An Introduction to the New Constitution
“Culture Jamming” is a term that was first used in 1984 by the band “Negativland,” a great band from the SST label that also boasted such classic hardcore punk bands as Black Flag, the Minutemen, and Husker Du. It quickly gained wide currency, and spread like a virus through global culture, becoming associated not only with music and text but also with graffiti and other forms of creative subversion. Eventually (in 1989), a magazine called Adbusters appeared which was dedicated to this project of culture jamming. All of these artists and movements took, as their direct or indirect inspiration, the “detournement” projects of the Situationist International of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, who used this tool in the service of a revolutionary project working towards the establishment of workers’ councils.
"We are not just inspired by what happened in the Arab Spring recently, we are students of the Situationist movement. Those are the people who gave birth to what many people think was the first global revolution back in 1968 when some uprisings in Paris suddenly inspired uprisings all over the world."
- Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn, quoted here at Salon.com
Culture jamming often takes the form of a kind of prank or ironic comment, usually reinterpreting an already existing cultural artefact, rearranging its elements to produce a new work that can be humorous, but which also contains a very serious message. Sometimes cultural items as simple as magazine ads or billboards are “tagged” and used in this way as the raw materials of a new work, but it is the goal of every culture jammer to rise above this and to “jam” those very cultural icons that are held as being most holy, most sacred, most untouchable, of the highest possible authority, and culture jammers (including graffiti artists) recognize and respect those who have “tagged” the most authoritarian texts, in the deepest and most meaningful act of subversion.
To paraphrase one member of Situationist International, Guy Debord, every rebellion tends to become a new conformism. In particular, the situationists were concerned with what they called “recuperation,” the tendency of a revolt to be absorbed by the existing system of representations (and often twisted and used against the very people whom this rebellion was supposed to represent). Right now, a nationwide, largely spontaneous movement is growing, at least partly in response to the efforts of AdBusters and their comrades. At first, on September 17th, this was known as Occupy Wall Street, and very quickly it spread throughout the United States and around the world, in the form of occupations of many cities globally. Collectively this movement is known as "Occupy Together" or "Occupy Everything." To prevent this movement from being, as the Situationist International would put it, “recuperated” by global capital and its army of celebrities, spin doctors, and institutions, some of the attendees of Occupy Wall Street have drafted this new constitution. They did this so that the movement would stay true to the core commitment of workers’ councils, direct democracy, participation, and the direct involvement of the people ourselves in shaping our own future. What’s more, they made this text open-source and open-edit, so that anyone can participate in this growing work of art.
The result is remarkable: an open, participatory new work, in which, for the first time, We, the People, are actually fully realizing our role, doing the unthinkable and previously unimaginable. We are rewriting the constitution. What started as a kind of joke has become an amazing experiment in participatory democracy, the likes of which the world has never seen. Encourage everyone you know to take part, because the more people are involved, the more legitimate this work of art becomes. What will happen next? Only YOU can say, when you participate in the ultimate act of culture jamming. Get ready for an adventure like no other.
Get involved in this project at the website: http://constitution.wikia.com/wiki/AnonymousConstitution
For a discussion of the relation between Occupy Wall Street and the situationists, see here: http://www.bopsecrets.org/recent/situationists-occupations.htm