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{ brad brace } on 19 Feb 2001 18:07:51 -0000


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<nettime> The Palimpsest (fwd)


The Palimpsest
The Palimpsest

Nietzsche was so sane it drove him mad -- Charles Fourier was so mad he
attained a kind of perfect sanity.  Nietzsche exalted the overhuman as
individual ("radical aristocratism") -- his society of freespirits would
indeed consist of a "union of self-owning ones". Fourier exalted the
Passional Series -- for him the individual failed to exist except in
Harmonial Association. Polar opposites, these views -- how is it then that
I see them as complementary, mutually illuminative, and both entirely
feasible?

One answer would be "dialectics". Even more accurately -- "taoist
dialectics", not so much a waltz as a shimmy -- subtle, snaky and fractal.
Another answer would be "surrealism" -- like a bicycle made out of hearts
and thunderbolts. "Ideology" is NOT an answer -- that zombie jamboree,
that triumphalism of spooks on parade. "Theory" cannot be identified with
ideology nor even with ideology-in-process, because theory has set itself
adrift from all categories -- because theory is nothing if not
situation(al)ist -- because theory has not abandoned desire to "History".

So theory drifts like one of Ibn Khaldun's nomads, while ideology remains
rigid and stays put to build cities and moral imperatives; theory may be
violent, but ideology is cruel. "Civilization" cannot exist without
ideology (the calendar is probably the first ideology) because
civilization emerges from the concretization of abstract categories rather
than from "natural" or "organic" impulses. Thus paradoxically ideology has
no object but itself. Ideology justifies all and any blood-atonement or
cannibalism -- it sacrifices the organic precisely in order to attain the
inorganic -- the "goal" of History -- which in fact turns out to be . . .
ideology. Theory by contrast refuses to abandon desire and thereby attains
to genuine objectivity, a movement outside itself, which is organic and
"material" and cognitively opposed to civilization's false altruism and
alienation. (On this, Fourier and Nietzsche quite agree.)

Finally however I would propose what I call the palimpsestic theory of
theory. 

A palimpsest is a manuscript that has been re-used by writing over the
original writing, often at right angles to it, and sometimes more than
once. Frequently it's impossible to say which layer was first inscribed;
and in any case any "development" (except in orthography) from layer to
layer would be sheer accident. The connections between layers are not
sequential in time but juxtapositional in space. Letters of layer B might
blot out letters in layer A, or vice versa, or might leave blank areas
with no markings at all, but one cannot say that layer A "developed" into
layer B (we're not even sure which came first). And yet the juxtapositions
may not be purely "random" or "meaningless". One possible connection might
lie in the realm of surrealist bibliomancy, or "synchronicities" (and as
the oldtime Cabalists said, the blank spaces between letters may "mean"
more than the letters themselves). Even "development" can provide a
possible model for reading -- diachronicities can be hypothesized, a
"history" can be composed for the manuscript, layers can be dated as in
archeological digs. So long as we don't worship "development" we can still
use it as one possible structure for our theorizing.

The difference between a manuscript palimpsest and a theory-palimpsest is
that the latter remains unfixed. It can be re-written -- re-inscribed --
with each new layer of accretion. And all the layers are transparent,
translucent, except where clusters of inscription block the cabalistic
light -- (sort of like a stack of animation gels). All the layers are
"present" on the surface of the palimpsest -- but their development
(including dialectical development) has become "invisible" and perhaps
"meaningless".

It would appear impossible to excuse this palimpsestic theory of theory
from the charge of a subjective and magpie-like appropriationism -- a bit
of critique here, a utopian proposal there -- but our excuse would have to
consist of the claim that we're not looking for delicious ironies, but for
bursts of light. If you're thirsting for PoMo Deconstruction or smirking
hyperconformism, go back to school, get a job -- we've got other fish to
fry.

Thus we construct an epistemological system -- a way of learning and
knowing based on the juxtaposition of theoretical elements rather than
their ideological development; in a sense, an a-historical system. We also
avoid other forms of linearity, such as logical sequence and logical
exclusion. If we admit history into this scheme we can use it as simply
one more form of juxtaposition, without fetishizing it as an absolute --
the same holds true for logic, etc.

This ludic approach to theory should not be confused with "moral
relativism" (the devaluation of values), from which it is rescued by our
"subjective teleology". That is, we (and not "history") are searching for
purposes, goals, objects-of-desire (the revaluation of values). The
playful nature of this action arises from the deployment of imagination
(or the "Creative Imagination" as H. Corbin and the sufis call it) -- and
also from the visionary discipline of "paranoia criticism" (S. Dali), the
subjective revaluation of aesthetic categories. "The personal is the
political."

Juxtaposition, superimposition, and complex patterning thus produce a
malleable unity (like the hidden monism of polytheism, rather than the
hidden dualism of monotheism) -- paradoxology as epistemic method --
somewhat akin to 'pataphysics or the "anarcho-dada epistemology" of
Feyerabend (Against Method). "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!"

Here I'd like to "read into the record" so to speak the entire
theoretico-historic debate about "Art" as a separate category (a museum of
fetishes), and as a source for the reproduction of misery and alienation
by the exclusion of non-"artists" from the pleasure of creativity (or
"attractive labor", as Fourier called it). I want to mention the
situationist proposal for the "suppression and realization of Art", i.e.,
its revolutionary suppression as a category, and its realization on the
level of "everyday life" (that is to say, of life rather than the
spectacle). This proposal in turn is based on the assumption that Art
finally failed to function as an "avantgarde" (read: "vanguard") somewhere
around the time the Surrealists entered the Communist Party -- and
simultaneously, the gallery/museum "Artworld" of commodity fetishism --
thus embracing spurious ideology and elitism in one spectacular flop. At
this point, the remnants of the avantgarde began a process of attempted
withdrawal from ideology and commodification (more or less carrying on
from Berlin dada) as Lettrism, Situationism, No-Art, Fluxus, mail art,
neoism, etc -- in which the emphasis shifted from vanguardism to a radical
decentering of the creative impulse, away from the galleries and museums
and enclaves of boho privilege -- toward the disappearance of "Art" and
the re-appearance of the creative in the social. Of course, museums are
now buying up these "movements" as well, as if to prove that anything
(even "anti-Art") can be commodified. Each of these post-avantgarde
movements has at some point fallen prey to confusion or temptation and
tried to behave like one of the classic avant-gardes, and each has failed,
as surrealism failed, to liberate the artwork from its role as commodity.

Consequently the Artworld has eaten and interiorized art-theory which
should -- if taken seriously -- cause it to self-destruct. Galleries
thrive (or at least survive) on a nihilism which can only be contained by
irony, and which would otherwise corrode and melt down the very walls of
the museums. This essay, for example, will be printed in the catalog of a
gallery exhibition, thus perpetrating the irony of calling for the
suppression and realization of art from within the very structure that
perpetuates the alienation of the non-artist and the fetishization of the
artwork. Well, fuck irony. One can only hope that each compromise will be
the last.

Those who fail to see this situation as a malaise will read no further --
theory has enough to do without explaining its own nausea -- ad nauseam.

The 20th century fascination with the "primitive" and the "naive" serves
as a measure, first, of the exhaustion of "Art History"; and second, of
the utopian desire for an art which would not be a separate category but
congruent with life. No irony. Art as serious play. Artists have mimicked
the forms of the primitive and naive without realizing that the whole
production of these forms depends on the structural absence of alienation
in the social (as in "tribal art") or individual artist. It is this lack
of a split, of doubleness, in the art of Africa, of Java, or the lunatic
asylum, that moved such sensitive souls as Klee to envy.

In a society without "malaise" (at least, in tragic proportions) one might
expect to see that "the artist is not a special kind of person, but each
person is a special kind of artist." Coomaraswamy was thinking of
Indonesia when he coined this slogan, and I myself was told in Java that
"Everyone must be an artist" -- a kind of mystical version of the
suppression-and-realization theory. It's not precisely "specialization"
(of labor or of cognition) that causes the nausea, by this reading, but
rather separation -- fetishization, alienation. As each person is a
special kind of artist, some artists will specialize in the grand
integrative powers of creativity -- telling the central stories of the
tribe so to speak -- the creation of value and "meaning" -- which can be
called the "bardic function". In certain tribes this function is spread
out among many individuals, but is always associated with a concentration
of mana. In high "barbarian" cultures (such as the Celts) the function is
institutionalized to some degree -- the bard is the "acknowledged
legislator" of a society of artists. The Bardic function focalizes and
integrates. 

If we sought for a symbolic moment at which the "break" occurred and the
malaise began to set in, we might choose the passage in Plato's Republic
where poets are banned from Utopia as "liars" -- as if the Law itself (as
abstract category) were the only possible integrative function, excluding
the nomadic imagination as opposition, as anti-Truth, as social chaos. The
rational grid is now imposed on the organicity of life -- all good is seen
in natura naturata and "being", while all becoming (natura naturans) is
now associated with "evil".

In the Renaissance the artist again begins to express "self" at the
expense of the integrative function. This moment marks the opening of the
"Romantic" trajectory, the artist's disappearance from the Social, the
artwork's disappearance from life. The artist as promethean ego, the
artwork as "fine" (i.e. useless) -- these measure the gap that has opened
between an aesthetic elite, and the masses doomed to sterility and kitsch.
And yet there seems to be something noble and courageous about this
process, which is reflected in the bohemian freedom of the artist, and
also in the artist's critique of civilization and its cruel dullness --
for the artist will now become the "unacknowledged legislator", the
prophet without honor -- the romantic hero, inspired and doomed by one and
the same divine insight. The artist yearns once again to fulfill the
bardic function, to create aesthetic meaning for and with the tribe. In
anger at being refused this role, the artist spirals out of control into
ever greater alienation -- then into open rebellion -- and finally into
silence. The romantic trajectory is played out.

The Renaissance also witnesses the first modern attempt to recreate the
integral ("the order of intimacy") through the combined power of art and
magic -- which are in fact seen as naturally related by the deep structure
of both -- which is essentially linguistic. The unifying element is
"action-at-a-distance", and the synthesis of all its ramifications is the
Emblem Book which combines, according to a hieroglyphic science, the
image, the word, and sometimes even music (as in M. Maier's Atlanta
Fugiens), to bring about "moral" (i.e. spiritual) changes in the reader
AND in the real world. The goal of the Renaissance Hermeticist/artist was
utopian -- as in the paradise scenes of Hieronyomous Bosch or the
landscapes of the Hypnerotomachia -- and in this ambition can be seen the
desire to reanimate the bardic function, to give meaning to the experience
of the "tribe", to influence the consensual reality-paradigm, to change
the world by art. Ultimate romantic project of Gaugin, Rimbaud, Wagner,
Artaud, the Surrealists -- the artist as wizard-prophet of revolutionary
desire. 

For all its failures, and all its sleazy accomodations with the Artworld
of commodity capitalism, this magical tradition is our heritage, and in
some crude way we still "believe" in it. Even to believe in the
"suppression" of art is still to believe that art is important and
effectual, at least by its disappearance. Moreover, the "freedom" of the
artist would seem well worth protecting -- and sharing -- if only it were
freedom for something and not just freedom from something. Despite the
poverty, loneliness, and feelings of futility, we're only out here on the
margin by and large because we like it, and because risk is good for our
art. In these matters we are still Romantics.

Nevertheless we are forced to admit that this magical-revolutionary
project has failed -- once too often. Commodity fetishism is a negative
feedback loop -- and as for the the hieroglyphic science, it has fallen
into the hands of advertisers, spin-doctors, the "creative managers" of
the post-spectacular "discourse" (or "simulacrum" as Baudrillard calls
it), the real but hidden legislators of our all-too-virtual reality. The
proposal for the suppression and realization of art is the culminating
statement of the romantic-hermetic tradition of opposition, the last
possible "development" in a dialectical progression that leads to our
present impasse or blockage. If we look at "Art History" from this
diachronic perspective we seem to find ourselves in a cul-de-sac, caught
in an impossible paradox whereby the "purpose" of art must be to destroy
art, so that "everyone" may be an artist. For us -- as artists -- this
constitutes a dead end. What can we do? History has betrayed us.

What happens however if we abandon the diachronic perspective? What if we
superimpose all the "stages of development" in a palimpsest which can only
be read as a synchronicity? What if we treat them as theories, all visible
on a single surface, potentially related not in time but in space? 

Again, we should insist that our palimpsestic survey is not to be confused
with some ironic PoMo vacation cruise through a watery graveyard of
aesthetic categories. We're looking for values -- or for the imaginal
power to create values (by knowing our "true desires", as the occultists
say), and our search is not cool and detatched but passionate by
definition -- not frivolous but serious -- not sober but playful -- for,
to the bards, nothing is as serious as our intoxication with the ludic act
of creativity.

So we take the whole development discussed above and accordion it into a
"manuscript" where every theory is written over every other theory. Like
augurs studying clouds or the eleven kinds of lightning, like wizards with
an obsidian mirror for the scrying of angelic alphabets, we now study "Art
History" as if it had no history, as if all possibilities were eternally
present and infinitely fluid. Seeming contradictions merely hide occult
harmonies, "correspondences" -- all and any juxtapositions may prove
fortuitous. "Palimpsestomancy." 

Assuming that the theories we discussed diachronically are now arranged
synchronically upon the page of our palimpsest, let's try a trial reading
and look for unexpected but revealing coincidences. Fourier's theory of
attractive labor, for example, could be superimposed on Hesiod's
cosmology, wherein the first three principles of becoming are Chaos, Eros,
and Earth. Now desire can be seen as the force which draws the pure
spontaneity of Imagination into the forms of Nature, or the "material
bodily principle" -- desire as organizing principle of creativity --
desire as the only possible source of the social.

"Action at a distance", the mainstay of the Hermetic paradigm, was
supposed to be banished from the mechanistic philosophy which prevailed
and conquered science in the 17th century; but it kept sneaking back into
the discourse, first as an "explanation" for gravity ("attraction"), and
now in a hundred places -- the four forces in quantum physics, the
influence of the "strange attractor" on disorganized matter, etc. Although
magic failed to "work" for the Renaissance Hermeticists in the same
measurable and predictable way that the experimental method, for instance,
worked for Bacon and Newton, nevertheless the hieroglyphic science can be
revived as an epistemological tool in our study of certain
non-quantifiable (or ambiguous) phenomena such as language and other
semantic codes which -- quite literally -- influence us "at a distance".
The Hermeticists believed in ray-like emanations which could transfer the
"moral power" of an image (its influence boosted by the appropriate
colors, smells, sounds, words, astral fluids, etc.) to human consciousness
"at a distance." Sight, or reflection, and sound, or inflection, create
polyvalent memes, bits and clusters of "meaning", in the
observer/listener's "soul". By a process of "mutability" wherein
everything symbolizes both itself and its opposite simultaneously, the
hieroglyphic scientist weaves spells in a dark forest of ambiguity which
is precisely the realm of the artist -- and in fact alchemists were known
as "artists" of the "spagyric Art". Just as the alchemist changes the
world (of metals), so does the maker of an Emblembook or a public monument
(such as an obelisk) change the world of cognition and of "moral"
interpretation by the deployment of images and symbols. Leaving aside the
question of "emanations", we arrive at an occult theory of art which was
passed on (via Blake, for instance) to the Romantics and to us.

Now, as Italo Calvino points out somewhere, all art is "political" --
invariably and inescapably -- since every artwork reflects the artist's
assumptions about the "proper sort" of cognition, the "proper" relation of
individual consciousness to group consciousness (aesthetic theory), etc.,
etc. In a sense all art is Utopian to the extent that it makes a statement
(however vague) about the way things should be. The artist however may
refuse to admit or even become conscious of this "political" dimension --
in which case, certain distortions may occur. Those artists who have
abandoned the hermetic/romantic idea of "moral influence" frequently
reveal their political unconscious to the savy semiotician or
dialectician. "Pure entertainment" turns out to be freighted with an
ectoplasm of sheer reaction, and "pure art" is frequently even worse. By
contrast, this artistic unconscious can inadvertently reveal what W.
Benjamin called the "Utopian trace" -- a sort of Gnostic fragment of
desire embedded in every human production, no matter how reproduced it may
be. Advertising, for example, makes use of the Utopian trace to sell the
image of a reproduction which promises (on the unconscious level) to
change one's world, to make one's life better. Of course the commodity
cannot deliver this change -- otherwise your desire would be satisfied and
you would stop spending money on cheap imitations of desire. Tantalus can
smell the meat and see the wine, but never taste -- he is the perfect
"consumer" therefore, who pays (eternally) for pure image. In this sense
advertising is the most Hermetic of all modern arts.

The Utopian Trace can also be analyzed in another "damned" art-form,
pornography -- which acts directly to bring unconsciousness to conscious
cognition in the (measurable!) form of erotic arousal. It is Desire which
draws out ("educates") this appearance of the utopian trace (however
distorted) and organizes chaos toward action around a vision of "the way
things ought to be". Masturbation is an epiphenomenon -- the real effect
of pornography is to inspire seduction (as in Dante, where the lovers sin
after reading Arthurian romances in the garden together). Right-wing
bigots are correct when they accuse erotic arts of influencing and even
changing the world, and leftish liberals are wrong when they imply that
porn should be allowed because it's "harmless" -- because it's "only" art.
Pornography is agitprop for the body politic, and inasmuch as it is
"perverse" it agitates and propagandizes for a revolutionary liberation of
desire -- which explains exactly why certain kinds of porn are outlawed
and censored in every "democracy" of the world today. Since most
commercial porn is produced on an unconscious and reactionary level, its
proposed "revolution" is ambiguous indeed; but there's no theoretical
reason why erotica cannot be used according to the hieroglyphic science
for directly utopian ends.

This brings us to the question of a utopian poetics. Nietzsche and Fourier
would have agreed that art is not merely the reflection of reality but
rather a new reality that seeks to impose itself in the world of thought
and action by "occult" means, through "dionysan" powers and hermetic
"correspondences" (hence their shared fascination with opera as the
"complete artwork" and the ideal means of propagating their "philosophy").
Our "crazy" synthesis of Nietzsche and Fourier will reveal them both as
neighbors of the Renaissance Hermeticists, who also pursued utopian
political programs through action on the level of aesthetic perception,
and through the very pleasure of creativity which in fact constitutes both
the means and the goal of the utopian project. In Fourier, however, we
find the truly divine notion that this aesthetic realization will manifest
as collective action -- that society will re-constitute itself as a work
of art. Each individual, with powers now augmented by Harmonial
Association with the appropriate Passional Series, will become "a special
kind of artist". Having realized their "true desires", all their desire
becomes productive in a world given over to veritable orgies of
creativity, eroticism, "gastrosophy", and aesthetic brilliance. Just as
shamanism is "democratized" in certain tribes where everyone is a
visionary, Fourier elevates every member of the Phalanx to the status of a
"great artist". Naturally some will be greater (i.e. more passionate) than
others, but none will be excluded -- the "utopian minimum" guarantees
creative power. Nietzsche speaks of "the will to Power as Art"; Fourier
made it the principle of an anarchist utopia in which the sole organizing
force is desire.

There appear, on the face of our palimpsest, two apparently contradictory
images: -- first, that of the artist as "bard", and as romantic rebel in a
world that has denied the bardic function; and second, that of the
suppression-and-realization-of-art, in which "artist" disappears as a
privileged category in order to reappear (like Joyce's "Here Comes
Everybody") in a shamanic democratization of Art.

Would it be possible to intuit -- based on our anti-diachronic
palimpsestic theorizing -- that this paradox may be merely apparent, a
false dichotomy? Or that, even if it's a real paradox, we can construct a
paradoxicalism capable of reconciling opposites on a "higher level"
(coincidentia oppositorum)? Or that, like Alice, we can entertain several
(or even six) conflicting contradictory notions "before breakfast"? Can we
"save" ART from the imputation of failure, and the artist from the stain
of elitism and vanguardism, while at the same time upholding the
"revolution of everyday life" and the utopia of desire?

In order to attempt an answer to these question I'd prefer to drop the
problem or "plight" of Art and the artist, and concentrate instead on the
plight of the artwork. After all, what can we say about the predicament of
the artist, who (despite all "tragedy") is still the only free spirit in
the world of commodities, the only one who knows how to pay attention, the
only one blessed with obsession, and the only practitioner of attractive
labor? [Note: of course I'm defining "artist" here as anyone freespirited
and obsessive and able to pay attention, whether or not they are involved
in "the arts" or belong to the boho counterculture, etc., etc.] Compared
with this good fortune, the real tragedy seems to involve not the artist
but the work of art. The artwork is alienated as commodity both from the
producer and from the consumer. Either it is removed from "everyday life"
as a unique fetish, or else it is robbed of its "aura" through
reproduction. In the economy of simulacra, the image is cut loose and
floats free of all referents -- hence all images can be "recuperated",
even (or especially) the most "transgressive" or subversive images, as
commodities in themselves, items with price but no value. The gallery is
the terminal and the museum is the terminus of this process of alienation.
The museum represents the final fixation of price and price as the meaning
of the image. Forget the question of "saving" the artist; is it possible
to "save" the work of art?

In order to "justify" and "redeem" the artwork it would be necessary to
remove it from the economy of the commodity. The only other economy
capable of sustaining the artwork would be the "economy of the gift", of
reciprocity. This concept was sytematized by the anthropologist M. Mauss
in his masterpiece The Gift, and exercised great influence on thinkers
diverse as Bataille and Levi Strauss. It was exemplified in the potlach
ceremonies of the Northwest coastal Amer-indian societies, but it can be
hypothesized as a universal. Before the emergence of "money" and
"contract", all human society is based on the Gift, and the return of the
Gift. Before the conceptualization of "surplus" and "scarcity" there
prevails an apprehension of the "excessive" generosity of nature and
society, which must be expended (or "expressed" as Nietzsche put it) in
cultural production, aesthetic exchange, or -- especially -- in the
festival.

In the context of the Gift economy, the festival is the focussing power of
the social -- the nexus of exchange -- actually a kind of "government". As
the Gift economy gives way to a money economy however, the festival begins
to take on a "dark" aspect. It becomes the periodic saturnalia or
turning-upside-down of the social order, a permitted burst of excess which
will purge the people of their natural resentment against alienation and
hierarchy, a disorder which paradoxically restores order. 

But as the money economy gives way to the commodity economy, the festival
undergoes yet another shift of meaning. By preserving the Gift within the
total matrix of a system which is hostile to the Gift, the festival in its
saturnalian mode has become a genuine focus of opposition to the economic
consensus. This opposition remains largely unconscious, and the spectacle
can recuperate most of its energies (think of Christmas!) -- but the
spontaneous festival remains a real source of utopian energy nevertheless.
The "Be-In", the gathering, and the Rave, have all appeared to modern
authority as dangerous nodes of total disorder precisely because they
attempt to remove the energy of the Gift from the economy of the
commodity. The post-surrealist post-Situationist art movements that have
carried on the project of suppression-and-realization have all developed
festal theories. Jacques Attali's Noise, which explores suppression-and-
realization in terms of music (he calls it "the stage of composition") is
based on an analysis of a painting by Breughel of a festival. Indeed, the
festival is an inescapable component of any theory which offers to restore
the Gift to the center of the creative project.

Is the work of art "saved"? It would be better to ask if the work of art
possesses a soteriological dimension or function. Is the artwork salvific?
Can it redeem me? And how can it do so unless it is liberated from
alienation in a festal economy? Art was born free and everywhere finds
itself in chains -- obviously the "revolutionary task" of the artist
consists not so much in making art but in liberating the artwork. In fact,
it appears that if we desire to work for suppression-and-realization we
must (paradoxically?) revive that most dangerously romantic view of the
artist as rebel, as creator-destroyer -- as occultist revolutionary. If
creative life (including value-creation) can be called "freedom", then the
artist is a prophet (vates or bard/seer) of this freedom -- just as Blake
believed. By means of the hieroglyphic science the artist embeds, codes,
englobes, educts, expresses, beckons. The work of art as seduction asks to
be superceded and seduced in turn by the brilliance of each and all -- it
demands reciprocity . Not life as ART (which would be an intolerable form
of dandyism) -- but art as Life.

In the end, can anything be done about all this within the context of the
gallery, the museum, the economy of the commodity? Is there a way to avoid
or subvert the process of recuperation? Possibly. First, because the
gallery-world has been so devalued (largely because it grows ever more
boring) and hence becomes desperate to try anything. Second, because the
artwork, despite everything, retains a touch of magic.

If we artists are forced (by penury for example) to work within the
gallery-world, we can still ask ourselves how best to "advance the
struggle" and make real spiritual agitprop for the cause of creative
chaos. NOT through ever-more-arcane elitism, obviously. NOT by crude
Socialist Realism and overtly "political" art. NOT by ever-more-morbid
deathkult "transgression" and hip armageddonism. NOT by ironic
hyperconformity.

There may exist many possible strategies for "boring from within" the
Artworld -- but I can think of only one that doesn't involve crude
physical destruction. Simply this: -- Every artwork can be made in the
most transparent possible way according to the (ever-unfolding) principles
of utopian poetics and the hieroglyphic science. Each artwork would be a
consciously-devised "seduction machine" or magical engine meant to awaken
true desires, anger at the repression of those desires, belief in the
non-impossibility of those desires. Some artworks would consist of
settings for the realization of desire, others would evoke and articulate
the object/subject of desire, others would shroud everything in mystery,
still others would render themselves completely translucent. The artwork
should shift attention away from itself as the privileged icon or fetish
or desirable thing, and instead focus attention on liberatory energies.
The works of certain "earth-artists" for example, which transmute
landscape (with the simplest and most painstaking gestures) into utopian
settings or erotic dreamscapes; the works of certain
"installation-artists" whose micro-realities concern memory, desire, play,
all the revery-energies of Bachelard's "imagination" and his
"psychoanalysis of space" -- art of this sort can be shown or documented
within the Artworld context, in galleries or museums, even though its
purpose and effect would be to dissolve those structures and "leak out"
into everyday life, where it would leave a trace of the marvelous, and a
thirst for more.

Similar strategies could be evolved for other artforms -- printed books,
music, or even the festival as collective creation. In every case I
believe that the most effective work can be done outside the institutions
of aesthetic discourse, and even as attacks on those institutions.
However, we should take advantage of our access to Artworld and its
privileges to use it as a launching pad for an assault on its own
exclusivity, its professionalist elitism, its irrelevance, its ennui --
and its power.

The specific tactics of this insurrectionary strategy remain in the hands
of individual artists and the vertu or power of their creations. The point
is an insane generosity, a donation larger than any commodity-transaction
can recuperate, a free gift over and beyond all computation. The artwork
becomes a virus of excess, an instigation to utopian desire -- a
soteriological device. Nothing makes better sense than the attempts of the
ArtWorld to demolish itself. The purpose however is not to destroy the
space of creativity but to open it up -- not to depopulate it but to
invite "everyone" inside. We don't want to leave; we want (finally) to
arrive. To declare the Jubilee.   -hb

----



The 12hr-ISBN-JPEG Project                >>>> since 1994 <<<<

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