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by James Watkins
 
 

After launching our first e-issue of T-SQUAT about 2 months ago, we have contacted and featured a variety of international squatter communities from times both past and present. In an effort to put our honey where our mouth is, we agreed it would be agreeable for me to move into our own squat, at T-Squat headquarters in Melbourne.

My new room is much like Pride Rock from The Lion King, minus the lions, rock.....and awesome musical score (ok so it's not like Pride Rock at all, apart from the fact that it's elevated and I have pride in my new home). It's a simple living arrangement, even the most well versed real estate agent wordsmith would struggle with the sell - but it suits me perfectly and im pretty stoked to be living in my only-accesible-by-ladder loft.

I have all the necessities of living: mattress, milk crates, FM radio, fan, lamp, books, guitar, graffed walls and my very own Doss Blockos beer fridge, that I can (importantly) reach from the horizontal comfort of my bed. The commute to work in the morning is a bitch though, often experiencing various degrees of walk-rage in the 17 metres from my bed, to the cafe, to my desk.

The first week has been relatively busy in the warehouse space, with the shooting of a music video on our green screen featuring Israel Cruz and his partner in rhyme, Miracle. The week also saw the painting of our squat themed Doss Blockos beer delivery van by Sofles (one of Australia's leading exponents of street art), Conrad Bizjak (resident T-Squat artist) and Jack Rapmund (who recently won a stencil-art prize in Brisvegas). Conrad also backed up his efforts on the van the next day and flexed his imagination muscle on my bedroom walls to great effect, incorporating the surrounds and old pipework into his femme fatal spray-can masterpiece.

Being a literal stones throw from one of Melbourne's most social precincts, Chapel Street, the night is an interesting audible soup of sirens, metallic tram related noise, drunks, street cleaners, rubbish trucks, breaking glass, fights and belligerent conversations. Luckily the combination of a graveyard shift classical music radio show and the relentless droning of my fan balances the cacophony outside, and I've managed to have relatively uninterrupted sleeps.

Like most things in life, squat living is an evolving process. After just over a week it's starting to feel like home, and the obelisk of comfortable modern apartment living is starting to fade into the mist of a slightly rougher (but endlessly more stimulating) warehouse existence. Much like my room is nothing like Pride Rock, Melbourne is nothing like a box of chocolates - but it's exactly like a awesome city full of really motivated, talented creatives who can see the value in collaboration and are happy to sacrifice a single spotlight to help others and grow collectively. I've lost count of the amount of genuinely gifted, humble pies I have met recently who are keen and enthusiastic to get involved with what we're doing at T-Squat and put their energy into something we can all see the unlimited potential in.

So it's pretty exciting, stimulating times at the moment in the squat. Watch this space, in conjunction with T-Squat.com, we'll be endeavouring to share as much fresh artwork/writing/music as we can find, or that finds us!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Images by Konstantin Sergeyev: www.konstphoto.com
 
 
On the line to T-Squat this issue is C-Squat’s Bill Cashman – C-Squat resident and a walking, talking squatterpedia in his own right. We pick Bill’s brain on the history of C-Squat and recent goings-on.
So what brings you to the C-Squat?

Music. That, and the lure of the craziest underground punk rock parties reachable from the New Jersey suburbs via public transit. It’s funny to think of Choking Victim, IN-DK, Banji, or The Dregs as punk rock sirens in the basement, singing and luring in sailors and travellers with their songs. And sticking to Greek legend, many that came to hear those songs have crashed their boats upon these jagged rocks.

C-Squat is kind of like that scene in the Muppets Movie where everyone is in a theater and everyone is going ape-shit. Animal is chained to a chair, some guy is throwing a fish boomerang, a giant monster walks in and rips a seat up and walks away with it. Then when Kermit asks for a moment of quiet and control, someone presses down on a lever that ignites dynamite and everyone goes nuts again. A giant hole is blown through the roof, then there's this beautiful moment of serenity and unity....until a monster trips falls through the movie screen and shit goes bananas again. I swear I'm sober and that this is a really accurate portrait. And if you haven't seen the movie already - get to it. It’s a classic!

I remember the first time I brought a bunch of friends there that have never been to anything like it before. The police came and everyone in the show got barricaded inside. Not by the cops, but by the squatters, to make sure the NYPD didn't get in. It was terrifying but also very exciting. It was more than a show where bands played, it was a sort of political statement. Ten years later, I still haven't figured out what that statement was exactly, but I liked it.
 
 
How long have you been squatting for?

I have lived at C-Squat for four years. Sorry to disappoint but I never technically squatted here, that UHAB (Urban Homesteading Assistance Board) deal  happened a decade ago (a deal brokered to legalise the squats). But I will gladly share the experiences I have seen. I became friends with a band called LEFTOVER CRACK and toured with them slinging merch for years and running various other errands. Errands like driving them to hospitals for setting themselves on fire in Illinois, getting them to recording studios, or jumping off cliffs in Hawaii.

Anyway, as legend has it the singer, the S.T.Z.A., flew south one winter and asked if I could watch his apartment. I said sure and never left. He let me crash on his couch for two years but the building said that was hurting my posture and it was bad for my back. The building said : "get a real bed, grow up" . Soon after, the building gave me one of its rooms.  I was honored and plan to help the building as best as I can. As a result, my posture is better and my back isn't so sore anymore.
 
 
Do most people stay in the squat for long periods of time or do they stay for a short while and then move on?

It varies. The people whose rooms are 'their' rooms are pretty steady. There's a revolving door of official/unofficial house guests and room-mates, though. There is also the sad reality of people being forced to leave for various reasons. That's another black cloud that sort of hangs around. I unfortunately moved in a on a cloudy day.

I believe that it used to be a more transient thing but has mostly stabilized over the past couple of years. The basement was an infamous lawless 'temporary autonomous zone' for a long time. Anyone from the crusty scene who was travelling and needed a place, you got shelter here. That was the vibe. You can imagine where that went - "Camp-Run-A-Muck" and we're the counsellors (but also the unruly campers). We still take in travellers but the basement is way more closed off then Ye Squat of Olde.

Entering into this awesome process of acquiring the land via legalization, you have to start stabilizing your home from all different aspects. One being the craziness living in the pit down below you. I mean, there would be some really shady characters showing up & roaming the halls, kind of like in a George Romero flick. "Oh shit! is that a zombie walking upstairs? Is he going to eat my brains?....oh no wait...that's one of the guys from the show last weekend, just never left yet....phew!"
 
 
While that is awesome, because I really love horror movies and all, with shady characters come shady practices. While to each their own (with respect, in their own home and in their own space) – it’s weird when strangers come to your house, fuck it up, get high, and then leave a mess. It’s kind of like that birthright trip to Israel – a rite of passage for many young crusty Leftover Crack fans, which seems to be the pattern. But what's a little heartbreaking is that people get pissed when you tell them "no"!  It’s like this place didn't live up to their expectations. I hate being a part of any disappointment, especially with 'the kids', but some disappointments are just for the better. If you don't like this space, go out and make your own squat – somewhere else that puts this one to shame.

We still get some awesome basement guests. There was this guy Chris who started staying down there last summer and he just radiated positivity. He just kept gathering more like minded friends and fellow buskers, all armed with acoustic instruments. Every night there was a giant acoustic jam party in the basement. It was wonderful. The era of UHAB has brought a lot of weirdness to the space but this really felt like a unifying, positive thing.

 Are most squatters there squatting as a kind of social statement or is it more out of necessity?

I'd say both. Although replace 'squatting' with 'living'. Check out that video I sent you: Your House is Mine
 


We’ll call a brief intermission on the full interview for you to check out Bill’s favourite squatter doco Your House is Mine by Caroline McCaughey on  the history of squatting in the lower east side of Manhattan from the early 1980s to 2004.  In the meantime, keep an eye out for the full interview with Bill on our blog and for more Q&As with the C-Squat crew in upcoming issues of T-Squat.
 

 
 
by Marie du Bor
 
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Joining T-Squat this issue is Marie du Bor to feed our hungry minds with an introduction to French documentary by  Chantal Lasbat, Dans les entrailles de New York, on the ‘mole people’ of NYC. What if your mind doesn’t compute French? Get google translation to compute it for you, you connard paresseux.

"A l'envers de la vie… A l'envers de la ville…"

New-York ville lumière, ville symbole du reve américain et du monde occidentale, mais NYC porte aussi en elle un monde inconnu, un monde extreme.

Nous partons pour cet autre monde, nous partons pour un autre NYC, au royaume du silence, dans les entrailles de la ville, la ou nuit est reine, la ou le jour ne se leve pas, la ou les sans-abris se terrent.

Il ne s'agit pas que d'une legende urbaine. Chantal Lasbat a travers son documentaire, "Dans les entrailles de New-York" nous fait vivre cette expérience, et par des portraits croisées de ces "hommes-taupes", elle nous plonge dans cette sombre réalité.

Avec 18 niveaux et 468 stations de métro, c'est une vrai ville sous la ville, dans laquelle les ombres fourmillent au milieu des rats et des détritus. Pour penetre ce monde des ténèbres il faut descendre dans les stations de métro désaffectées, emprunter des escaliers et des passages oublies, soulever des bouches d'égouts, des grilles, des trappes, se glisser dans les trous, se couler dans le sombre. Il existe un lacis de couloirs, et des kilometres de tunnel desaffectes. C'est dans ces dédales de couloirs sombres et humides que ce peuple des ténèbres a élu domicile. Depuis plus de quarante ans des hommes et des femmes se réfugient dans le ventre de la terre, ils y rampent, s'y faufilent,  y survivent… Parole est donc donnée a ces hommes-taupes qui continuent de survivre dans ces bas-fonds de New-York, n'ayant comme domicile un simple espace entre deux murs humides ou dans une trappe pour les plus chanceux, et tout autour des gravas et détritus jonchent le sol et s'amoncellent. Neanmoins le danger pour beaucoup d'entre eux c'est le monde du dessus, dans le ventre de la terre, on ne voit que très peut et les bruits sont etouffes. Leurs reves : un endroit ou vivre "comme une personne normale, prendre une douche, dormir comme une personne normale, faire a manger dans une cuisine, s'assoir sur un canapé…".

En ces temps de crises C.L assure que les entrailles de NYC accueillent de plus en plus de nouvelles personnes.

En montrant cette réalité brute et parfois inconnue  C.L met l'accent sur des derives de sociétés qui nous préoccupent.

For more on the documentary head to http://www.ina.fr/economie-et-societe/vie-sociale/video/3826365001/dans-les-entrailles-de-new-york.fr.html