Assembly is a decision-making body that serves as a self-managing tool for defining rules and deliberate on current issues and strategic topics.
Assembly is a horizontal decision-making practice that presents an alternative form to the vertical powerstructure. This structural transformation creates a real alternative in relation to hierarchical and patriarchal patterns which decentralize power and bring egalitarian values. Specifically, it continuously challenges power dynamic and hierarchies based on gender, age, sex, race, class, education and abilities to express. Also, assembly is a political practice of horizontality which rests on the assumption that inequality will always permeate every social interaction. The power to decide is distributed equally among all group members and the structure is consensus-based. Therefore, it requires intensive communication between all the members. The La Casa Invisible Assembly meets every two weeks and makes decisions on important issues by consensus. The main decisions are made through this format, while for the specific area (defined and delegated at the assembly) they have working groups. For example, working group for external communication; working group organized around the strategy approach, both towards the city authorities, but also for further mobilization when needed; specific working group engaged in organizing activities and managing the space and the schedules; a group for building renovation; and a group for research and self-education.
La Casa Invisible is a cultural and social centre, in Malaga city centre. The building was squatted in 2007 when a diverse group of local cultural and social collectives decided to activate and revive a neglected 19th-century palace owned by the city council. Since then, it’s a self-managed space. According to the members, there are “three generations” of people involved in La Casa Invisible. The first generation comes from the period that precedes the 2007 initiative, those are the people involved in the squatting movement. The second generation comes from the 15M-Movement - a wave of citizens’ protests that has introduced new themes into Spanish political discourse. And finally, a new generation of people who have backgrounds in social mobilizations such as feminism and climate change activism. All these three generations are working together in La Casa Invisible, and there is no hierarchy based on belonging to any of the generations. This is a generalization, because people are joining regularly, but at these three moments a greater influx was condensed. Members state, this is one important aspect of the whole organization – there is no vertical hierarchy or any kind of elite or group that controls everything. Every two weeks the assembly meets and makes all decisions together, based on consensus, not on majorities. It doesn’t matter who is "new" or "old" in the group; they discuss every topic and make decisions together. In general, the format is functioning, but sometimes, there are problems reflected through particular individuals who are more respected or have more responsibilities, or are more present than others. In these formats, even or uneven distribution of tasks, power and resources over the members of the group may happen, but if these situations are nor responded to in time, they can produce greater divisions among members in the long run. The Assembly is aware of how problematic the individual dominance or freeriding can be for the dynamic of the group, therefore, they have (at least) once a year (sometimes even more often) a self-evaluation special assembly organized during the weekends. This assembly usually takes place outside of the city, in the countryside, for people to retreat, live together for two or three days, connect, share and learn, and more importantly have fun while fantasising about La Casa Invisible. The minor everyday decisions are made through working groups, such are: activities, self-education/research, renovation, communications and networks, etc. But normally even minor decisions are shared in the general Telegram group where there are about 70 members. These groups are formed and changed every six months through the proposal made at the assembly and that is also a moment when other members can join working groups if they express interest. There are different ways in which people can take part in this space, either by being involved and participate more directly in all its activities, or by belonging to a specific collective or working group. The core group which is involved in everyday functioning and activities counts 70 people, and most of them are involved in different working groups, while the wider collective consists of around 150 people, and over 100 more are users of the space. In addition, membership is individual (although most members are themselves members of associations/collectives), rather than as association, but the whole environment fosters mutual learning and networking, thus creating alliances for specific activities and ideas within the space. There is no specific procedure for applying for membership, as they say “there are no members”, if one is interested to join and be active in the life of the space, they immediately join the assembly and become part of the La Casa community. Since it is a self-organized and self-managed space, there are clear rules on how it can be used. For example, anyone can use the space, but they need to take care of it. Members claim it is a pedagogical process where people who use the space are getting to know all the aspects of it, and by following the commonly established rules they are becoming more engaged and interested in participating. Sometimes it is not an easy-going-process, since there are examples of having expectations that someone else will clean after you, which is usually connected to a question of class. On this issue, the assembly has a very firm stance. Namely, they consider that doing cleaning or art practices are equivalents, and there shouldn’t be any differences in regards to the division of tasks.
The whole idea around this space came from the general understanding that there is no space for people who want to create and imagine the city in different ways. Also, it came from the understanding that the city government, which has been run by the same person for the last twenty years, doesn’t believe in these kinds of attempts. That was the triggering point. They realized that the only people they need to convince and have on their side, are not the city officials, but the citizens of Malaga. La Casa Invisible was born as a coming together of, at least, four “elements”: (1) the classical squatting movement, (2) different social movements which were semi-connected to the squatting movement, (3) people from the university who were critical towards the formal education at the university and (4) the artists and creatives without the space for work and production in the city. The combination of these elements brought interesting dynamic and major changes to the discourse of the squatting movement, e.g., occupied spaces started to be called social centres rather than squats, and in addition the approach brought radical inclusion as a concept to the classical squatting movement. Namely, the intention was to start a very radical process of democratization by opening spaces not only for new forms of living and culture production (that of course in the core of the social centre), but also to open a space for all those in need for any purpose related to the promotion of human rights and democracy. La Casa Invisible is available for various sets of activities and programs based on the values of human rights, social diversity, solidarity and tolerance, mutual trust and responsibility. It does not allow any form of discrimination, abuse or harassment. It is open to those who are sharing the values of radical inclusion, anti-identity and overlapping of political and cultural. For example, the relation between political and cultural, art and activism, shows them that artistic tools and practices can be used in a subversive way for the purposes of resistance, for inventing other forms of fighting for and making alternatives for the city. Members claim this was and still is the key element of La Casa Invisible, the combination of the social, the political and the cultural in a radical (and open) way. Openness and radicality can go together when detached from any kind of identity, self-referenciality and defensiveness, and focus all energies on practice, on the coming together of people for changing the city.
Interview with Kike Espana for Kulturpunkt platform (28.10.2019) https://www.kulturpunkt.hr/content/we-need-expand-radical-democracyBlog post by Gerald Raunig (July 2018): https://transversal.at/blog/Invisible-is-here-to-stay