Manifesto of the Trimurtic Artists
A. Sea Herndon
Original Publication Christmas Day December 2002, USA
The aim of this brief tract is, in the face of the current crisis of the Avant-Garde at the dawn of this new millennium, to ask, and to begin to answer: What is the purpose of Art? We will not concern ourselves presently with such notions as didactic, political, commercial, representational, or expressive art; as it will soon become clear, these are all archaic ends-means productions irrelevant to what we, the bastard children of Tzara and Breton, mean by that grander conception of Art. By the term “Art,” we mean that je nes sais quoi, which Kant speaks of as having “internal” purposiveness, or “purposiveness without purpose,” a conception which metamorphosed ultimately into the idea of “Art for Art’s sake” (or as posited by the dada, “anti-Art for anti-Art’s sake). This conception, we submit, remains the dominant one in our present age, and as such is the source of the Postmodern dilemma.
The Problem of Poetic Paralysis in the Postmodern Age
“Art for Art’s sake” has become but another variant of the ideology of late capitalism, the aesthetic equivalent of the consumer capitalists’ maxim “production for the sake of production.” Understood as such, one realizes that Art has become but another commodity, and so Artists have become producers of goods, market researched and cleverly designed to feed the Cult of the New, creating a false demand for an ever hungry bourgeoisie, who delight in the appearance of change and the shock of the novel. Likewise, the noble cause of the dadaist/Surrealist/Avant-Gardists’ project can only be seen as a derivative of the Enlightenment’s false doctrine of progress, a myth in which progress, ever blossoming into ceaseless new forms of progress, becomes the utopian idealists’ impetus of manifest destiny. The “Avant-Garde” is now the Tradition, in which one participates by rebelling against one’s immediate predecessors, to be momentarily ostracized, and then quickly institutionalized, dissected by the academicians, and consumed by the bourgeoisie. The harsh realization of this new world under the sign of the so-called Postmodern, causes an artistic cognitive dissonance which results in Poetic Paralysis, a neologism for the inability of an honest and self reflexive artist to do anything. There is, under the current logic, nothing that can be done.
A Poetics of Stasis: The Trimurtic Method
What then is a poet (or artist of any medium) to do? Restoration of older traditions would be regressive at best, and progress is an illusion. We are conducting experiments into a poetics of stasis to solve this riddle. We have termed the new rubric Trimurtic Art, a practical methodology designed to shake the artist out of postmodern paralysis. The method is named, with no disrespect to religious practitioners, after the Trimurti of Hindu cosmology. In this methodology, the artist assumes the role of the Creator, Destroyer, and Preserver of his or her own work; first by creating (anything by any means, traditional or avant-garde), the artist then works to negate the creation (again by any means deemed necessary or appropriate by the artist’s own subjective view), (this step presupposes and preempts the negation, destruction, deconstruction, etc. of a reactionary Art Movement of the Traditional Avant-Garde model, allowing the artist this right), and finally he or she preserves, translates, reorders the destroyed creation in the ultimate Symbolic act of rebirth. This is the meaning of the Trimurtic.
But Is It Art?
So what is the result? Is it Art? This line of questioning, of course, is merely a restatement of the late capitalists’ “Is it a viable product?” We are not in the business of market research, but rather wish to remove the focus from the “product” and to the method. This Trimurtic Method, we believe is the Symbol (in the fullest Baudelairean or Mallarméan sense of the word) of, for lack of a better word, the Truth. That is to say, the embodiment, the universal manifest in the particular, of the way in which the universe operates, as revealed by logic, observance of nature, psychological delving, mystical divination, or neo-gnostic revelation. Hegel’s triadic dialectic called it Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis; the Hindus: Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu; Friedrich von Schiller: Stofftrieb, Spieltrieb, and Formtrieb; Lao Tzu: Yin, Yang, and the ten thousand things; Joseph Campbell: life, death, and rebirth, the names go on and on. This creation-destruction-preservation triad is, we submit, a fundamental principle of the universe. We do not claim it is the only “truth,” or the only method to escape paralysis; in fact we encourage the discovery and enactment of other rituals. Our point is this, we cannot wait under the paralysis of the postmodern for a messianic New Art, that promesse de bonheur, is a delusional conception, but we must, as the modern prophets, perform our shamanistic rites. We have found a ritual, and offer it freely to any who lack faith.
We, the practitioners of the Trimurtic Method, submit that by enacting this, or any other Symbolic ritual discovered, divined, or developed in accordance with those Transcendental Movements of the universe, those Truths revealed by the contemplation and understanding of the constantly present, immediately accessible, and tangible universe that is Surreality, that anyone is capable of Art. Furthermore, it is in this enactment, not in the final product produced from this enactment, that we find the locus of Art. It is our belief that by shifting the focus of Art from object to action, we can free the human spirit, daily and individually, in these Postmodern times from the result-driven, product-oriented, spirit-crushing shackles of late capitalism. And so in doing, if not happiness, then at least purposiveness, can be achieved.
What The Hell Are You Talking About? (Questions and Answers)
Who is Tzara, Breton, Kant, Dada, etc.?
Tristan Tzara (1896-1963) was a Rumanian poet who founded dada. Dadaism is an antibourgeois art movement, stressing childishness and chance, nihilism and absurdity. André Breton (1896-1966) was a French poet and original dadaist, he eventually saw dada as too nihilistic and formed Surrealism. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a German philosopher, and founder of critical idealism. We disagree with him that the ultimate nature of reality (of the “things in themselves”) remains inaccessible to the human mind. We believe that the ultimate nature of reality is what Breton called Surreality, and that this is a constantly and universally accessible state, not a future revolutionary socio-political aim.
What do you mean by “late capitalism?”
This term originates with the economist Ernest Mandel in Late Capitalism, and is expanded by Frederic Jameson in Postmodernism or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Various theorists hold various meanings and have their own agendas; we mean the present day, the time in which a multinational brand of consumer capitalism is dominant, a culture in which Art has become a product to be co-opted by the culture makers.
Tell me more about this “Surreality?”
We submit that Reality is Surreality, that there is a Transcendental element to the material world. We believe this is understandable by many different means, and available to all people; immediately in the present moment. We do not believe it is a progress-driven revolutionary socio-political epoch, to be brought about by self-indulgent elitists. We, personally, promote Art as the purest means to access this understanding.
Aren’t you basically just making a religion out of Art?
Yes. We propose that a realization of the Surreal is the foundation of all mystical/religious/transcendental experiences. (This is what is meant by Jesus’ statement that “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand:” the transcendental aspect of reality is here and now and universally accessible). We suggest the practice of Art as the ideal means to this understanding. (This is what Breton means by demanding the practice of poetry, practiquer la poésie, that is to say: poetry is practical and practicable to everyone in everyday life). We further suggest that a connection to this Surreality is a means to give purpose to one’s life. This we see as part of the failure of the Avant-Garde; they destroyed and debased Art by claiming everything is Art and everyone is an Artist, but failed to give anyone any reason to continue its practice. We elevate Art, making the greatest of claims for its practice, and now extend that practice to all.
Why all this talk about Postmodernism, isn’t that over already?
While this term is used by the makers of literary and artistic canons to denote a particular historic time period, and while Olivia’s International Trans-Avant-Garde aimed to move beyond this period, we use the term, as stated above, in Jameson’s usage, that is to say, the culture of late capitalism.
So if this is the religion of Art, shouldn’t I just reject it as I would other religions as an “opiate of the masses?”
Perhaps. Perhaps this is our true subversive agenda. Either way, the choice is yours. Either Art is just another meaningless institution designed to impose restraints and controls on the subservient classes of a divided society and we should abandon it without reserve, or it is truly what we say it is, the universal practical means to understand the whole of reality, resulting in personal purposiveness. The post-Marxists’ have their view; we have our own. This is not a doctrine born of logical reasoning, but of mystical vision.
If creating Art brings happiness, why all the suffering Artists?
Creating Art as an act brings happiness, or at least purposiveness. Creating Art to stay ahead of the curve, boost the ego, out-do the Old Masters, make money, win fame, produce a product, etc., etc., etc. causes suffering. You will know them by their fruits.
Interesting. Do you have a website? Where can I learn more?
No. We have no website; this pamphlet is our only means of dissemination. You can learn more by creating something (by whatever means you choose), then destroying, corrupting, decaying, or negating it, and then translating, reordering, or rebirthing it. This is the whole of the law.
Is this whole thing some kind of joke?
I am smiling right now.
There is no copyright on this pamphlet. If you come to join our cause, please feel free to circulate or reproduce these materials in their entirety. If you operate a small press, or have access to reproduction means, we encourage you to reprint and disseminate our manifesto. We only ask that you do not charge for any reproduction of this publication.
I am currently working to destroy this manifesto, with the intention of recreating it.
-A. Sea Herndon,