The texts collected in this volume are an unrepresentative selection of my writing from the mid-eighties onwards. Much of what I’ve written about the avant-garde is repetitious and it would be pointless to reprint this material in its entirety. The Assault on Culture incorporates some of my earlier work on the subject and I refer interested readers to that book. A number of the pieces included here have been re-edited to avoid too great an overlap between them. Therefore, if this book is still found to be repetitious, it will have served its purpose by proving Kierkegaard’s dictum that: ‘Boredom is the daemonic side of pantheism… Boredom is partly an inborn talent, partly an acquired immediacy. The English are in general the paradigmatic nation. A true talent for indolence is very rare; it is never met with in nature, but belongs to the world of the spirit. Occasionally, however, you will meet a travelling Englishman who is, as it were, the incarnation of this talent—a heavy, immovable animal, whose entire language exhausts its riches in a single word of one syllable.’
The pieces in the first section of this volume run more or less chronologically from 1986 to 1989 and are taken from The Art Strike Handbook and later issues of Smile. Two of these works, Karen Eliot and Demolish Serious Culture, were collective productions. The next section consists of articles that accompanied various exhibitions and installations. This is followed by two ‘Neoist’ texts. The Correspondence Script is another collaborative work, assembled from letters sent to Pete Horobin and myself, it has been revised since it was first published in 1985. Despite its fictional form, Retro-Futurism (originally published in 1985) is the most extensive record so far produced of the Eighth International Neoist Apartment Festival. A factual account of a more substantial poly-media manifestation of the eighties avant-garde can be found in my Festival of Plagiarism pamphlet. Readers interested in Neoism should also check out my Neoist Manifestos and forthcoming novel Slow Death.
The final section of this book is given over to writing produced since the end of the Art Strike. In these texts, I begin to historicise the avant-garde of the eighties, as well as writing about contemporary manifestations of anti-institutional culture. Appended to this are conversations about my activities conducted by Karen Goaman and Simon Ford. The latter is one of the few people to understand that by openly campaigning for the Neoist, Plagiarist and Art Strike movements to be incorporated into the collections of leading museums, I’m deterring curators from touching this material. Most art administrators don’t like the ways in which they operate to be openly talked about, they’d much rather I remained silent on the subject, so that my work could be shrouded in reverence. In a third appendix there is a selection of my correspondence from 1989, hopefully this gives some insight into how the Art Strike was organised. This is followed by the Introduction to the Polish Edition of The Assault on Culture, an unveiling of the occult influences upon oppositional culture.
This book does not provide an exhaustive account of the eighties avant garde, a great deal remains to be written on the subject. For example, I am unaware of anything having been published that traces the use of the collective names Karen Eliot and Monty Cantsin back through the adoption of Emmett Grogan as a multiple identity by a number of the San Francisco Diggers in the 1960s. For the benefit of those not in the know, Praxis was little more than a paper organisation consisting of myself with occasional back up from John Berndt. In contrast to this, the Neoist, Plagiarist and Art Strike movements were just as substantial as the earlier Dadaist, Surrealist and Situationist groups, all of which were numerically insignificant when compared to the following for Spiritualism or top-flight New Age gurus. As Nietzsche observed: ‘the point of honesty is deception, with all great deceivers there is a noteworthy occurrence to which they owe their power. In the actual act of deception… they are overcome by belief in themselves… Men believe i n the truth o f things that are plainly and strongly believed’ . As for the avant-garde, it is closer to Stimer’s weltanschauung: ‘Whether I am in the right or not there is no judge but myself. Others can judge only whether they endorse my right, and whether it exists as right for them too’ . Belief is the enemy, it provides the means by which we can articulate our thoughts while simultaneously robbing them of vitality and vigour. I have always been fascinated by deceit and the texts collected here are a direct reflection of this interest.
Home, Stewart. Neoism. Plagiarism & Praxis. Edinburgh: AK Press, 1995.