We have some posts planned for the near future, but in the intervening lull I thought I’d take another shot at encouraging contributions to Lines of Flight.
My particular interest is in work that attempts to motivate real action in the world. So, if you are a writer, painter, performer or activist of any kind whose goal is to inspire action, I hope you’ll consider using this site to promote your work. Give us a sample of some kind, and do a written interview; whether or not you participate in discussion afterwards is up to you.
I have argued, here and elsewhere, that today the role of art, and even more of scholarship, is to produce a detached contemplation of the world. We are asked to revel in our superior insight into the current situation from a safe cynical distance. Or, we are assured we must continue to think everything through more carefully, more subtly, in more sophisticated abstractions, because any action would be rash and futile. In most forms of art today, particularly Literature, we are offered fantasies to compensate for our inability to comprehend, much less act in, the world.
It is my (perhaps foolish) conviction that this is not the whole picture. Surely there are activists and novelists, painters and cultural critics, hoping to instigate action, motivate change–to interpret the world in such a way that we are impelled to change it.
This is not a new function for discourse, surely. From Hesiod to Thomas Paine, there have been an enormous variety of texts intended to inspire real action in the world. So where are these texts today?
If you’re not engaged in producing one, perhaps you know of one? If so, why not write a review of it for this site? Explain how it works to promote some real agency in the world, and try to expand its effects.
In suggesting some text to discuss, we need not even be concerned with “authorial intention.” I have argued here that the ideological function of Beckett is to produce a pleasurable kind of resigned quietism for the educated bourgeois. But by “Beckett” I mean, I hope it is clear, the discourse of Beckett–the set of texts and critical reception and reading practices in which people engage when they “do” Beckett. But could we use such texts differently, produce a new discourse out of them to motivate action? It is often argued that Shakespeare produces right-wing (Tory, neoliberal, late-capitalist etc.) ideology–but of course this means the discourse of Shakespeare does this (nobody, I hope, imagines that Shakespeare meant to produce this future ideology); could we co-opt the plays for a different use? Is this being done, with any kind of text or practice anywhere? Are there any texts, from movies and pop fiction to highbrow art and music, that we can employ to motivate some agency for change?
If you can think of some creative practice that works to enable action in the world, write it up! Or create some kind of post that advances the project–video clips, paintings, music. If you know of some such practice, but are reluctant to do the writing/creating yourself, mention it in the comments below, and maybe someone else will take it up.
In the near future, I hope to post my own example of creative writing meant to motivate real action. I would prefer to follow the format we’ve used before, and pair the text with an interview…so, if any readers out there are interested in getting revenge on that unbearable ass Tom Pepper, here’s your chance. Anyone want to read my piece and take the opportunity let me know just what you think? I’ll send it to you, you ask the questions…and I’ll try to answer them.
Most art today teaches us to contemplate the world with ironic detachment, then retreat into comforting fantasy; the point, however, is to interpret the world in ways that enable us to change it!