The art and science of being an arsehole

First things first. [Just look at this guy go]

It’s quite hard, you know, these days, to truly be an absolute bastard and get away with it. As Johannes Grenzfurthner says in the enclosed video, it used to be easy. There were rules of social interaction, and if you broke them, you got smacked, and everybody would hate you, and you would get lots of lovely attention. And maybe one or two would have a hard little think about those rules. Simple. Full of win.

Or not so simple; those rules involve the careful construction – work accumulated over a period of centuries (millenia!) – of patterns of thinking and talking, a cobweb of ideas which made some thoughts thinkable, and others unthinkable. Cut the gordian knot, think the unthinkable, and then prove it by doing the unthinkable (like, say, walk into a university lecture hall and have a good, long shit on the podium), and you had instant outrage. And as anyone who has spent some time crawling around the intertubes can attest, there’s nothing more entertaining than a good bout of all-out, screaming, meaningless, misdirected and impotent moral hysteria. Trolling IRL. It’s magnificent, but to really get it going, you have to engage in some pretty damn mean, self-centered and upleasant behaviour. Some poor fucker has to go in and pick up your turd while you’re off being kicked around and fined or whatever.

That some people still think of such activities as «subversive» – a term that now has the power to make me feel like I’m going to throw up in my mouth a little – is, at best, a slightly sad thought. Well, yeah, okay: Sure, there are plenty of pockets of Discipline left, small valleys that time forgot where having your pants fall down at the wrong time still has the power to turn someone’s world upside down. Those towns might need some [shaking up]. And, dammit, these hijinks are fun – worth every minute of the life times and life styles people devote to them. Even when, or especially when, a fascinated and repulsed global audience cheers and eggs you on.

But true subversive actions are the brilliant viral psychopath ideas that turn on the lights, and leave the hidden power structures, the cruel little censors in our brains, blinking, blinded and exposed.

These days, the exercise of power is embedded in irreducible complexity, the constant fear and ignorance it entails, and in the intensely narrowed-down social horizons enforced by our own inability or unwillingness to take responsibility for the shape of the context in which we are all embedded and forced to act. Deliberate transgression is expected, lauded, vilified, absorbed, diluted, monetized, forgotten. So how do you hack into something like that? How do you get at the tubes and little throbbing things inside it and wrench them out? If we listen to Grenzfurthners stories, it looks like the answer might have something to do with participatory art.

Conspire. Get people in on it. Let them add their own stuff. Let it go, spiral out of control. Trust the crowd, and take the dive off the stage. Let the age of the thousand [Bavarian fire drills] commence.

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