Otesánek aka Little Otik aka Greedy Guts directed by Jan Švankmajer (Czech, b. 1934, Prague, Czech Republic), 2000 Stop Animations
Famed horror manga creator Junji Ito (Yes, the “this hole was made for me” guy.) is creating an officially licensed Pokemon short story that will be out in time for Halloween! Details on the subject matter is a bit scarce, but we have a feeling that little girl there just picked up a new dollie to replace her old one~!
These observations may seem scattershot but I think taken together they are revealing. Why, for example, would one wish to argue that in the year 2008 we live in a unique historical moment, unlike anything that came before, and then act as if this moment can only really be described through concepts French thinkers developed in the 1960s and ‘70s—then illustrate one’s points almost exclusively with art created between 1916 and 1922?
This does seem strangely arbitrary but I suspect there is a reason. We might ask: what does the moment of Futurism, Dada, Constructivism and the rest, and French ’68 thought, have in common? Actually quite a lot. Each corresponded to a moment of revolution: to adopt Immanuel Wallerstein’s terminology, the world revolution of 1917 in one case, and the world revolution of 1968 in the other. Each witnessed an explosion of creativity in which a longstanding European artistic or intellectual Grand Tradition effectively reached the limits of its radical possibilities. That is to say, they marked the last moment at which it was possible to plausibly claim that breaking all the rules—whether violating artistic conventions, or shattering philosophical assumptions—was itself, necessarily, a subversive political act as well.
This is particularly easy to see in the case of the European avant garde. From Duchamp’s first readymade in 1914, Hugo Ball’s Dada manifesto and tone poems in 1916, to Malevich’s White on White in 1918, culminating in the whole phenomenon of Berlin dada from 1918 to 1922, one could see revolutionary artists perform, in rapid succession, just about every subversive gesture it was possible to make: from white canvases to automatic writing, theatrical performances designed to incite riots, sacrilegious photo montage, gallery shows in which the public was handed hammers and invited to destroy any piece they took a disfancy to, objects plucked off the street and sacralized as art. All that remained for the Surrealists was to connect a few remaining dots, and the heroic moment was over.
One could still do political art, of course, and one could still defy convention. But it became effectively impossible to claim that by doing one you were necessarily doing the other, and increasingly difficult to even try to do both at the same time. It was possible, certainly, to continue in the Avant Garde tradition without claiming one’s work had political implications (as did anyone from Jackson Pollock to Andy Warhol), it was possible to do straight-out political art (like, say, Diego Rivera); one could even (like the Situationists) continue as a revolutionary in the Avant Garde tradition but stop making art, but that pretty much exhausted the remaining possibilities.
What happened to Continental philosophy after May ’68 is quite similar. Assumptions were shattered, grand declarations abounded (the intellectual equivalent of Dada manifestos): the death of Man, of Truth, The Social, reason, dialectics, even Death itself. But the end result was roughly the same. Within a decade, the possible radical positions one could take within the Grand Tradition of post-Cartesian philosophy had been, essentially, exhausted. The heroic moment was over. What’s more, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the premise that heroic acts of epistemological subversion were revolutionary or even particularly subversive in any other sense. In fact their effects seemed if anything depoliticizing. Just as purely formal avant garde experiment proved perfectly well suited to grace the homes of conservative bankers, and Surrealist montage to become the language of the advertising industry, so did poststructural theory quickly prove the perfect philosophy for self-satisfied liberal academics with no political engagement at all.
If nothing else this would explain the obsessive-compulsive quality of the constant return to such heroic moments. It is, ultimately, a subtle form of conservatism—or, perhaps one should say conservative radicalism, if such were possible—a nostalgia for the days when it was possible to put on a tin-foil suit, shout nonsense verse, and watch staid bourgeois audiences turn into outraged lynch mobs; to strike a blow against Cartesian Dualism and feel that by doing so, one has thereby struck a blow for oppressed people everywhere.
Koro- Self Titled 7”
Literally the best 6 mins you’ll spend today.