Each year, the Foundry sees more people and activity; in 2022 there was a festival, some talks, workshops and performances, a series of meetings about feminism and masculinity, and over a hundred people passed through the space. Weekly assemblies, movie nights and short story clubs provide a rhythm to the everyday. Construction on the main house is almost done; only the workshop and the space above it need a lot more work. We built a stable, a forge, a windmill and a geodome, planted a food forest, the garden is growing, and work is done on the spa – although many projects remain unfinished, and it has been a challenge to keep people motivated and accomplish goals. Several friends have bought houses nearby, making the Foundry into a social center for a community that extends beyond it, and we are planning a self-organized school in Bravos (not at the Foundry itself).
But perhaps, five years into the project, it is time for some critical reflection. My initial aim was for the Foundry to be a space at the edges of capitalism; a space where hierarchy, structural violence and exploitation are less present, allowing people a bit more freedom to work on what they want to work on. In an era of looming environmental, financial and social crises, it felt necessary to build zones of relative autonomy and put capacities in common, creating an outside to the systems that screw our lives and destroy the world. Translating these ideals into concrete aims, the association statutes list three objectives: 1. Organize events in the arts and (critical) humanities; 2. Provide a space for people to work on their projects with more freedom over their working conditions; 3. Foment sustainability and self-sufficiency.
Some of this has been realized. Decisions at the Foundry are made in assembly, and while some carry more weight than others, everyone is listened to. The infrastructure we have built over the last five years provides a material basis (a commons?) for a non-capitalist form-of-life. But at the same time, the Foundry fits quite snugly into capitalist modernity: 90 to 95% of our food comes from the supermarket, and most residents have regular jobs. Of course no one expects people to quit their job when moving to the Foundry (we all need money), and the low cost of living there may support a degrowth approach to work, but sometimes it seems we are at risk of becoming a co-working space rather than a piece of counter-infrastructure that can help to reduce the hold of neoliberalism over our lives (see my article here: https://roarmag.org/essays/freeing-space-building-worlds-outside-of-state-and-capital/).
In the first years, our focus was on turning a couple of ruins into a habitable space. Perhaps now it’s time to shift emphasis from building infrastructure to giving it a use that fits the original aims of the project. Part of this is attracting people who share our ethics. The Foundry has never used a complex procedure to select residents; we usually ask people what they plan to do and how long they plan to stay, and we try to keep out tourists, but that’s about it. We rely on the filters of word-to-mouth and (at least during the last few years) say no to the media (I do present the project at the occasional roundtable or conference). We also started collaborating with Artists at Risk, an initiative that connects persecuted artists with spaces where they are safe, and they have sent several Ukrainian artists our way. But in the winter, many rooms are empty, and we might want to attract more people that fit the aims of the project. Aside from creating networks with other self-organized spaces (see https://panforum.du-libre.xyz/ and https://www.freeingspace.com) and promoting the circulation of people (and knowledge) between them, I believe events are the key to this. They are like advertising: the event is less important than the people it attracts, and if one out of ten stays involved, we gradually build community. I will try to program something this coming summer, and invite anyone to come up with ideas that fit the ethos of the project. Perhaps the event committee can also include some people with interesting networks to program more events.
I started this project in 2018, but never had the ambition to run it. I am less active now than in the beginning, and might be less active in the future. The Foundry belongs to those who use it; they are its life. If you want to organize something you can always ask me for my opinion, but don’t ask me for permission – ask the assembly. And if someone else wants to be president of the association, I am happy to step down (if there are more candidates there will be an election).
Occasionally I hear people wondering why they would contribute their time and energy to the Foundry if it’s private property. To me this seems disingenious. Overcoming private property isn’t easy. If I were to put the property on the name of the association a majority could vote to sell it. A foundation is more solid, but it gives the state more power and is legally complex. I am trying to build a more resilient solution: two lawyers are working on the Sindicato de la Tierra, a legal structure that would prevent land and real estate from reentering the market (see syndikat.org for our example) and that uses the financial leverage of existing projects as a springboard to support new ones. This is the long-term vision for the Foundry, but it will take years to get there. And as long as the project can’t sustain itself it makes no sense to change its ownership, as after that there is no turning back.
Developing a resilient alternative to private ownership takes time and work. But even though the space of the Foundry is technically private property, it is in fact run by the association, which is a democratic entity that has the sole right to use the space. If you dedicate your time and energy to the Foundry, you do not dedicate it to me, but to this association of which you are all a part. I will never capitalize on volunteer labor by selling the space, and if I die unexpectedly, two executors will oversee the transition of the Foundry to the Sindicato. This has all been arranged already.
The next general assembly will take place on January 15 at 7pm. If you want to add to the agenda, please do it here: https://pad.riseup.net/p/foundryassembly2023-keep
The assembly is open to all members. Membership is valid for one year; if you have not renewed your membership in more than a year (by paying 20 euros and filling out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/u/2/d/1dgvy0Mobx3x-xn-Cdy465eYMxwSDnQp8K4IWXkKkpso/edit), please do so before the assembly.
It is possible to join the assembly via jitsi; if you wish to do this, please let us know in advance so we can share the link.
1. Food consumption. At the last general assembly there was consensus around trying to source food from local and sustainable sources. Since then, a grupo de consumo has been formed, and we have patched up our horreos to function as a storage for local produce, but for the moment we still get most our food at Gadis. What else can we do to curb the conflict between sustainability and affordability? Can the Foundry become a hub in the production and distribution of local agricultural products?
2. Financial sustainability. At the last general assembly, we prioritized the need to become financially sustainable. This year the war in Ukraine doubled our costs. We now spend up to 400 euros a month on electricity and a few hundred on heating and hot water. While we were hoping to have a small surplus to feed volunteers and program events next year, we actually lost a few thousand euros (and have no buffer). Should we raise prices for accommodation and membership? Are there other ways to generate money without selling out (events, projects, selling some things we make)?
3. Attracting members. How do we attract the right people, and keep them involved?
4. Transparency. Do people feel that we are transparent enough about decision-making and finances? If not, are there suggestions to improve this?
5. Grant money. The Foundry is part of the Aldear network, which is getting funding from Galicia. This money is supposed to revitalize the Galician countryside through art and culture. I am ambivalent about grants; money is nice, but assessments and regulations can jeopardize our independence. For now, the policy has been that members of the association can apply for grants through the Foundry, as long as they take responsibility for the paperwork, and the Foundry only figures as a name on the application. Does everyone agree with that?
6. Event committee. Should we put some non-local people with interesting networks on the event committee and use it more actively? Can we aim for a programming budget? Woult it make sense to use Aldear for that?
7. Events 2023. What do we organize in 2023? Another festival? Summer university? I can do something around my book (history of iron / blacksmithing)? I can look around in my para-academic network for more theoretical things? Through the panforum network I might be able to organize a fermentation expert for some time? Other ideas?
8. Decision Making improvements
– clarity on how decisions are made
– a log of decisions to be able to follow up
– a structure that allows for continous evolution both locally and remotely
– onboarding for new members
– different areas of decisions: day to day community vs the space
– transparency on account balance, spendings and finances in general
9. Brainstorming suggestion – can we establish a structure that makes contributions rewarding. Current structure – volunteer 20h/week = free accomodation. What if one could contribute 40 or 60hours. What if a team of highly skilled workers would bring the facilities to next level? What if members decided to crowdfund further facilities? Is it possible to design a structure that would make sense for such contributions, accelerating the progress of the foundry. In a profit driven organisation, it’s quite clear how an investment translates into profits, how can it work in a non-profit one such as the Foundry?
10. Anything else?