We are a mobile cinema project. We travel in a van with solar panels for the energy supply, a screen, a projector and a collection of films, documentaries and animations.
The cinema doesn’t have any pre-set purpose, it changes along with locations and audiences. The context of the screening transforms the event: from a village fete with loud music and bouncing images, to a debate drawing from a documentary about ethnic tensions in Transylvania, or a night with young activists watching and talking of movements from around the world.
This year, we’ve been to Romania screening in public spaces: schools, squares, theatres, gardens and bars. For the 1st of May we were in Vama Veche, a village on the Black Sea coast a couple of kilometres from the border with Bulgaria. It’s a place where people used to gather for several decades now. During communist rule it was an alternative enclave for artists and intellectuals. Tucked away by the border, it was somehow out of reach of the Ceausescu’s ideological hold. Over the years it gained popularity as a space of escape. Now, young people from Bucharest and all over Romania descend upon the beach with their tents and crowd the terraces in order to party hard at weekends.
We set up camp in a quiet green space by the border and stuck up our banners “CINEMA MOBIL” and “ZONA AUTONOMA TEMPORARA”. The second one means Temporary Autonomous Zone in English, known among the knowers as TAZ.
Create, Hack, Explode!
Hakim Bey first wrote about TAZ describing it as “an uprising which does not engage directly with the state, a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere.” In his writing he speaks of pirates and gypsies, of communes and of the first colonies set up by Antinomians, Familists and Levellers in the New World. At first, I thought he was over-romanticising, as if these groups represented his utopia, his vision of anarchist libertarian freedom.
But reading on and thinking on I saw that what he’s proposing is not a regressive escape heading backwards in time: “No forever utopia, no back-mountain hideaway, no island”.
I don’t want to go deep into his philosophical theorising or his poetic reveries, but there is stuff in ‘The Temporary Autonomous Zone’ that’s relevant to what we’ve been doing with our mobile cinema. ‘The last bit of the Earth unclaimed by any nation-state was eaten up in 1899’. From that moment, it became an impossibility to desert. We can’t leave the ‘nation’ now that the map of the world is filled and tied up with the borders of states. The Temporary Autonomous Zone is the idea that we can create ‘situations’, events and feelings, within the confines of the state, that have the capacity to explode out of its control, and out of its psychological territory. “The “map” is a political abstract grid, a gigantic con enforced by the carrot/stick condition of the “Expert state”.”
With TAZ you don’t revolt against authority – you create your freedom. You recognise the state cannot reach out into every corner, and you TAZ like weeds creeping out between paving stones. These can only be temporary, they spring up and disappear- like squats, a civil disobedience or an internet hacker, like a Dadaist poem or simply a feeling of elation, of freedom.
Among leftwing theorists, TAZ has been criticised as mystical, somehow occultist- but I think Hakim Bey is right to look into the spirituality of our everyday life. Like the situationalists, he understood that to feel free is an essential part of the struggle against authority.
Tazzing at the seaside?
The first few days with the cinema in Vama Veche were saddening for me. The first of May marks the start of the tourist season with a bang and the atmosphere in the centre felt like a frustrated release from everyday life, a gasp for breath before diving back into the stress and routine of usualness. The camp at first was quiet. Gradually though, people wondered down towards the border and the mobile cinema tent filled out a little.
The simple presence of the cinema space as an alternative to the beer and dust around the bars and food kiosks of the centre made it deserving of the tag TAZ. There’s a line in Hakim Bey’s text that says: “ the TAZ begins with a simple act of realisation”; the realisation of stepping OUT of what’s provided for you in this “Web” of our state society.
So without believing ourselves to be pirates of the cinematographic seas, I think the mobile cinema in a way was a way of uprising because it arrived and rose up from everyday life. In the school screenings we had some discussions with the pupils that jumped out of their institutionalised setting, and community screenings where the manele (popular and popped up traditional Romanian music) and reggae mixed and fused like everyone’s crazy dancing. And that created something.
For free download of Hakim Bey’s TAZ, go to: