more letters from latinamerica

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(e-mail enviado para lista da waag-sarai platform)

Hi Everyone

Late notes about territory.

In 2003, while flying back to Brazil after n5m4, I started taking some notes. That has been my first ever trip abroad, and I could at last see things from outside. Furthermore, I've seen a lot of things that transformed the way I thought about what I had been doing.

Apart from all the socio-cultural, environmental, economic differences and all that feeling of a native-brought-to-europe, it was another thing that kept me daydreaming: de balie. I never thought such a place could exist: a single location that held a cafe, a publishing house, a pub, a restaurant, conference rooms, all with internet access (and wi-fi, by that time a remote dream in Brazil).

We had been talking with Claudio Prado since may 2003, about the then called BACs, autonomous cultural bases. But that was a governamental effort, much more a project "for" the population. We missed then, and I believe we still do, a place of our own.

I don't think it's a coincidence that, despite some brilliant exceptions, most of people involved with what used to be projetometafora, metareciclagem and other network efforts are college dropouts or people that have problems with brazilian formal education. As I said, there are exceptions: Hernani is working towards his master's, and Dalton earned his last year. But the rest of us have that problems.

There's this old idea of creating "distributed learning" environments, both online and offline. As I got back from Amsterdam, I started talking with some people about the possibility of having a space such as de balie. Rosas joined that conversations. Me and Maratimba started looking for places to create the structure we then called CafeCoLab. We talked with people who had independent spaces, pubs, used book stores, and so on. Our proposal was to turn them (one of them?) into a collaborative environment, mixing music, video, graphic arts, technology and research. But it never worked out. People didn't quite understand our focus. Renting a space on our own would be too expensive, especially in São Paulo. At the same time, I got involved with the dissolution of projetometafora, and we began losing the interest.

Then came Claudio Prado's second wave. The BAC project had been aborted, and he was looking for new possibilities of "digital culture" (I don't agree with that term) inside the Ministery of Culture. He wanted to do a seminar + a book, and called me and some other people that were on the discussions of the BAC. Me and Maratimba suggested that Claudio should try to set up an experimental lab where we could test what we have been telling was possible (all that F(L)OSS-media production stuff). The project has not gone further, but Claudio understood the need for a physical space. When he started discussing with the municipal culture administration, the possibility of a base downtown São Paulo appeared. It would be the whole third floor of Olido gallery.

Governamental processes are slow, especially in Brazil, so the third floor is still there, vacant. Things changed, metareciclagem was able to create a lab upstairs the telecenter, and now the team that is deploying the cultural spots got a new space to work, the Piolim Space, and some technological  structure.

It's not an independent space, ok, but we are not expecting problems with the administration.

Pictures of the Piolim space soon.

I still miss a space where I can simultaneously learn and teach, where I can play my guitar and crash computers (I'm a champion on that issue).

Perhaps Piolim is the answer.

Or else, perhaps you are right and we need to create a space from scratch. But I don't think that is economically viable...

I don't know yet.