Cracking the Movement - Squatting beyond the media - CONTENTS

Special Movement Teachings

The movement of 1980 appeared at the historical moment when the
media had been introduced and accepted and were stepping into their
phase of total hegemony. Without being aware of it, this movement
flourished outside the reach of the media. For the construction of its
structures it did not need the media. Its appeal could, moreover,
not be expressed by any organ of the press. Literally everything which
is said and written about it misses the mark. The "injustices,
insinuations and pure lies" that have been spread about the
squatters' movement over the years were intended to summon it to
pronounce a truth about itself. That it ultimately complied, however,
actually proves nothing. Once something extra-medial is exposed to the
media, it begins to become something else.

Characteristic of the post-World War II free west is the
disappearance of the crowd, which lives in the street and can
suddenly form itself into an entity that can actively perform. From
the beginnings of the modern city, crowds of people had hung around
in streets everywhere. They were alternately stirred up or kept in
check through the use of them as bearers of that which is socially
imaginary, whether in the form of revolutionary or as bit player. This
danger of the mass as fascist horde or communist proletariat is now
being banished by the democratic community through the universal
introduction of the media which were developed in the war: automobile
traffic and television. Since the 1950s the collective fantasy has been
weaned from the historic question within the city's ambiance and
focused on mass traffic on the freeways outside the city, where every
individual can live out his longings toward space. The crowds of
people in the street are being conditioned not to see themselves as a
group with the potential for independent action.

The pedestrians have become part of a stream of traffic which may
not stand still, must keep circulating. The individual moves
as a singular part in this stream. The other becomes a hindrance
instead of a potential ally: meetings no longer take place in the
street. The ideal of free circulation gets allotted a vector besides,
in the form of automobility. Regulated traffic gives the stream
a direction. This offers the individual traffic participant the
security of being part of a collective project: the conquering of
space, freedom of movement without obstacle. When one has taken one's
place in the cabin, the other users of the road lose their reality
as people who are capable of anything. They are absorbed into the only
remaining reality, that of traffic as continuous movement. In both
cases, on foot and in the vehicle, the crowd no longer perceives
itself as a crowd, but as a medium for transport from a to b. 

The free flow of information on television transforms reality one step
further. With the introduction of the picture tube the vanished real
crowd of street- and highway-users is replaced by the imaginary crowd
of the fellow viewers. In order to function the television must
evoke an imaginary reality on two levels. On the one hand, it asks
the viewers to suppose a reality behind the screen; on the other, one
is required to see oneself as part of an audience that is tuned in
in every living room. In the imaginary crowd the other is thought up,
while with the real crowd the other is swept along.

When the movement of '68 rediscovered the crowd as a potential
revolutionary subject, it asssumed that this crowd still existed. It
had to establish that, insofar as formation of a crowd can still be
spoken of, it appears only in the forms of "merge" signs and viewer
ratings. This imaginary crowd was designated a consumer society,
against which it subsequently went to battle with
consciousness-altering substances, from mentality©affectors to
terrorist bombings. In addition it turned on the TV for a phenomenon
that dated from the age of the newspaper: the action, performed with
an eye to the press hounds, which must turn into a media event.

Yet in the 60s the real crowd also came to the surface of history a
few times. There are moments at which a crowd, whether of laborers or
chance passers-by, without premeditated council becomes overwhelmed by
a desire. This desire manifests itself by establishing that people are
waiting for something. When the sign is given, we know what for: the
event which is brought about by the crowd in order to get rid of its
desire at one time. This event can be prepared for or thought out, but
distinguishes itself, following an initiating action, by a chain
reaction which exceeds all original intentions. First the event is
induced, and it subsequently takes things over from the actors. The
usual tree diagram of cause and effect is then abruptly replaced by a
causality carousel of incidents and stories in which cause and effect
turn out to be interchangeable. The event thus acquires a fatal
character: it will happen this way, and not otherwise; it is one-time,
local, ecstatic. During the event a compression of time occurs; it
takes on an intensity whereby past and future fade into insignificance.
It appears as the intrusion of the present on the plodding advance of
history. It is an unexpected return of an earlier reality, which is
thus experienced as primeval reality. The wholesale chaos during a
street riot is experienced by the crowd as an elementary reality,
which, independent of the progression of the civilization process or
the state of the technological culture, proves indestructibly current.

During such an event, the meeting takes place between the strangers
who populate the city. The crowd, which as a stream of traffic had
become invisible to itself, recognizes itself anew and reacts as
such: it rediscovers its reality in a concrete form. The individuals
who, according to Canetti, overcome their fear of touch in the crowd,
meet each other as bodies and embrace that experience at once. And
this while in the daily order the other was merely an image, a
collection of advertising messages regarding lifestyle, status,
sexuality, subculture. The accumulation of characteristics everyone
makes of himself loses its disciplining impact on the spot. The meeting
is an event without closer acquaintance. People just bump
into each other and the energy released by this collision gives
direction to the further course of events. Others whose existence you
had never suspected declare themselves, unasked, in solidarity with
your actions, and add through their extreme normality one more scoop
on top of the oddity of the whole situation. However exceptional the
damage caused in the stories that make the rounds later, the
concrete incidents are shorter-lived than the ultimate surprise at
how in the world this could have happened. The chain reaction
has surpassed every initiating action. The amazement over this can be
hardened into a nostalgic attitude, which demands that the events of
the good old days, having become inconceivable, will not happen
again. But it can also be transformed into the radiance of the
promise that the adventure can be relived, that the same event can be
staged more times, from beginning to end, but by us ourselves.

The audio-visual media are traffic vehicles like any other. They,
like train, auto and plane, produce moving images of an outside
world with which we can make no direct contact. The users of the
road and the TV screen, closed up in a comfortable cabin or salon,
are plugged into the accelerated images with such force that it
presents itself to them as a unique, individual viewing experience.
Seated on the throne from which they can survey the world, their
image of the world is divided into fragments by the constantly
changing camera angle. It takes a thorough education to convince them
that there are more participants in this traffic who must be taken
into account. Reality only returns in the event of a catastrophe:
a collision, interference or a blackout. For the rest, everything is
imaginary, on the tube or through the windshield, not untrue or
unreal, but autonomous. In the TV image the real crowd has not
disappeared, but has been reduced to an audience which is shown as
scenery for the media spectacle, in order to enhance its
realistic effect. If that audience is left out, due to flood or fire,
then it will spontaneously show up a day after the event to
claim its right to exist in the capacity of tourists of disaster.

The media hunt for the event, which is experienced by a real crowd,
to bring it into a scenario on which the crowd itself has no
grip: the media event. The reality factor of the original event here
appears as the amusement factor of the spectacle, which has no other
purpose than to keep the viewers tuned in. The media event is
directed news, and can always take a different course than was
anticipated, independently of the cameras present. It can be
repeated infinitely, in slow motion if necessary. It is global,
can be received worldwide; it has no exclusive bond with the place
where it happened, does not know the local experience. There is no
chain reaction of incidents which branch out in all directions to
ultimately spin around. In the media event a flow of items
is set into motion, everything gradually rolls together into one single
image which will function as a symbol. Whereas the event(ITAL) acquires
an ecstatic character, the aura of the media(ITAL) event stays
limited to the broadcast itself. It does not compress time, but
strives for a permanent timeliness. Insofar as it leads to
anything, it leads to the subsequent media spectacles. What's
attractive is that it's fully without consequences for the viewers,
"risky but comfortable." It derives its impact not from the attack
of the present on the rest of time, but from its instantaneous
omnipresence, the guarantee that it's receivable worldwide and
really being watched. Without viewers there is no media event; the
imaginary crowd of the people at home lends the festive character to
what would otherwise have just been news. Without this mediumistic
extra the viewer immediately gets the feeling of being tuned to the
wrong channel.

The media create the space in which the imaginary crowd is called
into being. While everyone's individually busy with his own media
consumption, the media carry out the ideology of contact. They offer
information about the world as shown by them, without strings
concoction instead of connection. The media are not out to
communicate, but to alienate. They are in capable of making from the
most mundane incident a strange spectacle, by conjuring the
item's place into a location. But when the audience turns its back on
such a media event and starts waving at the camera, this is censored
with an instantaneous change of camera angle, because interaction with
the media disturbs the reality effect. The contact brought about by the
media is by definition media-tized, and thus never more than an
introduction, a flood of data. In the media we can get introduced to
everything and everyone, but meeting them is not included. The
meeting, after all, only feeds off the information exchange; it
takes place itself on another level, in the shadow of communication.
The meeting is data-free; that gives it its unthinkable quality. It is
collision, disturbance of the everyday existence, destruction of
nostalgia and promises; it happens, all at once, instantly. "This
meeting will not be televised."

The material passed on to the movement teachings concerns squatting in
the Netherlands during the last twelve years or so. Characteristic of
it was that it stubbornly tried to withdraw itself from the decade of
which it undesiredly and unavoidably was a part. The miracle of the
movement squatters was that they, on the threshold of the media era,
successfully indulged in an extra-medial reality and kept the memory of
it alive, in a time when that level of reality was supposed to have
long since disappeared.

Squatting was originally nothing more than breaking open a door.
Moving into living space without the required permits was considered
a fairly normal thing to do. It was done in connection with family
or neighbors and caused little stir because it had been happening
since the 1960s, and according to some even as early as 1945. No one
got excited, except the future residents of the house. No police or
mass-journalism stepped in. Everything usually quieted down again

When things changed in the late 1970s, in that people began to
squat without direct relations in or with the neighborhood, that too
remained hardly sensational. Though sometimes fifty buildings slated
for demolition were broken into in a few months and newly
refurbished for inhabitation, the press still couldn't get excited
about it. It had little interest in the squatters, and ditto the
other way around. Insofar as squatters in a neighborhood engaged in
publicity, it consisted of self-copied information and posters.
Squatting stood for nothing; it did not present itself as a social
protest begging for attention. It was not a resistance, fight or
reaction, but the beginning of something new: the insight that, apart
from the political belief in rules, concrete problems can
be solved practically. This shock released a true craving for
the event, under the motto "from the one comes the other."

Talking over the squat, its preparation and execution, the hookup of
the telephone for the alarm network, the collective home repair jobs,
keeping police or landlords out of the way - that was all part of such
an event: a slow, unsurveyable, gradually accelerating series of
meetings with people about whom you found out nothing else except that
they would show up in the event it was necessary. These unexpected
convergences released the energy with which the craving for the event
was transformed into actions. The meeting gave the assurance that you
could do almost anything: "Happy Go Lucky Squatting." When you'd let
things go fully to hell, you could always phone up for the protection
offered by the other from the shit you'd brought on yourself. The aura
you had collectively conjured up around yourselves produced the
triumphant feeling of being able to survive an event. This aura
consisted of the potential crowd of the fellow squatters, the sum total
of all those ready and willing, who appeared on certain exclusive
occasions as a real crowd at the door waiting for trouble.

In the riot the slow progression of the squatting event in a
neighborhood runs at an accelerated pace. The chain of incidents at
the beginning of the open-air play had to be brought about piece by
piece in order to keep things going, but when the chain reaction
gets underway, time is compressed to a series of fragments of
maximal intensity. This moment arose when the potential crowd of
squatters appeared in the street for a demonstration or a (re)squat
and there spontaneously turned into an open crowd to which every
bystander could find a connection. The riot also took the media
authorities by surprise; they could only come running in after the
fact, and this drove the rioters away. This riot is sovereign,
because it is not performed for the eye of the media, it strives
after no propagandist goals, is not aimed against bosses or the
state, but shrieks over the street for its own sake and ultimately
leaves its participants behind in the freedom of surprise and the
shiver of panic. Afterwards you watch the TV news and the papers are
studied for their the pretty pictures. The reports and commentaries
were not skipped over, but were written in a language which simply had
nothing to do with it. "Hardening," "alienation of progressive
people," "future of the constitutional state," "marginalization." No
debate got going with the well-meaning "leftist press," either, because
it continued to see the "squatters' revolt" through the lenses of
its own past. Thus the event, withdrawn from the eye by the cloud of
media, is recorded in pictures and stories that will do service for
years to come. This was how the original actions entered the imaginary

In the vacuum between event and picture-story the feeling of movement
arises. This shared perception balances on the border between an
extra-medial, untransferable experience and the realization that this
outrageous occurrence, too, will unavoidably be registered in the
journalistic expos∑«∑. It is the feeling that something is set into
motion, without being clear what that thing is and what direction it's
taking. It is uncertainty about the range of the experiences, about the
extent of the damage caused in the bourgeois consciousness. But a
painful apprehension goes along with it, that you have become a
movement, that the growth of the open crowd has been called to a halt,
its extent becoming measurable for police and opinion pollers. This
course of history was countered by planning the next demonstrations, by
creating the circumstances in which the chain reaction can get going
once more, through the readiness to be carried away by a chain of
events which will go in unforeseen directions. Coming events get
anti-medial characteristics this way. They will try as hard as they can
to withdraw from the film-eye, or won't be able to care less about it
at the moment supr∑š∑me. Cameras become associated with police spies and
evidence, and because of that are required to be cut from the action.

But the longing to see the real crowd grow again can also be a reason
to direct the focus towards the imaginary crowd. The latter was at
the time designated "the public opinion," which could not be
repelled with overly rough images. Otherwise "the sympathisers"
would stay home or even turn "against us." This attentiveness to
keeping hold of the approval of the real supposed population shifted
as it went to concern for the interest of the snapshot© and
gossipmongers themselves. They too had slowly but surely become old
acquaintances. At the same time the notion of a public opinion began to
become vague. The term coincided unnoticed with what until then had
been called "the press" and would ultimately become "the media" as
such. The media do not so much consist of a collection of press
contacts, but form rather the unconscious knowledge that the image- and
sound-carriers are only tuned in in the case that the events are
staged sufficiently media-genically. Through this the media become a
bloc, a notion in singular. The media is the realization that
everything is registered, but that only a few fragments will become

From out of the feeling of movement, one was in the first instance
suspicious about the swift introduction of the title "squatters'
movement" in the media, in analogy with workers, students, women and
the environment. There was a fear that you would be required to use
the term to give direction, scope and substance to your own
screwing around, while it had only just begun. In the beginning it was
obvious that this term suggesting one body was an imaginary
quantity, the senselessness of which was most sharply proven by the
allegation that you could join it. It was also clear that "the squat
movement" had to be a closed subculture, intended to scare others
away, and thus ultimately part of the press campaign for the
"criminalization of squatters." When you felt forced to speak
Newsspeak, you were inclined to pointedly avoid the word; you
preferred to sign as, for example, "the assembled Amsterdam squat
groups" which were aimed "At All Amsterdam People." People who spoke
"in the name of the squat movement" or about "the squatters'
movement" fell flat on their faces. Terms of this sort were only
used ironically.

But it is unavoidable that eventually a certain pattern is discovered
in one's own behaviors. They not only act on each other, but interfere
as well. Knowledge concerning police methods and the mentality of
news-gatherers plays as important a role in this as the neighborhood
experiences, riot experiences, knowledge of the outlay of the city and
organizational structures. Once this sort of pattern is discovered, a
frame of reference arises in which future "axions" are evaluated a
priori on their feasibility and the degree of hassle you bring down on
yourself with it. Slowly but surely your own activities are thus given
a goal, and the diffuse whole inside which you operate is given a
substance, which crystallizes into a code of behavior. In scarcely a
year's time the squatters had acquired a service record for which, if
no compression of time had taken place, in a manner of speaking should
have taken years of busting ass. All those elements counted together
gradually became, in the inside language too, equated with "the squat
movement." This is aimed at the conservation of the codes of behavior
and prevents them from someday disappearing. The squat movement comes
into being when squatters are no longer overcome by a desire for
events, but choose to "go on." That becomes the goal.

In the Netherlands of the 1980s, the picture the press has of its
own end products becomes an integral part of the information
offered. The theory of relativity finds general acceptance in the
media: reality changes through observation. The media no longer see
themselves as a mirror of reality or as the truth behind public
opinion. Press personalities, who with all their technical
prostheses put themselves on the screen ever more professionally,
use the media to make it clear to the public that news is a product.
We can see and hear every day that the media, like other consumer
goods, are manufactured according to the industrial/creative process.
The worth of the product is evaluated according to its speed,
uniqueness, aesthetic and apocalyptic qualities - in short, its
topicality - and proven through its viewer ratings - its amusement
value. If an event wants to appear in the media, it must meet these

The squatters who got caught up in a series of events, spectacular
or not, had experienced them firsthand and knew that everything
depicted about them in the media was a fraud - and that there was a
method to the madness. The list of demands the media were imposing on
themselves was intuitively felt to be the standards "registrations" had
to meet in order to become news. With those rules there was a game to
be played; for example, making authority and order look jerky. The
media itself too, after all, handled these things as attack-weapons.
And the media caste loved to be considered so important. The
real crowd, which had once raised hell in the street, became an
imaginary factor to be taken into account in politics, media and
squat bar. The coming-out of the media occurred in interplay with
the activists' entrance into media-reality. By notifying the
press agencies in advance about forthcoming events, it was
guaranteed that the reporters too would be on location on time. They
demanded in return that mediumistic pictures could be shot. The code
of correct squatters' behavior, which after the compressed time of the
first events became the notion of "the squatters' movement," began to
coincide with the code for correct media performance.

The made-to-fit-the-media incident is the action. This is presented
for an imaginary audience watching over the shoulders of the press
agents. While a riot takes over the space it races through, an action
is a small explosion in the emptiness of normality. If the medial
gleam is absent, then it quickly becomes a painfully embarrassing
display. It must be said emphatically, however, that this does not
mean that the actions were "soft." To be able to continue penetrating
the overfed medial consciousness of the viewers at home, the activists
found that their deeds had to become more and more direct and concrete,
or give the appearance of being such. The "hard action" became the
trademark of the squat movement; its effectiveness could be measured
against the conquered media-minutes. The free publicity for their own
style of action had the unavoidable spin-off that, for example,
squatting became a tourist attraction that appeared in the world press,
municipal propaganda and travel brochures.

A remarkable distance gradually arose between everyday squatting and
the media event for which the action provided the pictures. Even if
you'd been involved the whole day, at home for dinner you were
outside once more. You yourself were then part of the imaginary mass
at whom your heavy action was aimed. The medial space was elsewhere,
somewhere you went, on your bicycle. If people felt part of "the squat
movement," it became, through the creation of the image which it called
down upon itself, imaginary itself.

This was the moment at which the dropouts showed up and gave in
radically to the desire to definitively disappear from the stage. A 
second group was made up of those who wanted to go on, who figured
they were able to assume a new form by changing the existing structures
and using them for something else. To that end, under the motto
"squatting is more than just living," a diverse collection of action
themes was launched, which was supposed to give chance solidarities an
institutional frame. This was also directed against the tendency,
inherent to the "squat movement" concept, of seeing itself as an
old-style revolutionary bloc. Ever since the beginning there had been a
black helmet brigade which felt it had joined battle with the municipal
social democracy. They used buildings and stray figures as instruments
for this higher goal, which they never allowed others to bring up for
discussion. Finally, another group was busy, outside the course of
events, throwing up new structures as before by starting up squat
discussion hours in new neighborhoods, moving into buildings, having
actions. Gradually the structure of buildings and neighborhoods proved
to be transformed by this into a collection of scenes which attracted
and repelled each other. When this was finally designated "the
movement," the same mechanism of introduction and refusal, acceptance
and takeover, occurred as with the "squat movement" concept. The
movement, once on its way, could no longer be stopped.

The movement is the memory of the event. It is not the sum of
adventures and groups, but an image, reflection or interpretation
of the preceding, for the movers themselves as well as outsiders.
This creation of an image is by definition media-tized, whether it
takes place in "inside" or "bourgeois" historical writing; that group
which is carried along in the events and meets each other there knows
that the media reports sheer nonsense about it. Those who, for whatever
legitimate reason, show up too late and have to be satisfied by the
pictures and stories can all too easily take them to be true. While the
first group of squatters was overcome by the events, the latecomers
claimed that they were organized by the first group. The context of
the legends would have been the result of the political ideology, which
was left over in "the movement" as a sort of residue of the events.
This remnant would have been the source out of which the preceding had

The second and following generations of squatters came across as a
collection of self-made lawbreakers who were in the middle of the
scene-forming phase. The squat movement had already long been an
imaginary crowd which people still thought they could join up
with, while it had already transformed itself into a "movement,"
which was concerned with very different things. Within the old guard
there had long been no talk of a real crowd or a compression of
time. The actions which were done scene-by-scene no longer relied on
mutual interaction; even on nights with an enormous accumulation of
private initiatives they did not begin to strengthen each other, but
continued in their parallel existences, just like the scenes.  At the
most they produced surprise a day later over the fact that there
turned out to be more people with the same shadowy hobby. People sought
interaction with the media, not with each other. The real crowd that
could increase just like that had become something unknown and creepy,
a memory which was brought up again as the discussion over
"broadening," in which nostalgia had to be sublimated to the desire for
movement. Solidarity, which had once swept over you just like the
event, now suddenly had to be artificially induced through taking
action themes upon which everyone agreed anyway (fascism, racism,
sexism). New initiatives get no further than a remix of good 
acquaintances and old contacts.

If the movement is the memory of an adventure, the scene is the
memory of a meeting. This is ascribed afterwards to a shared
lifestyle, and the scene becomes the plateau for the spectacular
staging of it. Through the use of the word "movement," a larger context
and a historic continuity are suggested, which legitimatize and
block the behavioral codes of the scene. As lifestyle pur sang,
however, it would not need the past; it could shine in the ecstatic
experience of its manifestation. But the movement scene cannot see
itself apart from the squatting past, because it faces the dilemma
that the squat movement has never wanted to trace its own end, or
stage it. The scene no longer succeeds in shamelessly turning the
present upside down; the dead weight of history makes it insensitive to
the prevailing circumstances of the now. The scene is still waiting for
the meeting and the event. In order to keep alive the memory and its
promise, they still, after laborious reunion discussions and months
of preparations, sometimes take part in "medium-sized actions" in
connection with organizations. When an event takes place, it overtakes
the scenes like a natural disaster. Such a catastrophic riot is
actually still unleashed only by absolute beginners who are
enthusiastically willing to fetch and carry materials for some totally
unknown purpose.

The media does not know metamorphosis. It constructs and
distributes mass-produced identities and requires everyone who comes
into contact with it to show his or her papers. It challenges its users
from series to quiz show to look at themselves on the screen. It has
replaced the classic model, in which every individual could be
socially placed on the basis of work and sex, with the identities
market, where you can be anything you want, as long as you're
something and let it show. Activists figured out over time
that you couldn't stay permanently current, but that you could get
back into the media, as long as you presented yourself time after
time under another name and organizational form. Being elusive for
press and police was achieved through playing off the media norm of
name and intention against itself. Thus it also became less and less
lucrative to appear as the squat movement, however staunchly loyal
you remained to it in your own circle. This desire to become
imaginary resulted in a knowledge of media-machinations, which became
second nature, an automatism in which the action only exists once it's
been an item. The entry into medial space, to the neglect of the
extra-medial, resulted in the forgetting of the possibility of
metamorphosis, which was accepted without a thought by the squatters in
the early days. One can consciously and at will switch over from one
identity to the other. But metamorphosis has nothing to do with desire
or consciousness, with choosing from myriad options. The transformation
is possible when one enters the emptiness at the right moment in order
to appear elsewhere as something different, without it being
established what. The medium of the metamorphosis is the body, the
matter itself, and not only its image, or identity. Thus the individual
changes into, for example, a crowd-person through breaking with the
fear of touch, through a sudden acknowledgement and appreciation of his
own and others' bodies, through wiping out the will and the personal
biography. The desire for change is not enough for a transformation;
once underway the process acquires its own tempo, takes a turn and 
carries you along. The metamorphosis short-circuits with reality and
thus maximizes its intensity. The meeting during the event is the
moment of the turn. By accepting the succession of images and
identities in the media as some kind of reality, the activist segment
of the nation lost the potential to disappear from the stage and lose
itself in the process of unforeseeable transformations.

The movement teachings tackle this puzzle of appearances and
disappearances in extra-medial reality. Movement teachings are a way of
seeing as well as a book, and present delayed insights without
asking themselves what good it might do. They are not out to dig up all
the stories. There has already been so much written about some events.
But their selection is not a judgment of quality. In the material which
they have thankfully been granted, the movement teachings seek
the moments at which the patterns manifest themselves. The rest is