Planning for Bravos

At the bottom of a valley, full of dew and long shadows, the rain collects from the region and rushes by, enclosing the site with the noise of moving water. The buildings’ thick stone walls pull heat from the body, they pull weight like a cellar pulls mystery. I feel compelled to praise darkness, imagined reflections, hints of texture. To bring my face close and taste the quartz and slate.
The sky pushes lightness and darkness across itself, releasing water into lines, gullies, and black mud filled puddles. Clean light saunters across our faces as we shovel and rake, laying down gravel paths, our first marks on the site. The first intended choreography. The crunch underfoot, almost like a burst forward from here to there. A first draft: shockingly different from the great presence of buildings left for the inhabitation of bats and swallows.
A woman wields a pickaxe, a copper tube painted black collects heat for the shower, the palm tree stands tall and overlooks a parade of orchard saplings. Plans and sections are tacked to the chapel wall. Conversations mingle languages. Jamon and honey, wine, tortilla, fresh bread and nettle pesto reassure. Work gloves become as familiar as rolled-up sleeves.

A Program

The university is supposedly in crisis: a shift from research and teaching to management and PR, from professors to adjuncts and other temporary staff, too many students, too much tuition, too many sad biographies. The reserve army of academic labor is driven into precarity, while the lucky few with tenure are driven to a burn-out. The Humboldtian model of the university is giving way to the neoliberal model. In the former, the university served to cultivate a critical populace; in the latter, it is a machine that turns knowledge into lines on a CV. The university has moved from a place of Bildung to a place of Ausbildung: knowledge becomes a commodity, an attribute, a predicate whose transfer is certified by a title or degree.

The Humboldtian model distinguishes itself from its predecessors on two points: the coincidence of research and teaching in the figure of the professor, and state funding, which guaranteed a degree of autonomy not present in educational institutions of a clerical or vocational bent. Needless to say, nostalgia is pointless: the Humboldtian University was a bastion of exclusionism and nationalism. But there is another reason this model should hardly serve as an ideal. The public sphere that emerged in the 19th century allowed critique to freely circulate as long as it did not cross the threshold from word to gesture. The university was one of the sites that fostered critique while simultaneously containing it. As Friedrich II declared, twenty-five years before Fichte, Humboldt and Schleiermacher started corresponding about their new university: “You are allowed to think as much as you want and on whatever topic you wish; as long as you obey!”

It is important to fight for free education, and to guard the free spaces that still exist within the university. But why should our attempts to build spaces of critical thought not continue outside the university’s walls? It is not hard to create spaces that are more stimulating than the average seminar room, and rather than transform the institution from within, we might take whatever value that institution represents for us and try to nurture it outside. In every civilization, there are places that mirror its dominant institutions while contesting, inverting, and critically reflecting on them; Foucault called these sites heterotopias. To create a heterotopic university is not to oppose learning, but to liberate learning from its subjection to the imperatives that have come to dominate the neoliberal university.

Critique itself is also supposed to be in crisis. This crisis was first diagnosed in the 1960s, when consumption and mass media were seen to have displaced any critical attitude. The student movement of ‘68 was assimilated to a new form of capitalism, in which generalized competition and precarity served to exacerbate critique’s neutralization. In today’s Europe, where the institutions that traditionally served to channel critique (the unions, the communist parties, and now the labour parties) are in the process of disintegration, the domain of critique is occupied by the right: the most efficacious forms of anti-establishment thought are practiced by the new populist parties. Indeed, a critique separated from its material embeddedness easily turns into resentment.

But perhaps the fate of critique was sealed when it was reduced to the realm of words, enclosed in seminar rooms, trapped in newspapers, and – in the most extreme case – temporally limited in demonstrations or insurgencies. To draw lines between life and words or between normality and rupture is to act as if life in itself is not political. These lines are not simply erased, and we are not proposing a life without alienation. However, one can work against the capitalist separation of manual and intellectual labor, of theory and practice, of ownership and use. Power can ignore words, or resist them, or bend them to its aims, but a form-of-life in which the oppositions that sustain the status quo are suspended is always an affront: a lived critique.

If there is some idealism in this notion, we hope it is a productive idealism, in the most material sense.

Brief Update

t seems that the Foundry was not a foundry, but a bloomery, which does not reach the same temperature. The product of a bloomery is not cast iron, but a bloom.

Site specs:

Main Manor House: 55m2 + 59m2 + 56m2 (not all usable) + 30m2 (not all usable) = 200m2
Sub-Manor House: 74m2 + 79m2 + 79 m2 (not all usable) = 232m2
Servants House: 83m2 + 86 m2 + 84m2 (not all usable) = 253m2
Mini Barn: 14m2
———————————————————————–
Total Large House: ca. 700m2

Smaller Building: interior 19m2 + exterior 20-30m2 = ca. 40-50m2
Church: ca. 60 m2.
Mill: ca. 20 m2.

There is 26.000 m2 of land, part of which may be used to grow something.

Most buildings seem to be structurally in good condition (thick stone walls don’t deteriorate much), but the floor plans will need to be changed significantly. Also, some wood is rotting, and the buildings do not yet have plumbing and electricity.

We hope work on the site will start in March, and we can make the site inhabitable (very basic: showers, toilets) in a month or two; there will be some other form of accommodation until then. There will be professionals working on the site, but not all work requires training. Get in touch if you want to come.

There is now also a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/bravosfoundry/

The Foundry, Founded

The Foundry was an iron foundry in the 15th century. Then there was a castle, which was destroyed by Napoleon’s armies in the early 19th century. Using the stones of the ruined castle, people built a manor house from which the surrounding farms were administered. Until, in the 1970s, everyone left.

The Foundry will be a space where intellectuals can do intellectual work without dealing with the university and where artists can work on projects that don’t fit the demands of a grant program; a heterotopia where motivations other than enthusiasm are subtracted.

But first we need to build it. People who sense an affinity with the project and want to contribute can get in touch. Renovation work will probably start late winter / early spring 2018. There will be free food and accommodation. Everyone is welcome; there will be a lot of work. We have a small church, a mill, a small house and two big houses, most of them in pretty bad shape. Once the space is inhabitable, we can start organizing events.

The Foundry will be a space where intellectuals can do intellectual work without dealing with the university and where artists can work on projects that don’t fit the demands of a grant program; a heterotopia where motivations other than enthusiasm are subtracted.

But first we need to build it. People who sense an affinity with the project and want to contribute can get in touch. Renovation work will probably start late winter / early spring 2018. There will be free food and accommodation. Everyone is welcome; there will be a lot of work. We have a small church, a mill, a small house and two big houses, most of them in pretty bad shape. Once the space is inhabitable, we can start organizing events.

If someone is good at building websites that would also be great.