AAAAR IN THE CONTEXT OF ANTI RACIST STRUGGLE
Part 1. (2012)
Most of the migrants who are living in the European space are over exploited, living in a constantly precarious situation regarding social and political rights. They endure mechanisms of structural exclusion and a strong class and race discrimination. In this racist regime occurs a division of ideologies that skews its own internal logic. On one hand it claims its foundations to be based on the most basic of “human rights”, yet on the other hand laboriously works on the criminalization of the practical application of those same rights. In this logic no person can be illegal yet people are placed in this situation of forceful illegality. Thus non-citizens are produced in that they do not have rights to work, to move freely in between borders, and can be imprisoned without committing a crime, therefore being pushed constantly towards illegality on exploitative levels or on a very limited income ranges. They do not have the possibility for a free education, and not even a right to register a demonstration for protesting against such a situation.
“The migrant” is therefore also me. It is not someone who is outside of you and me, or an unknown object of analysis. It is a collective identity, that instead of excluding, includes all of us and is an active political subject that is fighting more than ever for our rights. We are right now in the centre of these struggles.
Racism is often defined as an ideology. This is not enough when considering its complex facets in the worldwide context and society. Racism is material in its effects and in the format of its constant reproduction through structural processes of dependence and exploitation. It reproduces itself daily and perpetually.
Paradoxically racism becomes completely concealed and is altogether denied. People are willing to speak of discrimination but often decline to the idea of talking about racist laws or a racist State completely overseeing the connection between the two and therefore the urgent need for us to talk and denounce —RACISM.
The basis of inequality and discrimination is written down in every law of a neoliberal capitalist Nation-State. The citizen and the non-citizen have fundamentally different rights as political beings and bodies. Political life is constituted by inclusion and exclusion as much as the Nation State is constituted by generating a collective identity which is an imagined one, lets say a phantasmatic one. The core of these identities is the demarcation of “the other” which has different constitutions and ceremonies of its identity. The ideology of the Nation-State and its citizen identity ends up in the exclusion of these other identities from the political life of all those identified as other identities..
Only human action as a political act is able to cut the relationship between violence and law.
This differentiation does not come to account when speaking of minorities within the State who are otherwise native citizens discriminated on account of their ethnic background. A case in point in the Austrian territory is the situation of the Austrian Slovenes and the Jewish community. Furthermore already from the very beginning of the foundation of citizenship and the Nation-State (traceable to a Roman law) it enables the State to impose violence onto everyone.
Contemporary racism has to be understood also in the connection to colonialism. Exactly the people who were subjected, exploited and abused by the colonizers, are now still being discriminated by law, to this is to add the scenario of global politics that fuels and lives from unequal trade contracts between exploiter and exploited Nation-States.
To those coming from the exploited Nation-States to the centre of capital accumulation, which was generated by the exploitation of their lives, all rights that are proudly called by the capital centers of the West “Human Rights”, are denied. This is precisely because "Human Rights" have a racist origin. One of the most important philosophers for the constitution of the human rights was Immanuel Kant, who developed in his book "Definition of a human race" a "race theory" starting from organizing the different "races" along the skin color and hierarchizing them.
Art cannot stand outside of our daily life, which is created by political conditions. Art, theory, science, politics should be all used to transform the contemporary reality into a good life for all, the original purpose of "politics".
The concept, ideology, structure and processes of racism are also fundamental for capitalism – as if there are human beings produced as worth-less – they can be also used to produce profit under brutal conditions. Post-fordist neoliberal capitalism bears its origins in the original surplus of value that fed the colonial enterprise through slavery and exploitation of the now so called third countries, which in turn would go to support the development of the western capital centres.
In this scenario, to avoid that the exploited and discriminated ones raise their voices against this injustice they are transformed into bare life by denying them the political subjectivity and excluding them from political life and decision making, transforming them into “non-citizens”, or a minority within the Nation-State.
“It seems that sovereignty of capital does not even need a political body; it just needs a body. Thus bare life is not only produced by the sovereign, but the sovereign produces the relationship between two forms of life, in which one (bios) wants to stay included, while the other (bare life) struggles to be included. This obscene relationship marks the situation in which politics are being slowly killed by capitalism, where the tortured body of politics is not hidden, but presented as culture.”*
Still there are possibilities for those in the margins of the political social life, as those with economic, and educational privileges are accepted. The logic seems to be the following: a person who can generate profit for capital can be included. The rest who only hold on their behalf a bare existence on which the Nation-State cannot profit remain outside by all violent means.
In order to enable such a process of racist legislation, the self named first world capital centers are keeping up an image of danger, which is emanating from "non-citizens”. In the name of the security of the Nation-citizen, the state of exception permanently excludes, discriminates and exploits the “non – citizen”. In this way the legislative logic is leading itself to an absurd point where something that cannot have a legal form has a legal form. This concerns everyone, but accumulates when it comes to the non-citizen or minorities within the Nation-State. Their being alive is already a crime. Much more so when they exceed the limits of the territorial segregation imposed on them.
Instead of leaving a space between law and life, the space where human action is possible, the space that used to constitute politics; politics has contaminated itself with law to serve the state of exception. Only human action is able to cut the relationship between violence and law, though it is becoming increasingly difficult within the state of exception for humanity to act against the State.
THE A(U)CTION AS A WAY TO UNVEIL THE ABSURDITY
Considering that our point of enunciation is the academy of fine arts, this apparatus of repression is also an inheritance from the modern euro centered epistemology meaning that actions that search the disruption of said continuities must also address a de-colonising stance of the institution and its practices.
Art cannot stand outside of our daily life, which is created by political conditions. Art, theory, science, politics should be all used to transform the contemporary reality into a good life for all, the original purpose of “politics”. It is important to use every possibility to intervene denouncing colonial, racist, sexist discourses.
In this context we should not forget that artistic practices occur in a very elite sphere, in which not everyone can enter, survive, or even imagine of acting there. Access to education are today as in the past determined by family background and privileged social and economic status of the person. The Artists Activists A(u)ction Against Racism wants to fight as well against this exclusive character of the art field.
It is necessary to denounce the exclusionary mechanisms of neoliberal capitalism with its “foreign laws” and its bureaucratic machines and segregating legislations. With this intervention we cannot change the system, but can initiate a process against the capitalist neoliberal destruction of life and people.
AAAAR knows very well these are very idealistic aims, – BUT why should we demand if not the furthest our imagination can go to react against the reality we are confronted with?
Art itself is not worth anything if it cannot go beyond naive abstractness and ask for a political intervention and social change!
STRATEGIES OF ACTION
Part 2. (2013)
RACISM IN EUROPE
Most of the migrants who are living in the European space are over exploited, living in a constantly precarious situation regarding social and political rights. They endure mechanisms of structural exclusion and a strong class and race discrimination. In this racist regime occurs a division of ideologies that skews its own internal logic. On one hand it claims its foundations to be based on the most basic of “human rights”, yet on the other hand laboriously works on the criminalization of the practical application of those same rights. In this logic no person can be illegal yet people are placed in this situation of forceful illegality. Thus non-citizens are produced in that they do not have rights to move freely in between borders, to work, possibility for a free education, and can be imprisoned without committing a crime, therefore being pushed constantly towards illegality on exploitative levels or on a very limited income ranges.
THE ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS
Universities and the academy of fine arts is one of the places of society where these racist structures are being implemented. Now the government is (re)introducing a law that forces Non- European students to pay the double amount of the student fees that European students have to pay. There has been no official comment yet how the head of the university will deal with this new racist law, although the demands are clear:
For example in January 2010 the group the darker side of the academy, a self organized group within the academy consisting of people that are constantly affected by these laws wrote a letter to the former head of the university, demanding to abolish the student fees for people without European passport and also demanding legal advice and support for them, supply of all the necessary information in all languages they need in order to live and study properly.
There are many examples within the academy of groups and people who tried to change the situation, but unfortunately besides the website of the Academy finally being translated in its entirety into English, and the revision of the German courses offer, there was not much of a change happening. This stands in contradiction to the profile of the academy, which is presented as a place where it's production is localized in a global world that needs to be reflected upon within the studies like quoted on the Website of the Academy "The research activity of the art academy aims at redefining artistic production processes in a changed, globalized society.“
Furthermore claiming also on the Website the importance of being an international university, “The strength of the Academy lies in its internationally renowned teaching body and in its international student body, which is made up of members from 50 different countries.”
But the discrimination of non-European people and, in this case, students happen on many levels outside and within the academy.
Already to get to Austria with a student visa is a long, complicated and very expensive procedure that demands students to have an amount of up to 15.000 Euros on their private bank account. Even once they are inside the university they still face more discrimination. For example it is impossible to access most of the scholarships that are being offered only to European students.
Concerning the language, students that apply for the architecture department at this academy need to demonstrate that they know German on the level of B2, which in equivalent to the level of the so called Abitur/Matura. This degree of Abitur/Matura is not asked from students with European passports. But also outside of the university they face several problems as for example getting a job, even if they have a student visa.
HISTORY OF RESISTANCE IN THE ACADEMY
AAAAR is an initiative (taken by a group of migrants, artists, activists, students, workers) that can be understood as part of a history of several autonomous groups working within the academy with the aim to reflect and discuss critically on the topics of migration, racism and discrimination. This includes groups like The Darker Side of the Academy, the Working Group Migration, the Working Group Anti-discrimination, the department of anti racist political practices of the student union, among others that originated in the context of the education protests in 2009.
The situation of students has not changed. The racist structure of the university has not changed. There is still no proper legal advice for students, no help from official side of academy to handle and get information and support related to the visa procedure. On the side of the law, a new law has been implemented just now (Feb 2013), forcing non-European students to pay the double amount of student fees. How will the institution deal with this is still an open question.
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS AGAIN?
The action of 2012 understood the auction as a tool for the destruction of structural discriminations and made its focus the necessity to fight Austrian racist laws and administrative regulations against those coming to study from countries outside of the European union.
We approach this auction as a necessary means of support but we don’t subscribe to the idea of charity, which has both a religious connotation and most worrying, a depoliticizing effect. Paraphrasing Eduardo Galeano, we don't believe in charity. Charity is vertical, for it goes from the top to the bottom and is as well paternalistic. We believe in solidarity because it is horizontal and respects the other person.
The auction of 2012 meant hours and hours of work, for four months,
non-stop. It meant getting called at all times, everyday. It meant picking up works and looking for places were to store them.
It is important to ask to whom goes this symbolical political prestige? When we don’t have enough money, for transport, for materials, how is it possible do this out of nothing?
The decision to engage again on the organization of this action is yet again linked with necessity and urgency. The denouncement of our situation did not lead to any changes in the structures, or to any response that would see to approach this issue from an institutional point of action. The academy of fine arts approached us this year to organize the AAAAR auction during the Rundgang, for which they offered logistics support. Seeing that this problems continue to affect us and having in mind that the future applicants will have to go through the same process we decided to once again work on this auction. Despite all the doubts and crtitics we have ourselves to this auction.
Last year we entered the organizational process of the Artist Activist A(u)ction Against Racism not knowing much about how the working process will look like. Not knowing the massive amount of work it would require. This year therefore it was important for us to reflect on the precarity of the working conditions we had to endure and we thought about the prestige, which this unpaid precarious work we are doing, is giving to the academy.
The work is not financed. Students are expected to work for free to organize the A(u)ction.
So that Persons from outside the European Union territory “are able to ask for money” to finance their visa procedure.
CRITIQUE OF INSTITUTIONALIZATION
How it is possible to agitate within the context of institutions without acting reformist? We want a radical change of our living conditions, not reforms within this completely alienated and discriminatory ways of living.
Institutions like the Academy of fine arts should be a catalyst in radical change, which means to take actively part in such changes rather then trying to place themselves in the current system in a critical but still very comfortable way.The art system allows for such conditions, it feeds itself on precariousness, and in this way it works in synchrony with the capitalist neoliberal system.
We don’t have any migrant position teaching in the academy and this speaks of who is here in power to teach. Emancipatory thought renounce instituting any centre or centrality.
FROM MAKE LIVE AND LET DIE, TO LET LIVE AND MAKE DIE
For Achille Mbembe, Foucault’s concept of biopower – as an assemblage of disciplinary power and biopolitics – is no longer sufficient to explain the contemporary forms of subjugation. Mbembe adds the concept of necropower, which goes beyond “inscribing bodies within disciplinary apparatuses”. In the era of necropower, “Technologies of destruction have become more tactile, more anatomical and sensorial, in a context in which the choice is between life and death”. As such, the era of necropower is characterized by the deployment of weapons “in the interest of maximum destruction of persons and the creating of death-worlds, new and unique forms of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status of living dead”.
“This contemporary forms of subjugation of life to the power of death (necropolitics) profoundly reconfigure the relations among resistance, sacrifice, and terror".
Necropolitics thus refers to the relationship between sovereignty and power which lies in the power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die. The implementation of neoliberal necrocapitalist policies demands substantial State intervention – which is made to the benefit of economic elites and with no plan for advancing policies of wealth redistribution. Any protest against this situation is criminalized by the government, which then gives itself the license to violently repress people through police and military forces. This “contemporary forms of subjugation of life to the power of death (necropolitics) profoundly reconfigure the relations among resistance, sacrifice, and terror".
BORDERS AND DETENTION CENTERS
Exclusionary measures have persisted and have been widely developed in the context of European construction. Border spaces map out the existence of another Europe. The detention of candidates for exile is no longer an exception but has become the rule in regulating massive flows, a rule that is included in the jurisdiction of the European Union, especially that which concerns refugees.
The development of the Schengen area, the construction of the European Union and the evolution of migration and asylum policies have led to the emergence of a large number of places assigned for the detention of foreigners from third countries.
Most European countries are adopting mechanisms to dispose away of foreigners without valid papers. A large part of these traps at the borders of the European Union, due to their location, are they not the premise of the outsourcing of asylum that is emerging in various European projects?
“Detention is becoming one of the tools for the management of migration flows. It constrains foreigners to live in a disciplined zone given time, where memories remain etched in the memory of those who have passed through these places.”
The thousands of foreigners who are interned in camps in Europe are increasingly regarded, in the context of the fight against illegal immigration as "economic refugees". Since the late nineties with the policy of readmission agreements, the policy of Schengen visas allocation, the biometric personal data collection, the patrols in the Mediterranean Sea ... The work of the European Union immigration somehow announced the introduction of the idea of the British government: to create centers for asylum seekers at the external borders of the Union.
Detention is becoming one of the tools for the management of migration flows. It constrains foreigners to live in a disciplined zone given time, where memories remain etched in the memory of those who have passed through these places. These situations subjugate more asylum policy to migration policy.
“We have to speak of racism. Race has been the ever present shadow in Western political thought and practice, especially when it comes to imagining the inhumanity of, or rule over, foreign peoples”
The detention center, originally presented as a temporary measure, has become an almost permanent institution. The government has regularly painted the creation of such enclosed spaces as a necessity: the state as guarantor of the common good and public order, invokes an obligation to isolate newcomers to effectively monitor and review their administrative status.
But these successive orientations stem from a common political will to dispose of. Indeed hosts forced camps seem dangerous in different ways: racial and cultural characters which cause the disintegration of the state, undocumented migrants and asylum seekers are often regarded as economic migrants who disguise themselves in refugees, potential competitors for the national workforce, potential offenders because of their illegal status.
We have to speak of racism. Race has been the ever present shadow in Western political thought and practice, especially when it comes to imagining the inhumanity of, or rule over, foreign peoples.
The project is carried out to be continuously open for intervention, to be taken as a platform for interpretation and a motivation to act further in that it demands the active engagement of those affected and those with a privilege position. It is an invitation for radical gestures, to develop strategies of resistance.
* Every line of written text is a mere reflection of references from a multitude of traditions. Forward and reuse the entirety of this text at will.
KEIN MENSCH IST ILLEGAL!