Tag Archives: temporary autonomous zone

Occupy Wall Street and the Poetry of Now-Time

Recent article “Occupy Wall Street and the Poetry of Now-Time” by Aaron Gell at the New York Observer links to CHAOS: THE BROADSHEETS OF ONTOLOGICAL ANARCHISM from T. A. Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism in Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy

“In his 1985 cult anarchist treatise T.A.Z., Hakim Bey, aka the poet Peter Lamborn Wilson, described what he dubbed the temporary autonomous zone: ‘a guerrila operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination).’ Which is as good a description of Occupy Wall Street as any.

Such zones have flourished, however briefly, around the world, often in secret, Mr. Bey wrote, but in in contemporary America he thought such a space would most likely emerge after three conditions were met. First, people needed to understand not only how the State (Wall Street, the One Percent, whatever) had enslaved them but also ‘the ways in which we are ensnared in a fantasy in which ideas oppress us.’ When the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek showed up in the park a few weeks back, he compared this process of awakening to the John Carpenter movie They Live, in which the protagonist, Nada, finds a pair of special sunglasses which reveal that the advertising billboards all around him carry hidden messages: submit, stay asleep, conform, consume. The dollar bill? This is your god. (And spoiler alert: the rich are all aliens.)

The second condition was that the internet would need to evolve into a useful tool of dissent and organization.

And third, Mr. Bey wrote, ‘The State must progress on its present course in which hysterical rigidity comes more and more to mask a vacuity, an abyss of power.’

Check, check, check.”

and also suggests

“If you really want to understand Occupy Wall Street, you have to talk to the poets.”

occupancy

occupancy” is a recent post over at The Rosewater Chronicles which links to The “Temporary Autonomous Zone” from T. A. Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism in Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy

“I’m still thinking. But, like a treasure hidden in plain sight, I do find it surprising that few commentators and critics are talking or writing about the concept that has helped to organize so many: occupancy. The original call to “occupy Wall Street” signified, on a basic level, putting bodies in a certain space as a metaphorical squatting (“bring tent,” the original flyer says). The term also has militaristic connotations of property seizure and violation of ownership. Even the term “occupation,” now metonymy for one’s profession or even class-identification, derives from a person located in a particular space. Unlike the Tea Party movement, which seemed to organize an inchoate swirl of rage, xenophobia, and classic “American” paranoia, the Occupy Movement started as a political gesture of space. This marks it as something more—or perhaps something other than—a politics of spectacle.

Occupancy harkens to street marching politics of old in a way that flies in the face of theories of digital mobilization or virtuality. What the Occupy Movement seems to be harnessing, however paradoxically, is a strange, postmodern politics of invisibility made possible by postmodern regimes of publicity. What I mean by this harkens to Hakim Bey’s conception of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, in a sense: insurrection occurs in spaces that have gone “unmapped” by the state. Or to use Henri Lefebvre’s notions of representation, the Occupy Movement seems to be pointing up the distinction between “representations of space” (which serve the dominant class) and “spaces of representation,” the latter concerning how people actually occupy the world with their bodies, often in ways that do not comport with dominant conceptions of space. The territory of lived lives—the structures of feeling and being in the world—exceeds what is capable of being represented.

For example, consider how long it took the MSM to get around to representing the Occupy Wall Street protest: it took almost two weeks for screen-time to reflect what New York citizens were experiencing in Manhattan. This “lag” time in “mapping” the movement represents in a homologous way the “lag” between representations of the experiences of “everyday folks” and what is perceived as consensus-reality on our many screens. My point is that Tea Party mobilization was conducted largely on the terrain of virtuality (despite some modest rallies and a Fox-News sponsored DC thing), whereas it appears that the Occupy Movement is manifesting quite differently—adding a spatial component to the temporally bound logics of publicity and circulation. In other words, occupancy is the central tactic, and the image politics of the tactic is secondary. Of course, this was the strategy of uprisings in the Middle East, presumably in countries with less sophisticated technologies of mediation and representation; clearly, however, a number of those involved in the Occupy Movement believe the spatial tactic is crucial. Those who study social movements in postmodernity would do well not to lose sight of occupancy as a strategy.

Evidence enough that the Occupy Movement is engaging in a territory map struggle are the attempts of those “on the right” who would force it into a state-sanctioned map.”

and finally

“Isn’t the reduction of social struggle to the ballot precisely the mechanism occupancy seeks to combat?”

Hakim Bey and the Occupy Wall Street movement

In the past few days there was a big increase in traffic to Hakim Bey and Ontological Anarchy, especially to the T. A. Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism and Part 1 – T. A. Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism pages. Presumably, this is due to these pages being referenced by people talking about the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together movements around the country.

For example, some tweets I’ve seen with links have suggested the Occupy Wall Street movement is a “peaceful temporary autonomous zone (TAZ), pirate utopia, encampment of guerrilla ontologists” [via]. I’ve also seen suggestions that the Hakim Bey material is a “key” [via] to Occupy Wall Street, or that that in Bey’s work can be found the “ideological roots of the Wall Street Occupationists” [via].

While I always encourage people to check out material on the Hermetic Library site, and I think it’s great that people are talking about the materials; there’s certainly a couple other things that come to mind for me, which I wanted to mention. Certainly a never ending list of recommendations could be made, but I’ll limit myself to a small handful.

I’d like to suggest that people check out the work of John Brinckerhoff Jackson, especially because of his work around discovering the “vernacular landscape”. When I was reading his work I also posited the existence of an “imaginal landscape”, so you may be inclined to check out one of my personal papers, Sigils of Imagination.

For me, I find myself also thinking about Rebecca Solnit’s Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, and want to suggest that to you. The struggle over who and what ideology controls landscape is not a new one to the United States, and this work is for me an interesting and powerful exploration of that.

I’d also highly recommend checking out a variety of other resistance movements, both in the US and Europe. One could look at the history of strikes in the US, the history of the Diggers and Levellers in the UK, or at the history of peasant revolts generally in Europe.

But, I also wanted to recommend to you another online repository of texts which I think may be of interest to those checking out the works of Hakim Bey as possibly influences on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ken Knabb’s Bureau of Public Secrets is a pretty extensive collection of Situationist International materials, both in France and elsewhere. You can also may find Ken Knabb’s published works interesting, such as Situationist International Anthology and Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb.

Of course, you may also be interested in the Marxists Internet Archive, which is a venerable online repository of materials of possible interest.

Update 2011nov15 @ 4:36pm:

I note now that according to a tweet by @OWSLibrary and confirmed by the history page of their blog the first book entered into their catalog was, in fact, Hakim Bey’s T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism.