This space is ours. It belongs to us. On the evening of December 9th 2010 we attempted an occupation of this space. Room 43 of the National Gallery overlooked by Manet's "Execution of Maximilian". We are a multitude of artists, students and lecturers. This space is public, it is ours, it belongs to us. This education is ours, it is public, it is free. We are sitting down aggravating this space because it is public space under the eyes of a political betrayal and abandonment. Look at the situation we are now all witnesses to. It has been creeping for the last 15 years. The state of our education system is changing. We are no longer in the grasp of free further education whose implications are for the greater public good, but capitalist education, education with a price tag that works towards economic gain. In other words, we are not expected to attend university to become educated and to educate, we are to attend university for private economic gain - university is treated as a savings investment. Else it is an elitist commodity. From now on the educated will sell themselves in the marketplace to other individuals who will have to sell themselves in the marketplace in order to feed back into this circle. To earn. To pay off debts. To become trapped in an economic sphere. To feed into a failing democracy that keeps letting the people down. To live, publicly. To die having taken nothing. We are not commodities, we are human beings. And if they believe that we are truly the future of this country, and if they truly believe that education will bring financial gain to this country, then they would invest in us. And on Thursday 9th December 2010 this sad future is cemented by 323 MPs, twenty more than opposed this bleak future. Education is no longer a social good, it is a private gain - a commodity.
The Occupation of The National Gallery.
This space is brought to you in conjunction with Shell, Hewlett Packard, Santander, and, of course, Sainsbury's (not to mention many others). We sit here in the hope that our institutions will not become Goldsmiths McNuggets of London, or the Royal Wallmart of Art (and so on). We sit and as a multitude discuss, as a consensus decide. We wave our hands in a jazz like fashion to show our enthusiastic agreement, and together, as a solidarity, aim to resolve the doubts of the minority. It's a long process. One in which you question what it is you actually believe. What it is we are all doing occupying this space. This space whose workers also face cuts, redundancies and job losses that will not be replaced. (I bet they're glad they didn't have to invest in their education, or perhaps some of them did). In here we are blind. What is happening outside? In the streets are violent confrontations as the news of a betrayal hits them. Here we are undeterred, we will remain. Our fight continues. And what a perfect time to form a manifesto. A Nomadic Hive, something to fathom out future actions. I organize my thoughts on paper and speak my case.
"Reaction. Reclamation of public space. Our space seems to be becoming more and more of a commodity, we need to take it back. This whole situation is a complete symptom of capitalism."
Hands wave at me, I have been agreed with on mass. More than this should have been said, these public spaces which are overcome by the public spectacle of consumer items, this is where a our reaction needs to take place. A representation of our beliefs. A public freedom of education. Lectures in the open. Spontaneity is encouraged.
This space is our space, this space is a prison. They are kettled in by the enforcing arm of the law. Delegation of power to control the masses - or, do whatever it takes to make these people do as we say. We, the Nomads, are overcome by solidarity. Group mentality. No matter how uncomfortable the minority within the group feel about the increasing numbers of riot police outside the gallery in Trafalgar Square, there is a sort of peer pressure to remain. What was going on outside? Here we have a power in numbers - our number amounts to one. If we leave together we are a force, if we leave alone, there is the possibility of being detained. We have rights, we can refuse to give our names - if you don't wish to become a number...
Our spectacle is something that seems fairly low key. We are asked to text everyone we know to let them know that we are occupying this space and we are not leaving until we have written a manifesto. For what good is an artistic representation if no public gaze meets it? The spectacle needs the spectator. That is what causes a reaction. That is what causes people to move. That is when solitude becomes a unity. That is when the singular wraps its arms around a universality. What is happening outside. Word enters the Hive there are riot police on the balcony.
This space has become hostile. It is still ours but there is external pressure. How have things deteriorated outside? Solicitors pass out advise. Don't give them your name. Power in the buzzing of our hive. We have points on our manifesto. I can assess the seriousness of the police situation based on how many grown ups remain in the room. But my friend is uncomfortable, she has previous with the traffic police and wants out. I'm split then. I want to see this thing through, it seems to be rounding up. We are best to leave as a majority - power in numbers, our number is one. My solidarity with my friend takes priority. I don't wish to force her to stay somewhere she feels uncomfortable. How many police are outside now? It maybe too late either way. At this point a figure head type women steps forward and offers a solution. A way out through a side exit which evades the police. After all, though the workers here seem pissed off and inconvenienced, no one has formally asked us to leave; after all, this is a public gallery, they are workers for this public space, our space, the space in which we occupy. It is the word 'Public' which is at threat. Are we pissing off the wrong people? Should we be somewhere more appropriate. An obnoxious man tells her that she is interrupting our discussion, he is met by heckles. "Shut up, she's trying to help us." And my friend leans in and asks if we can do that? I catch the of gaze of Maximilian who is about to be shot. We leave through the side exit with a few others evading the police and entering into the real spectacle. The one which belittles our tiny operation. Tourists, workers, passers by, spectators gather around the flares, the smoke bombed epicenter, the protesters, the spectacle. The police were never there for the nomads, they were there for the increasing number of protesters retreating to Trafalgar Square. And because of this spectacle, no one knew there was ever an occupation of the National Gallery. More riot police arrive. Shortly after the hive disseminates. We retreat to the pub and consult the guardian news feed, no mention of any angry nomadic hives, no national gallery occupation.
But it did happen. We were there. We have a manifesto.