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  • Writer's pictureAlys

Self Organising Spaces

You don't need an invitation, no application is required, or selection applied. Just check yourself in.

So says the brochure for PAF, a Performing Arts Forum located in the small village of St Erme, two hours west of Paris. Established in 2006 PAF is one of a new breed of self-organising spaces that are springing up across Europe and the United States.

PAF has no staff and no subsidies, yet every year over one thousand artists, thinkers, and activists check themselves into a room at this vast decaying former religious convent.

You are kindly invited to make fluid that which is fixed, whether this concerns your mental or your material property.

The three rules of PAF:

Don't leave a trace. Make things possible for each other. The doer decides.

What's different about this? Well firstly PAF, like many of the spaces listed below, is influenced by contemporary theory on how change happens - in this case 'self-organisation', a branch of systems theory which has its roots in the study of eco-systems and artificial intelligence.

Secondly it maintains an incredible balance between tight and loose networks. In practice this means that there are people who are closely connected to the space, it's values and purpose, whilst at the same time the space is 'one hundred percent available, all of the time' to anyone who chooses to visit (as long as their purpose is to work). This is somewhat different to the more inward (and in some cases incestuous) self-sustaining communes of the nineteen sixties. The constant flow of information and exchange at PAF enlivens the space - itself a living organism yet to be defined.

How does it change the way people learn?

Aside from realising the power of self-organisation - a shock to those of us who currently reside in self-centred capitalist or hyper-organised socialist states - the big change is to trust that, in the right conditions, learning will emerge and when it does it will be more vital and surprising than anything a planned learning experience could ever hope for.

Other spaces: Freetown Christiania, Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava), Marinaleda (Spain), MASSIA (Estonia), self-organising squats, hacking and wilderness spaces.

Influenced by: Jan Ritsema, anarchism, complexity theory, contemporary theatre and dance, architecture, the situationists, temporary autonomous zones, the experimental school of art.

Interview with Jan Ritsema founder of PAF

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