APRIL 18 / 19 (2 0 0 9)  
Weekend of discussions / screenings organized by 16beaver group for LEFT FORUM & Migrating Forms

Saturday, April 18th

What: Talk / Discussion -- How Occupation Works
When: Saturday 04.18.09 -- 12:00 - 2:00 pm (please come a little early to find the exact room)
Where: Pace University (across from City Hall)
One Pace Plaza (New York, NY 10038)
Who: Participants will include 16 Beaver Group, Kurt Hill (People's fire house), Father Frank Morales and Jerry the Peddler (Squatting Movement of the Lower East Side), Lynn Owens (Sociologist), Take Back NYU (Ellie Kahn, Drew Phillips and Olive Mckeon), New School in Exile (John Clegg, Tim Hearin) and Friends from Picture the Homeless

The Left Forum is a yearly gathering of individuals thinking about "the Left."

Our event draws its inspiration from:
The recent occupations at NYU, the New School
The factory sit ins in Chicago, London, Belfast.
The squatting of empty houses across the United States by families whose homes have been foreclosed upon.
The history of squatting and occupation as mode of resistance in New York and other cities.

To help connect these disparate but related trajectories, we have invited guests who are familiar with the history of squatting in New York, individuals fighting for the rights of the homeless and displaced, tenants fighting eviction, and researchers who have studied the rise and fall of different tactics and strategies (such as squatting) within political movements. We will also be joined by students who have been involved with the recent university occupations at NYU and the New School. They and our other guests will help us begin a conversation about the status of contemporary political struggles and the role of occupation as a strategy of resistance within a broader political context of corporatization and financialization.

We had initially thought of this event as a kind of "how-to" workshop. But we believe that this type of an event will require more time and focus. Rather, we would like to see this as a beginning of a conversation, bringing together different but related struggles, which could lead to further conversations and actions.

It would be great if the event would be half instigation for further action and half history and inspiration and maybe a few words of caution.

Please Note:
The Left Forum ( has an amazing program this entire weekend. If you would like to attend those other events, by all means available, pay the fees. But if you are only coming for our event, please let them know that you are a speaker in the workshop and that you are not required to pay. As for all of our events, those who attend are not intended to be an audience but an active part of what can unfold.

Sunday, April 19th

What: Collective Film -- How Occupation Works
When: Sunday 04.19.09 -- 2:00 - 3:30 pm (please come early if you plan to contribute)
Where: Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue corner of East 2nd St. (New York, NY 10003)
Who: This event is free and open to all

Migrating Forms ( is a new initiative that grew out of the New York Underground Film Festival.

This event is the sister event of our conversation on Saturday. It is an experiment in constructing collectively a film, on a set subject, by chance.

We are interested in how at this precise moment, we can resist on both fronts:
a. against occupation
b. how to use occupation to reclaim space and time and unleash potentials that are stuck within the matrices of hierarchies, normalities and the status quo (i.e. change things enough to keep things the same).

This time, the conversation will unfold as a film constructed entirely of scraps, shorts, fragments brought in by friends and the public. There are no rules other than the imperative to bring something which for you helps us understand or change our relation to - what could it mean, this word, this act, occupation.

As we all know, occupation is used to describe two entities: one related to the state, its strategies of control, and the other is part of the strategies of resistance, to occupy a building as a protest for example, or simply to occupy/squat a building to live in. There is also the occupation which occupies our time, our mind, our thoughts. Moving us from What is to be done? to How will it to be done?

This film, which is yet to be constructed, will give us a taste of how words hide ideas and practices. And how those ideas and practices can come back to shift the meaning of words.

Everyone is encouraged to bring in a cued selection from a video or a film by others or themselves. Found footage associated references, flights of poetry and literal awakenings are welcome.

Please note:
We will try to assemble the film on one computer as a playlist on VLC. So as far as format is concerned. Ideally you can bring the video in file form, whether on an external drive or other storage device. Please come at 1:00pm, we will have a sign directing you. Files on dvd's or cd's can also work. Normal dvd's are also possible. If all you have is a dv tape or vhs, we will also be able to work with these as a last resort. 16mm film or 35mm is also possible, but we need to know in advance. If you have any questions please write to occupation (at)

Please keep in mind that the excerpts should not be longer than 5 minutes. Again, write to us at the above email address if you have something that you believe should be an exception to this rule.


1 a job or profession : his prime occupation was as editor.
• a way of spending time : a game of cards is a pretty harmless occupation.
2 the action, state, or period of occupying or being occupied by military force : the Roman occupation of Britain | crimes committed during the Nazi occupation.
• the action of entering and taking control of a building : the workers remained in occupation until October 16.
3 the action or fact of living in or using a building or other place : a property suitable for occupation by older people.

verb ( -pies, -pied) [ trans. ]
1 reside or have one's place of business in (a building) : the apartment she occupies in Manhattan.
• fill or take up (a space or time) : two long windows occupied almost the whole wall.
• be situated in or at (a place or position in a system or hierarchy) : on the corporate ladder, they occupy the lowest rungs.
• hold (a position or job).
2 (often be occupied with/in) fill or preoccupy (the mind or thoughts) : her mind was occupied with alarming questions.
• keep (someone) busy and active : Sarah occupied herself taking the coffee cups over to the sink | [as adj. ] ( occupied) tasks that kept her occupied for the remainder of the afternoon.
3 take control of (a place, esp. a country) by military conquest or settlement : Syria was occupied by France under a League of Nations mandate.
• enter, take control of, and stay in (a building) illegally and often forcibly, esp. as a form of protest : the workers occupied the factory.

ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from Latin occupatio(n-), from the verb occupare (see occupy ). Sense 2 dates from the mid 16th cent. formed irregularly from Old French occuper, from Latin occupare ‘seize.’ A now obsolete vulgar sense [have sexual relations with] seems to have led to the general avoidance of the word in the 17th and most of the 18th cent..

Some Questions

How to begin talking about these different ideas of occupation, as it pertains to our time?

Occupying Now and When?

- What aspects of a particular occupation go beyond the specific time, place, or struggle.
- What might each of the participants' experiences offer as tools, tactics, and recipes for future struggles?

- How can short-term occupation lead to long-term occupation?

- Squatting is a major example of a means of resistance where concrete needs and symbolic struggles align.  To squat a building has a long-term timeframe and a direct connection to the participants' lives.  How does this taking of spaces for life relate to reclaiming public space, sites of labor, factories, hospitals, universities and more?  

- Student occupations: How do we re-occupy or think of forms of occupation which take into account the contemporary nature of urban universities as neoliberal enterprises: employers, landlords, investment portfolio holders, dubai-qatar-campus builders, etc.  If past occupations were targeted sit-ins at administration offices, what are the sites or targets that might most adequately respond to the dispersed nature of power in the university today?

How do we occupy ourselves and how our selves are occupied?

Marty -- Pre-occupied

from Berkley to New York

I was in junior high school in Berkeley, in 1964.  I went up to the University of California campus, and found the main plaza full of thousands of students, with hundreds more occupying the central administration building.  The processing hub of the university had come to a halt. That moment was one of several in the 1960s that exposed the seams of an oppressive post-war culture, one that offered a life based on consumption and obsessive anti-communism.  

Part of the novelty of the Free Speech Movement was the idea of future information managers occupying the development spaces of the information economy.  That effort had many results.  One was that the state (of California) had to resort to violence on a level unheard of:  Troops, mass bayonet charges, poison gas, all were part of my teenage years.  

The students had struggled for the right for political groups to be present on campus.  That struggle was won on some level.  The later history of then Governor Reagan, AKA Commander-in-Chief, California National Guard, who rode to national fame on his suppression efforts suggest the limits of that victory.

In the 1970s I came to New York at the time of a bankruptcy crisis.  The consumer society had oversold itself.  Billed as profligacy, the crisis was actually more dire.  People didn’t want to work on the line any more.  They wanted day care, medical care, post-secondary education and meaningful occupations.  A stop was put to that.   The city was taken over directly by the big banks.  The idea of a society that could better the lives of its citizens was over.   People responded in many ways, few of them even locally effective.  As a young filmmaker, I filmed the occupation of a firehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, threatened with closing.  The Boy Scouts and the retired grandmothers sat around guarding the engine.  When the city refused to reopen the station they blocked the BQE.  That caused a mess, and got on TV.  

The 80s were the era of ‘low intensity conflict’.  I spent those years filming displaced people in camps:  Guatemalans, Palestinians, Vietnamese.  Today there are millions more.  Hard to define a right to space, and harder to enforce it.

The lessons of spacial occupation are taught over and over, but there are differences.  In the US it is now important to clear people out because they are witnesses, rather than because they are stopping the machine.  One thinks of the RNC and the treatment of alternative media, or the effort of New York City to force documentary filmmakers off the streets.

For today, more than ever, the use of public space in any form is heavily contested and controlled.  Space is privatized, at the same time we’re learning we’re part of a ‘network society.’ What is left of our physicality in this networked world?  Is it just that we have to park ourselves somewhere and so can be forced to pay for it?   Even evictions don’t have the weight they did in other eras, because so many are owners not renters.  The landlords have evanesced into derivatives on the world market.
In a network age a more biological, not to say hydrological, metaphor of membranes and viruses defines thinking prevails.  The borders, the walls and tunnels become channels of conflict in a new society of circulation.  

No longer does the metaphor of a social machine grinding to a halt mean what it once did.  The gigantic global peace march of 2003, the largest in history, and it could be (and still is being ) ignored.  Here in NYC, the recent labor and student demo at City Hall of some 40,000 was covered as a rush hour annoyance in the mainstream media, exactly as a clogging of the flow.

What is more important is people pre-occupying themselves.   We are doing different things.  We are buying locally.  We are working nomadically.  We are learning systems.  We are reverse engineering the barcodes.  Note. this isn’t exactly power, but it is a kind of shared consciousness and a potential base for power.  We occupy new pathways, new nodes.  And of course, we become new selves.  A bit hokey, but ‘pre-occupied.’  Our receptor cites no longer available for takeover in quite the same way.

Occupation:  Scanner.  Also key, and less noted, are the forms of control, the bio-location devices, GPI’s in your ID badge at work,  and of course the heavy identification for counter insurgency, in Iraq, a first, with its mobile retina scans, and Afghanistan a first with militarized anthropologists doing kinship charts to track deviance.  Missile-laden drones circle over the skies of Pakistan and Afghanistan run by pilots living in suburban Arizona.  Busy, not to say occupied, studying small screens.