstream and has ‘alternative’ styles as well. However, where music differs from political activism is in the way it’s peripheral forms work as a virus, encircling the mainstream and infecting it from the outside in. In this sense, activism would do well to observe this phenomenon.

Musical subcultures in urban environments often emerge from neighbourhoods that require urgency from the art produced there. Examples of this include baile funk, kwaito, reggaeton and grime. Max Ingram has termed these Shanty House, ‘a new strain of post World Music. However, the purpose of this term is to avoid these strains of global urban music being considered an extension of World Music…a concept inextricably intertwined with concepts of the earthen and the rooted.’

However, political activism with environmental connections seems unable to disconnect itself from the same brush that brands World Music. For the mainstream it appears, as Ingram says, earthen and rooted and thus not as good as what they’ve got already.

So it needs a makeover. Shanty House represents the same DIY approach to culture production as many grassroots movements who will battle over the next week. And like Shanty House, their offering is better and more sustainable than what the money hungry makers of the mainstream offer. Thus, eco-political activism needs to model its approach on the stuff that has made Shanty House an appealing form to appropriate.

For starters activism could mimic the egalitarian nature of music. Welcome newcomers, seek to teach rather than preach and most of all learn the importance of being NOT SO earnest.

Whether you like it or not, subcultures in music are much more effective at changing the mainstream than any political action group. It needs to locate itself as the starting line for people before they ‘career’ into life, rather than the corner people go to when they fall out with life. This could be done promoting its benefits: free food, skill sharing, community. Having got people at the source, tributaries such as eco activism would run into a river that could then start to shape the geography around it.

::10 12 09::

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

::08 12 09::

There are a number of great things about this news story but I think the best is the empirical proof it provides that Australian's take wanking and thus being wankers to another level.

In other news, UK firms Easyjet and BP have been named worst ‘greenwashers’ by Consumer International in their annual Bad Companies Award. Hopenhagen gives other multinationals the chance jump on the COP15 bandwagon by adorning every flat surface in town with brand logos.

Greenwashing, the practice of companies who market themselves as environmentally friendly, has become a topic of hot discussion in Copenhagen. Rasmus Kjeldahl, Head of Consumers International and Director of the Danish Consumer Council, described greenwashing as businesses’ efforts to ride on the back of environmental concern and spin their products as environmentally friendly. ‘They mislead consumers.’

Easyjet is accused of greenwashing for using misleading information on its website that states it is more environmentally friendly to fly with them than drive a Toyota Prius. Another winner, BP, have attempted to garner an image of being environmentally friendly by committing to alternatives to fossil fuels. But, since launching an alternative fuels campaign in 2005, BP has cut their carbon reduction research budget from $1.5Bn in 2008 to $500m in 2009. However, Robert Wine, of BP said that they would still spend $8Bn before 2020.

Greenwashing masquerades as activism in central Copenhagen during the conference. Not surprisingly, ‘activist’, or rather advertist movement Hopenhagen is sponsored by Coke, Gap and BMW. It has a massive visual presence in the city. This is not surprising as it describes itself as a ‘movement generated by the International Advertising Association.’

Naomi Klein said, ‘The COP15 and the many surrounding events have become branding extravaganzas. There’s a huge globe in the city centre with a Siemens logo on and [Hopenhagen] is sponsored by Coke. That is a capitalization of hope.’ Coca-Cola is also accused of greenwashing by Comsumer International for promoting a range of plastic bottles earlier this year that are made partially from plants. Kjeldahl pointed out that this would only account for 15% of their output.

This Friday international corporations arrive in Copenhagen to take part in the Business Day at the Bella Centre. Greenwashing will fuel a day of direct action by activists who will demonstrate against the ‘illegal’ role played by corporations in democracy under the title Our Climate is Not Your Business.

Bad Company Awards 2009 – the ‘Winners’

Audi – for suggesting its diesel cars are clean and green.

BP – for talking up its renewable ambitions, but investing next to nothing.

EasyJet – for claiming its planes are greener than a hybrid car.

Microsoft – for marketing Windows 7 as green whilst encouraging consumers to
buy new PCs.

::08 12 09::

Broken camera means design notes will be generic. Here's nice Arne Jacobsen chair

Monday, 7 December 2009

::07 12 09::

Klimaforum09 Opening

‘Leave the oil in the soil, leave the coal in the hole and leave the tar sand in the land’ said Nnimmo Bassy, Friends of the Earth International chief in his message at the opening of the People’s Summit, Klimaforum in Copenhagen last night.

Naomi Klien said, ‘This is the last chance to save the world. Our role is to be the truth teller and the lie detectors. We’re here to recognise the difference between a deal and success.’

She reiterated that this is a coming of age conference for anti-corporate protestors who will demonstrate in Copenhagen in hope of a good deal but warned that ‘The Bella Centre is the biggest case of disaster capitalism yet. The deal we really need is not even on the table.’ In praise of suggestions coming from Bolivia she said a positive outcome would include deep emissions cuts, repayment of climate debt, and the adoption of green technologies.

‘This isn’t going to be an Acitivsts Versus COPs event,’ punning in the conference’s name COP15. ‘But rage has a place here. All along we’ve been betrayed, especially by Barack Obama who has blown so many once in a generation opportunities like having the banks in his hands. We have a right to be angry but intelligently.'

Obama took another hit when she spoke of how bored she was of the word hope after his campaign. Citing Hopenhagen, a major music concert where the Backstreet Boys were billed to play this evening before dropping out, as green washing, she termed the event a branding extravaganza. ‘The globe has a Siemens logo on the bottom and the whole event is sponsored by Coke. That is a capitalization of hope.’

Speeches this evening served to gather the thoughts of those whose attention might have wandered in the run up an event that has already seemed to last forever. Klein squeezed in an apology for flying to Copenhagen instead of swimming but reminded activists of why they had taken the long journey here, even if some took longer ones than others.

::06 12 09::

An Unlikely Activist
Ben Mansour Mimoun, 68, is a habitual activist. Having focussed his efforts on the promotion of multiculturalism throughout his life he’s also been distracted by anarcho-veganism and expelled from his homeland Morocco for his allegiance with insurrectionary socialism.

We met as a result of a recurring battle between food and bed that happens each time I pass through a city alone. As usual, food had walked off with the prize of the few Euros that I had to spend on one or the other. The Belgium chips and waffles went down well but left the victor with a few hours until dawn as everything else began to close.

I walked up to the Arabic neighbourhood near Gare du Midi where it was probable that the Moroccan takeaways there had the stamina to stay open until I could enter the station at 5am. Typical of any late night cafĂ© near a station I was offered some weed, however, determined to get some use out of the backgammon I’d foolishly packed I returned the gesture by suggesting we play instead.

He had other things to do. We spoke for a while and I went inside. The dealer got back to work and Ben struck up a conversation about racism in Britain. He’d been watching the footage of anti-Islamic demonstrations in Nottingham on Al-Jazeera, however, it offered an opportunity for me to find out about everything he’d done.
Worldly and knowledgeable, until it came to AIDS which he said you couldn’t catch if you were circumcised, he snuffed his snuff and we chatted about his time working for Ravage, No Paper and SOS Racism in Amsterdam. He cooked at the famous autonomous kitchen Autonomcentrum and is still active now, directing Mrax.

It was clear that his anarchist uniform of black Dickies and a hoodie had enjoyed a lifetime in rebellion. Whilst the scenester protestors might dress up like Bill Ayers (police photos below), here was the fashion inspiration for the more autonomous activists.

His saggy face looked like a basset hound as I caught him cadge a Lipton from the fridge and sneak it into his pocket. This freegan from three generations ago has probably used that look a lot. However, whether it was because he saw a similarly rebellious streak in me or because he was pleased to have beaten me twice at backgammon, my completmentary chick-pea stew and mint tea was well received.

It was nice to come across this diehard in the most unexpected of places.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

::05 12 09::

When Climate Camp announced they would pitch in Trafalger Square, I was in a record shop in Brussels. Yup, during the UK's largest ever climate demonstration I was buying 80s disco. Although my commitment to this cause seems questionable I did not choose to be here let alone miss an otherwise more important event.

However, having found myself in this situation it's probably worth drawing links between the point of this trip and the products of ADD. Not to mention distract me from thinking about all the other things I'd rather be doing (Benji B at Soul City London, Theo Parrish at Plastic People, Guilty Simpson in Copenhagen, waiting for paint to dry) - Brussels suspends life in a limbo where the strain is on your head rather than your lower back. The discovery of the shop in question came as a relief.

In 1980 Kano released their self-titled debut album, a gem of a record produced by band members Luciano Ninzatti, Stefano Pulga and Matteo Bonsanto. It took Italo Disco to the international stage and made nifty use of new technology like the vocoder. The tracklisting includes classics such as It's a War, Cosmic Voyager and I'm Ready. It was a good find.

I left the shop, went for a little coffee and carried on reading my press copy of Sonic Warfare by Steve Goodman (aka Kode9), out January. Chapter 5, Abusing the Military Entertainment Complex, talks about the appropriation of military technology for entertainment purposes. Goodman quotes media theorist Freidrich Kittler:

"Funkspeil, VHF tank radios, vocoders, Magnetophones...have released an abuse of army equipment that adapts ears and reaction speeds"

"Our discos are preparing our youth for a retaliatory strike"

With this in mind, Kittler's comments posit Kano as a good group to soundtrack some action. Ruckus to 'It's a War' with its use of 'army equipment' and the Danish authorities are bound to break. Or at least dance.

And whilst police are cleaning themselves up after the excitement experienced from the sweet grooves on this record, protestors will relish in the humor and harmony of this beautiful genre. Kano will be a welcome change to the asexuality and white cultures that stiffen (in a flacid way) most environmental demonstrations.

Alas, this hope might not fall on deaf ears but it'll probably be drowned out by Throbbing Gristle or Stockhausen. The closest they ever came to subversion of a human kind was at the ICA in 1976.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

::03 12 09::

Attend Copenhagen without being called a hypocrite (or a total twat/delude idiot/wasteman)

The data below describes the amount of CO2 emitted by people on a trip from London to Copenhagen.
As you can see, if you travel by bike your carbon footprint stays low. The train is the best form of transport if you don't have any legs. The car improves a bit if more people are traveling and if you plan to fly then why not take a giant shit on Al Gore's face while you're at it:

1 Passenger 2 Passengers 3 Passengers 4 Passengers
Route kgCO2 Route kgCO2 Route kgCO2 Route kgCO2
Bicycle 12 Bicycle 24 Bicycle 36 Bicycle 48
Train 39 Train 78 Train 117 Train 156
Plane 107 Car 169 Car 169 Car 169
Car 169 Plane 213 Plane 320 Plane 426

A few notes:

:: Car
Route consists of driving from London to Harwich and then taking the ferry to Esbjerg (Denmark) and then onward car journey to Copenhagen
:: Bicycle
Assumes the same route as the car but avoiding motorways and travelling as a foot passenger on the ferry
:: Train
Assumes Eurostar to Brussels, Thalys to Cologne, Deutsche Bahn train to Copenhagen
Includes train from London to Heathrow and train from Copenhagen airport to central Copenhagen
This considers CO2 emissions only and does not include the non-CO2 effects of aviation. To take into account the full impact of aviation these figures should be multiplied by 1.9. See Note 10 of Annex 6 for more information

Bigup the Energy Saving Trust for providing this information

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

::01 12 09::

Albert Ayler, "Music is the healing force of the universe"
Roska - Climate Change

::30 11 09::

A week today, the largest environmental gathering in history will begin. From December 7-18, 30000 people will flood Copenhagen to express their support for action on climate change. Expect bike blockades and a one-hour electricity blackout as part of the most imaginative acts of insurrection yet.

Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, took part in The Battle of Seattle at the World Trade Organisation conference in 1999. This time round she believes, "It’s really tricky for activists in terms of figuring out how you interact with a summit like this. There’s a different dynamic [from Seattle], because the fact is that the people in the streets overwhelmingly support the mission of the meeting in Copenhagen. And, so, they’re not saying "no" to the idea of a climate summit. In fact, they’re saying "yes."”

Klein will speak alongside George Monbiot and Vandana Shiva at the official ‘People’s Summit’, Klimaforum09. “Klimaforum’s aim is to provide an opportunity for the public to enter into discussion. We're going to be looking at radical solutions," said spokesman Richard Steed.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth International (FOE) have organized one of the major actions during the conference. The Flood, consisting of about 3,000 members of the public who will take to the streets dressed in blue and march towards the Bella Centre after joining up with the other marches that day. Collectively, they will signify that a good deal needs to be made for the developing world.

The Flood will be part of the Global Day of Action on December 12 when the city centre will become a carnival of parade. 'System Change, Not Climate Change' is the slogan for the less formal actions being organized by Climate Justice Action (CJA), the umbrella group for an international network that includes Climate Camp, Focus on the Global South, and the Indian Social Action Forum. The network of organisations marching that day plan to convene outside the Bella Centre to show the level of solidarity needed to meet the reduction rate. A massive video screen next to the entrance to the Bella Centre will display suggestions and messages to delegates and a 4-story globe, the Climate Rescue Centre, will also be in situ inviting delegates in for coffee and the chance to debate with the public.

Developed countries accept domestic emissions reduction obligations of at least 40% by 2020 compared to 1990 with no offsetting. African governments walked out of the talks at the last UNFCCC meeting in Barcelona because rich industrialised countries refused to commit to emission reduction targets. As well as coercing governments into committing to these targets demonstrations will also highlight that market-based ideas, like cap and trade schemes, emissions trading and carbon sinks might be simple opportunities for companies to profit from pollution. Protests will highlight that climate finance needs to be reliable and transparently managed and allocated for mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer for developing countries. Importantly, most protestors reject any World Bank involvement in international climate finance and demonstrated on December 11 by actions from a group Our Climate Not Your Business.

Other protests such as Resistance is Ripe and ongoing exhibitions by members of indigenous populations from Peru, the Philippines and the Arctic will meet the suggestion from developed governments who promote trade liberalisation, privatisation, forest carbon markets, agrofuels and carbon offsetting as methods to reduce carbon emissions. NGOs such as The Third World Network, Focus on the Global South and Jubilee South will participate in the official conference and lobby against the dangers of these proposals to local communities.

Meanwhile, many people will travel to Copenhagen for the arrival of the high delegates on December 16. Highlights include darkness at 7:00 pm the lights of the city will go dark for one hour - Earth Hour - sending a powerful message about the need for a commitment to a global climate deal that is strong enough to avert catastrophic climate change.

During that day, members of the public and CJA are arranging an action called Reclaim Power. They will attempt to enter the Bella Centre en masse and turn the debate into the People’s Assembly for Climate Justice. Although this sounds easy, UK protestor Isabel Jama, believes, “that we’ll definitely be met with violence from the police. CJA has a guideline that we’ll only use our bodies in the protest and we’re anticipating police tactics to be an obstacle to get around not to confront. However, this will be different to UK protests where police don’t use teargas and we’ll be working with legal and medical teams on the day. Danish kids are rowdy and the police use dispersal tactics there instead of kettling.”

Danish officials have taken a firm stance against activism in recent years and UK protestors are expecting to witness the type of resistance seen in the dismantling of Ungdomshuset (Youth House). Police emptied the community centre run by activists and musicians in the middle of Copenhagen in March 2007 and 436 people were arrested after police used teargas against the crowds. Another example of intolerance is the steady dismantlement of Christiania, an autonomous zone in the centre of Copenhagen where cannabis laws did not apply until 2008. Whilst the Danish government announced last week that they have turned warehouses and gyms outside the city into temporary prisons a new law has been hurried through parliament ahead of the summit and police are now entitled to arrest anyone who they suspect might breach the peace. Danish student Seb Ross says, “Protests have begun to combat these infringements of civil liberties, and whilst there’s an ideological perspective to their action their point is informed by the environmental agenda that requires a constructive outcome.”

Nonetheless, protestors believe this draconian approach simply requires imaginative thinking. The Laboratory of Insurrectory Imagination (Lab of ii), a Bristol based art collective, have joined up with Climate Camp to design a bike block to aid Reclaim Power. Isa from Lab of ii said, “We’re utilizing all the benefits of bicycles to make the day a success, for example their swarmability. By combining the creativity of the art world with the courage of the activist community our prototypes include chariots and multi-story bikes, where one bike is welded on top of another making it really tall. These will give protestors advantages over the police.”

Such images of engineering are reminders of the post-apocalyptic scenes in the cult film Mad Max and appropriately so for an event that aims to halt the world’s decent into such a scenario.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Steeped in 3500 years of history, the home of culture and the once capital of the Greek Empire, Athens is currently regarded by visitors as a grim city. Un-phased by its status amongst tourist crowds I set out to find life in this place, behind the ill-designed modern apartment blocks and busy streets that provide the ingredients for many tourists’ superficial conclusions. However, I discovered that reputation and reality are distinct for another group of visitors to Athens, whose only antidote to the truth that jobs are guarded tightly for locals, becomes heroin.

I had 24 hours here, financially and transportationally disabled; I was unable to get money from the bank and the bike that I’d used to ride from London to Greece was now hobbling like an old mule after it had provided an ill-advised backy to Clio. My ferry from Poros, a monkey-nut shaped island east off the Pelaponese, arrived at 2pm. The sail was pleasant and I shared the deck with the aunt and uncle of the girl who was the cause of my detour to Greece in the first place. In fact, it was nice to speak with them on a relaxed level, as our last encounter had been at dinner the night before, an event daggered with awkwardness due to Clio’s mother’s distain for my presence and potential corruption of her daughter. The experience was so far beyond comfortable that I had begun to wonder if Clio was a modern mermaid, of the stuff of Homer, whose sirens had led me to an unavoidable death by maternal stare!

The late August sun hid behind the downtown high-rises as I passed a soup kitchen in Athens’ Omonoia district. Known to tourists for its abundance of cheap hotels this area is also infamous to locals for its association with drugs and crime. I was only in town for 24 hours and had been drawn here for the latter of these two reasons to visit; not to engage in drugs or crime but to peer into the cracks of a society that’s keen to paste over such problems, with the aim to find what truth lies behind the city’s touristic veneer.

The scene was of a leafy square, with many benches and fountains. Lots of people were eating as well as queuing to receive meals that were being handed out by volunteers with masks over their mouths. Attending lunch at the kitchen was a varied range of people, young and old, male and female, high and sober. The only similarity between them was that nobody was Greek. Why? After all, no proof of deprivation was required and the food seemed to be good, if a little like an aeroplane meal.

I approached a young man, curly haired and observational, sat with one leg over the other as he stroked his chin. Mohammed was from Tunis. We spoke in French and although this was his mother tongue Greek was easier now as he’d keenly practiced since arriving two years previous. “Mon soeur”, he said, “eat”. As he offered me his food I found it funny to hear him address me as brother, as many N.African people do, just usually in English whilst you’re being sold something. He couldn’t eat the carbonara meal, as A. it had pork in it, B. it was the 3rd day of Ramadan. He’d picked it up to give to someone else and thought I was as suitable a candidate as any. I wasn’t but accepted, not wanting to seem rude.

Mohammed was sitting with friends, also from Tunis and he exchanged greetings with other passers-by. People here were regulars, he told me, and as we spoke more I learnt that there were common stories that could be told by many people eating; of travelling to Greece on a Zodiac, of entering Europe possessing little more than the rumour that there was work, and of their burdening and unwanted relationship with heroin – seemingly the only thing to welcome immigrants once they arrive.

Lunch ended promptly at 5, everyone was ushered out of the park as the clean up began. Mohammed and I continued to talk outside and we were joined by one of his friends, a man who had spent most of the mealtime slumped over his dish. Even now he was high but the relocation had jolted him into life. None of us had anywhere specific to be and an onlooker might have accused us of loitering. “Why are you here?” was the first question Mohammed’s friend asked.

“I don’t really know”, I responded, “a girl invited me and so I came.

“Do you work?” was his second enquiry.

“I don’t have a job.”

“But there’s a lot of work there, or, why don’t you get a job here? You have papers, in fact, you can go anywhere.”

This was true, and a familiar point made by many people I met on my route to Athens, by bike from London. As a British person you can travel anywhere and the accusation made by countless people from Albania and North Africa, that we don’t value our freedom enough, is true also. Yet, it wasn’t the ability to explore but the opportunity of work that fuelled his envy. He shared with me his experience of racism and his belief that his Tunisian and Muslim roots made finding work even harder. Mohammed backed up this talk although his attitude was less resigned than his friend’s. He’d in fact secured an infrequent shift cleaning in a hotel. A perk of the job was a cupboard where he was allowed to keep one or two belongings. He suggested I leave my bag there, lock up my bike and that he show me around.

Our route to Omonoia Square took us past many people doing ‘business’. Mohammed knew these dealers and they all introduced themselves to me. “What can I get you, Mohammed, draw or a tourist?!” one wittily asked. The area was clearly teeming with drugs, to the extent that there seemed to be no escape from the inevitability of buying some. I picked up some weed then bought some juice. After sitting for a while and watching skateboarders, Mohammed and I went to a nearby spot where I could skin up in peace. By now it was dark but the alleyway he’d chosen was lit by a single street lamp. I spotted two women already there, although their practice was obscured to me at first by their position. The younger of the two had her head cocked towards the sky with her shirt splayed whilst the other pierced her chest with a needle and injected the substance. The mixture became red as the syringe retracted and the instrument left her body.

The scene was slightly surreal and I sat on the edge of a plant pot nearby and began to role my joint. By now Mohammed was causing a commotion with the two who clearly weren’t ready to hand over the needle. He sat next to me and began cooking up the brown. I asked him how he was and he said it’d been two days. “Do you think I’m a bad guy?” He asked. I honestly didn’t; in fact, it was strange that seeing him prepare this stuff didn’t make me think anything different about him at all. There was something honest in his habit, as if he was filling the only role that’s laid out to people in his position. “Did you do this in Tunis?” I asked, knowing full well the answer. Of course not, it’s cheap and easy to get hold of here and you don’t need a map to figure out the only direction for many people who had come here from Africa.

Oddly, this alleyway wasn’t very secluded and occasional people wandered through, casting glances and then faces tired of the regularity of the occasion. Syringe wrappers and little UHT milk containers littered the ground. I watched on, whilst the three got on with the job. Then Mohammed sat back down and we joked and continued to share the juice. AIDS crossed my mind but he poured without the carton touching his lips. He reiterated that I shouldn’t be scared anywhere in Athens, that we were friends because we’d shared food together earlier and that he wished he could work to get to Patras, a westerly town in the North Pelaponis.

Mohammed took it upon himself to show me the rest of the city and we made our way to the Acropolis. He bought some Kouleraki, the ubiquitous Greek biscuit, and we shared the bag whilst strolling back through Syntagma Square and up the mountain. He was sensitive to the beautiful view of white lights and we shared the lookout point with others similarly keen to hangout there. The food and the walk called for another joint that we shared. We both agreed that eating and smoking were better social events than drinking, a habit we both abstained from.

Our descent was precarious, down the slippery and uneven marble in the dark and we stopped to take a photo of each other in front of the ancient structure halfway down before making our way back to the neighbourhood had become to feel familiar. Leading off from Omonoia Sq was a precinct. About 20 meters wide at the entrance, lit well and easily accessible from the metro station outside. In fact, we’d walked through here earlier that day but it wasn’t instantly recognisable with the shop shutters down. There was a slight dog-leg halfway down and the extent of how well lit this place was meant that the groups of people milling around, sitting and sleeping weren’t intimidating. However, each person was here for the same reason: to score drugs and do them once they’d picked an available spot in the tunnel.

Mohammed looked at me, “my friend, don’t worry”. I was very stoned and I became struck with a sense of panic, what the fuck was this place? 3 blocks from the central square in a major European city and only a few meters in I’d already passed 15 people shooting up. Mohammed reassured the people he knew there that I was with him and the small group who were queuing to pick up soon lost interest in me. There’s only one thing people come here for and the manor in which each addict was conducting himself or herself, showed it to be a course of conduct, learned only through experience. The scene was shocking, I’d witnessed nothing like this in my life before despite being exposed to heroin addiction via friends. For all I cared it could have been pickled eggs that these people were taking as it wasn’t the heroin that made me shudder, more the desperation, degradation and dependency. The processes were regiment but what differed between each taker was where he or she would inject. Into thighs, faces, necks, forearms, legs. Each would inject and then slump into the ground. I watched Mohammed squirt the blood from his syringe onto the floor and return it to his pocket. I gave some water to his ‘friend’, the guy who’d injected for him, and lent against the wall. Occasionally a foreigner to this scene would wander in but turn back as soon as they read the situation. This wasn’t surprising given the central location, a fact that became more baffling each time I thought about it. There was an official clean-up attempt before the Olympics, of drugs and dogs, however, the prevalence of each today seems to suggest that it was a superficial endeavour and the government had neglected to deal with the root of the problem. As if dealing with it would recognise it. Heroin is any issue everywhere but surely if it’s taken in the faces of councillors then it’s an unavoidable topic that needs sorting out. The visibility of this behaviour only compounds the Greek attitude to immigrants’ worth and the cycle continues. Racism goes on everywhere here, from the street vendor outside whose mean rudeness to Mohammed almost caused me to throw the doughnut I’d bought in his face, to the derogatory reference Mohammed made towards a Chinese man we bought juice from.

We slept on a roundabout until I’d decided enough insects had crawled up my shorts. Mohammed couldn’t sleep either. He suggested we find some friends of his elsewhere but I told him I was going to ride my bike out of the city and pitch my tent.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Vito Acconci and the case of Storefront

Not long ago I shared a small idea with Vito Acconci. Our chat hadn't
interrupted him whilst he was in mid-masturbatory simulation but went
on after a talk held at London's Tate Modern on the collaboration of
Art & Architecture.

The topic of the talk was Storefront for Art and Architecture and Acconci’s design process. In the description he located a problem with his design, that when it's raining you cannot open the rotating walls, thus, rendering this main feature useless for half of the year. During the Q&A afterwards, an audience member offered this question: "What would be your ideal exhibition within the gallery?" Flummoxed somewhat, the question was general but might have caught Acconci off guard having previously been asked a series of even more boring enquiries regarding his choice of materials. He couldn't say. It was
funny in fact, he literally couldn’t come up with anything.

Perhaps because it’s actually a bit crap as a gallery, or at least the curators miss its potential. Either way, baring these two things in mind, following the talk I posed to him this: Imagine Storefront became bankrupt. Instead of selling the premises you could donate the gallery to the city. The gallery would move out and the walls would be
left open allowing the people of New York to occupy the empty space as and when they pleased. The function of the space would suddenly become boundless; providing shelter during bad weather, providing a meeting point for fellow New Yorkers, or simply acting as a detour to the straight lines of the city streets. Thus, the effect of this would overcome his current qualm with the design and answer the question asked of him originally.

He liked this idea and we shared a joke about how we could sabotage the gallery to implement the plan!

However, in the likelihood that our shared scheme would remain a dream, the event got me thinking about imagined spaces, or even imagined art pieces. Similar to the construction in Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual, the possibilities to document fictitious art and its implications are endless. Cheap too.

Since the beginning of the recession an increasing number of spaces have opened up in London. I don’t mean gallery spaces but literally holes where buildings used to be. In some cases entire blocks were knocked down with the idea that new buildings would replace them. However, when the crash happened developers couldn’t commit the cash and as a result the sites remained empty.

I always imagine these spaces as blank canvases for architects, an exciting exercise for them to imagine structures where the perimeters are set, budget is no boundary and all you have to do is fill it. However, an many houses have also become vacant over the past year or so, boarded up with wood or sytex, thus available for let to the imagination of whoever might want to enact a life in there. An infamous example is the Heygate estate in Elephant and Castle.

Then I found this, nestled in a gap along a Georgian terrace in central London. A shanty-esque shop front with village hall hallmarks it has the piecemeal architecture of something far more imaginative. The blank notice board and careful colour scheme allude to a purpose that’s been lost and present possibilities for newcomers to imagine their own use of the space. It’s a doll’s house, so unique that lives and loves from beyond reality can unfold from the minds of whoever will paint their dreams onto it.

Above, wedged between brick walls either side the wooden upstairs seems to have been stuck on, taking Gordon Matta-Clark’s collages as inspiration maybe. Arguably Clark’s work was also only imaginary. He structurally transformed his buildings but mutated their appearance further in the representation of each action. His images are beautiful and placing aside the problems of documenting conceptualism they act as interesting admissions that ideas can be investigated further in imaginary format than reality allows.

And perhaps this is why a conceptual stalwart like Acconci struggled to put his finger on some-‘thing’ to fill Storefront with. He was reiterating the fact that there’s a perennial problem with production. That the product will always be bound by various laws of physics, not to mention immediately commoditized.

So the question is, how to exit this creative cell? Can someone be an artist without producing anything? Or due to this will visual art always remain be a lesser form of creativity than music, which thanks to technology can go beyond the sonic capabilities of reality?