"From now on, Utopia is not only an eminently practical project, it is a vitally necessary one!" – Clark, Gray, et al

CROWBAR MOMENTS Vol.1, No. 1: A Poem Cycle

What is the essential difference between identical twins?

Handy: "That I am here and you are there, surely!"
Dandy: "Ah but you are wrong my darling, for most assuredly you are there!"
Handy:
"So then, what's for supper?"

For a Free Science: The War Against Answers

Should we demand no question should go on answered? We offer many questions free for the taking. We have questions about everything. We ourselves are always in need of more. With enough questions, no answer will be so presumptuous as to dictate terms of discourse as calculated transactions of equitable object-values, as it is both objects and values which we also question. To question value is ultimately destructive to the entire political-economic order, as long as we expect no answer. If we only question the answers given, perhaps those who insist upon them will go away or become, like ourselves, confused, wondering. Is this not the goal of all critique? The destruction of preconceived values which, under harsh interrogation, always seem to belong to someone else, yet none but those who already have all the answers claim them?

But surely they will question us, no?. Isn't the proper response to a question the return of another? Or to pass it along? Perhaps we could as well accept a response which makes us laugh? A well placed malapropism or a double entendre through the bank window of our brain which implies something quite other than what it says on the attached note? Was it a ransom note? Such replies to our questions are quite appropriate since, in fact, they are not answers at all? This questionable utopia we relentlessly pursue will therefore put to question all attempts to require permits, passports, pontifications, proclamations and other such personal pains – answers one and all.

We have taken this extremely questionable course because we are tired of hearing the same old answers justifying every disgusting thing done to us and even worse things to our fellows. A break from answers (particularly final answers) is a break from every anti-social constraint placed upon possibility. Are we then free to pantomime the possible and mimic the pleasurable, just to give them a dry run test? Is this the nature of experimentation? Good science is said to be heuristic, which is to say, only leads to more questions. Free science, anyone? Before you answer, pause a moment and ask yourself this: "What is the essential difference between...

Navigation & Pataphysical Self-Consciousness

"_____ is a prototypical fuzzy category. Ever subject to conflicting discourses, the concept of _____ is constantly being undermined by a politics of interpretation in which hegemonic norms are challenged by dissenting voices. It follows that the meaning of _____ in relation to other things, the Saussurean value of the category, is always shifting. Consider the categorical entanglements of “money” and “sex”. When we say that someone is well-fixed or well-endowed, what exactly are we talking about?" (– Marshal Sahlins)

"Pataphysics will be, above all, the science of the particular, despite the common opinion that the only science is that of the general. Pataphysics will examine the laws governing exceptions, and will explain the universe supplementary to this one; or, less ambitiously, will describe a universe which can be – and perhaps should be – envisaged in the place of the traditional one, since the laws that are supposed to have been discovered in the traditional universe are also correlations of exceptions, albeit more frequent ones, but in any case accidental data which, reduced to the status of unexceptional exceptions, possess no longer even the virtue of originality." (– Alfred Jarry)

An eye to aesthetics merely turns the normal curve upside down. It's a matter of pataphysics. The new peaks are disturbances, bringing us to consciousness, arousing our interest, encouraging movement. They are always attractive, no matter where (or even if) our "moral senses" lie. The slopes and lows, the inverted swells (mean, median and mode), the repetitively normal and banal (if they don't put us back to sleep) announce to us commensurable patterns – landmarks useful for navigating absurd peaks. These peaks may be statistically insignificant, but they represent the most poignant (from Latin pungere 'to prick, sting') elements of our landscape. In the study of probabilities, the fluke or "exception" is not even registered on the pie chart and outright disappears in the normal curve. Pataphysical aesthetics places the fluke at its very center. A recognition of environmental consistency gives us the courage necessary to follow our nose, to engage, to immerse, to participate. When there is no consistency, it's either time to set aside the LSD for a time, or dispense with your neurosis and move your camp because, from this perspective, one can see the absurdity in the normal and realize the equivalence of all absurdities. (– Carlos Dufús)

"The great merit of pataphysics is to have confirmed that there is no metaphysical justification for forcing everybody to believe in the same absurdity, possibilities for the absurd (and in art) are legion. The only logical deduction that can be made from this principle is the anarchist thesis: to each his own absurdities. The negation of this principle is expressed in the legal power of the state, which forces all citizens to submit to an identical set of political absurdities." (– Asger Jorn)

"Naive realism, such as is found among savages and some Germanic scholars, accepts the data of perception without question. Philosophy began with the distinction between the 'apparent universe' - the universe made up of the data of perception - and the 'real universe' - which allegedly underlies the universe of perception and 'explains' it. The 'real universe', is assumed to be by definition more 'real' than the 'apparent universe'. But philosophy turns on itself and mind whirls when we remember suddenly that this so-called universe is made up entirely of our theories, our guesses, and, as I have explained previously, the instinct to gossip. It then appears that the 'real universe' like the 'apparent universe' is the creation of our brains. We then have to assume a triple, or three-headed cosmology, made up of the 'apparent universe', created by our senses, and the alleged 'real universe', created by our guesses and gossip, and the real 'real universe', which our 'real universe' may or may not resemble greatly. But if the 'real universe' is made up of theories, this 'real real universe' can only be a theory about theories, namely a theory that some thing may correspond to some theories. Thus we go from inference to inference, and find certainty nowhere." (– Prof. de Selby, in Brian O' Nolan, The Third Policeman; and as well, R. A. Wilson)

Jain Sevenfold Dialectic of Syadvad in Relation to Probability:

  1. syadasti: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is.
  2. syatnasti: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is not.
  3. syadasti nasti ca: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is, it is not.
  4. syadavaktavyah: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is indeterminate or indescribable.
  5. syadasti ca avaktavya sca: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is and also indeterminate or indescribable.
  6. syatnasti ca avaktavyasca: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is not and also indeterminate or indescribable.
  7. syadasti nasti ca avaktav-yasca: Perhaps or maybe or in a sense ... it is and it is not and also indeterminate or indescribable.
  8. – Syadvad: jainworld.com

We are observers and mimics: Pataphysical Psychoanalysis

When we stay at home and mimic only each other, we must stay the same old normal same old, democratic, corncob pipe-smoking, jug-tipping, porch-sitting gossip mongers playing the banjo to the tune of "I'll marry my sweet sister Sallymae". When we explore a bit and mimic others or equally, when we embrace novelty which comes our way, we change our behavior. We learn the incest taboo, which is the birth of adventure (or born from it), and is very nearly the only cultural universal, said Freud, learned when we repress our mortal desires to take our fathers place at our mother's table (the roles are reversed in the female "electra complex"). The healthy ego is attracted to the strange and different. What can be more familiar than the family?

Adventure is the birth of rebellion as a solution to pimples and excessive hormone-fueled teen angst. Of course, it could as easily be said that our first pimple itself produces a desire to retreat from the potential ridicule "for being different", as ridicule is always observed to be the centerpiece of rounds of front-porch gossip. If Freud was even near the right track, it would seem that numbing fear of (or constraint from) adventure results in patricidal ideation which eventually escalates beyond the immediate family. It is said the only way to be truly comfortable in our own skins is to take on a job in town and evacuate our selves like a boil freshly come to head. "Express yourself", we are told. In this way, adventure is negated and our fathers survive to see us become them and we marry, not our sister, Sallymae, but someone who highly resembles our mother (or at least one we wish we'd had).

The adventurous amalgamation of observation and mimicry of the new and different is the source of scientific experimentation and modeling technics, which is to say art and invention. It is also the primary existing condition for the possibility of life itself in all its diversity. A mind to aesthetics is proven by the eye-spot of the amoeba and its propelling protoplasmic foot. We can say "it follows its nose". Social mimicry at its most basic is participation in a mutual feeding frenzy. Mimicry encapsulates and merges the novel into the familiar (and vice versa), and that requires not only movement, but stimulus discrimination (a state of aesthetic excitement) and navigation, even at the cellular level.

A South Seas Adventure

I have a theory that ancient Pacific Island mariners may have used kites to navigate by upper air currents to follow migratory birds to their island resting-spots. The kite mimics the wing, the canoe allows the observation, matching sky and water, to follow forthwith to its predicted conclusion. The existence of unknown distant islands could be deduced from prior observations of bird behavior concerning known islands repeated toward the unknown. They fly off that-a-way, then come back! Flying kites at the altitude of observed migration routes in the appropriate season would suggest a direction and visible target to steer by, even when the birds have flown beyond sight. We are talking about tracking behavior, assuming birds follow a path of least resistance accompanying wind currents and only fly so far before requiring a resting spot on dry ground. This much is yet known and described by New Zealand Maori. Stellar navigation alone suggests travel restricted to night-time. This would prove precarious should the journey last more than one evening, albeit, the position of the rising and setting sun provide directional aids, much of the day would be traveled clueless if encountering new seascapes. The travelers might find themselves spending each night only getting back on course.

Re-creations of Polynesian voyaging have the advantage of knowing in advance their destination. The original discoverers of, say Hawai'i would have only had a theory, unless it is true that all discoveries were matters of accident after being blown off coarse. If this danger was so immanent with sea travel, (as it must have been to "accidently" populate the entire Pacific so rapidly) how could they have made any such voyages to begin with? Any attempt to cross the water to points even within the visual horizon would have been seen as great acts of foolhardiness, as the attempt would be punished more frequently than reinforced. It is generally observed that consistent punishment eventually extinguishes adventurous behavior, if it does not produce a revolution. On the other hand, if it was a matter of teenage elopement or even 'run-aways', the question of accident is rendered moot. Of course, the accident theorists have no problem with the idea of courageous savages canoing by the seat of their loincloths, navigational instrumentation and especially, integrated systems of navigational science among the beastly lot would be considered absurd, to say the least. By comparison, our compass and gps tracking allows us to go through life with no knowledge whatsoever, nor even a perceptual inclination toward our surroundings, not even to say changes in it.

Of course, there's no proof for this kite theory, but we do know that the Polynesians were experts in astronomy and bird ethology and navigated great distances by other means, amalgamating "motions" and constellations of stars and color and "texture" of ocean swells which occurred in predictable patterns, cloud formations, following habits of sea life, as well as by many other means lost to colonial history. We know they were consumate kite fliers. We know birds had mythological (so-called "gods" appearing as birds and birds as mediums, communicating with gods and natural forces) as well as 'economic' importance. Interestingly, Polynesians metaphorically referred to the canoe as bird. We know their cultures were integrated, not haphazard assemblages of isolated institutions. [see Polynesian Navigation and Maori Myth, Legend and Lore]

Integration is an a posteriori matter of combining the known or observed to illuminate hidden patterns. It is mimicry turned inside out, or as Nietzsche would say, "observed from the backside". Theory extracts these patterns which may or may not be "real" in some describable or indeterminate sense and then goes on to posit their commensurability. Sometimes they seem to shout at us if we look closely. Boas' theory of diffusion insists that novelties are not mimicked, reproduced or modelled unless they fit or are made to fit with the familiar. This works well with the iteration or even perceivability of new ideas. An atlatl or spear thrower is the result of self-mimicry and extension. It is a prosthesis. The slot and hook at one end mimics the hand and finger (and often carved as such) holding the spear. Our own hand holding the device mimics a joint, and the device itself mimics an extra bone-length to our limb. The result of the sudden extension of our contracted or folded limb multiplies the distance and velocity of the spear when released on full extension. Mathematics will describe the process, but gives us no clue to its "invention". It is perfected by practice and modification, not by systems of logic. Rather, we are talking about poetry, and without some resemblance to the "known", passes right over our head.

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 2: Not To Work?

Autobiographical Notes of a Self-knowledgeable Fool

I had told the physicist that whilst it may be true that the speed of light is a constant in the universe, this does not a priori imply that photons cannot vary from this speed and travel faster or slower than (to naturally decelerate or become accelerated from) the renowned "C". It only implies that the wave will no longer be perceived as "light" and we can no longer call them "photons". Further, if light does in fact "travel", it can only be said to be "time travel" irregardless of speed, originating in the past and illuminating the present, also regardless of its perception. To say its energy is "the capacity to perform work" is absurd, since that would imply a conscious agency which, in the case of light, can predict the future. Light does not fill out job applications! Who pays for this work? Who commands it? One cannot reduce work at the ministry to the laws of physics, particularly when ministers administrate through the unconscious (or habituated) relegation of tasks to minions, themselves unconscious of the possibility of refusal! Election and selection have no bearing on any matter, as, like the photon, an automaton has no consciousness. (Or so we are told!)

Standing before the central committee at the De-pod (The Tribunal for the Detection & Proscription of Deficiency), I was first asked by the chief inquisitor, Kommodates, "Who are you before us?". I proclaimed I was "an activist out for social change". After some whispering among the committee members, I was diagnosed as an "uncooperative trouble maker", a behavior disorder of some concern but more appropriately addressed by the criminal justice system. Had there been a taint of alcohol on my breath? When I further specified my statement with the phrase, "as a revolutionary ...", the diagnosis was revised to "delusional disorder with homicidal tendencies". When I protested that I was actually "just a nihilist skeptic in a bad mood", the diagnosis was refined to include "schizotypal personality disorder with sociopathic inclination" and chemical lobotomy was immediately prescribed. The alternative treatment suggested had been military service, but this approach was rejected as "merely passing the buck to avoid responsibility" and therefore "inhumane". These were, after all, progressive and liberal times.

Finally, a psychiatric justification had been found to defend my refusal of work – I think; therefore I am ... (free to depend upon others to provide my livelihood)! Would it not be in the interest of justice and reciprocity for me to repay this gift with ... work?

I am exonerated! I am recuperated!

– Otto Sophistocrates, 32 BCE

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 3:
It Is The Status of the Book as a Product...

... not the consciousness artists or book makers have of their activity, that defines the social effect of books

The City is the teacher of Man.

Its cupped, unseen hand

... whose shit steams in the public places,
writhes and curls like slugs into letter shapes,
which our slaves, spilling limed water from amphorae,
wash away before the lesson can be read.

– Xenophanes

Here was our art exhibition that set out to realize itself in advance of commodity reform. It was another moment where we had decided to risk the tenuous existence of our project so much more in attempting some sort of absurd material reality for it, wagering the results against the nothingness.

This was especially true in comparison to the glory of our ideas and imaginings, which in this instance at least had nothing to do with any 'reclamation of cultural space' or whatever else, and which seemingly could have only been realized in the form of a certain lonely, unsung exodus, itself only being able to exist precisely because it was not celebrated, not recognized anywhere, not a threat to the necessarily ineffable avant-garde of it's own escape route; in sum a pseudo-exhibition instead of another moment of the reproduction in approbation of everything we had already abandoned in contemplation.

We exhibited a single book, the title and content of which of course being of no importance at this point in time to those who weren't in attendance.

In fact, since it was not scheduled, nobody attended our art exhibition. It contained an utter absence of talent and great works, but it was a moment of distribution nevertheless. It sprouted up suddenly and vanished just as quickly, evading capture — a stone on the Go board, it knew in advance that it could never set itself up to be in atari, and thus with a decisive motion of the hand all playing pieces were swept off the table, sent scattering before pattern could congeal once more, and the chair was kicked in, the playing area overturned and the board ripped in two. It was simultaneously the most innocuous and revolutionary gesture that we had ever lived through.

There is an impossible situation, no exit, a sense of stillness and perhaps a total non-appearance of social dissonance, so we place ourselves in extraneous space – we will make ourselves and the irrelevance of our gesture the object at issue, we will do something, many things even, and we will not be registered.

anomynous, April 2008
Dallas

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 4:
Zarasthustra, Jurisprudence & Anarcho-Schizophrism [1]

The byproduct of constraint or the meddlement of some over the choices of others, the forces of history, that is, historical force, the relegation of personal choice to others seen as the progress of democracy, has unwittingly (or without conspiratorial intent) détourned Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta into jurisprudence. This is illustrated by historical linguistics. To wit:
jurisprudence: 1628, "knowledge of law," from L. jurisprudentia "the science of law," from juris "of right, of law" (gen. of jus; see jurist) + prudentia "knowledge, a foreseeing" (see prudence). Meaning "the philosophy of law" is first attested 1756.

jurist: 1456, "one who practices law," from M.Fr. juriste, from M.L. jurista "jurist," from L. jus, ius (gen. juris) "law," L. ius "law," from PIE *yewes- "law," originally a term of religious cult, perhaps meaning "sacred formula" (cf. L. iurare "to pronounce a ritual formula," Vedic yos "health," Avestan yaoz-da- "make ritually pure," Ir. huisse "just"). The Gmc. root represented by O.E. æ "custom, law," O.H.G. ewa, Ger. Ehe "marriage," though sometimes associated with this group, seems rather to belong to PIE[2] *ei- "to go." Meaning "a legal writer" is from 1626.

prudence: 1340, "wisdom to see what is virtuous, or what is suitable or profitable," from O.Fr. prudence (13c.), from L. prudentia "foresight, sagacity," contraction of providentia "foresight" (see providence). Secondary sense of "wisdom" (c.1375) now only in jurisprudence (q.v.). Prudent first recorded 1382, from O.Fr. prudent, from L. prudentem (nom. prudens) "foresighted, skilled, experienced," contraction of providens. First record of prudential is from c.1400.

providence: 1382, "foresight, prudent anticipation," from O.Fr. providence (12c.), from L. providentia "foresight, precaution," from providentem (nom. providens), prp. of providere (see provide). Providence (usually capitalized) "God as beneficient caretaker," first recorded 1602.

provide:1407, from L. providere "look ahead, prepare, supply," from pro- "ahead" + videre "to see" (see vision).

vision: c.1290, "something seen in the imagination or in the supernatural," from Anglo-Fr. visioun, O.Fr. vision, from L. visionem (nom. visio) "act of seeing, sight, thing seen," from pp. stem of videre "to see," from PIE base *weid- "to know, to see" (cf. Skt. veda "I know;" Avestan vaeda "I know;" Gk. oida, Doric woida "I know," idein "to see;" O.Ir. fis "vision," find "white," i.e. "clearly seen," fiuss "knowledge;" Welsh gwyn, Gaulish vindos, Breton gwenn "white;" Goth., O.Swed., O.E. witan "to know;" Goth. weitan "to see;" Eng. wise, Ger. wissen "to know;" Lith. vysti "to see;" Bulg. vidya "I see;" Pol. widziec' "to see," weidziec' "to know;" Rus. videt' "to see," vest' "news," O.Russ. vedat' "to know"). The meaning "sense of sight" is first recorded c.1491. Meaning "statesman-like foresight, political sagacity" is attested from 1926.

intelligence: 1390, "faculty of understanding," from O.Fr. intelligence (12c.), from L. intelligentia "understanding," from intelligentem (nom. intelligens) "discerning," prp. of intelligere "to understand, comprehend," from inter- "between" + legere "choose, pick out, read" (see lecture). Meaning superior understanding, sagacity" is from c.1430. Sense of "information, news" first recorded c.1450, especially "secret information from spies" (1587). Intelligent is a 1509 back-formation; Intelligentsia "the intellectual class collectively" is 1907, from Rus. intelligyentsia, from Latin. Intelligence quotient first recorded 1922 (see I.Q.).

lecture: 1398, "action of reading, that which is read," from M.L. lectura "a reading, lecture," from L. lectus, pp. of legere "to read," originally "to gather, collect, pick out, choose" (cf. election), from PIE *leg- "to pick together, gather, collect" (cf. Gk. legein "to say, tell, speak, declare," originally, in Homer, "to pick out, select, collect, enumerate;" lexis "speech, diction;" logos "word, speech, thought, account;" L. lignum "wood, firewood," lit. “that which is gathered”). To read is to "pick out words." Meaning "action of reading (a lesson) aloud" is from 1526. That of "a discourse on a given subject before an audience for purposes of instruction" is from 1536. The verb is attested from 1590. – Online Etymology

Democracy is merely the "willing" acquiescence to tyranny which gives the latter the quality of invisibility and the birth of the modern spectacle – the politics of persuasion. "A-political democracy" must always be an oxymoron. To maintain this idea requires a different word altogether – something like "patamimetic freedom". Personal choice is negated by collective interest, whether hierarchically trickled down from a monarch, parliament, or horizontally distributed within the collective. The IMF and WTO is the peak development of democratic progress. Commercial law is universalized as the global octopus, under which is subsumed threat of physical intercession by the worm of the chief military nation-state's cluster-bombs: sacrifice of autonomous choice as a greater sacrifice for the greater good. Theft and sacrifice are autopoietically merged – we call this balancing act "justice". The failure of global commerce merely re-instates the ascendancy of the state worm, but the jurisprudent law of commerce is unphased. Democracy still thrives even among the most radical of dissenters. Even the supersession of capitalism by democratic, egalitarian distribution of resources, goods, services, the socialisation of production, does little to phase the loss of personal choice. There is no patamimetic balance between imagination and desire with compassion and choice, only dialectic friction. Use-value is still the king in waiting; sagacity is the potential for maximisation which is only an old word for capitalization. Long lives the racket, long lives the state! (cf. Camatte).

Zoroastrianism was the "religion" of Indo-european goat-herders which predates God. The result of Nietzsche's correspondence with the Persian, Zarasthustra, has influenced every succeeding generation of dissenters against the state, of the status quo. Moral codes are theories of universal human nature originating, like messianic cults, as reactions against existing conditions of tyranny. How soon they themselves become tyrannical. Perhaps it is the "will-to-power" itself which gives rise to hypocricy, inciting shouts from the congregation: "Practice what you preach!" The one-dimmensional idea that praxis is behavior derived from theory misses the historical fact that most theory merely explains or justifies or predicts trends arising from already existent behavior.

Humata: 'Good thoughts' – A Healthy Imagination, capable of recognizing possibilities;

Hukhta: 'Good words' – Communication or the sharing of perspectives (distribution of collected possibilities or "interlection"); meaning is not found in words, but in their distribution;

Hvarshta: 'Good deeds' – Actualised possibility by 'healthy' choice, action, a praxis where empiricism and tradition are the same, a condition in which change is always possible but rarely necessary. In another language, this is called "adaptation" and "adaptive potential".

Optimal conditions are only those which ebb-and-flow with options. Even the Romans recognized legere – "to gather, collect, pick out, choose". In modern usage, the democratic collective and exclusive college are merely linguistic variants from the same root. They are the politicized band, the politized village: exclusive gangs & commercial rackets learned from ancient Greeks. In prehistoric Persia, Hukhta is none other than communication and ritual pantomime, the basis of social learning. It provides commonality, custom, tradition – culture even as now colloquially defined. Culture heroes are impossible without their chroniclers, the poets. Poet-historians keep us mindful of the past as something to be emulated (or not, in the case of historic villains). Their sidekicks, the poet-futurists (or "prophets") make us wary of the possible implications of changes to the present context. Renewal is a matter of merging stasis and change rather than the stagnation implied by "maintenance of the status quo".

The Zoroastrian motto illustrates a feedback system – autopoiesis. Democracy, on the other hand, is culture pathologized in individual sacrifice, civilized in collective theft. Legere is détourned to legare "send away, refer, send as an envoy, bequeath" – the relegation of personal choice to 'untied' ('untried'?) delegates which is said to reproduce binds which tie – ligation through legislation; mimesis is a crime called "plagiarism" even though morality is considered the virtue of standardization. The resulting pathology is known as class struggle emanating contractual law, the so-called social contract equally endorsed by Confucius, Mohammad, Hobbes and Rousseau and later Hegel and Durkheim. It is all based on an ontology (produced by self-fulfilling prophecy) of social relations based not in communication, but mutual antagonism. So, and unfortunately so, the ruling class today is not only a ghost, but a divinity: the ideology of democratic jurisprudence which has haunted every revolution by, for and of the antagonized "down-trodden" throughout history. Freedom will always, can only ever be, the ideology of terrorists.


Notes:

[1] AS: Anarcho-Schizophrism – Revolutionizing worlds since 4004 BC.

[2] PIE: Proto Indo-european, the reconstructed language spoken perhaps as late as 5,000 years ago by the ancestors of modern speakers in the Indo-european language family.

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 5:
The Aesthetics Of Pantomicriticism

That the art academies have never had a renewing, let alone a beautifying or improving significance for artistic development, is no doubt because of their reversed position. They place the formal before the manifold and ignore renewal, and the result is stagnation. . . . If academic, official and authorized aesthetics thus has no favourable results to show because of its failing radicalism, then, on the other hand, we have within the so-called humanities or formal sciences, which must really be perceived as preliminary unconnected or constructed aesthetic stages in the scientific process, a corresponding stagnation, but of an opposite cause and nature, as here there is a failure to comply with the organizational process that could transform these disciplines to natural sciences. There can be no doubt that this hesitation is because the formation of our society and thereby our attitude to life remains at an inconsistent or aesthetic stage and hinders us from reaching an organic perception of the world. We can only make progress or desperate tentative efforts.
– Asger Jorn

For a pantomime beyond activism!

Aesthetics as action, coup de théâtre or effect!
The cat wants the fish, but won't get its paw wet!
In choosing it depends not so much on choosing the correct thing,
as on the energy,
the earnestness
and pathos,
with which one chooses.

However,
if it has been noticed
what a prominent place
this conflict about words has had
throughout the times
and with what bloody passion it has been waged,
in order not only to master the word
but above all its interpretation and meaning,

then it will also have been understood
that this word-conflict
is a dispute about world-pictures,
attitudes to life and perceptions of society,
and as such the necessary precondition
for understanding
and actively entering into
a new development.

Words

must therefore be constantly dislocated in their meaning.
Everywhere system and order is created,
it is the one who is the strongest
or the most superior at using ORTHOGRAPHY
and what is placed in words
that turns out to be right.

The action creates the idea.
And they sensed the sounding word and the airy thought.

In the beginning was the word.

This thesis should not be perceived literally,
for if we say that it is the words
that produce thoughts and ideas,
we have in fact said just the opposite,
even though we feel we have said it correctly.

The word in this first perception
is identical with the idea or the meaning.

If we now go in the opposite direction
and try to follow and enter
into the development instead of analyzing it,
then we come automatically to the opposite result,
that it is the effect,
the meaningless, inane, absurd or free action,
that in certain cases creates causes
or is transformed to meaning and context,
that it is action which creates reaction,
radicalism which creates conservatism,
effect which creates influence.

Only when the effect collides with an opposition,
as when two effects crash together,
is it transformed into a cause.

Goethe's well-known thesis: in the beginning was the action.

Muscle movements create glandular secretions
and thereby emotion
or the body's collected continual reaction.
– anomynous
– Søren Kierkegaard
– Sophocles
– Asger Jorn

Splay the oozing Theophrastus on a catapult.

Pull the pus-covered cart to the Pellaen walls.
and cut the tensed rope.

Let the assholes of Assus preach about Truth and Form:

In the real world, a philosopher flying over a burning city is
strangely beautiful.

– Ammonides
– Kent Johnson

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 6: Three Little Pigs

Morality and Economy walked into the world hand in hand. From within their grasp emerged a third, Polity, nick-named "Pig the Impaler". Together they founded the first academy of moral philosophy, called The Aedinborough College of Jurisprudence & Edification. Such was how civilisation emerged and spread throughout the animal kingdom.

Another version of this tale relays that Pig came first, a great tusked beast of some five hundred pounds forcefully waddling down the avenue and from his swinging arms, each ending in clenched hoof, emerged a twin hog plodding along on either side. Ant, cockroach, dog and horse fled from the path as the trialectic unity unwieldily rumbled ahead. This first street gang launched civilization, and lumbering past misty meadows and simmering feedlots, came upon the grainery and feasted upon dried corn, oat and legume which had once been gifts intended for distribution throughout the countryside. The sign at the gate cheerfully announced "Come one, come all!" In no time at all, the entire contents had been consumed.

The other animals, bumpkins one and all, now blamed the store house itself for their hunger, and conspired to burn it down. The pigs, after all, were no more nor less bumpkin than themselves: "They wouldn't do that to us!" But these crafty pigs became apprised of the situation and, having feasted to great contentment, proceeded to burn down the facility themselves. When the other animals arrived the next morning armed with torch, scythe and pitchfork, they saw the ashen spectacle and cheered the forthright bravery of the pigs – "Liberation at last! Hunger is a thing of the past" they cried. To return this kindness, torches were quenched and the mob scattered into the countryside, pitchfork and scythe at the ready, to return with lavish gifts of prunings and leavings and apple tree gleanings. Thus was simultaneously born centralised government, the revolution, riot, the insurance scam and the morality of labour.

After a thousand years of peace, albeit, an overall thin piece, small gangs of delegates (called "councils"), already freed from production in order to compose co-ordinating gleaning-committees, were redirected by popular appeal to petition the central office for increases in allocated distribution. While each increased allocation was celebrated as a revolutionary victory, the growth of bureaucracy meant fewer actual gleaners, whose own work-load obviously increased proportionately.

Another thousand years saw labour-saving devices cropping up everywhere alongside vast increases in litter size. But the more effort put into creating and distributing these tools meant a corresponding growth of bureaucracy to manage it. The animals praised bureaucracy itself as a wellspring of provident solution. But the piece was still getting thinner with every passing day and many started to blame their increasingly precarious conditions on the very tools meant to lighten the load. Sabotage spread throughout the land. Paradoxically, this only exacerbated the problems since even more effort was applied to tool replacement and its security. In fact, the three little Pigs hung a banner between the gate-posts which read: "Remember your Heritage! Sabotage for Progress, Destruction Provides Growth!" and warfare and patriotism and planned obsolescence emerged through spontaneous generation. Soon, tools began to sabotage themselves.

A growing sense of defeatism began to spread, and it took little time at all for the animals to become apathetic toward their own misery. In fact, they became apathetic toward everything. This is how the animals lost their consciousness. Even the pigs were witless! For the first time in ages, the world seemed to be running itself. So it still took another thousand years to reach the point where nothing whatsoever was accomplished. The tattered sign at the old central office, now abandoned and, rumor has it, moved to an underground cave, read: "Your Heritage Lives in the Future!" With no possible means to continue growth, the sky fell with no prior announcement and to no one's particular surprise.

A single precociously pregnant cockroach cried out: "The sky has fallen! The sky has fallen!", but there was no one left near it to hear it. Disappointed, she turned away, walked a bit, paused, raised an eyebrow and said to no one in particular: "Was that a grainery I passed by earlier?"

– A. Runnion Polisson

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 7:
The Supersession Of Art: Interregnal Hope?

What makes hope such an intense pleasure is the fact that the future, which we dispose of to our liking, appears to us at the same time under a multitude of forms, equally attractive and equally possible. Even if the most coveted of these be comes realized, it will be necessary to give up the others, and we shall have lost a great deal. The idea of the future, pregnant with an infinity of possibilities, is thus more fruitful than the future itself, and this is why we find more charm in hope than in possession, in dreams than in reality. – Henri Bergson, 1888: Time & Free Will
So for about the last year, my head's not been performing at a very "intellectual level". I think it's because I'm still absorbing the ideas of pantomime (what Bergson called "endosmosis") and distributivity (what Bergson called "extensity") and renewal (what Bergson called "duration") with regard to poetry/art/language/life, which is also to say I've been involved in schizophrenic discovery. I looked up pantomime on wiki and about fell out of my chair. It's only Marcel Marceau in the States! What a history! It's Jarry and Artaud and Dada and Vaudeville and Burlesque and Fire-sign Theatre and Monty Python and Bullwinkle and has probably been distributing itself into the future since before the beginnings of civilization! It's in Balinese dance and Northwest coast Indian art and Picasso and Tai Chi and fly fishing as well. Picasso's distributive art is the big clue to poetry and to why scientists in pith helmets are always bogged down in obsessive-compulsive farting-away on the tiniest details dug out of the dirt in an artfull waste (or is that a "productive substitution"?) of what might otherwise be known as "living".

The key seems to be distributivity in language itself, so Benedetto Croce was right to equate aesthetics with language. I have a reproduction of a cave painting of a horse hanging on the wall in my house. Now I find it's only a small detail of a distributive mural painted on a cave wall depicting a landscape filled with life. My reproduction is not a piece of artwork, although I cannot say the same about the reproducer's life surrounding its own reproduction (very likely, it's only "work"). My picture is only a technical demonstration of someone's finesse with materials, but it still contains (if I can use that word, distributes may be better) a glimpse of meaning. More so now since I've discovered the original context.

I've just got a library card and discovered online mail-order. I'm getting Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America soon. Here's what's got me jazzed. There is a poetic nature to the economy of the pacific northwest as it concerns commercial fishing and logging. The world Brautigan and I grew up in is a painted picture of "camping in the wilderness", a primarily "zen" experience of fishing and wood-chopping. The axe and rod accompany all expeditions. An archaeologist could find nothing of the gnostic experience by examining the instruments even in their revealed stratigraphic context because s/he is only interested in "man's relationship to things": there are fish and a fire to cook them on; a break from the daily grind of rat-race urbanity. S/he will not see that fishing is a dance which has a structure or set of rituals handed down from grandfathers to be performed in a stylized fashion to ensure the fisher's connection to or continuity with the world, the appreciation of distributivity. This is where the aesthetic of fishing lies. My father-in-law once said fly-fishing was his church. That one can eat the fish is only a minuscule side benefit of the experience. I just don't think the Kwakiutl or Chinook fisherman was working a job with the express function of catching fish, even though from our perspective, he had to eat.

Perhaps ritual pantomime (is that redundant?) finds food but its accompanying archetype fishes for meaning? And what is meaning other than the appreciation of connection? There is a bit of that "primitive" archetype still saturating the commercial logger and fishing industries, even as they are tied up in capital and the wage-labour relation. It is a potential or possibility laying in waiting, ready to attack the unsuspecting grunt out to make his daily bread with a brief seizure of euphoria: "So this is why I'm alive!". This message was in fact unpleasantly delivered by a slap across the face by a dank gust of wind. Archetypes don't reside in the subconscious but in the interregnum and all its space- and time-less connections. Archetypes are always meaningful or, like the tired cliche, they're dead. The world will talk to you if you can listen to a sea shell.

I have some photos on the wall as well, enlarged and enframed, I took during a period of my life when I was young and lived in the world. I think they have an aesthetic quality, if only from a purely technical point of view. But issues of exposure and composition, film speed or even the reproduction of constituent elements (horse, dog, sheep-wagon, landscape) have no meaning for me. They are not part of the picture. The pictures transport me back to a different, older world. Likewise, whenever I smell a cigar, I'm taken to the street-side elevator of the now bulldozed Two-Eleven Pool Hall I spent so much of my youth in. It is a memory of pushing the drunk's (or was he a corpse?) leg out of the way of the door and holding my breath to keep from asphyxiating on the aroma of stale piss and cigar smoke while riding up to the second floor where the billiard tables lived in all their luster. Part of the picture contains a transfer token for the city bus and a change of clothes in my book bag, the daily ritual pantomime of skipping school to hang out with reality on skid road.

In the movie, Harold and Maud, Harold gave Maud a small gift (an inscribed bracelet) to express his love. She immediately tossed it into the bay. Astonished, Harold protested! Maud explained she'd now be able to remember the moment forever because she would always know where the bracelet was. Pure potlatch destruction! The old alcoholics anonymous slogan is "you can't keep it till you give it away". Despite the enframement of the capitalist relation, there is something primitive, which is to say "human", or is that "prehuman" in everything. That is also to say, there is something of everything in each human. What was exchanged in the transaction was certainly no bracelet!

Apparently, the pantomime in the nineteenth british century (and elsewhere) was a true "people's theatre", structured along the lines of détournement of childrens' fairy-tales: "Fractured Fairy-tales" with required audience participation. Innuendo and double enténdre were lost on the children, but not on their parent-spectators – if they made the connections, they were appropriately entertained. It was looked down on by the "aristocracy". I'd say it portrays the slogan, "there's more here than meets the eye". That is the essence of distributivity. In Greek, Panto means "all". The goal of art superseding itself when it becomes life (rather than merely mimic it) is possible when we look for the outside in the inside and vice versa. Art cannot be détourned. It is already détournement, trying to help us look outside our established categories.

Art's distributivity is a matter of sharing perspectives in true potlatch tradition, not the circulation of commodities – minuscule things we most often can't even eat! When archaeologists start seeing their profession as something other than "people's relation to things", they might just dig up something important. The transformation of art into life makes no change at all to art, but to how we perceive it. This exposes that which is merely technical (pop) as fraud: life makes a mockery of survival while commodification only ensures it.

There may be no actual dots in the world, but what a pleasant pastime it is to connect them! At times, there is even more pleasure in their disconnection! The task of art, of imagination itself, is to allow the possible to become real, to make the innocuous but isolated ubiquitous and eventful, to incite a riot of silent contemplation and noisy intertwinings.

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 8:
Intellect & Objectivity

The First Acts of Sabotage in the Nascent Industrial Revolution Were on Clocks, Not Looms!

WE necessarily express ourselves by means of words and we usually think in terms of space. That is to say, language requires us to establish between our ideas the same sharp and precise distinctions, the same discontinuity, as between material objects. This assimilation of thought to things is useful in practical life and necessary in most of the sciences. But it may be asked whether the insurmountable difficulties presented by certain philosophical problems do not arise from our placing side by side in space phenomena which do not occupy space, and whether, by merely getting rid of the clumsy symbols round which we are fighting, we might not bring the fight to an end. When an illegitimate translation of the unextended into the extended, of quality into quantity, has introduced contradiction into the very heart of the question, contradiction must, of course, recur in the answer. – Henri Bergson, 1888: Time & Free Will

In 1907, Henri Bergson (in Creative Evolution) suggested the intellect evolved as an orientation to things, particularly toward their modification, and has the effect of extending choice. In the process, the intellect or 'rational consciousness' progressively drifted away from instinct, passion and intuition which would rather orient around relations – ie, like the aesthetic sense achieved on reading lines from Dylan Thomas, they are not "objective" so do not tend to reify. Metaphor is never intended to be taken literally. But the object-focus in the relation of use-value (utilitarianism, functionalism) to the exclusion of all other focal points sets us up for alienation in a mind-body dualism at least, and generates commodified thinking at its worst. Like a cement slab, reification is hostile to adaptability. We come to criticize instinct, passion and intuition as somehow base and ineffectual. In the process, the enlightenment project for the liberation of consciousness has only mimicked a zombie's mindlessness or the frantic and confused state antecedent to death – the chicken who has yet to discover that his head has gone missing. Bergson's theory of evolution as the diversification of choice fits well with the self-fulfilling prophecy and positive feedback systems in runaway – evolution can take a bad turn.

It's a pretty good read. I particularly like his treatment of "instinct": instinct cannot be explained by the intellect –"neither intelligence nor instinct lends itself to rigid definition: they are tendencies, and not things".

It may be the case that objective intellect's fall into reification was an unfortunate side effect of rationality evolving to augment (rather than replace) instinct, passion and intuition by relying on learning and tradition in times of extreme environmental flux, an emergency setting to kick in while awaiting renewal – in fact, its oral transmission and reproduction (mimicry) can help renewal along by preventing spiraling positive feedback "loops"! This makes us a highly adaptive species – we're less likely to run back into a burning barn just because it's always been a "safe haven" – we can transcend pure induction[1].

With a campfire, needle and thread, we can brave new worlds which were only yesterday hostile. This gives birth to institutionalised ritual performance: what might be instinctual or intuited is reinforced/augmented by learning cultural algorithms resulting from experiment (or accident), assessment, memory and its transmission (linguistic distribution). Once predictably iterated, we could call these algorithms "Lamarkean instincts". At this point, there is little advantage of intellect over instinct and as these "Lamarkean instincts" become pathological; they come to be called "shackles of custom". A revolution at least is called for – I have to agree with Frere Dupont that revolt (or its possibility) is the essence of our "species being": innovation is always a matter of revolt, and that always starts in the imagination – the recognition of possibility!

A rigid dialectic between instinct and intellect is denied if we consider rationality itself an instinctual emergent of an over-developed gray-matter[2]. Unfortunately, culturally driven change ("unfettered progress" or "modernization") would attempt to replace rather than augment the so-called "more basic" processes of consciousness, resulting in the condition in which we now dread movement itself and no longer even know what's good to eat on the planet without resorting to a technical reference manual, a cookbook, ingredient list and grocery order plugged into the online network for home-delivery by pimple-faced pizza boys.

If we can no longer learn by mimicking nature's patterns moving all around us, if we no longer consider other species our teachers, ritual pantomime of each other, of ourselves, is all that's left and we are trapped in our own grandiosity. Continued alienation is assured. There are no "happy accidents" – only misfortune; experimentation becomes an ideological joke – attempts at empirical proof for ideological commitments with a money-back guarantee; social intelligence is demonstrated by engagement in economic games with clearly defined outcomes; passion is the source of embarrassment; esteem is handed over to mathematicians for precise measurement; a gut feeling is a foolish act of desperation. What we consider nature's species with grand intellectual accomplishment is, in actuality, a clown Kropotkin named "Bumbledum" – consciousness has been liberated, choice is no longer an option!


Notes:

[1] For example, dairy cows rescued from a burning barn may be so infected with the contagious stress of their rescuers intent only on saving property, the cows will return to the barn as a palliative. Bergson demands that memory and some sort of inductive consciousness is necessary for any choice involving mobility and therefore common to all mobile life faced with an option of left-turns or right-turns. Consciousness itself is inferred from mobility which must always involve the expression of choice. Classical and operant conditioning offer no threat to this position: amoeba have been successfully trained to run a simple maze. That their "memory" may be a matter of molecular rather than neuronal flux does not change the pattern. Instinct defined as the expression of a genetic blueprint coded for a specific response to specific stimuli renders most of animal behaviour beyond the range of our already limited powers of observation!

[2] I say "over-developed" because adult size is only a function of early differential growth rates. It's a matter of overshoot in the adult when what is necessary is a certain limit reached by youth – a five year old is intellectually equipped to navigate the planet; two-year-old Mongolian caribou-herders are already proficient equestrians and their horses are expert day-care providers!

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 9:
A Critique of Phantasm, Imagined Materialism & Materialist Imagination: (Matter and Memory – by Henri Bergson)

 

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.

2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body, and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.

3. Energy is Eternal Delight – William Blake

In many respects I find a certain resonance in my thinking with Henri Bergson (although he makes me feel, at times, rather stupid – perhaps what we share is a learning disorder). I think for Bergson, talk of image cannot be taken from the context of time travel. The present is a theoretical abstraction, like a snapshot – here today and gone tomorrow, yet it is the only thing we consider "real". Every-thing is image and image only. Images co-resonate. Perception is our resonance with today's snapshot, a segment of our duration, a resonance with sensory apparatus transmitted to the motor apparatus and always directed toward movement. We endure because we have one foot in yesterday and the other in tomorrow. Progress is the confusion of this duration and process of flux or fluid motion – there are no corpuscles of time. Thus is produced movement or action. This movement creates the future-image. Without movement, there is only possibility. From the future side of our duration, we look back and what was present-image is now a powerless memory-image – powerless unless we actualise it and by which it returns as present image capable of initiating, negating or delaying action. Looking ahead we see only more possibility, choice. Only the diversification of memory creates novelty. The ancient Greeks said the past is ahead of you, circles around and kicks you in the ass.

The lesson of the transmutation of causal efficacy into presentational immediacy is that great ends are reached by life in the present; life novel and immediate, but deriving its richness by its full inheritance from the rightly organized animal body. It is by reason of the body, with its miracle of order, that the treasures of the past environment are poured into the living occasion. The final percipient route of occasions is perhaps some thread of happenings wandering in ‘empty’ space amid the interstices of the brain. It toils not, neither does it spin. It receives from the past; it lives in the present. It is shaken by its intensities of private feeling, adversion or aversion. In its turn, this culmination of bodily life transmits itself as an element of novelty throughout the avenues of the body. Its sole use to the body is its vivid originality: it is the organ of novelty. – Alfred North Whitehead

With Vico, we can postulate that writing (or "signification", "tract", or even "track"!) must precede speech! If, according to Bergson, images are not handy (useful, adaptive, fitting), we lose sight of them. Unless we engage in com-munication, they remain beyond our perceptual horizon. In this sense, the ancients might have been on to something when they labeled things "matter" – Matter is the image which matters. Images and their representations do not live in the brain. That is only part of a sensori-perceptual-motor feedback system, our means of resonance as an image ourself, in fact, as a multiplicity of images. The universe itself is image. Its center is the present perception, the subject position. (I've found it easier to substitute the word "Constellation" for Bergson's "Image", but that's just me. He also occasionally used the term, "Nebula".)

Other images or constellations are those unconscious pre-/as-sumptions (preconceived ideas) I've spent so much effort to unhinge or at least expose in myself. They are not real. They are unconscious only because we often have yet to create them. If an other creates and transmits them to us, we will instantly recognise them as our own because all they really are, are the principles or patterns of agreement or coherence which give our other thoughts unity (co-resonance, communication, a completed circuit). Occasionally, when recognised, we conclude that we were wrong, that there are contradictory relations or unwanted implications when juxtaposed to other ideas we recognise and agree (or "resonate") with. But this is rare. It is uncomfortable. It requires that we extend our horizons, and that consumes energy. It is more likely that we will repress or bury under the rug of consciousness those other harbingers of discontent which would cloud the issue. Freud called such measures "defense mechanisms". Bigotry and hypocrisy are rarely malicious – they are convenient and fit nicely with the principle of the conservation of energy. First principles are the most powerful of images, but they do not necessarily precede in time or space those assessments which logically (and only logically) follow. For Bergson, derivation is not unilinear: the effect often produces the cause.

If I see no inconvenience in supposing given, the totality of objects [images] which I do not perceive, it is because the strictly determined order of these objects lends to them the appearance of a chain, of which my present perception is only one link. This link communicates its actuality to the rest of the chain. But, if we look at the matter nearly, we shall see that our memories form a chain of the same kind, and that our character, always present in all our decisions, is indeed the actual synthesis of all our past states. In this epitomized form our previous psychical life exists for us even more than the external world, of which we never perceive more than a very small part, whereas on the contrary we use the whole of our lived experience. It is true, that we possess merely a digest of it, and that our former perceptions, considered as distinct individualities, seem to us to have completely disappeared, or to appear again only at the bidding of. their caprice. But this semblance of complete destruction or of capricious revival is due merely to the fact that actual consciousness accepts at each moment the useful, and rejects in the same breath the superfluous. Ever bent upon action, it can only materialize those of our former perceptions which can ally themselves with the present perception to take a share in the final decision.

A representation is the image stripped from its context of connection and contingency, from its own duration, and maintained in the ever-present as a point of attention or aesthetic. It is useful to actualise, restore, recall, renew or bring back to life "past" or "other" sets of contingencies[1]. It is how we proceed, how we learn, why we aren't forced to re-invent the wheel each time we would have a use for it. Image, object and idea are only perspectives on fluid motion ("behavior"). It is a mistake to consider them separate, in opposition, and an even greater mistake to consider them sources of our alienation or hypocrisy, as "mediating" (vis à vis Zerzan & "symbolic thought") our existence. It's what we are. This may be why we so often confuse contingency and influence with constraint. Alienation is only a matter of property: the diminution of our horizons with a tall fence (if only a metaphoric one), the disallowance of resonances, the refusal or denial of choice, the denigration of another's experience, abnegation of our own movement, the manufacture, ownership and then monopoly of appearances. Maybe Bergson left more of a legacy than we thought? Perhaps he would say he's part of a legacy that endures to this day, including Wündt before him and Vaneigam after – memory-images ever catching up to and overtaking present-images, and yet diversifying in the process?[2]

Bergson more-or-less compares representation, a sensory-motor perception transformed into a present-image, with habit, but does not discount that the image can make or break our habits. The Bergsonian contemporary, Dada, clearly had the latter "breaking" in mind by confronting us with "other" images – from our perspective, representations of alterity, that is, the possibility of a different reality, the reality of different possibilities.

During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence. The manner in which human sense perception is organized, the medium in which it is accomplished, is determined not only by nature but by historical circumstances as well...

To pry an object from its shell, to destroy its aura, is the mark of a perception whose "sense of the universal equality of things" has increased to such a degree that it extracts it even from a unique object by means of reproduction. Thus is manifested in the field of perception what in the theoretical sphere is noticeable in the increasing importance of statistics. The adjustment of reality to the masses and of the masses to reality is a process of unlimited scope, as much for thinking as for perception ...The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being embedded in the fabric of tradition...

l’art pour l’art: ... An analysis of art in the age of mechanical reproduction must do justice to these relationships, for they lead us to an all-important insight: for the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical [might we instead say "symbiotic"?] dependence on ritual. To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the "authentic" print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics.– Walter Benjamin

I read this not so much as politics supplanting ritual and tradition, (obviously politics is itself a ritualized tradition), but as an emergent or resultant, or even as the new context or point-of-focus/paradigm through which the image, abstracted from its indigenous context, is now placed or through which is interpreted. I could be talking here equally of abstract expressionist art hanging on the wall of Rockefeller's bank or New Guinea tribesmen working at the coffee plantation. To me, alienation and co-optation are both representations (frozen and snapped) of this "ripping away" from an originary context, creating Vaneigam's dialectic between survival and life. Zerzan might say that it all stems from abstraction. Bergson shows that it is not abstraction itself that is a problem, but the separation which denies renewal after the initial rupture, or "relaxation" from a state of "tension". Living is patamimetic, allowing both tradition and transgression in the same movement. We want a rupture which allows a new context or matrix of social (organic) relations to cultivate, our own memories allowed to diversify. What we have instead is a machine-work which renews itself via mechanical connection, factory-like reproduction and disconnection and disposal. It bothered me that Deleuze maintained the machine metaphor in his analysis.

The world is thus faced by the paradox that, at least in its higher (sic) actualities, it craves for novelty and yet is haunted by terror at the loss of the past, with its familiarities and its loved ones. It seeks escape from time in its character of ‘perpetually perishing.’ Part of the joy of the new years is the hope of the old round of seasons, with their stable facts – of friendship, and love, and old association. Yet conjointly with this, terror – the present as mere unrelieved preservation of the past – assumes the character of a horror of the past, rejection of it, revolt:

To die be given, or attain,
Fierce work it were to do again.

Each new epoch enters upon its career by waging unrelenting war upon the aesthetic gods of its immediate predecessor. Yet the culminating fact of conscious, rational life refuses to conceive itself as a transient enjoyment, transiently useful. In the order of the physical world its rôle is defined by its introduction of novelty. But, just as physical feelings are haunted by the vague insistence of causality, so the higher (sic) intellectual feelings are haunted by the vague insistence of another order, where there is no unrest, no travel, no shipwreck: ‘There shall be no more sea'. – Alfred North-Whitehead

My interest here is not so much metaphysical but of process and history (I juxtapose Walter Benjamin and Alfred North-Whitehead here), culture (the concept which has embarrassed so many modern anthropologists) and of course, culture change – the theory of the possibility of revolution should benefit from exploring these lines of thinking.

It is also interesting that Bergson's "sympathy" (as connective resonance) is straight out of Darwin, which Kropotkin renamed "cooperation" and "mutual aid". It's been suggested "intimacy" is an even more encompassing term merging colloquial "sympathy" with altruism and cooperation. With the death of philosophical associationism as well as magic, sympathy is today only a word living "between shit and syphilis in the dictionary". Humanist psychologists (cf., Carl Rogers) gave us "empathy" as a methodological tool essential to therapeutic, non-authoritarian clinical relationships. This line of thinking is never profitable to insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

I like Heiddeger's framework of "extasis" producing/produced by an "openness to being" as the matrix for intimacy, a readiness for communication – it fits well with Boas' "relativity" as a methodological device for research: immersion and rapport without the implications of the subject-object dialectic and the moralisms that produces – 'ethnocentricity'. It is neither a subjective nor objective attitude. Malinowski was considered the most adept ethnographic researcher until his diaries were published in the '70's where-in we see that he personally despised the Trobriand Islanders. From the perspective of scientific objectivity, this discredited his research. On the other hand, Boas' "Immersion" recognizes that objectivity always maintains a distance or separation – objective reality is always obscured reality. It was in fact Malinowski who coined the phrase "participant-observation". It is participation (the completed circuit of Bergson's call to "action" and "movement" – performativity) which actually puts limits on Heisenberg's "observer effects" not possible with a rigidly objective (artificial) distancing – detachment. The so-called 'post-modern' relativism which most react hostilely to is nothing but reversed moralism. Bergson places relativism etymologically: a system of relations (not unlike chaos theory), wherein everything is connected and mutually implicative – mutually resonant. What is relevant to communist theory is the transcending of research or clinical methodology into actual living.


Notes:

[1] the "aura" or context of co-resonancies of mutual influence: ritual participation.

[2] An obvious connection to Bergson is our friend, Edgar Poe and his piece, Mesmeric Revelation. Heiddegar's Being & Time, (possibly influenced by or a reaction to Bergson), suggests an invariance/continuity in Bergson with presocratic philosophy. If we consider the epoch, all educated people were trained in "the classics". There is also quite a resonance between Bergson's metaphysic and Hinduism, reasonable since we are also talking about the height of the British empire in India – in Poe's day, Hinduism was becoming quite fashionable in intellectual circles. There is as well a tinge of William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell to be found lurking beneath Bergson, and as well perhaps Poe! Everything is connected. We have now found room in this duration for Hegel's zeitgeist, Jung's collective unconscious, (often depicted as "mysticism", but now I'm not so sure), and Heiddeger's poiesis as "unfolding" and biology's autopoiesis in a general resonance. It all comes together, it all falls apart.

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 10:
Abortive Tools and Divorce Court for Use-value

There is more than just capital ("dead labour") living in the commodity:

Use-value concerns the imagination surrounding the engagement and completion of a movement – a project. Such also happens on a toilet. It is the recognition of the input helping to actualise a desired output. In point of fact, without an element of desire and esteem, use-value is meaningless. In this day and age, the desired movement is away from the task at hand: we esteem those tools which seem to minimalise the psychic and other damage to us which our imposed tasks entail. Back in the day, amphetamines were known as "Mother's little helper". Our theories may work the same way.

A hammer may be applied to many projects. The application of value to the hammer represents its suitability to the particular project at hand. Sometimes it is valued according to its generalization to other possible projects. That is artistic or creative value which may or may not turn out "useful". The value of a claw hammer is its multipurpose nature: one need not set it aside to extract a nail from the wrong hole. Here, value and usefulness are one and the same, and they belong to the project as much as to the tool. It is a total process who's success is measured by comparison of the finished product with that imagined. We are now speaking of adaptive value: does it fit? There is also a communicative or poetic value: does the application of the hammer to the plate-glass bank window illustrate our point?

Mapped against performativity and its intended, standardization of intrinsic use-value with the intent of regulating its distribution is absurd: is a hammer and nail to be considered more or less valuable than an electric drill when spanking a child for sucking thumbs, just to drive in the point that such behavior should be made "undesirable"? On the other hand, how do we compare and quantify a plastic pacifier which leaches its own toxins on contact with the wet heat measured within the oral cavity and a stale piece of bread picked up from the floor as an object to be sucked, an object which might help inoculate against illness rather than cause it? Would you trade your pacifier for my stale bread? Should I amputate my thumb with a skilsaw? Of course not – there is the right tool for the right job! The tool and project must express a monogamous relationship. Haywire must be restricted to wrapping bales. The back of your hand is reserved for breaking children of their bad habits. Everything has a purpose, right? But then, why is it anyone's business where I stick my thumb, as long as it's not up your ass? Maybe if we stop beating on our kids, we'll no longer find anarchists, iconoclasts and other radicals useful?

To suggest and quantify an independent value inherent to the tool is to quantify and rank, in fact, to constrain our projects according to the tool (to prioritize or detach the tool from the project) rather than attach to a degree of esteem and desire. Or, on the other hand, it might as easily suggest a commensurable equivalence to all projects, to all desire: l'travail pour l'travail. To avoid this relativity of 'egalitarian labour' requires the addition of a third dimension along which our efforts are mapped. Such might be 'efficiency' (productive value) for the time-and-motion engineer or even 'the greater good' (so-called social value) for the democrat. Now we have something else which must be measured before we can proceed. This is the function (use) and genesis of all bureaucratic organisation and becomes evident whether we attach standardized value to the tool or to the project itself.

It is more than just "possible" that this third factor becomes its own goal. Advertising agencies (institutionalised aesthetic and morality production) in fact depend on this so that invention itself can give birth to desire: "fashion", "the new aesthetic", "new and improved", "state of the art". The commodified invention is less useful (it may in fact have no use) than the leverage provided by the manipulation of desire. It is a crowbar used to pry our imagination and movement toward its own valued destinations, ends where all other movement comes to a halt.

And we want a systematized barter economy based on use-value to supersede that based on capital? Barter spawns exchange value! Duh! Distributed use-value (the product) demands exchange in labour – altruism must have its sacrificial component. Productivity forgets that tools are also a means of destruction – I give you the molotov cocktail which dies when used properly and the monkey-wrench which doesn't. There is no ownership of the means of production except by the product: the worker is the means of production! The balance of justice ensures hurt feelings all around. It is the market, the tit-for-tat economy saturating everyday life itself which gives birth, which puts life (and death) into the commodity. Commodity value is always a bum wrap, simultaneously attractive and extractive, theiving and sacrificial, ensuring that we will want to manage our own exploitation. There is no supersession here, only continuity. Please, keep use, keep value, but by all means, either end the marriage or abort the child!

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 11:
Some thoughts on recent discussions: Death Lives

Militancy: The rifle is a tight organised structure. It is simultaneously scary and attractive. It surrounds, repels, embraces, guards. But its bullets need to escape, diversify. They are envious of the cluster bomb which annihilates totalities by its very diversification. The annihilation of all myth-time is insurrectionary nihilism (at least of the american variety). The skeptic says, "this rupture is, even if desireable, not possible!" Rubble is always useful, if only to establish firm ground for new construction projects.

Memory: Amnesia is convenient when controlled but untrustworthy if left to its own devices. Memory always digs away, trying to claw at the forgetful. Politics works on the principle of exclusion and inclusion of memories. But it will always remember property.

Politics: Politics and anti-politics are the same beast, except that the first wants to dichotomize, the second diversify. Dichotomization is the quantification, ranking, ordering of diversity. Both want speciation, both want a new totality. One will overcome the other, one will become the other. Dilemma is an immortal being in the realm of reason. Unity and diversity are tendencies along which memory travels, not pretty stones one might select and carry away or toss to the side.

Agency: Every action deliberately undertaken will cause remarkable and wholly unexpected results in distant realms. The more distant, the less we will be aware of it. We can never be certain how or even if it will come back on ourselves. The myth, no matter how much it changes along the way, always promises itself to the future. Myth-time is not entombed in the dead prehistoric age of heroes. It is bigger than that. It is outside, even if it is occasionally covered in glacial ice. The subject position is the isolated, lonely, detatched object in space. It is the center of the universe. The self is never as well known as the other. Others are real. Investigation of the other must always affirm the self. The Greeks were right: the past is the only thing we see ahead of us; the future always sneeks up from behind and kicks us in the ass. "We should not stop playing make-believe at any cost." This is the source of possibility, as long as its provisional nature, as with everything else's, is recognised! It is in fact, the only thing we truly have.

OCD: It might be said that politics gives obsessive-compulsive disorder an alternative tune to hum, breaking the initial loop, but with the danger of yet another. Electric shock will always stop the looping, but there is a danger that the rupture loops on itself and we undergoe a grand mal seizure. If death in status epilipticus does not intervene, both memory and possibility gradually return ... fortunately, somewhat bent. Rituals of survival can only be replaced by those of living. Death itself lives on to intervene another day, another way.

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 12:
The Philosophy & Aesthetics of Goat Etymology Rap

To a wood tick, the landscape is a goat;
that is, it is, it's becoming.

What's becoming of ticks and goats, 
is their jumping and biting.  
Observant ticks jump from wood to goat. 

Goats have hoof and hide, ticks don't.

Information is of a goat
jumping in the landscape,
but it is not the property of the goat,
nor even its content.

There is a form of a goat,
but goats are only content when well fed;
goat contents come out in many different forms.

Goats can not eat information;
one must take care of their horns against your backside.
This is a handy thing to know.

Information is a goat's recognition;
(that is, an observer of goats).

Only parentheses make a difference,
the goat, by any other name, would smell as fowl.

Goats exist without observers naming them,
even parenthetically,
even by parents!
yet goats are also keen observers.

Goats therefore, only serve inversely.

Information doesn't.

It seems by definition, 
observers should not serve,
they should verse!

With enough information, observers can act like goats, 
but they cannot reproduce them,
because they are in-formation.

Only punctuation makes a difference.


Difference is always somewhere, between seduction and conversion. In 15th century Latin, a verse is tractus: "a drawing out, duration"; from trahere: "to pull". We say "paths we travel", or is that "works, to travail"? Did Derrida say, "all movement is play?" It seems there is no such thing as information, unless, like a bad cold, one contracts it. Informants require contracts before they will reveal contacts, handed out by wishful thinkers in uniforms, for the purpose of uniformization, a uniform nation. Tract is the past tense of track; we claim possession by its former pacing; having have had done it; it, inscribed for all posterities. Always with tact, we pin and are pinned down; resigned to our posteriors. To track is to make or follow a path; a track belongs to someone else. A contract is the path having had made you. A contract makes a dead statistic. Someone else ... and you are information. Goat horns and donkey hooves will knock you both off your track, on your ass, just to shake a meddling tick. Genes are a handy scape-goat, convenient suspects, but they are only tracings. There are no such things as genes; unless, of course, one contracts them.
– Tupac Hoofhyde

Meanwhile poets, patiently laboring under a vast cultural misconception, imagine that authenticity is conflatable with subjectivity, not realizing that subjectivity is simply the most acutely engineered of all our technologies – voice-activated, setting in motion a replay of cultural "memories" which are generic and thus belong to nobody. – eg

Reverting to archetype: A collection of affect precipitates; a record of recent character formulae; of modes of conforming to external narratives; of patterns of belonging in apparently randomly generated individualities. – bl

 

CROWBAR MOMENTS NO. 13:
Dissecting Secret Sects & Sectarian Insects[1]
– or – Rules Really Are Meant to be Broken!

Stupidity is a scar. It can stem from one of many activities – physical or mental – or from all. Every partial stupidity of a man denotes a spot where the play of stirring muscles was thwarted instead of encouraged. In the presence of the obstacle the futile repetition of disorganised, groping attempts is set in motion. A child’s ceaseless queries are always symptoms of a hidden pain, of a first question to which it found no answer and which it did not know how to frame appropriately. Its reiteration suggests the playful determination of a dog leaping repeatedly at the door it does not yet know how to open, and finally giving up if the catch is out of his reach. – Adorno and Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment.

In moving from experience of social life to conceptualization and intellectual history, I follow the path of anthropologists almost everywhere. Although we take theories into the field with us, these become relevant only if and when they illuminate social reality. Moreover, we tend to find very frequently that it is not a theorist’s whole system which so illuminates, but his scattered ideas, his flashes of insight taken out of systemic context and applied to scattered data. Such ideas have a virtue of their own and may generate new hypotheses. They even show how scattered facts may be systematically connected! Randomly distributed through some monstrous logical system, they resemble nourishing raisins in a cellular mass of inedible dough. The intuitions, not the tissue of logic connecting them, are what tend to survive in the field experience. – Victor Turner

Today, every one on earth wants to change the world, and radically at that. I'm sure whales and ants would like to see us build better space-ships. Those of us who do not admit to defeat in learned helplessness, have great expectations that if enough institutionalised training is entertained, change can be implemented within traditional institutions. This is counter-intuitive because it is the very function of institutions to maintain traditions. The rest of us think repeating the same behavior, dancing the same thrusting dance at the same door enough times, will open it, and, like the dog, we must at some point give in, give out, go mad or get bad.

We like the whale for its great breadth and length, but shudder at collective beachings. We do not envy the ant, as "constrained" as he is by his collective instincts. Even so, it has been observed that an ant will on occasion, visit the neighbors, even those of a different species or sub-species, and after a ritualised greeting consisting of the dropping of a morsel and some mutual rubbings of antennae, will the ant not only be welcomed with gifts of food, but adopted right into the tribe. He may lavish the queen-mother with gifts of aphid-honey. He may even join in on frenzied raids against his former mates and siblings. It is not known whether this was a disgruntled ant who transgressed or merely one who was attracted to and pursued novelty and therefore, did no transgression – this is, after all, the same behaviour by which any ant obtains food. In either case, it is a matter of ant aesthetics.

Humans seem to require the construction of great bodies of tabu in order to transgress against their upbringing, especially when exploration of novelty is itself hindered. It is almost as if we require a book of tabus before we can entertain the notion of their transgression. While mass beachings are rare, mass murder is not. Unconstrained by instinct, nothing comes easy. My question is, if someone went to the trouble of recording possible transgressive behavior, whether ceremoniously inserted into iterated dances and rites or inscribed onto papyrus leaves and preserved for future generations of readers, shouldn't we presume that the reason for this effort was to ensure we remembered the possibility of changing our conditions when those very conditions take the trouble to communicate to us their desires for change?

When we ask ourselves about the source of vitality for those festivals which continue to be transmitted in some form, we cannot ignore the existence of an explicit social inclination toward the phenomenon of sacred transgression, no matter how watered down it may be. – Sinoda Minoru

The sacred is the unknown land, the land of chaos and transgressions and new starts. Its ritual celebration, the frenzied feast or festival, is a surreal landscape whose great secret lies in the scattered intuitions that there are no secrets required to unlock sacred gates. One merely steps through. Most importantly, it is not a place of worship or other prostrations and flagilations. Better words than "worship" and "thanksgiving" would be "awe" and "relief". It is not thanks which are distributed in great feasts, and there is no asking or signing of petitions – a prayer is a reply to nothing and nothing is the appropriate reply to a demand. The experience of relief is felt when we realise transgressing the gate into and out of the liminal interregnum did not annihilate us, yet we are changed and renewed.

It is the same with all explorations – all dérives. Some old women still know to bring flowers when they pop in for a visit and some young men visited upon do not present a white flag, but offer tea and biscuits. It is not a counter-attack but a mutual rubbing of antennae. Rituals which interfere with rituals are anti-rituals – détournements. Such transgressions are the fuel for evolution, whereby the different becomes the normal and in the process more difference is created. The ritual dance of rioters and riot police is always merely the public acknowledgment of a rigid and perpetual struggle between opposites, perpetuating the logic of both sides, ensuring no change is forthcoming – the antinomy or paradoxical result of all dances wherein the antennae must never touch. Transgression or surrender are all that can be learnt from books of rules, codebooks and proselytizations from rigid systems of logic. Maps are of little use to authentic explorers (unless, of course, one is an explorer of maps), only a sharp nose and anxious antennae. Only transgression ends pussyfooting dances and explodes jammed doors.

It should be obvious, I'm not suggesting rubbing noses with riot cops (although that might be shockingly transgressive to all involved, it would be an extremely dangerous undertaking!) but viewing the aesthetic as total sensory attention, follow-through and not only pursuit but renewal of that which smells sweet. Only the aesthetic prevents total annihilation, transgression for transgression's sake (a meaningless iteration which soon loses all sense of transgression), the continuing war of all against all, the single-minded pursuit of total consumption and self-sacrificial destruction, in other words, the existing context of the state.

It may well be true that everything produced or co-opted by the culture of capital is corrupted, and this in fact informs its cultural codes, 'capital' only perceives itself through these codes and is therefore blinded to a vast array of behavior which, although is situated within its context, nevertheless has its own history quite beyond any consciousness but the poetic. Archetypes (or symbols) residing within archaic rituals are memories waiting to be revealed as well as new starting points from which to wander: "nourishing raisins in a cellular mass of inedible dough". The rituals preserve them, but the rite itself is all that's visible and always, therefore, considered by superficial analysis isolated, secondary and meaningless. The symbols (images, dance forms, incantations, offerings – you might notice, these are all behaviors) contained in rituals are less representations than reminders of environmental or physiological phenomena and processes which arouse desires and feelings (Turner). This arousal, the aesthetic sense, is not restricted to time or sequence. It applies equally to the past (memory) and the future (possibility). Rituals can change when their meaning is exposed (that is, when an "inoccuous" behavior can be "re-cognized" and generalized to a larger context). They are co-opted when their meaning is lost, which is also to say when we cease attention, analysis and critique. The loss of aesthetics is the end of exploration. Transgression becomes impossible, as the senseless one is even less likely to read the tome of tabus as a book of secret recipes – that would be the aesthetic of crime.


Notes:

[1]: from Prelude to a Psychology of Applied Transgression

VOLUME 2

 


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