So Pan-demonium goes on....
at Pandemic, Garden Street, Sheffield November 2011

Recent history has witnessed an excess of Pan-demonium. In an uncanny confluence of global economic and ‘natural’ catastrophes – financial crashes, debt mountains, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, nuclear disasters and oil spillages - the rhetoric of toxicity and contagion abound. Demons are abroad. Panic reigns. Capitalism is not only in permanent crisis, but it is showing signs of cracking. [1]


In the last few months, the ‘cracks’ have widened. Popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have disrupted the order of things, spawning demands for civil, human and democratic rights across the Middle East. Europe is populated by los indignados and Wall Street is under occupation. In the UK, organisations like Uncut have carried out audacious acts of flagrant civil disobedience, occupying shops and setting up nurseries in banks, and hundreds of thousands of workers have joined students in a declaration that ‘there is an alternative’. [2] Even the idea of a ‘communist imaginary’ has resurfaced.[3] Can we really be witnessing a resurgence of an active revolutionary imagination? Is Pan on the streets, sowing the seeds of disruption, breaking through the fissures, seeping through the ‘cracks’, a Dionysian spore spreading mischief?

Negri has written of the imagination’s role in ‘a renascent revolutionary politics’: imagination is what manages to turn the meaninglessness of capitalism into something ‘monstrous’, a ‘cosmic palpitation’. [4] Surely there is a place for sensuousness and playful impudence.

In the long battles against the institutions that corrupt the common, we will spill no end of tears, but still we laugh. And in the struggles against capitalist exploitation, the rule of property, and the destroyers of the common through public and private control, we will suffer terribly, but still we laugh with joy. They will be buried by laughter. [5]

In September 2009, I invited people, individually or in collaboration, to participate in a temporary community of
in-disciplinary practice by creating visual, sonic and written responses to the idea of ‘Pan-demonium’. Across the internet, I asked

Pan-demonium resonates with the current global political, ecological and economic situation – one in which the hegemonic forces of order have been overwhelmed by a dynamic of chaos and disorder, turning the world 'upside-down'. But what are the affective possibilities of disorder and noise? Does Pan-demonium offer a metaphor for a critique of global capitalism and its 'devils' - its pan-demons - in all their guises (pan-demics included)? Or could it conjure up a collective creative force for political challenge and the re-inscription of the god Pan in a contemporary mythology?  So what does Pan-demonium mean to you?

Exploring the multiple meanings, mis-understandings and possible interpretations of
pan-demonium, the project aimed to open up its political and aesthetic potentialities. Through the work of over fifty artists, a bricolage of sound, text, still and moving imagery was presented as an investigation and celebration of the affective power of disorder and noise. [6]

In May 2010, at
The Knot in Berlin, bricolagekitchen collaborated with oneoftheroughs/The Shape of the Inconstruable Question[7] to create a Pan-demonic performance. In keeping with the The Knot’s idea of exploring new temporary forms of social interaction and public encounter, we created a cacophonic suite exploring the potenza of improvisation through a performative bricolage of text, sound, imagery and physical movement.

I am. We are.
That is enough. Now we have to begin.

And we have begun. But can an affective encounter have a potentiality which speaks to a form of the political? How can
pan-demonium challenge the topsy-turvy world of capitalism? What are the affective possibilities of disorder and noise? [9] For me, Pan embodies an improvisational affective energy. Improvisation suggests a new community in a permanent state of re-formation, continually ‘becoming’. [10] The praxis of improvisation resonates with Agamben’s writings on potenza [11] , potentiality and ‘the coming community’. The spontaneous ‘coming together’ in live improvisation creates a transitory utopian space of possibility, a potential site of cultural resistance or perhaps what, in 1985, Hakim Bey termed a Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ). Across Europe and beyond, the streets and airwaves are being animated with improvisational live performances and a viral affective energy. The cracks are splitting wide open and a cacophonous sound is bursting out.

So, Pan-demonium goes on. In all its forms and guises. Pan proliferates surreptitiously, flitting and twittering across the web, playing quietly in the streets, spreading temporary networks and transitory communities, sowing panic and the disruptive seeds of creativity and disorder across the globe.
Great Pan is dead! Long Live Pan!

November 2011
gillian whiteley/bricolagekitchen/

The Shape of the Inconstruable Question
is bricolagekitchen/oneoftheroughs/johnnybigmoose/dhaleen d-b
All photographs by bricolagekitchen, 2009-11
Pan viral image designed by dhaleen d-b, 2009


1 See John Holloway,
Crack Capitalism, Pluto, London, 2010
2 On 26
th March 2011 in London, up to 500,000 people took part in a TUC-led demonstration against government cuts. The rallying cry - March for an Alternative – resonated as a defiant rejection of ‘TINA (‘there is no alternative’), a favourite slogan of Margaret Thatcher which epitomized the economic liberalism of the 1980s.
3 See John Roberts, ‘Preface’,
Third Text, Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture, Art, Praxis and the Community to Come (Special Issue), Vol 23/4, No 99, July 2009
4 Toscano quoting Negri in Alberto Toscano, ‘The Sensuous Religion of the Multitude, Art and Abstraction in Negri’,
Third Text, Critical Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture, Art, Praxis and the Community to Come (Special Issue), Vol 23/4, No 99, July 2009, p. 380
5 Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri,
Commonwealth, Belknap/Harvard University, 2009, p. 383
6 See G. Whiteley,
Pan-demonium, exhibition catalogue, AC Institute, New York, 2009 and
7 A phrase from Ernst Bloch,
The Spirit of Utopia, first version originally published 1918.
8 Ernst Bloch,
The Spirit of Utopia, (after the 2nd edition of the original German text published 1964) trans. A.A. Nassar, Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 1.
9 On ‘noise’ see Michel Serres,
The Parasite, [Le Parasite, 1980] trans L.R. Schehr, University of Minnesota Press, 2007
10 On the notion of ‘becoming’ see Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari,
A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia [1980], Continuum, London, 2004.
Potenza, with simultaneous implications of potentiality and power, is extensively employed and discussed in writings related to Italian autonomous Marxism, politics and philosophy.
12 See Giorgio Agamben,
The Coming Community [La comunità che viene, 1990] trans. Michael Hardt, University of Minnesota Press, 1993 and Potentialities, Stanford University Press, 1999