| Squats | Words Posted by James Watkins

No matter how well you think you know a city, it has a way of playing dirty tricks on you. Buildings materialise out of nowhere on lots you swear were vacant just the other day. Familiar landmarks disappear so suddenly you start to question whether you’d just imagined their existence.

Change is so much a part of urban space little wonder we let much of it pass us by. The city skyline is forever jagged with cranes, permanently under construction. The new and improved becomes unremarkable. What now captures the imagination is the space property developers leave behind. With crumbling facades and defaced walls, that space is a refuge for artists, writers and bums alike.

Rising from the ashes of the global financial meltdown are gutter punks hitchhiking their way to New York from middle America. Casting comfortable upbringings aside, kids squat in stalled condo developments left unfinished and vacant in hipster boroughs like Williamsburg. Begging for beer money, a new breed of squatters drink to a kind of lifestyle developers did not quite have in mind.

In a sorrier state than Wall Street is the mass media establishment as it implodes under the culture industry’s brave new world of blogs and citizen journalists. Like it, lump it or take inspiration from the gutter punk. If life gives you lemons, grab one and sink your teeth into its bitter juicy flesh as you drink to a kind of future the Sex Pistols divined.

When you think about it, blogging is much like squatting. Granted, you don’t have to brave a complete lack of basic facilities and the occasional inconvenience of paramilitaries trying to storm through your front door. What you do have in common is vacant space with which to fill your junk, whether it’s earthly possessions or rambling thoughts and fleeting images.

To squat is to fundamentally piss some people off. Spaces are left unused but if you take up that unused space it upsets the order of things as most may know it. One person’s radical is another’s freeloader.

Just as pissed off is the culture industry, as bloggers chip away at media scapes long held captive by sponsorship dollars and the conservative establishment. Suddenly, anyone can upload their thoughts on anything and everything to be read by a mass audience without fear or filter. Free up-loaders, so to speak.

God save the dream.

Words by Annie Davis – Images by James Watkins