Ancient Knowledge Survival Kit
We have seen how the utilisation of tribal desire leads us towards an auto-instrumentalisation of our bodies and their gestures, moulding behaviours to instinctive reflexes and re-encoding societal agreements as codes without content (as contentless codes are answers not questions, they can only be edited by their encoders, whose will desires the endgame of their coding.)
We have watched the construction of things by individuals systematically delegitimised and the construction of things by universal consensus reshape our desires — from a world built by us to a world built for us, (1) making all building activities seem suspicious or made illicit, causing forgetting of the impulse and tools to construct our world according to our own interests.
Having already delegitimised images through an inoculating proliferation, numbing frequency, and by the de-articulation of our image-tools’ functions, their social roles, and variegative potentials (having defused them by diffusion), can’t we now, already, envision a world in which we seek our own imagelessness as a means to relieve our image-poverty? (2)
As we have ceded control of the songs that we make (having handed it over to representatives who have repurposed the social role of music from a form of communication to a vessel for the algorithmatisation of our dreams; (3) our identities constructed through alienating affinity), we’ve lost our means to sing, our means to hear, our desire to hear the unexpected.
By stretching the timeline within which we analyse how societies built the structures that structure our movements between each other from the scale of our skin to the scale of of border-lines, we can see, as from satellites, the self-contracting of our selves, our recoiling from our other, a regressive paralysis into collective alienation: a dance deadening, even from our eyes. (4)
We have already permitted our words to be voided of stable meanings, subjected to value-fluctuations that cause them to mean less instead of more (sanding away articulative means) (5); the logical end of the impulse of ideologies is to will worlds to what we want, not to want worlds that we need, transforming our transformative tools to tool-parts that gleam but don’t function.
Given: homogenisation through a universal loss of control of the design and manufacture of goods; our inability to construct the tools to construct images we desire; our forgetting of our music; our refutation of dialogical possibilities, immersing ourselves in fictions built to house us: what is left to broadcast if there’s nothing left to say? (6)
With our tools under threat of erasure, and knowing that a structure will always expel elements counter to its desires, the preservation of their mechanics, their logics, and their systems of logic is the responsibility of a scribe-like networks of articulators who may supplant an annihilative cultural field with a fertilised one, like mosses’ growth after an earth-scorching.
As, in absence of light, it is only sounds that can guide us from desolation, despondence is only waylaid by the presence of the foghorns or sirens that guide us from and not towards disaster. Drawn towards our own latent desires, our survival will not be determined by those singing the guiding-songs we hear, but by our ability to re-tune the timbre of their songs to fit our ears: a siren-song guiding from the darkness.
1. MARKS OF DIFFERENCE: As the means of the production of the objects and tools of our daily lives, from survival needs to objects of pleasure and contemplation, have been taken from the hands of individuals and passed over to a system that has, in order to maximise our consumption of and reliance on them, altered our relationship to them by manipulating our own relationship to need, desire, and thought, we have lost control of our material world. Tactics like slowly delegitimising self-reliant gestures and small-production industry through a perceived lack of quality or social status tacitly distance us from the production of our own contentment and self-actualisation. This is the horizon of our automation. We can retain the possibility of building our own world by regaining control of the production of our desires and the production of the objects of those desires. This necessitates a dispersed but connected network of like-minded producers distributed within an economy that works for and not against us.
2. AFTER PHOTOGRAPHY: Once photography has fully left the analogue world, all image-making tools and the images they produce will not belong to us. If it’s possible to imagine a device or service provider where certain subjects, locations, and image-types could deactivate a camera’s functions and/or delete such images, we can just as easily imagine the technological potential of the deletion of all images and the deactivation of all image-making tools. This is the horizon of our blindness. We can retain the possibility of making our own images by regaining control of the apparatus of image-making, keeping production recipes and knowledge open-source and available, and building and maintaining networks for their distribution, like how illicit knowledge was retained and passed along in the so-called Dark Ages.
3. FEAR OF MUSIC: For a moment, the free and borderless distribution of music seemed to hold new potential of access for both producer and consumer, with the ability to connect subcultural communities across geographies, giving musicians the ability to side-step industry structures through direct access to listeners. In a fever-dream of this utopia, we quickly dispensed of our real-life subcultural communities, equalised our attention between corporately constructed music products and their opposite in the name of inclusiveness, and constructed an identical industry which, because we did not want to continue to pay to consume the products of this newly dematerialised form, became even more tenuous for any musician not backed by corporate imperatives. This is directly analogous to an art market which quickly dispensed of institutional autonomy by making public funding temporarily redundant before gradually withdrawing once these institutions became market dependent, naturally making unviable artistic positions not aligned with the fictional market imperative of unlimited growth. This is the horizon of our muteness. We can regain control over the means in which our work is recorded and distributed by rebuilding these medieval networks in shapes that trace our own contours. This involves restoring dignity and urgency to underground and hypothetical positions and scepticism and redundancy to entertainment positions.
4. NO DANCING: The most impressive achievement of historical and current ruling classes has been their ability to convince people to work actively and voraciously against their own interests. This is currently most evident in the mass cultural action against social, economic, and geographical mobility. Porousness grows dialogue, and dialogue is emancipatory. Societies are building physical and metaphorical walls between each other based on fear of otherness and fear of bodily autonomy. This means a movement towards tighter borders between both nations and individuals, increasingly withdrawing us to tighter, apparently safer, more insular communities of exchange. In the interest of safety we are building panic rooms for our self-confinement. This is the horizon of our immobility. It is a sick culture that ceases to dance. We can counteract our auto-insulation by eschewing the market-driven romanticisation of the lone (male) genius producer and working more collectively, with drastically reduced reliance on the mirage of online social networks. Gated communities are prisons in reverse. Without a contingency plan for a screenless world, without leaving our apartments and studios and restoring underground distribution networks and meeting spots (bars, exhibition spaces, reading rooms, concert venues, playgrounds, caves, as needed), our connections to each other are held at the tenuous mercy of circuit breakers.
5. LIBRARY OF BABEL: The delegitimisation of writing has been symbiotically coupled with its decreased economic viability, parallel to the relegation of academics, artists, and scientists to the cultural fringe. This push has been assisted by the pushed, as we have allowed our cultural spheres to become hermetic, wearing this relegation as a badge or proof-of-concept, while insulting the intelligence of those outside, further alienating them and ourselves. In this move we have created a mutual excommunication, pre-empting access and translation on both sides. As a result, we've lost control of our own language, ceding its to third-parties with their own agendas. This is the horizon of our illiteracy. We must create space to study our language and how it is used, how it is manipulable, and how it is used to manipulate. This means untangling it from the mechanisms of ideology and freeing it through serious play. We need to listen more closely and speak more clearly, while simultaneously reclaiming control over our words and their meanings; we must voraciously translate and transpose, to and from, while also inventing new languages.
6. RADIO SILENCE: We have been complicit in ceding the control of our methods of self-publishing and self-distribution for the sake of convenience. Our broadcasting formats have been stunted, mitigated, and deleted, often as the result of our own myopic desires. Errors of judgement beget errors of judgement: even our mistakes are guided by the manipulative internal design of these platforms and their programmers. As a result, the nets of our broadcastings have shrunk and continue to do so. Instead of expanding our reach, we are now alienated on a global scale. This is the horizon of estrangement. It is clear that we have been put and have put ourselves on a course in which all forms and tools of communication can and will be systematically ceded from our control. If we are to survive through this and retain spaces of freedom from which to act and in which to live, we must retain what we know now and build a survival kit for the future.