ART MANIFESTO: Utopian Fevered Dreams
“If you are unwilling or unable to create your own Utopia, you will inevitably live in someone else’s.”
I have it on good authority that good art manifestos start with a declaration denouncing all previous art movements and putting them on notice that they have been found out to be hacks concerned only with money. In keeping with that fine tradition that may or may not even exist, I am putting the leaders of all previous human societies on notice, we have found out that you are run by hacks concerned only with money. Most leaders who are dead are safe from the embarrassment of being found out. Those leaders currently alive don’t seem capable of shame, so for now lets just end the ritual formality of denunciation and get into it.
But what is Utopia exactly? It’s heaven, heaven on Earth. A heaven built with one’s own two hands. Everyone is in the Utopia game. Since Ur and Babylon, all of civilization has been an imitatio in divinus. Everyone wants to build “their” Utopia. Guess who’s Utopia we are living in now?
Why Art Manifesto and not An Art Manifesto? Well, to put it quite plainly, I’m not just talking about art, or the arts, I’m also talking about THE ART, the only Art really. All of the rest of it is just practice in technique. Some people are technically amazing, and an even smaller slice of people actually achieve Art without ever intending to. Many who practice The Art have no artistic technique to speak of and yet still make it work. But many, many, many, who aspire to art or The Art, fail, miserably. Because they never even try.
If you are unwilling or unable to create your own Utopia, you will inevitably live in someone else’s. Many create their own Utopias, but have neither the means or the will to build it very far outside of their imagination. This is the consequence of the Capitalist Utopia we all live in. Our Utopias either stay locked in our imagination, never breathing free, or quickly bankrupt us, or sometimes, get us locked away behind bars, either in a jail or a hospital.
Then there are some who have technique, they achieve unto The Art, and spend their lives churning out baleful anti-art, which like the flaming eye of Sauron, seeks out imagination, creativity and freedom, and burns it out of a person, replacing it with product jingles, corporate logos, and asinine TV/video ads. The products of these anti-art da Vinci’s go on to live their own lives in the ether, astral plane, noosphere, collective unconscious, whatever you like to call it.
But imagine having the means and the will, and choosing not to create a Utopia. What does one call that? Imagine not having the imagination to create a Utopia. That is the beginning and end of poverty. The Capitalist Utopia has broken your body, and hence, your mind. Or it has broken your mind, your body is soon to follow. The Capitalist Utopia is a meat grinder, and Mammon turns the crank.
What kind of art can you make these days that some jackass isn’t looking to commodify and sell? Or would it be better to say commode-ify? What kind of art resists best this trend of the endless shit torrent of “content”? What medium aesthetically and physically resists being owned and sold?
While we’re on the topic of demonology, why do Capitalists get all the fun? Belphegor is in Peter Binsfeld’s demonology too. He is the demon of sloth, and teaches mankind ingenious devices. Seeing him inside out, he encourages mankind to cast off drudgery and instructs in tools designed to eliminate work. He was known to the ancient Middle-East as Baal-Peor, his symbol was a phallus and he was associated with orgies. The Kabbalists know him as the disputer, would that more people in a labor dispute had made friends with him. What better demon to evoke for a Utopia? What better demon to preside over the end of someone else’s Utopia?
In Tibet they have a tradition of art called sand mandalas. There was once a team of monks making a sand mandala in a museum, after they had left a small child decided to play in the pretty sand, the mandala was gone in an instant! But I do not suggest you take up making Art in sand. No, instead I suggest you take up Art with chalk. Lasts just long enough, but not too long. A medium burn in a universe on fire! Let your Art adorn every surface! Let every McDonald’s arch face down with the orison of Papa Guedhe! The local block looking drab? Cook up a special haunt and make it interesting again, seal the deal with a Seal of Solomon! Chalk is cheap and so is talk! Get out there and make street Art!
Strikes and slowdown’s were once the tools by which worker’s unions twisted the arm of capital to get what they wanted. But the union slowly became a tool of the establishment. Wages have been stagnant since the 70’s, and yet worker productivity has risen since to over 70%. The eight hour workday is an idea that goes back to 1810. Eighteen hundred and ten! We are living in the world of the future according to those people, now long dead. In the duration since, repeatedly it has been promised, more often than not in the contemporary discourse, that in the world of the future drudgery would be gone, post scarcity would render society radically differet. So what happened?
Why chalk and not spray paint, or something else more permanently defacing? Well, in the case of paint, it no longer permanently defaces like it used to. Society has become accustomed to it, works around it. In other words, paint isn’t permanent as it used to be, and permanence isn’t the point. This universe is a burning house, everything is impermanent. Chalk then is the perfect medium as message, as well as resisting attempts to commode-ify Art. Most taggers tag in paint to see how long a run they have before their tag gets painted over. As well, most tags are just names written in elaborate, barely readable script. A bunch of latter day Andy Warhols, signing their name on civilizations concrete coral reefs. Boring!
Murray Bookchin, in his book “Post-Scarcity Anarchism”, a book written in 1971, seemed to be of the opinion that a post-scarcity that provided a high quality of life, as well as a harmonizing with the environment, was possible. That was in 1971. Some might argue that we weren’t there yet, but are today. Some might argue that we are almost there, but maybe tomorrow. Many anarchists are jaded with the notion entirely, convinced that the long promised technology will never manifest, that it was a fever dream that distracts from the revolution.
The reality is startling and may cause you to shit yourself from seizures; the shock from this revelation will be overwhelming. It was the Capitalists that promised the future of post-scarcity. They lied.
Spray paint has become passé, something to be ignored on the urban landscape, not pretty enough or weird enough to grab attention. Permanent enough that it is an annoyance to the particular “owner” or caretaker of whatever bears the mark, but not impermanent enough that it becomes worth looking at simply because of its short life. “Tagging” artists have also partially pushed into the mainstream, it is no longer the universally hated pastime it was in days gone by. In contrast, chalk is too ephemeral in its duration to be worth hating or accepting. The simple fact that it is still there makes one curious enough to look. Though it is imminently destructible, no one bothers, it’s chalk, let the rain handle it.
Oh, they didn’t lie about the technology, that’s for sure. If we didn’t have it in the 70’s we definitely have it now. No, they lied about using it. They had no intention of ever improving the quality of life with it. No transformation of society was going to happen, regardless of whether or not the tech was real. The point of Capitalism isn’t the greater good, it isn’t the most benefit to the most people. It is about getting that mutha fuckin’ money. Every single other thing that a Capitalist does is auxiliary to that. Give up all that money and power so that people can live in dignity and without fear of having basic needs met? “Fuck that bullshit”, says the Capitalist. The point of a Capitalist society is so that the most sociopathic and ruthless can get more. It’s an asinine way to run a civilization, if you want it to last for more than a few hundred years, and not collapse into ruin.
How complex your works need to be is entirely up to the artist and their skill. You can go for the fully utilitarian mode of sigil work, or create murals that will wash or blow away within the week. What matters is your intent, and how much life you breath into that intent made physical. You might even find that as you make more works, that your technique and your ability to bring these works to life, to Art, grows and takes on a life of itself, that’s real Art.
And if our leaders are asinine, then why work so hard for them? It’s one thing to show up because you need a paycheck, its another to let yourself be goaded into working as hard as you can because you’re afraid one of the salarymen is going to call you lazy! Constantly on the media streams, these assholes get up in front of everyone and the gods to either implicate or out right accuse the citizenry of laziness, despite all research asserting the opposite. You have a 70” LCD TV that you bought on credit, what do you need with all that health care and minimum wage anyway? Right!?!
Not only will your works take on a life of their own, but they are also embedded there in the moments they occupy, there for any being with eyes to see them. The beings we (and I’m just going to assume that since you’re reading this you are one of those types who talks to spirits, gods, demons, etc.) talk to exist on another plane, sure, which is another way to say higher dimension. Just like the floating silvery orbs often seen over populated cities might be aliens, sure, but are more like cross sections of hyper dimensional shapes being rotated on their 3+n D axes, and less like beings from another planet in our “volume sliding along a duration” type of existence. That means that the chalk is actually not just an aesthetic statement about anti-commodification, but also an effective way to conceal your works from the mundane peoples.
Look, in the past it was sabotage, strikes, and slowdown’s that twisted the arm of capital. But punctuated events have become easy for the Capitalist and his Statist cronies to deal with. Instead, why not provide the ultimate slowdown? Belphegor makes sense as an adopted comrade spirit in these times. Corporations are now more than ever trying to foist as much work for as little pay as they can on the worker. If it isn’t overtime due to under-staffing and high volume, then it is pursuing your personal GOALS, which must meet the SMART criteria, and though they are refereed to with various anti-prose euphemisms such as employee enrichment, what they are friends and fiends is extra work. Extra fucking work, as if the shit they have you doing for a whole third of your life wasn’t enough.
I have a confession to make, I don’t think the revolution will happen soon. I do not mean to say that we should not make the attempt, or struggle in other ways. What I mean to say is that until there is a collapse, the kind that normally happens when a society spins off into massive inequality in wealth and environmental degradation, that the inertia of our collective history will deflect naturally such efforts. We should struggle anyway, however, because the attempt itself plants seeds that can be watered later, to grow in the fertile corpse of our current context. I would not deny anyone that demands “revolution now” the opportunity to make it happen. But in the succession of “nows” that pass, why not engage yourself happily? Why not make Art? Why not paint this soon-to-be corpse of a civilization, like a cemetery mortician putting make-up on someone’s gran-gran, in runes of struggle, revolution, liberty and community? If you have better things to do, then feel free, certainly, to get on with it. But if not, why not pick up a stick of chalk, and paint the world mad?
They don’t lift a finger except to count their money, and they vilify us, these scoundrels, for not wanting to drudge in a world where drudgery could be done away with. It keeps us tired, unable to absorb information as fast, and closer to docile than not. It is not a lack of technology that prevents Utopia, it is the fear of the privileged, and indeed today they enjoy such “private law” that has not been seen since the days of aristocracy. The slick haired, over perfumed, chemically tanned aristocracy of money want you working hard so they can continue to enjoy the privilege that comes from their money. Ready to play hookie yet? Ready for an, ahem, “sick day”, full of fun and adventure?
Indeed, if I should be so bold, I might suggest that one’s whole life should be a work of Art. A magical statement to echo down the ages, heard only by ears that can hear such echoes, and yet the waves of which affecting those who can and can’t nonetheless. Like Nietzsche suggests to us, “What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’” If indeed your life were to occur repeatedly in such a manner, would you want a third of that time spent drudging for a douche-bag with a watch collection worth more than hundreds of thousands of families incomes? Many think when they die the drudgery is over, and if it isn’t, would this not then be hell?
“What kind of adventures”, you ask? Well, you could do a lot of things, with free time comes choice, a thing most at least dimly remember. I could make a suggestion, why not art? Paint the town red as they say. And why not magical art, or as they used to call it, The Art. An abattoir of Art, the concrete deserts of the worlds cities blooming on a spring, summer, fall, or winter day. Any time of the year is good. Not a bad suggestion if I say so myself. I should write a little primer, a wee little Art Manifesto to rouse my glorious fellow rabble into acts sacred and profound. Why not an Art Manifesto, I don’t have much better to do. I wonder if anyone knows anything about Art Manifestos?
Who wants to live in hell on Earth? Why not then use Art to make a Utopia? Nothing fancy mind you, this present context is two breaths away from being a rotting corpse. Perhaps then we should just plant dreams in the subconscious minds of our fellow humans, and nightmares for Capitalists who hope we all stay sleeping. But whether or not we bother to plan our Utopia or with Jovian profligacy spread our Art like so many weedy species spill seeds into the wind, we should at least have a talk about Utopia. If you could live your life as a work of Art, in a civilization that was a work of Art, that might be Utopia, if you were into that. But definitely, lets talk about Utopia first.
A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.