Between the rising seas and increasing valuation we find some sort of home. Among the memories of what we thought impossible and came to eventually be. A footstep crosses one thousand footfalls of the six-footed ant yet they each go the same distance.
Issue 9 (nine) of this here Journal of A & P, we editors wondered at the length of the day in order to understand what was really there. It had grown accustomed to the loud alarm and the cold morning air that it insisted upon entering half dressed. A morning shower was no longer of interest, the day always started too soon and coffee had finally become something to step on until lunch. If work came by, it could be admired as much as hated because it had finally become just a tool towards some other unknown eventuality. Cooking, on the other hand was alchemical; a real opportunity to actually mix things up and an opportunity to make little chances of delight, “If it tastes good swallow it, if not, spit it out.”
Occupy, Gezi Park, the Arab Spring, 15M. A now typical mantra, or perhaps a mumble or a shout. To suggest that these things did not happen and that each doesn’t continue to happen is to imagine that water only happens when its raining. Or maybe its best to suggest that these events didn’t happened in our sleep so that we might better understand our waking day, a day which is made up of our own Gezi Parks, or looking for jobs, or complaining about prices, or making a friend or deciding that Duggerz is full of shit and you’ll never shop there regardless of how ineffective a boycott may be.
We won’t pretend to know the genealogy of the term “the state of affairs,” (1) a wonderful philosophical term which is used to describe the totality of necessary relations set in play between any historic moment’s material conditions and its pre-existing modes of production. This ninth issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest floats in this state of affairs and wonders. How, now that we deeply understand that history does occur, that change does or does not happen, that massive disobedience is possible, that the scope of anti-capitalist cultural production has blossomed, that drones and police violence and the Koch Brothers exist to laugh at the massive odds against them… how does an artist and activist pace out a practice of social change?
This 9th issue of Joaap had a simple desire; to map out the field on which we live and touch upon those things that burn on the stove. So. this issue has topical articles; an article on the environment, an article on surveillance, an article on capitalism, an article on the media, an article on institutions, an article on the arts, an article on planned communities. The request to our authors was simple; "here’s a topic, write a short essay about how you relate to it." What writers delivered, by the nature of the assignment and their brilliance, exceeded our request. Their responses are focused expansions on how, as thinkers and practitioners, these topics come to life.
We also gathered several articles, on how people weave their thoughts and gather their practices through life and time. These serve as contrast to the specific peices and might serve as drifts of the subject, either the individual or the movement. Its interesting to note that these dreifts occur through Occupy.
The book, Beautiful Trouble, edited by Dave Oswald Mitchell and Andrew Boyd was inspirational for our thinking of this issue. Beautiful Trouble also did something very simple; it kept the complexity of social theory alive while making a guidebook to activist practices. The book has four chapter headings: Tactics, Principals, Theories, Case Studies. Each chapter is further broken down into bit-you-can-use headings.
Tactics includes everything from “Advance Leafleting”, “Public Filibuster”, “Strategic Nonviolence” and “Trek” (doing a long march to raise awareness of an issue). The middle of the Principals section includes headings like “Know your cultural terrain”, “Lead with Sympathetic Characters” and “Play to the Audience that isn’t there.” Theory includes stuff like “Society of the Spectacle”, “The tactics of everyday life”, “Cultural Hegemony” and for the Marxists, “Commodity Fetishism.” Case Studies includes a variety of creative activist projects, several of which our journal has discussed in previous issues. Its no surprise that the contributors to this book are a list of some of North America’s most articulate activists and political artists operating today.
Beautiful Trouble’s strength is its breadth and depth of collective knowledge. It is indexed to be used in the way that a competent graphic designer knows how to make it so. This book’s structure appears as functional as a mobile phone mapping app. It is does not cheapen creative activist practices to the level of a “Marketing 101” class. It asks and collects introductory theory to the question of how can we transform our culture through the concurrent and necessarily conflicting prongs of protest, cultural change, media and community. The book is accessible and does not mystify complex creativity in the baroque clothing of that the art and academic worlds requires.
Never ones to celebrate redundant information, Beautiful Trouble’s strength challenged us to ask what a no-budget arts-heavy activist journal like ours might possibly be able to contribute. The limitations we set for this issue are a direct response to art world hubris which assumes that whatever is in a museum, gallery or before a pair of eyes is the most important thing. Instead, for some time we decided to be quiet. So many of you readers have been doing such good stuff.
And in the end, when we decided to speak, our answer was to wonder about the mundaneness of life.
We wonder at how life continues between things and these things somehow brush against us.
Honestly though, we don’t focus on the actual art of living thing so much. Rather, the mundaneness of our struggle to live is the existential background of this issue. Our process of editing this book occurred while almost by mistake we stripped the aesthetics from our politics and had the most boring of lives. Go to work. Come home. Pick up the kids. Make diner. Our articles don’t politicize biking to the job or going out at night. This issue has few recipes to share. Jut one article looks at the economy of the artist- we figure that for this issue the daily grind, precarity, is a settled matter. Rather, the praxis of this issue is the coming to face of the possibility for a positionality without a fancy jacket, outside of our living-as-form. This issue's editorial process assumed positionality and observed the effects of techniques. This issue is something much more then norm-core, we observed how a meaningful and effective creativity and creative politic exists quite external to our life-style.
Our survival matters in that we witness a timeline between things. What becomes clear is that it is possible to clarify beyond ourselves where actual politics or culture are possible, by being workable. It is clear that things can be made to happen and sustained. Our use of the word “culture” here is neither a sad bone tossed to “life-style” nor to a cool politic- rather, culture is extra-political creativity which avoids the normative diliberatory processes of the political (something in the process between antagonistic protest or legislation). Culture is the wider set of tools, it is general intellect well utilized.
This issue points towards the potential for critical reflection on material and technique in the abstract. This issue points to how things become workable; by removing ones own lifestyle from ones practice to whatever extent possible, our creativity becomes research and development for possible futures. Our creativity becomes research and development to be used to understand how capital and the state move us, or how we can build effective platforms, or how we might alter our relations to find movement through chaos, or to identify contradictions that might be useful.
Our articles, serve as representatives for these external thought. They are a few markers on the field layed between now and the mundane horizon of the future. The articles are thought moment which, like a thought in time, exceed our editorial capacity to foresee and contain. They stand independent from our concern for survival. All we as editors can offer here is the vision that perhaps through more definitive futzing around with destinctive points at the horizon of our experiences (points identified by our writers as containing distinct techniques and technologies), we can eventually better all our lives in the long-term.
One Further Editorial Note
Throughout the editing this issue, we were also working on a radio project. The project got its start by encountering the Milan based curatorial project- the Disobedience Archive. The archive is primarily a video collection which explores four decades of social disobedience: from the uprising in Italy in 1977 until today. We were confounded by the concept that one could archive an attitude or behavior pattern.
Inspired, we set off to create our own kind of exploration. We acknowledged the simple materialist fact that history is made in the sometimes antagonistic exchange between common relational patterns (how people communicate and behave together) and existing modes of capitalist extraction (how they try to personally own all that is common). Looking at three cities, Leipzig, Milan and Barcelona, we decided to shave off all the pleasant distractions of the day-to-day and craft an audio documentary at the minimum of this antagonistic exchange.
What resulted was this radio project, our Disobedience project. Within it, we trace how, from the Cold War to the neo-liberalism of today, artists and activists develop uniquely specific strategies to confront the State, to carve out space for their and other’s lives. Within the documentary are victories and small joys in addition to about 40 years of history and more than a few arrests and beatings.
The documentary begins in the State Socialism of the East German state. An artist, Gabriele Stötzer created highly idiosyncratic and “individualistic” work perversely echoing her state’s totalizing scopics. She wanted to know, on an intimate level who she was, only for herself. Art was a good tool for this in a society that saw Freud, yoga and the tarot as tools of capitalist subversion. Meanwhile, the trust she forged within a small cell of activists gave them the strength to challenge East Germany’s state security apparatus- they actively occupyed her town’s Stasi offices as the wall was coming down. This action, along with those of many others, guaranteed the end of some of East Germany’s worst practices months before Germany’s future was clarified through re-unification.
The Disobedience Radio Project’s final segment, in Barcelona, follows the narrative of the reporter walking through a noisy city at night. The noise is that of the boisterous city, full of 1001 concerts. Every street corner erupts with the skilled raps and fingered guitars of artists. A pleasurable stroll records the songs of the night but not the sweat of the hot night in the crowded city; a rented apartment and time on our hands. Barcelona like the rest of Spain and the rest of the world is reeling under the yoke of the crisis. A night out shares just a few similarities with the existential reality of being homeless; primarily what is shared is the street and the space of the common. This is what we have, this all is what we have: songs, crowds and the individuality of tastes for music.
This final episode of the Disobedience radio project details the overwhelming popularity of the PAH, the Platform for People Affected by the Mortgage Crisis. On the street, the PAH turns towards abandoned houses to enter and occupy so that lives of its homeless members can begin again. The radio documentary does not interview people within the walls of their homes.
Episodes of the radio project are availabie here.
1. See Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, What is Philosophy? (New York : Columbia University Press, 1994). (back)