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Manifesto: Autumn 2014

SALT. Issue 6

In a climate where traditional modes of articulating refusal through physical action become criminalised or dangerous; language, and furthermore what can be done with it, becomes the only potent weapon left. Errors in our communications offer space for disruption and subsequently open up new ways to disobey through glossolalia: to speak in tongues, to be incomprehensible, and to confuse. This issue attempts to put into circulation performative gestures of disobedience and nonquiescent articulation as models for experimental protest.


Adrienne Arcilla, Mali Collins, Giulia Damiani, Molly Davy, Freya Field-Donovan, Jack Halberstam, Saira Harvey, Caspar Heinemann, Eve Lacey, Kay Law, Hannah Regel, Thea Smith, Vicki Tingle, Giulia Tommasi, Villa Design Group, Jala Wahid

Manifesta – Encentro 2014 – Montreal

Notes on Wildness: Towards a Manifesto [1]

By Jack Halberstam, Los Angeles

Note 1: [2, 3, 4] The “we” in this manifesto only includes you to the extent that you feel hailed and embraced by any of its claims; if you count yourself among the misrecognised and the misunderstood, the illegible, the brave, the wandering, the lost, the confused and the disoriented, then you are us. Then again, you are only part of the “we” if you want to be – no “we” exists in advance of a “we” that wants to exist…but “we,” the powerful ‘first person plural,’ is the voice of the manifesto and hence the voice we will use.

Note 2: [5] There are no trigger warnings here, no tip toeing around the harm and the damage that makes us human. The wild, after all, is the arrival of the unexpected and so no alarm bell, no trumpets, no buzzers or ringtones can announce its arrival. The wild may arrive and touch you, wound you, find your core. But realise that where there is discomfort and upset, there is also connection, investment, passion. [6] Feeling something is not the worst thing that could happen to you here. Feeling something is not the best thing that could happen to you here.

Note 3: In the wild, we make mistakes. We must make mistakes in order to think, to be, to care, to dare, to dream. We must all make mistakes. We mistake, misrecognise, misunderstand and in these errors of communication, more and different and new meanings arise. In his seminal work Cruising Utopia, José Muñoz explains the utopian not in terms of recognition, understanding, successful modes of communication but in terms of failed speech acts, messages that never arrive or do but are altered in the transmission.

Muñoz builds upon a remark by Shoshana Felman to the effect that when a speech act fails it points to an “impossible reality” not “because something is missing, but because something else is done, or something else is said.” In other words, if successful communication depends discursively upon messages reaching their destination somewhat intact, when they do not, which is very often, then this failure allows for another kind of speech act, an unintended consequence, an off-script moment that, in certain instances, can flash upon wild meaning. [7]

Note 4: [8] The wild is the arrival of the unexpected, unannounced and without warning. [9] The Wild, in this manifesto, will stand for an unrestrained, un-civilised, disorderly, ferocious and anti-colonial relation to thought and to being. We recognise that “the wild” takes on meaning only within a highly problematic set of philosophical and political operations by which some peoples, some areas and some modes of being are wild only because others are cast as orderly, true, right and proper. [10] But we claim the term anyway and we drag it back through the mud of history, looking over our shoulder for angels and other keepers of the gate, and we try to keep it dirty, complex, problematic and perplexing.

Note 5: Let wildness designate a method, an aspiration, a problem, a solution, a wish, a fragment of the past lodged in the present, a figment of my imagination, and yours, a scrambling of right and wrong, [11] a performance, any performance that you saw once and still remember that got you thinking and made you mad, that left you breathless or found you out, that undermined your sense of self or made you believe you could rescue something worthwhile from this flawed and debilitating experience that we call…life.

Note 6: [12] Don’t facebook this. Stop tweeting, twittering, twerking. Don’t like it, love it, link it, leave it. What other modes of connection, communication, action, response can we imagine? What forms of communication might surprise us, make us reach out, risk, dare? What can you do for someone else that does not simply return benefit to you? How can we make something out of nothing, a virtue out a debt, how can we understand as Stefano and Harney remind us: [13] “We owe each other everything.”

Note 7: [14] I saw a Tom Cruise film the other day, doesn’t matter which one, they are all the same now. Intense heroic white male sees what no one else sees, knows what no one else knows, is caught off guard for a minute by a lady, by a man, by a weapon, by a plot, by a twist in the plot that we all knew was coming. [15] Tom yells but no one listens, he gets intense—his thespian signature—he loses it and then recovers it and becomes calm and knows again what to do. He was off course for a second but now he is back on course and we are all indebted to his incredible strength, courage, and, yes, his intensity. He saves us. Surprising, I know, but yes, in movie after movie, script after script, set piece after set piece, in space, on a train, in a car, on a bus, in love, in tight jeans, in a t-shirt, a suit, sunglasses, tighty-whities, in all kinds of trouble, and he always keeps saving us, even when we don’t want to be saved. And we don’t. The film’s motto: Live. Die. Repeat. And we do, and he does, and when will it end?

Note 8: [16] Live. Die. Repeat. Life is now a game and we think we can hit reset and we look for replays in live events and we find reality diminished by its single track, one play only dimension. [17] We can play, and then repeat, but it is never the same. Except when it is, like in a Tom Cruise movie, where it is always the same and hence not reality. What is reality but a set of unrepeatable experiences that fail to add up to anything like narrative. Reality is that which escapes the tidy, the tellable, the tweetable. Romantic? Maybe, or maybe not, maybe just wild.

Note 9: [18] Gooooooooooaaaaaaaaaallllllll! Sports has gone from a game of chance, opportunity, skill and perseverance to a military style expedition in which play gives way to scripts and set pieces; teams are bought not developed, little happens off script. But then, suddenly, out of the blue, when you least expect it, someone breaks through, someone breaks down, a wild play, a mistake, a chance, a goal.

Note 10: [19] Magic moments appear and then just as suddenly the special disappears into the morass of the daily, the repeatable, the obvious, the predictable. On special occasions we used to open champagne bottles and toast the unexpected, the fortunate, the well deserved, the truly awesome. On special occasions, we threw confetti, we dressed up, cast caution to the wind. On special occasions, we did things we don’t usually do and all bets were off and it was so much fun, and we looked forward as we slid back into the mundane and the quotidian to the next special occasion. And the next one and the one after that, and we lived lives punctuated by odd eruptions of celebration, chance encounters with glamour and temporary immersions in utopian experiments with the unlikely, the possible and the still to come.

Note 10: [20] The current logic of capitalism does not allow us to cordon off the special from the mundane – the goal of capitalism is to squeeze every last drop out of every opportunity and so the special becomes a daily occurrence, and the special occasion becomes a “special offer,” and we bounce from one holiday to the next, from one market produced occasion for celebration to the next. Slowly, the special sinks into the scheduled: every night a party, every party a winner, every day a new case for celebration. [21] And instead of a world mired in the ordinary and punctuated by the unusual, we became a society of celebration, a community with endless good news to tell, so many amazing things to toast. And now the confetti flows like wine, the party never ends and there is always somewhere else, somewhere more special to be. As we fling ourselves around in the increasingly evacuated realm of the social looking for stimulation, events, pleasure, we are more and more pre-occupied with a growing sense of missing out – is it here? Are we in the right place? Is this party the one? Or am I missing the real event that, like an altered-through-the-looking-glass reality, exists just outside of my purview, and remains a fantasy of the better, the more awesome, the place to be.

Note 11: There are no longer places to be; nothing remains of the cool; hipsters are just captains of capital staying one step ahead of the future and two steps behind redundancy. And as the economic crisis generated by a fantasy of unending wealth and undergirded by a series of bad promises allows a few winners to take all the goodies, everyone else is left holding nothing but empty glasses. In the aftermath of this banker’s holiday, there is little for the financial sector to say to the dispirited, abandoned and destitute public but: thank you, thank you all for your cooperation.

Note 12: [22] 1969. A man landed on the moon. One small step and all that. Mad Men ended its first half of its final run this season with the whole world, or at least the US and its Cold War allies, watching the remarkable and the unthinkable. [23] A man on the moon, the unthinkable had happened, the unimaginable had come to pass and people felt that planetary travel was possible, probable, happening now. In “To The Planetarium,” (1923) Walter Benjamin noted that the difference between the modern world and the ancient world may well reside in our diminished relation to the cosmos – while we have reduced our relation to the stars to an individualised, romanticised and visual experience, for the ancients, star gazing was ecstatic, communal, transporting. Benjamin writes: “For it is in this experience alone that we gain certain knowledge of what is nearest to us and what is remotest from us and never of one without the other. This means, however, that man can be in ecstatic contact with the cosmos only communally.”

And so, it is not a matter of whether the moon landing is real or fake, a hoax or transcendent, American imperialism or cold war rhetoric, it is a question of the waning of the communal, its disappearance into the romanticised I – an I that is seduced, offended, wounded, bored on a daily basis. The communal is the new wild, a dream of ecstatic contact that we continue to seek out in life, in love, in dreams and in the skies. And when we find it, it will not be because we looked in the right places but because we were open to the arrival of the unexpected and we looked into the sky for a glimpse of the wild.

Giulia Tommasi