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The Problem with W2: Co-option through capital

Blog posts are the work of individual contributors, reflecting their thoughts, opinions and research.
Irwin Oostindie and Mayor Gregor Robertson Photo by Ariane Colenbrander
Irwin Oostindie and Mayor Gregor Robertson Photo by Ariane Colenbrander
Resist 2010 by Riel Manywounds and Gord Hill
Resist 2010 by Riel Manywounds and Gord Hill

Cooperatives, →Politics, →Poverty Elimination, →2010 Olympics

Selling Out: In various political movements (usually communists and anarchists), a "sellout" is a person or group pretending to adhere to a genuinely pro-working class ideology, only to follow these claims up with actions directly contradicting them, often (whether actually or implicitly) supporting capitalism.

-From Wikipedia

About two weeks ago I left Vancouver on a six month tour with my recently completed film END:CIV.  I am saddened that I can't be in the city to celebrate the anniversary of our resistance against the Olympics with my comrades. I've been thinking a lot about the Vancouver activist scene during my longs drives, and I get a big grin on my face when I think about all that we have accomplished in the last year. But there are a few things that have been bothering me for some time, and I hardly hear any public discourse about them.

One of them is the W2 space at the Woodwards building. I think it's important to talk critically about this space as it relates to anti-capitalist, indigenous, anti-poverty and gentrification struggles in our city.

A few weeks before the anti-Olympics convergence, the Vancouver Media Co-op (VMC) was flooded with requests from dozens of independent journalists from all over the world and we were afraid that we might not be able to accommodate everyone. We looked into W2 as possible overflow space, and Irwin Oostindie, W2's executive director, came to one of our meetings and explained what was available. At the meeting Oostindie admitted to us that W2 had accepted moneys from the Cultural Olympiad and was venue for part of their program. That was a deal breaker for us since the VMC had started as the media arm of the Olympic Resistance Network, and taking part in a de-facto Olympic venue, would have gone against our raison d'être. At this point it's when I started to connect the dots about W2's problematic existence.

Silencing Resistance.

In 2009, April Smith and Hendrik Beune came to my studio with some concerns. Back then they were part of Fearless City Mobile Project (a project of W2) headed by Oostindie. Their complaint was that Oostindie was discouraging them from posting satirical videos about Stephen Harper on the now defunct fearlesscity.ca. I told them that if they felt like they were being censored, they should start their own website and bypass Oostindie altogether. Beune and Smith have since started AHA Media and have posted hundreds of videos on their site. During a recent email exchange Oostindie told me that "…W2 has a strategy to stay low on the profile until we open." It appears that Smith's and Beune's situation was an instance Oostindie trying to quash politically controversial material to stay "low on the profile."

A similar story was brought up to me by indigenous artist Riel Manywounds. She along with Gord Hill were commissioned by Gallery Gachet, then headed by Oostindie, to create a mural to be hung on the streets of the Downtown Eastside as part of a public art exhibit. The piece that Hill and Manywounds collaborated on was originally titled "Revolt 2010" and was explicitly critical of the winter games. It consisted of a thunderbird breaking the Olympic rings, with the words "Police Repression, Stolen Native Land, Homelessness, Huge Public Debt, Environmental Destruction" emblazoned on the bottom. According to Manywounds, Oostindie saw the progress of their work with and objected to the words "Revolt 2010" that adorned the top of the piece. The artists reluctantly re-painted the top with the words "Resist 2010". But when it came time to display the mural as part of the exhibit, Manywounds remembers that Oostindie asked for more changes. Manywounds recalls that "…by that point felt like 'fuck this, we're going to pull our piece out, you just censored two native artists.' " Hill and Manywounds then took their modified piece the Rhizome Cafe, where it was displayed in the months preceding the games. Later she found out that Oostindie's W2 project was slated receive funds from the Cultural Olympiad and concluded that being the reason for the censorship.

Manywounds felt that Oostindie wasn't telling them the whole story. "At the time it was just more frustrating that he was not being truthful about why we couldn't do our art, so personally we took offence."

Oostindie argues that Olympic money is the people's money and in a way, he's putting that money in the service of the people. Lily Loncar, a longtime downtown eastside activist says "it's blood money." For many grassroots activists who tirelessly organized to unmask the capitalist nature of the IOC, the revelation that W2 was taking taking Olympic money meant that it was no longer a neutral space, but enemy territory.

W2 as a tool of gentrification.

The Downtown Eastside (DTES) was a key battleground for anti-olympic struggles. Several of the members of the Olympic Resistance Network either work on the DTES or take part in housing and anti-poverty struggles. The speed at which gentrification has advanced in the only affordable neighbourhood for poor folks in Vancouver is outstanding.

W2's website states that it is "a globally networked community media arts centre in Vancouver's DTES (Downtown Eastside)." W2's mandate is "to break the digital divide, promote social inclusion, cross-cultural dialogue, and redress." Oostindie will also tell you that W2 is grassroots community group. But by far W2's most prominent events are not grassroots ones but Red Bull sponsored raves and DJ driven dance parties. At W2's website, the most prominent event category is "party" with 56 entries with only two instances of "resistance." The price range of these "parties" is between $10-$30, hardly affordable for the poor residents of the area and according to Lily Loncar, these events attract a different type of crowd into the neighbourhood.

"…they are not neighbourhood people, they are not people who use the space because they can't afford to rent space somewhere else." Loncar told me over the phone. Loncar was part of a group of people who squatted the Woodwards building to demand social housing for the poor and homeless of the DTES. On the comments section of an article on the VMC, Oostindie was quick to invoke the Woodwards squat when defending their acceptance of Olympic money:

"Talk to us, learn about how the Woodward's complex works and the struggles W2 has to make real the aspirations of the Woodward's Squat for our local neighbourhood."

Loncar told me that her and her comrades did not break the law to get a social media space. What they wanted was social housing, period. "That's not what people who got sick (while squatting) fought for, that's not what people who slept on cold wet cement fought for." According to Loncar, hundreds of people took part in the squat but she does not remember Oostindie being one of them. In the end the city only handed a fraction of the units the squatters demanded, and not all of the homeless people who took part in the squat benefited from this "victory." Now Woodwards boasts a luxury condo tower, an upscale food market, a bank, the Goldcorp school for the Arts at SFU and a London Drugs, which Oostindie himself "welcomed", and W2.

 "John" A long time DTES frontline worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, commented on W2. "I don't think a media centre is high on the list to what's going to help the poorest people down there. It seems to me that a place like that is there because when developers pitch ideas, one of the ways they make it a little more palatable is by sticking on supposedly progressive extras. But the space is an empty gesture because it only seems progressive for people who don't live there, or at least not the poor people who live there, which makes it wonderful for developers because it doesn't bring the property value down for developers, it probably brings it up, unlike most social services that are expected to draw a poorer crowd."

Corporate capital has a long history of silencing and co-opting radical movements. This is best explained on the book "The Revolution will not be funded" by INCITE! a radical feminist collective for women of color. In it they lay out how they were told by their funders to tone down their positions on Palestine or loose their operating budget. I believe W2 has gone deep into the rabbit hole of corporate funding and that nothing significantly radical or anti-capitalist will ever come out of that space, simply because their handlers won't allow it. To this day W2 refuses to take a position on the SFU school of the arts at Woodwards acceptance of a 10 million dollar donation by Goldcorp. Goldcorp is a company responsible for the destruction of indigenous communities in Central America. With Oostindie's experience with anti-mining activisms and being that the DTES is populated by many poor indigenous folks, wouldn't it make sense that an organization that purports to work in the interest of those in the community, make a strong statement against this problematic "donation"?

I would have less of a problem with W2 if Oostindie and others wouldn't claim radical cred. But W2 and Oostindie by extension, like to pretend and push the idea that it is "grassroots." W2 takes corporate money, shakes the hand of the mayor and brings hordes of yuppies to the DTES by the truckload, while winking at radical and anti-poverty activists as if to say "I'm still on your side". I think it's high time radical, migrant rights, anti-mining, anti-poverty and anti-capitalist activists totally reject this space, and call W2 exactly what it is: A sellout.

In the spirit of total resistance

the stimulator

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Commentaires

How do you fund a space? With Community Support

This is an excellent article that hits the nail on the head.  I always viewed W2 as a make-work project for Irwin, and dismissed it as that.  It seemed that everyone involved were on the take, and that they were getting money from the City.  I know of numerous groups that were offered free rent at the space, and at numerous times was offered free space for both the Spartacus Books Collective and other projects I was involved in..  In the first case, I talked about this with the existing coordinator, who told me the importance of actually paying rent and having a contract.

There is no such thing as free money.  Anyone who thinks that it's "our money" and that it's better in the hands of W2 than in some other gentrification project is mistaken.  There are tons of independent artist and creative technology spaces in Vancouver that don't take money from the government and are able to run, some which are younger than W2 itself and started at the same time.  The fact that they exist proves without a doubt that there are better models than to constantly play political games with the City of Vancouver and to drink the Vision Vancouver Kool-Aid.

When W2 says that they serve the neighbourhood, they're not lying either.  That's because the neighbourhood is now gentrified.  The people who go to W2 aren't necessairly Yaletown yuppies, but they're not the residents of the Downtown Eastside either. I think there needs to be a better analysis of gentrification, and the fact that if you're not careful to be critical, anyone who isn't in extreme poverty can themselves unintentionally be an agent of gentrification.  This is what makes explaining why W2 is bad to other people so difficult, since there are otherwise good people involved deep in this bullshit.

 

Good work Frank. Take care of

Good work Frank. Take care of yourself out there. We'll have everything warmed up for you upon your return. Just sit your big ass down in your preheated seat upon arrival. 

 

Fantastic article!

So really on the mark Mr. Stimulator.

The analysis is ongoing of the gentrification of our hood. CCAP does it well, as does the DNC.

Thank for the posting.

 

I find this article sad, very

I find this article sad, very sad.

The Irwin Oostindie I know is trying his best to contribute to his community.

Further, I am not sure what position the author is taking regarding gentrification, ownership, and community?

The DTES, Kit's, Commerical Drive, Main Street, the neighborhoods of Vancouver belong to all the citizens of Vancover (rich or poor, newcomer or long time resident).

The fact that Irwin is trying to help build bridges, however imperfect the system, should be applauded and not condemned.

And the overall tone and intent of the article illustrates a fatal flaw - the narcissim of small differences - originally a psychological term which now has  a broader meaning (see wikipedia quote below)

"The term describes 'the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other' - 'such sensitiveness...to just these details of differentiation'"

If by contribute to "his"

If by contribute to "his" community you mean that Irwin is hiding a gentrification project behind a faceade of art, then solid.

The bridges in question are tolled, by him, as you see in the example of the peeps that went on to put together AHA Media.

And these are major differences; this isn't about a few small different approaches but a complete structurally flawed approach, and general hypocrisy.

If you re-read, you'll see that the above is a nice summary (though not complete) of the tone the author is taking towards these issues.

hmmm

@sudha, I've heard this term, the narcissism of small differences or petty differences in a different context recently in which it applied...but I don't think that this is a small or petty difference.  I think it's pretty fundamental.  And it doesn't matter if someone is "trying his best to contribute to his community" if he is a mover of an oppressive project.  intentions don't really matter.  It's about effect.  This almost sounds like, "He's a good guy, come on."  It's not about people's characters.  It's not personal.  It's about effects of ones actions, and the very real consequences (for others, if not you).

solid piece

Hey, thanks for this piece and for the history here. We need to have these kinds of conversations and make these links to remember the history of the building so as to keep a clear perspective on what it was meant to become - social housing for residents - and what it has become - upscale market, exclusive atmosphere, university, and media arts centre. The funding model is structured such that work like Riel and Gord's mural that engages directly and honestly in opposition to oppression simply can't happen there - things acceptable there need to be more coded or 'under the radar' and in practical terms, that means direct or indirect silencing and then slippery words about whether the silencing even took place. Intentions may be good, but actions and structure matter more than intention, because they shape what's actually possible and really happening. There's been a renewed interest lately in avoiding the W2 space out of respect for the neighborhood residents who were displaced out of the promised social housing by the entire Woodward's project.
thanks for the piece, hope we get more of these.

Such purity only possible if your feet don't touch ground

Full Disclosure: I am on board of W2 Community Media Arts Society and W2 Social Enterprise Cafe Society but the following comments are my own.

We are a species of ideas, words and action. W2, similar to all good activism, uses what is at hand. In situations such as this, I am reminded that Saul Alinsky once commented that if you are not willing to cut your hair or wear a suit to further your cause, your cause really doesn't need you.

W2 was born in the heat of the Woodward's squat in 2002. See http://www.creativetechnology.org/video/woodwards-squat-2002

Often activists measure their purity and stake highground. Purity is not my strong suit but strategic think throughs and-long term heavy lifting is how I work. It's much more difficult to lead with vision and build. If "radical, migrant rights, anti-mining, anti-poverty and anti-capitalist activists" are opponents of W2, it'd be informative to all to know who are their friends and allies. Interesting I'm asked to speak at such events. They wouldn't ask a sell-out would they? 

Sell-out? Rather a a relative term. Who made the computer you are working on? Who makes the bus, car, bike and planes you use? Who makes the clothes you wear? Yes, the horse called capitalism has left the barn. The capitalist genie is out of the bottle. Any ideas and words to the contrary is simply hopeful and denies what we are up against.          

W2 is a work in progress and has amplified the voices of the remarkable activists and groups in the DTES. Note that April Smith, a founder of AHA Media, is a W2 Board member and DTES resident. Irwin is a DTES resident. I lived in a SRO in the DTES for ten years of and on after EXPO 86. 

It was a DTES residents advisory board that recommended a media centre for the community space. Thus W2 was born. We haven't even fully moved into the Woodward's complex yet. Keep an eye on us. We do have some problems but are deserve the opportunity to show our value to the local and larger communities. This would be reasonable and fair...

And yes, please check out upcoming W2 events  http://www.creativetechnology.org/  

Some work I have done http://www.creativetechnology.org/video/video/listForContributor?screenName=3agffyqvim50m

Wrong operating system

Thanks for your comment Sid. Last year, Oostindie and I (and others) engaged in a comment exchange over the whether W2 was going to take a position on Goldcorp. Sadly Oostindie did not address the issue until much later during the exchange, but through verbal contortions and pretty language cleverly deviated the conversation. Very much like you have avoided the issues on how capital has created an atmosphere of censorship and brings more gentrification to your neighbourhood. It all gets glossed over with rhetoric and analogies. Maybe the question is not who made the computer you are working on, but what operating system is it running?

In the end, this is not about purity, it's about the real effects capital has when it enters into "grassroots" organizations (and neighborhoods). Organizations slowly start to modify their discourse and soften their positions to get that money and after a few years, they've strayed so far from their path, that they forgot their original reason of being. I mentioned "The Revolution will not be Funded", I highly suggest you read it.

Purity schmurity...how about nuance and cadence?

Thanks for your response stimulator. Will consider your read suggestion but seldom get time to read books. It more a relax and escape before sleep. Currently bedding with The Sparrow Falls by Frank Bodsworth.

To paraphrase Sun Tzu and the Art of War: It's good to seize and use your opponents' resources in your struggle against them. The issue is human nature and use of capital for good and evil. I was a registered representative and private shareholder (junior partner) in a Canadian investment bank with international offices and feel comfortable knowing what capital can do. 

Irwin is an old friend and ally. I admire and am inspired by his character and work. He is not perfect so like all humans does makes mistakes. He has worked hard with little or no pay the past few years to turn W2 the idea - a community media centre - into a near reality. Perhaps he is a "sell-out" in the rhetoric and analogies of communists and anarchists. If that's your case, you can chose not to participate which you seem to have done with little strategic think through. 

Finally, you mention computer operating system. There would be no operating system without computers. It was capital and human creativity that developed the technology by which we now are communicating. Good or bad?    

I took a Bombardier bus to the DTES on Saturday to participate in the Reclaim Housing march to Olympic Village. The following video was shot on a Zoom Q3 and edited on a HP computer and uploaded via Telus. What capitalist gear and connection do you use and how do you get around?

http://www.creativetechnology.org/video/w2tv-2011-reclaim-housing

What strategy?

If my rejection of artistic censorship, corporate co-optaion and gentrification makes me a person with "little strategic think through" then so be it.

admiration, inspiration

I wonder how the neighborhood, and the people on the streets feel about w2.  I wonder if the character and work of the leader, or the institution, beget admiration or inspiration in the hood. 

if this is a "near reality" what will w2 the reality look like? what benefits will 'strategic' 'participation' bring?  To the neighbourhood?  I know that the 100 block looks more like the 2 and 300 blocks these days.

I think the existence of technology, and my use of it, does not negate the over all planning and actions of the people in power, like your man Irwin.  What is his plan for the space? What is the official w2 plan for radical use of power, privlege and financing? Let's hear w2 address the community, and I don't mean a press release.

Either w2 will address the question of co optation, and it's role and function of gentrification (that means displacement of the current residents of the DTES, for a new 'community') or they will say nothing to the neighborhood.  I'm waiting and will listen, but that means a discussion.

Just to put it out there, there is only one way (i think) for w2 to reclaim some sort of useful function and status as grass roots: total reapropriation and subversion of all assets and resources to the anticapitalist resistance.  I don't think that contracts and signatures will be needed. Only actions and appropriate attitudes.

finally, I don't think that riding the bus makes you or I a sellout, but your searching for a way to negate or make hipocrite of the author, sure does clear up who you are giving your allegiance to.  your a capitalist, if only a junior partner in the whole plan.  All social movements are anticapitalist.  Correct me if i'm wrong. 

join us in this work

I don’t normally respond to these types of forums because I find them unproductive. The level of detail needed to work through all these accusations and misinformation would require a lengthy exchange. However, given my level of commitment to W2, I feel compelled to address some of the inaccuracies in the blog.

 

I was working at Gallery Gachet when Gord and Riel painted the mural in 2007. Raincity Housing (formerly known as Triage Emergency Services and Care Society) provided funding for artists to paint murals to be displayed on construction hoardings on the building that used to house the Lux Theatre. Gallery Gachet managed the funds, selected and paid the artists and provided the space and supplies. This had nothing to do with W2. When Raincity refused to install the anti-Olympic painting, it was outside of our control. So we did what we could to support the public display of the mural in other venues, including the printing and distribution of stickers and posters.

We felt badly for having invited them to create work for a public mural exhibition, but then, based on the parameters of the funder, requesting revisions and then still having the funder refuse to show the work. From my recollections, Irwin told the artists at that time that he felt embarrassed that he had invited them to participate and then couldn't follow through. I acknowledge this doesn’t change the fact that the artists were censored by the funder.

 

For the past 3 years, W2 has been moving physically and figuratively towards its final home in the imperfect space that is Woodward’s. During this period, we have located ourselves in three temporary sites on the 100 block of West Hastings, and we are now leasing from the City the space formerly occupied by Storyeum – as the final completion date of the Woodward’s site has been repeatedly postponed. This shifting move-in date affected our ability to deliver our core programming plans, and, as a result, we essentially have been operating a festival and conference venue.

 

Many of these activities have allowed us the opportunity to offer space to community groups and allies for free or significantly less than the cost to run the space. It meant we could host events like the Aztlan Underground/OKA 20th Anniversary, Anti-War Benefit Evening for Afghanistan and Palestine featuring Malalai Joya; My Father the Terrorist film screening, Red Jam Slam, Philippine Women’s Centre 20th Anniversary, Roc da House All Ages Dance battle, An Evening with Georgina Beyer, Beat Nation, Co Erasga’s production of Shadow Machine, the Women’s Memorial March Coffee House, KAYA’s Hip Hop Week, and more. I am proud of the work we have done, including the upcoming conference and party: Utopia Festival: Women in Digital Culture this March 5th.

 

Although we have already started to occupy our space on the second floor of Woodward’s, we will fully land here late April. If we had given up the fight for and right to a community space within the Woodward’s redevelopment, then all the efforts by the community to secure it would have been in vain. It is not perfect, it is not without compromises or contradictions, and it is less than what the community demanded.  But we did manage to create public washrooms open 7am-10pm, community cafe (employing DTES residents), community meeting room and lounge, letterpress, open web tech lab, community incubator, performance space, and community and radio TV station. We will continue to work with our member groups and allies to ensure it is an accessible space for people to gather, tell their stories, organize, debate, celebrate, create and broadcast. While I respect those who decide otherwise, I hope many of you will join us in this work.

 

 

 

Where are the inaccuracies?

Thanks for your comment Lianne. Several people who witnessed this have come forward and confirmed this story. Oostindie (who was working on the W2 project at the time), saw the progress of the art and gave it a nod, only to later ask for changes. The reason for the censorship is Manywounds' opinion, one that she's entitled too and I for one was not going to censor it.

In the end the onus gets put on the funder. But what about the integrity of the people running Gachet, and W2 by extension?

W2 Community Media Arts Society

AHA Media is very proud of our association with W2 and stands by the work that it is doing in the interests of our neighbourhood.

 Taken from W2's page on community

 http://www.creativetechnology.org/Community

"There is a growing enthusiasm amongst the private sector for a new type of apprenticeship, tailor-made for the creative and cultural sector. The Centre’s apprenticeship program has the potential to help secure the cultural industries’ prominence in the DTES: a quality-assured, ready supply of skilled, creative, enthusiastic and diverse talent."

Who is the cultural industry? Why does industry need the 'center's' help, or supply of cultural producers?

 

"Respecting the community’s diverse existing populations as well as new residents..."

Who are these new residents? I mean, nothing against these humans, but the community page is starting to read like a disclaimer. Isn't this a dreamy, wishful statement of acceptance of gentrification? doesn't it mean the woodwards building itself, (and all other new developments)  The w2 as cultural comfy starting point for the new resident...

 

I can believe that the collaborators within w2 are coming from a good place, individually.  But I can't believe that the writer of the W2 community page, is a representative of diverse peoples, or that they would choose this writer as their representative.  It's a corporate funding proposal.  There is a serious disconect going on here.  I mean it's hard to understand, the content of the community page.  There are partners, job creation, the cultural industries. 

 

"

Commercial and Retail

  • A model of public market style shops and services, including cafes and restaurants;
  • Not only meet the needs of local residents but also attract shoppers and tourists;
  • Generate economic activity in the neighbourhood."

I don't understand why w2 is occupying itself with the commercial and retail "needs" of the community.  Why this is a part of the "community media space", I mean, it's 'awesome' that w2 can be everything to everyone, but I believe that social and economic spheres are mixed by the capital machine, and must be held seperate by SOCIAL movements.  This may be one of the sources for the "sell out" critique. 

"The Centre’s purpose is to contribute through the arts to the social, cultural and economic renewal of the Downtown Eastside as a healthy and culturally rich community where people from predominately low incomes and from diverse life styles, abilities and financial means feel at home."

Here we have the neighbourhood(predominately low income) poised against diverse lifestyles, abilities and financial means(other than low income). Sounds like a challenge for the center to 'manage'. Sounds like the writer is planning a space for their class within the lifespace of another.  I know it's not all that simple, but the critiques of what is said on the w2 community page could go on and on. not sure if the 'community' can grasp this, the cultural 'capital' of language.

Apparently it's difficult to understand, it's true, I think, that we are coming from different cultures.  One cannot apply the norms of ones culture against another's.  That's akin to morality.  But one can critique anothers actions, wishes, plans, words, writing.  I find, that the W2 is like an ad campaign written by and for capitalists (cultural industry producers if you wish) in their talk about themselves.  The W2 sense of community or their community, might not be all encompassing, or actually speak to others.  To accept this as possible, to accept the possiblity of ignorance, is a starting point.

Also I think this is a good place to answer the questions I've posed. Oostindie or anyone else who feels able to comment specifically on these questions. 

other possibilities

it's the same language as on the big ad on the front of the London Drugs. people from yaletown moving to the neighborhood saying they 'value the mix' and 'feel safer now that the neighborhood is getting cleaned up' and that the 'development is great for industry, shops,' and people with little dogs.

if W2 wants to be a community space, the good people who work there and are putting their heart and soul into it (i'm not being facetious - i know individually that several good people work on the W2 project under Irwin, even if i disagree profoundly with the values that are behind it; they do work out of their values that are different from mine in this regard etc.)  need to be open to all of the community critique, not just listen to the community members who say things they like. Instead of getting defensive when these valid critiques are raised, and explaining yet again what good work W2 does - get better at demonstrating that you're really listening and are going to institute democratic governance or community governance of the space. Perhaps those who are doing the labour to build the space are the ones who should be making the decisions... or perhaps that's just another autocratic model, akin to 'those who own the country should be the ones to govern it.' If these critiques are here, it's because they are important and real, and acting defensive (knives in back and front etc.) isn't going to make them go away. 

take rhizome for instance as another community space with a much more successful relationship with its community -  (albeit it's a much smaller space). It's got some surface similarities in the sense that's run in a top down way when it comes down to it, but the workers there have a lot of say in what happens, and the larger community was deeply, deeply consulted - and in the real way, not the 'public consultation' fig leaf way - at every stage of developing the space from first vision on to the community evaluation that the owners invited after a couple of years of operation. They didn't defend the space against the community (what's the logic in that?- they welcomed critique and actively sought to shape the space to meet the needs of the community, without doublespeak. Other models are possible, but they take a deeper kind of integrity than the W2 model allows.

 

Why do you support the anti-olympics mural went up at Rhizome when Gachet (under Irwin, who chose to censor the mural rather than put it up anyway and face the funders) censored it? What does the fact that it could go up at Rhizome say about what is possible?

 

Without resorting to personal attacks that will just further entrench people here, and recognizing that there are some competing values at play (i.e. the people who work under Irwin at W2 are not evil, and they work very hard for something they do believe in), I do think that the defensive approach to legitimate community concerns about W2 is indicative of a larger deafness to the points raised in the comment above. Those who do the work in the space may be empowered make the decisions, but that doesn't mean they make the right decisions for the community.

 

last thought is that even when i agree with things said, or laugh, i do wish we could separate the actions/issues/space from the personal attacks here. maybe that's wishful thinking. there's a cockfight mentality that turns things from community issues into personal one-upmanship that seems short-sighted to me.

with respect -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

operating systems, the Art of War, and compromises

[Disclosure: I am an active contributing member of the Vancouver Media Co-op and have been a contributor to the Dominion (monthly print publication, which then metamorphasized into being part of the Media Co-op network) since 2008 or so. I also love strong coffee. As is generally the case with posts and comments on open-publishing sites, my inkmarks are my own.]

I originally wrote an entirely different comment, but when looking for a link for a good book review of The Revolution will not be Funded by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (South End Press: Cambridge, MA, 2007) to post for Sid and anyone else interested but who may not have the time to read the book itself, because it really is a great thought-provoking read, I found an interesting blog post about it... lo and behold... on W2's own site.

That's right, on January 28, 2011, W2 contributor Stephen Hill wrote a blog post with some thought about the book on his W2 blog HERE. Here is the opening paragraph of his review:

"The wonderful title leads you into an inspiringly straight forward socialist critique of the 'non-profit industrial complex'. This must inform our work and it's an important and needed inquiry whether we are in the arts, in employment services, in community organizing, or have any thoughts at all about the current battles in the Downtown Eastside."

And after highlighting a selection from pages 136/137 about the "strategy used by the ruling class to maintain the social order has been to fund social welfare programs through government and non-profit agencies," he goes on to emphasize the following related questions (all from the chapter "social service or social change?" by violence prevention and social justice educator and activist Paul Kivel):

What are the historical roots of the work that you do?

What were your motivations or intentions when you began doing this work?

Who are you in solidarity with in the pyramid? That is, who would you like to support through the work that you do—the people at the top of the pyramid, the people in the buffer zone, or the people at the bottom?

Who actually benefits from the work that you do?

I think that post just goes to demonstrate that this discussion is an "an important and needed inquiry" - to quote W2 contributor Stephen Hill - that many people feel is worthwhile having with regards to any media collective or any organization of any sort facing any kind of funding. I don't see raising concerns as being sectarian, divisive, or "unproductive."

What I do think is unproductive is interpreting any critique of an organization, collective, or space as a personal attack against every person who may be involved.

Sid, I recently watched your video about one of the DNC's organizing drives in Chinatown. I thought it was a really fanastic piece. I also met you briefly at the Media and Human Rights panel (which included VMC editorial collective member Tami Starlight) event, which I thought was a wonderfully-facilitated thought-provoking discussion. I posted Media is Just the Word for getting the Word Out, a report-back piece on the VMC HERE.

Sid, stimulator, and Lianne, from reading your comments, I interpret that you are actually discussing different "operating systems," so to speak. I also would venture a guess that a lack of clarity about words and terms used may make constructive conversation difficult, in my opinion. Here's how I'm reading your comments about "operating systems" in terms of funding issues:

[sandra interprets] stimulator = the RainCity $ for the mural became incredibly problematic when it became clear through the censorship of local Indigenous artists that the $ came with strings. the response to those $ conditions by individuals and spaces linked to that censorship is problematic. this clear example of compromise is messed up and illustrates broader concerns about who is making the decisions about a space that purports to be a grassroots neighbourhood initiative in the spirit of the squat. [sandra concurs with this.]

[sandra interprets] sid = everyone in this city uses and/or appropriates tools and/or resources and/or benefits of capitalist technology and/or society in some way, shape and/or form. [sandra concurs with most of these comments, but doesn't think that is the "operating system" stimulator is discussing. sandra thinks sid has not yet commented on the key issues of compromise, censorship, and decision-making.]

[sandra interprets] lianne = "Gallery Gachet... nothing to do with W2... When Rain City refused... it was out of our control... We did what we could... we felt badly... still having the funder refuse to show the work... he felt embarrassed... couldn't follow through. I acknowledge this doesn’t change the fact that the artists were censored by the funder... I am proud of the work we have done... It is not perfect, it is not without compromises or contradictions, and it is less than what the community demanded.  But..."

Lianne, while I think it's great that you did choose to respond and clarify what happened, to me, your post actually makes stimulator's critique even more resoundingly solid. Shifting all of the blame to the original funder and saying sorry is apologistic semantics. Any organization or space at any step of the way could have - and should have - refused to censor the mural, even if that meant losing all of the Rain City funding. If Rain City refused to budge and insisted that there were unacceptable conditions like censorship to all of the Rain City funding or even all of all funding of each of the organizations and spaces involved, it was NOT "out of [your] control." That was a decision to compromise at each step of the way, to enable censorship of local Indigenous artists in order to not lose your funding.

The Art of War argument is not the one being debated; that is a separate but also interesting debate. Computer use is nice rhetoric. Wearing a suit may be a tactic. But compromising values and/or a mandate and/or end goals and actively enabling and/or participating in censorship so as to not lose funding are not tactics, nor can they be justified as a strategic move in order to reach some end goal.

Here is a selection of different definitions from various standard dictionaries (Oxford, American Heritage, Collins, etc) commonly used by all kinds of people in general, regardless of their political beliefs... for SELL-OUT:

"a betrayal of one's principles for reasons of expedience" /// "Slang One who has betrayed one's principles or an espoused cause." /// "To give up or surrender in exchange for a price or reward: sell one's soul to the devil." /// "Slang To betray one's cause or colleagues: He sold out to the other side." /// "Informal a person who betrays their principles, standards, friends, etc."

According to W2 contributor Stephen Hill, the critique of the non-profit industrial complex "must inform our work and it's an important and needed inquiry." If you don't feel it's productive to continue the discussion in response to stimulator's critique on this forum, perhaps it's at least worthwhile to look at the fact that at least one W2 contributor is raising the same questions in a post on your own website.

- sandra

Revolting resistance.

   After the revolting censorship demands.

Artists  Manywounds and Hill, reluctantly, compromise by changing the title of the mural.

  And  after making more than satisfactory changes to the art.(that was still not excepted)

Is an example of the true resistance the indigenous voices face daily.

 

Mark

"Many of these activities

"Many of these activities have allowed us the opportunity to offer space to community groups and allies for free or significantly less than the cost to run the space."

 RIght but when it's come down to hiring practices or decisons for internship programs W2 has routinely opted to favour less politicized candidates (numerous examples here) over people who've honed their chops in radical politics. The idea here is that the untainted tend to be more malleable to falling in line with whatever grand vision the big wigs advocate. Marginilizing dissent, indeed. Shameful. 

 

ps W2's keynote speaker who flew in to address their lucklustre conference was Andy Miah. A British writer who actively-- in print-- attacked critical pieces the Guardian choose to run about corporatization, gentrification, human rights abuses in relation to the Olympic industry. While we protested and created tent cities, they drank wine and broke bread with folks like Miah.

Aha Media jumped the shark

Aha Media jumped the shark when they produced hasbara ads for the Israeli occupation. Just saying. Can or will they explain why on Earth they went this route? I'd love to hear it.

 

http://ahamedia.ca/2009/11/30/aha-media-documented-at-buycott-israel-alert-shop-mec-sunday-nov-29-2009-at-mountain-equipment-co-op-in-vancouver/

Stop beating a dead-horse, Celebrate diversity in approach

Frank's blog and the responses in support of it, are a regrettable display of the sectarian beliefs that divide the left in Vancouver. They are unproductive and self-serving. 

Moreover, it is completely self-righteous to tell grassroots activists, who have undergone immense personal sacrifice in order to begin a multi-decade community project (that is just in its infancy), that they did not act as they should have when encountered with a dilemma that forced them into making hard decisions. To imply that their actions were not pure enough, to criticize them for attempting to reverse an attack on their good intentions into something *still positive* (I'm talking the art debate, but also in general), to criticize them for doing what they could to honour their commitment to the community and to people whom they have engaged, is nothing short of childish, and, yes, unproductive.  

Shit happens. And, unfortunately, we live in a neoliberal city/society that forces people with vision to make hard decisions. While I sympathise with purist, anarchist and completely radical positions held by many of Vancouver's activists (many of who have criticised W2 for being whatever it is that they don't want it to be) ... it strikes me that there are some people in this city who insist on beating a dead horse. But there are other people who are tackling the neoliberal reality head on and doing something about it.

Acting as an antithesis in a hegemonic structure will do one of three things:

1. If you are, in fact, so completely radical that you cannot operate within the hegemonic system, that you choose to boycott or otherwise disavow any attempt at social change that is not as pure in radical stance as you are, you will, in fact, operate as a schizophrenic entity within that system and become annihilated by it. 

2. If you are a radical in a hegemonic system and are able to maintain your stance as radical person, while existing within the system, then the system has provided space to accommodate you; and you, therefore, need the system to reproduce the conditions of your reproduction (you need capitalism, oppression, and etc.) to maintain your stance (identity) as radical. -- This is how many activists in Vancouver operate, and, honestly, it's kind of sad. 

3. If you are a radical in a hegemonic system and you find ways of existing within that system to create points of resistance can that germinate pivots of change, which then begin to influence and alter other particulars within that system (be it community or business models, education, school, food, etc.) then you are, actually, a node of social change. -- There are many organizations like this in Vancouver, including the W2. 

I respect Sandra's response, because it is honest, or, at least, it is an honest attempt at working through the issues presented here and the different sides/perspectives of the story. But I don't think trying to frame, and reframe, the people behind W2 as having made mistakes / not having acted as they should have (because, really, all this is a matter of opinion and where one wants to place oneself on the "scale of radicalness"), is in any way productive. 

I am acquainted with the groups that work in and through the W2, and I have been following the organization closely. I am familiar with the core people behind the organization, and I am also acquainted with, and have friends in, many other community groups in Vancouver. 

The W2 is bringing more than a handful of groups together. While Storyeum has operated as a "party" venue, it has also operated as a multi-purposed space that facilitates a new conception of "the commons" that has not existed in cities for a very long time, not in late-capitalist cities, and not in Vancouver. As an event venue, Storyeum has integrated and hosted art, music, activist, literary, first nations, and performance communities sometimes within one weekend. It has delivered programming that provides an alternative to a stratified and dichotomized existence for these communities that has already been established by our neoliberal regime. And we have not even yet seen what is going to happen in Woodward's. 

Of course, the gentrification of the DTES raises a whole host of issues. But I'm puzzled at the consistent attacks at this community group which is occupying a space that would otherwise be occupied by venture capitalists or some corporation. There's nothing wrong with being housed in a new building. I've seen the homes of other groups (varying degrees of "radicalness") in Vancouver, on E. Hastings or elsewhere, and I'm confused as to why some (few, actually) activists in Vancouver insist that W2 also operate in squalor like conditions. Why not give this new space back to the community? Why not wait and see what W2 does with its media lab, tech lounge, and community rooms before you start criticizing it? 

Take it easy, sit down for a minute, focus on your own project, and support the other groups who are working in different capacities for a social justice and a livable city. 

You don't want every group to make the same decisions you would make. One thing doesn't work for everything. Celebrate diversity in approach. 

The horse is not dead yeat

Hey Vancouver Grassroots, thanks for your comment. The argument that this is a sectarian battle engaging in horizontal hostility is a cop-out. I have seen very few instances of criticism or analysis of W2. Why? Because people are afraid of Oostindie. I have received countless emails with so serious allegations over the past week. Many of them thanked me for having the courage to post this piece, but are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. I myself have been on the receiving end of Oostindie's hostility and have very telling email thread in my archives that shows his bullying ways. The truth is that these "mistakes" get swept under the rug and people with strong personalities can continue to run amok in our scene with no accountability.

We've been told to wait and see what W2 does for some time now. In reality W2 has been on-line for over a year now. The fact that they don't have the space at Woodwards yet does not change the facts of the way they have been operating.

This is independent media, and what we do is report, opine and bring up stories so that we can have these discussions. If we can't self criticize our scene, then what good is this medium? Also notice that your comment was not censored.

Finally, if you are going to call me by name, please identify yourself.

    I am not Irwin.  Nor will

 

 

I am not Irwin. 

Nor will I "out myself," as my life situation is already precarious, and I don't need to enhance that by becoming subject to attacks by the same irrationality that is occurring in this space. 

I will, however, echo that this is not journalism. 

I will also point out that despite age and gender differences, I am not intimidated by Irwin. 

I am well aware of the other blog that you posted, and even in that piece, what came across (to me, and to many others who didn't write on it) was a very bad attempt to slander someone in our city who is doing constructive work. 

Also, the fact that the space at Woodward's has been postponed time and again does make a difference. 

However, the way W2 has been operating is quite unique, and it brings together groups that are otherwise marginalized or struggling to exist because of the gentrification of this city. These include artist, media, first nations, literary groups, and other fringe community groups. Some of these groups have long fought the battle against neoliberalism, and needed to come together because of rising rent prices, because of being evicted from their homes, needing to look for new ways to create space for themselves in the city. It's a classic structure that is collective. We build strength numbers, through supporting each other: not attacking.

Your self-aggrandizing blogs are counter-productive and working against people like me, who are easily marginalized; which is beside the point. Or is it?

You do not know anything about what's really going on at W2, or the people involved. That is clear to me. 

But I realize that you are highly invested in drawing attention to yourself by basically burning the truth and presenting a righteous attack on someone who cares deeply about what happens in the DTES, someone who has connected with people to help bring that space back to the community. 

Regardless of what you write in response, I will not respond following this reply, because clearly, you are not interested in being productive. There is work to do, and this is a waste of everyone's time. 

Wow, Vancouver Grassroots'

Wow, Vancouver Grassroots' rhetoric sure sounds like Irwin.

This "journalism" about what

This "journalism" about what a sell-out i am and how W2 is a tool of international capital to gentrify my neighbourhood conveniently didnt bother talking with me or anyone from W2 prior to launching this piece of "research." The fact that VMC editorial collective members and others using pseudonyms join the public fray against W2's innovative work doesn't make it any more than the muddy gossipy campaign that it is. I am glad VMC wants to position itself as an anarchist media centre - albeit a virtual one since your backer$ dried up - but do it by organising your own constituency, not simply differentiating VMC from W2. There's lots of room in Vancouver for more than one progressive media project.

I am deeply saddened by many half-truths written here, and by the public nature of this criticism. Stimulator wonders aloud why people think various things about my work building bridge projects over the past 25 years? I have always reappropriated resources from the dominant system for use by marginalized communities. Look at Under the Volcano Festival as the classic example of my model. W2 is designed as a permanent Under the Volcano. To chide me that i need to learn about censorship and organising in the DTES means that you a) don't know me or b) prefer exclusively anarchist and insurrectionary tactics. 

I am credited for gentrifying the inner-city and for being blind and for shaking the hand of the Mayor... oh, and for pretending i am someone else and writing comments on an attack article about me. Anyone who knows my work in Vancouver's left "community" knows the style of work that i do. Like many life-long activists, I am a contradictory mix, part mellow and easy-going, while also fiercely analytical and a self-critical political operator. I usually am over-worked cause i keep the bar set high for large scale projects. I can alienate some people for being too politically strident, insensitive, and too busy. I feel regret for the many mistakes i have made in my 44 years in Vancouver. I don't hide, and i am out front. It brings both retribution, praise, hostility, and criticism.

Many people have commented here about W2 Storyeum as a temporary project and how they are offended that W2 maintains our position as a community media arts project, while selling beer and hosting parties and conferences. These same people will likely continue to be offended when the W2 Media Cafe project finally opens in a couple months. They will dislike the fact that we defy staying in the black box and defiantly propose that change in the DTES will not exclude DTES residents, and that progressive media makers need not settle for old equipment, moldy buildings, and short-term leases. That working class Vancouverites and their allies have rights to the city, have rights to Woodward's, and have a role in shaping Vancouver against international capital which is day-by-day turning my home on unceded territory into an international resort city. We won't stand by watching this, we have knives in our back and front, critics sitting in armchairs and typing behind pseudonyms, and we will continue to do this work.

It pains us that we didnt finish this project before the Olympics, and that we had to lobby the City to do the right thing and finish the Woodward's community amenity spaces. Working on a project for 7 years and seeing it cut up on a blog by people who actually know very little of such a complicated project is very frustrating. I am humbled by the fact that we did a tremendous amount of work quietly and that working on this frontline has alienated potential allies who may have interpreted this as selling out: Woodward's equals gentrification, therefore W2 equals gentrification. Hopefully those allies who are interested in Vancouver's left having long-term infrastructure that reflects the diversity of our voices and strengthens our capacity to fight against capital's impacts on our lives will show up in person and shape W2 by joining with our other 1750 members.

The mural?

Mr.Irwin Oostindie

I am sorry, but I don't know who you are.

I am new to VMC , and am just learning about the issues on a large scale.

Although I have been studying and researching topics that I find would to be important, I have lived a private life style.

I look up to people like Frank Lopez,  you and others, who have the skills to voice their opinions in public,  as that is one of my biggest weaknesses.

I have always wanted to be more involved, and hope to get over, what  fears I have.

Take this information as it is. I am scared and nervous.

I have been refraining from judging you or anybody else personally,  simply because I don't know you.

All that being said, could you explain what the issue is for censoring this wonderful mural.

I don't mean to attack you personally,  I just find aboriginal art to be very amazingly complex.

And have never seen two different styles of aboriginal art in one piece.(unifying)

What I find interesting is that it is the mural that has inspired me to squeak a little.

The messages from the mural's artists, that I can't forget.

(I once saw a copy of the Indian act,  shoot with a shotgun, displayed in the Vancouver Art Gallery by a Nisga'a artist, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.)

I am wondering what word would be used to describe the group of issues listed on the mural.

The list contains issues that most people would not involve themselves with unless directly affected.

That is another reason why I love this mural.

It makes me more aware.

What a great piece of art.

Could we discuss issues only related  the mural?

What does the mural mean to you?

I appreciate your input.

Mark Craig

My name is Franklin López and I am an anti-capitalist

Thanks for your comment Irwin. I didn't bother contacting you becuase during our last interaction over email you resorted to numerous insults and your general attitude was hostile. If you feel like telling me your side of the story regarding the censorship of Riel and Gord's art you have my email address or you could just post it here.

Doesn't this bullshit get stale?

We have seen what has happened with Under the Volcano, and honestly this isn't a Black and White debate.  You are making the absolute false claim that you're either a Black Bloc Anarchist who chooses NOTHING but Insurrectionary Tactics, or you're someone who has to always compromise and sell out the people you claim to represent.  I reject that notion based on the fact that there are many groups in the left "community" in Vancouver that make their own calls, and their own choices.  This is part of the reason why I don't support W2, and think that it's a part of the gentrification narrative.

It's entirely possible to reclaim space without having to have anything to do with the Mayor or with City Politics.  Many groups do this all the time.  Some groups do take corporate funding for events, or for infrastructure projects, but NEVER for core costs like W2 has done.  Does VMC need a physical space to work, or can it work with existing spaces such as VIVO or the Purple Thistle to get their job done.  I don't ever see VMC explicitly call themselves Anarchist, or Insurrectionary, although that is the tone that comes from the Stimulator.

The simple fact that other spaces exist in Vancouver, despite the City trying to crack down on it, is hard evidence that there's a way to have an independent art space without having to get money from VANOC, or have ANY involvement from the City of Vancouver other than having them not shut you down.

So, to say over and over again that you're either with "Us", where "US" is everyone who's not an Insurrectionary Anarchist, vs. "Them", where them is simply everyone that you don't like kinda sounds simplistic and rather like the right that you seem to want to distance yourself from.  It's not that simple.

However, there are some basic principles that people want to follow, and collaborating with the City of Vancouver, and taking money from VANOC is clearly against the principles of MANY people in the community, not just the "Insurrectionary Anarchists" that you are seeking to villify.

Sure, you have to pay the rent, and keep the city off your back, but there's alternatives to being a complete sellout.

Since I'm being quoted I feel I should respond

Yes, I posted a short review of 'The Revolution will not be Funded' on the W2 blog and the thoughful list of questions for calm self reflection.

Not on that list are:

  • Attack people by name, not by the position they hold, and make it personal
  • Wait for others to act, and then criticize them, without creating anything yourself
  • Offer no alternatives or useful suggestions for improvement
  • Quote sources speaking on condition of anonymity - such a weak ploy
  • Use the word 'anti' before everything, instead of offering a 'pro' - working with a spirit of Appreciative Inquiry and focussing on how things could/would/should work better
  • Engage in mean spirited backstabbing and infighting, exactly what Goldcorp and their ilk would love to have happen to divide their opponents

********

As a long term ally of W2 and its predecessors I find everyone I come into contact with always open to discussion and debate around issues of loyalty, fielty, boundaries, moral conflicts and dilemmas

I find W2, its staff, volunteers or board to be very concerned with principles. None of us will have exactly the same 'line in the sand' which marks our preparedness to compromise. As Sid points out, we all make compromises, and we each will find different ones tolerable.

I don't find it immoral for W2 to hold 'parties' which generate unfettered income for other projects. As Lianne points out other programming has also been on offer. If it were party money to hold more parties it would be different but that is not what has happened. To make the most of fundraising opportunities while being in charge of the Storyeum site seems only wise. Certainly to maximize use of community facilities can only be a good thing.

W2 has been effectively homeless for the last couple of years and has worked hard to keep itself alive.

A homeless fledgling community arts project working in and with people in Canada's poorest postal code, in the middle of the worst recession for 70 years?

What chance would you give that?

Stephen Hill

# "Wait for others to act,

# "Wait for others to act, and then criticize them, without creating anything yourself # Offer no alternatives or useful suggestions for improvement"

Are you scribbling this on the wall of bathroom stall or commenting on a grassroots cooperative media site's board, one that's actively engaged in building parrarell relationships with counter hegemonic movements.

"Offer no alternatives or useful suggestions for improvement"

See above. Respectfully, why don't you take the time to familiriaze yourself with the work of those you implicating here.

"Either see above or familiarize yourself with the work of those you're implicating. Use the word 'anti' before everything, instead of offering a 'pro' - working with a spirit of Appreciative Inquiry and focussing on how things could/would/should work better"

Weak akin to a common strategy employed by the coorporate media in order to marginalize dissent. Yes, I'm anti racist, anti oppresion, anti colonial. It goes on. Should activism be purely destructuve, well of course not, but who's making this argument. Polemical political arguments are not by their nature bad if the intent is to break through unspoken concensus, prying open debate. We need more of that. Your "anti" dismisal thing unserves me. A tool of depoloticization.

"Engage in mean spirited backstabbing and infighting, exactly what Goldcorp and their ilk would love to have happen to divide their opponents'

Weird. Isn't the point here that anti Goldcorp alliances are being clipped in the bud? That the concrete effects of capital in this case has been that W2 is not acting to oppose Goldcorp. And you've skipped over issues of censorship in order to bandy around generalizations

Censoring?

I don't think any hardworking radicals or activists, would have any problems, with the powerful art.

The first time I saw "Revolt/Resist 2010".

I had a feeling of unity among peoples of different origins.

The colors have purpose.

The words are real.

The design(s) is diverse.

 

As a person from the comfort zone.

I was nervous about the revolt.

What would it do to my comfort zone?

 

I have many aboriginal friends.

And sometimes ask myself, "what would I do if I was aboriginal?"

But escape to my comfort zone at the thought.

I cannot imagine the frustrations.

 

The statistics speak for themselves.

Developmental Science proves the pain.

 

Why was the art censored?

Censoring slows progress.

 

The truth is, the diversity "party" will never happed until everybody gets to speak.

 

Mark

 

I find this discussion really

I find this discussion really interesting, but I don't see it as sectarianism at all. To me, the main issue isn't necessarily even about the actual content of the mural or the specific politics. Maybe if Vancouver activist politics, names, and organizations are all totally set aside for a minute, what I'm saying will be more clear.

To me, the core issue is censorship and freedom of expression. The censorship of the mural was not to protect any overriding right of others (such as protecting children from explicit, violent, and graphic images, or whatever example anyone wants to use to try to derail the stance that it was censorship). It wasn't even a matter of censorship by omission; the artists were commissioned.

In the early 1990s, Maurice Smith, the curator at the Canadian War Museum at the time, tried to arrange for an exhibition of official WW2 wartime artist Grant Macdonald, whose collection included pieces conceptualizing homosexuality within wartime military settings. The proposal was originally accepted by the Museum, presumably without much investigation into the actual nature and content of the collection. Then the decision was suddenly reversed. When the curator asked for an explanation, the Museum director only said "You know."**

We're talking about a "public institution" run by the historically homophobic war-mongering federal government but whose top management is reportedly heavily influenced by the military itself. To their credit, even people employed by the Canadian War Museum recognized that it was censorship and that it was not ok. They didn't try to pass the buck on up to the government or military or anyone else to avoid or deflect responsibility.

I find it incredibly counter-productive when excuses are made for people or organizations whose politics may be closer to one's own, whether it's the defense of an organizer involved in domestic abuse, the censorship of a mural, an oppressive hiring practice, or anything else.

There was censorship of the mural. No amount of explaining is going to change that.

It's not about purity or perfection. I see it as more of an issue of commitment to values and also of courage. A private apology and saying it was out of one's control and deflecting responsibility is *very* different from publicly acknowledging censorship and taking concrete steps to make sure that it never happens again in the future.

 

** Jackson, Paul. One of the Boys: Homosexuality in the Military during World War II. McGill-Queens University Press: Montreal and Kingston, 2004. pages 18-19. (that book was the *only* written material the librarians at the Canadian War Museum's archives and research library could find for me about military queer-related policies and history. and then i asked about Oka...)

ps: common ground

I'm not avoiding or dismissing any of the discussion and differing views on gentrification or anything else. I'm just surprised that there doesn't seem to be common ground on some basic points:

1 - There was censorship of the mural and the artists;

2 - That censorship was and is not ok;

3 - Accepting responsibility for participation in that censorship is necessary in order for everyone, regardless of where/who, to avoid that happening again in the future.

 

 

Police repression,  Stolen native land, Homelessness, Huge publi

Police repression,  Stolen native land,   Homelessness , Huge public debt,  Environmental destruction.

When I read this list, I am like a deer who is overwhelmed by  the bright head lights of a car, and can't decide which way to turn. Frozen.

The majority of people in the comfort zone just can't handle these topics.

Much to real.

It would be nice, (if the artists Manywounds and Hill agreed) , for everyone involved come together, and show the mural  for everyone to see more.

 

Mark

In reply to Oostindie

The fact that VMC editorial collective members and others using pseudonyms join the public fray against W2's innovative work doesn't make it any more than the muddy gossipy campaign that it is.

Love it when people make grand claims about being above the fray and then break their own rules. Thanks for showing yourself to be a hypocrite by saying this.

I am glad VMC wants to position itself as an anarchist media centre - albeit a virtual one since your backer$ dried up - but do it by organising your own constituency,

To even begin to understand how VMC funds itself, you'd have to pull your mind out of this corporate heirarchal structure to which you've allied yourself so intensely. Quite pitiful that you can't.

Like many life-long activists, I am a contradictory mix, part mellow and easy-going, while also fiercely analytical and a self-critical political operator. I usually am over-worked cause i keep the bar set high for large scale projects.

I have to know Oostindie - do you say this to yourself in front of the mirror every morning? Because this is hilarious.

We won't stand by watching this, we have knives in our back and front, critics sitting in armchairs and typing behind pseudonyms, and we will continue to do this work.

Ah I see you're a fan of fatuous metaphors. I am too, when I tell bedtime stories.

Hopefully those allies who are interested in Vancouver's left having long-term infrastructure that reflects the diversity of our voices and strengthens our capacity to fight against capital's impacts on our lives will show up in person and shape W2 by joining with our other 1750 members.

Unless of course, they want to do more than just take direction and keep mum, na? No actual response to the allegations I see. Just more posturing. PS thanks for dropping by to my VMC workshop; next time, don't spread your propaganda when you leave.

A Chilling Effect

The impulse among many radicals and progressives to avoid attacking, or even criticizing, groups and organizers in their community, including those with which they may strongly disagree, is a noble one.  However, when this "collegial" attitude results in avoiding discussion of real and substantial differences, the result is a chilling effect.  People who do not want to be called "divisive" or "sectarian" learn to keep their opinions to themselves, or at least not express them publicly.  

The collegial attitude is expressed in a tacit agreement among organizers and activists that they will refrain from publicly criticizing other groups and individuals.  Again, this makes sense when the differences are of interest to a small number of people, like debates over theory which are of little interest to the majority of those who don't know where their next meal is coming from, whether they will have enough money to pay next month's rent or if they will have a job next year. 

Gentrification, however, is not a minor issue.  Many in our community, including some familiar with the DTES as advocacy workers and organizers, believe that W2 is a project of genetrification, the over-all effect of which will hurt the poorest and most marginalized members of this community. 

I am uncomfortable with the personalization of this issue around Oostindie, who I have met exactly once, a number of years ago at a benefit where we had a 10 minute conversation (so I can't say that I know the man or am familiar with how he conducts himself in his dealings with others).  I'm just wondering exactly why these people fear "retribution" from him, to the point where they are afraid to openly state their position on the issue.  I'm having a hard time envisioning Oostindie as some kind of DTES "Godfather" with the power to exact retribution on those who disagree with him (unless, perhaps, they work at W2, an unlikely proposition).  

Finally, "outing" a person who chooses to use a psuedonym is irresponsible.  People conceal their identities for a reason, often as a security precaution.  Openly identifying somebody who chooses to remain anonymous could put them at risk.  

The problem

The problem with this article is that it is too close to the Fox News formula of prioritizing personal insults above the substance.

Progressive movements have been dealing with the problems that come with institutional funding since at least feudal times. Lets spend a bit more time on issues and solutions and a lot less on personal slags.

PS. The revolution may not be funded, but the photocopying might get done in the funded office.

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