Sort, sever, detangle, grasp

[this following the last section on salvagepunk, capitalist salvage operations, and Schwitters, as the midstop before moving toward The Bed-Sitting Room and contemporary horizons]



But isn't this whole salvagepunk enterprise bound to the paradigmatic form of object worship that haunts the whole enterprise, slipping from crass consumerism to the financial crisis call to "get back to real things," the primitivist thought of rediscovering a natural life of pure use-values? The fantasy of the most radical tendencies lying in the most desperate configurations of global slum dwellers, and a melancholic drool before the postindustrial loveliness of all falling apart? Both the fetishization of the tool's rough and ready possibilities of world fixing, and the fetishist's excited glance at what cannot be fixed, all kitsch and crumble?

In short, is this not just more reification, totally unable to escape the hypnotic fixation on objects, however innately venomous or thrown from the cycles of capitalism, as symptom and solution?

To which we answer: yes, indeed.

This is a position intentionally occupied and line of thought taken to its horizon in order to do that same dialectical work of "punk" described, of tracking out to the point of collapse. Fittingly, to see what should be scrapped and what should be saved.

What must be scrapped is clearly this elevation of the object world of late capitalism, antagonistic as it may be to the world that created it. We end up back where we departed and with less clarity, over our heads in contemplation waste, holding up scraps to be recombined, thinking that it we just unlock the potential of all this crap, we'll have the weapons we need.

But, paradoxically, what must be saved is precisely that reification. For what is to be drawn out from salvagepunk is a mode of relating to the cursed inheritances of history, drawn out through that very elevation of objects to the status of social relations.


What needs to be salvaged are social relations, broken forms of lived Communist thought, discarded by our moment as the outmoded waste of a century. At once lost utopian kernels and the massive weight of sometimes catastrophic attempts to live differently, not just the traces but the ruins of an attempt to move beyond capitalism. When we talk of occupying trash sites and of building tools from the junkyard, this is what we mean. Not that we should valorize either the waste dweller forced to live in abjection or the cluttered objects themselves, but rather that our relation as radicals to our radical history must take the form of salvage. The thought of salvage is the thought of all that is thrown out by the totality of late capitalism, the traditions and horizons of collectivity, solidarity, and true antagonism.

As such, we need this anti-capitalist reification of thinking human relations as things and things as embodiments of human relation. We need this in order to grasp - apocalyptically, with a sense of both the immanence and imminent returns of these relations - how to relate to what been ruined, yet which is persistent. The constitutive excess (radical thoughts of the radical reformation of life) can't ever quietly shuffle off the stage, because it is always created anew, ceaselessly, in every moment of the reproduction and circulation of capital. Like the objects of this outmoding world, they are made anew and tossed aside, not broken but declared broken and devoid of value.

Salvagepunk, along with being a kind of cultural object that hasn't fully come into its own, is the attempt to use the shards of a radical antagonism and solidarity in the same way that we might sort, sever, detangle, and grasp objects of insistent value from the wasteland. With a keen eye to what needs to be left to rot and a keener eye for how the world order has shifted since the time the things joined the realm of the unwanted. And from there, the grim smile that recognizes past struggle in its momentary successes and its resonant failures. A dissembling and hacking apart of those past moments, saving something and tossing away more, particularly those traditions in which we've invested too much to see them for the lumbering hindrance that they've become. And the montage and assemblage of our moments of real shock and slow resistance, constructs of waste to face up to this hurtling crash of a system predicated on the construction of waste.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Blah, blah, blah. It's easy to be a communist when you haven't actually suffered a working man's life. Havin' money ain't everything--not havin' it is. Btw, what kind of car do you drive? And how many communist social relations have you done maintenance on today? Did you tip your barista before you sat down at the coffee shop to type this into your stylish laptop? Or are you right now actually occupying a trash site? Is it air-conditioned? Just wondering.

socialism and/or barbarism said...

Ah yes, anonymous trolls and the masked game of more proletariat than thou. Always a productive addition.

Anonymous said...

I can vouch for socialism/barbarism, he lives pretty ghetto. not that it should matter. interesting piece, thanks.