entr’activism

//An ever so slightly updated version of this text, with accompanying images, can be found in the Manifestos for Manifestos collection.

//See also the Intermission performance

ENTR’ACTIVISM

What is that space that lies somewhere between modes of passivity and those of activism, inaction and interaction? Where might we discover interactivity’s alter ego?

We are surrounded by, live and breathe, a world of interactivity. The digitized economies and ecologies flow, wiring live streams of this and that interaction, seemingly always moving onwards, with or without. Amidst such a continuous flow of interactivity, there is a sense in which modes of passivity and activism become swept up in the process. What is it to be activist when one is always already interactive? How to enjoy a truly passive pursuit when even our passive actions are always already picked up on and made interactive? It is an almost passive aggressive trait of the interactive, the sense that we are all made to enter into a mode of simultaneously being actively passive and passively active. This is the breathless, hyphentated quality of the interactive. The wish to link everything together in the pursuit of yet more interactivity, further flow.

And so to the apostrophe that is entr’activism. Taking its cue from the 1924 René Clair short film, Entr’acte (itself an entr’acte for the Picabia & Satie ballet Relâche), entr’activism is the dangling, mischievous finger that ebbs, if only just for a moment, the flow of things. A pursuit of entr’activism might be described as a diversionary situating of oneself between the Sturms of mediation and Drangs of our own involvement. In its carving out a space of temporary tension between modes of inaction and interaction, entr’activism represents an aestheticization of the incidental, a suspension of interpretation so as to celebrate the suspense of interruption. A momentary puffing of one’s metaphorical suspenders in liberating, flexing pulses that resist, for just a moment, the eventual snapping into place of things.

Entr’activism pokes fun at our habit, so common today, of thinking ahead and considering each and every next mediation. Its value is similar to that of the doodle – bringing to the fore the act of distraction, clearing our heady heads with each casual jolt and scrawl of its diversions. Entr’activism embraces its role as supportive paratext, diverging and disconjugating in the marginalia of any genuine activism. It is the fly buzzing around the excretions of mass production and projection, a danse macabre lightening the load of mediated, carnivorous super-egos.

Entr’activism embraces a refusal of mastery and does not indulge in speaking on others’ behalves. Any activist overtones in the soundtrack of entr’activism are simply the effects of syncopation. Where one detects a bridging or transitional quality to the music, blowing in the direction of genuine action, it might be better to think of such instances as verging towards overture rather than entr’act. Similarly, there is also a distinction to be made in the musical root with the tension free divertimento.

The entr’activist mediation is an incidental, ambient media furniture that doesn’t mind where you sit. In fact it should encourage its audiences to move about and talk amongst themselves. This rearranging of the deck chairs is the true activism of the entr’act. Entr’activists – keep your images moving in front, behind and between screens. Be buoyant, like clouds.

The entr’activist greets the dawn of augmented reality like the return of a long lost friend. The mediated event newly mobilized, the physical borders of frames leaking back into a hyper-reality that actualizes the nomadic qualities of being in between various acts of viewings. An aspect of materializing and dematerializing doors, opening and shutting, revolving.

The screensaver was an early high-water mark for entr’activism in the digital age. From such idlewild apostrophes the entr’activist may tease out an occasional Mona Lisa smile. Not “kino-eye,” nor “kino-fist,” but kino-wink.

There is both an overt and subtle momentum at play in the shifts between media as distraction and interaction in contemporary media transactions. Several dominant schools of the industry continue with efforts at ever great immersion, but certain examples, past and present, remind us of other avenues for exploration. In a space between distraction and interaction, inaction and action, lies a potential meddling zone of entr’action.

The entr’activist embraces a thirst for change. The passive expression of something like turning the channel. The activist’s turning over of a government. Pirouetting from one to the other, the entr’activist readily doffs their cap to any such “turns,” celebrating even the slightest sense of movement in the tectonic plates of discourse. The intermissionary role of the entr’activist during such interludes is in further stirring up and seeking out this nomadic quality of inbetweenness, that unsteady feeling of a shifting in the sands, alternating tides of the common place and non-place sifting between one’s toes.

And yet entr’activism can never be a turn in its own right. It celebrates movement, but is not a movement. Recall the prescient ending of Clair’s film, where we are treated to a scene in which an actor excitedly tears through the closing ‘FIN’ screen – only to be sucked right back into it. The entr’actvist kicks the overreaching ambitions of any particular medium back into place. It could only ever be so. Entr’activism remains the act of turning itself. A turning away, as the etymological origins of apostrophe hint at, so as to cleave out alternative spaces of incidental informality and elision. Or turning on, to the blurred lines, the palimpsestic lipsticks of alter egos whose traces linger in enticing footnotes, smudged imprints, muddy margins. To turn against the continuous flow of interactivity in order to remind oneself of what it is to be truly passive and truly active. Eventually to, perhaps, turn towards something. The turn, turning.

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