Is ‘isope’ a drug?
The new rule of scrubbles is that people are allowd to make up worlds collaboratevly and split the points.  (Janna, trying to play scrubbles with Kanina…) 10.50 am

Just before leaving, one of the students who sat in Bifo’s class, and who kept quite during the meeting, asked me ‘ can I ask you something I did not understand. The four of you are going to Rome to protest tomorrow. But how can you have an expectancy of being heard? I mean, how can this be significant? After all, it is only four of you…’

Ah, the bliss of misunderstandings. I should have asked her back if perhaps the real horror was that we were going to Rome with a lot of other people, and each single person would already know it was all futile. Not exactly futile perhaps, like for example the next day speaking with one girl while at the demo, she said “at least we tried, at least I can say to my daughter or son when they will ask me how did this happen, I will be able to say I tried…”

What is the value of trying? Is this a particular mode according to which we operate today? We stage failed revolutions or stances that we know before hand we do not really need to push too far. It is enough o take the burden on your shoulder and declare to the world that you are definately thinking about how to find a solution. The rest will come. I guess this is an interesting similarity between the mode of production and that of disruption. They are both geared towards the future. The delay of pleasure to be productive in the case of capitalism, the delay of a significant impact or change in the case of political movements. Tomorrow never dies. Even at the peak times of the esf the motto was ‘another worlds is possible’. Maybe the point would be that another word is possible. Oh, I don’t know any more what I am on about. Nevermind, afterall, tomorrow is another day.

‘Every town looks like a brand of olive oil’ Susan, Sun 10.48 am

Roma – Bologna, somewhere in Tuscany

When Pasolini wrote about how state schooling killed a form of life (Lutheran Letters), and bred a new kind of human beings, how can we understand that? How would this relate to his other famous comment on the policemen of the 60s being the real historical subject of change, and not the long haired students in the demonstrations as everyone at the time believed? Was he referring to the way the form of the apprenticeship has to do with choosing your teacher and your teacher choosing you and choosing the way of the teaching, about initiations and secrets, the idea that knowledge is partial but complex and layered, and you know that, and you must get it extract it from your mentor who may be giving it to you or refuse, extracting the secrets, the trade secrets…
But also the idea that a whole society is taking care of what you know and how you know it. We have been talking about having kids. These kinds of conversations that often start a little bit in between a joke and a sense of a private confession, a slight awkwardness of intellectually active women being caught talking about kids… the issue seems to be that none of us could ever conceive growing kids on our own, the point being not about having a fixed companion for life, but the opportunity for them to be grown by a tribe of adults, a number of safety net ants and uncles that would save them from our parental dyscrasias. It feels totally incommensurable to have both the choice AND the responsibility for another human thing being brought about.

Later on at the dinner table I was wondering about intelligence and its myth, what does it mean to be intelligent, why do we want to feel special that way, doing internships to just be able to acquire that type of credibility we are worth because we use L’Oreal and because we are interesting, sophisticated human beings. Jimmie said that for him we learn this really early on in our life when we come to realize that if our mother does not like us we not get food. We depend on approval to survive. We learn to perform ourselves. In a context when if your mother does not like anymore and you could still go to see your cousin or aunt, how could that idea of competition be different?

Wondering what happens when the students will fully reach the grasp that they are costumers…and teachers fully grasp that their students are potential competitors….bbrrrrr

7.00am Breakfast in a café in the park where the campsite is. Janna is worried that there are elephants in the park. Yogi Bear might also show up at any time. We notice that in the toilets there is actually just one Schubert song repeating over and over again. We set off for a 1000km drive.

AUTOGRILLS: a big feature of the day. Main floor: café bar, till, sandwiches. Loos. Upper floor: Buffet, sit down restaurant. Back downstairs: obligatory routing through shop that sells cheeses, wines, meats, CDs, toothbrushes for 5 euros, (porno) mags and videos, soft toys that snore and a pyramid display of enormous jars of nutella. The colours are red and yellow and there are soldiers in several of the stops. People aren’t into queuing.

8.00 – 15.00 We re-trace our steps back to Bologna. I drive through some of the tunnels and viaducts. Scary Mary but its getting easier. Janna and Kanina watch a bit of a movie in the back and Valeria updates me on local Italian politics. There seems to be a level of dialogue and investment that is rare in my experience at least, of anglo-cultures. V thinks it often just amounts to sophisticated moaning and that at the end of the day half the country voted for Berlusconi. Still, it is good to be somewhere where it feels like there’s a public engagement beyond ‘make tea not war’ and the endless reproduction of cosy ironic set piece critiques and commentaries.

15.00-21.00 Bologna – Innsbruck. V drives us through the Alps. There is a full moon so its all on spooky view. Around Trento we find an Auto Stop that has wireless. The signal is dodgy and the only place we can get it is if the laptop is placed on a bin outside. We gather round excitedly and manage to get a post up. Sill nowhere to plug in though and power is out. Crossing to Austria and immediately the landscape is different. No more pasta serving Auto Grills, the roads get a bit wider and the driving more rational…. Janna and I talk about setting up our own research centre. I think we’ve had versions of this conversation 100 times – and it gets better and perhaps more real each time. How to lever any institutional position to create something that supports and frames all the things we do anyway, except in a haphazard way…

21.00 – 24.00 Innsbruck to Munich: Apart from the last of the Alps foothills the driving’s pretty straightforward. The signage immaculate and the lanes more numerous. Its always fun for juveniles to be in countries where ‘fahrt’ type words occur regularly on signage… Kanina and I are talking about music and a bad Irish pub near the native centre in Toronto that she has frequented on many occasions. Apparently Kanina can sing along with some of the stagey Irish songs (janna brought a CD for torture).. but only when drunk. I will have to experiment….

00.30 Motorway near Munich airport. No time or money for a proper campsite tonight so we pull into a layby off the motorway with a bunch of truckers. Unconscious.

7am Wake up a little bit chilled. The heating in the van went off overnight so we are a stiff and grouchy. How can it be that we are further south than London but it’s a lot colder?? We have a coffee at the camp site and hit the road.

8am-12 noon: Valeria drives us through the viaducts and tunnels of Tuscany. Its beautiful. I feel like I know this landscape from a zillion paintings, films, olive oil and wine ads. In Irish churchyards they always try and grow those trees you see in Tuscany (and all the paintings that depict biblical scenes) that look like really big shrubs. Presumably they think that if they can coax the sodden ground into supporting such a tree, the space will be holier.
The trees always go brown. Kanina and I download pics and listen in to yesterday’s conversations again to tag pieces of audio for the video we will hopefully make. For some reason the bits I don’t understand seem
more interesting than the bits I can (the English parts). Its funny when you don’t speak a language how you automatically attribute significance to what is said on a purely musical basis. Italian is tricky to figure out musically as it feels dramatic, as if every sentence is life or death when often Valeria tells us later they were just discussing directions. Like last night in Bifo’s classroom, I think that if I just listen harder I will get it.

12 ish: I take over some of the driving as the bends and tunnels get less intense nearer Rome. I
haven’t driven something this size on the wrong side of the road before so it’s a bit scary. Italians are also crazy drivers coming right up behind you to ‘sniff your ass’ (which is apparently the local phrase to describe the habit) and then slaloming around. I have trusting comrades. Valeria takes over again when we get close to Rome’s infamous ring road. The campsite on Via Flaminia (which Janna elegantly re-names via chlamidia) is almost impossible to get to. We lap it a few times.

3.00 Campsite is super luxury. The bathrooms have mosaic, a fountain, piped music and the toilets spray you if you don’t get out in time. What happened gritty camping?! (see post on camper van version of adventure)

4.00 Make it into Piazza del Republica 2 hours late but the demonstration is still close by. I have never seen so much graffiti ˆ and great graffiti. We catch up with Valeria’s friend from the Torino precarious workers group. Janna does an interview with her and then another one with someone else from the same group named Roberta. The interview begins from Bifo’s question that we have relayed from Bologna. There seems to be some ambivalence around this demo. There are communist party flags and banners everywhere, yet the communist party are actually one of the coalition partners in Prodi’s new government. So who are they talking to? There also seems to be some similar feeling to those that Bifo expressed about the limitations of the protest now. Yet, the people we spoke to thought that demonstrations are still important as part of a broader strategy. Janna noticed that people were talking about gathering experiences of precarity in order to develop together an analysis of what is going on. They talked funnily enough about knowledge-sharing, formats for listening, the need to re-group, as many of the people they speak with are confused, depressed and don’t know what to do. It’s the most bizarre experience walking through a city you’ve never been to before, but with whose monuments and images you are so familiar ˆ on a demo! I could just about make out the colosseum and all the other central areas through the red flags.

6.30 We try to find our way to Maria Thereza Alves and Jimmie Durhams’ place for drinks. We get lost a lot.

19:00-20.00: Spend the evening with Maria Thereza, Jimmie and their two friends, Dora and Mario who are
curators of the Sound Art Museum. They have worked in this area of the city and a nearby town for many
years. Turns out Valeria has been to Tunis with Dora before and then we see Lucia who we know from London
has curated an exhibition with them too. It’s an amazing evening. Jimmie wrote a poem that morning about hearing the song ‘You are my Sunshine’ in the shop that morning. They edited out the last line which is always the one where disillusionment sets in, even in the best of love songs ‘When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken And I hung my head and cried’ (Karaoke soundtrack for the song if you now can’t get it out ofyour head

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/lyrics/sunshine.htm)

20.00-23.00 We go to a restaurant nearby and at the end of the night we ask if we can relay our questions from Bologna and from the people we spoke to in the protest earlier. The group have clearly been thinking about our questions since we sent the email earlier and there is a really generous, thoughtful and interesting set of responses. Maria Thereza speaks about an apprenticeship scheme she heard of in Germany. The apprentice moves from city to city and chooses his or her own teacher. They can leave at any time. We think about this as an educational format there is something about what Maria Thereza says about a community taking responsibility for the education of the young that is really interesting. I wonder if this gets to the heart of the problem of free labour in enforced education ˆ the problem that it becomes a way of taking advantage, milking, controlling and defining
the student rather than ANY of the things education was supposed to be about. We also like the mobility of the format and wonder if we are doing just that on a tiny scale ˆ finding our teachers. Jimmie talks about how we must find a non-economic way to talk about money and economics. He thinks we’ve left it to the economists who of course will only ever define it one way. He worries about how out of control our desire, manipulation, proliferation and dependence on money has become There is some discussion about value, payment, competition…

23.00 There’s too much money in the pot for the meal so we use the surplus for a taxi to the camper van ‘champagne socialists’ Get the heat going properly and everyone sleeps better.

On the road… finally

The camper van is a symbol of precariousness, but of the deluxe kind. It is the middle class dream of wealth, a campervan and you can transport your kids to good places, it affords you the adventure but with a house in a shell attached to it. It is wanting an adventure but not too adventurous. But at the same time is the most mobile form of mass travel that we invented. So, what, why, how to make the connection between our topic and our form of research? Precarity and education is a deluxe kind of problem. I am not sure about the post-operaist intertwining of what appear to me 2 very distinct conditions of existence. On the one hand there are those who temp because one day they want to be special, and on the other there are those who temp just because. It is not a matter of conditions that changes, both free labour and precariousness are nasty enough, complex enough not to reduce the problem to a matter of money.
The camper van reminds me also of the unite states and their dreams… a dreaming nation, where people in Alabama or Luisiana would spend quite some money on luxurious models of trailers that will never get moved around anyway, and they just live there. The pretentious aesthetics of those camper houses. Their smell of cheap hair spray is one of my stronger tactile impressions of the states. I went to hear a talk about a group of architects who set up a school in Alabama and are now building very interesting houses for a very poor county, getting people to move from trailers to this new homes made with the free labour of the architecture school students. It is a good project, especially since trailers value goes down really quickly , opposite to property. The scary part is that now corporations are flirting with the school offering for their students the opportunity to design fresh looking buildings for them. Bingo.

V.

Deli/SalamiDispatch of Question 1Bifo @ the evening schoolEvening school students
Turin – Bologna

06:00 Turin – Asti
Valeria, Janna and Kanina set off from Turin in the early hours of the morning to pick up the camper van.

08:30 Asti-Bologna
Valeria reported on her conversations the evening before with friends Monica and Cosimo Scarinzi. Monica has recently been made redundant from an administrative job with a curatorial collective. She will be replaced by two interns. Cosimo was Valeria’s secondary school philosophy instructor and is now a trade unionist organizing educational workers in Turin. He is an incredible man, who was involved in the operatisme movement in Italy in the 1970. Among other things, he is now concerned about what strategies might be used to encourage members of the trade union to sit on local school councils.

We discussed the problem of incorporating free labourers – whose desires and circumstances are often quite different from those of precarious workers – into the precarious movement, while acknowledging the absolute contingency of the one on the other.

13:00 Camping Hotel, Bologna

There were three stars on the doormat, but we’re not sure if that was a statement of value or just a decoration.
The cost was higher than we thought as we had to pay for each person.
We will hide members of our party next time.
Driving on a very nice bus from the campsite into Bologna, we passed a train station that was blown up by the right wing in Italy. The blamed it on the Left.

13:30 Bologna City Centr
At a fountain in the Piazza Majore, we re-united with Susan. Over plates of pasta at one of Bologna’s famous delis, we discussed our afternoon’s activities: a quest to find the place where the Bologna Process took place and a meeting with theorist Franco Berardi and his students at the evening school.

14:00 Book Store
Got a book about getting lost.

14:00 Somewhere near the University of Bologna
Slightly lost, we stumbled into an the San Cecilia Oratory, where a young man (a student from an art’s high school in Bologna) told us about the story of the martyr depicted by a series of frescos and the namesake of the Oratory. San Cecilia was the patron saint of music. She waged the promise of lifelong virginity for the image of an angel. Later in her life, she was submerged into boiling water and almost beheaded. Surviving both near-death encounters, she then gave all of her money to the poor and died. The young man seemed uncomfortable with the word ‘virgin’. We noted how frequently people, in their accusations of violence against Islam, forget stories like this.

14:10 University of Bologna

Trying out formats (cheesy television host, poker-faced comrade), we dispatched the question: ‘What can we learn from Free Labour?’ in the arcades of the University, after photographing signs for a ‘workers market’ put up around the campus in preparation for tomorrow’s precarious living demo in Rome.

Recording devices in hand, we began to question.

We approached a woman wearing a PLO scarf. She described herself as a student. She had not heard of the Bologna process, but had engaged in an internship. She felt that internships offer valuable experiences, but wishes that corporations/employers would pay students for them.

Next, a conversation with three students at the university: one of philosophy, one in business, the third said he had to go. The students has also not heard of the Bologna Process, but felt that internships were a good way to get into the workforce. When asked how they supported their internships economically, one student revealed that he had worked in Spain, and that his parents helped. The other had not completed one, as they are not offered to students of philosophy. We wondered what a philosophy internship could be. The former student felt that it would be nice to be paid, but was not particularly bothered. He was, however, concerned about the lack of freedom in the Italian educational system and pronounced that teachers, in the words of Pink Floyd ‘should leave us kids alone!’ We wondered what happens to students whose parents cannot afford to support them while doing an internship.

The third person we spoke to was a medical student who had just completed 7 years of school, but cannot practice medicine. His internship at a hospital was supported by a small grant from the University, though many do this for free. He will likely work in a bar while he studies for his exams and before he can enter a 3-yr program to specialize.
He has applied for a grant, but they are very competitive and he will likely have to work to support this as well. Valeria asked him if this angered him, that he could not practice medicine, and that he would have to work in a bar while possessing the skills to treat people without enough money to pay the 260 euros that is the mandatory fee for a visit with a GP. He said, ‘that’s the way things are’.

17:00 Bus between city centre and evening school
Shuffling in and out of people’s way, we questioned our question and modes of questioning, concerned about performing a neutrality that would be a lie (we are clearly invested in the question), not wanting to conduct aggressive interrogation, frustrated by the apathy we experienced at the University.

17:15 Aperitifs
Over glasses of campari, bubbly wine and colourful snacks, we discussed approaches to working with students.
Wondering at the level of acceptance expressed about free labour as and educational requirement, we again re-visited the idea that free labour, while often supported by precarious work, is informed by a dramatically different set of desires i.e. for prestige, for accreditation. It is also framed by a different temporality. It economy based in the future. We speculated that the issue with the educational requirement of free labour is not about getting paid/not getting paid – the language of exploitation does not account for the issue of desire. It is more the problem that Paulo Virno describes i.e. when our modes of political participation are fulfilled within the realm of work, making political participation a hollow performance, a going through the motions. This is what is so frightening about the Bologna Process proposals around standards for lifelong and informal learning.

Back to the students questioned today, we wondered what kind of mobilization or form of questioning would emerge from the apathy expressed by people today on the street – all of whom were not particularly happy about the current state of affairs, but accepted internships as a necessary aspect of Education.

We also wondered about the way that EU Commissions create strange geographies of disconnection with the places in which accords are signed and processes launched.

18:30 Evening School Hallway
Met Franco Berardi at the Evening School.
He was holding a set of maps to use in his 20th Century History class.
On the way to his classroom he told us that the school was built in the 1850s for workers in the adjoined factories. The school is now run for students who wish to obtain a secondary school diploma, but work during the day, many of whom are migrants. Students take classes from 7-11, five nights per week for five years.

19:00 Evening School Classroom
Five students were present. Franco introduced the project.
A heated discussion ensued in Italian. Janna, Susan and Kanina understood very little, but heard something about the futility of protest. Valeria relayed that one student suggested that the issue of internships is no different from that of the exploitation of any worker – that the bosses hold all of the power. They wondered why we were going to Rome to attend a protest. They also expressed their appreciation of a recent taxi workers strike, though Franco suggested that it was more possible to stage an effective protest if one owns the means of production themselves. They did not have a specific question for us to take to Rome, apart from why we were going there. We will do our best to provide an answer.

20:00 Pizzaria

Franco told us that when he asks a question, it sometimes comes across as a lecture.
He asked us to dispatch the following question to the people at the protest in Rome:
(paraphrased) The 1990s were an amazing time for mobilization, for developing formats like the ESF. This changed on the 5th of February, 2003 when millions of people all of over protested the war in Iraq and Bush declared that ‘this is not a focus group’. This was the moment when our faith in participatory democracy was lost. It’s time for us to try something new…like sabotage. What other forms of protest can we use?

22:00 Camping Hotel
Camper van plugged into an electrical socket nearby, we made up our beds and tucked in for the night.

Tomorrow: to Rome for the demonstration of precarious workers, a meeting with a precarious worker’s group from Turin and dinner and a stroll with artists/thinkers/activists Maria Thereza Alvez and Jimmie Durham.

Bologna to Eindhoven (via London)
November 2-15, 2006

The Ambulator is a question relay that proliferates roaming encounters and public discourses. Since September, 2006 the project has been hosted by the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (NL), part of the exhibition, Academy: Learning from the Museum. In collaboration with the staff at the museum, students and people in the city of Eindhoven, questions and answers have been generated, exchanged, accumulated and lost. One such question will take to the road in November:

‘What Can We Learn from Free Labour?’

The Ambulator Camper Van will dispatch this question on a route that begins in Bologna, home of the first university of the western world and, more recently, of the Bologna Process, an initiative of the European Commission that aims to standardize education across the continent. This ongoing process, while virtually absent from media discourse, has proposed a number of problematic reforms in all aspects of education, including the drastic re-definition of its relationship to labour. The Ambulator expedition wonders:

  • What will it mean to receive credits for all aspects of our participation in public life?
  • How are unpaid internships different from free labour?
  • Why are people being sent to school to get a visa?
  • Are our endless educational experiences suspending the realization that there are actually no jobs for us?

Questions generated from conversations in each city will be delivered to the next one on route. The relay will continue through a modest publication, a reading group and who knows what else. After all, expeditions serve precisely to gain an idea of the morphology of a territory!

If you take part in self-organized knowledge exchanges, have experiences of daily virtuosity, or strategic proposals about resisting the current state of affairs in education that you’d like to share, we’d love to meet with you along this improvised journey.

Itinerary

November 2   Torino, Atipici
November 3   Bologna, University of Bologna & Autonomous Lab
November 4   Rome, Precarious Living Demo
November 5   Munich, TBA
November 6   Antwerp, MUKHA, HISK
November 10 London camper van party
November 15 Eindhoven, Vanabbemuseum

…with the possibility of all stops along the route (Milan, Basel, Bonn, Koln, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Lucerne, Freiburg, Gent, Brussels).

Contact: theambulator@gmail.com for more information or check this blog for postings!!

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