by Joyelle McSweeney on Nov.20, 2013
I am in a strange position because while I am certainly ‘avant garde’ in terms of my affinities with the historical avant garde I feel I cannot be avant-garde because my affinities are historical.
That is, I am a Futurist, but I am a Futurist of 1909 rather than a Futurist who believes or anticipates a Future as envisioned by, say, TED talk panelists or believers in the progressive motion of literature as a reinforcement of political/capitalist bona fides.
My favorite part of the Futurist Manifesto is where they imagine themselves benighted and about to be consumed by cannibal teens.
They will find us at last one winter’s night in the depths of the country in a sad hangar echoing with the notes of the monotonous rain, crouched near our trembling aeroplanes, warming our hands at the wretched fire which our books of today will make when they flame gaily beneath the glittering flight of their pictures.
They will crowd around us, panting with anguish and disappointment, and exasperated by our proud indefatigable courage, will hurl themselves forward to kill us, with all the more hatred as their hearts will be drunk with love and admiration for us. And strong healthy Injustice will shine radiantly from their eyes. For art can only be violence, cruelty, injustice.
Futurism set itself up against decadence, but to be Futurist in 2013 is to be decadent, moving backwards. It is indeed strange to feel time folding, to be in 2013 thinking like 1913. Why has time folded. Why is it no longer moving forward. Why am I not a avant-garde. Why am I not avant. Am I a rear-gardist or just an asynchronous, a bad soldier.
After her reading last night, the brilliant Sylvia Guerra shared that me that she is working on a new book based on Lautreamont, one which ‘writes around’ Lautreamont.
Why is she asynchronous not looking forward to a neatly progressing time why is time folding why do we need Decadence again.
I believe it’s because after the horrors of the 20th century Decadence is the deeper vision. It is no longer ‘escapist’ or ‘merely shocking’. After the horrors of the 20th century constantly re-reeling in media and repeating themselves in new depredations across the globe, Decadence takes on the work of truth, truth’s firey destructiveness. Everything is burning. Man’s default mode is cruelty and exploitation, outrageous depredation and deprivation. We have to go backwards to find an art form that does not hide this truth under ideologies of progress or purity. The TED-talkathon, which infects every part of our political and cultural environ, amounts to a new Victorianism, the imperialistic export of progress. We must be Decadent again.