The Enlightening Mystical Transformative Mobile Sanatorium: Theoretical engagement

 

Our project began on the Day guest lecturer Diego came and told his weed stories. Most people would be used to the popular stories in our society regarding the relationship between humans and the natural environment. One key position loads the word “Natural” with a fair bit of theory and positions humans as a destructive, viral force that relentlessly drains the environment of resources and distributes aesthetically displeasing structures in high concentrations without consideration for the “natural” way things ought to be. Diego used weeds as a local and immediate material to inspire and give force to a different story.  His version of the story is one of humans and the natural environment developing together right from the beginning –developing physiologically, socially, physically, technologically etc. and also acting as a transformative force upon nature, changing the environment incidentally as well as purposefully. This hits the reset button on the meaning of the word “natural”, emptying it of predetermined meaning, placing it in a position of flux, where the concept needs to be examined and considered further to rebuild an understanding.  This alternative story holds many possibilities, for example it is slightly more evasive when it comes to being commodifed i.e. it isn’t useful for selling woven shopping bags, organic chicken, hybrid cars or vegan food. This is not because it is impossible for it to be commodified, but because the best way of engaging with this new story is not yet through consumerism (although if it ever became a mainstream view, the market would almost definitely have an option for consumers that pursues this line of thought), and possibly never will be because it will always be too minor to be profitable. To sum up, the key feature of Diego’s Story for our project was that the meaning of Natural is emptied of preconceived meaning to make further examination of the concept a possibility. It does this by being totally at odds with some of the current myths, stories, trends, systems and anxieties of our society.

 

The theme of the Natural is what we decided upon as a foundational concept for exploration in our project, approached through Psychogeography.  Psychogeography is mostly linked with Guy Debord and the Situationist movement of the 50s, 60s and 70s. The Situationists were Marxists, meaning that they interpreted the works of Karl Marx and tried to flesh out a more complete theory within a society that had nothing to do with 19th century German and English societies (this was actually Marx’s mistake to assume universality – Positivism). The easiest criticism of Marx and all derivative theories is that the revolutionary order that was “inevitable” has never happened – despite all the encouragement! If it is inevitable then just let it happen right? Marx was never too specific as to the exact nature of his utopia and the situationists in their Manifesto were a bit more specific as to how to revolution would come about and what the revolutionary order would look like. Revolution was key – finding new ways to manage present culture would only assuage the alienation of a culture that bends to satisfy the capitalist system. The old order would be supplanted by means of a revolution with a conscious effort to create a new culture. Economic responsibility, debts and guilt would be removed and society would become a total and harmonious unit, freed from the competition and division necessitated by capitalism. In this revolutionary order, everybody would be an artist- liberated from the mechanism of capitalist production and immersed in the world of creative expression with complete freedom to act upon humanity’s primal necessity for play.

 

Our concept lacks the grandeur of the Situationist manifesto– it is more of a small scale and unassuming “NeoSituationist” exploration of the situationists’ ideas. We would “invent” or create a new culture of examining the alienation of our lives – the alienation of the relationship and perceptions of the relationship between humans and the natural environment, with the intention of encouraging an enlightened awareness in people that can resist the present order. This relationship would be our “intersection” around which the whole project would revolve.

 

2 comments

  1. Robert Tola

    Ahhhh! Present tense instead of the subjunctive! This is what happens when your introduction gets written as a prequal! The rip in space-time upsets your understanding of language. It is important that the subjunctive BE used correctly!

  2. Nick Keys

    This a good piece Rob. I like the idea about pressing the reset button on the concept of nature. There’s a lot more polishing and sharpening you can do with your ideas here, but it’s a really promising and relevant direction to be going.

    A couple of things about the The Situationists. It’s over-stating it to frame them as Marxists. Obviously, anyone with a highly developed critical consciousness and an explicit interest in revolution is going to be haunted by spectres of Marx, however, they were just as much avant-garde artists as they were political revolutionaries, as much neo-Dadaists as neo-Marxists. Their legacy is much more significant in art than it is in politics (since art is still alive and revolution is not). Presumably Debord is turning like a spintop in his grave as he watches fate make him into a footnote in art schools full of apolitical zombies. Would he have the post-mortal courage to admit that their revolutionary politics, despite the diagnostic brilliance of their spectacle theory, amounted to not much more than a disputed claim of a central role in May ’68? On the other hand, the full array of their aesthetic contributions are dazzling, an endless treasury and tool-kit for conscious and world-minded artists and people to re-purpose aesthetic, social and political gestures in any given contemporary scenario.

    Lastly, I have to pick you up on this: “The easiest criticism of Marx and all derivative theories is that the revolutionary order that was “inevitable” has never happened…” Yo, hold the phone: COMMUNISM! That shit definitely happened man. Forget our victors fetish with WWII, Communism was the biggest event of the 20th century. I dig your point that historically existent Communism never reached the exploitation-free, alienation-free, bloodless “utopia” that we imagine Marx imagined. Nevertheless, revolution most certainly did happen!