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Poetic Terrorism

by Hakim Bey

Weird dancing in all-night computer-banking lobbies. Unauthorized pyrotechnic displays. Land-art, earth-works as bizarre alien artifacts strewn in State Parks. Burglarize houses but instead of stealing, leave Poetic-Terrorist objects. Kidnap someone & make them happy. Pick someone at random & convince them they're the heir to an enormous, useless & amazing fortune - say 5000 square miles of Antarctica, or an aging circus elephant, or an orphanage in Bombay, or a collection of alchemical manuscripts. Later they will come to realize that for a few moments they believed in something extraordinary, & will perhaps be driven as a result to seek out some more intense mode of existence.

Bolt up brass commemorative plaques in places (public or private) where you have experienced a revelation or had a particularly fulfilling sexual experience, etc.

Go naked for a sign.

Organize a strike in your school or workplace on the grounds that it does not satisfy your need for indolence & spiritual beauty.

Grafitti-art loaned some grace to ugly subways & rigid public momuments - PT-art can also be created for public places: poems scrawled in courthouse lavatories, small fetishes abandoned in parks & restaurants, xerox-art under windshield-wipers of parked cars, Big Character Slogans pasted on playground walls, anonymous letters mailed to random or chosen recipients (mail fraud), pirate radio transmissions, wet cement…

The audience reaction or æsthetic-shock produced by PT ought to be at least as strong as the emotion of terror - powerful disgust, sexual arousal, superstitious awe, sudden intuitive breakthrough, dada-esque angst - no matter whether the PT is aimed at one person or many, no matter whether it is “signed” or anonymous, if it does not change someone's life (aside from the artist) it fails.

PT is an act in a Theater of Cruelty which has no stage, no rows of seats, no tickets & no walls. In order to work at all, PT must categorically be divorced from all conventional structures for art consumption (galleries, publications, media). Even the guerrilla Situationist tactics of street theater are perhaps too well known & expected now.

An exquisite seduction carried out not only in the cause of mutual satisfaction but also as a conscious act in a deliberately beautiful life - may be the ultimate PT. The PTerrorist behaves like a confidence-trickster whose aim is not money but change.

Don't do PT for other artists, do it for people who will not realize (at least for a few moments) that what you have done is art. Avoid recognizable art-categories, avoid politics, don't stick around to argue, don't be sentimental; be ruthless, take risks, vandalize only what must be defaced, do something children will remember all their lives - but don't be spontaneous unless the PT Muse has possessed you.

Dress up. Leave a false name. Be legendary. The best PT is against the law, but don't get caught. Art as crime; crime as art.

An Alaskan gunman held up 21 people and forced them to whistle “Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here.”
Brenda Butler Bryant of Philadelphia filed over 700 lawsuits on one year and then sued the judges who ordered her to cease and desist until she found a lawyer or found a doctor to certify that she is mentally competent. Bryant also sued the CIA and Burger King on grounds that were hard for even lawyers to understand: “Big Mac? Slave Master Now? No slave ain't master now. Ride them cowboy. Terrorist, radicals, and militants in authoritative roles to provoke violent crimes, Cecil. B. Moore.” Because she has been receiving a waiver of the $120 filing fee, authorities estimate she has cost the government about $84,000.
In San Antonio, Texas, a man stripped naked and started quacking like a duck after he was denied a loan. Police called to the vice-president's office at Bank One asked many questions but received only quacks.
In Kampala, Uganda, an unknown poetic terrorist was shooting Gorillas with tranquilizer darts, then dressing them up as clowns while they were unconscious.
In Los Angeles, some irresponsible nut was dressing up as the angel of death, complete with black robe and skull-mask, holding a scythe and peeking in the windows of nursing homes and hospitals.
A prankster in Lompoc, California, emptied boxes of rat poison, filled them up with bubble gum balls, and put the boxes back on the shelves at the hardware store.
Tatsumi Orimoto walked around London with loaves of bread strapped to his head, strolled through Germany with a chimney in his backpack, dragged a cast-iron bathtub around New York City and wandered Europe with a cardboard box on his foot.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fifteen trees in a city park were fitted with doorknobs and locks on opposite sides.
Circles of broken glass marked off with police tape confused students and public safety officers at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo.


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On This Day in SniggleryAugust 20, 1920: Charles Ponzi’s pyramid collapses when he officially defaults on his debts. (See Scams for more info)