Autonogram #13: Surrealist Public Relations

Ben at Autonomedia ben at
Tue Nov 19 11:47:50 CET 2002

greetings one and all; here's your very late and bursting at the 
seams digital envelope full of new Autonomedia releases and project 
updates --->

Contents of this Autonogram, with links:
1. New Book: Surrealist Subversions
2. New Book: Tactical Reality Dictionary
3. New Book: The Molecular Invasion
4. New 2003 Calendars now available,
5. New book imprint edited by Peter Lamborn Wilson, with a gala party in December
6. Some recent points-of-debate from the Interactivist Info Exchange

and with that, here we go!

* * * * *

A fundamental question I'm asking myself about a thousand times a day 
is "Why in the world are we maintaining this present reality?" 
(sometimes phrased as "Where's that rocketship to outta here?") The 
first two books on my list here deal with this question from very 
divergent places, but in a way that, when combined with a strong cup 
of coffee, exudes an explosive complementarity.

"Surrealist Subversions" is a brick of a book, at 742 pages perfect 
for hurling through the glass window of the Art History zoo -- which 
has had surrealism tied to an early-twentieth-century stake for quite 
some time now. Largely an anthology of "Arsenal/Surrealist 
Subversions", the Chicago-based surrealist journal borne of a 
late-60s dissatisfaction with the way things were going, the book 
seeks to continue the project of realizing poetry in everyday life. 
Of course, most of us are prevented from "realizing" poetry just like 
that, so a good chunk of this book is devoted to their critique of 
the miserabilist components of everyday life that conspire to block 
the Marvellous ("miserabilism" being the system which "produces both 
misery and the idea that misery is the only possible reality"). As 
expected, this critique often overlaps with a fundamental critique of 
capitalism, and in fact a Surrealist flyer called "Who Needs the 
WTO?" received wide distribution in Seattle in those legendary days 
in November of 1999. [For a review of this book pointing more towards 
the relationship between Chicago Surrealism and the Global 
Anti-Capitalist movement, go to .]

Critique of miserabilism in place, the book also traces the history 
of American surrealism, first by collecting documents from within the 
movement ("The Surrealist Adventure: Total Nonconformism, 
Insubordination, and Revolution as the Way to a Non-Repressive 
Civilization") and then by tracing the surrealist path via eruptions 
of the Marvellous in the culture at large ("Surrealist Action: Social 
Transformation as Festival"). The task of binding the whole project 
together is expertly accomplished by editor Ron Sakolsky, 
particularly with his lengthy introduction to the book, in which he 
gives significant cultural and biographical background to the major 
and minor players in the movement. All in all, this is a tremendous, 
thoroughly illustrated book which will hopefully provoke and inspire 
restless and irritated imaginations to gorgeous creative action.

Surrealist Subversions

* *

Meanwhile, taking up far less space on the shelf but equally 
inspiring (and demanding) in its critique of Perceived Reality is 
Konrad Becker's "Tactical Reality Dictionary." Perhaps you've had the 
experience of reading, say, "Society of the Spectacle" and thereafter 
having a whole new mechanism for making sense of your experience of 
the world? Or of suddenly realizing that the world as perceived is 
primarily a media environment, with producers and their agendas 
lurking everywhere and in everything? This book is one of those, or 
at least it has been for me in the last few days. Becker is a 
familiar name in the world of Tactical Media (he's giving a keynote 
speech on the topic at the Amsterdam "World Information Conference" 
in a few weeks -- see, and this 
slim book acts as a sort of primer on what could be called Dominant 
Reality Management. Becker defines, in short essays, 72 terms that 
initially sound like they come from a Public Relations 101 textbook, 
but his project is much more than a decon-job of the ad industry. His 
concern is primarily in the manipulation of information to construct 
myths, with the intention of harmonizing subjective experience of the 
environment -- what he calls "Information Peacekeeping", the purest 
form of war. The terms that he introduces and defines in this book, 
then, illuminate the many tactics and strategies involved in this 
manipulation and construction. It's enough to make you suspicious of 
every billboard, every registration number, every security camera.

But fortunately, Becker's critique isn't purely a negative one. 
Understanding the workings of Perception Management, etc., is 
necessary in order to effectively formulate a Future Heritage. He 
longs for a "Future Heritage foundation of cultural intelligence" and 
"foresight institutes exploring the multidimensional potential of 
human experimental communication beyond the role as consumers." 
Re-inserting digital human rights and digital ecology into the 
technological environment in an effort to democratically shape the 
future of communication is what this book hopes to do. But he doesn't 
stop there -- he's all for Critical Hedonism, in which we can escape 
the vicious circle of forced work for wages and imposed leisure, 
escape symbolic dominance and cultural entrainment, the "reality" of 
everyday life and the flatlands of binary logic. As he puts it, "The 
movement of critical escape from materialism is a global language of 
zero work ethics in full e-fact. Towards the united international 
hedonistic diversification, critical escapism will dance at the grave 
of ordinary pancapitalism." Exclamation point! So in other words he's 
aiming for an end to miserabilism and the realization of poetry in 
everyday life, but definitely in other words. And let me tell you, 
with a strong cup of coffee and this pair of books on your desk, it's 
well-near impossible to avoid signing up for a seat on that 
rocketship to outta here about a million times a day!

Tactical Reality Dictionary

* * *

Now I'm all out of breath, so here's a description by the Critical 
Art Ensemble of their new book, "The Molecular Invasion", a critique 
of corporate science, primarily dealing with tactics of 
contestational biology.

<CAE>The current neo- and endocolonial initiatives by corporations 
attempting to consolidate the food chain and its markets from the 
molecular level on up presents anti-capitalist activists with a new 
biological front that requires a new set of tactical responses. 
Currently, activists are relying on traditional methods and means for 
slowing the corporate molecular invasion. While such activities are 
useful, they are also insufficient in and of themselves. Current 
radical practices, such as luddite oriented sabotage, seem to do more 
damage to the movement than to corporations. In our book,the Critical 
Art Ensemble suggests new tactics and strategies that could be used 
to challenge corporate authority on the _molecular level_. CAE hopes 
to demonstrate that there is no place (physical, virtual, or 
molecular) that biotech corporations can act uncontested. By 
appropriating and reverse engineering corporate tools, resistant 
culture can effectively and efficiently fight the profit machine 
where ever it may reveal itself. </CAE>

More on this book can be seen at, including the full 
introduction to the book; the authoring collective can be found on 
the web at

* * *

Exit 18 is a new imprint from Autonomedia devoted to upstate New York 
themes and authors, edited by our Hudson Valley correspondent and 
dear colleague, Peter Lamborn Wilson. Peter's long been a fan of 
pamphleteria (witness his passionate stategy in "Escape from the 19th 
Century": "If you really love someone, buy rare old yellowing Fourier 
pamphlets and let your beloved discover them as if by accident in 
musty library of deceased uncle..."), so naturally, the first 
offering from Exit 18 is a series of 5 pamphlets. For full 
descriptions, please go to the web page at, but in brief: "Ayahuasca and 
Shamanism" is a 24-page interview with the radical anthropologist 
Michael Taussig by Peter Wilson, concerning anthropology, radical 
politics, and hallucinogenia in Colombia; "High in the Himalayas" by 
Marilyn Stablein is a memoir (with recipes!) of her travels and 
adventures in India and Tibet in the 60s and early 70s; "Select 
Strange and Sacred Sites: The Ziggurat Guide to Western New York" by 
Th. Metzger is a road guide to weirdo psychogeography in the Finger 
Lakes district; "Overcoming Fitness" by Robert Kocik examines the 
Human Genome Project and attempts to code some poetry into the 
commercial-grade DNA of the future; and the anonymous pamphlet 
"Hieroglyphica" projects a thousand points of darkness onto these 
Lite Times via a long Rosicrucian poem.

Each pamphlet is $5, or $20 for the entire set. And if you're in the 
Hudson Valley area, you're welcome to come to the gala release party 
for the series at the Uptown Cafe in Kingston, NY on December 8 at 
2pm. The authors and editor will all be present to read from their 
work, sign copies, give advice and make merry (beer, wine, tea and 
coffee all available). The Uptown is at 33 North Front Street, 
Kingston NY, telephone 845-331-5439. Right next door is a great used 
bookstore as well -- Alternative Books -- so don't worry about being 
early for the event, as there's plenty to do!

* * *

A whole raft of new calendars for the new year showed up in the 
warehouse recently; have a look at and to see their covers and read 
more about them. If you're unfamiliar with our decade-long calendar 
project, though, here's a blurb I wrote just for you: Autonomedia's 
Calendars of Jubilee Saints, Sheroes and Womyn Warriors squeeze 
millennia of radical history into a pair of heavily-illustrated 17 x 
24-inch wall-hanging calendars. The famous, the obscure, and the 
nonspectacularly notorious peer out, cheek by jowl, hoping to inspire 
the sorts of behavior that landed them in these calendars in the 
first place (which is detailed in the sidebar texts). Our Pantheon is 
always growing, too, as the righteously troublesome continue to die 
off, entering calendrical eligibility! (Newcomers this year include 
radical sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, historian of the Kronstadt 
Rebellion Ida Mett, Indian anti-imperialist Bhagat Singh, and British 
Situationist Ralph Rumney, among dozens of others).

* * * * *

Finally, in non-book news, the web-based "Interactivist Info 
Exchange" continues to engage all those who come to its home 
( Please visit if you're unfamiliar -- 
this is our "bulletin board" where articles and essays relevant to 
the Autonomedia project are posted in a dynamic format, enabling 
dialog and argument well into the small hours where necessity 
requires it. Some recent pieces of interest include:

A Surrealist manifesto against the Iraq war

p.m., author of "Bolo Bolo", writing on Suburbia

The Midnight Notes Collective writing on the anti-war movement

Konrad Becker, of the Tactical Reality Dictionary, on the dark ages 
of new media

Twenty Southern Italian activists were arrested last week for 
"subversive association"

Antonio Negri on Deleuze and Guattari and A Thousand Plateaus

* * * * * * * * * * *

That's it for this one; there will be more soon, I promise. Do let me 
know if you're not interested in receiving any more of these -- I try 
to keep this list trim and fit -- and of course, send accolades where 
appropriate as well. More importantly, though, please forward this 
Autonogram to your comrades and co-readers, especially to the radical 
librarians, the engaged professoriat, the critical hedonists, the 
street-theaterians, and your sweet Mum (she wants to see what you're 
up to, or so she tells me). The point of what we're doing here isn't 
to be obscure, so please help us get the word where it'll do the most 
good. Thanks.

Ben at Autonomedia

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