[-empyre-] TAZ-mania

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Wed Apr 22 01:15:15 EST 2009

Thanks for spending a little time on deCerteau...

> And as for your call to revolution, to “arms,” as Nick might call it, given
> his initial interest in creativity and armature, I think of de Certeau’s
> notion of La Perruque in The Practice of Everyday Life: all those tiny,
> little breaks in the system we effect each day, everything from oppositional
> shopping (label-switching, kleptomania) to the simple act of writing a love
> letter “on the boss’ time.”  No giant Arendtian break, but sweet and
> individual tears in the social tapestry that give meaning to the banal, the
> programmatic, the codified, the staid, the static.

I think this might be wear the artist's work is important.  Brian
mentioned previously the idea that a crisis of confidence is precisely
what is needed to turn people away from this idea that financial
markets are the measure of a society's health and that Wall Street is
somehow "sexy."  For years, the evening news would should the Dow
Jones Industrial Average as a shorthand for the "health" of the
economy.  But as my father got older and had difficulties finding
employment and finding stable housing, I always saw the Dow Jones as a
fetish that was increasingly divorced from any stable referent...  it
would climb and people would cheer....  but for a growing segment of
the population, things got harder and harder.

I don't think that artists should have to worry too terribly much
about fixing everything.  But what artists can do is illustrate the
many small moments and mark them so that others can see them.  Rather
than exposing the insufficient nature of the financial system at
delivering social goods....  art can illustrate the many other sites
where social goods are delivered.  The artist does not have a special
corner on the market of these small detours, they just have a great
excuse for talking about detours--they're artists!

We all make detours throughout our days.  In fact, we live for the
detours.  Art can provide the occasion, the pretext, and the excuse
for making a detour.  (If you have a friend shoot you in the arm...
normally this is frowned upon.  But when Chris Burden decides to do
it...  people think about it differently.)

But even within finance itself, we live for detours.  If you listen to
talk radio, they love to go on and on about this idea of the "welfare
queen"--who has children so she doesn't have to work (The Octo-mom is
just an hyper-example of this).  Talk radio personalities love to rant
and rave about how lazy welfare recipients are...  about how unjust it
is for them to be unproductive, but still draw an income, by working
the system.

BUT....  if you listen to these very same talk radio personalities,
they gush with praise for elite investors.  The paradigmatic hero for
our age is the man who gets rich on the stock market.  Why?  Because
the investor figured out a way to make money without breaking his back
all day.  Warren Buffet or Donald Trump or whoever has figured out a
way to make money without actually doing anything, by working the
system.  This is the kind of a god that we can believe in....  the
kind of figure who can transcend the evil that we fear (poverty, being
a nobody, etc.)...  who can warp the laws of the material world and
triumph over them.

What is this dream but the hope for a detour?  Instead of working all
day, I might be snatched from ill-fortune by purchasing the right
thing at the right time.  Hence, the "success" of
multi-level-marketing companies like Amway and Herbalife and
Monavie...  they offer the working class person a chance to be "the
boss" and to reap rewards by having others do the work for them.
(And, in the process, they tend to lose money....  but more
tragically....  they lose friends.  The biggest irony: the money they
lose and the work they put in, the very fruits of their failure, will
be used, up the ladder, as evidence of "success.")

Artists can do a lot just by affirming "human"
experiences--imagination, love, tragedy, laughter, absurdity, etc.  I
cannot tell an artist what he or she should or shouldn't do...  but I
do prefer artists who can speak to me.  I like art that taps into my
notions and desires in such a way that I feel validated in my
experiences.  And, I love art which helps me see something that I
didn't quite understand or couldn't precisely articulate in a way that
makes the experience useful to me.

In short, these little ruptures are everywhere all the time.  What
artists can do is mark them.  They can show people that their own
lives are filled with meaningful alternatives to the machinations of
capitalism.  And, in the process, people might seek happiness in one
of the many compelling alternative narratives.


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