Dance, Debt and the Rebel Body

Engagements in Sevilla, Fall 2016

Doñana y el Tulipán Africano

Collaborations with Flo6x8 in Sevilla

In the fall of 2016 the University of the Phoenix's revenge consultancy was commissioned by the Spanish artivist platform Flo6x8 to collaborate on an intervention in the historic European city where Columbus's catastrophic voyage set sail in 1492.  

Today, almost a decade into the global financial crisis, Sevilla, like many cities in the "European periphery," is experiencing the torture of austerity: high rates of unemployment and precarity, a disastrous wave of home foreclosures, and worsening health and social indicators.

Flo6x8, founded before the crisis, came to worldwide fame for reclaiming the radical, working-class origins of Flamenco by staging disruptive performances in banks, legislatures and other sites of financial power. Their guerrilla actions spread virally by social media and have become an iconic part of the upsurge of social movement activity associated (outside of Spain) with the Indignados moment of 2011 and 2012.

Since that time, the right-wing Spanish government has launched a campaign of political repression against its own people, including the passing of the notorious "gag law" aimed at quelling dissent through dramatic fines.

The University of the Phoenix and Flo6x8 worked together over the fall of 2016 to discover what new forms of activism and righteous vengeance might be possible in an age of drowned hopes and severe repression.

Doñana and the African Tulip

Based on conversations with the University of the Phoenix's revenge consultants, Flo6x8 planned and executed a daring set of interventions targeting CaixaBank and the atrocious skyscraper it financed (the only one in Sevilla or, indeed all of the province of Andalusia), in part because of the bank's financing of a natural gas drilling project in the  Doñana National Park.

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Flo6x8 explains (flo6x8.com/node/85):

The flamenco anticapitalist group Flo6x8 returns to the forefront with the action "Doñana y el tulipán africano” (soleá de Triana). With this action we want to denounce how the economic interests and exploitation of Doñana's natural resources (Andalucia) is putting at risk our National Park, a natural heritage of great ecological and cultural value.

Flo6x8 incriminates CaixaBank with the action “Doñana and the tulipán africano” as the main shareholder of the transnational Company Gas Natural Fenosa. This company is responsible for the Pipeline project and the storage of gas in Doñana. The video action takes place at the foot of Torre Sevilla, owned by CaixaBank and the sole skyscraper in Seville. This building is taken as a symbol of the financial arrogance and urban fiasco in this city.

The Pipeline and gas storage project poses a serious seismic threat, as well as a source of pollution of the National Park and biggest wetland of Europe. The project lacks scientific backing to endorse its viability as a whole. It currently represents the biggest threat of the many that are looming over the National Park.

The Doñana Gas Project has been supported and approved by the [Spanish Prime Minister] Mariano Rajoy's government, which has declared it as a project of public interest, as well as the Andalusian regional government. Susana Díaz, the regional government president, accepted the project in its initial stages and now shows some lukewarm opposition in overruling it, despite the mobilizations against it. In order to understand this implicit approval towards such a controversial project it is relevant to be aware that the enablers of this environmental and social outrage are Isidre Fainé and Felipe González. Fainé has been director of CaixaBank for more than 30 years and now leads Gas Natural Fenosa. González, former Prime Minister of Spain, has also been president of the Participation Council of the Doñana National Park (2009-2012) and member of the Gas Natural Fenosa Advisory Board (2010-2015).

Flo6x8 with its flamenco troop attacks the tower and its owner with African Tulip seeds, one of the most invasive plants in the planet. The Tulip seeds act as a trojan vegetable: They assault the tower and retake for nature what the financial colonization wants to steal from us. For every gas pipeline that aims to drag us to hell, we will conquer a skyscraper. The action restores equilibrium bringing back to earth what is rightfully hers, which is also ours.

We reject the gas project and subscribe the mobilizations proposed by entities sympathizing with the problems on Doñana Natural Park:

Salvemos Doñana: http://www.salvemosdoñana.es/

Act. Pass it on.

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For the University of the Phoenix, this is the latest collaboration that calls on the spirit of the Immortal Stranger (Tulipan Africano), a flowering tree that the University's researchers were discovered and possessed by  in Puerto Rico, and which is now the President of the University.

Following a botanical revenge tour of San Francisco in September of 2016, where the Immortal Stranger helped participants recognize the connections between financialization, colonialism, racial capitalism and gentrification (outlined in an article published in ROAR Magazine), the University sought to make an intervention at the site of colonialism's dark origins, Sevilla, which is now also a victim of the global capitalism that Columbus's voyage unleashed.

Working with Flo6x8, the working-class and radical dance form of Flamenco is partnered with the seeds of the Immortal Stranger (sourced on a reclaimed autonomous coffee farm in Puerto Rico) to take vengeance on CaixaBank.

Debt, Flamenco and the Rebel Body workshop

In mid-December of 2016, Flo6x8 and the University of the Phoenix collaborated on offering a workshop on Debt, Flamenco and the Rebel Body for activists from several PAH (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca) chapters near Sevilla.

La PAH, an activist group with chapters in more than 100 municipalities, has emerged as one of the most important, powerful and inspirational movements in Spain today. They are autonomously organized and led by those who have had their homes seized or endangered by bank-led foreclosures in the wake of the financial crisis and collapse of the financialized Spanish housing market. An excellent documentary about the group's Barcelona chapter can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caD17RKJfbc

Like Flo6x8 and other activist initiatives, La PAH is struggling with severe political repression, notably the infamous "gag law" which punishes activists with staggering fines for any form of disruption. Meanwhile, the political stalemate of Spanish politics, combined with the worsening economic and social situation of austerity, has led to a loss of momentum.

Working together,  Flo6x8 and the University of the Phoenix convened this workshop to discover what radical Flamenco might be able to offer beyond an inspiring spectacle. Starting from the perspective that financialization and debt lodge themselves within the body and stymie hope, solidarity and activism, the full-day workshop, held at the Radiopolis community space in Sevilla, aimed at discovering how to reclaim collective power through dance.

The workshop began with a presentation by the University of the Phoenix's Max Haiven that explained how financialization and debt aim to control people's collective movement while enabling and accelerating the movement of global capital. 

Next, Cassie Thornton of the University of the Phoenix led the participants in a set of embodied exercises that drew on Kundalini yoga, method acting and activist role-playing that offered the activists a means to contact and draw strength and inspiration from the spirits of the dead.

Following lunch, Flo6x8 activist and professional Flamenco dancer and teacher Niña Ninja worked with the PAH activists to transform their experiences of financial pain and fury into a collective dance, with lyrics aided by the flamenco guitarist Rentable. This dance  will be used in the future as a method of activist intervention.

The lyrics

Banquero tu no te enteras
Banquero tu no te enteras
Aquí no pasamos hambre
Ni mi casa te la quedas
Bankers, you still don't get it
Bankers you still don't get it
We refuse to go hungry
And you will never get my house

Nos lo ponen muy difícil
Los alquileres sociales
Habiendo pisos vacíos
Y mucha gente en la calle
[They make it so very difficult for us
To negotiate a humane compromise
Yet there are so many empty homes
And so many people are in the streets]

Deja ya a nuestro avalista
Deja ya a nuestro avalista
Que ellos no tienen la culpa
De esta crisis que asfixia
[Leave our guarantors alone
Leave our guarantors alone
They are not guilty
Of this crisis that strangles us]

Nosotros te rescatamos
Nosotros te rescatamos
Pero se te acabo el chollo
Porque aquí en la PAH estamos
[We rescued you, banker
We rescued you, banker
But your luck is running out
Because the PAH has arrived]

El Gobierno se equivoca
El Gobierno se equivoca
Rescatando a los banqueros
Juegan con nuestro dinero
[The Government was mistaken
The Government was mistaken
When it rescued the bankers
And played with our money]