In late December we opened the doors at Beyond Repair, and now, three months or so into the project, we think we might be getting a handle on things. So, um… it might just be that we’re open now.

It’s been an eventful time. On our second day open we hosted former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas, to discuss his role in designing and editing the Party’s newspaper, The Black Panther, and the role of publication in general within radical social movements. That conversation is currently being transcribed and will soon appear as the first volume within the Publics and Publication book series, sales of which will go towards projects and programs that address the role of the 3rd Precinct here in Minneapolis’s 9th Ward.

We’ve already released over a dozen titles, all of them printed and bound in the shop itself. And there are plenty more to come, such as The Revolution in Music / The Music in Revolution, a series edited by Anthony Romero and Matthew Joynt, that, through interviews, essays, and archival documents looks at the intersection of so-called “free jazz” and radical black collectivity such as Black Arts Group in St. Louis and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago. Tools for Remediation, edited by Shanai Matteson and myself, is a series of subjective inquiries and “histories from below” that look at the contemporary American public sphere for what it is, a social ecosystem, aggressively interconnected and interdependent. Through the lens of abuse in specific, Tools for Remediation looks across issues to consider commonalities and propose methods of healing and release from a culture of abuse that permeates everything from our ecosystem, to our economy, from race to domestic struggle.

But, while we started off quick, each day we’re learning to take it slow. After years of one-off projects, and prolonged, but relatively finite, collaborations within museums and contemporary art spaces, it is interesting to keep reminding ourselves to sit back and listen, responding in kind to the public that slowly forms around the shop.

That public has been forming, and as we’d hoped, it’s complicated, energetic, and full of questions. We need more questions – what are yours?

Fairly early on a reading group converged, getting together each Saturday night to take apart Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. The book’s interest in how one can swim in and out of institutions, power, and hierarchies, finding commonality within the in-between, and instrumentalizing that “in-betweenness” as a lens by which to navigate power and hierarchical social space, is an inspiring and apt conversation to have within the shop, centered so directly within a space of exchange. That notion, being of the world, while simultaneously elsewhere; in, as well as out, of time is exactly the type of thinking that we hope to promote through Beyond Repair.

As intended, that type of thinking has been creeping into other conversations within the shop as well. Three other groups are beginning to materialize, all asking in one form or another a common question: “What does a healthy neighborhood look like?” Through this framework of health I wonder if we might be able to consider an alternate driving force for development; the well-being of neighbors and neighborhoods as opposed to the growth of capital.

With these thoughts in mind environmental academics and urban farmers, public defenders, and health workers are beginning to meet within Beyond Repair, the nature and ideals of the space allowing them to engage and experiment with their individual disciplines outside the bounds of their professions inherent bureaucracies. These groups will act as the core for a public to emerge around themes of Rights, Wellness, and Food Access / Abundance.

Through the lens of these three discrete, yet interconnected, disciplines, Health Ward (a long term series of conversations and collaborations) speculates on the well-being of the 9th Ward through long-term neighbor-to-neighbor dialogue and experimental map-making. If this interests you, join us.

In roughly one year’s time we hope to produce a set of three distinct maps which illustrate the conversations energized by these three groups and the publics which form around their emergence. Each map will speculate on what the 9th Ward social landscape of the future might look like if, again, we turned the notion of development on its head, focusing on the needs of neighbors already present, rather than future prospects and investments suited for future publics, who presently have no knowledge or investment in how we live here now.

I wonder if we can’t extend this notion of mapping further, knowing full well that maps are guides, not replicas of landscapes? In considering Beyond Repair itself, and the public that will form – is forming already – through its presence, and continued questioning of itself, I am reminded of a 2009 visit to the Boggs Center in Detroit. The publication which I edit – Journal of Radical Shimming – asked the neighborhood activist and theorist, Grace Lee Boggs if she would write a reflection of our time together there and what she saw, in part, as the benefit of artists engaged within the sociocultural landscape. Within Issue Nº9 of the JRS she wrote:

“…[our conversation] gave me a sense of how maps created by artists not only expand our knowledge and imaginations but can also help us arrive at life-changing decisions.”

I’d argue that our neighborhood, and we as neighbors, have the ability to arrive at life-changing decisions with one another and that, in truth, it’s not that hard to do. What is difficult, infinitely more difficult, is to live with the life-changing decisions made at the expense of our own lives, by others, by forces with little interest, or firsthand knowledge of our lives lived here together. The first way we can begin to combat this is to recognize one another, our distances, our shared desires as well as conflicting ideals.

With this, our first set of Occasional Notes to come out of Beyond Repair, I invite you to see the space we’ve set up as a publication itself. A way to energize a public around questions we ask ourselves. Questions we ask one another as neighbors that might help develop a healthy neighborhood for us to share and cultivate in cooperation. Through our shared questioning, with publication as our readily accessible tool, we can begin to highlight commonalities, as well as distance, sketching a map of how we live now, and how we might desire to live in the future, together.

With all its present day connotations, I very deliberately say that Beyond Repair “occupies” a space within the Midtown Global Market. While this means that we hold space within the market as a tenant, it also means that we are taking up space, and complicating the narrative of a marketplace and its relationship to exchange and value and the social landscape of a neighborhood. But as Beyond Repair is a space of questioning, and as I mentioned earlier, it’s important that we take our time, it’s imperative to not rely on simple binaries so that we might question deeply, from various points of experience, not sticking to a simple totalizing narrative. What does it mean to “occupy” space in Minnesota when the land upon the site of the Midtown Global Market is not our own? How does the acknowledgement, and consideration, that we are on Dakota land, affect the intentions and interests of a project concerned with the here and now, while readily illustrating that past histories are still very much being lived out in the present tense by people we know and live with here in the 9th Ward? In the face of gentrification, how might we begin to consider development away from, simply, the growth of capital, while simultaneously acknowledging the fact that many of us in the neighborhood are experiencing the effects of poverty?

If I thought I could figure out these questions, and constructively engage them, on my own, there likely wouldn’t be a need for Beyond Repair to exist. But, obviously, I don’t have the answers to these questions. Likely you don’t either. But in taking time, occupying space with all its inherent contradictions, and bringing as many of our voices and experiences, even animosities, into that space as possible, between us we can come up with better questions, possibly even answers, at least for the time being.

Sam Gould (editor, Red76)