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Brunswick East,
VIC 3057 AUS

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In the Stadium (the 14 categories), Paula Hunt

(Download PDF)

‘Polis outside the agora’
March 2016

Dear Paula,

For a while now, I feel like you have been looking for a polis inside your stadiums. As you probably know, we generally associate a polis with ancient Greece, a sacred space located on an acropolis or hill and often fortified (perhaps more like the old Waverly Park, but less windy) — a site for public political encounter and democratic negotiation, the place where political subjectivation emerges and takes place - the negotiation of difference and disagreement. (1)

I know you remember the poster I posted inside the ‘Stadium’ Facebook.

A visual-cue for an Olympiad that never happened.

This July will be the 80th anniversary of that event that never happened. Baurdrillard’s suggestion that 9/11 didn’t happen, kind of neatly finds a material reality in this events un-happening - similarly asking, in a world dominated by the promise of one power, one culture and one economy, what becomes of the Other, of those with radically different histories, customs, identities.

Do they move outside the stadium? Who’s stadium? In the U.S the size and scale of the fortresses mean many are privately owned.

In 1936, when most of the world was participating in Hitler’s Nazi Olympics, Spain and Russian boycotted. Whilst Russia was under the Rule of an increasingly powerful and paranoid Stalin, Spain had recently disposed of their King and elected a socialist government declaring itself united for the first time, and allowing Catalunya independence within it. The optimism of social cohesion and collectivity was extended in Barcelona attempting to represent difference and make a stand against the fascist and racist doctrine that would soon explode from Berlin and into Europe, and to which they saw Hitler’s 1936 Olympics representing.

Trade Unions of Workers from around the World, as well as members of Socialist and Communist parties rallied together to send athletes and teams. The People’s Olympics, as they would come to be known, would included chess, theatre and arts exhibitions.

With increasing political unrest generated by a frustrated army and isolated right-wing - Frances 3 year civil war and 40 year Franco rule would see the Peoples Olympics never to happen. With borders closed, some athletes never made it to Spain, others were caught in the violence and armed conflict that saw civilians and police defending the promise of a liberated working class.

Agamben has noted that depoliticisation is characterised by what was once a way of living - essentially an active condition — has now become a purely passive juridical status, in which action and inaction, the private and the public are progressively blurred and become indistinguishable.(2)

I am wondering if July 1936 in Barcelona demarcates a kind of place for depoliticisation and site for the post-political - a civil war that blurred the geometries of power, the potential for ambiguous political objectives (as the war evolved these became less evident).

I am wondering, if in your 14 chapters, it is not only what your stadiums frame that inform us, but also what they cannot.

Lisa Radford x

PS. Since banning bull fighting, the hippodrome in Barcelona has been converted into a high-end shopping centre and viewing deck - the organised chaos of shopping and a room-with-a-view - Juridicial capital with a tower to stop those CNT and Durutti Column fighters.

  1. Lecture by Prof. Erik Swyngedouw: “Exit Polis: Musings on the Post-Political and Post-Democratic City” Center for Metropolitan Studies, June 16, 2009, 6-8 pm.
  2. Lecture by Giorgio Agamben, “For a theory of destituent power, Public lecture in Athens, 16.11.2013, Invitation and organization by Nicos Poulantzas Institute and SYRIZA Youth