- Stupid Undergrounds
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Apocalyptic cults and youth gangs, garage bands and wolfpacks, collèges and phalansteries, espionage networks trading in vaporous facts and networks of home shoppers for illicit goods; monastic, penological, mutant-biomorphic, and anarcho-terrorist cells; renegade churches, dwarf communities, no-risk survivalist enclaves, unfunded quasi-scientific research units, paranoid think tanks, unregistered political parties, sub-employed workers councils, endo-exile colonies, glossolaliac fanclubs, acned anorexic primal hordes; zombie revenants, neo-fakirs, defrocked priests and detoxing prophets, psychedelic snake-oil shills, masseurs of undiagnosed symptoms, bitter excommunicants, faceless narcissists, ideological drag queens, mystical technophiles, sub-entrepreneurial dealers, derivative dérivistes, tireless archivists of phantom conspiracies, alien abductees, dupe attendants, tardy primitives, vermin of abandoned factories, hermits, cranks, opportunists, users, connections, outriders, outpatients, wannabes, hackers, thieves, squatters, parasites, saboteurs; wings, wards, warehouses, arcades, hells, hives, dens, burrows, lofts, flocks, swarms, viruses, tribes, movements, groupuscules, cenacles, isms, and the endlessly multiplied hybridization of variant combinations of all these, and more.... Why this stupid fascination with stupid undergrounds? What is it about these throwaway fanzines and unreadable rants, these neo-tattoos and recycled apocalypses, this mountainous accumulation of declassified factoids, these bloody smears, this incredible noise? Why wade through these piles of nano-shit? Why submit oneself to these hysterical purveyors, these hypertheories and walls of sound? Why insist on picking this particular species of nit? Why abject criticism, whose putative task was once to preserve the best that has been known and thought, by guilty association with so fatuous, banal, idiotic, untenable a class of cultural objects? Why not decline, not so politely, to participate in the tiny spectacle of aging intellectuals dressing in black to prowl festering galleries and clubs where, sometime before dawn, they will encounter the contemptuous gaze of their own children, and almost manage to elide that event when they finally produce their bilious reports, their chunks of cultural criticism? No excuse, no justification: all one can put forward is an unendurable habit of attention, a meager fascination, no more or less commanding than that hypnosis one enters in the face of television; a rut that has always led downward and in the end always found itself stuck on the surface; a kind of drivenness, if not a drive; a critique, if you can forgive such a word, that has never located any cultural object whose poverty failed to reflect its own; a rage to find some point at which criticism would come to an end, and that only intensified as that end-point receded and shrunk to the size of an ideal.
Then if one must persist in investigating these epi-epiphenomena, perhaps compelled by some critical fashion (no doubt already out of vogue), perhaps merely out of an interminable immaturity, why not refer the stupid underground back to all the old undergrounds, back to the most familiar histories? Why not cast it as nothing more than another and another and another stillborn incarnation of an avant-garde that wallows in but doesn’t quite believe its own obituaries, and that one has already wasted years considering? Why not just settle for mapping it according to the old topography of center and margin, or some other arthritic dichotomy that, for all their alleged postness, the discourses we are about to breach always manage to drag along behind them? Why not simply accede to the mock-heroic rhetoric of cultural opposition (subversion, resistance, etc.) that, after a generation of deconstructions, we still don’t have the strength to shake; or to the nouveau rhetoric of multiplicity (plurality, diversity, etc.), as if all one needed was to add a few more disparate topic headings to break the hold of a One that, in truth, one still manages to project in the very act of superceding it? Nothing will prevent us—indeed nothing can save us—from ransoming ourselves again and again to the exhausted mastery of these arrangements; nothing will keep us from orienting ourselves toward every difference by means of the most tattered maps. But at the same time we must entertain—doubtless the right word—the sheer possibility that what we encounter here is not just...