Collective memory as a site of resistance



Marco Cechet, Mark Romei, Pauli Rikaniemi, Ying Sun

Cyklopen is a self-built, self-organised and volunteer-run cultural centre in Högdalen, Stockholm. As an experimental model of self-organisation, the site has the vision to serve local collective needs. Conceptualised as an experiment on the creation of commons, Cyklopen sits outside of both the public and private realms, not owned by the state nor by private individuals. Instead, it’s operated collectively and independently, by those actively engaged in the use of the house and its management.

In 2003, Kulturkampanjen (the original organisation behind Cyklopen) started by squatting in an old television house in Östermalm, Stockholm. With unsuccessful attempts to gain a venue of their own, both in Hammarbyhöjden Subway station and an abandoned conservation area, Albano Smide, they finally got a five-year lease in Högdalen to build their own space.

The design and construction process was open for everyone to participate in, and the building was finished in 2007 after two years of construction. The main feature was a single, large, round, window, which gave the house its name: Cyklopen. But after just one year, the building was burned down by neo-Nazis. After another campaign and self-building process, the current venue, again named Cyklopen, was opened in 2013 in Högdalen.

“Why build a culture house in a suburb?”[1]

The discussions about Cyklopen have constantly pointed towards its locality since the house’s reopening to the public. The neighbourhood of Högdalen is a marginalised area in terms of its diverse inhabitants and the gentrification process in Stockholm. With the desire of being something else, radically rooted in the local context, Cyklopen provides a community space that emphasises solidarity and embraces people with different marginalised identities. Cyklopen is constructing both a site of resistance within local struggles, and an experimental model for the larger socio-political context.

“Don’t ask what Cyklopen can do for you, ask what you do for you at Cyklopen.”[2]

Through the engagement of active members and the participation of event initiators within house meetings, the culture house operates like a container, open to be used by any groups within the community, reflecting its guiding principles and values. In this way, Cyklopen experiments with creating an operating model to challenge attitudes formed by consumer culture, imposed hierarchies, and the idealisation of efficiency in the modern world. Through this, it aims to create a space outside of the neo-liberal, patriarchal and modernist controls of the city; a space where new social relations can be created and brought into reality.

What can we learn from Cyklopen in terms of knowledge production? How do we inscribe from informality?

As new members rotate through the organisation, and the temporality of events and struggles produce a state of continual present, how can memory exist and be retained in such a structure?

Cyklopen has a volunteer run library, which has the potential to record and reflect on the collective memories of the house. Can the space of the library become a site for the storage and production of knowledge? Not only in the form of the books within the space, but also recording the informal knowledge produced within and around the house, can the library become a space to anchor the common struggles of the larger community?


[1] Elof Hellström explained this was a common question asked when the house was opened.
[2] Statement on Cyklopen’s web page.