We are dancing in the dark. Tough luck kids. In January 2005, we held a dark mass and wailed. We are now dark energy. Darkness has shifted with this ever-expanding fucked-up system. Our dearly held agendas and assumptions- once truisms- are now suspect. How can we work in this glue gloom?
On May 13, 2004 cultural production in 5 cities in the Center of the United States just stopped. The towns themselves didn’t seem to notice, their TV’s still brought in moving images, their radios still played the programmed music. It was unclear if the disappearance was a coordinated act of refusal, or if the producers were taken away. It is unclear whether similar events have occurred elsewhere.Are they dead? Have they disappeared, are they dead or are they in hiding?
This fourth issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest has been most difficult to put together. We conceived the Journal when all things felt possible: just a few years back the Bush Administration was impotent, everyone was high on Hardt and Negri and activists of grassroots globalization were infecting everything with “possibility.” Insurgent action was metastasizing into a holy universal of Zapatista inspired world dance revolution party. Locally, nationally, and internationally, activism was beginning to affect policy. Journal issue number two came together as we were touching on concepts of the grassroots as “Second Superpower.” Our third issue developed along similar lines, high on radical democracies developing in Argentina; secretly buoyed by the explosion of political counter-expression in the US we were able to ignore the realty of this war and that president.
But now we are unable to hide behind dreams of possibility – there simply is no sublime to buoy our relationship with the current US regime. Some of our previous forwards seem now funny. We, and the movement have changed. What recently seemed achievable now feels impossible: currently the strongest freak-culture is not an anarchist collective but the Bush cabinet.
In piecing this issue together we looked at several contemporary models of resistance from the United States and abroad. From the States, it was difficult to find something not developed in relationship to the recent presidential elections – replaying themes of carnival, intervention, pop-culture dissent. These models are inspiring and locally effective, but few of them leave hints of how to work broadly in the current political context..
"The existence of movement unavoidably implies a body which is being moved and a force which is moving it. Hence, wherever there is life, there is a mass moved by a force. All mass possesses inertia, all force tends to persist. Owing to this universal property and condition, a body, be it at rest or in motion, tends to remain in the same state, and a force, manifesting itself anywhere and through whatever cause, produces an equivalent opposing force, and as an absolute necessity of this it follows that every movement in nature must be rhythmical." Nikola Tesla, ibid.
This issue contains no unique strategies. There are no community parades- only marshalling crowds, speeches and illusions of grandeur. We have no clue what is going on right now. This issue is weird. These articles may constitute something or not- but we did try.
We are scared. The everyday experiences that have served as diversions from fear are now overflowing with references to disaster. The fear isn't about sudden, cataclysmic change - how do you fear something that happens so fast you can only react and try to survive. The moment of horror comes from realizing that we're in it for the long haul. That the disaster is one that unfolds through a long sequence of events, one after another. All in due time. It's as if we're all one giant social patient counting backwards from 10, with the anesthesiologist waiting for us to go under. We're told that it's "routine surgery," but we know it's not going to be good. So, we just keep saying nine, sounding like a broken record, hoping that we can postpone the process. Maybe, if we can stop the system long enough, it will fix itself, like unplugging a computer when it malfunctions and nothing else works. Maybe we'll be saved by some masked hero/ine, or think of an ingenious escape plan. Maybe. Nine, nine, nine...
Changing a fucked situation is not innately a beach party. Social or political change doesn’t necessarily make you rich; a career of representing someone else’s anger is a lie.
"If I concentrate really hard, I can move things."
Sissy Spacek -- Carrie
Still in the light is the fact that political change involves either people stopping the machines or voting after being motivated by representations of truth. And there is always be room for poetry and beauty (however abstractly this is constituted). To make an argument in support of this proposition is a lie.
On Feb. 18, 2001 Dale Earnheardt Jr. crashed head on into the wall during Sunday's final lap at the Daytona 500. "He arrived at the hospital at 16:54 (4:54 p.m.) and a full trauma resuscitation was attempted for a little over 20 minutes," said Dr. Steve Bohannon, a trauma surgeon who heads the speedway's emergency medical services. "He never showed any signs of life. He was subsequently pronounced dead by all of the physicians at 17:16 (5:16 p.m.). In the year that followed, visitors could ride the track listening to a recording of the crash with announcements timed to coincide with their position on the raceway.
draft autopsy report from the Volusia County medical examiner's office
(In traditional Alzheimer facilities) patients on the 2nd and 3rd floor positively did not want to go to the 4th (top) floor. This almost always meant it was the step before heaven, which is cute, but medicare benefits decline dramatically for top-floor patients, which isn’t. Hallways in the new Alzheimer facilities spiral in toward a common area to guide moving bodies. This way as memory is lost it isn’t alarming. There’s never a long view. So as memory is lost, it isn’t alarming.
- from correspondence by Sean Patrick Dockray, LA chapter of the Institute for Advanced Architecture.
We still wonder what a radical cultural agenda might look like.