Thursday, September 15, 2011

Temporary Autonomous Zone

I just came back from the delightfully autonomous zone of a river canyon in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada where where I parked my car was about the only mediating factor imposed on my journey. I packed into a neat little 3 mile hike off a dirt road, saw a gorgeous swimming hole with a sandy little enclave, set out my bed roll, stripped down naked, dove into the crystal clear river, and stayed for three days. 

An amazing sensation comes over your body when/if you can get over the initial chill factor of being submerged in a river that is basically snow melt from higher ground. A state that combines the visual of the blurry terrain of rocks and physical horizontality with the trout swimming in couples around giant boulders of granite in the underwater world; the cold; the actual vibrational--calming--energy of the water itself; and the silence. If you can stay with it, all of it, even the silence, it reaches to the bones. Maladome Patrice Somé told me that the bones are where we store our memory of who we really are and that large bodies of water actually have the effect of cleansing the bones of electromagnetic energy wrapped around them. (He also gave me the assignment of taking people to the water regularly for a little bone cleansing!) I felt a tingling in my chest and my heart opening up at my back. I felt a relaxation so deep that it charged me with a desire to continue the effort of barely breathing, or surfacing for one deep breath every minute or so so that I could dive back down into this blue-green fluidic realm that touches all over, every sensory organ. Every time I have this experience in a large body of water I never want it to end. No drugs involved. It  brings me back to me. Or a grace that should never ever be forgotten in any one of us. 

At the river, or in the "wild(er)ness" there is no rule saying I can't dive off the highest fucking granite cliff I can find with a deep enough pool under it. The concept of "liability" becomes meaningless. To whom? Or to what? There is no insurance. There is no one being embarrassed of my "exposed" body. No one to tell me where I can or can't lie down or sleep. No one to impress. No one to "save" me and no one to tell me where to take a shit. It's all left up to me, my volition, my intelligence and intuition; like don't shit in or near the water.  And don't eat crackers in your bed. Biting piss-ants who ate right into my melted chocolate and squirrels chewing into my garbage bag are examples of an ontological anarchy where excess and scavenger have a synergistic and generative relationship. We have so much to learn from the cooperation--as opposed to the very single-minded Darwinian "competition"--of nature. 

I woke up to the sun shining every morning, magnificent electric storms in the evening and a fat full moon of an after party till dawn that curved its way through the slice of sky I could see from the base of the canyon. Miles of endless beauty and no one setting the tone, just the wind, the massive sound of the river, the sun on my skin, the blue of the night sky. At the river were an occasional group of hippies, infatuated high school couples escaping the prison of the educational industrial complex for the river's love song, and even a couple of white trash dudes panning for gold and burning plastics in their campfires.... 

I had time to re-read one of the main inspirations for the performance-happenings of the LOBC, T.A.Z. by Hakim Bey. The readings and ideas that have brought about the League Of Burnt Children and Q.A.Z. are complex if not profound. I was intimidated by Bryan Dini's intense literacy compared to my own at first, but after our first couple conversations it was clear he is very far from intellectual snobbery. His massive bank and use of ideas as tools for growth rather than hoarding knowledge like a currency to be used to some social/economic end that has nothing to do with the ideas themselves is what made it clear we were kindred spirits on some level. Then I attended my first QAZ, inspired by Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), and it evoked in me a feeling a freedom I had never before felt in a performative setting, ever. 

I thought it would be appropriate as the first LOBC blog entry to summarize the concepts of the TAZ that have the most meaning for my life and art (and--little did I know at the time--why I was swept away by Bryan Dini's loving chaos and the LOBC to begin with!)

Quotations all from Hakim Bey. All caps are the main concepts Bey is working with. Bracketed are my words within a quote. Bold is my emphasis. 

One of two generating forces of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) "springs from the development I call 'the closure of the map'. The last little bit of Earth unclaimed by an nation-state was eaten up in 1899. Ours is the first century without terra incognita... Nationality is the highest principle of world governance... This is the apotheosis [the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature] of 'territorial gangsterism.' Not one square inch of Earth goes unpoliced or untaxed... The 'map' is a political abstract grid, a gigantic con enforced by the carrot/stick conditioning of the 'Expert' State, until for most of us the map becomes the territory—no longer 'Turtle Island,' but 'the USA.'"

billboard concept and design by Kyra Rice, poem by Michael McLure

This through-line is apparent in the hubris of a visual culture that is completely saturated with consumerism which has the effect of marketing for consumerism. No longer "what beautiful gardens, poetry or paintings," but "what product are they offering me?" Why are so many people drawn to live in the Mission district of San Francisco? I think that the ecology created by the sheer insistence of re/claiming some of the vertical real estate or surface areas for the telling of stories and social in/justice through murals has an un-negligible effect toward the autonomy from control on humanity in general, including those who don't identify with the content in the murals--which have evolved from US/Mexican migrant stories and pre-Mexican history and myth, to graffiti, stencil, and other contemporary ways of asserting one's identity outside of the governing body. 

This brings us to the fact that the TAZ is not just a reaction against, but also for something as well. Complete, unmediated, creative freedom and art as a condition of life rather than representation...

"...the abyss of power, the end of the discourse of power. ...why bother to confront a 'power' whichhas lost all meaning and become sheer Simulation? Such confrontations will only result in dangerous and ugly spasms of violence by the emptyheaded shit-for-brains who've inherited the keys to all the armories and prisons.
"As I read it, disappearance seems to be a very logical radical option for our time, not at all a disaster or death for the radical project. [The intention is to] mine it for its useful strategies in the always-ongoing 'revolution of everyday life'."

Ben Okri, the Nigerian writer described as a magic realist, but preferring to see his work as "dream-logic" narrative, used this idea of the will to power as disappearance in an epic novel titled Astonishing the Gods, that begins with a boy who discovers the history of his family and people are not written into the history books. An amazing read. "Is it impossible to imagine an aesthetics that does not engage, that removes itself from History and even from the Market? or at least tends to do so? which want to replace representation with presence? How does presence make itself felt even in (or through) representation? [!]

"...Here we have an aesthetics of the borderland between chaos and order, the margin, the area of 'catastrophe' where the breakdown of the system can equal enlightenment."

"...The New Autonomy...will either infiltrate the media and subvert 'it' from within—or else never be 'seen' at all. The TAZ exists not only beyond Control but also beyond definition, beyond gazing and naming as acts of enslaving, beyond the understanding of the State, beyond the State's ability to see."

"THE TAZ AS A CONSCIOUS radical tactic will emerge under certain conditions:
1. Phycological liberation... we must realize (make real) the moments and spaces in which freedom is not only possible but actual. We must know in what ways we are genuinely oppressed, and also in what ways we are self repressed or ensnarled in a fantasy in which ideas oppress us. ...Mental addiction to 'ideas'—which in fact turn out to be mere projections of our resentment and sensations of victimization—will never further our project. The TAZ is not a harbinger of some pie-in-the-sky Social Utopia to which we must sacrifice our lives that our children's children may breath a bit of free air. The TAZ must be the scene of our present autonomy, but it can only exist on the condition that we already know ourselves as free beings."

2. NO CyberGnosis and no false transcendence of the body! "...The TAZ is a physical place and we are either in it or not. All the senses must be involved. The Web is like a new sense in some ways, but it must be added to the others—the others must not be subtracted from it, as in some horrible parody of the mystic trance. Without the Web, the full realization of the TAZ-complex would be impossible. But the Web is not the end in itself. It's a weapon" [tool].

"3. The apparatus of Control—the 'State'—must (or so we must assume) continue to deliquesce [become liquid, typically during decomposition] and petrify simultaneously, must progress on its present course in which hysterical rigidity comes more and more to mask a vacuity, an abyss of power. As power 'disappears,' our will to power must be disappearance."

Final notes: 
"...But inasmuch as the TAZ exists now, it stands for much more than the mundanity of negativity or countercultural drop-out- ism. We've mentioned the festal aspect of the moment which is unControlled, and which adheres in spontaneous self-ordering, however brief. It is 'epiphanic'—a peak experience on the social as well as individual scale."

"The TAZ involves a kind of ferality, a growth from tameness to wild(er)ness, a 'return' which is also a step forward. It also demands a 'yoga' of chaos, a project of 'higher' orderings (of consciousness or simply of life) which are approached by 'surfing the wave-front of chaos,' of complex dynamism. The TAZ is an art of life in continual rising up, wild but gentle--a seducer not a rapist..."

Kyra Rice diving, image by Eric Anderson
by Kyra