Macao and the Struggle for Cultural Commons in Milan

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* Article 1: Macao before and beyond social media: the creation of the unexpected as a mobilisation logic. By Alberto Cossu and Maria Francesca Murru.

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(Chapter 3)

* Article 2: "The Political Value of Techno-Future. Emanuele Braga


(Chapter 4)

Source (book): artWORK: Art, Labour and Activism. Edited by Paula Serafini, Jessica Holtaway and Alberto Cossu. Rowman & Littlefied, 2017

Contextual Citation

Emanuele Braga:

"As collective intelligence, cooperating societies, relational fabric, we have to figure out how to trigger processes of appropriation, of counter-expropriation, within and against capitalistic platforms. The challenge today is to regain possession of the means of production, reappropriate technologies, desiring through collective processes. The issue of private property, of the monopolies of data and hardware infrastructure are the points of attack. This is why the fields of struggle are: infrastructures for economic redistribution, mutualistic circuits, cooperative platforms, co-management of common services and enabling a bottom-managed welfare system."


First article

Macao is a cultural project, artistic and political initiative, and place(s) in Milan, interesting for its innovative mobilisations and discourse, and its methods of producing and rewarding cultural creation. This essay analyzes its innovative practices.

1. By Alberto Cossu and Maria Francesca Murru:

"Some of the main pillars of what will become the political discourse of Macao:

1) political action as action with the aim of liberating the transformative capacity of society

2) common good, as opposed to public good, constituted through the political action of violation, divestiture, appropriation and restitution

3) emancipation, not as appropriation of common good but as collectivization of "capacities invested on the scene of dissent"

4) public spaces whose property and management should be given to those that actively and culturally inhabit them."

2. By Alberto Cossu and Maria Francesca Murru:

"In line with the founders’ desire to oppose the neoliberal logic of cultural events, Macao’s first major public act deployed a new meaning of an “event”, as an opportunity for change, insurgence of the unpredictable and irruption of new generative forces in society. “The event is not the solution to predetermined problems, it is rather the opening of new possibilities that pose new questions and solicit the imagination of new replies” (Lazzarato, 2005, p. 13). Bringing back to life the inanimate space of the Galfa Tower created the conditions in which it was possible to start and develop a political discourse on the social role of art and on cultural expression, on the value and the practice of the commons."

Second Article

Emanuele Braga:

"In the first section I look at the relationship between the concept of a machine and that of social cooperation, investigating how social movements can break some machinic ties and invent new forms of organisation. In the second section, inspired by the case of Macao, I focus on the relationship between machine and desire: if bio-political control, value extraction mechanisms and concentration of capital are realised through the use of new technologies, what are the possible tactics of emancipation from this form of slavery? In the last section I focus more clearly on what I think is the challenge that links new technology and politics: the question of the body and the collective desire: not being subject to an alienating mechanism but earning a cooperative dimension that is creative power."


Rewarding and sharing cultural productions in the Macao centre


Emmanuele Braga explains the attempts of the associated cultural producers at Macao to practice fair rewards for their individual and common contributions to the project.

1) Internal distribution of the CommonCoin for contributions to the centers and its events

2) Setting aside part of external income to fund a basic income for the core of active contributors

3) participation in the Faircoin / Faircoop ecosystem and its Bank of the Commons:

Emmanuele Brago, in "xxx":

"Macao is a centre for art and research, presently based in an occupied building in Milan, Italy. It was born out of a mobilisation in 2012, within the cultural sector of creative industries and art workers. Macao started to collaborate with Freecoin and D-cent in order to design a platform conceived to share means of production and co-production in the art/creative/cultural field. This collaboration is rooted in the network of occupied art spaces that emerged during the political mobilisation of the past five years. Macao is currently proposing to design a crypto-currency (Commoncoin) with very specific features.

The primary and radical question in this process was: can we use an algorithmic, decentralised and peer-to-peer technology rooted on a process of political decision making? Can we base an algorithmic machine on a shared and community-based political value?

The future we imagine is made of decentralised technological infrastructures, distributed and based on algorithms; these are governed by democratic discussions and decisional processes, put into place by communities that share values and ideas. In other words: in a plausible future in which algorithms control our economical, relational and spatial behaviours, the real challenge is to find a way to question them without creating democratic deficit as a collateral effect."

The role of Faircoin, Faircoop and the Robin Hood Minor Asset Management

Emanuele Braga:

"On this path we met Enric Duran and the Faircoop project. Enric Duran is a Spanish activist who years ago, with an insolvent bank loan, had stolen half a million euros from banks, donating money to the many realities of the Spanish movement. As an internationally wanted criminal, he started working with other Catalan, Spanish and European activists, creating a digital platform called Faircoop that would provide alternative financial services.

This platform aims at globally pooling various independent producers and using a crypto currency to regulate the exchanges. The protocol of this coin was slightly different from Bitcoin, both from the point of view of the plan (less subject to financial speculation) and from the point of view of governance (controlled by members of an open cooperative). From that moment we started working with Faircoop, adhering to the foundation of a new project: an open cooperative called Freedomcoop. We did this by pooling legally different production nodes scattered across Europe on a transnational level with ethical and political protocols.

What I most want to emphasise of Enric’s work was his method: in a calm manner he travelled extensively going from community to community, through different territories, observing different contexts and technically explaining what he was working on. And so the project has grown. The Bitcoin users live in anonymity, they do not know each other and do not even have the desire to do so. In the FairCoop circuit one perceives the need and the desire to enter into a relationship. Since the beginning, a collaborative environment was created, given that a number of groups are on Telegram and meet through Skype: there are those who translate, those who seek to understand aspects of various national laws, those who start projects. Sometimes all this is debated and sometimes it goes unnoticed. The project is neither icy nor machinic; it is instead intended as a means to create a relational fabric.

In recent years Macao has also collaborated with another important project: Robin Hood Minor Asset Management. They invited me to a meeting in Dublin, where their work method was in the nomadic form of temporary offices in different cities of the world. They are also a cooperative, made of economists, artists, hackers and academic researchers. They created a cooperative fund that speculates on the financial market using a parasite algorithm that ensures high performance. Essentially mimicking larger speculative investment funds, they bring in a cooperative fund and the shareholders are united in wanting to invest the profit in political activism projects with high social impact. Through an algorithm written by them, they subtract value to the financial markets to redistribute it in processes of resistance to the capital.

In the summer of 2014 we organised a conference with the collectives of Macao and Effimera, entitled La moneta del comune. was to figure out a set of assumptions for a financial system, with a base of production by humans for humans, designed to build the commons. On that occasion, some of the participants suggested that we write a manifesto. At this solicitation, Jaromil, a hacker from the project, replied that this was not the time to write manifestos, but rather to write manuals."

Designing the Commoncoin

Emanuele Braga:

"So it was that we began to work on the architecture and design of a coin. We set off from the need of a region, a network of relationships and a sequence of nodes and subjects. And we began to design a form of currency that we called Commoncoin. The idea was to understand how different productive organisations could decode certain social needs and activate new political prospects. We tried to design a financial system and to decide collectively what to assign value to. The themes that emerged were how to put into question the wage form, introducing a self-managed basic income, how to stimulate collaboration between multiple projects, such as inscribed mutual aid and a fairer redistribution of wealth in the form of a financial circuit. Beyond the form that can never be definitive, this path was capable of drawing attention away from the charm of new technologies as a panacea for all ills and placing instead more attention on the values we want to automate. Automation is not the goal, but only a means to the construction of the commons. The size and space in which we are repositioning the machinic function is this debate, the sharing of vision and needs, this relational space that creates the social space. This is the problem of ‘the becoming other’ of the machines. The ‘instituting’ always provides a machinic element, incorporates it, or is embodied through it, as well as the organisation codes and rites. The point is that the constitutional process is inscribed in that code.

This is evident in the case of crypto-currencies. That is, creating an alternative infrastructure that regulates social relations through money."

More information

  • Macao see: