Design and Crime, Accelerate Manifesto
5 March 2017

by Hal Foster

 

I went to the Los Angeles Art Book Fair last week and am finally getting around to reading what I picked up. The first two I read were small pamphlets from C ? M ! (I tried googling the name, but could not find them). They are small, orange pamphlets. The text is big, the pages hand cut, the text poorly copy-edited. They carry the markers of “authenticity”, which is interesting since both pamphlets seem to rail against that particular aesthetic– the aesthetic of the local, of the artisinal, of the designed.

Hal Foster’s essay draws parallels between Art Nouveau’s idea of designing everything and the modern world. He ties the impulse to capitalism and a design culture that “wants the status of an artist but the paycheck of a business man”. Which, to be honest: yes, that is what I want.

Interesting for how he ties the ornamentation and louche decadence of Art Nouveau with Frank Gehry and Bruce Mau. I had never made the connection, and I now I know why I equally dislike both movements.

by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek

I went to a liberal meeting last week. I’ve been looking around for a political cadre to do activism with lately, but I’ve been finding it hard.

People seem to be very angry about the president, but no one seems to be angry about the systems that made him the president. I feel like now is the perfect time to tie neo-liberal capitalism to an unpopular figure, to illustrate how it works and begin the long complex work of dismantling it and building a better system in its place. But instead among the left I’ve found pearl clutching, constant repetition of vaguely understood news snippets to provoke mutual outrage and the “well look at what America did in Latin America so we shouldn’t be so hard on Russia” liberal death-wish arguments. The idea that if we could just write one more letter to our member of congress this problem will be fixed.

I am not optimistic that the liberals and the organic food-eating contingent of the American left have any hope or interest in winning this fight. The last meeting I went to I snuck out early with the thought: “how am I going to manage in 8 years of a Trump presidency?”

I had read the Accelerate Manifesto before, on the internet somewhere. It calls for a new left that claims the future. It rails against the horizontalism and localism of the modern left, instead asking for something that is “vertical”, that is to say fixes the problems with globalism with some new system.

In spirit I agree, even though I have spent most of my life as an activist working in those horizontal and local spaces– my teenage years in Anti-Racist Action, the anti-WTO protests, my anti-war activist through the early aughts, my work with Occupy. These projects were, of course, wildly unsuccessful, and perhaps new tactics and ideas need to be tried.  Accelerationists look at Walmart and Amazon and say: yes please, but fairer. There is a contingent in England that calls for FALC: Fully Automated Luxury Communism. Others call themselves Space Communists. Some of the arguments are tongue in cheek, but behind the irony there is a kernel of utopian vision. The gist of the manifesto is that we need to move beyond capitalism’s limits of only producing shiny widgets and new social networking sites. But we also need to harness their network effects, to use certain aspects of the surveillance state to gauge human desire and to distribute goods.

When I look at the movements I have been part of, there seems to be a lot of “against” and “anti” in the words. It seems like perhaps I should be for something at this point in my life.

Now, what to do about it?