Hakim Bey

He is the link between Woodstock and Foetus, between Marcel Duchamp and Burning Man. He has been a major influence on Industrial artists, particularly Genesis P-Orridge, and developed much of the philosophy behind Chaos Magick. Poet, pirate, philosopher, pederast; Hakim Bey has created a modern aesthetic of Transgression, a radical rethinking of freedom which reverberates throughout Industrial culture.

Bey sees art as confrontation, and seeks to shatter ways of thinking through acts of "Poetic Terrorism." A few representative samples include "weird dancing in all-night computer banking lobbies. Unauthorized pyrotechnic displays... Organize a strike in your school or workplace on the grounds that it does not satisfy your need for indolence and spiritual beauty." "Wouldn't the world gain a degree of beauty with each bank that could be made to tremble... or fall?" Bey asks us, then says "Don't picket— vandalize.. Don't protest— deface. When ugliness, poor design & stupid waste are forced upon you, turn Luddite, throw your shoe in the works, retaliate." Through these techniques, Bey hopes that "we can escape from the museums we carry around inside us... we can stop selling ourselves tickets to the galleries in our own skulls." Like the Dadaists before him— and like the Industrial artists inspired by him— Bey sees the best art as acting like a Zen koan and shattering our mental and social cages.

Bey is fascinated by the Assassins of Alamut, a cult of killers feared throughout medieval Arabia and the Oriental world. Through a network of secret agents, they created a "State" which existed within various countries and empires, yet was subject to none of them. Their motto "Nothing is true and everything is permissible" represents for Bey the ideal state, the "iman-of-one's-own-being" which he seeks to achieve. In the Assassins, and in the "information network" created by various 18th century pirates, Bey sees the prototype for his most famous concept— the "Temporary Autonomous Zone."

Our consensus society sees the nuclear family as the basic unit, with all the attendant Oedipal woes and hierarchal, patriarchal structure. The TAZ, on the other hand, is formed by bands of like-minded individuals, "initiates sworn to a bond of love." Typical "revolutions" seek to make permanent changes; at best, they can result only in power changing hands and a new State and Government replacing the old one. The TAZ, on the other hand, is temporary by definition. It is a moment in time and space which allows for a "peak experience," a festival in which all structure of authority dissolves in conviviality and celebration, a collection of "psychic nomads" setting up camp within the heart of Babylon. It is a "guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to reform elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it." The TAZ is a moment of intensity which can "give shape and meaning to the entirety of a life."

Commentary by Kevin Filan, Wednesday, July 8, 1998.