A Disavowal of Disavowal: A Selection of Fauxist statements on Plagiarism as method, 2005-8.
Posted by Regrette Etcetera on April 7, 2010
A Disavowal of Disavowal:
A Selection of Fauxist statements
on Plagiarism as method,
First there were MODERNISTS, Then there were POST-MODERNISTS,
Then there were PLAGIARISTS, Now there are FAUXISTS.
Anything can be used. It is here, in the creation of new meanings, that we see most clearly the divergence between plagiarism and post-modern ideology. The plagiarist has no difficulty with meanings, reality, truth. The plagiarist sees no crisis of the sign – only the continual transformation of human relationships within a social context. When a post-modernist talks of plagiarism they call it ‘appropriation’ (transfer of ownership) in an attempt to maintain the ideological role of the artist.
– “The great advantage of plagiarism #3” (2005)
– “Postmodernism Fails: PLAGIARISM AS NEGATION IN CULTURE” (2005)
– “The great advantage of plagiarism #5” (2006)
– “Sun Tzu & PLAGIARISM” (2007)
– “Nothing to Sell” (2006)
– “PSEUDEPIGRAPHY Activity #2” (2005)
– “Architectural and Urban PLAGIARISM?” (2008)
– “Vandalism, Plagiarism & Property” (2008)
– “PLAGERISM (sic)” (2007)
– “PLAGIARISM” (2006)
– “PLAGIARISM, CULTURE, MASS MEDIA: Plagiarism and Capitalist Society”
– “The ‘liquidation of originality’” (2005)
– “On Consumption” (2007)
The great advantage of plagiarism #3
The great advantage of plagiarism as a literary method is that it removes the need for talent, or even much application. All you really have to do is select what to plagiarize. Enthusiastic beginners might want to begin by plagiarizing this text. A hard-core nihilist might choose to plagiarize it verbatim, while those individuals who labour under the delusion that they are of a more artistic bent will probably want to change a word here or there – or even place the paragraphs in a different order. […] In short, plagiarism saves time and effort, improves results and shows considerable initiative on the part of the individual plagiarist. As a revolutionary tool, it is ideally suited to the demands of the late twentieth-century.”
Postmodernism Fails: PLAGIARISM AS NEGATION IN CULTURE
GIVEN the total colonisation of daily life by Capital, we are forced to speak the received language of the media. It has always been impossible to give coherent expression to thoughts and practices which oppose the dominant ideology. However, we do not seek the creation of new languages. Such an act is doomed to failure and plays into Capital’s hands (by reinforcing the myths of ‘originality’ and Individual creativity’). Rather, we aim to re-invent the language of those who would control us.
While we refute the concept of ‘originality’, we do not find it problematic that the idea of plagiarism implies an original. Although we believe all ‘human creativity’ is accumulative (that is to say, that all Innovations’ are built on the sum total of what has gone before), it does not trouble us that there is, in the past, a ‘paint of origin’. We cannot give an account of this ‘point of origin’ and will not waste our time making philosophical speculations about such irrelevancies.
Plagiarism is the negative point of a culture that finds its ideological justification in the ‘unique’.
Indeed, it is only through the creation of ‘unique identities’ that commodification can take place.
Thus the unsuccessful search for a new, and universal, language by ‘modernist artists’ should be viewed as a high point of the capitalist project However, this in no way implies that ‘post-modernism’ is somehow more ‘radical’ than its precursor. Both movements were simply stages in a single trajectory. Such developments reflect the establishment’s ability to recuperate actions and concepts which in the past threatened its very constitution. ‘Post-modern appropriation’ is very different to plagiarism. While post-modern theory falsely asserts that there is no longer any basic reality, the plagiarist recognises that Power is always a reality in historical society.
Post-modernists fall into two categories. The first of these are cynics who understand the ideological process in which they play a minor role and manipulate it for personal gain. The second category of post-modernists are simply naive. Bombarded by media images, they believe that the ever- changing ‘normality’ presented by the press and tv constitutes a loss of ‘reality’. The plagiarist, by contrast, recognises the role the media plays in masking the mechanisms of Power and actively seeks to disrupt this function.
By reconstituting dominant images, by subjectivising them, we aim to create a ‘normality’ better suited to our requirements than the media nightmare dictated by Power. However, we have never imagined that this can be achieved solely through ‘gallery’ exposure. The attitudes used to sell washing powder have a powerful hold over our consciousness precisely because the images associated with them are those most often reproduced in the media. For an image to be effective it needs continuous reproduction in the press and on TV. The only viable alternative to our strategy of exposure to images reconstituted by the process of plagiarism, is the physical destruction of transmission stations and print technology.
The great advantage of plagiarism #5
The great advantage of plagiarism as a literary method is that it removes the need for talent, and even much application. All you really need to do is select what to plagiarise. Enthusiastic beginners might like to start by plagiarising this article on plagiarism. A purist will choose to plagiarise it verbatim; but those who feel the need to express the creative side of their personality will change a word here and there, or re-arrange the order of the paragraphs. Plagiarism is a highly creative process because with every plagiarism a new meaning is added to the work. Unfortunately, the forces of order have contrived to make plagiarism of recent texts lllegal, making the risk of prosecution a deterent even to the most dedicated plagiarist. However, a few sensible precautions can be used to reduce this risk. The basic rule is to take the ideas and spirit from a text, without actually plagiarising it word for word. Orwell’s ‘1984’, which is a straight re-write of Zamyatin’s ‘We’, is a -fine example of this. Another possibility for avoiding prosecution is to work under an assumed name such as Regrette Etcetera, or use non-copyrighted material such as the texts of the Situationist International.
To conclude, plagiarism saves time and effort, improves results, and shows considerable initiative on the part of the individual plagiarist. As a revolutionary tool it is ideally suited to the needs of the
twentieth-century. For those who find the selection of material too much of a ‘creative’ challenge, the remedy is to introduce a system for randomly selecting material. Let’s do away once and for all with the myth of ‘genius’.
Sun Tzu & PLAGIARISM
Contemporary politics: A potential for destruction, on a scale hitherto undreamed of, lies in the hands of a few ageing individuals who, in terms of personality, motivation, state of stress and cerebral efficiency, should hardly be trusted with the weekend shopping.
After this preamble, I do not expect to surprise anyone by quoting extensively from a spy novel which is based on Sun Tzu’s military theories. Sun Tzu was, of course, more concerned with gaining victory than with indulging in military combat, which he saw as a last resort, or a failure of strategy. I want to suggest that the artist ructions similarly. Like the worm in the apple or the termite in your chair, changing what is within, without touching the surface.
So, I am off into some plagiarism or detournement The following citations are all taken from ‘The Set Up’ by Vladimir Volkoff; Methuen 1985. I would wish the gentle reader to look at their applicability to art; to attempt their detournement!
“It is very likely that I shall find … men possessed of a virtue that is indispensable to me, namely sympathy? Courage, yes, and devotion, and guile, and cruelty … but the ability to put oneself in the place of another, to leap into the consciousness and even the unconsciousness of another… ?
1. DISCREDIT GOOD
2. COMPROMISE THE LEADERS
3. SHAKE THEIR FAITH, DELIVER THEM TO CONTEMPT
4. USE BASE MEN
5. DISORGANISE THE AUTHORITIES
6. SOW DISCORD AMONG THE CITIZENS
7. INCITE THE YOUNG AGAINST THE OLD
8. RIDICULE TRADITIONS
9. DISLOCATE SUPPLIES
10. LET LASCIVIOUS MUSIC BE HEARD
11. SPREAD LECHERY
12. LAY OUT MONEY
13. BE INFORMED
‘These,’ said Abdulrakhmanov with satisfaction, ‘are the thirteen commandments that I have taken from Sun Tzu.’… Those who are expert in the art of war make the enemy submit without a fight,… they take cities without mounting an attack and overthrow a state without prolonged operations.”
Further on: “Our comrade Mao Tse-Tung says that we must “mould” the consciousness of the enemy’s masses: in so far as we design the mould, we will have them at our mercy … I don’t know that I shall be revealing any secrets if I tell you that we distinguish five methods that enable us to get the enemy to act as we want First, white propaganda, a game two can play, and which consists simply in repeating “I am better than you” over and over again. Secondly, black propaganda, a game for three players: one attributes to the enemy fictitious statements intended to annoy the third party, for whose benefit this comedy is being played. Then there is intoxication, a game for two or three players: the aim is to deceive, but by more subtle methods than lying: for example, I would not give you false information, but I would arrange for you to steal it from me. Then there is disinformation, a word that is now used to denote all these methods taken together. In the strict sense, disinformation is to intoxication what strategy is to tactics … The fifth method is secret.”
A little further on, we come to the ten recipes which are given to the spy for the composition of tendentious information. “The unverifiable inversion of truth, the true-false mixture, the distortion of truth, change of context, blurring – with its variant selective truths -exaggerated commentary, illustration, generalisation, unequal parts, equal parts.” If more space were available I would quote the hilarious examples given of the application of these methods. In default, I suggest a game; apply the ten principles to the following ‘fact’. X finds his boyfriend in Y’s bed.
Nothing to Sell
WHILE the use of the word is recorded in the early seventeenth century (and novelists such as Fielding in the eighteenth discuss the issue), the idea of plagiarism gained currency in the Romantic era, i.e. in’ the era which marked the triumph of the bourgeoisie. It emerged as a concomitant of Romantic formulations of Genius.
The (paradigmatic) Plagiarist is the obverse of the (paradigmatic) Genius. Whereas the Genius bypasses the demands of time by recourse to a mysterious and ‘natural’ internal power, the Plagiarist does so by stealing the property of others. The Genius ‘legitimately’ saves time by doing at age
seven what others cannot do until they are thirty; the Plagiarist ‘illegitimately’ saves time by mis-appropriation. The actions of the Plagiarist subvert concepts of value based- in labour time and the difficulty of production, i.e. the political-economic bedrock of capitalism.
Obviously, notions such as Genius and Plagiarist only have currency insofar as society defines reality in terms of how time may be ‘spent’, ‘wasted’, and ‘saved’. Plagiarism suggests implicitly that much labour is a “waste’- of time: as such it is unacceptable in a productivist society, even if (as in the West) this society actually condones institutionalised waste in the forms of war, stockpiling food, &c. Analysis of plagiarism uncovers many similar contradictions. The practice of plagiarism articulates the effects and extent of these contradictions.
Traditionally, the Plagiarist does not own up but is discovered by whomsoever has access to certain specialist areas of knowledge (necessarily similar to the plagiarist’s own). Thus Coleridge was accused of plagiarising many (untranslated) German philosophers by De Quincey, whose auto-biography curiously includes two entire chapters lifted from an obscure work by the Rev.Gordon. De Quincey was in turn plagiarised by Alfred De Musset and Baudelaire, two writers whose ‘original’ outpourings were ironically attacked by Lautreamont – whose aphoristic ‘Plagiarism is necessary. It is implied in the idea of progress’ has been taken up repeatedly since: for example, by Alfred Jarry; by the surrealists (Breton reaffirmed Baudelaire’s call ‘for ever to find the new’); and by the situationists. Similarly, T.S.Eliot’s maxim, ‘Bad poets borrow, good poets steal’ has also become a modem commonplace, regarded as symptomatically important of the attitude of the would-be creator towards the great and influential works of the past. (The arguement is not confined to literature: Stravinsky has been credited with an almost identical remark). Recent critical trends have proposed an ‘Anxiety of Influence’ which prompts the creator to work in such a way as to make the works of the past appear like ‘anticipatory plagiarisms’ – an idea which is itself prefigured in the theories of the OuLiPo.
Plagiarism in late capitalist society articulates a semi-conscious cultural condition: namely, that there ‘is nothing left to say’, a feeling made more potent by the theoretical possibility of access to all knowledge brought about by new technologies. The practitioners of much post-modern theory have tended to proclaim this feeling rather smugly; but if there is nothing to say, they yet demonstrate that there will always be something to sell. On the other hand, there are practitioners active in many disciplines who, recognising the necessity for collective action demanded by media such as film and electronic tape, engage in plagiarism in an attempt to expose and explode once and for all the individualistic attitudes which tend to make all current human activity seem redundant and increasingly alienated.
PSEUDEPIGRAPHY Activity #2
Pseudepigraphy is the false attribution of a piece of writing to an author. The activity was popular from the pre-Christian era until the middle ages but declined with the development of bourgeois society. For hundreds of years authors writing on, for example, Pythagorean theory would routinely
ascribe the piece to Pythagoras himself. Thus a whole body of writing in one area would be accredited to the earliest or most eminent figure in this area. Discuss the relationship between pseudepigraphy and plagiarism.
Architectural and Urban PLAGIARISM?
A plagiarised architecture begins with an experimental baroque stage, the architectural complex- which we conceive as the construction of a dynamic environment related to styles of behaviour. Once plagiarism is extended to urbanistic realisations not many people will remain unaffected. We propose the exact reconstruction in one city of an entire neighbourhood of another. Plagiarism can never be too complete, done on this level the destruction of the old world could not be far away.
The methods we have dealt with here are not our own inventions, but represent a widespread practice which we seek to make visible. Plagiarism deals with the connectedness of things. These ideas are not new, they didn’t appear as if from ‘nowhere’, like everything around us they arose from the collective activity of creating, and recreating, the world.
Vandalism, Plagiarism & Property
ANYONE with more than half a brain will agree that art has never been a ‘superior’ activity and that even as a “therapy’ it holds little attraction unless one is really raking in the money. Ideologically art is used to promote an ethic of individual, or separated, subjectivity. Such a practice is encouraged by high financial rewards, which endow art with the secondary characteristic of being an ‘unofficial’ stock-market, in which capital can be valorised at increasingly accelerated rates.
Regarding the forms of art as propaganda, there are a multitude of conflicting opinions, each reflecting the sectional interests of the varied racketeers with an investment staked in the maintenance of this society. While some claim that ‘art’ is the province of a few men (sic) of ‘genius’, there are others who shout that ‘art must be made by all’. However, these reformist positions never go beyond rhetoric. Art is a commodity relation, and the admission of art by all onto the market would cause a drastic fall in the rate of profit.
Art has never been about quality. There is no intrinsic difference between ‘failed’ works (i.e. those that remain unsold because their makers are unable to persuade a gallery to promote them in the market) and those which become art upon the realisation of an exchange value. Of course the ‘picture’ is somewhat complicated by public and corporate ‘funding’. Sudsidies are a prestige investment. The ‘art work’ itself has always played a secondary role.
Art must always emphasise the Individuality’ of ownership and creation. Plagiarism, by contrast, is rooted in social process, communality, and a recognition that society is far more than the sum of
individuals (both past and present) who constitute it. In practice social development has always been based on plagiarism (one only has to observe children to realise that advancement is 99% imitation), but this reality is mystified by the ideology of ‘art’. Art itself is based on pictorial traditions built up over thousands of years, and yet art historians and critics always focus on the very minor, usually negligible, ‘innovations’ of each ‘individual’ artist.
We are not denying the possibility of rapid transformation, indeed we are critical of capitalism precisely because it impedes such a process. Woman creates herself, not individually, but on the social level. When a mass of people ‘believe’ something it becomes possible. Art, by emphasising ‘individual’ subjectivity, inhibits the development of a collective inter-subjectivity which could transform the world a million times in the time it takes to paint a single picture.
To draw attention to these facts, the literary and artistic ‘heritage’ of womanity must be used for partisan propaganda purposes. Naturally, we will go beyond any idea of ‘scandal’, since the pseudo-negation of art has been boring us for the past 80 years. Drawing a moustache on the ‘Mona Lisa’ is not in itself interesting, but it does indicate certain possibilities. The 1987 ‘shooting’ of the Leonardo cartoon in the National Gallery (London) was an exemplary act. The seriousness with which this incident was treated by the media left the majority of the population, to whom art means nothing, shaking with mirth. Acts of ‘art vandalism’ are only found shocking by those who see Individual genius’ as the ultimate justification of private property. The appearance of new necessities outmodes previous ‘inspired’ works. They are obstacles, dangerous habits. The point is not whether we like them or not. Plagiarism necessitates that we go beyond this.
Any elements, no matter where they are taken from, can serve in making new combinations.
When two objects are brought together, no matter how far apart their original contexts may be, a relationship is always formed. The mutual interference of two worlds of feeling, or the bringing together of two independent expressions, supercedes the original elements and produces a synthetic organisation of greater efficacy. Anything can be used. It is here, in the creation of new meanings, that we see most clearly the divergence between plagiarism and post-modern ideology. The plagiarist has no difficulty with meanings, reality, truth. The plagiarist sees no crisis of the sign – only the continual transformation of human relationships within a social context. When a post-modernist talks of plagiarism they call it ‘appropriation’ (transfer of ownership) in an attempt to maintain the ideological role of the artist. As Capitalism sinks further into crisis, it becomes increasingly difficult for any Individual’ artist to exude an appearance of ‘originality’. Reacting to this ‘impossible’ situation the post-modernist takes on a ‘corporate’ image and ‘copyrights’ an ill-digested assortment of fragments.
This is in direct contrast to the plagiarist who, rather than accepting this stasis, seeks to speed up the process of decay, and opposes both modernism AND post-modernism (which are but two stages in the trajectory of Capital) with the totality of communist transformation. Lautreamont, perhaps the best known exponent of plagiarism, is still misunderstood by many of his ‘admirers’. In the ‘Poesies’, he uses plagiarism (drawing on the ethical maxims of Pascal and Vauvenargues) to reduce arguements, through successive concentrations, to maxims alone. However Viroux still managed to cause considerable astonishment in the ’50s by demonstrating that ‘Maldoror’ is, among other things, one vast plagiarism of Buff on and other works of natural history. That Viroux saw this as justification for disparaging Lautreamont was less suprising than the fact that certain of his ‘admirers’ thought it necessary to defend him by praising his insolence! There will be no social transformation until the slogan ‘Plagiarism is necessary, progress implies it’, is widely understood. Once such an understanding occurs, industrialisation and information technology will be left looking like left-overs from the stone-age.
Ideas and realisations in the realm of plagiarism can be multiplied at will. For the moment we will limit ourselves to showing a few concrete possibilities starting from various current sectors of communication — it being understood that these separate sectors are significant only in relation to present day techniques, and are all tending to merge into superior syntheses.
IDEAS improve. Plagiarism implies it. The use of overt plagerism by ‘art movements’ like “The Generation Positive”, “The Neoists” and “PRAXIS” does not, however, participate in this improvement. In the ‘post-industrial’ condition of information overload, the raw surplus of images, ideas
and texts is so great that the selective process of choosing what material to plagerize is as much a ‘creative’ act as the construction of the images, ideas and texts in the first place. If the aim of plagerism is to make a ‘radical’ break with ‘creativity’ and its ‘commodity value’, plagerists must give up the selection process and confine themselves to a ‘Cagian’ ‘random method’.
Plagiarism enriches human language, it is a collective undertaking far removed from the post-modem ‘theories’ of appropriation. Plagiarism implies a sense of history and leads to progressive social transformation. In contrast, the ‘appropriations’ of post-modern ideologists are individualistic and
and alientated. Plagiarism is for life, post-modernism is fixated on death.
PLAGIARISM, CULTURE, MASS MEDIA: Plagiarism and Capitalist Society
In our consumer society the ‘antithesis’ of plagiarism is ‘originality’. Originality is in turn linked to Individuality’. Free ‘individuals’ in our ‘post-industrial’ society express their ‘originality’ (the signifier of their individuality) primarily through acts of consumption. That is to say, their status within society rises as the speed with which they consume the latest fashions (in clothes, food, music, etc) increases.
The idea of the ‘original’ (the first) is directly linked to privilege. The original is viewed as superior to the ‘copy’ (whether this be the case of a first edition book commanding a higher price than a reprint, or live music being considered better than a recording), and from this perspective almost any hierarchy can be ‘justified’.
Individuality and originality are only easily attained by the privileged classes. The majority of society, who lack ‘blue blood’ (a family, or in modern terms a ‘brand’, name), have to labour to be viewed as ‘individual’. But this is labour with a new name — creativity. Increasingly this takes the form of planned leisure pursuits (such as shopping expeditions), where income still dictates the amount of individuality (brand names) any given individual is able to purchase. In societies with a fully developed mass, media, the concepts of individuality, originality and creativity, are largely subsumed into a single discourse known as ‘style’. The obsession with style is not limited to readers of the Face, Blitz, Cosmopolitan and Vogue: those who prefer Class War or New Socialist share the same obsession with style, but adhere to a somewhat less popular brand. To fully understand ‘positive plagiarism’ as a strategy with which it is both possible – and necessary- to contest the ‘assumptions’, ‘values’ and very existence of the capitalist system, it is essential to be familiar with the history of the media’s colonisation of language.
The ‘liquidation of originality’
No one nowadays need rely on, say, the use of multiple names ‘to create a situation for which no one in particular is responsible’. The very existence of the law implies a generalised absence of responsibility, one reinforced in the realm of ‘the arts’ by the ‘death of the author’ (cf. Barthes) and the ‘liquidation of originality’ (cf. Warhol). Indeed, part of the problem is that this state of aff-
airs seems to belong to the past, to an accepted but not understood history; a plagiaristic repetition of the issues will tend to result in the erection of a facade of ahistoricity; a kind of fetishisation.
The ‘art world’ logically, may well encourage plagiarism, for its own recent history comprises a series of such encouragements: forgeries are demanded by the barrow-load, artists’ ideas (i.e. conclusions reached from a knowledge of history) are bootlegged by administrators and ‘suggested’ to those
more malleable favourites who queue up at every gallery door. Art, as an ‘unproductive’ commodity, evidently requires ‘stimulation’: in the ‘art world’ this means the creation of divisions, the encouragement of competition, and the establishment of reputations.
Cultural activity is not a one-way street; for every plagiarist intent on demolishing the system, there will be a dozen whose actions reinforce it under a different name. As no one is ‘responsible’, and with ‘originality’ out of the window, the struggle to advance from a state of generalised inertia and ignorance to one of comprehension and respect will be difficult. There can be no going back, obviously; time cannot be reversed, even if history appears to consign us to eternal repetition. This temporal illusion, however, is a seductive distraction, time, which began with the first copy, is rapidly running out.
Advertising, like art is a source of meaning in contemporary society, filling vacuums created by the decline of other ideologies – religion, politics, family, etc. People are hungry hungry hungry for meaning.
Advertising transforms sheer objects (products, services) into meanings (brands) which consumers use to help structure their lives and differentiate between brands which otherwise have product parity. The commercial message of course is that successful meanings are exchanged in the marketplace for cash. The aesthetic experience can add to the bottom line.
We must seek to align ourselves then with advertising’s divine touch.