Please read the document that follows as a makeshift “program”, “manifesto”, “list of demands”, “wish list”, or “totally impenetrable academic nonsense” in favor of the moderately counterintuitive project of trying to ruin certain constellations of social relations. As one cannot even detail at length the critical framework on which such a project turns, my hope here is that the following three (3) examples and one (1) disclaimer offer practical advice as to what the guiding principles that lay underneath might be.
Start from the bottom. For now, we’re here.
DISCLAIMER: EVERYTHING SHOULD BE RUINED, REALLY
Paramount to any project that seeks to “change the world”, “do good”, “give back to the community”, “pad your résumé”, and so forth should be the absolute annihilation, obliteration, and destruction of any global socioeconomic system, its fundamental principles, the structures—both material and ideological—that uphold it, its primary overseers and chief shareholders, and its foremost symbols. The singling out of certain items for ruination in this document, (the subset of the universe S) is in no way intended to be a suggestion that everything else that exists (the absolute complement S’) has any business whatsoever continuing to exist. Pretty basic stuff.
If the art world’s patronage system thinks you’re cool enough, it offers you free shipping and handling—financing, studio space, creative partnerships and connections, and so on—as an incentive to ensure the regular flow of $19.95-plus-tax payments toward institutional shareholders.
Well, it’s no fun to play by the rules, is it? Some possible responses: “My practice involves the shifting of the burdens of performance, from the actors to the producers.” “In my work, I investigate themes of theft, property destruction, vandalism, and looting as a response to perceived institutional pacification.” “I think it is important to consider how prolonged absence, failure to appear, unmet expectations, and unwillingness to demonstrate commitment to the agreed-upon organizational values shape behavioral standards which are effectively shattered when compliance is no longer the norm.”
SEVERAL MAJOR MUSEUMS
A major museum would not be able to function if it had no board of directors. A major museum would not be able to function if it compensated people for their time on the basis of need rather than presumed merit. A major museum would not be able to function if all of those who worked for it had an equal say in how it functioned. A major museum would not be able to function if it refused to respect and obey the law. A major museum would not be able to function if it offered food, water, shelter, and emotional support to all in need. A major museum would not be able to function if it had no permanent collection. A major museum would not be able to function if it were to redirect the bulk of its resources from supporting the arts to facilitating overnight sessions in anti-heteropatriarchal organizing and community building. A major museum would not be able to function if ensuring its continued existence was no longer an institutional priority. A major museum would not be able to function if pretty much no one paid for anything ever.
This one should be easy, for we’ve already ruined the Internet. Despite its well-documented origins as a decentralized military command and communications network that could survive nuclear war, this global web of interconnected computers has blossomed into a major component of an augmented reality in which people create feedback loops, organize anti-state revolutions, send coded messages, and—most beautifully of all—accumulate profit. Much of the Internet’s infrastructure may still be property of the United States government in name, but we don’t need to believe that until they show us the receipts—and if they do, you don’t have to look. All I’m saying is: keep up the bad work.
Anwar Batte cannot be reached at this time. If you are attempting to contact the infamous left-wing plane hijacker, please search for “Leila Khaled” or “Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin.” If you are attempting to reach the sociologist of the 1965 Watts, Los Angeles, uprising, please search for “Bobbi Hollon.”