On February 19th at the Accademia di Belle Arti of Carrara , Franco Berardi (Bifo) presented the “manifest of the after-futurism”. Domenico Quaranta, Tommaso Tozzi, Pier Luigi Cappucci, Matteo Chini e Giacomo Verde participated to the conference.
For this occasion, Massimo Cittadini organized inside the Academy an exposition where installations and videos realized by the students of the Academy were shown. The day after, exactly one century after the publication of the futurist manifesto, the text has been presented by the same author in Rome , inside the Luigi Pintor hall of the site in Carta. The other chairmen of the lecture were Renato Piccolini, Gianluca Peciola e Pierluigi Sullo.
The manifesto had already been released online in the days before the two events. An operation of ironic rewriting of the founding text of an avant-garde that doesn’t propose itself, naturally, like being at the base of a new avant-garde adventure, but that on the contrary tries to resolve an important artistic experience of the 1900s in a flippant way, in few words making fun of itself. This rewriting respects the rhetorical hindrance of the original text trying to maintain its rhythm and sound: evidently, however, the aggressiveness and the machismo of the futurist manifesto are not there, not only through the introduction of new subjects, but also through a completely different idea of the modern everyday life.
This new manifesto becomes a pretext to start a debate on wider and more actual themes. The importance of these matters and the irony of the operation, make the idea of being after-futurists just for a few hours – while continuing to pondering on what is the future at the times of the Wave – reasonable and also amusing.
Loretta Borrelli: During the celebrations of the centennial of the futurist manifesto, the manifesto of the after-futurism proposes a critical analysis of this avant-garde, in spite of the majority of the initiatives on the same theme. Nevertheless, the operation has aroused more than few suspects, especially in those who deal with art and communication. That’s the reason for my first question: why choose to rewrite the futurist manifesto to talk about issues so distant from that avant-garde?
Bifo: In this manifesto, the point of interest is not the futurism as an artistic movement. Future is the theme that it is worth to emphasize. We have to exploit the fact that by chance we can call the attention of the press, of those interested in arts and of those interested in communication. I have always been interested in Futurism. It not only seemed to be the first self-aware avant-garde, but also an avant-garde that emphasized the relationship between artistic production and the productive, economic and social dimension. Add to this that, understandably, the celebrations of the futurism call the attention of the cultural class that today is at the power. Just look at how the council to Alemanno (Major of Rome, ndt) and the councilor of the culture committee in Rome , Umberto Croppi, predictably took this chance.
First of all I thought it essential to remember that futurism is not only fascism, futurism is “also” fascism. It would be stupid to deny a continuity between the Italian futurist movement and the fascist political result. Nevertheless futurism is more than that, in Italy , and above all, internationally. One hundred years later, we must perceive something more of the futurist experience than its continuity with the fascism. The central theme of the future is what it makes the futurism still actual. Let’s take this chance not to celebrate an avant-garde one hundred years old, but to measure the distance with what has happened. Is the future still what it was? And here comes the question the manifesto tries to answer.
Loretta Borrelli: Time, in fact, seems to be the main subject of this manifesto. But it deals with cyber time, that is a time that belongs to the production processes of the semio-capital. In the manifesto this seems to be acquired, a new objective condition where to start with new processes.
Bifo: We must analyze things from the point of view of the biopolitic transformation that the capitalism has been through within this century. The time in the futurism is essentially that of the external objective mechanism, of the automobile, of the production line, of the lathe, of all these objects that accelerate the outward appearance of the human time. Today we live in a completely different dimension, the machine is not the automobile or the train or the airplane anymore. The machine is the biopolitic, nanotecnologic one. We face an internal acceleration that is made possible by the communication technologies and by the psycho-pharmacology. We talk about accelerated time as internal time, as biopolitic time, more simply external time. In the manifesto there is an objective verification that the world and the machine have changed in these one hundred years; we should be able to apply to this intention a political, but also poetic and linguistic elaboration.
Both the Russian and the Italian futurism, have understandably exalted the speed to insist on the necessity to adjust the body and the human mind to the speed of the external machine. Today we have exactly the opposite problem. We must agree that the external machine is not up to the challenge of the potentialities of the biopolitics human. We must separate the biopolitic power from the contemporary collective knowledge, from the paralysis of capitalism, from the weight of the exterior machine and from the slowness of uniform time that forces us to be in a factory when the clock strikes 8:00 am. There is no need anymore of uniforming times, there is no need anymore of an exterior machine. We need a final liberation from the productive and sensible potentialities of the human body and mind, that goes beyond the “machine” dimension of the futurist thought. In this sense, it is no more about time, it is about singular temporality. Delaunay said that the Italian futurism was able to interpret the implicit technological novelties in the cinema: there was some kind of bergsonanian benediction at the beginning of the Italian futurism, of which the futurists themselves were very aware.
If we read Bergson today, like Deleuze reread him, we realize that he is not talking about objective time, but essentially about the singular temporality. Therefore we can recuperate the futurist dimension releasing it from its “pastism”. The pastism resides in the idea of speed, of the automobile, of the train. All kinds of scrap metal to leave in the 1900s.
Loretta Borrelli: The futurist manifesto proposed an attitude, a way of living where the concept of speed had a central role. Which attitude proposes this manifesto instead, what is its invitation?
Bifo: It is an invitation to get free, to get independent. In this, we can get help from the whole work of Foucault concerning the creation of an interdependence between the body-mind and the institutions of the uniform time, concretely jails, schools, mental hospitals , factories, etc. Futurism takes into consideration the integration between uniform time and body-mind collective. Then the 1900s have brought us off the track. Nowadays, depending from a uniform time means to surrender to impotence, to paralysis. The proof of this all, is in the automobile. To a superficial observation, it can appear as a symbol of the industrial mobilization of the body, as the object that makes possible speed itself; in nowadays reality instead, the automobile is the evident proof of slowness, paralysis, neurosis, of the industrial past. Singular temporalities must respect their own rhythm, be it fast or slow. It is not our duty to establish an average social time: the singular time doesn’t depend anymore, in fact, from a social norm.
Within the industrial system, that dependence was inevitable, but in the net world, in the world of the absolute acceleration made possible by new technologies, this relationship is not necessary anymore. In 1980, Alvin Toffler described in “La terza ondata” the beginning of the process of desyncronization. With assembly lines, bodies are synchronized to the rhythm machines impose, but when the production depends on automatic machines and the human job is simply one of creative intervention and planning, then it is not necessary anymore to synchronize to machines, and the human brain can regain the free temporality that is his own. We could translate this in very pragmatic political terms: we are used to thinking that it is necessary to depend on the cycle of social production. This is not true anymore; each and every one of us must be aware of the fact that the utmost expression and productivity of knowledge consists in the autonomy of the singular times, not in the dependence from the machine.
Unfortunately, there is something that still holds us back: salary, that is the fact that we continue to be forced to depend on the time we submit to working for our survival. I think that the crisis in which we are now will destroy the salary for good. This is the object of the battle that awaits us.
Loretta Borrelli: Talking about poetry, the manifesto reads: “There is no other beauty than autonomy. No work can be a masterpiece if it doesn’t express the intelligence of the possible. Poetry is a bridge thrown over the abyss of nothingness to create sharing among different imaginations, and to free singularities”. You used the definition that Deleuze uses when speaking of friendship: what value does this definition have when applied to poetry? What is the relationship with the autonomy?
Bifo: Indeed I thought of “Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?” (1991) by Deleuze and Guattari, who say that friendship is sharing a path that doesn’t exist and, therefore, it is a creation of that path. Actually this is exactly what, in an etymological sense, we call poetry. Poetry is the activity able to build a bridge where friends walk hand in hand. One thing belongs to friendship, and it is walking hand in hand, in other words sharing a path: and one thing belongs to poetry, and it is constructing the bridge on which friends walk. One thing belongs to creative imagination, that is to imagine in what direction we are going, and then one thing belongs to movement, that is to walk on that bridge that creative imagination has built. The duty of creative imagination – namely poetry – in this moment is enormous. We must build a bridge on the abyss that the new-liberist capitalism has created.
How can singularities become strengths of majority if they are not able to innervate themselves as singularities inside the dominant communication? Do we have to think that movements simply remain escape and singularization processes in exodus? And that they don’t regain a strength of central determination of the processes? This is how it worked in the 1990s and in the first years of 2000s, when, after all, the movement was above all ethical protest, search of independent zones, of temporarily autonomous zones.
Today we don’t need temporarily autonomous zones, but instead definitely autonomous zones. We need to establish a process that is not our will, but instead the catastrophe of the global capitalism. This is something that we still struggle to see fully. What is happening recalls on the scene the autonomy not as an exodus phenomenon for a minority that travels further, but as an overthrowing of the dominating social situation. We are called for an major assignment in the next months.
Loretta Borrelli: Regarding the relationship between art and everyday life, the manifesto reads: “We would like to make art a changing force of life, we would like to abolish the separation between poetry and mass communication, we would like to shift the dominion on the media from the merchants to the wise and the poets”. There is a reference to mass communication. Is it possible that this becomes – together with poetry – the mean through which we can start to change life?
Bifo: This points out that we did overcome the 1900s avant-gardes, but still, a memory of the avant-gardes remains, above all of Dadaism. The Dadaist cry of Christian Tzara: “abolish art; abolish everyday life; abolish the separation between art and everyday life”, remains like a trace not to forget entirely. The problem of the relationship between art and everyday life is topical, and today presents itself in the perverted form of publicity, television, mass communication. Futurism inherits from Symbolism the awareness of the specificity of language, exploiting it on a communicative plan in order to create an active, aggressive and advertising language. It elaborates in political terms what symbolism had elaborated in purely poetic terms. Futurism is the beginning of publicity and political propaganda.
How do we consider today the problem of the relationship between everyday life, art and media? Media are the link between art and daily life. This is why we reclaim the power of independent creativeness, of the autonomous creativeness on the mediatic system. It is the battle that media-activism in the 1990s has begun.
The potentially subversive characteristics of language, of everyday life, have been analyzed in this movement not counterpoising the ideological slogan to the advertising slogan, but, rather, deconstructing the advertising message as tied to all shades of the detournement. Today this practice probably needs to jump, perhaps we need to find the linguistic forms suitable to the change that we live. The media-activism has accompanied an essentially smaller phase of the movement, the phase of ethical demonstration: Seattle , 15 February, 2003. A phase where the movement was essentially about ethical protest and minor autonomy. I am convinced that today we are going through a completely new phase, in which the movement must be able to express in a major way the potentialities of the social. What we need to discover shortly, is with what language.
Loretta Borrelli: When you write: “We want to sing the man and the woman caressing each other, to get to know each other and the world better”, bodies become the tool for the knowledge of the world, but looking at your past writings, a problem emerges. In those texts, the analysis of the mutation of the cognitive system is an analysis of the passage from the subjunctive mind to the connective mind. The conjunction is contact among bodies that create the rules of the relationship while they are living it. The connection is an interfacing of compatible entities whose rules of operation are registered in the code. The conjunction is made of imperfect bodies exchanging ambiguous signs crusted of matter, while a connection requests bodies penetrable from flows of information purified by every imperfection. This involves a crisis in the transmission of the cultural and political inheritance between generations, but also an incapability of the connective generation to have an experience of knowledge through the body. How is it possible to provide for this condition that belongs to the net world in this period of world crisis and mobilizations?
Bifo: Some of the things that I saw up to six months ago – up to the Wave, to the election of a black President and the downfall of the catastrophe – need to be looked at in a completely different way in this moment. Some possibilities – which were precluded up to a few years ago – are reopened. Still it remains the fact that in the sexual unconscious of humanity, in the last decades, a harshness has come forth that we will pay in the next years: i.e. this harshness shows up in form of racism, in form of aggressiveness. What I’m trying to talk about is not a plain sociological discourse. I believe in fact that we are living a moment in which enormous possibilities on the social and political level are opening up, but at the same time we see a kind of paralysis of the subjectivity, or in other worlds, an extreme difficulty for the subjectivity to move smoothly, not willingly.
I have the feeling that we are living and we will live in the next months a revolution without a subject. The revolution will show in things, in the fact that the principle of private ownership is definitely out-of-course, that capitalistic accumulation has arrived at a stop and is in recess, that the thought of growth has collapsed and will never return, that the consumerism is not possible and that people will be forced to live in a more pleasant way. It’s like if we suffered the possibility not to work because of the salary, it is as if we suffered the constraint of not using the car anymore to stay two hours in a traffic jam.
It is however a process destined to crisis, during which something will happen in the subjective dimension. For the time being, nevertheless, in the subjective dimension I see very little. The Wave is an element of movement inserted inside the society. This has started something, but it did not get into contact with the great crisis. It is true the slogan “We don’t pay your crisis” is repeated often, but it is still just a slogan for the moment. I’m waiting for the Wave to meet the economic cataclysm, at that point the revolution will become subjective. For the time being we have a revolution without subject, namely of the economy; the one that sees poor Obama trying to find a possibility but without finding it, because it is not possible within capitalism. Barack Obama will keep on trying in the next month without succeeding, but not because of him. This will go on until we all realize that there is no solution if we remain enclosed in the paradigm of the capitalistic growth.
There are these two processes: the catastrophe of the capitalistic economy on one side, and on the other side the resurfacing of movements solicited by the awareness that the future is cancelled, little by little. The two things must meet, but in the middle there is fear of the other, which has been produced for thirty years of regime medias. In the middle there is the stiffening of the corporality that has been produced by the connections: the difficulty in this moment is essentially in the little sympathy that the bodies feel for one another. It is a stiffening of the subjective that is first of all sexual, that is of the bodies, of the physicality, of the incapability of expression of one’s desire.
The first connective generation, in the next months will cross its purgatory. A purgatory of self-education to relationships. Of course I’m not only talking about the subjective outbreaks of the boys that go in the streets to demonstrate, instead I’m talking above all about the great social body that is scared to stand out .
It is not only connectivity that has frozen the bodies, but also fear, racial, social, economic fear. In Italy , where we have an active production of fear, it is difficult to be able to avoid passage of civil and inter-ethnic war, and it is difficult that we can avoid a phase of violent fascism. There will be a phase in which the bodies terrorized by the arrival of the crisis will single out the Romanians, for example, as guilty of everything; we are already there. Is it possible to conceive the imagination, the poetry in an etymological sense – the construction of bridges – as something where the division sex / language is surpassed? Is it possible to think a language communicating through libido? This is the problem. In this manifesto we attempt to introduce on the same thematic ground and in the same rhythmic structure a different communication of the language through libido.