•Inauthenticity, Necronauts, Insomnauts•

Tom McCarthy asked me to help him launch the International Necronautical Society‘s “Declaration on Inauthenticity” at Tate Britain yesterday.

The event was supposed to be modeled off a US presidential press conference, so I adapted my usual INS role as Chief of Hemlock Research into the friendly but vaguely threatening equivalent of a Secret Service agent.

True to the message delivered, the messengers were not who they claimed to be, were not the authors of the inauthentic creed they espoused. Tom and Simon (Critchley) had hired some Shakespearean actors to stand-in for them and do the honors, and many of the press were totally taken-in by the charade. Bwa ha ha.

Tom and Simon. Or are they?

When the Q & A started, I was nervous for the actors, thinking they would have to reveal themselves as such, unable to defend convincingly their inauthentic theses from the audience’s scrutiny. But my fear for the poor impostor thespians was unfounded, as Tom and Simon had pre-scripted responses for several presumed lines of questioning. In fact, the first canned answer matched the audience member’s question so well that I thought the question, too, was scripted, a plant. But of course you can usually guess what kind of questions you’re going to get at these things. Or can you? Tom told me afterwards in the pub that the audience’s questions were totally unscripted.  So event unfolded with great serendipity.

I think the event succeeded not just because it was entertaining, but also because its theories meshed with its delivery on formal levels; it thus had a certain glow to it as art: complete and confident and convincing and therefore, ironically perhaps, un-phony (for therefore, gasp, authentic?). Such a mesh armors art in manifesto mode like a good chain mail of self-referential loops. Mary Ann Caws preface to her “Century of Isms” manifesto compilation notes how this “occasional coincidence of form and function– like Stéphane Mallarmé’s […] “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard” in its defeat of the linear– demonstrates or makes a manifestation

Theoretically, both in highbrow and lowbrow registers, the declaration answered a Heideggerian authenticity, or some view of one. Yet much in Tom’s declaration seemed fitting for the world of the living rather than the dead. His points should be aptly answered by the International Insomnonautical Institute’s upcoming manifesto’s enantiodromia section. Stay tuned for it.

Sunday
Dec282008
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