[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 23] [Art Strike 1990-1993]


We find ourselves not so much horrified by our current state as we are numbed by it. But we must shake off this contrived deadness to find abject horror in the true predicament of daily life. The issue, simply put, is one of control. Commentators in YAWN and elsewhere have insisted that "art" is a buttressing force in the network of institutions that dominate western life. Proponents of this structure calmly insist that each of us is "free," an obvious lie in light of the cost exacted from each of us just to maintain the system which "guarantees" our "freedom."

Above all, we learn to trust the voice of authority and to mistrust what comes of our own experience. "Real" knowledge only comes from "experts." Our schools require us to regurgitate force-fed "answers" in exchange for legitimizing our "accomplishment" through the reward system of good grades. This is all with the aim of making us "better citizens;" that is, more compliant to hierarchical pressure.

Imitation, too, is a carefully presented form of control. Richard Nixon, while president of the United States, invited Richard and Karen Carpenter into the White House to honor them as fine examples of American youth. The carefully constructed image the Carpenters exhibited closely fit the image of youth that the establishment needed in order to maintain effective control and to efficiently curb freedom. Millions bought the fantasy, and still do, although its outer shape is frequently updated to forestall widespread perception of the dishonesty.

One could argue that the impulse to imitate others is a "natural" one and that this is often how we "learn" what is and is not appropriate behavior. But if it is a part of all of us, it can be used as a lever to pry us into action. So, hidden in this urge to imitate lies a danger: the danger that we will lose our very selves.

Karen's untimely demise from dietary self abuse only serves to underscore how false her image was, and what pain lay beneath the surface. The agents of social control understand that it is not as important to control what you think as it is to control what you do. They have found images to be effective in exerting control over mass actions and identity. With images, they strive to define our identities for us. When you can tell someone who to be you can control what they do. Options are narrowed so that most of us choose very similar things to aspire to. Karen was entirely consumed by image-image was what she was; nothing more. We can take this as literally what "they" want of us.

The addiction of image is primary to the contemporary human condition. Image addiction, like substance addiction, may destroy minds and bodies, but it is sufficient for its goals simply to destroy selves. That way the body remains a "productive" member of society. It is a conceptual genocide, aimed at turning human beings into adjuncts of machinery, aided with mechanisms that automate our souls.

Each of us should control our own life. With that in mind, the Art Strike finds a place in the mechanisms of control where perhaps exists the widest disparity between what it claims to be and what it actually is. Art is that place, because of the self-manifested claim it holds on all significant "creativity", together with the severely restricted and thoroughly coded expressions that its control structures allow. This is a weak link in the chain of power that monopolizes modern attention, because in art, the common perception is that " anything goes." While this attitude most often manifests itself in impoverished emblems that touch all the "correct" symbolic bases, it can be used to wrest the means of content-bearing to our more honest purpose. Which is what, you might ask. Our more honest purpose is nothing less that the removal of the burden of large-scale social compliance from the backs of everyone.