Exploding Appendix was founded with a mission. We renew our commitment to this mission:
The radical application of all arts, and all culture, in the service of a renewed avant-garde that responds intellectually and critically to the vital needs of our time.
Exploding Appendix is an art project, which, through a myriad of mediums, seeks to critically renew all life for the purpose of our cultural revolution. Ours is an experimental endeavour that fuses artistic play and intellectual investigation. Through our online publication, our projects and public meetings we seek to interpolate the teachings of the historical avant-garde. We seek to unite the spirit of Prolokultist laboratories with Dadaist cabarets in order to ignite a thoroughgoing assault on cultural stultification. Yet despite our love of these visionaries, we hold no fetish for the history of avant-garde art. Rather, we seek to draw upon it, practically and intellectually applying its insights with a critical and historical dynamism that responds to the demands of our current epoch.
Our task is both critical and syncretic. Deep within us, in the gurgling depths of our bellies, stirs an almost catechistic cry: “No tradition is sacred, All traditions will be ours.” As syncretists and dialecticians have taught us, it takes all sorts to make a world. The path to be travelled twists and detours in multiple complementing and conflicting directions. It is this insight that grounds our theoretical task. Those ideas, especially those ideas we deeply admire, must be subject to a thoroughgoing scrutiny, not because we wish them to vanish from the earth like vapour into the atmosphere, but because we wish them to succeed. Likewise, we turn to those ideas we vehemently oppose, not because we wish them to cement themselves as concrete fixtures, but because we wish to both scavenge their insights and surmount our opposition.
To fulfil our objectives we seek to incubate ten research units committed to the deepening of the Exploding Appendix mission. Through these individual research units we seek, not elitist know-it-alls, but an open and participatory laboratory, where, through mutual experimentation, we together surmount the task of envisaging and inventing the future.
THE AVANT-GARDE ART RESEARCH UNIT
Exploding Appendix takes its cue from the avant-gardist and counter-cultural experimentations in art in the nineteenth and twentieth century. We encourage an experimentalism in the form, content, construction, distribution and reception of all artforms. We take inspiration from the artistic practices and the experiments in living that enabled artists and innovators to respond to the vital needs of their time, and invent the future. We attempt to do the same. Not out of some fetish for any bygone movement, an elitist egoism, or vapid hipster posturing. We are aware that these movements have been easily co-opted, repackaged, and drained of their subversive potential. Rather we seek to renew the spirit of avant-gardism through a critical and rigorous dialogue that renews these concerns and preoccupations to respond to OUR needs and OUR time.
Nor do we confine ourselves to the history of art designated as ‘Avant-garde’. On the contrary, wherever there has been power there has been subversives, radicals and innovators that might corrupt that power. It is in light of this insight that we approach the topic of avant-gardism, not as a particular historical period, but as an impulse that manifests in multiple forms and expands across space and time. We seek to mine the history of art—all art—in the service of our cause: Creativity eternal!
THE SUBVERSIVE RATIONALISMS RESEARCH UNIT
Despite our somewhat Dadaist sensibilities, we, nonetheless, seek the most radical and thoroughgoing rationalism. Ours is a détournement of all previously existing enlightenments in the service of a radical philosophical and scientific vanguard adept to envisioning the future. In this respect, we refuse to confine our ‘avant-gardism’ to a mere study of the arts. We seek what is subversive and radical in science, philosophy, technology and every aspect of society. We even turn to those classic figures, who now appear neutralised and safe. The once corrupting Socrates enthroned as unquestioning gate-keeper of knowledge. The heretical Galileo released from house arrest assured that he is no longer a threat. The radical Spinoza co-opted to the cause of a merely conservative liberalism. We seek to renew their subversive vitality.
Herein lies the spiritual foundations of our rationalism, not rationalism contained and restricted in the form of detached academism, elitist parliamentarianism or arrogant Eurocentrism, but the vital life of reason. We understand the fundemental need to defend abstract principles of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, but ours is not a mere equality before the law. Ours is a call for radical democracy—a radical re-envisioning of all institutions. The popular use of reason grounds our rationalism. Ours is the symposium—the drinking together. Ours is the rationalism of the pub, the tavern, the salon, the streets, the workers council, the anti-colonial struggle, the revolution!
THE INDIVIDUAL AND FREEDOM RESEARCH UNIT
Our collectivism is a discursive egoism. The antagonism of the parts creates the unity of the whole. Caught between Bogdanov’s collectivist account of individuality, and Wilde’s Individualist socialism, we seek a critical examination of freedom, the individual and self-interest. We refuse to accept an unyielding dichotomy between the individual and the collective. From Bogdanovian Collectivism we have learnt how individuals unite in comradely co-operation. From Wildean Individualism we have learnt the need for a comradely co-operation as the foundation of a genuine individualism.
We reject the merely moralistic critique of capitalism as a manifestation of greed. All too easily this moralism substitutes for a structural critique of capitalism. The “ascetic but rapacious skinflint and the ascetic but productive slave” 1 described by Marx, and the protestant spirit of capitalism described by Weber, have taught us to reassess the Mandevillean pairing of private vice and public benefit as an essential underlying facet of capitalism. Détournement has taught us a subversive, albeit often misplaced, dimension to Mandevillean, Stirnerist and Randian egoism. We interpolate liberal, individualist and right libertarian ideas for our own ends. To quote the Situationist collective For Ourselves “The present forms of greed lose out, in the end, because they turn out to be not greedy enough.” 2To quote Engels, “we are communists out of egoism also, and it is out of egoism that we wish to be human beings, not mere individuals.”3
This, of course, is not a denial of those dynamic and decadent elements within the functioning of capitalism, but the commitment to a syncretic and dialectical understanding of their formation.
Through this study we seek freedom as a vision of our own journey, not curbed in authoritarianism, side-lined for profit motives or sacrificed under the banner of ‘survival’. Instead we seek freedom as the opportunity to create and determine our destiny.
THE COMMON TREASURY RESEARCH UNIT
The Roman’s bequeathed us a mythology that has haunted, and continues to haunt, our world: The reign of Saturn where “all things were held by all in common and without division, as though there were one single inheritance for all men.” 4 Such has been the stuff of the dreams and nightmares of people throughout the ages. The heretical levellers’ dreams of Earthly plenty; the colonisers nightmare of the ‘communal savage.’
We seek to harness the specter of Saturnia in the service of an abundant new tomorrow. We hold no theological fetish for an imaginary state of nature, but we understand its allusive power. We seek the communism of the common treasury, not out of an Adamite fantasy of ready-made Edenic plenty, but the re-appropriation and re-organisation of productive labour (digging) in the service of a common task. Through the re-organisation of productive labour we seek an earthly plenty whose fruits can be enjoyed by all.
THE DEMOCRACY AND PARTICIPATION RESEARCH UNIT
In our experiment with art as an interactive multifaceted project we seek a thoroughgoing practical experimentation in participation and social organisation. We see our art projects as an experimental union of people centred around a common task. We seek to combine this with a theoretical and empirical investigation into democracy, and participation in general. We explore ways of deepening democracy in its direct, representational and associative variants. We explore ideas of democracy at the level of the state, the workplace, in art and other associations.
THE UTOPIA RESEARCH UNIT
We are no starry eyed sentimentalists. Nor do we hold any singular blueprint for all future endeavours. The best anti-utopians have rightly taught us that the future is, in important respects, fundamentally unpredictable. Different contexts require different courses of action that cannot be reduced to a singular one-size-fits-all model. Nonetheless, we do not abandon our utopian predecessors. We excavate utopian imagination and creative vision, not out of naivety, but precisely because we are aware that good intentions alone are insufficient. We seek to learn from past experiments and future dreams. We seek a thorough empirical and theoretical investigation into future possibilities for the formation of organisational structures, and the means of transitioning between them. We discover within utopianism a practical problem solving and modelling component. Through this we seek the fusion of experimental imagination and scientific rigor for the purpose of deepening our lexicon of possibilities.
THE TECHNOLOGY AND FUTURISM RESEARCH UNIT
Exploding Appendix holds no fetishistic optimism for technological progress. We know that the machine can both liberate and oppress. An optimism that is blind to context is as bad as a pessimism that misses the opportunities that lie before us. Nonetheless, the multiple and ever-expanding crises that we face today will remain insurmountable without the purposing and repurposing of technology for our own ends. Ours is not an eco-primativism or green austerity that flees technology in the name of averting climate catastrophe. Instead, we call for a green accelerationism that utilises the post-scarcity potential of technology in order to combat the huge challenges we face, and, in doing so, forge a bright new tomorrow. Uniting our understanding of technology with our deepened understanding of the lexicon of possibilities we seek to comprehend how technology and organisational structure can be fused in order to construct the future.
THE STRATEGY AND TACTICS RESEARCH UNIT
Drawing upon gaming, role play and modeling we attempt to explore how strategy and art merge in the creation of weapons of transformation. We seek to combine this with an empirical and theoretical exploration of the modes of transition from one model of organisation to another. We seek to explore means to transform dominant systems of power and create new forms of organisation. Through these experiments in art, gaming, history and theory we explore the development of methods for the subversion and transformation of the world around us.
THE LIBERATION AND EMANCIPATORY STRUGGLE RESEARCH UNIT
We set ourselves up in opposition to the reductive tutelage of a top-down managerialism that attempts to solve a miasma of social problems through a combination of equal opportunities monitoring forms, codes of conduct, diversity training and anything that can be used to ensure the cohesive management of workplace disputes. We understand, of course, that some genuinely progressive movements may have gotten caught in its wheels, but this ‘Human Resources model of inclusion’ all too readily recasts the bosses as the pioneers of progress and workplace exploitation as the path to inclusion. What is offered is a system concerned with creating an etiquette to limit disputes, whilst ignoring the volatile situation that exists beneath. Its underlying ideal is a world where those who starve for want of food, and those who feast on their corpses, are proportionally representative of the race, gender and sexuality of society as a whole. Within the HR logic, external policing is substituted by internal police. Through codes of conduct and therapeutic self-help we are transformed into model employees, ensuring our co-workers act accordingly, and, under this new consciousness, carrying an internalised surveillance beyond the workplace, into every sphere of human interaction. What we have been given is nothing more than ‘inclusion’ within the systems of oppression itself—political correctness for the business world—Taylorism with sentimental characteristics extended to every walk of life.
In contrast, we seek, not an etiquette of denial, but a politics of liberation. We attempt to reconnect with radical and subversive traditions of emancipation. We have learnt from Marxist Feminism a material struggle that extends from the factory to the kitchen. We have learnt from ACT UP that health care is a queer issue, just as X and King taught us that capitalism was a race issue. From Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries’ housing projects and the Black Panthers free breakfasts we have learnt methods to organise our revolutionary actions around our material survival. From the Firestoneans and techno-feminists we have learnt to criticise the conflation of the natural with the good, and seek, instead, to construct our own destiny. We have learnt our cosmopolitanism from the Cynics, and our internationalism from the struggles of international workers and anti-colonialists. From C.L.R. James and L’Ouverture we learnt the thoroughgoing detournement of colonial and enslavers’ ideals. From Divine, Waters and the pioneers of queer decadence, we have learnt to embrace our filth, and spit it out as a rampaging cultural assault. From Fanon and Biko we have learnt a need for a radical new consciousness adept for our continuous struggle. In attempting to deepen and unite these insights we undertake a radical and extensive ‘home economics’ that unites our material class struggle with emancipation in every quarter of it, and extends, in collaborative solidarity, across the globe.
THE RELIGION AND REVELRY RESEARCH UNIT
Ours is a religion whose sacred heart has been ripped out, and replaced by a junkyard of dismembered pieces. Out of this deconsecrated wasteland our bible emerges as an ever-expanding series of unfinished and incohesive appendices written for an absent scripture. Our catechisms are declarations against catechisms. Our theology is a theosophical syncretism devoid of ‘God’.
Through our religious studies we seek, not some grand metaphysical theology, but an insight into the organisation of all human spiritual bonds. We seek an understanding of the rituals, festivals and celebrations that bind a people in a common task. We embark upon a study of both religion and revelry and other modes and customs that aid our social interaction. We seek a radical communion grounded upon eating and drinking together. This will be our Saturnian Feast, our Ranter’s communion, our festival of the supreme being, our godbuilding celebration, our psychedelic happening, our Dadaist cabaret. Through our common tasks, and communal unions, we seek the incubation of a consciousness adept to the formation of our new way of being. Through these common tasks we seek to incubate a vision of an avant-garde suited to the construction of the future.
What is presented here can only constitute the brief jottings of a far larger research project. What we have set forward is not some immutable ideas, immune from criticism. On the contrary, we welcome their thoroughgoing criticism. We undertake the creation of these research units, not in order to concretise them into a fixed and unmoveable mould, but rather, we seek the preliminary jotting, the work-in-progress, the persistent rehearsal for an ever-expanding and mutating revolution. Our aim is to build an open-ended dialogue; a discursive interplay in the ongoing mutations of a communal experimentation that aspires towards transformative ideals. We demand a renewed commitment to a love of life and a radical aspiration in every faction of it, yet we have no eternal manifesto. Instead we offer mere rehearsals. Meagre drafts, compiled as an unfinished edifice. A mere tangential blog posing as a new ‘Lutheranism’. Yet this bombastic posturing reveals our driving ideals: We are descendants of Gutenberg. Ours is the radical pamphlet; the incendiary manifesto. We will not sit quietly, but instead nail our meager drafts to all the sanctified ‘churches’ of our modern world.
Karl Marx, ‘The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts’ in Early Writings (Tran. Rodney Livingstone & Greg Benton) (Penguin. 1975/2000. London.) p.361