A political squat started this Friday night in the old office of ReykjavíkurAkademían (“The Reykjavík Academy”) on Hringbraut 121. The office housed Iceland’s trade union and anarchist libraries, in addition to hosting lectures and providing working space for up to 25 scholars. The building’s owners, JL-Holding, evicted the academy with short notice, electing to turn the space into a guest house with a capacity of 201 individuals.
The academy itself has found a new space and are moving onto pastures green, but the squatters are enraged with this turn of events. When we arrived on site, there were a few dozen people gathered. Speaking to one of the squatters, they said that it wasn’t any one group responsible for these direct actions. “It’s just people that give a shit and are opposed to the privatisation of social and cultural spaces.”
One member of the group sent out the following message on Friday:
As you may know, some of Reykjavík’s cultural and educational institutions, – Reykjavíkur Akademían, Iceland’s trade union library and the anarchist library – have been evicted at short notice from their beautiful shared space overlooking Snæfellsnes at Hringbraut 121.
Predictably, the plan is to build yet another guesthouse. Many of the previous tenants have retired or dispersed, and the remainder are forced to use an office that is smaller, less communal, more expensive, less beautiful and open to fewer people and projects.
This can be connected to the demolition and eviction of other epicentres of culture in Reykjavík – NASA, Hjartagarðurinn, Faktorý, many houses and artists studios – and a wider commodification in Iceland. If you can’t sell your art, your music, your home, your community space, then there’s no place for you.
I don’t want to stand by and watch the city that I now call home be turned into yet another tourist farm. I know that these hotels will stand empty in ten years’ time, once the bubble bursts. I want to do something.
Since then, the squatters have started creating and displaying art on site, with a camera obscura, shadow theatre, and live music exhibits up and running. They encourage those interested in helping out to bring art materials, food, sleeping bags, banners, et cetera.
Their message then ends on a Gerrard Winstanley quote.
“…yet my mind was not at rest, because nothing was acted, and thoughts ran into me, that words and writings were all nothing, and must die, for action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing”
– Gerrard Winstanley, “a Watch-Word to the City of London”, 1649
This is the first public political squat since the famed Vatnastígur squat five years ago, which ended after the police arrested all the activists involved.