In these times of pandemic, places of culture are closed. At the same time places of life, places of meeting, places of formation of our imaginations, places of elaboration of our dreams, sharing our desires and transformation of our representations, these places play an essential role in the social life and moral life of our fellow citizens. Closing them is an unprecedented violation of the cultural rights of an entire society. This is an exceptional situation and should last only as short a time as possible.
The Call of Intermediate and Independent Places
Two perspectives emerge: the prohibition that health constraints impose on public life allows communities to relieve themselves of their difficulty in making political decisions in terms of cultural democracy, and therefore they allow themselves, under the guise of economic crisis and budgetary restrictions, to abandon the places and citizen initiatives that concern themselves; or we collectively seize this exceptional situation, which exacerbates inequalities in treatment between actors in the cultural sector, making visible the internal contradictions of the public policies that produce them, and we seize the opportunity to reinvent our political, social and cultural practices, in line with the appetite for justice and democracy as evidenced by the recent movement of occupation of theatres that is spreading in the country.
Toulouse may well set a precedent in this area. The cultural wasteland Mix’Art Myrys has been going through for two months, the outcome of which concerns us all.te.s.
Mix’Art Myrys, an attempt to liquidate?
Mix’Art Myrys is an intermediate and independent place.
Born from the deindustrialization of major urban centres in the 1980s, the intermediate places are the firstborn of a large family. Art clears, we know that. Third-places, fablabs, shared gardens, hackerspaces, AMAPs, recyclers, art factories, ZADs, relational or participatory architecture: all new uses that, from ecological transition to technical innovation and cultural democracy, together accompany the transformations required by the time.
Mix’Art Myrys is a collective of self-managed artists that has occupied places for artistic and cultural purposes for 26 years.
Mix’Art Myrys is an element of the material and intangible heritage of the City of Toulouse. Mix’Art Myrys is a cultural equipment recognized of metropolitan interest. Mix’Art Myrys is a common good whose scope extends beyond Toulouse. Already mentioned in the early 2000s in the Lextrait report, among the “New Territories of Art”, this collective has inspired many adventures, both in France and abroad and today plays a structuring role at the national level as an active member of the Artfactories resource centre/other parties. The National Coordination of Intermediate and Independent Places was to hold its 4th forum there this year.
Mix’Art Myrys is an essential resource, a place of contact for artists, cultural actors and inhabitants of the Toulouse metropolis, as demonstrated by the mobilization of several thousand people on the streets of Toulouse, during the demonstrations of support organized on January 24 and March 6.
However, since January 20, 2021, Mix’Art Myrys has been under administrative closure, for non-compliance with public reception standards, coupled with a disconnection of its City and Metropolis grants.
Thus, after Mains d’Oeuvres in Saint-Ouen last year, then more recently the Dispel in Grenoble, the la Clef cinema in Paris and the Expression 7 theatre in Limoges, the cultural wasteland Mix’Art Myrys is threatened with extinction, by the unilateral will of its owner and main partner, Toulouse Métropole.
Should we, at the moment when we celebrate all that our places are clearing, we must at the same time get rid of them?
What is this policy that works backwards? How can it be that instead of helping an inspiring and pioneering place on its territory, the metropolis of Toulouse is taking advantage of the situation to try to make it disappear?
There are 60 visual, digital, sound, hybrid, 30 live performance artists, 10 music groups, or nearly 300 artists a year who find themselves deprived of spaces for creation, research and exchange. Beyond the cultural sector, a whole economic and social fabric is at risk. 10 associations, their employees, their members; more than 220 families and five producers, in their relationship to another food. It is the Tétaneutral, the leading provider of internet service at the national level with its 5000 members, that is being questioned in its missions. Three local producers of organic fruit juice, sodas and craft beers are economically destabilized. 25,000 inhabitants a year will be deprived of the unique events offered by Mix Art Myrys.
Where is the general interest in this decision that puts at the door of artists, associations, users, neighbors, amapien.ne.s? that puts so many jobs at risk? so much service to the population? so many events?
What about this abrupt decision and the disconnection of subsidies that discreetly precedes it, except that the Metropolis has scripted this closure?
As if the opportunity was too good!
Taking or administering the care?
Rather than add to the evil of circumstance, should we not have taken care of Mix’Art Myrys, in order to preserve the precious resource that this place and the actors who carry it constitute on the territory, both culturally, socially and urbanly? Taking care of them, as we must take care of each one of us, and especially the most vulnerable, in these times of pandemic when everyone is brought to exceptional efforts, a time of torment that only collective intelligence and concern for the common good will allow us to overcome?
Taking care, which is the watchword of our edifices, is this really what it is? What is the strange care of the administrative closure of a place in the name of the risk it causes to the public it welcomes, at the very moment when this reception is forbidden by the health situation?
Not enough that our premises are closed and our crates are empty! Not enough of our words killed! Not enough of that silence where singing and laughing became suspicious. We still have to put a double round of polite denial.
This urgency to administer care, which finds its legitimate support in the pandemic situation where the motto that circulates: “take care of yourself”, covers an implicit threat: “or we will do it for you”, is realized here in a form of repetition of the punishment characteristic of the time: non solum, sed etiam. Not only will you suffer from the plague, but also from the cure…
Double punishment, therefore: after having lived the contempt of having to work in the general interest in agreement with the City, the Metropolis, the department, the Region, the DRAC for years in undignified conditions, to the know yet of the public authorities, here is the contempt of being deprived of his tool of work in the name of the conditions that were imposed on you. Spare the rod and spoil the child!
This strange care that redoubles the act of administering has a name: it is arbitrariness.
It is so long as the institutional abuse that has been suffered by the intermediate places for more than thirty years ceases.
The people who gather there work to realize a right: the right for everyone to have access to cultural life. They carry in their bodies and clear through their practices the real democracy in terms of culture. It is in the terms of so-called cultural rights that the legislator has made in the “Freedom of Creation, Architecture and Heritage Act” Article 3.14 an obligation to local authorities as well as the State to “contribute to the development and support of initiatives carried out by the associative sector, intermediate and independent places, actors of cultural diversity and equality of territories.”
This support is in vain for a trace in times of pandemic. On the contrary, among the intermediate places, there is growing concern that we cannot recover from the crisis. As places of culture, their situation, even in ordinary times, is precarious: taken in difficult land relations, fragile economic balances, it is through the ingenuity, perseverance and commitment of those who wear them that they endure over time. For these places, openness is the nerve of war, both by the economy it generates and by the maintenance that it allows relations between the people who inhabit them – artists, inhabitants, activists, cultural actors…
But in the face of the economic fragility produced by the temporary closure of cultural sites for health reasons, it is not benevolence that the public authorities manifest towards the actors of a common culture(S); in this growing series of threatened places, it is on the contrary its negligence that is revealed. In a windfall, it is the threats of closure and expulsion, it is abandonment and denial. It’s the repetition of the sentence.
This is a reversal of the spirit of the law, the public interest and the evolution of public policy. It contradicts in particular: the LCAP Act, the NOTRe law, the state’s willingness to support third places that is implemented by the “New Places, New Links” programme carried out by the National Agency for the Cohesion of Territories and the missions that the association France-Tiers-Places has received from the National Council of Third Places, the will of the Ministry of Culture, and finally, manifests in the creation of a new Interministerial Delegation.
Mix’Art Myrys or The Poor Culture
The closure of Mix’Art Myrys is an allegory of what we do to culture. For Mix’Art Myrys in this case is the case, as it is of culture in general: it was when we needed it most that the decision was made to deprive ourselves of it. And by way of return effect, it is now that we lack that we understand its essential character.
Thus, the closure of Mix’Art Myrys exemplifies the paradoxical situation we have reached, in terms of the essential nature of culture as a common good. For the common is when one finds one is destitute that one feels the need.
Thus it illustrates the impasse in which the false alternative between private management and public management of the common good encloses us.
Between private interests and the general interest, it will be necessary to accept to build a third way: that of the composition of common interests(S). To this end, it will be necessary to recognize and guarantee the control of citizens’ use of the goods and services necessary for the exercise of the fundamental rights of each. The management of these assets in common will have to be recognized and supported.
An essential first step in such a perspective would be to agree with the public authorities and local authorities in order to distinguish between private and joint management of goods and services, and thus constitute two lists: the list of public goods and services that could be delegated to private management, and those of public goods and services that could be entrusted to citizens for joint management.” To this end, a public policy framework will have to be developed for and by the commons.
In all the fundamental rights, which are thus to guarantee by the use of citizen exercise, access to offer and cultural practices is only one point. Access to care, medicines, access to housing, food and access to knowledge are a few others. It is only to mention them to measure how problematic the collective situation is in every respect. Crisis of the common(S), therefore, that the health crisis revealed, but which it did not invent.
For the commons, the moment is critical, but the crisis can be life-saving. Either we come out from the bottom, in a major social, ecological and political catastrophe, by renewing the mix of public/private action that governs us. Either we seize the moment to take back fresh again the work of the common necessary for all forms of human society.
That’s why we, Artfactories/other parties, we, National Coordination of Intermediate and Independent Places, we, professional organizations of the ESS sector – Culture, we, networks of third-places, fablabs, intermediate places, we, actors of the commons:
1) Let us herely join the Call to the Common Launched by Mix’Art Myrys on March 6, 2021 and available in its entirety here: https://vive.mixart-myrys.org/appel-en-commun/
“The Common Is Re
sponding to the Democratic Need that Shakes Society.
Take care of the inseparable link between resources and uses.
Reconsidering the commons as belonging to all.
Rethinking society so that everyone can take responsibility.
Combating cultural anomie and rebuilding society by engaging everyone in the process”;
2) Let us make a solemn appeal to the Toulouse Metropolis: in these times of pandemic, there are other emergencies than the closure of cultural places. Moratorium on the closure of Mix’Art Myrys, time to find a concerted solution. It’s in the public interest!
3) Let us appeal to communities and public authorities: let us declare a moratorium on evictions in progress! The reopening of the places of cultivation must be the reopening of all places. There can be no leftovers in the cultural sector as in other sectors. And let us take advantage of this troubled moment to initiate the foundations of cultural democracy. We will work there to develop new forms of public/common convention between citizens and communities, to bring common practices (S) in this area out of a lasting precariousness that jeopardizes the cultural rights of all citizens. The examples exist, the proposals are on the table. Use property, solidarity land, real obligations of common interest…
4) We join Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation and Frédéric Sultan of Remix the commons (From the occupation of cultural sites to the assembly of the commons, AOC, 15 March 2021) to call on “the commoners and their collectives to come together in the Assembly of Commons in order to build alliances, meet their needs through self-organization and challenge the state and institutions”. We call from the beginning of the year to a first National Assembly of the Commons. We will develop the conditions for a genuine legal-political strategy for and by the commons, on the basis of a broad alliance between civil society actors in all the fields where these issues – social, environmental, scientific and cultural – are unfolding.
5) Finally, since there are only common communities in the attention paid to the most deprived, we declare solidarity with the movement of occupation of theatres and its demands: a white year for all the precarious ones! Repeal of unemployment insurance reform!
For the commons to live!
What do the Intermediate Places – independent live!
And how long mixart Myrys is alive!