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15 M: Year Zero

 

Der folgende Text erschien unter dem Titel „15M, año cero“ in der Septembernummer der spanischen Monatsschrift Revista de Occidente1 (gegr. 1923), die von der Fundación Ortega y Gasset herausgegeben wird. Die beiden Autoren sind Mitglieder der Fakultät für Medienwissenschaften der Complutense Universität Madrid und der Studiengruppe für die Semiotik der Kultur (GESC). Der Begriff 15M verweist auf den 15. Mai 2011, den Tag, an dem es auf der Puerta del Solin Madrid zu einer ersten Großdemonstration des sozialen Protestes in Spanien und zur Gründung eines Zeltlagers kam. Die Übersetzung ins Englische besorgte Guadalupe Moreno (Redaktion: Jobst Paul). Die Autoren haben die Übersetzung autorisiert.

By Jorge Lozano and Marcello Serra2

In the Puerta del Sol of Madrid, to the seat of government Autonomous Region, a plaque marks the km 0, the point from that all distances are measured from the Kingdom of Spain. For some time, this geometric point of extraordinary force indicates also another origin: the time 0 of the 15M Movement. In recent months a collective actor devoid of history has built an event. Or rather a rupture, a discontinuity, an explosion of meaning: a space of unpredictability which opens into the timeline.

This „murmured novelty“ (Braudel) has broken with force both on the agenda of the media and in public and intellectual discourse. Not only in Spain. The fact of being recognized as an event, which by definition would have a brief temporality has favored a quick read and the urgency of an interpretation. Therefore, the information density of the event has been reduced with the implementation of a scheme of predictability and the search for causal antecedents that would have led to 15M. That is usually the interpretative strategy that is taken from any event. And also it is the best way to overshadow its novelty.

In this case, the operation has found an obstacle in the fact that, being in principle something punctual, the event has taken a durative aspect. As a result, the old labels and categories that are used to relegate the 15M to the order of déjà vu are deactivated by the permanence and dilation, by the insistence of the movement in being a continuous transformation, because of their efforts to go forward without an aim decided in advance.

Obviously, there are experiences and practices that for different reasons would be entitled to be considered the background of this what we are witnessing in recent months. It would be foolish to deny, but to start looking for the origins of the movement is an operation less relevant from the semiotic point of view particularly considering that the 15M is been presented itself as a source. Journalists, philosophers, politicians, opinion leaders from various sources have repeatedly asked the movement to expresses clear goals and objectives. This demand is extremely out of place, as it is witnessed here, rather than an end, an origin. At the same time the origin of some styles and forms of political life, build a future memory, a deposit of procedures, practices, passions and sign systems on which to base the evolution itself.

The fact that it is a movement that puts the accent on the form rather than on the aims has created obvious problems of definition. Thus, the journalistic urgency to recognize the event, that is to reduce it to an explanatory diagram known, has led the media to the comforting operation of framing that always involves applying a label, an element that directs the performative path. And so it has been, passion oblige, to talk about the movement of the „indignants“ by clinging the title of a successful book misunderstood by the spirit of the times. In support of the teleological sort of explanation a predictable passion has been invoked -almost perfect by synonymous to the anger of Greimasian3 memory – which would lead to momentary and thoughtless reaction.

This operation reveals the need to redirect the event to an intelligible narrative, inserting it into a pattern of predictability in which some known actors move in common spaces in accordance to certain specific times. But none of that. The 15M is an unprecedented movement that meets in anywhere and stands out from the times of institutional policy.

Likewise, its personal economy is far from being definable as anger; instead it is culturally constructed through not lexicalized passions and necessarily unpredictable. It is based on a family of such vague feelings and emotions as discontent, powerlessness and dissatisfaction. It is precisely because of such an indefinable discontent that this wide strip of the Spanish civil society has been able to find a way to be recognized together.

A key to understanding the organization, both the formal and the passionate of the movement, probably lies in the pervasive practice in assemblies, in which procedures have been developed that strive to reduce the intensity and pathemic tensivity. It avoids sarcasm and communicates approval or disagreement by one formalized gestural system; participants refrain from clapping to prevent the making of decissions by passionate infection or by acclamation. The search for agreement between all the meeting members triggers the unpredictable practices of the translation of the untranslatable. Rather than following a predefined passionate score, the polyphony of the 15-M participants, from the most diverse traditions, find an understanding through a continuous exercise of agreements, personal concessions and unprecedented synthesis.

It is clear, therefore, that the essential is not the message, but the form and manner in which it is built. Thus, the spread of the movement has not occurred due to the transmission of content, but by resonance, a reverberation of forms of life. In the origin of 15M there is no ideology or a passion defined, but there is raw material which expects being shaped: a grammar, a style, the memory of the policy of the future.

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  1. Nr. 364, 2011, 121-124. []
  2. Jorge Lozano Hernandez lehrt Informationswissenschaften und Marcello Serra arbeitet im Bereich der Medienwissenschaften. []
  3. Algirdas Julien Greimas (1917-1922) was a French semiotician of Lithuanian origin. He studied structural semiotics inspired by Ferdinand de Saussure and Louis Hjelmslev. More info: http://www.signosemio.com/greimas/index-en.asp []

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