Immediatism [some extracts]

by Hakim Bey

Fully realizing that any art manifesto written today can only stink of the same bitter irony it seeks to oppose, we nevertheless declare without hesitation [without too much thought] the founding of a movement, IMMEDIATISM. We feel free to do so because we intend to practise Immediatism in secret, in order to avoid any contamination of mediation. Publicly we'll continue our work in publishing, radio, printing, music etc, but privately we will create something else, something to be shared freely but never consumed passively, something which can be discussed openly but never understood by the agents of alienation, something with no commercial potential yet valuable beyond price, something occult yet woven completely into the fabric of our everyday lives.

Immediatism is not a movement in the sense of an aesthetic programme. It depends on situation, not style or content, message or School. It may take the form of any kind of creative play which can be performed by two or more people, by and for themselves, face-to-face and together. In this sense it is like a game, and therefore certain rules may apply.

All spectators must also be performers. All expenses are to be shared, and all products which may result from the play are also to be shared by the participants only [who may keep them or bestow them as gifts, but should not sell them]. The best games will make little or no use of obvious forms of mediation such as photography, recording, printing etc, but will tend towards immediate techniques involving physical presence, direct communication, and the senses.

Capitalism only supports certain kinds of groups, the nuclear family for example, or "the people I know at my job", because such groups are already self-alienated and hooked into the Work/Consume/Die structure. Other kinds of groups may be allowed, but will lack all support from the societal structure, and thus find themselves facing grotesque challenges and difficulties which appear under the guise of 'bad luck'.

The first and most innocent-seeming obstacle to any Immediatist project will be the 'busyness' or 'need to make a living' faced by each of its associates. However there is no real innocence here - only our profound ignorance of the ways in which capitalism itself is organised to prevent all genuine conviviality.

No sooner have a group of friends begun to visualise immediate goals realizable only through solidarity and cooperation, when suddenly one of them will be offered a 'good' job in Cincinatti or teaching English in Taiwan - or else have to move back to California to care for a dying parent - or else they'll lose the 'good' job they already have and be reduced to a state of misery which precludes their very enjoyment of the group's project or goals [ie they'll become 'depressed']. At the most mundane-seeming level, the group will fail to agree on a day of the week for meetings because everyone is 'busy'. But this is not mundane. It's sheer cosmic evil. We whip ourselves into froths of indignation over 'oppression' and 'unjust laws' when in fact these abstractions have little impact on our daily lives - while that which really makes us miserable goes unnoticed, written off to 'busyness' or 'distraction' or even to the nature of reality itself ["well, I can't live without a job"].

Yes, perhaps it's true we can't 'live' without a job - although I hope we're grown-up enough to know the difference between life and the accumulation of a bunch of fucking gadgets. Still, we must constantly remind ourselves [since our culture won't do it for us] that this monster called WORK remains the precise and exact target of our rebellious wrath, the one single most oppressive reality we face [and we must also learn to recognise Work when it's disguised as 'leisure'].

To be 'too busy' for the Immediatist project is to miss the very essence of Immediatism. To struggle to come together every Monday night [or whatever], in the teeth of the gale of busyness, or family, or invitations to stupid parties - that struggle is already Immediatism itself. Succeed in actually physically meeting face-to-face with a group which is not your spouse-and-kids, or 'the guys from my job', or your 12-step programme - and you have already achieved virtually everything Immediatism yearns for. An actual project will arise almost spontaneously out of this successful slap-in-the-face of the social norm of alienated boredom. Outwardly, of course, the project will seem to be the group's purpose, its motive for coming together - but in fact the opposite is true. We're not kidding or indulging in hyperbole when we insist the meeting face-to-face is already 'the revolution'. Attain it and the creativity part comes naturally; like the Kingdom of heaven it will be added unto you.

Of course it will be horribly difficult. The rat-bastard capitalist scum who are telling you to "reach out and touch someone" with a telephone or "be there!" [where? alone in front of a goddam television??] - these lovecrafty suckers are trying to turn you into a scrunched-up blood-drained pathetic crippled little cog in the death-machine of the human soul. Fight them - by meeting with friends, not to consume or produce, but to enjoy friendship - and you will have triumphed [at least for a moment] over the most pernicious conspiracy in EuroAmerican society today.

If busyness and fissipation are the first potential failures of Immediatism, we cannot say that its triumph should be equated with 'success'. The second major threat to our project can quite simply be described as the tragic success of the project itself. Let's say we have overcome physical alienation and have actually met, developed our project, and created something. Unless we keep it an absolute secret - which is probably impossible and in any case would constitute a somewhat poisonous selfishness - other people will hear of it [other people from hell, to paraphrase the existentialists] - and among those other people, some will be agents [conscious or unconscious, it doesn't matter] of too-Late Capitalism. The Spectacle is above all empty. It fuels itself by the constant gulping down of everyone's creative powers and ideas. It's more desperate for your 'radical subjectivity' than any vampire or cop for your blood. It wants your creativity much more even than you want it yourself. It would die unless you desired it, and you will only desire it if it seems to offer you the very desires you dreamed, alone in your lonely genius, disguised and sold back to you as commodities.

Suddenly it will appear to you [as if a demon had whispered it in your ear] that the Immediatist art you've created is so good, so fresh, so original, so strong compared to all the 'crap' on the market - so pure - that you could water it down and sell it, and make a living at it, so you could all knock off WORK, buy a farm in the country, and do art together for ever after. And perhaps it's true. You could... after all, you're geniuses. But it'd be better to fly to Hawaii and throw yourself into a live volcano. Sure, you could have success; you could even have 15 seconds on the evening news - or a documentary made on your life. Yes indeedy.

But this is where the last major monster steps in, crashes through the living room wall and snuffs you [if success itself hasn't already spoiled you, that is]. Because in order to succeed you must first be 'seen'. And if you are seen, you will be perceived as wrong, illegal, immoral - different. The Spectacle's main sources of creative energy are all in prison. If you're not a nuclear family or a guided tour or the Republican Party, then why are you meeting every Monday evening? To do drugs? Illicit sex? Income tax evasion? Satanism?

And of course the chances are good that your Immediatist group is engaged in something illegal - since almost everything enjoyable is in fact illegal. Babylon hates it when anyone actually enjoys life, rather than merely spending money in a vain attempt to buy the illusion of enjoyment. Dissipation, gluttony, bulimic overconsumption - these are not only legal but mandatory. If you don't waste yourself on the emptiness of commodities you are obviously 'queer' and must by definition be breaking some law. True pleasure in this society is more dangerous than bank robbery. At least bank robbers share Massa's respect for Massa's money. But you, you perverts, clearly deserve to be burned at the stake - and here come the peasants with their torches, eager to do the State's bidding without even being asked. Now you are the monsters, and your little gothic castle of Immediatism is engulfed in flames. Suddenly cops are swarming out of the woodwork. Are your papers in order? Do you have a permit to exist?

Immediatism is a picnic - but it's not easy. Immediatism is the most natural path for free humans imaginable - and therefore the most unnatural abomination in the eyes of Capital. Immediatism will triumph, but only at the cost of self-organisation of power, of clandestinity, and of insurrection.