By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The contradiction between this hunger for authentic experience and the liberating elasticity of postmodernism’s inconclusiveness is stitched into nearly every page of Hatred of Capitalism. This mistitled collection of essays from the hipster avant-garde periodical Semiotext(e), edited by Chris Kraus and Sylvère Lotringer, offers up text from many of the usual suspects: Foucault, Burroughs, Baudrillard, and several dozen other theorists and writers. In a very loose sense, Kraus and Lotringer try to present the avant-garde’s transgressive experiments in art and philosophy as a kind of conceptual revolutionary terrorist attack against the boundaries of the civilized ego and the alienating mediocrity of consumer capitalism. Read in tandem with Extreme Islam, the artistic terrorism seems rather pale and anemic, to which I can only say thanks be to Allah for small favors. On the other hand, the stylish European 1970s guerrilla Ulrike Meinhoff, of the Red Army Faction’s Baader-Meinhoff brigade, contributes some real cold-bloodedness to the artist’s pose of real cool extremism. Indeed, aside from the actual writings of Meinhoff, the entire book is oddly contextualized by Baader-Meinhoff. They pop up here and there, name-dropped, analyzed and, of course, romanticized.
Tim Leary, who gets a bit of a bashing in one of the pieces here, once said of Weather Underground leader Bernadine Dohrn, “Awww . . . she was just being naughty.” And for the most part, it’s easy to forgive Semiotext(e)its radical chic — and see it as part of its experimentalist project. However, Jean Baudrillard’s atrocity, “Our Theater of Cruelty,” should not be allowed to pass without comment. “Terrorism is not violence in itself,” Baudrillard writes, “it is the spectacle it unleashes that is truly violent.” This sort of abstraction just doesn’t seem cute anymore.
Discourses like the one by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari on France’s 1968 revolt, and Foucault’s contemplation of homosexuality and friendship, more than make up for the occasional piece here in which language tries to see how far it can crawl up its own ass. But the most poignant moments are not in the essays. Fragments of fiction, diary notes, poetry and interviews anchor Hatred of Capitalismin experience, and reveal a project that goes beyond fashionable radicalness. Assata Shakur’s prison notes, Nina Zivancevic’s memories of Yugoslavia during the war with Croatia, Kathy Acker’s study of romantic sexual desire between individuals separated by colonialism and borders, Jane DeLynn’s tale of surrender to the mysterious, Michelle Tea’s goth remembrance, Jack Smith’s queen-bitch complaints — all seem to share a common ground. The writers are desperately trying to break through their fear, their vacancy, their numbness, not by embracing the simplicity of a rulebook God but by locating authenticity in an experimental relationship with the unknown.
R.U. Sirius' book,The Revolution: Quotations from Revolution Party Chairman R.U. Sirius, was published in June 2000 by Feral House, which also published Extreme Islam.
EXTREME ISLAM: Anti-American Propaganda of Muslim Fundamentalists Edited by ADAM PARFREY | Feral House | 317 pages | $16 paperback
HATRED OF CAPITALISM: A Semiotext(e) Reader | Edited by CHRIS KRAUS and SYLVÈRE LOTRINGER | Semiotext(e) | 430 pages | $17 paperback