Venture of the unexpected

By Dimitris Halatsis

“Die Welt ist alles was der Fall ist” ¹


A long time now, the “engineers” of the dominant ideology and those in the service of power mechanisms, have been busy constructing social space and the platforms of political controversy with the corollary elements of determinism, necessity and premeditation, striving to oust the imponderable from the real world, in an attempt to delimit the socio-political field so as to preclude “surprises”. With the exception of a few essentially foreseeable contradictions, the movement of life according to the dominant ideology, is something linear, continuous, a controlled movement, foreseeable and plain.

In the present sociopolitical circumstances (as in the world of art), the unexpected is simply not there. Not as representation, but as a determining factor in the fashioning of political controversy.

Henceforth, the dominant discourse affords not only to assimilate contradictions and aberrant behavior which may have contested its predominion, it can also fashion its own contradictions and deviations so as to guarantee its perpetuation. In a sense, it “fabricates” “avant-gardes, revolutions, revolutionaries, crises” etc.

Today’s vanguards (in art or politics) do not carry the unexpected element per se, that is, the force to oppose all and any teleology that is both a teleology of principle-beginnings and end-purposes. The unexpected at present, emerges as a dominant representation in the form of a variety show, that simply repeats itself, promoting social autism as its model of preference.

Let me make clear at this point that what we understand by “dominant ideology” is the “distilled” product of social relations, as capitalism, above all, is about social relations. Therefore, the various “fabricated vanguards” derive from specific social relations and are the result of sociopolitical structures, institutions, customs and so on. They are born each time, of a specific institutional system that is simultaneously delivering an authoritative view and setting the terms of its contestation. In previous historical periods, the mechanisms of power were at work and often successful in incorporating any factor, “avant-garde”, militant political and artistic movement, or individual artist, who should dispute the dominant discourse and capitalism. This incorporation has often been the consequence of a “political defeat” and not purely the result of the system’s ability to do so. Today, rather than “chasing after” the various “avant-gardes” in order to contain and assimilate them, the institutional system tends to produce them by itself; naturally, on its own terms and conditions.

“Systemic” engineers spare no effort in convincing us that nothing can subsist outside and that only through accession to the system can any opposing discourse have a reasonable chance in standing up to it.

An invasion of the unexpected within the bounds of the systemic scene having been ruled out, the chances to articulate any kind of antagonistic discourse inside the enemy camp, seem rather poor. On the contrary, one could be offering an excellent alibi to the dominant ideology.

We ought to think of this confrontation against the hegemony of capitals and bourgeois mentality, in terms of a war strategy that is to develop its resistance, parallel and in opposition to the system and much less inside the system. An opposing discourse is not by definition free of contradictions, or, “closed”; it is not some kind of ivory tower that should isolate collective groups from social reality, but, it should carry the unexpected as a possibility; this is the sine qua non of being subversive.

Nevertheless, those who dream of militant collectives and artistic movements that would be in a position to make the difference by contending hegemonies, ought to work for the development of these movements and collectives, with commitment, coherence in their theoretical approach and programmatic relevance… because, admittedly, there are “many examples” to the contrary. Most “lifestyle-underground” artists and artistic groups are not concerned with social change; in fact, the majority are petit-bourgeois who have discovered dadaism and the situationists, but, they are making an abstraction of any political and subversive content that these movements may have had and they proceed in self-complacency to flaunt their latest neo-situationist outfit.

The collectives that we need to develop, must abandon all kinds of ceremonial declarations and big time conventions; in place of therapy groups nursing the ailing petty bourgeois egoism, we ought to arrive at activist collectives, capable of direct criticism on capitalism, in touch with society.

1. The “Tractatus” begins straightforwardly enough: “1. The world is all that is the case.” (In German, it makes a memorable rhyming couplet: Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.) And it ends with an ending to end all endings: “7. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” (translator’s note)

Translation from Greek, Manos Kornelakis