At Motorola, quality means the world to us.
Motorola TV commercial 1992
Ours is the first century without terra incognita, without a frontier
Hakim Bey The Temporary Autonomous Zone; Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism p102
A new world order inspires the imagination – an order for, of and in information, for, of and in technology, the sciences, art: literature, architecture, media, music, painting, sculpture, film, theater. The fabricability of that world does not frighten us away or even make us suspicious. Here, the limitless will to make is heard, seeking its expression in a new world, in a courageous attempt to definitively escape 19th and 20th century objects, mechanisms, psychologies – and historical mistakes.
An artist stokes his environment. In this energetic, ritual immolation, signs of life come into existence, which then become the shining example by which whole disciplines and their followers can direct themselves.
The immediate surroundings of an artist consist of materials and tools. The immediate surroundings of reception consist of representative discordances and legitimacies, misinterpretations and confusion of tongues. In the authoritarian environment of fabrication, chopped-up material and refined ideas are piled up without restraint. The infectious environment of reception offers a disorienting pile of good intentions and misleading images. Assigning value to this confusion of tongues means choosing the certainty of the uncertainty of fabrication above the safety of meaning. This distinguishes the fabricators and their sympathisers from the middlemen and their followers.
1The only freedom of this text is its truth. It deals with and embodies the freedom to speak in contrast with the un-freedom to mean. This text is about the freedom to make as opposed to the unfreedom to mean – like any good work of art. Because the trades have betrayed us. Because the signature has betrayed us. Because material and tools have betrayed us. Because our ideas betray us: inexorably and constantly. Because our big cities cannot accommodate us. Because our great facilities fall short. Because the future has nothing to offer not contained by today. Because the utopias are at a standstill. Because the Commune has been abolished. Immediate improvement should be the only option. No more art exept that of immediate improvement. Murder and manslaughter cannot sufficiently demonstrate that reality of non-negotiation is the reality of violence as the only way out of confusion of tongues. True xenophobia has struck the world of ideas. How much love is needed to reverse this process? What new tools will create a paradise on earth? How many sorties against the enemy must we still fly?
the fact that the promised world has never existed does not arouse our suspicions at the claims made by those that represent its coming: Benneton, CNN, Koons et al. Right and left, with deadly drive and decisiveness, the euphoric themes of change and progress are taken up once again: the involvement and communication of a 'Second Modernity' on the one hand (Andreas Branzi: Au centre, un grand espace vide qu'il faut remplir en analysant minutieusement les évenements récents, la réalité de la société postindustrielle, dans toute sa complexité, envisagé comme un système stable, ni provisoire, ni antimoderne. Dans le même temps, il faut rechercher le fondement éthique et artistique sur lequelle construire le projet à venir. Un projet ample, de grande envergure sur le plan humain et culturel. Operation délicate, mais possible, à condition, bien sûr, d'accepter certaines conventions et restrictions qui ont pour nom 'seconde modernité'. J'entends acceptation de la modernité en tant que système culturel artificiel, non pas fondé sur les principes de nécessité et d'identité, mais sur un ensemble de valeurs civiles et linguistiques )
2 Andrea Branzi Nouvelles de la métropole froide Les essais du Centre Pompidou, Paris 1991, ISBN 2-85850-603-5
and on the other the technocratic and mediacratic aggression
of 'Restore Hope'. In preparation for the twenty-first century, the great clean-up has begun in the media and the economy, of everything that might make the world into our common possession, into an Earth that can harbor us. The media is ready. It is more mobile than any specially trained military unit: we find it coast to coast on every beach and in every alley, wherever anything is about to happen. It is in and on everybody's hands, the ideal channel for distribution of politics, culture, economy and knowledge in the 21st century. The power it serves is an economy of information; grotesque publicness is its most powerful weapon.
With the Gulf War, Benneton, Koons and Ciccolina, with these and a thousand other logo's, a new politico-cultural world standard for the next century is proclaiming itself at the end of this one. What still separates us from that spectacular promised world, except for nostalgia like Yugoslavia, EuroDisney and the Venice Biennial?
The Promised World
Questions about accessibility, negotiability and the amount of personal freedom we can expect in the promised world have only been dealt with on a modest scale. Social-cultural critical analysis lags a bit behind technological advances. It also receives less financial support. The most speculative critique can be heard coming from anti-cultural sources like the ones that produced the Temporary Autonomous Zone.
3 Mondo 2000, Extropy e.a. Zines, Whole Earth cum spin-off, Autonomedia, Ronell c.s., Zone Books
In these media, one sometimes must wrestle one's way through unimaginative jargon and confused ideas and accept InfoGnosis unquestioningly. However, this is compensated by the fact that this jargon is certainly part of the charm of the new, secret language, of a post-medial society (exit tv and cable, enter The Net, exit negotiation, mediation, enter tactile feedback, etc.) in which the resistance to the Great Narratives and smokestack
4 'smokestack' is the collective heading used by Alvin Toffler for the industrial world of the nineteenth century in his latest work Powershift
activity is beginning to acquire form. Even more than that: the chaotic, anarchistic philosophy of this culture-critical Jargonia embodies the resistance to the authoritarian discours of old and is being deployed against the profitable trade in absolute meanings and confessions. This criticism offers its practitioners and readers a 'knowledge format' in which other forms of communication are researched,
5 the Potlatch
6 Mondo about networking lingo:),>:),8====d,etc.,TechnoBabble
and typographies are used.
7 among others Telephone Book, Avital Ronell
In the above mentioned media and periodicals, another knowledge of the world is constructed from other choices from the body of culture; it is applied, distributed and consumed in new ways. Thus are new worlds created.
The State and its representatives from all social disciplines systematically fall back on the ideology of an established knowledge format, that portrays new knowledge and other communication channels as 'radical relativistic'. But whole generations of old memories are threatened with extinction now that technology, economy and the media no longer wait for access to the symbolic orders supplied by traditional critics and middlemen, but shamelessly rob our memories from their traditional place, breaking them open and distributing them.
A critical attitude towards this phenomenon is of crucial importance, precisely because the methods and the ideologies change, but the will to power does not. Ambitious fancies are emerging in the field of telematically organised and computer supported Industry, Information, Publicness and Communication now forming. In Culture, Inc., Herbert I. Schiller calls the tangle of interests of suppliers, collectors, processors and salespeople a total corporate information-cultural environment.
8 Herbert I. Schiller, Culture Inc.: the Corporate Takeover of Public Expression Oxford University Press 1989, ISBN 0-19-506783-5
The development of new facets of cultural and social intelligence cannot simply be formulated in the old symbolic languages, which are no longer of this world and can be placed in the museum. An acceptable measure of misuse is necessary for these languages if they want to re-emerge and generate meaning in a new circulation and distribution of text and image.
Cultural and social changes are chaotic. But promised worlds undergo revolutionary change and it would seem that they can, and thus must be designed with increasing speed and for an ever decreasing duration. The frustrations of a preceding generation of 'liberators' about the cultural democratisation processes in the sixties now draw on the 'radical relativism' of the younger generations for their criticism. The generation of 68 forgets that its liberation was based on the authoritarian decree of old theoretical knowledge and subsequently failed due to the incapability of communication of a theoretical freedom. The media dealt with the cultural inheritance of the sixties more aggressively and less respectfully and were thus more effective in the communication of a liberation. The original generation of cultural and social liberators was thus eaten by its own revolution and is now being vomited out by its emancipated products (new generations of consumers, anarchists, the non-aligned, potlatchers, etc.: the Free Religions, including the Psychedelic & Discordian currents, non-hierarchical neo-paganism, antinomian heresies, chaos & Kaos Magik, revolutionary HooDoo, 'unchurched' & anarchist Christians, Magical Judaism, the Moorish Orthodox Church, Church of the SubGenius, the Faeries, radical Taoists, beer mystics, people of the Herb, etc., etc. p83).
But what controls the desire for the promised world: liberation or ownership of it? Independence or exploitation? Through emancipation or 'demancipation'? Of and with which human beings and world? The first, second, third or fourth world, Post Human or anthropocentric? Indigenous, Non-Represented, Native or Alien? Who stands to gain from public euphoria? The main motif seems to be an indomitable urge forwards, towards progress, the urge towards the new - that is mainly a need to start. but with who? With the intolerant institutions, politics and the economy, the State? With the liberated individual? With the same old Industriousness?
Propaganda, Information, Poetry and the Illusion of the World as 'Espace Vide'
Art has promised worlds and realities - and delivered them. In the modern tradition, it embodied the institutional renewal that was to lead to a promised world. One utopia followed upon the heels of the other. In its splendid isolation, art was allowed to reflect paradise on earth for us and to get started on its realisation, at least in its own individual disciplines. An 'espace vide' never existed any more than the promised world - not for Yves Klein, nor for Andrea Branzi: the desire for a vacuum and the other, the new, the dream of a beginning exists and we are developing the symbols for it, the tabulae rasae. But what ultimately remained to art in its utopian paradise on earth, the 'white cube', was the concept of fabrication (for every artist a reluctant beginning, a starting-to-make, making a start:// that which is finished is not made, Paul Valéry), doomed to failure for the maker, who knows no stopping, to be replaced by the concepts of the communicative environment of the product – the context: environments that grew alienated, accelerated, shrunk, narrowed, textualized and medialized along with the objects in them, to ultimately, far above and beyond the once-only, individual artist's existence, commodify// and popularise, and nowhere, at least in no single public discipline, to radicalise: while hesitant fabrication must literally be a radical, (up-) rooted activity, in order to render visible the begin that must be made in order to fabricate!
Because we know (and especially see!) that the world is overcrowded, a Babylonian mass filled with and divided by its old borders, old politics, and old economy, old religions, old sciences, old ideologies, old wars: a museal world of dead languages, dead people and objects and dead nature - the definitive musealisation and exploitation in perpetual repetition, a definitive prolongation, the folklore of living dead – if only for this reason alone, the artist must give his life.
Babylon takes its abstractions for realities; precisely within this margin of error the taz can come into existence. Getting the taz started may involve tactics of violence and defense, but its greatest strength lies in its invisibility – the State cannot recognize it because History has no definition of it. As soon as the taz is named (represented, mediated), it must vanish, it will vanish, leaving behind it an empty husk, only to spring up again somewhere else, once again invisible because indefinable, in terms of the Spectacle. The taz is thus a perfect tactic for an era in which the State is omnipresent and all-powerful and yet simultaneously riddled with cracks and vacancies.'
* p101, italics JK
The visual and textual secret languages of an (up-)rooted radicality exist in a complex readability, that takes on form in between information, nonsense, joke and cliché. The amount of 'autonomy' of each pronouncement – of every image and every initiative to speak, of every beginning-to-be-made - is dependent on the relationship between these qualities. With much verbal pomp, a new academicism of context and publicness introduced the uprooted object in its new sites, in its new use by a social and cultural system, that had lost all of its ideas about democratic accessibility and been replaced by the producers of new (temporary, thematic: 'green', 'politically correct', 'critical', 'artistic') identities (the logos).
The artist's signature, which was abolished with a view to the relativisation of the individual uniqueness of the artistic act and the auratic object, with the complicity of and even sometimes partially at the initiative of the artist, is re-introduced as a sign of political and cultural responsibility. This signature does not produce the inalienable proof of the genius of the individual author, but is the life sign of the involved and responsible individual or the group in which he acts. With this signature, the artist is not asking the environment to adore the object, but offers this environment the temporary guarantee of responsibility for the statement.
A system (the state, institution or company) that capitalises the signature and provides it with a price (because the Performance, if it is to bring up a profit, must have a maker that can be celebrated, in the object and in the signature) is not profited by the politically authorised, initialled voice of a destructive, uprooting, beginning creative force. The artist is not concerned that the expression should be clearly traceable to its origins, or with the traceability of genius, but that a voice be heard and understood, a voice calling for resistance and another use of means and tools and another reading of monuments (objects and initiatives). Only in this way does meaning and knowledge come into being in a world that promises too much.
Are we who live in the present doomed never to experience autonomy, never to stand for one moment on a bit of land ruled only by freedom? * p98, italics JK
In the future (…) technology – freed from all political control – could make possible an entire world of autonomous zones. But for now the concept remains precisely science fiction – pure speculation.
* p98, italics JK
Every word and every image speaks and is the truth.
9 …The world is not an abandoned monument. It is an event of tremendous proportions, the conclusion of which is not yet apparent. The theories that men employ to construe this event are themselves incidents in the mammoth procession. The truths the theories attempt to fix are successive approximations to the larger scheme of things which slowly they help to unfold. Thus a theory is a tentative expression of what man has seen as a regular pattern in the surging events of life. But the theory, being itself an event, can in turn be subsumed by another theory, or by a superordinate part of itself, and that in turn can be subsumed by another. A theory is thus bound only by the construction system of which it is understood to be a part - and, of course, the binding is only temporary, lasting only as long as that particular superordinate system is employed. (George A. Kelly, A Theory of Personality, the Psychology of Personal Constructs)
But that much truth is unreadable. How much meaning can we stand? Alas, the act that kills discussability does not exist: everything is New(s).
This text does not even offer the solution of doubt (the n-th escape), or a possible failure. The world cannot be allowed to fail - that is its and our great handicap. The world cannot be allowed to be the failed truth of art, the ecology, politics, the economy, technology or science. Far from being foresightful, it is myopic and evasive to forget that most questions that can be posed about the future can more meaningfully and forcefully be posed about the present.
10 Max Dublin Futurehype: the Tyranny of Prophecy Plum Penguin Books 1992, ISBN 0-452-26800-1
May art preserve us from the promised world.
translation jim boekbinder