CFU on Sat, 12 Apr 2008 12:58:30 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> WE HAVE WON!

The Copenhagen Free University ceased its activities by the end of  
2007 and in connection with the abolition of the institution we have  
written the following statement:


In the spring of 2001 we demanded: All Power to the Copenhagen Free  
University. We had just opened a free university in our home in the  
Norrebro district of Copenhagen. This impossible demand was put  
forward in the form of a manifesto intended to provoke and unsettle  
the collective imaginary and open new potential paths of action. We  
wanted to take power.

The manifesto was written in a very specific socio-political context  
preceding September 11th 2001. It was written in a mood of  
confidence. With the Copenhagen Free University we wanted to reclaim  
power and help undermine the so-called 'knowledge economy' - a term  
used to describe the new economy that was consolidating around the  
turn of the millennium. The unrolling of the knowledge economy was a  
part of the neoliberal campaign for control orchestrated by the  
financial and political elites and the term made clear what kind of  
ambition was at the core of this campaign: the financialisation of  
our brains, our nervous systems, our subjectivity, our desires, our  

In the midst of the unrolling of this economy, we intended to push  
the limits and develop new means to stem the invasion of our life by  
the abstract calculations of capitalist valorisation. It was our  
intention to picket the social factory, preventing an imminent and  
clearly hostile take over. We opened our flat as a space for social  
research and exploration within a context shaped by the hard material  
facts, fluctuating passions and affective instabilities that  
characterized our daily life. We wanted to turn the tide. We took  
power by using the available means: a mattress became a residency,  
the bedroom a cinema, the living room a meeting space, the workroom  
an archive, our flat became a university. Opening our private space  
turned it into a public institution. The Copenhagen Free University  
was a real collective phantom, hovering.

At the same time, many art workers in their hunt for a new function  
in society and new sources of income were getting involved in the  
corridors and boardrooms of the companies and corporations of the  
neoliberal economy. The artists acted as consultants and legitimators  
in branding and business activities relating to new ethical and  
social responsibility schemes and human resource management. The  
anger and hopes of the revolutionary avant garde had been deemed  
naive and artists were adapting to a new landscape of immaterial  
production. This told a sad story about society's lost ability to dream.

When turning to the education sector we saw that universities across  
the globe were increasingly restructuring and adapting to corporate  
practices. Ideas of autonomy and independence in research were  
quickly falling out of fashion. Not only was the usability of the  
knowledge produced in universities becoming a contested area, the  
distribution of intellectual property was becoming a key lever in the  
new economy. The Copenhagen Free University made it clear that  
universities do not necessarily have to reflect the hegemonic  
structures of society; universities could be organised and based in  
and around the everyday knowledge and material struggles structuring  
people's lives. Universities could in fact counter the hegemonic  
structures. We tried to open a new front at least.

By reclaiming one of society's central means of knowledge production,  
the machinery of the university, it was actually possible to create  
spaces that were not based on capitalist valorisation. For us 'free'  
mean gratis and liberated. Everybody can open their own university,  
it is a simple action. By self-organising universities people can, in  
a very practical way, counter the free market restructuring of the  
official universities by re-appropriating the concept of the  
university as a place for the sharing of knowledge among students (as  
the first universities were defined). With the Copenhagen Free  
University we wanted to break into the university as one of the  
imaginary institutions of neoliberal society and create a new image,  
and a new potential path of the possible.

Six months after we opened the CFU, 9-11 happened and the War on  
Terror pushed the anti-capitalist movement onto the defensive, having  
to react to all the emerging wars unfolding in the following years.  
The global civil war was invading our lives and imaginations. This  
broke the back of the anti-capitalist movement right after the  
victories of London, Seattle, Gothenburg and Genoa and turned it into  
the much more vague so-called Social Movement whose objectives became  
reformist and unclear. Despite this, arrays of de-centralised and  
self-organised initiatives were still developing and proliferating at  
grassroots level. Swarms of projects engaging in developing  
alternative ways of life, building on friendship, extending networks,  
and with clear cultural, social and political aims, were still coming  
into being. These community based initiatives were usually resisting  
formalisation and avoiding the spectacularisation of politics through  
the useless and pacifying academic seminars, art exhibitions and  
publications that have increasingly characterized the mediation of  
critical culture in recent years. We also checked into this circuit  
occasionally and got a taste of the forces that are producing  
schizophrenia and resignation in us.

During our life at the CFU we have encountered the way in which the  
authority of the word 'university' works on many levels. On a very  
practical level, people from across the globe started to write to us,  
applying as students and lecturers; people were using the CFU as a  
means of getting into increasingly privatized archives, people were  
using the CFU to obtain job references, people were using the CFU as  
a means to get into the fortified first world . . . These and other  
incidents make plain how embedded the authority of institutions is in  
the global imaginary. But it also tells us how fragile ruling power  
is when you play with its language and its basic definitions. The  
drive to self-determination despite the neoliberal knowledge economy  
was also demonstrated by all our sister self-organised universities  
that have mushroomed everywhere in parallel to our own development.  
It has never been about joining the CFU, or any other university, but  
about opening your own university.

One thing is the fact that a self-instituted university is messing  
around with the institutional power relations. But on a structural  
level the question is what conceptions of knowledge are actually  
pervading the self-institution? Knowledge for us has always been  
something that is evaporating, slipping between our fingers. It is  
not something that we treat as a truth or a possession but something  
living, a relation between people. Truth is always the truth of the  
masters, the proprietary knowledge is always the knowledge that  
separates people into those who posses and those who don't. Knowledge  
for us is always situated and interwoved with desire. The kitchen,  
the bed, the living room made up our anything-but-sterile  
laboratories. Dreams, unhappiness, rage were all over the  
architecture. Knowledge is at the same time about empowerment, making  
people able to understand and act closer to existence and despite the  
distortion of the spectacle. The research projects we initiated  
worked as invitations to share rather than drives to accumulate.  
There have been no singular end products; of importance were all the  
various experiences and conclusions that people carried into their  
own lives and networks after taking part in the activities at the  
CFU. This is why we haven't published papers or dissertations to wrap  
up the research projects that we have worked with. We found that the  
research and the knowledge spun at the CFU did not need a closure.  
But the institution did.

The Copenhagen Free University has never wanted to become a fixed  
identity and as a part of the concept of self-institutionalisation we  
have always found it important to take power and play with power but  
also to abolish power. This is why the Copenhagen Free University  
closed down at the end of 2007. Looking back at the six years of  
existence of the CFU we end our activities with a clear conviction  
and declare: We Have Won!

The CFU Abolition Committee of 2007 /
Henriette Heise & Jakob Jakobsen

Please note our last publications, e.g. Poster and Propaganda from  
the Copenhagen Free University and TVD's with television programs  
from FreeUtv you can watch instead of mainstream crabby television: And the CFU website  
has been updated with new texts, video streams etc.

The Copenhagen Free University, L?ss?esgade 3, 4. sal, 2200 Copenhagen N


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