Fluxion 4 Expanded Notes: Part 8

Spread from Fluxion issue 4

Abraham Lincoln observed that America was it’s own worst enemy:
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Hypocrisy is the new morality

Arrogance is the new patriotism

Intelligence is the new elitism

Freedom is the new fascism

I wrote these between 2003-2006 during the height of madness around the Iraq war and lingering fallout from the elections of 2000, 2004, 9/11 and the decline of the press and the rise of the ultra-right manipulation machine.

I was alarmed by the shift in meanings and actions, a perversion of language and words— the reversals of meaning.

By the time the issue was finally finished in fall 2008 (especially after the november 08 election) I was concerned that the whole issue was out-dated. I foolishly believed Obama’s election would lessen the bitter partisan downward spiral… but it has only radicalized it.

Now you have people on Fox opening calling Obama a racist and a Nazi. Seriously, what kind of logic is this anchored in?

Bush was called all those things too, and I see now how that was extreme, but he actually did things like suspend civil liberties, consolidate power, start wars under false pretenses, and approve torture…

What exactly do these people think Obama has DONE? Try to create national health care?

People blather on about “death panels” and what they are apparently too stupid to see is that the corporations are ALREADY everything that they accuse Obama of trying to create!

I was naively convinced that the national attitude would shift and the negativity would give way to a new (if cautious) optimism. And for an all too brief moment this seemed possible, but now, after the bank collapses, the economic recession continuing to deepen, and the frightening descent into lunacy of the right (and the utter lack of moderate conservative voices to step in) I realized all of this is even more relevant than ever…

The election of Obama has the Right foaming at the mouth… no lessons learned, just blame and lies. And on the precipice of genuine derangement.

This is a dangerous moment… if an disastrous event (real or manufactured) occurs we could find ourselves on the dark path toward a real new national fascism, or at the least a period of ultra polarized politics- a climate that typically yields little for the average citizen…

Hypocrisy IS the new Morality. And it is a warning.

What is fascism? Spread from Fluxion 4

The right is accusing Obama of being a socialist (humorously, in the Stalinist mold) and a fascist… this was a tactic of the Germany Nazi’s- accuse your enemy of what you yourself are doing.

But what really constitutes fascism?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines fascism as
“The domination of a government by corporations of the political right, combined with bellicose nationalism.”

According to Uberto Eco [ via Wikipedia ]Historical fascism includes:

The Cult of Tradition

Combining cultural syncretism with a rejection of modernism
(often disguised as a rejection of capitalism).

The Cult of Action for Action’s Sake
Which dictates that action is of value in itself, and should be taken without intellectual reflection. This, says Eco, is connected with anti-intellectualism and irrationalism, and often manifests in attacks on modern culture and science.

Disagreement is Treason
Fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action.

Fear of Difference
Which fascism seeks to exploit and exacerbate, often in the
form of racism or an appeal against foreigners and immigrants.

Appeal to a Frustrated Middle Class
Fearing economic pressure from the demands and aspirations of lower social groups.

Obsession With a Plot
And the hyping-up of an enemy threat. This often involves an appeal to xenophobia or the identification of an internal security threat.

Life is Permanent Warfare
There must always be an enemy to fight.

Contempt for the Weak
Although a fascist society is elitist, everybody in the society is educated to become a hero.

Selective Populism
The People have a common will, which is not delegated but interpreted by a leader. This may involve doubt being cast upon a democratic institution, because “it no longer represents the Voice of the People.”

Newspeak
Fascism employs and promotes an impoverished vocabulary in order to limit critical reasoning.

How much of this sounds familiar to recent events? All too much if you ask me!

and then there are these old chestnuts…

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of
state and corporate power.” —Benito Mussolini

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself.
That in its essence is fascism—ownership of government by an individual,
by a group or any controlling private power.” —President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“In manipulating information, we see a departure from classic fascism. Then it was ceaseless propaganda backed by spies and informers, to bind elite support and to mobilize masses—often using the new technology of radio. The friendly way is with monitoring (using opinion polls and focus groups) and ad hoc communications aimed at passive acquiescence. Faceless oligarchs manage the minds of elites via learned journals, the business press, and educational programs. They mystify and immobilize the masses via the hypnotic use of electronic media, mainly television.
Big government in alliance with big business: corporate authoritarianism that subverts constitutional democracy.” —Bertram Ross, Friendly Fascism

“Fascism under the guise of democracy is the rule of financial capital itself.”
“The East collapsed because it blindly believed Western utopian ideas of freedom of the individual. The West, on the other hand, survived because through its corporate logic it discreetly introduced a system of unconscious collective non-freedom.
The collapse of communism no longer means a permanent triumph of classical capitalism. In its core, capitalism has a tendency towards self-destruction. The fundamental self-destructive substance of capitalism, and its driving force is greed. It is a characteristic of greed that only appeases its hunger when it destroys itself.”NSK/Laibach

I almost wish we could just divide the country, but there’s no way to do it physically because everyone is intermixed…
but if the conservatives could have their Holy immigrant free-artless-white bread-Bible state somewhere… with no taxes, guns for everyone, whatever… at least the rest of the country could move forward.

At least I imagine that it could…
I can imagine that progressive America unchained by fringe conservative lunacy could actually be a better place.
A place where you could afford to go to the doctor, where you could buy a car that wasn’t built to become obsolete within two years, a place that wasn’t under the spell of corporate cannibals, where education was free and creativity rewarded.

A place where everything didn’t have to be a instant commodity.

but it’s a crazy fantasy… it’s not feasible at all. And if it were, it would probably lead to another horrifying confrontation…

It just all feels SO irreconcilable.
It’s sad.
Can we really step back from this looming disaster and find common ground, civility, and respect for one another? (conservatives and progressives)

Fluxion 4: Expanded Notes, Part 7

Longitude, Latitude, Infinitude

“…The last bit of Earth unclaimed by any nation-state was eaten up in 1899. Ours is the first century without terra incognita, without a frontier. Nationality is the highest principle of world governance—not one speck of rock in the South Seas can be left open, not one remote valley, not even the Moon and planets…

…Within the fractal complexities of actual geography the map can see only dimensional grids. Hidden enfolded immensities escape the measuring rod.”
—Hakim Bey (The Temporary Autonomous Zone)

The Fantastic World As seen from an ancient perspective

The arc of modern civilization, for all it’s achievements, has been distorted into the practice of making nothing out of something. The rich and powerful control almost everything, including us by proxy. The world and everything in it has been mapped in some form. There are no unknown mysterious places on the map anymore.

we live in a world dominated by knowns, limits and boundries. All owned by someone [else].
Do not step on the grass.
No trespassing.
Wait your turn.
Pay up-
or else.

With the advent of satellite technology the map closed completely in the 20th Century

No more frontiers

It seems this idea has crept off the map and into our imaginations too… as Hakim Bey has observed “imagination has been co-opted by the media”
also by corporate marketing of “cool” and their virtual monopoly on resources.

What space is left for art, for true individuality in a world of total commodity and the pathological pursuit of profit?

Unless that art or individualism itself fits into the revenue stream, nothing.

Nothing, except rebellion, transgression, petty theft and claims of psychic spaces, temporary spaces…

what we do have is what Bey called “Hidden enfolded immensities [that] escape the measuring rod.”

A multitude of horizons exist, not only in unseen mysteries of space by right here, in our everyday lives…

Map of the Universe

“Remember, we are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we’re so deeply interconnected with one another. Working on our own consciousness is the most important thing that we are doing at any moment, and being love is the supreme creative act.”—Ram Dass

X-Ray view of our newest Star, Sol

Map of the internet

One of the central ideas I wanted to invoke and contemplate in this issue of Fluxion was
The concept of temporary autonomous zone.

In his book TAZ (The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy and Poetic terrorism), Hakim Bey says “The map is closed, but the autonomous zone is open…”

Fluxion 4, Section 1 lead-in TAZ

When I was working on themes and ideas for the issue in 2003 it felt like the world was being turned inside out… for me, as I imagine for many, it was a time of a radical rethinking of everything. In some respects it was like starting over. I felt like I need to reeducate myself, that I had been frivolous in my life so far and painfully naive…

“Everything in nature is perfectly real including consciousness, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Not only have the chains of the Law been broken, they never existed; demons never guarded the stars, the Empire never got started, Eros never grew a beard. No, listen, what happened was this: they lied to you, sold you ideas of good & evil, gave you distrust of your body & shame for your prophethood of chaos, invented words of disgust for your molecular love, mesmerized you with inattention, bored you with civilization & all its usurious emotions. There is no becoming, no revolution, no struggle, no path; already you’re the monarch of your own skin–your inviolable freedom waits to be completed only by the love of other monarchs: a politics of dream, urgent as the blueness of sky.” —Hakim Bey

One of the primary themes became the map itself— looking beyond the obvious, realigning with aspects of the magical, the imagination, with our inherent power as creative individuals, beyond out capacity as consumers and beyond our credit limits.

From Wikipedia
In the formation of a TAZ, Bey argues, information becomes a key tool that sneaks into the cracks of formal procedures. A new territory of the moment is created that is on the boundary line of established regions. Any attempt at permanence that goes beyond the moment deteriorates to a structured system that inevitably stifles individual creativity. It is this chance at creativity that is real empowerment.

Fluxion 4, Public Space spread

There is no (or extremely little) legal public space for art or the voice of the individual.
Guerrilla artists (I’m not talking about gang taggers here) claiming space is an act of the creative Temporary autonomous zone… in the moments they are working, they are defying the grid and reframing the conversation through sheer force of their creative will…

I wanted to create visual statments that examined the concept of the map, of the grid in contrast to various cultural and conceptual phoenomena…


I incorporated a directional compass and a map grid as symbols for the restrictions of life and direction, based on Beys statement “The map is closed, but the autonomous zone is open.”
These symbols reoccur in various forms.
With the grid: incomplete, distorted, and eventually replaced by the more dynamic strange attractor. (more on that below.)

Scenes from Burning Man are another visual used to tie into the idea of the TAZ.

Fluxion 4, Overconsumption Spread


The concept of TAZ was first put into practice on a large scale by the Cacophony Society in what they called Trips to the Zone, or Zone Trips. One of their Zone Trips gave birth to Black Rock City, also called the Burning Man Festival.
Smart mobs and flash mobs are also examples of the concept of TAZ put into practice, if only very briefly.

It comes down to issues of control. Political, economic, reproductive, sexual, and psychic. The nature of the unorganized, underground, private, or short term public TAZ defies these controls. As Bey points out— like the map, revolution is closed, but insurgency is open.

Insurgency may be a misleading word these days. It now suggests only violence. Violence is a negative expression of this concept, but there are many positive forms, one of the most simple and surprising is the Dinner party…

“The highest type of human society in the existing social order is found in the parlor. In the elegant and refined reunions of the aristocratic classes there is none of the impertinent interference of legislation. The Individuality of each is fully admitted. Intercourse, therefore, is perfectly free. Conversation is continuous, brilliant, and varied. Groups are formed according to attraction. They are continuously broken up, and re-formed through the operation of the same subtile and all-pervading influence. Mutual deference pervades all classes, and the most perfect harmony, ever yet attained, in complex human relations, prevails under precisely those circumstances which Legislators and Statesmen dread as the conditions of inevitable anarchy and confusion. If there are laws of etiquette at all, they are mere suggestions of principles admitted into and judged of for himself or herself, by each individual mind…” —S. Pearl Andrews,
 The Science of Society (from TAZ)

Fluxion 4, TAZ spread

William S. Burroughs wrote extensively on the forces of conformity that would destroy the unique qualities of the individual in his novels, such as Naked Lunch, The Ticket that exploded, The Soft Machine,The Nova Express, Cities of the Red Night, and the Western Lands.

Fluxion 4, Magical Universe Spread

“In the magical universe there are no coincidences and
there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.”—William S. Burroughs

Fluxion 4, Ideas Not Ideologies spread

So much of our lives are controlled, limited by routines and work with room for little else. To any aspiring artist these limitations weigh heavily, and I can speak from experience that over time they siphon away so much creative energy that at the end of the day you just want to give up. But as artists we can can’t…
The TAZ offers a potential disruption of the routine. Even a little break from routine is exhilarating. To survive, to evolve, we must disrupt the routine whenever possible, even if we can’t break free from it.

In little ways over time we can alter this trend.
The scale of participation is the key to how far reaching the effects will be.

I used to dream of breaking free (in the traditional sense) but that no longer seems realistic.
I’m hopelessly in debt, my pay is attached directly to hours worked, and I have no other equity or resources.
I still aspire to economic independence (the the creative independence that comes with it), but remained tethered to obligations like paying the rent and food, not to mention paying down debt from past attempts to break free, for the foreseeable future.

What I CAN do is create my zine, make photographs, write this blog, connect the dots, host dinners, salons, write my representatives, get involved in any small way and engage
in civil conversation when ever possible….
These are little everyday little soul saving endeavors, mirco TAZs, like oxygen in a fish tank.

and through them anything is possible….

Fluxion 4, Drastic Change spread


“Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.

Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.”

—William S. Burroughs

Fluxion 4, Escape Velocity spread

“I feel that change, the mutation in consciousness…”

“I feel that the principal instrument of monopoly and control that prevents expansion of consciousness is the word lines controlling thought, feeling and apparent sensory impressions of the human host.”



“The forward step must be made in silence. We detach ourselves from word forms — this can be accomplished by substituting for words, letters, concepts, verbal concepts, other modes of expressions: for example, color. We can translate word and letter into color — Rimbaud stated that in his color vowels, words quote “words” can be read in silent color. In other words, man must get away from verbal forms to attain the consciousness, that which is there to be perceived at hand.”


look beyond the grid

to the fractal, the chaotic, to the dynamics of possibility

The Strange Attractor

The four “Attractors” bring order out of Chaos. They are part of a basic law of four— a “fractal of four.” The Universe has a fundamental pattern of fourfoldness throughout all scales of magnitude. When applied to Nature, including Man, the Law of Four manifests as the four attractors. These attractors balance entropy, providing order from out of chaos. When applied at the microcosmic level “the four” manifests as the four basic energies or forces: electro-magnetic, gravity, and the strong and weak forces. In human consciousness it’s the four functions of sensing, thinking, feeling and willing. —Wikipedia


“We need to escape from the deterministic influence of the point, circuit and torus attractors into the unpredictability of the Strange Attractor. This attractor is the basis of Self Organization. There is no apparent order at all to the actions of the Strange attractor. On the surface it appears to be pure Chaos, but nevertheless there is order of a subtle kind which only appears over time when looked at in the right perspective. Its analogy in consciousness is the willing function. Yet, when tied to Awareness—the Zero—it is spontaneous, unpredictable. It appears to be chaotic, yet it has order of a subtle, fractal kind.” —fractal wisdom.com An attractor is a set to which a dynamical system evolves after a long enough time. That is, points that get close enough to the attractor remain close even if slightly disturbed. Geometrically, an attractor can be a point, a curve, a manifold, or even a complicated set with a fractal structure known as a strange attractor.” —Fractalwisdom.com

“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it ‘creative observation.’ Creative viewing.”—William S. Burroughs
“In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas . . . a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed.”—WIlliam S. Burroughs

It is time for us to get off the grid altogether….

The TAZ is “utopian” in the sense that it envisions an intensification of everyday life, or as the Surrealists might have said, life’s penetration by the Marvelous. But it cannot be utopian in the actual meaning of the word, nowhere, or NoPlace Place. The TAZ is somewhere. It lies at the intersection of many forces, like some pagan power- spot at the junction of mysterious ley-lines, visible to the adept in seemingly unrelated bits of terrain, landscape, flows of air, water, animals. But now the lines are not all etched in time and space. Some of them exist only “within” the Web, even though they also intersect with real times and places. Perhaps some of the lines are “non-ordinary” in the sense that no convention for quantifying them exists. These lines might better be studied in the light of chaos science than of sociology, statistics, economics, etc. The patterns of force which bring the TAZ into being have something in common with those chaotic “Strange Attractors” which exist, so to speak, between the dimensions.— Hakim Bey (TAZ)

Find ways to disrupt your routine, create your own temporary autonomous zone (Micro) or seek and join (macro) ones you may find…open your mind to the unfolding hidden immensities of creativity…

Fluxion 4, Strange Attractor spread

At the intersection
of event,
memory,
and the subconscious—
a strange attractor—
a new map,
bursting with
possibility

Fluxion Issue 4: Expanded Notes- Part the Sixth

Art is Dead. Long Live Dada.Walter Serner
Spread from Fluxion Issue 4

During the time I was looking for a stylistic method to render my visual essays for Fluxion 4,
I heard about the large traveling retrospective exhibit on the Dada Movement.
It was a “Eureka!” moment.
Up to that point I was still unsure how to go forward with my ideas.
Dada was the answer.

The Dada movement (1916-1922) was a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals; passionate coverage of art, politics, and culture were topics often discussed in a variety of media.

Dada freed me up to be spontaneous, and to just do the layouts rather tan spend any more time trying to showcase the set of ideas I had compiled.

Leah Dickerson on Dada:
“I feel very strongly that this was a watershed moment in art,” Dickerson says. “And I think that you can argue that Dada of all the avent garde movements has had the greatest impact on contemporary art. So every time you see things like collage or montage or assemblage, all of those things have their origins in Dada. And I think that if you want to understand where we are today, it’s really important to go back and look at where these things came from.”

“Dada is a state of mind” Spread from Fluxion Issue 4
featuring the work of LA artist and filmmaker Dennis Woodruff.

“Post Post” Spread from Fluxion Issue 4

Based on what was happening in the world with the Iraq war, the (in my mind) criminal Bush regime getting re-elected, the ever advancing hegemony of the corporations, the rising tides of religious and neo-con fervor (READ: a new fascism) both in the US and around the world, Dada seemed like the perfect response.

“The beginnings of Dada were not the beginnings of an art, but of a disgust.”Tristan Tzara

I was already heavily featuring political graf artists like Eyeone and Make and it dawned on me that this kind of work is also interconnected. Everything started to fall into place.

“Grafitti is a lot like Dada. It is the anti-art of the 21st Century.” —Make

“Remix the Message” Spread from Fluxion Issue 4

I had agonized for three years on the slow pace of progress with the issue, and for once I was actually glad, as this approach seemed to tie the entire cultural criticism section together. It gave me a unified stylistic framework, and connected the current crises to so many similar ones fought in the past.

I really like linking ideas together… suggesting a tapestry of creativity that reflects and informs the culture and at it’s best guides it toward a better future.

I wanted to include Marshall McLuhan’s visionary ideas of The medium is the message and Global village. I wanted to put a slight spin on the former by suggesting it is time to “remix the message.” (I plan to produce a few more images with this line along the lines of the Che symbol I created for this issue.) Combining it with a Dada style felt like a relevant and interesting juxtaposition.

So much of what is pushed at us in the media have become a gross manipulation, we need to be more vigilant in critically dissecting those messages. Don’t miss McLuhan’s seminal work Understanding Media) and Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent for more on this issue.

One last note on Dada….
Tristan Tzara, one of the architects of the Dada movement observed:
“Art is a private thing, the artist makes it for himself; a comprehensible work is the product of a journalist…. We need works that are strong, straight, precise, and forever beyond understanding.”

which Marcel Duchamp embodied perfectly—

The embodiment of Dada: Duchamp’s ready-made Fountain, 1917

Tzara also went on to say in the text of his Dada Manifesto:
“We have had enough of the intelligent movements that have stretched beyond measure our credulity in the benefits of science. What we want now is spontaneity. Not because it is better or more beautiful than anything else. But because everything that issues freely from ourselves, without the intervention of speculative ideas, represents us. We must intensify this quantity of life that readily spends itself in every quarter. Art is not the most precious manifestation of life. Art has not the celestial and universal value that people like to attribute to it. Life is far more interesting. Dada knows the correct measure that should be given to art: with subtle, perfidious methods, Dada introduces it into daily life. And vice versa. In art, Dada reduces everything to an initial simplicity, growing always more relative. It mingles its caprices with the chaotic wind of creation and the barbaric dances of savage tribes. It wants logic reduced to a personal minimum, while literature in its view should be primarily intended for the individual who makes it. Words have a weight of their own and lend themselves to abstract construction. The absurd has no terrors for me, for from a more exalted point of view everything in life seems absurd to me. Only the elasticity of our conventions creates a bond between disparate acts. The Beautiful and the True in art do not exist; what interests me is the intensity of a personality transposed directly, clearly into the work; the man and his vitality; the angle from which he regards the elements and in what manner he knows how to gather sensation, emotion, into a lacework of words and sentiments.”

Here are some other Dadaist highlights:

The magazine of the Dada Movement

Schwitter’s Merz magazine

John Heartfield

George Grosz’s A Victim of Society

Fluxion 4: Expanded Notes, Part 4

EDUCATE YOURSELF!

One of the most important things any of us can do as a citizen is to speak out.

In order to be effective though we must seriously educate ourselves.

When I began researching Fluxion, issue 4, I realized I was going to have to take some time and do some extensive reading. Actually this began a few years ago.

My friend Marc Borzelleca’s father was visiting and we all had gone to dinner. Conversation eventually steered to political subjects. I made a comment about some issue… the Palestinian conflict I think… and while I knew he agreed with me, he challenged me to explain my view. I was stunned— mostly because I could not defend my opininion in conversation with him. He wanted to make a point about knowing your subject, really knowing it—from all angles if you plan to discuss it with any knowledge and depth.

It was a watershed moment. I was so inspired.

It is an ongoing challenge too. I try to encourage others whenever possible to do the same.

Ignorance and resentment are quick paths to violence and hatred.

Education and openness can counter this. Willingness is the key.

Instead of trying to change someone’s mind on any isuse ask them the origin of their views.

In the course my own reading I have come across numerous texts that I think are essential reading, and others that have simply been very informative.
I list many here (by catagory) as a starting point.

Visit your local (preferably independent) bookstore and see what looks interesting and informative to your concerns.

Extremism is one of the biggests threats we face as a nation. We hear all the time about foreign terrorists, but its the domestic ones we really need to take a close look at.


Friendly Fascism
(ESSENTIAL READING!)
American Theocracy

American Fascists

American Extremism
Violence, Extremism and Transformation


Dissent in America (ESSENTIAL READING!)

Corporate Hegemony

American Hubris

Chalmers Johnsons three examinations of the consequences of American Empire:
Blowback
The Sorrows of Empire
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.

Fair trade

Globalization And It’s Discontents

Corruption

Fraud

Empire of Debt! Man, has this one come home to roost!

Sustainable Economic Vision

Even with Obama in the White House, I think it’s unlikely the economic polices of the US will dramatically change anytime soon, but bold changes are needed. These texts offer many great ideas, and opportunities for interesting conversation on how any change can effectively be made.

Find ways to get involved.

Cultural Creative is a term coined by Ray and Anderson to describe people whose values embrace a curiosity and concern for the world, its ecosystem, and its peoples; an awareness of and activism for peace and social justice; and an openness to self-actualization through spirituality, psychotherapy, and holistic practices.

Culture jamming is an individu
alistic turning away from all forms of herd mentality. Culture jamming sometimes entails transforming mass media to produce ironic or satirical commentary about itself, using the original medium’s communication method.

Civic Arousal

From the publisher of Civic Arousal
“When we were youngsters, our father would ask us provocative questions. One day he asked, ‘What is the most powerful, event-producing force in the world?’ We guessed and guessed. His answer: ‘Apathy.’ What? ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘apathy, because huge numbers of apathetic citizens, or victims, allow bad guys to create all kinds of problems on the ground — from dictatorial regimes, to repressed economic conditions, to health and safety hazards, to corruption, to wars and so forth.’ Edmund Burke, the British conservative philosopher around the time of our country’s revolution, put it another way– ‘All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.’

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense galvanized his fellow American colonists into seizing their independence from Britain. Today, as we again face “times that try men’s souls,” Ralph Nader’s call to civic action is as crucial to our country’s future as Paine’s was in 1776. In Civic Arousal, Nader responds to thoughtful letters written by two young citizens, both frustrated with the political status quo but unsure about their power to affect real change. His insights will inspire every citizen to participate in our democracy and movements for positive change in this country.

Fluxion 4, Expanded Notes, part 3

Fluxion 4, Embracing Evil, Illustration by Chang Park (detail)

Fluxion 4, pp 32-33 Embracing Evil

“Embracing Evil.”
Sound menacing right? It’s supposed to.

I believe that every time we chose to be complicit with forces that ultimately work against our interests we, if metaphorically, are embracing evil.
Corporate hegemony is at the forefront of this daily assault on the American public for the sake of profit. (more on that later.)

This piece was the first cornerstone in the issue. It was conceived in 2003 on the eve of the Iraq war. I had attended a lecture at UCLA where Gore Vidal spoke on the impending invasion. One of the things he said made a deep impression on me. He quoted Benjamin Franklin from his comments on the new Constitution at the first Constitutional Convention in Sept 1787, where he said….
“I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

Vidal’s phrasing was simplified to something like “Benjamin Franklin himself said that the American Constitution could only end in Despotism.” or at least that’s how I remember it.
This was a crystallizing moment. This comment, made some 216 years previous, described exactly what I felt was my experience of the government. Coming from one of the most innovative and brilliant founding fathers only gave it more gravitas.

The cultural and political focus of the issue is built entirely around exploring this observation.
That the American Republic has devolved into an Imperial Corporatocracy. Or as Cindy Sheehan put it a “fascist corporate wasteland”

On a daily basis I was feeling demoralized by the blindness of the media, the slanted reporting (aside from Fox altogether), and the general apathy on the part of people go along with whatever was being said as long as it was in Time, or CNN or similar news outlet. On every level I saw complicity, apathy, and unwillingness to act. I was furious at myself.

I attended several protests against the war, which proved to me that street protests have little to no effect anymore. I felt lost. I felt uneducated on the particulars of many of the political issues (though since 9/11 this had changed) I wanted to speak to all that.

I was working long, long hours for a low wage and was just too tired to much to do more than simply get my work done and keep basic bills paid. Your average wage slave.

The partisan rankling was and continues to be a disgrace. I was outraged that what passed as Civil dialogue were little more than shouting matches. Disagreement became treason. To me this was a new fascism being born.

I tried to task myself to make different decisions. Try not supporting any corporate products. You can’t buy hardly anything. Local food and products are more expensive. In every way it was difficult. This is how they win. We are lulled to our own destruction by convenience.

I had an recurring image in my mind of two eagles ripping one another apart in mid air. I knew this was the image I wanted to illustrate this sentiment.

I researched illustrators and decided on Chang Park in Chicago. He rendered my idea better than I could possibly have imagined.

I kept writing and editing the draft of my essay on my concerns, and delays kept postponing the issue. Time passed… other projects and work made it necessary to push Fluxion aside.

In light of the evolving situation, the piece was in a constant form of revision. It wasn’t long before I started seeing others espousing the same ideas and concerns, often better argued and more articulately.

by 2006 I was entirely deflated. Fluxion was hopelessly staled with no resolution in sight, and I felt like what I had to say was entirely redundant. I abandoned the piece to focus on other featured artists in the issue.

By the time I finally revisited “Embracing Evil” in late 2007 I had had several breakthroughs.

So much had been written in the mainstream and alternative media, that anything I had hoped to add was already out there. I read as much as I could and tried to find a perspective that I felt was unique, or at least a way to presenting it.

I knew folks were getting burned out, I knew I was. Wave after wave of scandal and tales of abuse of power kept coming. It was overwhelming.

I had decided early on to include numerous “visual essays” where a single idea, quote or comment was accompanied by a striking visual interpretation. By 2007 I knew I would need to apply that approach to more and more segments of the culture section of the issue.

Af
ter everything else was done though, I still had my little essay that I didn’t want to entirely throw away. Ultimately I kept the subhead, the first and last paragraphs as linear thoughts, and took the rest and did a cut-up.

I had long been intrigued by the cut-up method developed by Brion Gysin and employed to greatest effect by William S. Burroughs.
I reordered the text of the original “Embracing Evil” essay with a poetic eye and punctuated it with the occasional phrase “wake up” in bold.

I figured most people wouldn’t bother to read hardly any of the text anyway, but would be more likely graze the content, as people seem to do more and more these days. The task was to create visuals that still communicated the core ideas.

When In New York in August 2006 I saw the DADA retrospective at MOMA. DADA seemed like the perfect filter though which to approach the ideas in the issue.

I extended the reference also to include early Modernist Graphic Design principles, forwarded by artists like John Heartfield, Kazimir Malevich, and Jan Tschichold, which all seemed well suited to our current situation.

Fluxion 4, pp 34-35 Re-Imagine Revolution

Fluxion 4, pp 36-37 Reconstruct Social Evolution

While the election of Barack Obama has heartened many with the possibilities of serious change, enormous work remains to be done. If substanative change is to be successful, then we must all share in the responsibility to create it.

To quote Susan Sontag, we must “be serious, be passionate, wake up.”

Fluxion 4: Expanded Notes, No.2

Fluxion, Issue 4, pp.136,137

This is the last part of a section in the issue that appeals to everyone to get involved. Integrating Huxley’s call to ATTENTION, from Island, which appears throughout the book, for added emphasis.

I wanted people to understand my intention in obscuring Che’s face so I add an explanation in this third presentation of the stylized image in the issue:

Armed revolutions aren’t a solution.
Revolution by force leads
to the corruption of the revolutionaries.
Marxism is a failed experiment.

Korda’s iconic image of 
Che Guevara has become a
symbol to represent
the spirit of 20th century revolutionary 
values—“Power to the people!”
“By any means necessary!”
The velvet “revolutions” in Eastern Europe
demonstrated that change
is possible without violence.

Che is a symbol of the past.
Create your own symbol
for the future.
Don’t expect someone 
else to liberate you.

This text also appears in a condensed form on the back of the sticker version.

This visual essay is titled “Embrace Change” and includes a few simple guidelines for engaging others-particularly people with whom we may disagree, in civil conversation.

I believe civil engagement is the foundation for substantive change.
It’s not about changing minds on issue as much as building mutual respect and civil dialogue.

Right-wing talk radio has been at the forefront of reducing dialogue to shouting matches. The vicious decline of quality discourse they have led has now become a prominent feature of the standard Television media, and adds nothing of real use to any serious debate on the issues.

We cannot wait for the media to move past this…. we must demand it by example, by refusing to accept such reductive blather.
There is no finish line. This is a permanent endeavor.
The goal
to move past both reductive methods of discourse as well as outmoded symbols for change.

The guidelines came directly for the writings of George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

He has written extensively on the subject of framing issues and the ideological divide between conservatives and progressives. I encourage everyone to read some of his works, most notably: Moral Politics, The Political Mind, Thinking Points and Don’t think of an Elephant.

While there are many variations one could distill from his ideas I chose to go with:

Engage others in civil conversation
Start with yourself—ask yourself tough questions, educate yourself,
consider multiple views. Learn how to discuss and frame topics.

Be prepared
Know your issues thoroughly. Recognize how others frame their views. 
Be sincere. Use frames you really believe in, based on values you really hold.

Be friendly, but Stand your ground
Smile, always be on the offensive, never complain.

Be sincere, respectful, and listen
Don’t negate another person’s view—don’t try to change their mind.
Respond by reframing the issue from your perspective.
Ask questions that might encourage or challenge them to think. 


Say what you believe

Be passionate. Your body and voice should show optimism. 
You should convey passionate conviction without losing your composure.

Chevolution! (Fluxion 4: Expanded Notes Pt. 1)

“Be Your Own Hero” version 2 (and sticker) from Fluxion Issue 4

The idea for this image follows a long line of inspiration whose ultimate source is Albert Korda’s Iconic Photograph of Che Guevara.

My adaptation of Korda’s famous image came about specifically while working on ideas for a one-sheet for the documentary Chevolution when I was a designer with Kustom Creative.

It didn’t take long for me to go down a rabbit hole in searching for ideas. I was so excited to be challenged to utilize one of the most famous images of the 20th Century!
But I kept hitting a blank wall, or more accurately, a blank face.

After much thought and reflection I realized the image just didn’t mean anything to me anymore. I have revered it for years, and yet it never really questioned why. It was all magically based on Che’s expression—so intense, so magnetic, and all too simple.

Dangerously simple. It took me years to look beyond the parroted myth of Che, so find a more complex and confilcted man, though no less interesting. There is a huge difference though between the man and the icon that has come to represent him and his ideals.

There is an interesting book that charts the course of Korda’s Che titled: Che Guevara: Revolutionary and Icon by Trisha Ziff who also directed Chevolution.

It is common knowledge that the image has been adapted and abused so much in pop culture that in my mind any significance Che’s image may have had was long co-opted or perhaps lost altogether.

When I look at the image now in my imagination I just see a blank face, or one smeared out or painted over.

It’s impossible to discuss Che and not Not to mention the sad arc of Marxist Socialism in practice during the 20th Century.
The enduring legacy of armed leftist radicalism is corpses.
While I think Marx was correct on numerous observations, particularly Capitalism, his vision overshadowed one critical detail.
Human nature. Che failure is directly linked to this complexity.

Even given a choice some people will choose to exploit or manipulate or be self-serving.
Soviet Russia was a dark experiment on a large enough scale to prove that. In Cuba the system also proves unsuccessful, doomed to the flaws of human nature and the idea that one ideal must dominate over all overs, at the expense of individual freedom, not to mention economic and political.

but I digress….

I knew right away that my idea had no traction for the documentary project, but personally it promised to be an interesting experiment. I decided to just do a adaptation for my own self published art and culture zine Fluxion.

The first version was a literal interpretation of my original idea, where Che’s face was simple painted over.

“Be your own Hero” version 1 Fluxion isse 4

From there I decided to do a more simplified, stylized version (see above).
I adapted that version into a sticker.

I have heard that some people thinking the red on the face in the stylized version indicates blood. That was not my intention. I envisioned paint to obscure the face. Red was just the most striking color to use. The image is NOT intended to disrespect Che, or dismiss him as a person of importance.

My adaptation isn’t really about Che at all.
I do not share his belief in violent struggle. I am sick of violence.
My image adaptation is about the commodification of the representative image in culture. We look outside ourselves for ideas, for inspiration, for leadership.
I wanted to create something that reversed that, to put the responsibility back on the viewer.

I believe we should question our own actions and choices more critically. We must become our own heroes.

Alberto Korda’s original vision: The Guerrilla Hero

Alberto Korda’s Iconic portrait of Che Guevara has been the most recognized symbol for social struggle in the 20th century.

Che, the man, was a fascinating force of energy, and contradictions….

From wikipedia
“As a young medical student, Guevara traveled throughout Latin America and was transformed by the endemic poverty he witnessed. His experiences and observations during these trips led him to conclude that the region’s ingrained economic inequalities were an intrinsic result of monopoly capitalism, neocolonialism, and imperialism, with the only remedy being world revolution. This belief prompted his involvement in Guatemala’s social reforms under President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow solidified Guevara’s radical ideology.

Later, in Mexico, he met Fidel Castro and joined his 26th of July Movement. In December 1956, he was among the revolutionaries who invaded Cuba under Castro’s leadership with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to Comandante, and played a pivotal role in the successful two year guerrilla campaign that deposed Batista.

Guevara remains a controversial and significant historical figure. He was a ruthless disciplinarian who unhesitatingly shot defectors. Following the Cuban revolution, Guevara reviewed the appeals of those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals, ratifying sentences which in some cases utilized firing squads.

As a result of his perceived martyrdom, poetic invocations for class struggle, and desire to create the consciousness of a “new man” driven by “moral” rather than “material” incentives; Guevara evolved into a quintessential icon of leftist-inspired movements.

Che’s visage was also reconstituted as a global marketing emblem and insignia within popular culture.

Here is an interesting interview with Jorge Castañeda author of the Che Biography Compañeo.

Che as POP icon

Che, deconstructed


His image, primarily Korda’s famous image of him, has been co-opted so many times that by the end of the 20th century it has been rendered essentially meaningless pop fodder.

(Case in point)


The radical leftist movement is a relic of the 20th century. It’s methods corrupted it’s potential to live up to it’s ideals.


So
me adaptations are outright insulting.

And in the end it means nothing.

Che said “I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting.” and plenty did. And in their wake is nothing but death and ruins.

I was heartened by the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe in the late 80s.

They prove change is possible without violence.

Che also said “I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. This was the source of inspiration for my adaptation of the image, which is, in my mind, in the spirit of his original idealism, adapted for our times with a strong memory for violent missteps by armed movements in recent history.

Che is corrent when he says it is our responsibility to liberate ourselves… and I would add an emphasis on practical ideas, courage, good works and compassion, not violence.

So close, so close….

Fluxion issue 4

Since I got back to town I have been trying very hard to iron out the last unresolved details in the production of my vastly overdue fourth issue of Fluxion. Just a few minor details and hopefully within a week or two at the most the new issue along with all the previous issues will be posted as flippingbooks- entirely readable, zoomable too. 
A web store has also been brewing for months and I’d like to see it go live around the same time… So…
in the interest of getting all this finished I will delay any further posting until this work is complete…

Next time I will start an ongoing series highlighting content in the issue.

Thank you for your patience.