“Secret Theater”

by Hakim Bey


As long as no Stalin breathes down our necks, why not make some art in the service of… an insurrection?

Never mind if it’s “impossible.” What else can we hope to attain but the “impossible”? Should we wait for someone else to reveal our true desires?

If art has died, or the audience has withered away, then we find ourselves free of two dead weights. Potentially, everyone is now some kind of artist — & potentially every audience has regained its innocence, its ability to become the art that it experiences.

Provided we can escape from the museums we carry around inside us, provided we can stop selling ourselves tickets to the galleries in our own skulls, we can begin to contemplate an art which re-creates the goal of the sorcerer: changing the structure of reality by the manipulation of living symbols (in this case, the images we’ve been “given” by the organizers of this salon — murder, war, famine, & greed).

We might now contemplate aesthetic actions which possess some of the resonance of terrorism (or “cruelty,” as Artaud put it) aimed at the destruction of abstractions rather than people, at liberation rather than power, pleasure rather than profit, joy rather than fear. “Poetic Terrorism.”

Our chosen images have the potency of darkness — but all images are masks, & behind these masks lie energies we can turn toward light & pleasure.

For example, the man who invented aikido was a samurai who became a pacifist & refused to fight for Japanese imperialism. He became a hermit, lived on a mountain sitting under a tree.

One day a former fellow-officer came to visit him & accused him of betrayal, cowardice, etc. The hermit said nothing, but kept on sitting — & the officer fell into a rage, drew his sword, & struck. Spontaneously the unarmed master disarmed the officer & returned his sword. Again & again the officer tried to kill, using every subtle kata in his repertoire — but out of his empty mind the hermit each time invented a new way to disarm him.

The officer of course became his first disciple. Later, they learned how to dodge bullets.

We might contemplate some form of metadrama meant to capture a taste of this performance, which gave rise to a wholly new art, a totally non-violent way of fighting — war without murder, “the sword of life” rather than death.

A conspiracy of artists, anonymous as any mad bombers, but aimed toward an act of gratuitous generosity rather than violence — at the millennium rather than the apocalypse — or rather, aimed at a present moment of aesthetic shock in the service of realization & liberation.

Art tells gorgeous lies that come true.

Is it possible to create a SECRET THEATER in which both artist & audience have completely disappeared — only to re-appear on another plane, where life & art have become the same thing, the pure giving of gifts?

We take Kirkegaard’s “leap of faith,” but absent the old existentialist’s Fear & Trembling & Sickness unto death. Our leap of faith into sorcery & secret theater is more like a wet dream than a nightmare, “awe-full”, not awful.

We name our peerage of this new plane The Seven Dramaturgs. But no Peer Panel here, please. We prefer, like Jacob, to wrestle with our angels, & if our tussling turns amorous, all the better. Let the games begin. The Seven Dramaturgs show us that the universe wants, more than that, intends to play with us. We can be pawns or partners in this intention of The Seven Dramaturgs.

In Sufiism there is a belief in The Forty Guardians who protect & keep mankind from destroying itself. What’s interesting is, these Guardians are human, but they remain completely unknown & are constantly in flux. Anyone in the world could be one of The Forty at a present moment, including oneself. Of course you would never know if you had been one of The Forty — they remain anonymous even to themselves. That is why Sufiism calls for you to bow your head whenever you meet a stranger — he could be one of The Forty Guardians.

Do we lead or follow The Seven Dramaturgs in their sorcery & secret theater? Ali Baba is merely one of The Forty Thieves — each of The Forty Thieves is Ali Baba. The text does not begin or end here — the pencil is passed like a baton amongst The Seven Dramaturgs. The universe is still being written.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7644437228277455167&hl=en#

[googlevideo:http=//video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-7644437228277455167&hl=en&fs=true]