The lockdown incites us to read, listen, look, and also reflect and rethink our worldview. Although we had planned to act as slow media, taking the time to analyse world art and events, the current situation is forcing us to shift our orientation by preparing opinion pieces in response to the current health crisis.
Switch (on Paper), as part of the slow media generation, had formally vowed never to respond to breaking news, or resort to commenting on instant updates. So far, we stuck to our will to distance ourselves to have sufficient hindsight to avoid the pitfalls of risky short-sighted opinions we so despise. This ‘delay’, as Marcel Duchamp might have said, is that of the prism of art, not the bling-bling of fairground art and financial speculation, but living creation with its self-experimentation and exchange. The art we defend is positioned as ‘engaged art’, fully integrated in our world, without however teaching good manners. We live fully in our time, deeply rooted in our world, while also claiming the right to challenge many of its shortcomings. But our critical analysis is not grounded in generalisation; it aims to be patient and demanding, since it is based on in-depth study of a wide range of facts.
The situation in recent weeks forces us to address facts. The epidemic, now of pandemic proportions, as the days go by has indeed confirmed the foolishness of nonstop live news. We have read and heard dozens of prominent editorialists as well as simple websurfers who take themselves for eminent epidemiologists, some asserting that Covid-19 is a simple inconsequential flu virus invented by the media, while others, laughable doomsayers connected nonstop to Instagram or Twitter, predicting the end of the world according to timeworn eschatological principles. In both cases, the stupidity is the same: how can all these fools predict the future when they are hardly aware of the present? True, collective fear has always existed. It is legitimate, since today’s facts are serious, but isn’t it more constructive to refuse to amplify such phenomena, by expressing a critical view of our modes of communication and analysis? The Millennial Fears of the year 1000 are famous, but it must be remembered that this concept is the brainchild of the Renaissance, for the purpose of highlighting the relevance of its day to the detriment of a more obscure past.
When referring to economic downturn, we must include in this negative growth our ways of thinking, e.g. ceasing to make indiscriminate judgments. Global emergency, although genuine regarding climate change in particular, should not impose on us any permanent urgency to speak out, unpalatably or inappropriately. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence, wrote the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Also required reading: The Man without Qualities by another Austrian, Robert Musil, who describes a — rather brilliant — society where there is ceaseless speech as the catastrophe of World War I approaches inevitably. The work begins with this incipit: Hence, remarkable thing, nothing ensued, followed ironically by a daily weather forecast for Vienna on a fine morning in August 1913. We should take advantage of this lockdown to invent, not necessarily another world, but another way of thinking. To help us, there is literature, of course, especially poetry. Thus, we urge you to download the free app La voix libérée with 74 sound poems from the 1950s to the present. Resolutely alternative, sound poetry is a little-known branch of literature. The main reason for this may be that it cannot be pigeonholed in traditional language: words become sounds and sounds become words. This about-face conceals a concept of language as social practice. This notion accompanied early 20th-century avant-gardist aesthetic revolutions. It was a matter of fighting systems and dogmas, starting with the rules imposed by language. Times have changed, as have conflicts. But at a time when the new technologies are formatting speech, with the omnipresence of orality and social discussions, sound poetry maintains all its topicality and singularity.
The content of open-access application lasts over 5 hours and offers total, unfettered freedom.
To be listened to without restraint!
Translation by Attic
Cover: Occupy Wall Street, day 14 © photo David Shankbone