…we need all exuberant, floating, dancing, mocking, childish, and blissful art lest we lose our freedom above things that our ideal demands of us…. We should be able also to stand above morality — and not only to stand with anxious stiffness of a man who is afraid of slipping and falling any moment, but also to float above it and play. How then could we possibly dispense with art — and with the fool? (Nietzsche, The Gay Science)
Representation is at the heart of many of the social movements of this last year, a concern that extends to media representation. Challenging not only how corporate media describe, speak of, picture the world in which we live and those who contest it, but also generating their own media, has been an immediate concern of these same movements. The results are truly impressive: from manifestos, communiqués, fanzines to more extensive text, from poetry to comic strips, from video to graphic art, from radio to television, from websites to blogs. The quantity is overwhelming and the quality is very often excellent and profound.
Amidst all of this creativity, we also find newspapers, and as exercises in collective or community counter-information, the effort is truly laudable.
And yet a question arises in relation to newspapers and perhaps other media: can one simply occupy the press by changing its content, or must the form be changed alongside the content?
The madrid15M newspaper may serve as an example in trying to respond. The project of the paper grows out of a decision taken by a large number of different assemblies of Madrid’s 15M. And it is justified, as is the occupation of public squares, by the need for counter spaces of rebellion and creativity; in the case of the press, by the need for a “different medium of information, open, assembly based, horizontal, non-professional, with the vocation to foment critical thought and question the false idea of 15M as a movement of homogeneous thought.”
The newspaper has no director or editor, as it is held that no one can speak for 15M except its’ assemblies. “For this reason, the work group responsible for its publication will rotate, will not be paid, and cannot not exercise any function in political parties, labour unions or commercial communication media.”
The generosity and dedication required to initiate and sustain this effort is beyond dispute. And the importance of the information conveyed is rarely, if ever, to be found in the corporate dominated press. And yet something haunts the exercise, perhaps because it is above all a vehicle of information.
Walter Benjamin, writing in the 1930s, could speak of the decline of the value of experience and of the increasing inability to share experience, something testified to by the death of the art of storytelling. Stories are rooted in human experience and in the transmission of that experience (tradition) from within collectivities and from generation to generation. They give counsel, they offer wisdom, from sources far off or from within; a wisdom which resists the passage of time, because the human experience which it expresses is cumulative and somehow rises above the movement of Chronos. The passing away of storytelling speaks then not only to the decline of experience, but also and simultaneously, of tradition, communality and wisdom. And nothing more exemplifies this death for Benjamin than the advent of the mass newspaper. (The Storyteller)
Newspapers are evidence of our increasing inability to assimilate information about the world by way of experience. Indeed, newspapers “isolate what happens from the realm in which it could affect the experience of the reader”. (On Some Motifs in Baudelaire) The information that they carry is about what is nearest, current, promptly verifiable and as immediately plausible as possible (condemned thereby equally not surviving the moment in which it appears).
Every morning brings news of the globe, and yet we are poor in noteworthy stories. This is because no event any longer comes to us without already being shot through with explanation.…Actually, it is half the art of storytelling to keep a story free from explanation as one reproduces it. The most extraordinary things, marvelous things, are related with the greatest accuracy, but the psychological connection of the events is not forced on the reader. It is left up to him to interpret things the way he understands them, and thus the narrative achieves an amplitude that information lacks. (The Storyteller)
The newspaper aims to convey facts, facts indifferent to stories, indifferent to human experience. Can an occupied press then simply present its facts, one set of facts against another? And can this be done divorced from stories, from poetry? Must not the form of the media change with its content? Should we not even examine the very idea of a fact? The questions quickly become many. They should not however for that reason be ignored.
The facts or events reported in any newspaper are always a great deal more than what is pretended. And this is not only because they are complex, but because they always spill out beyond the limits of their own borders. They are always more than what they present themselves to be; confluences of movements and forces, intrinsically unstable, but nevertheless, presentable, if only temporarily. (Deleuze, Logique du sens)
If the return to storytelling amounts to little more than nostalgia for a lost experience, can another experience be imagined, another experience that could be the source of a different kind of media altogether, a media beyond the taking of existing forms and conveying of facts, to the creation of revolutionary media? The answer may lie in the recognition of the mystery of events, which if to be told, must be fictioned, con-fabulated, and not merely recorded (if this were ever possible); a fictioning perpetually renewed.
Some of the newspapers …
A great deal more than a newspaper, Tidal is an example of reflection that moves us beyond reporting…