Marcos Novak Manifesto

©2011 Marcos Novak
Title: A Transvergent Manifesto
Location: Los Angeles
Website: [http://www.centrifuge.org]
[Preamble: Armed with the tip of a scalpel rather than the blade of a broadsword, a manifesto
puts forward a polemical call to clarity that speaks to a potentially imaginary collective of like
minds, a wishful and wished-for “us” that may or may not exist in the present, but may yet
arrive in the future. A manifesto does not enumerate its sources or reveal the careful
construction of its argument. It simply presents certain conclusions, directions, demands, and
programs, and says: “if you understand us, if you are with us, join us,” leaving it to the reader
to think — and to act.]
AlloPolis: A Transvergent Manifesto
We embrace the future. We take for granted the free city, the diverse city, the global city,
the technological city, the scientific city, the ecological city, the biological city, the smart city,
the network city, the virtual city, the discontiguous city, the swarm city, the cyborg city, the
nanotech city, the alive city, the Singularity city. To all these, and to any yet to come, we add
the prefix “allo~” to signify “the other, of another kind,” and to claim as ours the alien city, alien
and yet of our own making. And while “alien” is for us something largely positive, we are not
fooled into ignoring that its obverse and corollary can be alienation, against which we must be
ever watchful and vigilant.
To be clear:
We accept the need for caution but denounce all pessimism as creatively unethical, defeatist,
and unhelpful, and insist that only the assertion of positive alternatives is valid as constructive
criticism. By this token, we accept the limits to any simplistic or teleological notion of
Progress, but reject as naïve and malinformed any notion of the futility of progress, or of the
end of the avant-garde and any such valiant effort to augment and exceed the world we are
given. For this, we replace the obsolete notion of the totalizing global goal with the active
principle of the resistant but positive gradient of local ascent in search of ever stranger and
more wonderful topologies of freedom and beauty."
We reject the unimaginative city, the ignorant city, the ugly city, the unjust city, the
dogmatic city, the unhealthy city, the unfriendly city, the unkind city, the paranoid city, the
selfish city, the greedy city, the exploitative city, the usurious city, the cruel city, the
incarcerating city, the separating city, the spirit-crushing city, though we know full well that this
list covers most of our present day city-making. We reject with them all the false, petty, and
mean-spirited arguments (be they political, religious, or economic) that have pretended —in
the face of all evidence to the contrary—to justify sub- mediocrity as good, necessary, or
We are honest: we measure the success of cities by the thriving of their citizens, as embodied
in the architecture of thriving public realms. We see that the cities we are building pale in
comparison to the ancient cities we visit, both in terms of ambition and in terms of the quality
of urban life they support. We recognize that people in the past, though weaker, poorer, less
free and massively less informed than we, nevertheless built better cities than we build, and
left us culture and civilization where we leave extensive urban carpets of ugliness, fast food
and permanent waste.
We admire the extraordinary vessels of our technologies but see these vessels abducted by
avarice for the few and not guided by altruism for the many, and we reject as absurd the
notion that only greed can drive us forward. We recognize the grandeur of our infrastructure
projects, but realize that they are scaled for giant corporate bodies, not fragile human ones.
We applaud the depth and sophistication of our sciences, but realize that they are scaled for
pulseless nano~, femto~, atto~, zepto~, yocto~ scale bodies, not pulsing human ones. We
conclude that we do not suffer from a lack of knowledge or imagination, we suffer from the
blinding toxins of a value system that perverts all motives and incentives, and from a malaise
of the will that prevents us from recalibrating what we value, respect, protect, and nurture to
serve us, at our scale, and to balance us, at the worldʼs scales. We have confused quantities
for qualities, quanta for qualia, counting costs and amenities for weighing balances and
benefits, and have nearly lost our minds, our bodies, and our planet, as a result.
We refuse to be defeated.
We propose a creative principle, an ethical catalyst, a pervasive corrective, an aesthetic and
moral differential (in a mathematical sense) that can produce massive change via a myriad
minute adjustments in the direction of sanity and the search for ever stranger, ever more
wonderful, ever bolder beauty. We call this principle “kami" (in deference to its origin in
Shinto, but with no nationalistic, religious or metaphysical conceits), and mean by it the
cultivation of those minute but precise acts and habits of attention, as if to a lucid and gentle
secular animism toward the sparkling quantum foam of emerging and vanishing symmetries
and balances, toward those tender alignments that are lost if not noticed and cherished, and
toward all those infinitesimal differences that produce extraordinary beauty in all its forms, in
nature or artifice, in love, in politics, in the intellect, in art, and in the"senses. We propose that
our urban and global future depends on our ability to bring this small corrective to all— but
mostly to those who need it most: our children and our politicians— and to let it seep in to us
for years and centuries to come, till we and our values are one, and sane. In time we will
blossom. This is how civilizations are made.
We seek the transvergent city, the allo~city, the cosmo-polis that becomes the AlloPolis, the
city that helps recuperate the lost whole, the city that explores and embodies the transmodal
continuum and participates in the human production of the alien, the city that nurtures the
speciation of diversity, manifest freedom, manifest imagination, the city of present thriving
and future augmentation, the polis worthy of spreading itself among the stars. Most of all, we
seek that from which all other virtues flow: the generous city, free, exploratory, wise and
beautiful. Why should we settle for anything less?
We can have that, and more, provided that we realize that, above anything else, cities are
mirrors, and that we cannot build what we seek until we become what we seek.

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