The titular topic of the book concerns a sort of social practice or art that seeks to do away with the middle man, so to speak, in terms of direct experience. Bey makes the point that all experiences are in some way mediated, meaning that something comes in between subject and object that necessarily diminishes the former's perception of the latter. The degree of diminution (and thus, inversely, experience) varies depending on the media involved. In Bey's words,
- "All experience is mediated—by the mechanisms of sense perception, mentation, language, etc.—& certainly all art consists of some further mediation of experience. However, mediation takes place by degrees. Some experiences (smell, taste, sexual pleasure, etc.) are less mediated than others (reading a book, looking through a telescope, listening to a record). Some media, especially "live" arts such as dance, theater, musical or bardic performance, are less mediated than others such as TV, CDS, Virtual Reality. Even among the media usually called "media," some are more & others are less mediated, according to the intensity of imaginative participation they demand. Print & radio demand more of the imagination, film less, TV even less, VR the least of all—so far."
- "...an argument could be made that music distributed free or at cost on cassette via mail is LESS alienated than live music played at some huge We Are the World spectacle or Las Vegas niteclub, even though the latter is live music played to a live audience (or at least so it appears), while the former is recorded music consumed by distant & even anonymous listeners."
- "All spectators must also be performers. All expenses are to be shared, & all products which may result from the play are also to be shared by the participants only (who may keep them or bestow them as gifts, but should not sell them). The best games will make little or no use of obvious forms of mediation such as photography, recording, printing, etc., but will tend toward immediate techniques involving physical presence, direct communication, & the senses."
- "...shared freely but never consumed passively, something which can be discussed openly but never understood by the agents of alienation, something with no commercial potential yet valuable beyond price, something occult yet woven completely into the fabric of our everyday lives."
Dirt Rag's Punk Bike Enduro is probably the best known of these gatherings, but it violates at least one additional "rule" of Immediatism, namely, it is publicized and thus receives press coverage, however limited, and so runs the risk of becoming "contaminated," to use Bey's word, by media. Also, it's sponsored, not only by DR but by Troegs Brewing Company, who offer "support", as DR puts it. Thus, by the standards of Immediatism, it's already been co-opted, the whole thing a sort of fait accompli where mediation is concerned. (I'm not complaining here; participation in the Enduro is voluntary, obviously, and I happen to like both DR—missing latest issue notwithstanding—and Troegs beer. And the Enduro, for that matter.)
I cohosted one of these events a few years ago, a clandestine and illicit multi-lap jaunt around some local trails interrupted by pit stops at an oasis deep in the woods, where a cache of well-stocked coolers awaited each thirsty rider. It was a great time, one that we all keep talking about reviving. And a buddy north of me hosts an excellent one about this time each year, an almost perfect, if accidental, example of what we're discussing here. That ride, like Dirt Rag's, involves "point punks" (see the one above that I created) and the post-ride awarding of trophies—homemade totems comprised of scrap bike parts. Sadly, I'm afraid that gathering might not happen this year, because of unforseen (but positive) circumstances in his life (he'll remain anonymous here because name dropping violates the sine qua non secrecy of Immediatism, among other reasons of a more legal nature). There's another similar ride held annually in Philadelphia (as I'm sure there are in other states and other countries), and the weekly TNS local road ride involves elements of Immediatism, though it's not a perfect example, since brewpubs are involved and we make no effort at secrecy. Critical Mass is another example, though less so, since it's necessarily public and charged with overt political symbolism (and is thus not "play for play's sake"), and receives the occasional poisoned press coverage, however marginal and ephemeral.
These rides have a quality about them that is difficult to define, that kind of unique, intense euphoria that has its archetype (one can imagine) in the successful commission of a nonviolent crime that is, essentially, victimless. And indeed, that's exactly what these rides are. Each rider a kind of Robin Hood, stealing back the element of play from a system that has no right to possess, control, or sanction it, and sharing it freely with other participants.
Of course, the ideal such ride would be one where each participant offered up a few bottles of homebrew, since homebrew could be understood to be less mediated than commercial brew, and therefore more meaningful as a gift. And gears and suspension would be strictly res non grata, since each could be construed as an instrument of mediation that buffers—and thus diminishes—the riding experience.
Sounds like I better get working on it...
Interesting footnote on the lack of footnote denotations above: The title page in the front matter of the book contains this curious little statement,
"Anti-copyright, 1994. May be freely pirated and quoted—the author and publisher, however, would like to be informed at (publisher's name and address)"
Yeah, I sent 'em an email about the excerpts I lifted for this post.