2015-2016 - A new manifesto for eurofuturism - Hajo Doorn
There is a future without glorified pseudo-scientific claptrap! So says the Rotterdam Institute for Avant-garde Recreation. “Eurofuturism” is the underlying ethos for WORM’s programme throughout 2015 and 2016; a topic that we at Gonzo (Circus) will be covering in some detail over the coming months. Eurofuturism’s spokesman, Hajo Doorn, tells us about his plan of campaign.
Hear and feel what we have to say! Here we are, marching towards you, ill-disciplined and totally unfazed. We Eurofuturists, we “avant-regardists”! We come in peace, but with an agenda. For your information we have regrouped; and we’re ready to infiltrate the once formidable bastion that previously housed “Art” (a stronghold that has been completely abandoned of late, but still – at first glance – in excellent condition.) Now that everyone in the world has gone off to be a “pioneer” and an “innovator”, we thought we’d just pop in and see how the old place was holding up. Are all the old certainties overturned? Is the nursery-room at the top of “Castle Art” – where the elite played – still hung with tapestries, those embroidered with well-meaning instruction? Does the neglected well known as “subsidy” still draw water?
We wondered whether the old place still stocks those nasty needles, full of that stuff they called “artistic quality”… We must admit that we were looking to take it easy after the last time. Back then, after the injections, we were unnerved by the hallucinations of “artistic research” and “the technological future”. We took sanctuary in a state of manipulated lethargy. Jokingly, we called that state “Apatopia”, a mental bolt hole we’d regularly dive into after we had brushed off the smooth talk and flashy presentations so beloved of the entrepreneur numpties. We’d experienced their “startup boot camps”. What a load of rot! So we sat back and enjoyed a beer, and laugh at these self-propelled robotic loons; man-machines driving relentlessly down an illuminated highway to nowhere. It’s certainly not our idea of a future! Still, the self-starters, cyber-hippies, the innovation gurus and data nerds, the merchants and preachers continued to annoy; browbeating us with their technical “ingenuity” and characterless visions. All to no avail, because – if you think about it – where does all this “proactivism” lead to? Just to more of the same; more data, more algorithms, more statistics. That stuff never really grabbed us. Believe it or not, we have a life!
We had watched with increasing incredulity from our hideout as the institutions, crazed by their desire for success, were lured out of their stronghold by the dominant “economic/cultural policies” pedalled by the economy quacks, the slavish politicians and the marketing prophets. Great, we thought. This leaves more space for us. Everyone can have their own room. All we have to do is throw the windows open, aerate the place and then crack on with some proper work. For sure, the place needs a lick of paint; and we can always knock down the odd dividing wall or two to make the workspace more functional. No problem.
And in the evening we sat under the stars, lolling around in the courtyard of this once mighty bastion, we Eurofuturists, we “avant-regardists”. We agreed that every time deserves its own parallel culture. We believe there is more space than ever for an alternative.
“Yes, but…” said a cheeky brat appearing as if by magic out of nowhere, “how are you going to promote your alternative in the face of all those tweets and trailers, Celeb-worshiping, pseudo-academic studies, sound bites, surveys, top 10 lists, gadgets, how-to’s, Wikipedia-wisdom and newsgroups ? ”
The little bastard had a point. It got us thinking….
OK then, let’s start with this. The blockbuster economy, with all its related incentives and trinkets seems ubiquitous, and inevitable. Our collective insecurity is increasing; due to the greater accessibility of knowledge, and through a continual state of conditioning driven by social media. We are living the total life. We continually feel the need to know more and more, and yet don’t dare to take decisions that would kick against the mainstream. Ever-renewing viral / religious / ecological / cybernetic enemies drive us to a form of self-closure, or numbness through innocuous cult-isms; hipsters’ nonsense, starting allotments, fantasy roleplaying and baking cupcakes. These are still retailer-driven symbolic visions of life; a life coated with a sweet and shiny veneer of microscopic perfections. You could say a symbolic highlight of this whole set up is the dethronement of Corry and Rekels’ “Huilen is te laat voor jou” (“Crying is Too Late for You”) by Pharrell’s “Happy” as the longest recorded hit in the Dutch Top 40. Weirdly appropriate in these times of increasing depression, ADHD and other syndromes brought on by modern-living, don’t you think? But we are splitting hairs still. Everyone has a handle on this argument; even the younger types who deal with it on a daily basis. So far nothing new.
We decided to mull this stuff over, and got down to some work on our new home, “Castle Art”.
After a few weeks of painting, plastering, pipefitting and general renovating, and sorting out any hidden defects (the building’s foundations had subsided a bit further than we initially thought) there was suddenly a sense that we’d got somewhere. We called this sense The Happy Loss: a weirdly joyful encounter with the brutal truths of these modern times, namely; an embrace of the sense of loss in the arts and society and for ourselves as “avant-regardists”. The idea is simple. If we realize that we are no longer the “leading” culture, if we accept that banal entertainment and monoculture is the new standard, there are suddenly many opportunities to exploit. Thrilled, we cried tears of joy for society’s loss; no more “difficult music”, “difficult films” and “difficult books” for them. Nobody after us would ever read Nietzsche or Guy Debord. A nourishing album from Beefheart or Ligeti? Those sweetmeats were just for us! Exclusive; and unattainable for future generations.
Reeling from this revelation, we passed out; into a deep and undisturbed sleep.
The next morning we staggered around, still tipsy from our liberation, a little unsteady on our feet during the morning roll call. One of the leaders barked out a rallying cry through a megaphone. “Pay attention one and all! Now we have The Happy Loss, we can view the approaching end of our classical European culture with a clear conscience. No more ridiculous over-introspection, self-torture and complaining! No, FINALLY! We are on our way to something more interesting and dynamic. Lebendig! Vivace! Animado! We can rip up the doctrine of Hermetic-post-post-dialectics, and the self-referential bullshit of meta-modernism! We must free ourselves from the oppressive canon that is propped up by all those ridiculous, useless, fancy words like quality and expressiveness. Of course, the road is a rocky one, and the future uncertain, but let’s face it; we couldn’t carry on as before, now could we? Of course the pressure is on, and the air is thick, and the ground underfoot is muddy. But we can’t ignore the present. We have simply become too complicated. The Greeks, Romans, the German philosophers of the Enlightenment, Modernism. What the bloody hell was all that about?”
We clapped and cheered. This loss – after all – is based on a cheerful and hopeful vision; so we gave up our old ways with a sense of freedom. Of course, we were all afraid of letting go. But in experiencing the pain of loss, the inherent value of our stance is clear to see. This kind of pain lets you experience the significance of your heritage, and acknowledge its achievements. And we wanted to celebrate by fooling around. So we stood around and shed a few big, fat tears. “Bye-bye, old pal”, we cried to “Castle Art”, as we fell into each other’s arms. Wet with sweat, and drunk with grief. It’s difficult to make a total break, but we must. We’d got no choice. We’d got to go. Let’s crack on!
And, look! We saw our companions, marching up towards us; artists and scientists, the absurd and the dilettantes; led by a marching band to help us on our way. We didn’t sob anymore, but bit our lips, joined their ranks and threw our uniformity to one side. All ballast has got to go.
“Where are we going?” we yelled through the din. “Towards a new grand narrative about a possible future,” replied the Drum Major of the marching band. “Follow the rhythm of my baton and you will march towards the vision of a new day. This is the fanfare of Eurofuturism.”
Slowly the group began to move. We weren’t used to moving as a group. As “pioneers”, we always worked in small formations. As you can imagine, our march was undisciplined and lacked any rhythm. We squeezed forward towards the leaders and asked frankly: “What are we going to do, and why?”
They answered us patiently. “The central and recurring question, the “leitmotif” in our quest is; how do we find a benevolent way to remove quality, ambiguity, and depth in all facets of society and art? And how to celebrate the removal of all this stratification? If everything becomes more obvious, more convenient, and easier to understand, where will we find new opportunities? And that’s what we are looking for, those opportunities.” “But how does that all square with the idea of The Happy Loss?”
“The Happy Loss is a salvation theory to rid us of the Holy Enforcers of the Contemporary Growth Doctrine – the dictatorship of The Proliferiat – one that looks to deliver only the Highest Quality.”
“Isn’t that a wee bit overambitious for a ragtag bunch like us, who aren’t accustomed to act in formation?”
“No, we don’t think we are overly ambitious. We start quietly, step by step, sneaking quietly through the tall grass. We are, and remain “avant-regardists”. Maybe our path is a dead end. Maybe others will take up the fight after us.” In the evening at the end of our march, sat round the campfire, we swapped tales and aired our hopes. It all sounded exciting. “The unrelenting focus on growth, innovation and success at all costs undermines the consensual society to its core. Their modus operandi is to go forward at all times, and preferably as fast as possible. There is no place for the losers; whether they are in need of care, or suckers, or failures, or hyper-creative artists, or non-Western terrorism-tourists. The best they can hope for is a place that is safely tucked away, off the radar of the dominant monoculture. This brings a loss of moral and physical confidence, and a negative aura. If you think about it, we are almost all losers. The few winners leave the rest behind. It is the choice between the rocket and the scorched earth.”
“True,” said someone sat round the fire, nodding in agreement. “If we want to rid the term “loss” of its moral connotations then we have an interesting field of investigation. Once free of the angst round the loss of social and personal status, anyone can make an informed choice round “the need” to grow, or win. A fish in a small pond can’t grow too large, and bacteria will discard certain properties if those properties are unessential to its survival.” “Very good, Mr Darwin,” continued another. “Actually, the concept of “loss” in an evolutionary sense can be seen as a much larger, more subtle force; certainly when considered over time. Because each winner – through winning – is confronted with a multitude of losers. If we adhere to the law of conservation of mass – and what laws apart from the laws of nature can we still hold onto in our present position? – this means that winners will have to employ a disproportionate amount of power and energy in maintaining their position.”
“But how does that affect us “avant-regardists”? ” we bluntly asked, not worrying whether the rest thought we were a bunch of gullible idiots.
Yet again, we got another thoughtful, patient answer for our troubles: “In this social and cultural constellation, the traditional underground is nothing more than highly flammable peat ready to be burnt by those successful; creating a fire whose energy will make the stars shine and the feed the engines of progress. But regardless, we are all here for a reason; we’re not here to be burnt up by these attention seekers and “social diverters”. We have better things to do. Let us enjoy the task of shaping this vast unexplored area; this overcrowded festival of the losers, this scorched earth. Rich in mineral resources, infinite in its space. ”
One of the leaders continued: “In our marches and parades we celebrate loss; and in celebrating, we put the finger on the festering sores like the ideals of “perfect quality”, “progress” and socio-cultural resistance patterns. Whisper it, but we’re not averse to sprinkling some additional Dead Sea salt into the wounds, so that we will never forget the pain – and the phantom pain – of previous amputations from the corpus known as “Media”. Oh wait; you probably don’t remember Marshall McLuhan any more.”
“And what about Eurofuturism, then?” We looked to the older members amongst us. “The way we decided to work out the concept of The Happy Loss was through what we called Eurofuturism. It’s a proven method. In art history, there have been a number of futurists like Marinetti and the Russians. But alongside the radical Afrofuturism and the Arab futurism that is currently emerging, there is a need for a futurism that distances itself from the values of the old world; because, as a society we are completely stuck in our methods, and suffer from a lack of inspiration. Instead, we take refuge in a worship of science and research, and technology. It seems our last lifeline before we get swept under by the hypochondriac currents of uncertainty, and fear.
And then another pilgrim piped up. “Yes… this notion that only the “natural” sciences lead to valuable knowledge about the world and that philosophy is only useful if the current scientific method becomes ever more dominant. Alternative sources of knowledge, such as art, religion and intuition are rejected as meaningless and they are increasingly being ignored with the result that one of the fundamentals in life – feeling – has less and less influence on the course of events. The disappearance of intuition in politics, public administration and business has ensured that bureaucracy and “auditocracy” (blame culture) continue to advance. Can you think of anyone who says “this does not feel good”? I can’t.
“Eurofuturism goes against this trend and embraces the senses, and therefore the pain of loss” chipped in the original speaker. “The sciences we embrace are pataphysics and absurdity. The meaning of life is madness. The only prophets we recognize are the liars, the paranoid thinkers, the eccentrics and the outlaws. The method that we use is that of trial and error; error being our preference.”
“But what are we going to do then?” we asked.
“We’re going in search of what it Eurofuturism can be. Is it an inferior kind of futurism or a realistic form of future-capitalism? Does the term euro represent Europe in the form of a coin, or is it a characteristic prefix, such as in euro-disco, or euro-shopper? Or: imagine Eurofuturism as the battery chicken of futurism; its methods formed by a focus on the biggest sales impact with the least amount of effort. And – whilst we’re at it – I believe it is possible to create an explosive product from biological egg recipes, urban agriculture and neo-jihadism. After all, we can see a great fascination for self-created occult movements and rising folk rituals among the young.” “Maybe we’re on the wrong track” added a voice. “Maybe we should look at the brutal innovation exegesis of the innovation myths peddled by the technology prophets and cyber- hippies, with their doe-eyed appraisals of new Google features, coming on like the greedy kids in a new version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Sergey and the Gadget Factory, maybe?” “One more research question if we may” we said, somewhat disappointed. “We thought that we had a real, workable solution, and that we were redeemed from any assumptions, or speculations round the latest trends in art critique and writing.”
“You are too impatient. Eurofuturism and The Happy Loss need time to grow roots. But we promise – and we mean this – that we will start a political movement. We will produce Eurofuturistic art in all shapes and sizes. And anyone can join and help to shape it, using their own discretion, and artistic input. It will be inclusive too; for in the sorrow of loss we can come together and comfort each other. Invite your friends too, and walk in the parade of losers; on the barren ground, on the scorched earth, where everything will be valued as one! Oh, hang about, what’s that I hear? It’s the sound of the Drum Major and his marching band. Come, get ready! The journey continues. No time to waste. Join us, join us!”