The Artifa[ctuals] Manifesto – Part 2

America is the culmination of a millennia-long struggle to found a place equal to the manifold of humanity itself.  Its horrors and glories are legion, but every great nation, like every great person, must absorb the paradoxes and contradictions of its own character without either turning away or falling apart. 

There are hundreds of distinct ethnicities in America, which chart innumerable journeys to our shores. We reject those who would reduce this multiplicity to two, those who have color and those who allegedly do not.  

When everybody is encouraged to speak bitterness, when one wears suffering and resentment around one’s neck like a medal of honor, when woe is me takes the place of the truth will set you free, culture is reaching its nihilistic and suicidal end. 

We strive for a more perfect union, not that union’s dissolution into imbecility and inhumanity. 

The carceral carnival is now moving at warp speed from town to town, business to business and institution to institution.  In our Chronicle of Current Events, we will denounce the carnival’s many faceted crimes, especially its pillaging of all artists’ holy of holies; the freedom to speak.  Without this freedom the American project and Western Civilization itself will be finished. 

There is speech that is hateful but there is no such thing as hate speech. There is only clear speech and confused speech, speech which illumines the human situation or speech that obscures.

Art does not respect thresholds or litmus tests.  It transgresses old thresholds and fixes new ones.  The only test it must face—and again and again— is the test of internal integrity: does it survive after being set ablaze, ransacked, squatted in, or ignored for a century.

People who believe writers need permission to write from the perspective of someone in whose shoes they’ve never stepped have feeble skills or carceral imaginations.  If writers were constrained by such madness the entirety of storytelling would be reduced to the tedium of autobiography.  

If our imaginations are incarcerated and our works and careers are cancelled, before long we ourselves will be incarcerated and our memory cancelled.

We believe in masterpieces, but instead of aspiring to make them The Reimaginers have whipped up ludicrous cartoons, a necrotic Disney-scape that they now want to tear down to prosecute their revolution. We heartily endorse farce as a genre, but not when that farce is taken as a dead ringer for reality. 

Let’s here admit: The Arts have undergone horrible trauma by MFA programs. Except for all but a few, these programs seduce students into their charnel houses, promising protection and nurturance, only in actuality to have these innocents’ experiences warped beyond recognition, and their imaginations debauched. 

We resist the imagination’s oppression by concepts like marginalization, centering, heteronormativity, privilege, cultural appropriation, systemic  this or that.

Except where they might prove useful for a lecture or two among the academics in their abattoirs, these ideological place holders hold no creative meaning. They have no use in art or even speaking about art. 

Art is not merely about teaching a lesson; it is not a children’s book illustrating some professor’s fable/theory. Though art borrows, cribs from, or otherwise situates or insinuates itself into the context of history, religion, politics, philosophy, sociology and psychology—Picasso’s Guernica, The poems of Rumi, Marinetti’s graphic designs, Walker’s An Historical Romance…, Kushner’s Angels in America, Wright’s Native Son—its ultimate goal is to elucidate a universal reality and hint at the far reaches of human potentiality and imagination. 

CERN Engineers have built a miles long tunnel in Switzerland wherein atoms pitched at each other collide at near the speed of light.  The collision cannot be observed directly, only its trace, an artifact, survives.  Scientists believe this artifact will someday prove the key to unlocking the mystery of creation itself. 

We aim for similar collisions, where the artifacts of some elemental human happening might prove a key to unlocking our own mystery. 

We now know that two forces keep the universe in perfect balance, keep everything from collapsing or flying apart: dark matter and dark energy. They cannot be measured or seen, only inferred. 

These forces that account for the integrity of the cosmos also account for the integrity of a work of art. 

Art is a great task, for the very few and far between. If those very few and far between are denied their reality, if a society cannot tolerate the best and brightest, fiercest and most scandalous, then that society will either become a fetid pond where only fungi can survive, or a blind and ruthless machine that will demand these adventurers be expunged one by one. 

Nietzsche wrote, “After Buddha was dead people showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a cave, — an immense frightful shadow. God is dead: – but as the human race is constituted, there will perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which people will show his shadow.” 

Today, at every corner café, you will find artists who claim they are spiritual without being at all religious, when, in fact, the precise opposite is true. They keenly adhere to religion’s countless rituals and irrationalities, including recitation of mantras and veneration of idols, but without a wisp of spiritual force holding any of it up from within: the very definition of decadence.   

There are other caves, even more ancient than the Buddha’s. Dragons live there, but they surface only when they sense someone dangerous approaches, one worthy of battle. The dragons have grown lonely and bored.

We want to lift their spirits! We welcome their riotous ferocity, remorseless stare, insatiable gullet; their fire and slime. We have no interest in afternoon tea parties where people sit in their carceral costumes and are required to check into each other’s feelings before the crumpets are served.

Who speaks of art like this anymore?  Who speaks of art as a dangerous leap of faith whose ambition is both invention and redemption?  

That which makes this dangerous leap possible at any time and place where it has ever been possible is nothing short of Grace. 

Aris Janigian 
July 4, 2020 
Fresno, California

Categories: Manifesto

7 replies »

  1. Weaponized language with the rattle of an automatic and the precision of a sniper scope. Doesn’t always hit the target, but we all know the difficulty of keeping our lasers steady and true. Never fails at least to wing what it aims for. If I were on the receiving end of Aris’ mission, I’d be well advised to stay as much out of range as I could. He doesn’t miss much.

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