Text, digital print on archival paper
28.6 x 21.4 cm
ways to approach this. The question is simply whether we take responsibility for our part in the ongoing transformation of the cosmos, acting deliberately and with a sense of our own power, or frame our actions as reactions, participating in unfolding events accidentally as if we were purely victims of mere circumstance.
Forget about whether “the” revolution will ever happen – the best reason to be a revolutionary is that it is a better way to be living. It offers us a chance to lead a life that is meaningful; gives us a relationship to injustice so we don’t have to deny our own grief and outrage; keeps us conscious of the give and take always going on between individual and institution, self and community, one and all. No institution can truly offer us freedom – but we can experience it in challenging and reinventing institutions. When school children make up their own words to the songs they are taught, when people show up by the tens of thousands to interfere with a closed-door meeting of expert economists discussing everyone’s lives, they are rediscovering that self-determination, like power, belongs only to the ones who exercise it.
If, as idealists like us insist, we can indeed create whatever world we want, then perhaps it’s true that we could adapt to any world, too. But spending life in reaction and adaptation, hurrying to catch up to whatever is already happening, means being perpetually a step behind, at the mercy of history as it unfolds. That’s no way to go about pursuing our desires, whichever ones we choose to pursue.
Don’t be too hard on yourself about the fragments of the old order that remain within you. You can’t sever yourself from the chain of cause and effect that produced you – not with any amount of willpower. The trick is to find ways to indulge your programming that simultaneously subvert it – that create, in the process of satisfying the old desires, conditions that foster new ones. If you need to follow leaders, find leaders who will help you depose them from the pedestal you put them on; if you wish to lead others, find equals who will help you dethrone yourself; if you absolutely have to fight against others, find wars you can wage for everyone’s benefit. Perhaps when it comes to dodging the imperatives of our conditioning, we may find indulge and undermine to be a far more effective programme than the old heritage of “renounce and struggle” passed down from a humourless Christianity.
42 . Indulge and Undermine
Text transcribed from Expect Resistance
One of my most disappointing realisations was that I desired so little. My passions were stunted like bonsai trees; trite, restrained, uninteresting. Were they never used – ever instilled? I’d wished to throw myself at their mercy, to follow their tyrannical dictates and thus, in leaving the beaten path, retain some sort of guide through the wilderness. Without that, I was totally at sea.
The limits of my desire proved to be a sort of cage, no less than the limitations imposed by civil society. Even and especially after committing to a life charted by my decision to finish the art degree, I had no idea where to step next. Is it time to finally grow up and get a real job? Or should I take my meagre savings and travel? Move elsewhere, immerse myself in some other culture, be inspired? Would life really be more immediate or authentic then? Should I apply to graduate school, begin commuting by bicycle, or dedicate myself to volunteer work? I was seemingly surrounded by banality, trying to choose between clichés. I wanted to be lit up, electrified by the world in every moment, unfazed by cynicism – but for that to be possible, both I and the world would have to change.
If I were to share adventures with others it was up to me to infect them with new desires. As it was, I knew no one with whom I could undertake anything more audacious than a night out dancing. I tried to imagine myself a charmer, inspiring friends and acquaintances with hedonistic fervour the way others drove suitors to distraction, suicide, and feats of bravado. There couldn’t be a role for which I was less suited; shyness colliding with anxiety and the guilt of privilege had me crippled.
And still I was determined that my life would be something out of the ordinary; if Dinn’s death could not be undone, at least I would avenge my own. The days rolled by, my savings trickling away as I waited for the right opportunities and compatriots to come along. Based on my experience I surmised I’d be able to recognise them by the terror they would inspire in me. Waited. Was it really naïve to have
Desiring Failure . 43
Text accompanying Expect Resistance
Shaped as a metatextual way to think through intertwined predicaments of authorship, anxiety and anarchism, these appropriated and recontextualised texts were shown together with the originally referenced book (Expect Resistance: a field manual, CrimethInc., 2007) along with eight other selected titles. This was part of The Artist, The Book and The Crowd, a group exhibition curated by Ho Rui An, Ang Siew Ching, and Karen Yeh. Artists were invited to explore the act of rewriting and the way text and the published form are negotiated in their individual practices. In the course of the exhibition, the gallery was transformed into a library and site for meeting, reading, and thinking.