This quintessential 1980s doco produced by a witty Australian crew sheds a different light on squatters – their marbles and motivation – but is pretty fucking funny, nonetheless. Humorous purely due to backhanded commentary such as ‘with names like Bumbox, Scumbag and Animal, you can only imagine the very special aroma in this room,’ the clip focuses on squatter punks in London.
Smashing the window on idiosyncratic culture of punkdom in 1983, their ‘business’ at ripping off tourists and open attitude to sex in numbers – the only two axioms keeping this squat in questionable check – can be found in many an unwritten rule book regulating squats across the globe. Rule number one: no heroin. Rule number two: no glue-sniffing upstairs. Drugs are generally not allowed in squats due to their ability to over-run the show, and if they are, it’s a deal for downstairs.
This is about a squat called Bullet Space. A once abandoned structure that sits between Avenue C and Avenue D of New York’s Lower East Side and a building titled after the name stamped on bags of heroin sold on the block - a place now called ‘home’ to some.
Similarly to C-Squat, Bullet Space squatters have assumed practical ownership of the building - clearing out thousands of pounds of rubble, repairing the roof, replacing broken water pipes and channelling pirated electricity in a solid effort to bring the building up to approved living standards. The squat is home to a group who became the first of their generation of East Side squatters to become ex-squatters, and in celebration of their victory, an art exhibition titled The Perfect Crime educated New York’s high and low rollers on the tools, creative minds and predecessors of the tenacious assemble.
Featuring more than 200 artists and 300 works, the intrigue bubbling about The Perfect Crime brewed from the story within, and for some, the tangible truth that the human race carries an innate tendency to over-complicate the art of life.
“This is kind of an end of an era. Life is changing, and it’s a good time to look back,” told original Bullet Space squatter and The Perfect Crime curator, Mr. Castrucci, to the New York Times.
Held on the ground floor of Bullet Space, the exhibition centre-pieced the sledgehammer that initially unlocked the building (along with the ragged guitar case used to transport it), the melted razor blade instrumental in stealing electricity and symbols of political resistance – sneaky signs to throw-off speculators including; ‘Property of the People of the Lower East Side’ and ‘Not for Sale.’
Other pieces paraded were a length of copper pipe that burst under the pressure of winter to form a ‘shouting mouth’ shape, a series of wood-burning stoves welded out of old steel water heaters, and artefacts from comrades including a tattered Jewish prayer book believed to be from the 1900s.
Now married, father of a 4-year old son and living a life less severe, Mr. Castrucci and The Perfect Crime are inspiring testaments to the power of the mind - the future can be written by anyone bold enough to act.
Turns out we’re not the only ones galvanised by squatter culture. New York-based photographer Danielle Levitt – the eye behind snaps printed in the likes of Arena Homme Plus, New York Magazine and Rolling Stone –recently turned up the heat with a project to portrait squatter peeps. Respected for her unique approach in documenting popular culture, Danielle views herself as a hyper-realist – defining her work as ‘direct and bold, aware and celebratory of her subjects.’
And applaud the squatter she has. Taking to the then-scorching streets of NYC, Danielle successfully captured the eclectic and enigmatic of squatting in NYC – communicating the diversity, illustration, heroism, heartache, pain, pride, wisdom and naivety that culminates in this guerrilla sub-culture.
“There are many reasons I may approach a subject but in the cast of the squatters, I reached out to them because they are emblematic of summer, their presence seen and felt with the introduction of the warm weather. They are nomads, they are anarchists, and they chose not to assimilate. They function according to their own rules, set forth by them. I was drawn to two couples, Melissa and Sethary and Brandon and Acacia. Brandon had a pet rat which made him infinitely dynamic!” Danielle told Dazed Digital www.dazeddigital.com