All experience is mediated by the mechanisms of sense perception,
mentation, language, etc. & certainly all art consists
of some further mediation of experience.
However, mediation takes place by degrees. Some experiences (taste,
smell, sexual pleasure) are less mediated than others (reading a book,
looking through a telescope, listening to a record). Some media, especially
"live" arts such as dance, theater, musical or bardic performances,
are less mediated than others, such as TV, CDs, Virtual Reality. Even
among the media called "media", some are more, and other
are less mediated, according to the intensity of imaginative participation
they demand. Print & radio demand more of the imagination, film
less, TV even less, VR the least of all so far.
For art, the intervention of Capital always signals a further degree
of mediation. To say that art is commodified is to say that a mediation,
or standing-in-between, has occurred, & that this betweenness
amounts to a split, & that this split amounts to "alienation".
Improv music played by friends at home is less "alienated"
than music played "live" at the Met, or music played through
media (whether PBS or MTV or Walkman). In fact, an argument could
be made that music distributed free or at cost on cassette via mail,
is LESS alienated than live music played at some huge We Are The World
spectacle or Las Vegas niteclub, even though the latter is live music
played to a live audience (or at least so it appears), while the former
is recorded music consumed by distant & even anonymous listeners.
The tendency of Hi Tech, & the tendency of Late Capitalism, both
impel the arts farther and farther into extreme forms of mediation.
Both widen the gulf between the production & consumption of art,
with a corresponding increase in "alienation".
With the disappearance of a "mainstream" & therefore
of an "avant-garde" in the arts, it has been noticed that
all the more advanced and intense art-experiences have become recuperable
almost instantly by the media, & are thus rendered into trash
like all other trash in the ghostly world of commodities. Now, "Trash",
as the term was redefined in, let's say, in Baltimore in the 1970s,
can be good fun as a sort of ironic take on a sort of inadvertent
folkultur that surrounds & pervades the more unconscious regions
of popular sensibility which in turn is produced in part by
the Spectacle. "Trash" was once a fresh concept, with radical
potential. By now, however, amidst the ruins of Post-Modernism, it
has finally begun to stink. Ironic frivolity finally becomes disgusting.
Is it possible now to BE SERIOUS BUT NOT SOBER? (Note: The New Sobriety
is of course simply the flip-side of the New Frivolity. Chic neo-puritanism
carries the taint of Reaction, in just the same way that postmodernist
philisophical irony & despair lead to Reaction. The Purge Society
is the same as the Binge Society. After the "12 steps" of
trendy renunciation in the '90s, all that remains is the 13th step
of the gallows. Irony may have become boring, but self-mutilation
was never more than an abyss. Down with frivolity Down with
sobriety.) Everything delicate & beautiful, from Surrealism to
Breakdancing, ends up as fodder for McDeath's ads; 15 minutes later,
all the magic has been sucked out, & the art itself dead as a
dried locust. The media-wizards, who are nothing if not postmodernists,
have even begun to feed on the vitality of "Trash," like
vultures regurgitating & reconsuming the same carrion, in an obscene
ecstasy of self-referentiality. Which way to the Egress?
Real art is play, & play is one of the most immediate of all experiences.
Those who have cultivated the pleasure of play cannot be expected
to give it up simply to make a political point (as in an "Art
Strike", or "the suppression without the realization"
of art, etc.). Art will go on, in somewhat the same sense as breathing,
eating and fucking will go on.
Nevertheless, we are repelled by the extreme alienation of the arts,
especially in "the media," in commercial publishing &
galleries, in the recording "industry," etc. And we sometimes
worry even about the extent to which our very involvement in such
arts as writing, painting, or music implicates us in a nasty abstraction,
a removal from immediate experience. We miss the directness of play
(our original kick in doing art in the first place); we miss smell,
taste, touch, the feel of bodies in motion.
Computers, video, radio, printing presses, synthesizers, fax machines,
tape recorders, photocopiers these things make great toys,
but terrible addictions. Finally we realize that we cannot "reach
out and touch someone" who is not present in the flesh. These
media may be useful to our art but they must not possess us,
nor must they stand between, mediate, or separate us from our animal/animate
selves. We want to control our media, not be Controlled by them. And
we should like to remember a certain psychic martial art which stresses
the realization that the body itself is the least mediated of all
Therefore, as artists & "cultural workers" who have
no intention of giving up activity in our chosen media, we nevertheless
demand of ourselves an extreme awareness of immediacy, as well as
the mastering of some direct means of implementing this awareness
as play, immediately (at once) & immediately (without mediation).
Fully realizing that any art "manifesto" written today can
only stink of the same bitter irony it seeks to oppose, we nevertheless
declare without hesitation (without too much thought) the founding
of a "movement," IMMEDIATISM. We feel free to do so because
we intend to practice immediatism in secret, in order to avoid any
contamination of mediation. Publicly we'll continue to work in publishing,
radio, printing, music, etc., but privately we will create something
else, something to be shared freely but never consumed passively,
something which can be discussed openly but never understood by the
agents of alienation, something with no commercial potential yet valuable
beyond price, something occult yet woven completely into the fabric
of our everyday lives.
Immediatism is not a movement in the sense of an aesthetic program.
It depends on situation, not style or content, message or School.
It may take the form of any kind of creative play which can be performed
by two or more people, by & for themselves, face-to-face &
together. In this sense it is like a game, & therefore certain
"rules" may apply.
All spectators must also be performers. All expenses are to be shared,
& all products which may result from the play are also to be shared
by the participants only (who may keep them or bestow them as gifts,
but never sell them). The best games will make little or no use of
obvious forms of mediation such as photography, recording, printing,
etc., but will tend toward immediate techniques involving physical
presence, direct communication, & the senses.
An obvious matrix for Immediatism is the party. Thus a good meal could
be an Immediatist art project, especially if everyone cooked as well
as ate. Ancient Chinese & Japanese on misty autumn days would
hold odor parties, where each guest would bring a homemade incense
or perfume. At linked-verse parties a faulty couplet would entail
the penalty of a glass of wine. Quilting bees, tableaux vivants, exquisite
corpses, rituals of conviviality like Fourier's "Museum Orgy"
(erotic costumes, poses & skits), live music & dance
the past can be ransacked for appropriate forms, & imagination
will supply more.
The difference between a 19th century quilting bee, for example, &
an Immediatist quilting bee would lie in our awareness of the practice
of Immediatism as a response to the sorrows of alienation & the
"death of art."
The mail art of the '70s & the zine scene of the 80s were attempts
to go beyond the mediation of art-as-commodity, & may be considered
ancestors of Immediatism. However, they preserved the mediated structures
of postal communication & xerography, & thus failed to overcome
the isolation of the players, who remained quite literally out of
touch. We wish to take the motives & discoveries of these earlier
movements to their logical conclusion in an art which banishes all
mediation & alienation, at least to the extent that the human
Moreover, Immediatism is not condemned to powerlessness in the world,
simply because it avoids the publicity of the marketplace. "Poetic
Terrorism" and "Art Sabotage" are quite logical manifestations
Finally, we expect that the practice of Immediatism will release within
us vast storehouses of forgotten power, which will not only transform
our lives through the secret realization of unmediated play, but will
also inescapably well up & burst out & permeate the other
art we create, the more public & mediated art.
And we hope that the two will grow closer & closer, & eventually
perhaps become one.
Thanks to Hakim Bey.
- TAZ: The Temporary Autonomous Zone / Die Temporäre Autonome Zone
- Permanent Autonomous Zones / Permanente Autonome Zonen
- Poetic Terrorism / Poetischer Terrorismus
- The Information War
- The Occult Assault on Institutions
- Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy - The Writings of Hakim Bey
- Hakim Bey Datapool
- Autonomedia Books