Sunday — 09.06.20 — Marking the Passing of David Graeber

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1. A Brief Introduction
2. A Background
3. On the Form Itself
4. Texts For David

1. A Brief Introduction

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we write this letter to you. We have been preparing with friends a way of celebrating, remembering, thinking with a dear friend and comrade to so many of us, David Graeber whom we lost only days ago.

Sunday the 6th of September 2020 at 10AM (New York Time).

For those interested to mark this moment and join, please write to mai [AT] 16beavergroup.org.

Details will be sent in the morning shortly before 10AM.

2. A Background

We convene not only recalling all the violence that we are surrounded by and that we have been considering over these last months together …
The revelations this week of the murder of Daniel Prude in Rochester New York and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha Wisconsin.
Remembering the violent murder of those fighting for black life and against fascist incitement and the structures upholding white supremacy.
The thousands of deaths that accumulate daily from a virus that is but an expression of a relentless assault on life and the complex ecologies of existences which have made up our resilient yet also highly fragile worlds.
The tens of thousands unnamed who have died in these months from structural neglect and abandonment inside and outside hospitals, including the doctors, nurses, care workers as well as those under their care, all the elders in care homes, all those imprisoned, detained, denied homes, migrants and those seeking refuge, separated from their families, communities denied means of subsistence, facing threats of eviction whether from ancestral villages because of mega infrastructure and extractive projects or from family homes inside our cities.
All the forms of state organized or sanctioned, racist, gendered, biocidal, geocidal violence.
… it is all this and more that has brought us together to think and consider ways out.

But we do so specifically, to mark this moment of the loss of a friend, who over these last decades has accompanied both intellectually and with so much joyful passion, the struggles so many of those who have inhabited the space have been part of, called to and touched by.

Among the many ways to recollect the pieces, maybe one could say that 16 Beaver has started in 1999 as an inquiry into the possibilities for thinking, weaving, reimagining, reclaiming a meaning of community together – confronted by capitalist realism, subjecting and evicting every life from common life, to think a community that could hold a common in and through the experiences of difference, that could nourish a common as the basis of every struggle and also every experience of singularization, that would be more than a sum of individuals, a space for reconsidering a lived and embodied communism, that would never close in on itself, that would never become a work or a place of work, that would never communicate or ex-communicate an inside and an outside, that would learn from all the occlusions of those old projects of a community in the name of surpassing borders, but full of borders and border guards,  and dismantling those hierarchical forms of organization whether in study or struggle or everyday life, an experience of community that would also be an experience of thresholds, of  a proliferation of transmissions, of passings and passings on,  toward a politics otherwise, what some in those early years called a politics to come, a community unworked and unworking, a coming community and with it a politics of friendship.

The experience of occupy was very rich, a dream for so many, but also a confrontation that eviscerated in many way the subtle development of sensibilities and questions which had marked our own process of arriving through the contacts between thought, struggles situated across the globe, and new processes and experiments of inventing our own devices of desubjectivation and de-individualization, arriving to our own processes of decolonization. And it was the success of those movements and the commitments of resisting any internality or central committees that gave them their strength. But it meant that what would remain from their peaks would not be lasting organizations as much as relations, experiences, friendships, affinities formed, to re-collect pieces, dimensions and continue the struggles in new ways, new fields, learning from the limits we confronted on each occasion.

And it is in this conjuncture that we also meet now.

So many things changed from those early days of study, struggle, convening and weaving, but this commitment to continually meet, to overcome whatever barriers that force us apart, and to recompose our communities of struggle, renewing our habits of assembly, remains in the center of our capacity to nurture our struggles and our worlds.

In coming together to remember and mark the passing of David this Sunday, we also come together to re-member ourselves. And to recognize that in marking this passing of a singular spirit and a friend, we also meet to replenish our thirst for the common fountains and springs which David fought so hard to recall and which will continue to recall him.

3. On the Form Itself

To set the stage for what may at first sight appear a completely reckless reckoning and the absolute antithesis to our experiments of embodiment and embodied politics, we will begin this note with another dear friend of the space, an artist, a tinkerer and thinker Paul Ryan, who we lost in December 2013.

Paul was involved in the early period of collective and communal experimentation with video. On May 17, 1971, five days after the death of his father, he went into the Raindance (the collective he was a part of) loft presumably at 24 East 22nd Street, and spent 12 hours recording a mad rap and address, what he called a video wake for his father. Some weeks later, he invited friends for a period of a week to his apartment on Riverside drive uptown to watch. As an invitation, he wrote:

“This video wake is by invitation only. If you’ve got this, it’s because I thought of you. At one time we’ve seen the gleam in each other’s eye and I want you to see this tape – all of it. Either that or someone I trust, trusts you.

Come as high as you want but bring no dope. I don’t want this scene busted. Bring food, wine, tape, you dig, raw or recyclable tape, blank checks, good friends. Something’s rotten in Denmark and I’m calling every game I know. I’m asking everything. I’m looking for a new way to move, with you or without you. This is a good start, believe me.”

In the visionary period of those experiments, the wake Paul organized was a way to envisage a time when we could share through the mediation of video, a kind of long distance proximity, an extimate intimacy that would by-pass state and capitalist control, and allow us to reintegrate with our ecologies and yet remain connected, directly. We are living in the dystopian refuse of those utopias. There is much more to say here, but we shall recognize in this mutilation of our worlds and ways of holding our worlds together, remnants of these possibilities which were imagined to escape the overcode (as another dear friend of the space has written about).

Of course, we have to struggle to reclaim our capacity to invent our own means of assembling outside the circuits of racial surveillance capitalism, even electronically. And for this we rely on our comrades more versed in these domains to help us find the means for this in the coming months. So by all means, those wishing to help, please contact us.

For now, we rely on the means we have available and this as one precedent to think how we may hold this space of mourning and being-with even in our distances.

The quoted text is taken from Paul’s book ‘Cybernetics of the Sacred.’

Some history of Raindance can be found here:

Some of Paul’s writings can be found here:

4. Texts For David

We recognize that many will not be able to join this Sunday and even more who will have thoughts and words to share, only afterward.

If you would like to share a memory, some words, some thoughts, inspirations relating to David, his passing and what he may pass on to us, we invite you to write to (with subject line – TEXTS FOR DAVID):

mai [AT] 16beavergroup.org

We hope to try to publish in some form these texts and share in the coming weeks.