A new paradigm in scouting.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Code Word: Togetherness

Since fin-de-siecle Paris, when the Decadent poets and their Symoblist loves ran amok in the streets, occidental humans have been in search of a new paradigm in togetherness. It is no secret that all humans want to belong to something greater than themselves. We act this survival instinct out in a number of unhealthy and unsophisticated ways. Sometimes we join religious groups we don't have faith in, hoping that we can be part of making the world a better place through compassion or love. Other times we coach little league or join the PTA. Some of us even join country clubs, or political parties. By far the most extreme and phenomenal of these performances of 'togetherness' occurs when some of us join art collectives.

Art Collectives
The art collective as we know it today evolved from the ashes of the of Dada, Constructivism, Futurism and Surrealist movements. When Andre Breton dismissed a few key members of the Surrealist Group, the movement-less artists formed an art collective the likes of which the world had never seen, the College of 'Pataphysics. These french intellectuals decided it was prudent to form an organization dedicated to the study and eventual meta-study of the science of imaginary solutions, 'pataphysics. 'Pataphysics, of course, was initiated by the French fin-de-siecle author Alfred Jarry, in several of his plays, novels and poems.

College of 'Pataphysics
The College of 'Pataphysics thrived and soon hosted one of the most bizarre membership rosters of all time: Macel Duchamp, the Marx Brothers, Raymond Queneau, Jean Ferry, MC Escher, Jean Dubuffet, and the most bizarre of all, Lutembi and Mata Mata, a crocodile and tortoise respectively. The college occulted itself in the seventies with a promise to de-occult in the year 2000, which it did, according to Jean Baudrillard.

Emergence of Art Collectives as a Common Practice
Following in the footsteps of these brave art collective enthusiasts, many groups in occidental and even a few in oriental artistic circles began to emerge: Fluxus, Gutai, Vienna Actionists, Lettriste International, Situationist International, and the London Psychogeographical Association. By the end of the 20th century more diverse and bizarre collectives had emerged: Museum of Jurassic Technology, Church of Stop Shopping, Center for Tactical Magic, Association of Autonomous Astronauts, and even the Yes Men.

While all this was going on another phenomenon was occurring, that of scouting. All over the world youth scouting was on the rise. Scouting is said to have been formed in part due to the initiatives of Baden Powell. Scouting was a good way to involve kids in the workings of their own cultures and even expose them to other modes of cultural thinking, albeit through the rose-tinted glasses of scoutmasters. Scouting proliferated so well due to its memetic structure. It was a hierarchical award system, and like a college, after a certain level of learning and work, a young scout could become a mature scoutmaster. This is not unlike a black belt or becoming an officer, or even being published or included in the top rungs of the inner workings of an art collective.

Code Word: Togetherness
Seeing as how I was already a member of an art collective known to the world as the Meme-Rider Media Team. I decided it would be prudent to initiate an endeavour to merge both art collectivity and scouting, to form an ultimate form of togetherness. It would combine the headiness and theoretical aspirations of art collectivity, with their unique tenacity and desire to change the world through art with the award and merit based programs of scouting which elected to employ pedagogy and play. The code word for it all was togetherness. And what I call it is Pata-Memetic Scouting, which is the new paradigm for both scouting and art collectivity.

Initial Phases and the Politics of Exclusion
In thinking of how I wanted to structure a scouting group that could also function as an art collective, I had to sort out a few of the key components of the togetherness of scouting and collectivity, that of exclusion. If you are going to have a group of people it creates a binary, those in the group and those outside of the group. The College of 'Pataphysics, knowing full well the woes of exclusion designed their college to include the entire world, a world whose population according to the college was comprised entirely of 'pataphysicians who were either conscious of this fact or not. So, their binary was whether people knew they were members of the college or not. Those who were conscious paid dues to the college and would eat dinner with other members and even had the exclusive right to a member of the college present at their funeral. The only down side was that the only way to officially refuse membership was to commit suicide in front of a panel of representatives from the College of 'Pataphysics proper. The rest of the world, or those who were unconscious of their station as 'pataphyscians simply lived their lives in ignorance. So, back to pata-memetic scouting--instead of binaries, I have chosen for an open source form of scouting, one that is completely maleable in the hands of whoever choses to take hold of it. In the short and sweet, it is a modified form of togetherness, where people do something together then pat themselves on the back with a little material reward, award, or whatever. My desired outcome for this project, which I intend to spend a good portion of my life working with, is to offer the world the autonomous pleasures of both scouting and art collectivity at the same time without regard to politics of identity such as gender, orientation, nationality, ethnicity, beliefs, sanity or philosophy, etc.


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