Satan makes his way through Eden.
Gustave Doré - Paradise Lost
It’s become a truism to say that society no longer expresses a consensus (whether reactionary or liberatory), but that a false consensus is expressed for society; let’s call this false consensus “the Totality.” The Totality is produced thru mediation & alienation, which attempt to subsume or absorb all creative energies for the Totality. Myakovsky killed himself when he realized this; perhaps we’re made of sterner stuff, perhaps not. But for the sake of argument, let us assume that suicide is not a “solution.”
The Totality isolates individuals & renders them powerless by offering only illusory modes of social expression, modes which seem to promise liberation or self-fulfillment but in fact end by producing yet more mediation & alienation. This complex can be viewed clearly at the level of “commodity fetishism,” in which the most rebellious or avant-garde forms in art can be turned into fodder for PBS or MTV or ads for jeans or perfume.
On a subtler level, however, the Totality can absorb & re-direct any power whatsoever simply by re-contextualizing & re-presenting it. For instance, the liberatory power of a painting can be neutralized or even absorbed simply by placing it in the context of a gallery or museum, where it will automatically become a mere representation of liberatory power. The insurrectionary gesture of a madman or criminal is not negated only by locking up the perpetrator, but even more by allowing the gesture to be represented—by a psychiatrist or by some brainless Kopshow on channel 5 or even by a coffee-table book on Art Brut. This has been called “Spectacular recuperation”; however, the Totality can go even farther than this simply by simulating that which it formerly sought to recuperate. That is, the artist & madman are no longer necessary even as sources of appropriation or “mechanical reproduction,” as Benjamin called it. Simulation cannot reproduce the faint reflection of “aura” which Benjamin allowed even to commodity-trash, its “utopian trace.” Simulation cannot in fact reproduce or produce anything except desolation & misery. But since the Totality thrives on our misery, simulation suits its purpose quite admirably.
Immediatism, Hakim Bey, 1994