From Preface to a Manifesto / The Artists’ Manifesto in the Time of Dangerous Managers. In CounterPunch with Ron Amir

Charcoal drawing by Ron Amir (with the head of Richard Wagner, pioneer of the manifesto form )


“Para subir a tu balcón” drawing made on a bus in Lithuania, mixed media, Arturo Desimone, 2011,


“Manifestoes arise, or up-load, announcing storm, revolution. Their authors more likely listen to techno or Eco-Pop than to Stravinsky or to Stravinsky’s heirs today (composers currently writing in obscurity and poverty’s perpetual autumn, symphonies that never get whistled by any Philharmonic)

The manifestoes proliferated, glistening like moths in the vast web, are usually not unlike the theoretical revolts of academics, who show disdain for the embodied and material art forms and novels. It were as if the theorists of literature and of nature, who seek to replace poets and writers with themselves, in their avoidance of actual literature or of actual material visual arts, were a class of defiant monks and nuns showing abstinence against the naked, physical body of a woman. That woman upon a bed in all her sexual gloria and splendour of perfumed meats, animated by a lightning symphony in orgasm heat and melody is Diothema, The concubine of poets rejected by Socrates, mumbling old Greek coward. In the only singing Platonic dialogue, The Symposium, Socrates attends a wine-banquet only to say “no” to wine, and before falling asleep he boasts of how he recently said “no” to being seduced by the mystery priestess Diothema (she who slept with all poets)

A poet, (according to the Argentinian exile poet of militance-par-excellence Juan Gelman, and according to many poet-lieutenants mummified within the Chinese terracotta armies) does Not sit down to write with a poem-production-plan. Gelman: “he opens the door when the signora arrives and even if he can tell she has slept with medio mundo, with half a world in a van and is drunk, he lets her in and writes, her hand on his hand”

But sober, liver-breath Socrates said “no” to Diothema’s advances, for he was an anti-poet, thinking himself wise. He preferred (cultural) Theory to art, wine, the erudite flesh, and avoided the theatre, advocating a society dedicated to war but without the institutes of art that taught the depth and reality of tragedy affecting the losers of wars.

Today the pilots of drones, who work in safety in control centres in the United States while bombing targets in faraway countries, claim to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unlike their victims, they do not understand tragedy: postmodernity’s culture only understands consolation and therapy as its highest expression. The mirror image of the drone pilot in the control centres are the academics and curators of the protocol centres who filter language and images.

Academics praise the cross of Theory: literary/critical Theory and dross Discourse can be perfect, a diaphanous perfect river, without shit or signora-whores’ panties strangling crocodiles as Argentine gentlemen dive after them. Water without irrational and inexplicable and un-medicated nightmares flowing through that river that flows encircling the Cidade Doliente.


Utopias always seem flawless, as a blueprint—best never to attempt them, and to remain at poorly executed parody, in a library of manifestoes for revolutions and blueprints for utopia, all trembling at the whistling fart of the snow-owl of Minerva who hoots a language of calculus and programming, using spin-words like ‘’monological’’ and ‘normatives’’ or ‘’ostensibly’’ Can a poet who uses the foul word ‘’ostensibly’’ ever have the recklessness, the poetic craft to spew a mouthful of rum onto an electric socket in between the long hours writing, in relatively destitute absolute loneliness on Rachmaninov’s Island of the Dead Souls?


At best, the often-attempted artist manifesto becomes a document of nostalgia, like an old vintage record player with a metallic horn, an African mask, or a picture postcard of the city of Baghdad.


The manifesto, as an article of nostalgia can serve as a reminder, perhaps a reassurance, that the spirit humour and passion of courageous young artists in the 1920s and 1930s is certainly not repeating itself any time soon, a weepy bygone. The socio-economic, cultural, intellectual context of the manifesto has been collapsed and eradicated so that its production becomes the opposite of the original feat. Is it then the same? For that matter, if street-art graffiti is made provisionally, with state subsidies, permits and security-supervision from Sarkozyist French officials is it still graffiti?


Cultural theory replaces art with theories and has seized upon the manifesto as yet another artefact of retro and what Susan Sontag coined “camp.” The era of the Death of the societal role of the Author was brought about by academia’s despotism, by the neoliberal publishing industry and the rise of pragmatist meritocracy. The concert celebrating diversity within meritocracy, as supervised by the Obama-Clinton mainstream of the United States’ Democratic Party, needed to claim literature as its pastoral field of figuration, non-fecund. But the era of Death of the Author, with a most un-ceremonial burial, has seen the rise of the Cultural Theorist as the preeminent intellectual life-form in the capitalist laboratory.

A need of a young generation to have novelists and poets to turn to has been frustrated. It is like the need of an individual woman for a baby of her own and the need of a man for a concubine: related drives. The young lovers need poets of passion to articulate fire and stars wine, and not cultural theorists who lecture on the crisis in the marriage market, yet they only get plenty of the latter. Cultural theorists have served as an awkward substitute for the disappearance of the societal (and cultural and economic) role of the author. Slavoj Zizek is incomprehensible and buffoonish when speaking about love, human passions, toilets or evil. And yet the young audience has few others to turn to, they hunger for an augur who will advise them on shattering and exposing their parents’ middle class fantasies and how will invigorate them to challenge petty bourgeois values. In the absence of a Norman Mailer having been able to arise from obscurity in the time of wars, their shamans have been academic cultural theorists: between the clownish apocalyptic humour of Zizek, and the selfish, careless experiments in misshaping their bodies into hermaphroditic forms, as advised by gender-theory. The Slovene is more believable than Judith Butler. Butler, hyped and profit-driven stage philosopher with 10.000 underpaid slaves, recently stated in an interview with the LA Review of Books that her vision of a radical politics is one that never manifests as a party with defined demands or dogmas. Butler’s politics prefers to be forever faceless, phantasmal and hermaphroditic, so as to flirt with indefinite and unborn perfection.. Her primary form of political statement is that of the parody of archaic gender roles: as in childhood, it is made impossible once more to tell a man apart from a woman; the soul, the prison of the body as Foucault maintained, must be cast off like yesteryear’s denim: but in all that din and enthusiasm, what then remains of desire? How, then, to intelligently subvert societal scripts and roles, when all the imprisoning inscriptions that made up the soul are erased or can no longer be read by the trained illiterates?


Subverting the rules in poetry cannot be achieved in a vacuum without prior knowledge of literary history, art and philosophy; simply throwing out all poetry and studying engineering instead is not a way to subvert. Jazz musicians like Duke Ellington were immersed in various European and African musical traditions in order to know how to prepare a revolutionary form. This subverting being a man or a woman is perhaps not all that different. How can the young subvert what they never learned, the scripts, the language, the symbols of being a man or being a woman, how can they transcend or even define or speak about the limitations of their genders without having truly worn them or ever learned to read them?  Oppressive and colonizing structures of the European Union meanwhile adopt and promote gender theory in the educational systems of indebted countries.


The revival of meritocratic-feminism is a repudiation of desire itself, a cleansing. The pragmatism-and-business-driven society continues to seek new weapons against desire, allowing only the art that has been properly sanitized for the de-sexualization and de-politicization of society. Butler and the hydra of gender theory is today’s equivalent of Timothy Leary, Harvard prof who advised young people to take lysergic acid: only Butler is far more cautious, not abusing the pharmaceutical hormones she prescribes, and making sure never to be kicked out of academia unlike Leary, (who got jailed and escaped, admirably un-Socratic hallucinatory jailbird shooed)


Parodies and post-politics in an imagined paradise fit the imperial first world’s cultural trend of absurdist farce as the predominant form of (aesthetic) expression. Manifestoes seem incapable of surpassing such radical ironism and absurdism, as embodied in cultural theorists who seem to be the natural continuations of Marcel Duchamp’s tongue-in-cheek flatulent posturing.”

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