After a mutual friend put me into contact with the Alienist cell, the interview was conducted via email correspondence with an anonymous “committee representative” of the Interior Ministry of The Republic of Žižkov. I was explicitly instructed that “the number of questions would be limited to a prime number less than 19.” The dear madam, sir, or other sapient invariably responded promptly and efficiently, making me suspect a chatbot doing the writing from the other end – although I don’t fathom the they could quite script that special cocktail of hard-boiled blassé and high-brow détournement just yet…
Vít Bohal: The question of “what is Alienism” constitutes a whole section of the Alienist manifesto, but I must say it has left me baffled. Although the imagery is limelight stark, a positive definition of the movement seems lacking. Being a manifesto, the political dimension of the format is implicit, and it strikes me strange to see the intended definition flee on the lines of flight of pure aesthetics. As self-professed “cultural terrorists” what are your demands?
Committee Representative: As unrepentant cultural terrorists, we declare that our intentions and demands do not include: the ‘consensual hallucination’ of democratic mass individualism that affirms a nostalgia for a ‘real’; the accumulation of prestige in a narrowly permissive Culture; the consumption of false choices; a resolution of the seeming contradiction posed by alienation to the experience of ‘everyday life’; a reactive stance against the shifting winds of public opinion; ‘educational’ schemes that plagiarize creativity; ‘art’ produced as decor for despotism; ‘truth’; writing that sinks to the level of commodity; the prevalence of ideology in the domain of the ‘non-ideological’; the appropriated naturalism of ‘everyday life’; the delegation of sense to a regime of representation; mass ‘culture’ as the propaganda wing of the military-industrial complex; ‘reality’; a composition in the shadow of an idea; the ‘betterment of society’; abstraction-of-abstraction; the permitted form of a dream of impossible emancipation; realism that finds its salvation in a belief in miracles; the ‘right to dream’; writing reduced to a Literary artifact; the myth of transparency; the excess of the code that only enlarges its domain; the individual that becomes the nebulous author of a future in which all life is retrospectively lived; the ideological phantasm; the mystique of powerlessness. To give answers is to waste questions.
Exactly how does mass culture constitute the “propaganda wing of the military industrial complex”? With the dominance of networked media and their affordance of multivalent ‘messy broadcasting,’ a lot of the dissemination has shifted to the myriad users, and the bilateral relationship of sender and receiver (hegemon vs. the public) has shifted. The reductionist, conspiratorial, and ultimately paranoiac distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ seems to have become more fuzzy, so exactly which position do you voice your alternative from?
The forces ranged in defense of economic cultural totalitarianism are vastly asymmetrical in nature. The social is technological to its core and inversely there’s no discourse of technology that’s ideologically neutral – in other words, not political. The truth is that society is always prepared to suffer at the hands of a pragmatic idealism. The future “state” will not be the outcome of reasoned self-supersession, but of disproportionate & unforeseen evolutionary forces. The effective subversion of enemy forces can be accomplished by a single Alienist, patient, alone and unknown, operating in absolute secrecy and in cold blood. It is better to err than to do nothing.
Your approach seems reminiscent of Debordian Situationism. Have you consciously abducted any practical or theoretical tools from the Situationist International, and do you, as Alienists, have any intention of “playing the game.”
We are inclined to believe, since none of us manifest signs of maniacal insanity or general delirium, chronic maniacal insanity, selective delirium, manie sans délire, dementia, melancholia, disturbances in understanding, blind fury, obliteration of the intellectual as well as emotional faculties, nor ideas which are inconsistent with one another, that our thoughts about Guy Debord are entirely identical to Debord’s opinion on the Alienists. We tend to assume the feeling is mutual. Playing the game changes the rules.
What is then the Ministry’s position on Equus Press founder David Vichnar’s “Open Letter to the Prague Literary Establishment”?
Everywhere, “literary establishment” is first and foremost “establishment” and only “literary” by expropriation. All writing which isn’t self-alienated is the subversion of Literature.
I am at the moment corresponding with you, a representative of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Žižkov. How does such an institution, which implies some form of “establishment,” fit into the Alienist project? To what degree does mimicry, whether individual or institutional, play a part in your activities?
In a two-dimensional universe, Earth is flat. We refuse the false choices posed by the ‘discontents’ of today’s pseudo-struggle-against-the-System, the System’s witting and unwitting agents provocateurs. We require more than a rhetorical mania for rediscovering ideology under every unturned stone. The machinery of approval never sleeps.
You’ve recently launched the Alienist magazine. What is its focus, and through which channels will it be distributed?
It is a question of bringing to consciousness that which is unspoken. The exclusive delusional focus of melancholics for certain objects and their sombre character yield with difficulty to treatment. Focused delusions can also spring quite often from religious terrors, thoughts of a vengeful and inexorable God, and the everlasting punishment one believes one has earned. The Alienist’s duty is to act, to analyze and plan or improvise solutions to each problem that presents itself to effective dissent.
What does the future hold for the Alienists and your Republic of Žižkov? Are you content with staying localized, or are you metastasizing, setting up embassies/factions/sleeper cells in other geographical locales?
The Alienist must maintain the element of surprise; to know the semantic terrain; to have greater mobility and speed than the enemy; to be constantly informed; to sow confusion; to gain command over any given situation; to maintain an effective degree of unverifiability. Escapees in slow motion, Kafka’s bug multiplied by each page of bureaucratic writing, spasmodic passions, tinned nits, extreme irregularities, dwarfs in party hats, men swinging axes, lapses of reason, a mob gathering outside your door. We are legion.
by Vít Bohal, for the Diffractions Collective (Prague)