Below is the text of the lecture On Cybernetic Capitalism by Bob Parks. The lecture was part of our series of cafés, in which members of our network talk about their work. In this café, Bob argued his point that, with the death of Modernism after the First World War, and the subsequent realisation that everything is art, we might be able to throw off the yoke of big capital, actualised through Cybernetic Capitalism, by recognising the Black Aesthetic, culture developed nearly from scratch after the destruction of the past by colonialism through slavery, as through which this could be put in practice.
Using the technological tools of cybernetic capitalism, guided by the Black Aesthetic, we might be able to come together in a context that is spiritual, not material, and pursue a kind of World Government, built from the ground up.
Published for the first time, in French, in September 2001, The Cybernetic Hypothesis is not a critical text dealing with computers and cell phones, the internet and the web, social networks, the capitalism of surveillance, and the new digital economy. Neither does it focus on immaterial workers and the post-industrial society, artificial intelligence and biotechnologies, facial recognition and deep learning, robots and transhumanism. Instead, the text tries to grasp what these concepts have in common at their root, in addition to looking at what has shaped and defined the world in which we live since the Second World War, and what has been our everyday experience of it.
I will cast my vision and understanding in the context of Cybernetic Capitalism, where, seemingly, the only way to override this all-encompassing contemporary everything is to panic. However, instead of warranting an individualistic response, it is collaboration where the arts are heading, meaning that its application is within a societal level of cooperation.
Say, like a herd of gazelles in the open savanna, rather than in an enclosed space, like in a crowded room.
Cybernetics came to England in the ’40s and ’50s, and to America in the ’60s where it became data-spawning computers, and, eventually, mobile phones. Turning into the digitalisation of capitalism, this has facilitated a kind of brainwashing, a direction taken, particularly from the ‘60s onward, eventually embracing this consumer-abuse to its fullest extent.
I believe that our way out from this self-imposed entrapment is not to panic, but through the Black Aesthetic, and, we need to expose the criminal which lies hidden, protected, and unaccounted.
This is a process of exorcism, in a sense, engendering a need to liberate us from what we have become. And once this bubble is burst, we can return to the question of the duality between reality and actuality, and uncontaminated consciousness.
But first we must identify the villain, the shape of capitalism as it has taken form.
Acid Communism was the proposed title and last substantial philosophy of the late Mark Fisher. The conceptually unfinished nature of Acid Communism left a debate and hypothesising about the nuances of the concept. This lack of clarification has also had an unfortunate side-effect, with people taking the idea of “Acid Communism” at face value.
Acid Communism is not a doctrine of hippy-esque communal living and psychoactive drugs. The commune, and psychoactive substances, have a role to play in the philosophy of Acid Communism, but Acid Communism is not a valorisation of a hedonistic, hallucinogenic culture.
Instead, Fisher distilled his complex ideas into brief but powerful summaries. Specifically, Hauntology as the understanding that the future has been cancelled, and Capitalist realism as the belief that there is no alternative to capitalism.
Acid Communism leaves us with a simple message; The future has been cancelled because we are unable to imagine anything other than the present. To invent the future, to escape our myopia, we have to go beyond the present bounds of our imagination.
This is Acid Communism.
In which I say “I support the invasion of Ukraine”. Or is that just the meaning you give to what I say?
The Impressionists liberated colour to discover that everything that we see is colour, only. So, by embracing colour over content, everything becomes possible to paint, because, simply, everything we see is colour.
The Symbolists sourced the inner world rather than the external world of colour. So, thoughts, in their directly communicable sense, are in words. As our thoughts are everything in our inner world, whichever form they take, be it visions, music, etc, expressed and communicated by words, in the same way everything is colour for the Impressionists, everything is thought, through words, for the Symbolists.
So both words and colour as everything, become available through the Impressionists and Symbolists.
From this, Cezanne combined the two together in his Art, by introducing a metaphysical component. In his composition, when he moved a tree in a landscape, or put coins under a plate of fruit to vary their angle of vision, this was done through thoughts, words, to himself. And when Maurice Denis said that before a painting is a still life, it’s a flat surface covered with colours in a certain order, he was putting the stamp of approval on Cezanne’s metaphysical act, in the process of which we witnessed the birth of Modernism.
Then, Modernism is about the actuality in the painted surface, or picture plane, rather than its representation as reality. The story it tells us is an inner narrative.
The idea behind Modernism for me is the dream of World Government, but as its actual definition.
On an ideas level, Modernism didn’t survive the First World War, because if people are stupid enough to kill each other on a global level, and in order to uphold a vision, nobody wants to think about, or foster the ideal of, World Government.
Up to this point, Modernism had its hands on the pulse of actuality, because it was about something – the Nabis, Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Der Blaue Reiter, the Post Impressionists, Pointillism and Abstractionism – all examples of the actuality, but all these movements died with the First World War and the advent of Dada and the subsequent Surrealism into which it descended.
The Surrealist theorists were all communists. On a practical doing level rather than a just being level, although this persuasion might appear contradictory. But, contradiction is in the nature of spirituality, as here in the West, there is a lack of sufficient vocabulary to express oneself without apparent contradiction.
It was Pollock who said a tree doesn’t have to justify its existence, its just a tree. In a similar sense we as humans are beings, so everything becomes Art; How we breathe, how we move, how we walk, what we do, and how we touch, with this realisation eventually giving birth to Literalism. That is, literally, everything is Art.
Now I think the jury is very much out on whether or not this is actuality. For me this highlights the dichotomy between Syllogistic Logic and Symbolic Logic, where from the former you can make Universal Affirmatives and draw conclusions, whereas with Existential Affirmatives, as with Symbolic Logic, you cannot. Our activities are in the latter.
I think I drew away from the rigour of the academic hoops through which I was intended to jump for my MA seminar course in Modern English and American Literature, taking the wrong course into Symbolic Logic, learning how to ascribe mathematical value to punctuation and conjunctions, rather than simply improving my poor sentence construction. But this mis-step gave me an insight subsequently into the actuality of the written word, as a mark as opposed to its associated meaning.
There is an emerging philosophy from Los Angeles which is re-examining and questioning the subjectivity of existential affirmatives, but it’s mind glowingly complex and rather than get side tracked into an evaluation and explanation of its significance, suffice to say its blowing wide open (to put it relatively simply) the phenomenology of the written word and the new light it can shine, particularly in Performance Art re-evaluating the associated meaning of words (and in that, the object), in addition to its phenomenology. From the outset, self-mutilation and even death were an integral part of Performance Art.
Roughly it’s how the humanity of the Black Aesthetic feeds into this process and, through Walking Art, takes it away from reality into actuality and the lost course of Modernism.
The ‘60s was about adopting a non-artistic approach to Art and to assuming the role, according to the ‘30s philosopher Collingwood in The Principles of Art, of working to prevent the corruption of consciousness. With the demise of both the School of Paris in the ‘20s and ‘30s and the School of New York, which succeeded it, in the ‘40s and ‘50s, Modern Art has fragmented globally.
I’ve assumed the role, as a Performance Artist, of trying to bring together the many strands into which Modern Art has fragmented, and through that show how now it’s morphing into Walking Art, and back to the actuality of colour and thought, realising its manifestation as World Government.
Hopefully so far I’ve successfully made the point that colour and thoughts have freed themselves from association to become events in their own rights. Thus with colour, take the example of a cloud passing over a field where the shadow that is cast includes a hedge. For a 3-year old, this is read as a shape in itself without the association of the two labels. In that sense the child sees, in a more pure sense, its internal manifestation as a flat colour block as his vision (whatever ‘vision’ really is, with neuroscience at present thinking in terms of controlled hallucinations, all ‘vision’ being a construct in the head, and not in any sense what’s actually there.)
The process of perception is that which the ‘artist’ tries to do in order to identify the actuality.
So, if we look at a statement like ‘I support the Russian Invasion of the Ukraine’, hopefully I’ve painted a picture sufficiently powerful, whereby you can separate out its emotional overtones, and see it as just that which Cezanne would see, his morphing together of colour and words metaphysically into Modernism, such that this sentence can be seen as just marks on the picture plane, letters on this transcript, rather than being read with an associated meaning.
Why I use this as an example of how I believe Performance Art is morphing into Walking Art, and the possibility of the accompanying move from reality to actuality, becomes dense and complex and possibly indecipherable as a question but is nonetheless indicative.
What I do want to indicate is its social dimension as its potential World Government-ness.
Then, there’s the caveat of the Black Aesthetic, which I see as working in tandem with this process to make it work conceptually. Sufficient to say that without this additional element in place, the sense in which Malevich intended its use, that which is Performance Art, which for me has become a combination of Pollock’s Literalism and Stanislavsky’s Sensory Work, becomes about a unique gallery experience where those in attendance are fully aware, aesthetically, of what the Performance Artist is attempting, in order to empathise with the Performance itself.
This vicarious act is beyond entertainment, which the actor as a performer provides (because they are realising a role rather than doing it, while Method Acting modifies this considerably and is almost closer to Performance Art itself).
The added dimension Walking Art brings in, is of nearly 8 billion Performance Artists, world wide, potentially becoming the aesthetic, aided by what digital communication can bring to the table.
This means we’re shifting our focus to cyberspace, which, for me, is a somewhat dubious thing in relation with actuality as addressed in the context of The Cybernetic Hypothesis, as I mentioned above.
To complete the picture, I see the world, by Pollock’s definition, and tying-in with our ‘60s non-artistic approach to Art, as potentially nearly 8 billion Performance Artists, in Walking Art, addressing each other’s reality. In my example’s reality of ‘I support the Russian Invasion of the Ukraine’ within the context of how I’ve defined it, and thus by talking to each other, becoming the actuality of World Government itself or at least presenting the potential springboard or platform from which this could be meaningfully addressed.
This is with Malevich’s ‘additional element’ as the Black Aesthetic.
To illustrate this directive through reference to my own work, I want to introduce a number of slides that represent my practice, starting off with my poem called Mum’s Death. Here I have done the Impressionist/Symbolist thing of combining colour with word, like Cezanne, though I’m not in any way suggesting I share the Greatest Artist in Western Art’s genius, but to justify it as a concept would take another lecture. Sufficient to show it as a definition of what I am about.
Then a couple of my early works experimenting with the picture plane through words and colour suggestively.
On another slide a piss take on Sound Art I’ve just made which has resolved into a thing in itself.
I think the last slide of the Black Aesthetic, how it presents itself, and represents a possibility of something actual as that which, more than anything for me, constitutes the whole.
To clarify my argument, let me try to define the Black Aesthetic, and explain Existential Affirmatives, which I’ll do by way of anecdotes. But first let me say about Malevich’s ‘additional element’.
He says this is the ‘indecipherable part’, and with Cubism it’s the tadpole motif, something that characterises each style and makes it instantly identifiable. With Suprematism it’s the rectangle, Cezanne breaking down the picture plane and so on, which leads on rather neatly to the Black Aesthetic.
With the end of Modernism facing the World War One event this self-motivated self-destruction left a void to be filled by a whole people who’s history has been one of mindless persecution. Only nothing can bring back nothing to something, and even before the ’20s we saw the advent of the Black Voice. Drums were banned leaving the banjo, which evolved to the guitar in the Church. Blues and Jazz are different soul beats of.Gospel. Into the ’20s, and the million-record selling Black women blues singers, the country blues evolving to Soul and R&B, then in the ’60s a cross over that embraced white pop which in turn led to the world-wide phenomenon of Rap.
The Black Aesthetic has become universal and assumed the role of the deposed Modernism.
Bringing in Malevich’s ‘additional element’, or the active principle, let me share an anecdote which ties in my poem Mum’s Death.
Over 30 years I had 1000 murderous psychotic rages with Mum. We agreed that she would take them with her death. I went first to Haiti and met Max Beauvoir, the chief Voodoo priest Peristyle Mariani. Then, a year later,, in Ouidah, Benin, at the Annual Voodoo Festival, I got initiated.
Less than a year later I accidentally killed Mum in a car crash and it’s been 10 years no recurrence of my destabilisations.
The diagram shows the underpinning of the Black Aesthetic in The Psychogeographical R&B Soundspace of LA; California living out that which the rest of the world catches up on about 50 years later. The Trichotomy presents a working model of this process.
Regarding Existential Affirmatives, I was discussing WH Auden’s Master of Arts with John Ashberry. It’s a poem of the painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, once attributed to Breugel. You see this little figure splash into the sea foregrounded by a ploughman working. He draws a moral conclusion from the event.
Both the painting and the myth were made up. Whereas Aristotelean Syllogistic Logic cites actual things, expressions like Symbolic Logic, Formal Logic and Syllogistic Logic are all either synonymous, or have overlapping meaning or reference.
Sufficient to say John Ashberry had to admit Auden’s masterpiece poem was flawed.
With the advent of the anti-hero in Literature in the 19th into the 20th century one could longer claim a Universal Truth, and one had to start prefixing such statements with ‘in my opinion’, thus Generation X being labelled as moral relativists.
Enough said at this point in order to forefront the centrality of the Black Aesthetic at this time in history in the West, and possibly on a global level.
The stumbling block is racism. I believe the shape of my life’s journey has been shaped by my ongoing identification with the Black Aesthetic, which I would characterise as the Rhythm and Blues feeling.
My point about collaboration being a kind of antidote to panic, albeit within Cybernetic Capitalism, the individual must in the end be subsumed within the Collective and that perhaps can pave the way for the evolution of capitalism into communism.
Malevich said you can’t state the object (in The World as Objectlessness), which would destroy it, but only suggest it, and Stanislvsky’s protege Eugene Vaktangov said “He who perceives subconsciously and expresses subconsciously…that is genius”.
With these two great Russian thinkers, while Malevich was born in Kiev, I want to end the lecture and open it for questions. But first to conclude I’ll read the poem Mum’s Death with an added stanza:-
I Took Her Out
Even minor disappointment
was always the thing
That triggered off
these 1000 25 hour murderous
psychotic rages over 30 years.
Now 8 or 9 years on
I’m still liable to
being stressed out
When confronted with
the possibility. But it’s a
healing process and from
that time they’ve vanished.
A rich man
walks out of the sky
and I wonder why
Mum bore me into the world?
To illustrate my way of thinking, by way of a lighthearted joke:
What’s orange and like a parrot? A carrot.