ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK(SY) VIA REFLECTIONS
ON FRANCE GOES OFF THE RAILS?
"Re-imagined profits"/ mass sub-avant-garde recuperation/ The Monstrous Bastards / A Robber Baron's Internet / Banksy's neo-liberal Dismaland / And???...........
The pamphlet France Goes Off The Rails is already out there on the Internet via the auspices of Libcom.org accurately and without any text editing reproduced from the defunct Endangered Phoenix web though unfortunately minus most of the accompanying photographs. This means the essential ambience is missing; that extra élan which made the project into something really worthwhile. Briefly, it was a composite effort between individuals in England (Blob / Combustion) and France – the latter mainly having some kind of allegiance to Os Cangaceiros. Because it was a composite effort inevitably there was a certain friction that was reasonably explosive at one point with two protagonists never speaking to each other again after a re-write of False Start, the injured party going on to help form The Happy Unemployed in Berlin a few years later. So what we have here on the RAP web is France Goes Off The Rails in something reasonably enough like the original.
In a way what took place in France in late 1986 still remains one of the most interesting socially subversive eruptions within the world context between the late 1960s and the horror story which prevails today and one getting worse by the minute. Perhaps in retrospect it can be said that December 1986 was something of a kind of directionless staging post between genuine subversion and the ever-increasing emptiness to follow.... though nonetheless full of promise and depth that wasn't to be fulfilled.
The original text was full of comparisons with the glories of May '68 in France, with Winter '86 described at one point in the pamphlet as, "A pathetic B movie remake of '68" all of us knowing at the time the movement didn't have anything like the depth, though the reflection – albeit pale – was palpably there; indeed there seemed to be more situationist inspired leaflets than in 1968 but did they really amount to anything significant? True, mainly on Parisian walls there were repeats of May '68 slogans though unfortunately they'd lost their cutting edge through repetition......
At the time we were working on a building site in Covent Garden, London and many of our co-workers were quite excited at what was happening across the English Channel. Even so our day to day mundane reality remained immune to such new tremours, like when the suit from Wates' building firm tried to poach our gang collective – all incidentally on equal wages - into working full time for their outfit, offering some unbelievable high wages, which we laughingly knew was nothing more than tricksta crap! In late 2014 we had cause to remember this incident when some high-up buffoon from Wates' soul-destroying new estate built on the former Woolley Colliery pit complex in South Yorkshire went fukin' ape shit over some very provocative laminated pouches we had placed all over the site. His response caused a stir with many ex-miners along with others loving the way we were having a go (though more about that maybe on a future web).
France Goes Off The Rails was also the occasion for some comparisons between social subversion in the UK and France outlined in the section Trains of Thought, a composite effort between Nick Brandt and the Wise Bros. The bottom line between us concerned the regular eruptions of seemingly uncontrollable and unstoppable rioting in mainly English towns and cities in comparison to the general lack of rioting in France. In retrospect there did indeed seem to be an emerging social civil war breaking out especially in England post the urban street uprisings of July 1981 on top of the mass wildcat strike wave of 1978-9 (typically given the Shakespearean title "The Winter of Discontent") not forgetting the inherent possibilities of an insurgent, rebel takeover of huge areas of northern England and elsewhere that was ever present in the year long miners' strike of 1984-5. In fact, it was the sheer quality of this rioting, incipient uprising and general ambience that had inspired individuals belonging to Os Cancageiros to up sticks and move to London, hence the contact. Indeed one or two French leaflets of December '86 unfavourably compared France to a torn apart UK. Moreover, some of the themes present in A Summers with a Thousand Julys especially the section Bollocks to Theory? provided an occasion for further riposte noting sadly that the often high quality graffiti present in the French Winter of 1986 was sadly lacking in the UK knowing that a good theoretical, anti-leftist / pro revolutionary autonomous grasp was really needed in these islands. This alas still remains true as the Dumb and Dumber syndrome is more intense than ever having unfortunately in the meantime even invaded an eloquent France, (never mind the rest of the world) though today's eco ZADs (Zones a Defendre) in France still retain that propensity for truly enlightened, accurate wall comment which memorably cuts through all the bullshit. We in the UK, of course remain - it seems like forever - inundated with mountains of decorative and meaningless tags and pieces and even our own incisive eco comments sprayed on walls don't seem to last much longer than a few days before some jet-spray outfit contracted to the local council removes all traces of these heinous offences.
December 1986 rather like May 1968 seemed – on the surface - to be all about students as "the detonator" existing side by side with our perspective, distastefully referring to them as "the most concentrated reformist force in society", etc, etc. Indeed, the main acceptably oppositional thrust still came from the "good students" those who would become future leaders and cadres just as in 1968. All true though much worse...In retrospect it all seems like light years away... Back in 1986 it was still possible to more or less painlessly drop-out from the rat race with all its bullshit, career roles and yet so far removed from today's situation thirty years later when many young people in the highly (and not so highly) developed parts of the world are more or less forced to become students ending up in no time with huge debts from loans they cannot possibly pay back as the new slavery - debt slavery – has everywhere kicked-in. Thus that common syndrome was born of the future lawyer ending up - before they ever really started out - becoming a supermarket shelf stacker, or whatever. Not drop-outs but forced-outs. Students today are conned like never before their 'promised' careers merely the front, the cover-up, for a full scale automation still in its infancy. It's as if a formerly subversive NEVER WORK slogan has become a kind of distorted fulcrum for present day super-exploitation masked by the Orwellian description of this growing nightmare as a rather pleasant "gig economy." Such phrases cleverly cover up an inexorable technical process, seemingly liberating all of us into enjoyable performance artwork-like fulfilment if we could only experience it that way through (perhaps) the prism of Google glasses where everything in our totally hollowed-out lives is re-imagined as a smart connected device. Economic insecurity, never mind slavery are simply refused a mention in this ever-expanding world of imperious algorithms. It could even be said that in other skewed closely related Internet self-activity we make our own 'free' contributions implying the extraction of surplus value has embraced the pleasure principle or as Jim Fernley said elsewhere on the RAP web, "In the digital context, capital has joyfully seized on our naturally creative and expressive tendencies as a source of free labour" meaning "such activity represents surplus value in this case entirely from unpaid labour."
Pissed off with students, in response to the French semi uprising of 1986, we identified with technical apprentices especially the LEP electronics apprentices. Unlike the students they were effing and blinding all the time and not afraid to deploy such language in their arresting leaflets. It was all so refreshing, so anti PC and remains so. (In parenthesis, sad to say in the UK wide student rebellion of 2010, New Left arseholes like Anthony Barnett still exhorted combatants not to swear because 'bad' language alienated people! What da fuk????) More to the point in December '86, it seemed to us at the time that aware younger workers (the real heirs to 1968?) in France having distanced themselves from the baneful affects of a increasingly sclerotic and dying French Communist party were recycling some of our heroes into practical workaday, subversive situations via strike leaflets. And who were these people? Why Lacenaire, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Lautreamont among others! This though was Lacenaire real, living, direct, never ever taking an insult lightly and not as the model for Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov in the novel Crime and Punishment, though even in novelist make believe, a fascinating character. True, the fake silver screen of an enacted Lacenaire in Les Enfants du Paradis and the Boulevard de Crime still somewhat fascinated us, though the magic of such substitutions had by then disappeared never thankfully to return: "Garance, Garance, Garance" where are you??
Late 1986 in France suggested that a more fundamental, total revolutionary critique was beginning to take hold of more combative individuals at the real sharp end. Now that was really exciting. So much so that autonomous uprising was, it seems, becoming a given which meant we now had to investigate some of the 'new' problems that were arising. Leaflets appeared that criticised some of the possible fuck-ups experienced in base line general assemblies clearly noting they shouldn't be regarded as an absolute panacea that could work miracles overnight. In practise individuals at the sharp end were recognising some of the manipulations that can occur under the auspices of a direct democracy even with revocable mandates. It must be remembered too that the striking railway workers having virulently side-lined trade union representation were part and parcel of this conundrum too within a possible uprising whose core inspiration was "the withering away of pathological despondency" (from the leaflet "this movement caricature and reality"). For sure many of the leaflets of December '86 were magnificent – jeez what inspiration have we lost – summed up presciently in a leaflet entitled DAZZLING DIZZINESS, ".....the psychosis of the search for money in order to survive means the exhaustion of human abilities" and from another entitled NOW referring to our condition as "consumers of trash or managers of nothing". There was also present the unmistakable influence of the Editions de Nuisances collective pinpointing the increasing "domestication of human beings" alongside an eco critique connected with insurgent totality rather than baneful eco-specialisation; one well put in a leaflet entitled Autumn Volcano: "The revolt against a heartless world will become a revolution carrying a human rapport with nature and natural rapports between human beings" even though the same-self leaflet tends to imply perhaps that some enlightened peoples' control of geo-engineering might come in handy in countering climate change. A naive but well-intentioned mistake though one that couldn't be pardoned in 2015!
Unfortunately, this future newer LEP-like apprentices' utopian playground and based so much lower down the social scale - seemed so promising and yet it too wasn't to be remotely realised as the hydra-headed monster of neo-liberalism took over the globe, as a growing corporate totalitarianism replaced the relatively isolated, earlier experiments of pseudo communist and fascist totalitarianisms. And yet this global monster of neo-liberalism was so terrifyingly subtle...unlike the earlier cruder, ultra-despotic manifestations. What we were closing our ears to in the mid 1980s were those siren voices saying that total revolutionary praxis and critique was getting hi-jacked by a plethora of on-the-make careerists, professional go-getters from the academic spielers of post-modernism to journalist hacks ever ready to namedrop and face save tucking away iconoclastic figures in their paltry homilies to the status quo.
Nearly ten years later in 1995 and another big protest and strike wave got underway in France. Initially excited we tried to put together a similar pamphlet like France Goes Off The Rails. Again we had on-the-spot help from "the Froggies", things written out and so on but the spark simply wasn't there as for some reason our hearts weren't in it. Initially the strike was against the new PM Juppe's government's agenda - one demanded by the Maastricht Treaty, the precursor of monetary union and the Euro zone and concerned welfare cutbacks initially aimed at the public sector which then provoked strikes on the airlines, trains, French Telecom, etc. Certainly there was determination on the streets with very large though passive demos seemingly everywhere, peppered with commendable certain exceptions like miners forming barricades, etc., in north east France. However, nothing but nothing really happened even though the protest was kind of victorious forcing Juppe to scrap his plans. To put it bluntly, there simply was no flair to any of this with everything feeling like some extended art event happening. We had underlined – very critically - in France Goes off the Rails the performance carnival of French SOS Racisme with its stultifying pseudo-art protests increasingly changing the face of genuine protest via the lamentable notion that "political ideology has to rely on theatrical shows to be attractive." It was however, a pointer to the future; a sad development that was to gain sickening traction in the coming decades. A French worker in 1995 made an appropriate comment: "I ask myself, if finally we haven't been led astray, if this strike had not really been a hoax...There was the need for a social ideal, which we didn't have." However, unbeknown to ourselves at the time an EdN (Encyclopaedia de Nuisances) booklet (Paris 1996) came out written in Spanish by Miquel Amoros called "Observaciones sobre de Paralesis de Diciembre" which seemed to give voice to our worries and was a kind of extension to his The History of the Last Ten Years that many years previously we had made a lamentable translation of – though the gist of Miquel's argument was sufficiently understandable. The Observacionces contained the following insights: "Through its analysis of the strikes of December 1995 in France the EdN encountered a proletariat that was a spectator of itself, whose struggles took place within the communications media and were managed by the employers of the latter. The EdN posthumously broke with the Situationist tradition and went beyond it, denouncing a virtual class struggle, a media phenomenon and a mass spectacle".
In 2012 a text by The Monstrous Bastards in England tended to reinforce something of this drift as meaningful class struggle seemed to evaporate wrapped up in a strangling performance principle bereft of spontaneity and forthright expression. We had, in short, on a mass level become afraid of ourselves more and more conditioned to respond in a text book kind of way when opposing the established order. (See, The London Olympics and Mass Market Neo-Psychogeography).
"Since the time The Society of the Spectacle was written an impasse of subject has also been reached because we cannot any longer talk about 'workers' like that, as equally we cannot talk about other classes or sub-divisions of other classes like say, the professionals, or inter-disciplinary specialists ushering in total social revolution. We can however hopefully still talk about insurrectionary peoples' councils aware also that this is an inadequate description for what is required in this direst of times. Elsewhere something has been half-released lacking both in momentum and clarity further adding to impasse and no more so than the massive influence of the inter-active, half-supercession of art lost to itself, neither one thing nor another; neither quite art gallery nor quite street intervention but nonetheless valorised as art firmly entrenched with the realms of political economy. For what we have here is now much more than the relatively simple audience / performer relationship of yesterday because mass participatory interaction has meant the blurring of distinctions meaning everybody (especially in the highly advanced world) have become performers as such. As Nietzsche more or less predicted the worker has become an actor too making calls for all power to the workers councils something of a misnomer as it's also the moment workers have become performers in and amongst intensified role play everywhere, augmented by the avatars of cyberspace.
It's this essential fulcrum that now has to be broken asunder, involving the abolition of both the worker and the worker qua actor in the overthrow of the social relations of capitalism which, today is why we yearn more than ever for uncultivated authenticity, the genuinely spontaneous and not the put-on spontaneity required by both traditional TV and an omnipresent Internet media. Moreover never forgetting that with increased structural unemployment – product of advancing automation – people who wish to be workers can no longer become so but are nonetheless forced into a permanent 24/7 performance every bit as alienating – even more so - than poverty stricken production line drudgery.
Today we have little choice but to become socially inept on a massive scale and on every level of acceptable communication putting an end to all the subtle collaboration especially the artistic / performance nexus. More than ever we need lines of clear demarcation what Debord tentatively hinted at in a letter to Yves Le Manach (23rd December 1972) regarding combating a more total, insidious "decadent" recuperation, that fanfare of devious corporatism that is clearly evident in movements like neo-psychogeography. "But why must modern society recuperate anew so many revolutionary questions? Is it from gaiety of heart? It was certainly easier to recuperate us in the 1950s. As a result of recuperation, is not the ruling order becoming more and more sick?"
Forty years later and what has this sickness entailed?
What is the weird situation we are in today where everything – summed up in that contemporary buzzword – is to be "re-imagined" also implying that nothing must be made concrete or realised other than the imperious character of what is, together with the hidden threat if you do take such steps, we'll have your guts for garters. Hence S. Artesian of New York's Wolf Reports rightly calls the recent plethora of anti-austerity parties modelled on a left Keynesianism of resuscitated, benevolent social democratic states, as ones based on the illusion of "re-imagined profit". These parties really do believe in the 'neutrality' of bourgeois parliamentarism (to banally describe on purpose in the crudest of terms) meaning that all great changes will be ushered in from on top with the aid of some formalised pressure from below. It is an old, old, sad story that has constantly failed. It's even more pathetic now when the parliamentary terrain is utterly colonised by an all powerful financial elite that cannot remotely be shoved aside on what is essentially their land, their terrain. Every initiative apart from paltry asides will be checkmated. In fact it is even truer today that all meaningful movement must come from below and we must be relentless on this matter knowing the struggle will be difficult, beset with complications. This latter day misguided and pathetic faith in parliament can only mean repeat after repeat of the Myth of Sisyphus which ineluctably always embraces Orwell's "boot shoved in the human face forever."
Moreover this stupid embrace is occurring at the historical moment when the mechanisms of capitalist reproduction are reaching an impasse; where crucial revalorisation (to put it crudely) is becoming as rare as hens' teeth; where leverage/de-leverage is everywhere though 'healthy' boom is over and out, annihilated, kaput. In a way it's also noted even at the apex of the ponzi pyramid that nonetheless this death (a death that mustn't be named as such) must be constantly celebrated as something beneficial and healthy, (in passing is that why most people psychologically feel like death warmed up surviving on momentary inhalations of cosmic crack-like highs only to almost immediately sink into the depths of despair?) These new popular parties springing up everywhere on the rickety basis of "re-imagined profit" (in reality blown-up bouncy castles with holes in them) that don't even call for the end of capitalism, transition periods, or transitional measures and most certainly don't call for the withering away of the state, aiming as they do for an egalitarian, 'just' capitalism dispensing modest prosperity for all regardless of race, gender, creed or class. In the UK the 'theoretical' pundits of such measures are individuals like Owen Jones, George Galloway, George Monbiot and Seamus Milne who think that capitalism (a dressed-up version of 'Trad Dad socialism') can make such a readjustment. Of course capitalism can be manipulated and the 20th century was jam-packed with such experiment, Lenin even of the opinion in the age of growing giant world corporations that value no longer mattered and / or could be 'bent' to suitable ends. As for the "left Austrians" who dominate the TV channel Russia Today the proliferation of vast financial manipulation resulting in a world empire of fiat money implies capitalism has been hi-jacked by an oligopoly leading us to apocalypse and our only way out is via a combination of internet currencies and the hoarding of 'physicals' like gold and silver. So, at the very least, there's no supercession of the law of value here never mind anything like a coherent total revolutionary perspective.
For all these 'new' parties their bottom line involves a return to the "real economy" neglecting to mentioning that neo-liberalism came about in the early 1970s in response to a failing "real economy" (mainly big factory production units) in the highly developed world which simply weren't producing the amount of necessary surplus value required to keep 'the system' on an even keel. Moreover, rebellious workers especially in the UK were getting completely out of hand and needed to be punished though sadly these rebels –which included many refusenik non-workers - still lacked the wherewithal to really overthrow the capitalist mode of production per se, though they were heading unevenly towards that glorious new frontier. Thus casino capitalism aided and abetted by speculative Minsky's Moments became the official means to overcome some of this dilemma and, in calmer retrospect, not quite a good versus evil problematic whereby the economy was simply and brutally hi-jacked by malevolent forces even though Thatcherism and Reaganomics sure as hell felt like that. And with it the working class was outsourced, seemingly abolished only to return in the form of a 'new' mass proletarianisation inherited from all classes. Specifically in the UK, class has never to be mentioned again just at the moment the hellish divide of the social apartheid has been recreated all over again minus the social democratic embellishments that once made such a situation just to say tolerable.
So why can't we return to these good ole' times, even to the rebellious 1970s and early 1980s? Moreover, isn't neo-liberalism a contradiction a terms, an oxymoron having little in common with the former 'free' economic liberalism that ruled throughout much of Europe and America in the 19th century? Today isn't neo-liberalism a vast manipulated, life support machine inextricably combining the state, giant banks and the vast world corporations? As Larry Eliot said (that everything to everybody Larry Eliot) in the Guardian on the 28th of August 2015, "financial markets are by no means free. They are, on the contrary, one of the last bastions of socialism left on earth."Apart from the fact the life support machine is on its last osteo-arthritic legs and the Minksy Bounce has become a grotesque parody of what it formerly was, a 1950s stimulus to the "real economy" helping boost a flagging industrial capitalism. What we have now is an unreal-cum-real economy of never ending bubbles preserved in aspic where that endless stream of printed money known as Quantative Easing is "subject to the law of diminishing returns" where there'll never be a 'normal' in markets again, though war (basically a war for TTIP markets) in all its grim brutal over-reality is never-ending, possibly tipping into conflagrations of unbelievable magnitude, existing side-by-side with another tipping point, runaway global warming massively enhanced by runaway financial speculation. An era where trade wars and currency wars are inseparable from super-power proxy wars inevitably leading towards the final apocalypse of a third world war.
This really is becoming impossible to live with hence the slew of sentimental 'radical' parties from Syriza to Podemos to a re-vamped Labour party all of which embrace the essentially mystical belief that it's still possible to revive left Keynesianism within a still functioning capitalism; one where we will have full employment even on the cusp of unparalleled automation where every person could carry around with them portable DIY factories of 3D printers producing what they need and where huge swathes of professional careers have been robotised out of existence where over the next 3 decades 50% of the work force will be automated. In short, that blurring of work and leisure whereby all potential for social autonomy disappears as human beings gradually become machine-like automatons. Moreover, an impasse where all value has run-out where there's little room for any wealth redistribution. A do or die situation. Either the "do" of a radical, truly autonomous, anti capitalist revolution from below quickly spreading throughout the world or else, literally to die in many varied, even exquisitely excruciating ways, through combinations of mass famine, the war of one against all, plus suffocation, poison, paranoia and neuroses, the sickness unto death, etc, etc., all beyond the humanely bearable. This is the on-going backdrop to our present epoch when capitalism in its death throes has been placed on a Ponzi-oriented life-support machine of leveraged buy-outs of stock market shares, globally-hiked property markets, plus the soaring price of anything which pace Duchamp is recalibrated as art, meaning the planet has become aestheticised from head to toe.
WHOA..................ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK(SY)!!
The outcome of Debord's sickness query has become a universe of fictive capital to the nth degree which has become inseparable from fictive creativity whereby permanent performance becomes the lynch pin of an increasingly inauthentic, hence unworkable and increasingly unbearable, everyday life. It as though the negative has been taken away from us, even extinguished or, so enmeshed with its affirmative opposite that it's become impossible to disentangle. Confusion really has created its own masterpiece; the masterpiece of an increasing abyss. Hence Banksy.
With Banksy we have: An art that is anti art seemingly beyond the realisation and negation of art / An anti-capitalist ultra-capitalism / The non-corporate corporate as his often telling street graphics morph into corporate praxis / a corporate subversion / Anarchy with a PR rep straight from Hollywood / An ultra-commodified anonymity / The clandestine guerrilla of subversive millionairing / Disappearance and invisibility as great career moves / Anonymous guerrilla action becoming a personality cult, an innovative publicity gimmick, etc, etc.,..... Enormous contradictions which are seemingly endless. Now without the promise sparked by an overpowering and recent profound subversive moment in the immediate past (as May '68 was in France along with the rest of the remarkable subversive moments elsewhere throughout the world around the same time) it is now necessary to invent the apparition of one along with the ghostly secondary reappearance of its own fictive aftermath. With 1968 the moment of true, radically clear-headed and profound anti-art was remarkably short lived petering out by the turn of the 1970s. In no time a cynical compromise was obscenely set-up which helped keep the old world intact as seemingly daring innovation quite quickly acquired low key back-up from washed-up curators – almost fatally wounded by 1968 - and their well-off sponsors. Everything then changed in order to remain the same.... Unfortunately today we don't have any stunning, inspiring examples of authentic anti-art vandalism pointing to a new world. Instead, in its place, there's right wing, fascistic, (even anti-Semitic) bullshit scrawled on gigantic, banal, trophy neo-sculptures and the like, comments that aren't going anywhere, mere expressions of growing barbarism.
Banksy has a kind of Magritte-like talent and many of his pieces are very witty indeed causing startled passers-by to think more generally about how bad and lost things really are. For that simple fact alone he is way ahead of the vast majority of street neo-artists into mere banal decoration advertising little more than their own signature. There too the real conflict begins as Banksy sells vacuity back to the rich cynical shit-heads who administer (though hardly control) this dire state of affairs. No wonder he is hated by the rank 'n' file tags and pieces crew most of whom are honest though lost individuals who often never get out of trouble no matter how old they inevitably become, (see our account elsewhere on the RAP web, Bradford's Eco-Peterloo. The Life and Death of Bill Posters). Regarding the latter guy, it has to be said the early wall writings of Fisto are way beyond anything Banksy has been capable of, conjuring up some of the brief but real subversive spirit of the late 1960s, après the event.
Without much further ado let's simply place here a few pointed facts about this super-hyped figurehead, this epitome of the hip neo-liberal persona whereby 'active creativity' is one of the most potent sales pitches...
Holly Cushing, Banksy's manager since 2007 used to work for Hollywood actor, Sean Penn. Financial records show she set up the limited company called Dismaland with Simon Durban who is thought to be Banksy's accountant. Sean Penn opposed the 2004-7 Iraq war and the war on terror. He was on friendship terms with Chavez and Raoul Castro. He stood with Chavez when the latter supported President Assad against the uprising of 2011-12; an 'uprising' that is now so confused after the surreptitious intervention of the world's super powers, that it's become just another horrendous calamity. Penn also served time for assaulting a photographer and allegedly tied his then wife Madonna to a chair and then beat her. (Comment: One crazy mixed-up engagee "swimming pool red" type actor. Typical pro sub-Bolshevikh without a relevant critique of contemporary capitalism nevermind an edgy critique of superstardom in general).
Banksy prints are released by Picturesonwalls, or POW, which is a London based (E1 not Bond St – where else?) gallery who represent Banksy. The gallery's logo is skull and crossbones, one of the crossed bones; decorators (not artists) paint brushes. (Comment: Decorators' brushes indeed! HAH! Banksy could never have worked in the rough and tumble of building sites for years – never mind decades – on end. He would have found too much authentic truth and beauty there; one that is full of laughter and game playing; one that really subverts the grotesque artistic ego which is especially horrendous today in the epoch when art was declared dead decades ago.)
Grey Fox is a PR company used by Banksy along with Pest Control which provides certificates of authentication. According to Jack Kresler of Christie's, London "Pest Control is the sole governing authority; it's the mouthpiece of the artist". It is said of Pest Control "they seem to have an active policy of discouraging dealers buying and selling". Forget about buying a work legitimately from the artiste - on the website of Pest Control there currently is "something/nothing available".
Today Christie's / Sotheby's Phillip de Pury sell only signed prints. Banksy is estimated by Forbes to be worth $20million. In New York's Village Voice he stated, "commercial success is a mark of failure for the graffiti artist." (Comment: $20 million ...and the rest! Who Ur Kidding! However, in fairness to Banksy there's still more of a human being in his soul than there is among the those truly fabulously rich, recent Internet moguls who have nothing but contempt for the Californian poor: one such CEO describing them as "grotesque...degenerate, trash." Internet Company CEO's rather younger than Banksy often in the mid 20s to the mid 30s at the oldest, who are into billionairing despising the paltry millionaring which Banksy represents. People like Travis Kalanick of Uber, Joe Gebbia & Brian Chesky of Airnb, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Keven Systrom of Instagram along with uber-pirates like 'rebel' Kim.dotcom...and the list goes on and on!!!!!)
Banksy has a seemingly casual attitude to copyright encouraging the reproduction of his work for your own personal amusement, so it's with "regret" that he finds himself having to say whether pieces are real or false. A framed print appeared on Banksy's website the day after his 2007 exhibition at Sotheby's when his work soared well above the auctioneer's estimates. The caption on the print, which shows auction goers bidding up prices, reads, "I can't believe you morons actually buy this shit". (Comment: In the immortal words of that wonderful sarcastic tart, Mandy Rice Davies, "Well, he would say that, wouldn't he." Banksy is very aware of the great creative hole at the heart of everything today and working in and through an ever increasingly desperate nihilism, sells the emptiness back to the "1%" in real style. Even intuitively aware of the "theological capers of the commodity" (Marx) Banksy becomes a fascinating, phantom God of Emptiness fronted by the sheer worship of money).
Banksy set up a pop-up stall in New York's Central Park selling 100% authentic original signed Bansky canvasses for $60 apiece. 2 buyers bought three works whose real value was estimated to be $200,000. The pop up stall was meant to be a comment on capitalism, authenticity and the art market. Banksy signs a water tank overlooking the Pacific, the caption reading "THIS LOOKS A BIT LIKE AN ELEPHANT." The tank became an instant tourist attraction, a media design firm instantly buying it from the city of Los Angeles with plans to remove it and sell it. A homeless person was living in it and when Banksy found out, he gave the homeless man money to buy an apartment and refused to authenticate the work. It crashed in value ending up in a scrap yard. (Comment: All very clever, smart stuff making out he's anti-money and generous to the poor when basically Banksy is a ruthless, inauthentic manipulator. In reality Banksy had to look at his projected image first and foremost and in order to keep his 'subversive' prestige intact he couldn't do anything but buy a gaff for this homeless guy. Evidently when he wants rid of somebody - i.e. if they criticise him - Banksy pays them off handsomely. When people get rid of us occasionally for ordinary, though usually accomplished building work, etc., they invariably rip us off refusing to pay up a damned penny. So which is the more real experience?)
Regarding copyright, there is now on-going hostility between Banksy and the French neo-artiste, Blek Le Rat who way back was influenced by the ubiquitous screen prints from the uprising of May 1968 particularly the well known simplified stencils of CRS riot police. Banksy has a similar obsession with coppers as most graffiti neo-artists understandably do. His Kissing Coppers daubed on the walls of a Brighton pub sold for $575,000 in 2014. (Comment: This really is a maimed expression of the poetry made by all falling back into the old copyright scene beloved of a culture scene on steroids. Down at the bottom where we are located we freely take from each other in and out of collective effort and individually unequivocally glad to see an idea you once had bearing fruit elsewhere. This is not a rip-off as money making doesn't come into it. What galls us is seeing time and again our ideas constantly ripped-off, used and abused in the media –mainly via journalistic scum – who don't ever have the decency to mention the source, though would do so if the source was part of the official hierarchy culled from some frikin' fink who invariably props up the system in one way or another. Banksy, of course knows who we are and therefore his real Elephant in the Room minus the William Morris wallpaper).
Banksy filed for trade mark protection with UK's Intellectual Property Office. (Comment: It looks as though Banksy did this to stop his brand being used to market cleaning products: i.e. "Banksy cleaning fluids, get rid of stains and graffiti the easy way" etc, etc. Recently a good internet reply on Banksy read: "He's a guy who says that until the inevitable collapse of capitalism we should all go shopping. He'll be advertising County Life butter next alongside Johnny Rotten". However that would reveal his identity. Or maybe not; in fact an even more obscure though tantalizing anonymity could be the cleverest of sales pitches. Doubtless Banksy wouldn't be as dumb as to feel sorry for the Royal Family as a rotting Rotten now does. But you never know as Banksy is now shaking in absentia hands with absolute finks like Damien Hurst who acted out his part in Dismaland. Even the Financial Times rather smartly said of Banksy, "The stencils provide the marketing; the gallery walls the cash flow, a virtuous cycle of profit and publicity". Too right- this really is how he keeps his 'virtue' and street cred).
In June 2015 Banksy's Silent Majority spayed onto the side of a mobile home during the 1998 Glastonbury festival sold for £ 445,000. The rest of the caption reads, "It's better not to rely too much on silent majorities -for silence is a fragile thing- one loud noise and it's gone" (Comment: Like so much of Banksy's 'serious' statements wat da fuk does this mean? Empty nonsense. Banksy's trajectory has been to gradually mould genuine subversion into a hip form of avant-garde neo-liberalism, part of that "terrifying subtle" syndrome previously mentioned in regard to the dismal reality of corporate totalitarianism. His comments sound so deep and yet are no more than a return and reinstatement of gallery product, a having your cake and eating it post modernist vacuity so typical of the hip neo-liberal individual. In late August 2015, Banksy said of Dismaland, "It doesn't so much ask the question, 'What is the point of art now?' as ask, 'What is the point in asking, "What is the point in art now?" Again: wat da fuk does this mean?) If Banksy really wanted to create a stink even at this late stage in his meteoric career – one that would rock-on down through the years – he could turn on his big money aesthetes by simply getting a gang together to trash one of their rich condominiums – and issuing a lucid statement alongside an example of coherent vandalism and anti art subversion.....But he won't do that, will he???)
Banksy's Folkestone piece was vandalised in August 2015. Entitled Art Buff', it showed a middle age woman wearing headphones, hands clasped behind her back, gazing in worshipful awe at an empty plinth. It was hardly knowing vandalism, the attacker painting an erect penis on the plinth, Folkestone Council anti graffiti squad rapidly moving in to clean the "obscene" addition off the hallowed spot in the grounds of a local park. Art Buff's estimated value is reckoned to be £300.000 and had created a surge in tourist numbers visiting Folkestone Triennial Festival. It can be reckoned a try out for what would happen on a much bigger scale in Weston-super- Mare. Tracy Emin is attempting to pull off a similar stunt in Margate. (Comment: What the guy who vandalised Art Buff should have done is put a crude cut out figure on the plinth with Banksy stencilled over the figure. Now that would be a really cutting edge and a real contribution which could help revive the essential revolutionary critique of art. As for Tracy Emin: Well, she won't get anywhere as like all the rest of the dumb fuk, contemptible YBA's of the mid to late 1990s they simply didn't have a clue as regards a developing subversive critique of the totality. Most were Blairite New Labour in persuasion, though Emin quickly returned to the Kentish Tory fold. Present day hip neo liberalism, on the nervous edge of disintegration needs attributes and responses far more advanced. A figure like Banksy is just the ticket able in his Dismaland A3 brochure to include strains of South West England anarchism (which is indeed better than most contemporary anarchisms) plus ASLEF oriented rail workers' strikes that significantly don't involve an essential critique of unions which was so prevalent in France Goes Off The Rails.
Basically Banksy represents the ultra recuperation of people like us, indeed even to the very core of our beings who of necessity engage in a praxis which encompasses an often hour by hour clandestinity, endlessly engaging in disappearing 'tricks' simply to keep the heat off our backs of an everyday life where almost by rote, you are ever looking over shoulders for filth, security guards and the like, ever repeating to yourself Brecht's dictum, "No, no, never, never answer the door." As for ourselves we carry on belonging to something like William Blake's and Samuel Palmer's Society of the Ancients. Ah, and then the BIG difference: Banksy turns creative moments into art and cultural specialism's acceptable to a virulently moribund status quo, utilising essential disappearance tactics as a PR stunt, who in a flash becomes a commodified Houdini or more potently, a commodified Jack Shepherd who vanishes from the arms of the military on the way to Tyburn Tree... and all to the wonderment of a captive, passive audience.....
The changing tenour of the times worked behind our backs. Not only couldn't we exist through any professional career or role, ineluctably along with others, we more and more distanced ourselves from all counter, oppositional milieus, anarchist, ultra-leftist, situationist, etc., if only because we were unable to fit in with the increasingly rarefied, hot-house temperatures such groups thrive on, remote from that essential: a turbulent but real everyday life in and among all those who increasingly just to say exist, clinging-on at the sharp end as we endlessly disappeared into the disintegrating masses. And, needless to say, light years away also from academic theorists no matter how interesting some of their ideas might be who immediately tend to shame us by pulling rank castigating inadequate use of the English language, etc. Moreover, the type of creeps WHO NEVER GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY, most needing a good haymaker to the jaw to bring them back within the realm of acceptable behaviour. Permanent night and day occupancy of that by now very unfashionable coal face - as it were – always but always makes all the difference in the world.....)
And so to Dismaland
That buffoon art critic Jonathan Jones (Now that's a guy who really does hates us) today looks askance at employee strikes in 'venerable' institutions like the National Gallery (and incidentally no different to another buffoon name of Anthony Gormley who also doesn't support such strikes) said in the Guardian, 22nd of August 2015- obviously needing to brush-up his tarnished image - opportunistically goes a bit situationist in "all that is false about Banksy" launching an attack on Dismaland in Weston- super-Mare, saying: "It claims to be 'making you think' and above all to be defying the consumer society, the leisure society, the commodification of the spectacle, Disneyland packages dreams, Dismaland is a blast of reality." This is ironical seeing Banksy's ideas were sufficiently grounded in King Mob (without Banksy ever having the decency to mention such an excrescence) having purposefully lived for many a year during the 1970s next to the huge Same Thing Day after Day, etc., graffiti on the Hammersmith & City tube line as well as more recently probably having taken note of the original English SI, Charlie Radcliffe inspired, Disneyland piss-take poster seeing it was finally posted on the RAP web only a year or so ago having been lost in a Newcastle –upon-Tyne attic for many a decade.... For sure we do realise that Banksy has been playing with the theme of Disneyland for many a year having, among other things, clandestinely placed a life-sized replica of a Guantanamo detainee in Florida's Disneyland which took 90 minutes for security to remove. But did Banksy know of another transcendental collective precedent and one that wasn't about bigging up a star in the making? Again in some pamphlet of ours (quite forget which) we recounted the great invasion of the Florida site by a bunch of yippies around 1970 who imaginatively vandalised and re-arranged many an exhibit including the exquisite re-shooting of a then cranked-up, mechanised Abe Lincoln. Attacked and beaten up by security guards most of the insurgents did however manage to make an anonymous escape, so we'll never know anything more about such a creative high as, for sure, it was brilliant. And seeing we mention Newcastle, on the one hand, isn't Dismaland merely a surreal variant of sculptural post modernist attempted city regeneration not that different to Gormley's stuffy and obnoxious Angel of the North meaning oodles of money will pour into the decaying seaside town of Weston-super-Mare for a short period of time? And then: Nothing!
On the other hand, isn't Dismaland little more than the extension of a Fluxus art event or happening in say the mid 1960s waning in comparison with the direct, clued-in, provocative intervention that can start a prairie fire; detonating a chain reaction throughout an awakening population that means real active rebellion is simmering even if not yet coming to the boil? Isn't Dismaland just an alternative passive tourist attraction that doesn't set the processes of real liberation in motion? All Dismaland is doing is bigging-up the flagging careers and sales expectations of somewhat outré neo-artistic specialists; a further boost if you like to repeat after repeat of neo-punk phenomena. Moreover most of these neo-artists assembled here don't even make their own rubbish as that onerous task is farmed out to skilled crafts people no doubt sufficiently deferential to the neo-liberal, neo-cultural reality. As for other 'cultural' fields, not for nothing has Banksy selected the anti-Putin, Pussy Riot that came out of the worldwide protests of 2011. Of course these gals were / are brave and their account of the 'new' Gulag is fascinating and harrowing but typically they have been taken up by western celeb' culture which, like all cutting edge critique from Russia since the late 1960s the protagonists somehow cannot see through. As for home-grown territory, well, of course, it had to be Sleaford Mods, who in the performance shop window are so anti PC that, "fuck" "shit" "cunt" spills over in every other lyric? And while we are into the obligatory swearing, it would seem similar fucking cunts going by the name of Rawfolds (named after the desperately heroic Luddite attack on Rawfolds Mill near Bradford around 1817) perhaps weren't invited and West Hartlepool's Kill the Poets, it seems have gone soft on the stage. (Is it necessary here to mention Apollinaire's initial, anti-cultural Assassinate the Poets epigrammatic call to arms in what was once an anti-art North East?)
The banal realisation of so much of what was once the uncorrupted negative at the heart of capitalism, things like power to the people, education for all, free medical care, etc., and which later was to include Lautreamont's great dictum: "the poetry made by all and not by one" were sullied from the get-go through certain lamentable lapses and badly thought through arguments. In Lautreamont's case it was the deployment of that damned word POETRY which superficially can mean everybody becomes an artist as understood in all its present day banality minus the essential transcendence of art. Perhaps it can be said great subversives were also scared of themselves policing their deepest insights through lack of clear explanations, lapses that late capitalism could ruthlessly accommodate decades later, lacking as these 'seers' often did, a razor sharp cutting edge that could counter all future dissimulation. (To take one example, hadn't Andre Breton decades ago condemned Isodore Ducasse for hiding behind the "execrable" aristocratic name of the Comte de Lautreamont even though it was probably Ducasse's play on the image of the amazing Lord Byron?) Equally it could be said, how on earth could Rimbaud delete these following lines from his final version of A Season in Hell? "Now I can't stand mystical beliefs and stylistic strangeness. Now I can say art is folly. Our great poets just as easily: art is folly. Hail beauty." !!!!!!!!! remembering that final breathtaking phase, "Hail beauty."
In between there's the missing link: In 1986 - the time of France Goes Off The Rails - the Internet in any real mass sense did not exist so little could we realise that nearly three decades later billions of individuals would create their own artistic / performance-oriented persona despite meaning sweet fuk all, least of all as expression of genuinely individual-cum-mass creative, active impulses.
Firstly however, we must acknowledge and honour those truly courageous, creative geeks; those socially engaged hackers etc., many of whom have ended up in jail having remained true to the original utopian promise inherent in the early years of the Internet. There's also many a stirring blog out there and surely we are all grateful for that. Moreover, it could be said we're hypocritical here as we've also created webs to get our unacceptable ideas across, though we've had little choice in the matter, seeing that the once reasonably common alternative bookshop that stocked our pamphlets has, with hyper-gentrification of bricks and mortar, disappeared eons ago. Many too are the individuals who've promised to publish our tracts in dead tree format, most also disappearing in a puff of smoke (and mirrors) usually after a bout of hi-jacking.
The evolution of the Internet has been clever and ominous at one and the same time. Given a quick start on the back of great utopian hopes of liberation, like freedom from money and the constraints of political economy in general, a fledgling internet never amounted to anything like a critique of political economy in the sense Marx or Bakunin would have grasped it. It did though embrace a subversive, freewheeling life style emanating from American late 1960s counter culture. Fifty years later and that counter culture in California's Silicon Valley has been turned inside out pointing not towards the abolition of wage labour, money, value, the state and commodity production but to its exact opposite: an ever expanding plutocratic nightmare even worse than the robber baron phase of mid to late 19th century America as we head towards a new feudalism of digital billionairing and analog beggars. A place where the Internet magically floats outside of time, space and history – an unplace – far removed from a suffering but vibrant, somewhat egalitarian everyday life which still just to say, exists among those at the sharp end. Their ideal is an aesthetic psychogeography of trophy architecture on fabulously false, off-shore islands, floating 'utopias' with a nod towards Charles Fourier, never forgetting that Los Angeles was founded in the mid 19th century on the shell of a Fourierist commune; Nowadays and Straight Outta Compton these are Zanadu's of cyberspace cast adrift on silent seas forlorn, only to be then filled-up with money-mad geeks cut-off from churlish street shit.
Yes, these Internet innovators were finally able to market revolt; nay make it their lynchpin; the unclub, the anti-establishment establishment, disruption as the motor of billionairing where Cool has also morphed into its opposite becoming the orthodoxy of networking........ Inevitably the aforementioned unplaces had to be horrifically re-invented meaning late 1960s counter cultural festivals like Burning Man in the Nevada's Black Rock Desert have become low profile but hyper-capitalised events served-up by celebrity chefs with everybody of 'importance' billeted in air-conditioned yurts. Elsewhere in San Francisco, Twitter's new downtown plush but casual looking office has a dining area sickenely named The Commons replete with gourmet cuisine. Truly what the old French Situationists acutely divined, "We are on the same path as our enemies" is even truer, heading towards a destination – pace a slogan of the May '68 uprising - where "Everything is Permitted" or, rather, it's cool to smash up everything, and rip off everybody but where money, status and the new informal, casual uber-elites of "disintermediation" – whatever that means - are worshipped.
As for France Goes Off The Rails, perhaps the most incisive graffiti of December 1986 - in retrospect pointing so brilliantly and ominously to a darkening future - is simply "ISOLATED......KILLED OFF" and the real anthem for future doomed youth vis-a-vis having no future. An unravelling where instead of autonomy, the automaton is taking over via the loneliness of an ultra-commodification so intense that societal autism is plumbing new depths of depersonalisation disorder characterised by privatised narcissism masquerading as isolated 'perfection', making, in comparison, The Lonely Crowd of 1950s radical American sociology appear as warmish conviviality. Thus we remain "alone together" via an Internet where "the more we connect and communicate the lonelier we become." (Keen)
And yet such praxis is cleverly disguised by a re-wiring of business behaviour appearing to give everything away for free via an innovative "personal revolution", reimagining oneself as aesthetic substance when it's all about filthy lucre, where the personal is the economic, where narcissism and generalised autism merge; a selfie-centered delusion. In an age lousy with celebrities, everybody can be deluded into thinking they are an artistic genius just at the moment of utter artistic bankruptcy. All is promo; a gift economy where profits are only for awe-inspiring Internet plutocrats; where the poetry made by all masks and becomes the grim fact that contrary to appearances, everyone is clouded in obscurity as every laughable 'creative' is shaken down and devastated. It means that a vast proletarianisation and dispossession is underway endlessly trashing the millions of re-imagined artists, writers, photographers, sculptors, dancers, singers, musicians and what have you all lined-up to be symbolically offed, offed and offed again......... One day hopefully all these schmucks will awaken to the giant con they've been subjected to and unfortunately believed in. And then maybe – just maybe – we can have a real ball the like of which no contemporary reimagining could possibly match. Roll on Utopia. "Hail beauty"........
Above is a poster put out by Charlie Radcliffe of the English section of the SI around 1966-7. Also true for King Mob a little later it can be said we always collectively deployed filth and the worst of lavatory humour in provoking pertinent anti-capitalist points of view, hence the dollar signs beamed from the fairy castle in the background. In comparison Cinderella's upturned coach is much more acceptable in Banksy's Crash (below) at Dismaland in Weston-super-Mare...
Above: A further pertinent comment by the German 'valueist' Robert Kurz made just before he died in 2012. This one was painted on a Bradford wall in West Yorkshire and was instantly rather incompetently painted over (below) by some gimp with a mind totally owned by pig shit thick authorities. It's pertinent because it exposes in a very specific way the present day follies of re-imagined parliamentary economic re-distributionists. For sure nobody of any real calibre wants to see the end of social housing or the National Health Service - as badly as they have been constructed even under a form of social democratic under capitalism - but it does mean we have to fight more and more realistically in taking over these services at whatever pace, one to be more and more administered by people at the sharp end; one which transcends the disintegrating paradigms of a capitalist mode of production, and one which can envisages the transcendence of money.