What to do ?
The media called « Arab spring » the revolts which rose when winter came (December 2010.) Maybe this is the acceleration of History Marx wrote about, applied to seasons. Once the real spring came, western armies were involved to save the interests of their voracious economy in Lybia. Blood and oil are still flowing under the auspices of merchants.
Carried along by the revolutionary euphoria of the Tunisian and Egyptian people who ousted the tyrants from their thrones, the people from Syria and Yemen who don’t give up, the people of Morocco, Algeria or Iran who protest as much as they can, the Palestinian people who has never stopped resisting since 1948, I started to dream of a poetical accompaniment for these emancipating accomplishments: Video art is no more merely a contemporary art. From now on it is an art that is contemporary of the revolutions which set the southern mediterranean countries on fire since the beginning of this year. It would be an intellectual crime to protect ourselves from their spatter, to not let ourselves get covered by this froth on the daydream, passed through by its tornados, pervaded by its scents which finally make life breathable in this greedy world that nips in the bud all creative attempts.
Poetry is against order enforcement.
Political revolutions… Poetical revolutions… Same combat!
Liberation is from now on spelled in Arabic: Tarhir. Tarhir rather than betray ! How many revolutions were betrayed in the name of the good they promised ? It is this in the name that the poetic language must flush out, search and fight. It is in the name of freedom and happiness (a new idea, said Saint-Just) that the 1789 Revolution established Terror and the market order. It is in the name of communism that the 1917 revolution forced the dictatorship of the proletariat against the proletarian themselves. Betrayal by the facts is always preceded by a betrayal of the language. Emptying the collective language of its sense was called sensorship by the poet Bernard Noël. If censorship is the deprivation of speech, sensorship is the deprivation of sense. A phenomenon which accomodates perfectly with the cult of today’s communication: anything can be said without disturbing the Powers since words don’t have a meaning anymore. They are interchangeable like merchandise.
« Power is self-perpetuating by degrading language. Power maintains itself only by emptying of their meaning the words it used to seize power. » says Bernard Noël.
This is a poetical emergency! Fortunately some revolutions were not betrayed, as they were defeated. As a result, they constitute a sort of lost treasure to which we can relate today in order to feel less lonely with our dreams of emancipation. There was the libertarian revolution of 1936 in Spain, and the Paris Commune before. And now (what a coincidence!) the year 2011 corresponds to the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune (March 18th to May 28th 1871), and the one (less famous) of Marseilles (March 23rd to April 4th).
« Let’s kill enough to be undisturbed for a generation » claimed the venomous Versaillais Edmond de Goncourt during the Bloody Week. However, Rare are those who still think about these days, these fights, these names, said in 1927 the futurist poet Vladimir Maïakovski.
What about today? Who still thinks about those of the Commune? Alexandre Dumas called them « sewers product », others « scum », the « mob »… The well-off vocabulary doesn’t evolve much. Today it is in Tunis, Cairo, Damas, Tripoli.. that the spirit of the Commune revives, this popular aspiration still very much alive to emancipate from the oppressive yoke of despots.
What about the artists? Are they willing to rise? Are they ready to jump into the adventure of a kind of international poetarian artvolution? Are they convinced by the urgent necessity to put language into a crisis so that illusion is ripped up and reality unveiled? What did the poets do, when spring came, at the time of the Paris Commune? Some didn’t fear to dirty their beautiful words at the contact of the distributionists. Some communard poets (Rimbaud, Verlaine, Cros…) founded the irreverent Zutiste movement (from Zut! meaning Dang!) in order to launch an attack on the reactionary good taste which took pleasure in the massacre of the insurgents. They understood very early the necessity to build barricades in the suburbs of language. They stroke out the beautiful syntax, the pretty words, the tasteful. They battled against the old patriotic and religious ideas, the sickening homophobic outbursts, the bellicose and merchant ideologies. Then came the hydropaths and the Incoherents who spread to other arts their sound desire to fight academism. I started to dream of an exceptional edition of the Instants Vidéo with the poets who used to know best how to offend the words which the powers emptied of their meaning, emaciated, defused, desensitised (unnerved, as we used to say)…
Of course the greatest of them all should be invited, the ferment of contemporary poetry (born in 1885) who accompanied the first period of the Russian revolution. Let me introduce the cubo-futurist Velimir Khlebnikov. The mightiest electronic poet Gianni Toti paid tribute to him in 1988 with his VideoPoemOpera : SqueeZanguéZaùm. Khlebnikov whose writing has not only opened the way for poets to come, but even influenced filmmakers like Eisenstein. It’s not a coincidence that Toti’s video begins and ends with the entrance in life of the poetemkine (allusion to the famous Battleship Potemkin which knew a mutiny immortalized by Eisenstein), which bursts out of the screen to make fiction join our reality. Khlebnikov was not interested in the space conquest (and even less in the conquest of spaces) because it always leads to wars, to the occupation of territories. He had such a passion for the conquest of time that he was searching for its mathematical, mathepoetical, laws, to such a degree that he invited the numbers to compose with words and colors, and he announced in 1919 the birth of numerical painting. Khlebnikov, the man whose words sang like birds, whose watch is faster than the stars’ watch. We have invited Jean-Baptiste Para, poet and author for the journal Europe, to introduce this precursor of all avant-gardes. Art is a hobby for some, for others a way to walk through walls. We don’t like strike-breakers or dream-breakers.
We like to transfix borders, we love overflowings, falling walls, whispers taking flight and the caress of murmurs. However, some don’t see it that way and mix the love impulse of the poetic gesture with a terrorist operation. Some Talibans fear the millennial glance of the giant statues of Bâmiyân destroyed with rocket launchers. An ambassador vandalized a work of art in a Stockholm museum. The laboratory of a biotech artist was seized by the FBI. Unwilling bomb-works… We will talk about that with Michaël La Chance, poet and essayist from Quebec. Contaminated by these revolutionary enthusiasms freshly arrived from the mediterranean south, I started to imagine a manifesto which would call out to all those who firmly think that poetry is the condition to revolutionary freedom and that revolution is the condition of poetic freedom. I convinced myself that it is still possible to raise reality as high as our dreams, that video art, electronic poetry, has a role to play today in the territories occupied by cultural merchandise. The poetic revolution will not be satisfied with changing the themes treated by arts today, or replacing servile artists by happy fanatics, or having the cultural apparatus which controls consumer goods from production to consumption, change hands just to perfect it, but to break it. This revolutionary destruction will aim at languages above all.
ZUTIST POETRONIC MANIFESTO
The Instants Vidéo Numériques et Poétiques are calling all the sentences, words, letters, ponctuation, images, sounds, notes, voices, colors, gestures… and all those who produce them to destroy all forms of oppression. To create texts, films, paintings, sculptures, musics… with a free self-determination. To dynamite clichés, to rob the banks of preconceived ideas, to occupy the classical and contemporary Academies, to equally share out all the poetic riches according to everyone’s needs, to abolish all the borders which divide languages, genres and art forms, to foster the free movement and the free establishing into our language of immigrant, strange and foreign words, with the guarantee of enjoying the same rights than native words. We are calling for the abolition of all succession duties for the private cultural and artistic capital which must automatically become public and made freely available to everyone according to his needs. We are calling for the transgression of all the grammatical laws which limit the range of our sensibilities, the invention of new conjugation tenses, the liberation of the editing of images and sounds from cinematographic and commercial orchestral jails, for the edification of barricades to defend ourselves against the fonts which occupy our poetic pages, for disarming the managerial militias which prevent our insurrectionary dreams and strikes, for the siege of the palaces where our rebel words’ destinies are governed, for the declaration of the permanent revolution of the way we love and create. We are calling for the music notes, the city noises, the songs, opera arias, meows, neighs, peeps, growls, grunts, barks, yelps, hisses, trumpetings, wails, to join their struggling companions in order to feed them with new rythms and sounds. We are calling for the sabotage of the machines which convert the generous impulses of poetry into accounting data, for the sacking of the factories of Oscars, Césars and other obsolete honours, which mix up art with military hierarchy. Poems of all stripes, refuse the titles that are imposed on you! Remember that titulus was the name of the notices the slaves wore around their necks when they were dragged to the market. Let’s build word barricades without muses but amused, without museums but immoderate, and let’s roar with drinking laughter. We are asking artworks to revolt against their authors when they confuse them with the dirty works which lead them to prostitution in mercantile art galleries, in book whorehouses or for the attention of mundane art critics holding court in the seedy brothels of a particular press which oppresses the thought for the well-being of their belly and bottom. We are encouraging artworks to rise up against aesthetic leaderships which barely hide their connivance with neo-fascist and mercantile dictatorships, by claiming that revolt only has an aesthetic value: belles are belles only when rebels, the beautiful boys are beautiful only when rebeautiful. Sorry about this absurd rhyminal affair… We are demanding the immediate liberation of the words that are political prisoners, censored and sensored, imprisoned in the newspeak, like revolution, communism, anarchism, freedom… and the words that are economical prisoners, imprisoned because they practiced for themselves and their close relatives self-redistribution of the riches monopolized by spiritual directors, publicists, academy members, media, servile intellectuals, political scientists and other specialists of nothing and everything… We are demanding absolute texual freedom, textual pleasure without chains, free association for all images, words, musics, dances, architectures, whatever their sex, whether they are motivated by love or pleasure stricto sensu. We will abolish weddings, religious or civil, and will celebrate the recognition of all bastards, neologisms, image dissolves, jump cuts, musical hubbubs, spelling, grammatical or syntax mistakes… We will grant the right to plagiarize, hijack, twist, sign with our own name… all the works made by others… because private property will be totally abolished. Works belong momentarily to the one who uses them best. It will be possible to designate a word, an image or a sound to represent other words, images or sounds on the strict condition that they will be immediately dismissed if they don’t accomplish the missions (in form and content) for which they were given a mandate. Words, images, sounds, colors, forms, gestures will freely associate and will be forbidden all forms of subordination, starting with the one which gives a supreme authorship to the origin of words. Etymology will no more be able to claim to hold the word’s truth. Precedence is not a proof of superior value. Etymology will only be a pretext for poetic impregnation. Art cluttered itself up with back-language, back-images, back-sounds… as in backhander… as means to coarse ends, undeserved privileges which give almost every time the laurels of glory to the most insipid. They are not worth more than two pennies, the price of a stained tabletop they are able to ramble about like others vomit, just to raise the market value of their adverse self-conceit. Like a special branch, the artists aligned on the market criteria wiretap the art shareholders and the speculators of good taste to adapt their style and subjects to the mood of the times. Algebraic and geometric signs, use the weight of numbers! Pictograms, ideograms, rebus, syllabic, phonetic, hieroglyphic writings, phonetic and stenographic alphabets, tags, big stains of wine, pixels, bits… be fruitful and multiply excessively in a joy bath always preferable to a blood bath! Translation by Julien Girardot 1 « Betray » translates by « trahir » in French 2 « Font » translates to « police » in French