Self-Help for the Post-Hip
by Andrew Boyd [who?]
dec '98 w.w.norton
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WHO THE *&%@ IS ANDREW BOYD?
During the usual futile attempt to explain what I do at loud parties to strangers with normal jobs, the conversation will go something like this: "I used to be a symbolic troublemaker with health benefits." Skeptical eyebrow movement. "Oh, but now I'm self-employed as a conceptual prankster." Looks down at glass, wonders if this would be good moment to get refill. "Well, actually, I write odd--very odd--books: philosophical humor mostly, it's kind of a new genre, you know." Stirs ice cube with finger. "OK, I'm a writer. B-u-u-u-t I'm also a cultural activist, performance artist, and a founding partner of a "subvertising" agency. Sometimes, though, I wish I was an investment banker--for situations like this, mostly."
To see how I got into this predicament, let's step back 15 years.
The critical moment in my career came after several years as a student activist. I was feeling limited by the all too predictable forms of social movement organizing--pamphlets, rallies, teach-ins, etc.--and began to experiment with public performance art, guerrilla theater and cultural interventions. (Including taking over a campus military research lab dressed in lab coats, dark sunglasses and walkman headsets; launching an experiment in free bicycle transportation by exorcising the commodity value out of the bicycles in a mass public ritual; and inserting into campus publications extreme pro-imperialst rants on US Central America policy written by a mysterious Capt. John Early.) This form of engagement drew people in, locked onto their curiosity, and made them laugh. It demanded they puzzle some of the message out for themselves and become part of the action. It used symbol, metaphor, playfulness, guile and surprise.
These early experiments gave me my intellectual definition and desire: grab a powerful idea from the culture or the academy, turn it inside-out, put a handle and a grin on it, and send it back out there. Work the intersections and overlaps: education and entertainment, politics and performance, powerful ideas and playfulness. Go with the grain of the culture, find the right idiom--but say something different, something important.
In many ways, my recent books and cultural projects are highly evolved offspring of this original inspiration. They are what I call "critical hijackings"--a popular mass-culture format tweaked to carry critical content. My current book, published by W. W. Norton in January '02, is Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in the Universe. Through some kind of literary aikido, it adapts the formal constraints of the daily affirmation to render ironic philosophical prose poems. My previous book, Life's Little Deconstruction Book: Self-Help for the Post-Hip which came out two years ago from W. W. Norton and Penguin UK, presents the full range of post-modern ideas crystallized into 365 pop-culture slogans. I'm also the author of The Activist Cookbook, a how-to guide for cultural activists, which I wrote for United for a Fair Economy, a national economic justice organization based in Boston.
At UFE, I founded, and for many years, directed, Art for a Fair Economy, which uses performance, media stunts and creative direct action to educate and mobilize for greater economic equality. The actions and performances I pioneered there include: the 100 Musical Chairs, a participatory spectacle that uses 100 people and 100 chairs to create a human bar-graph of economic inequality; the Precision Cell Phone Drill Team, a squad of corporate executives in power suits on military style maneuvers; and the Billionaires for Bush, an ironic political campaign that attracted sustained national media attention and widespread grass-roots participation. During the Billionaires project I directed a multi-disciplinary media-arts team, co-produced an award-winning website, and wrote considerable material for print, on-line, radio, stage and street performance. I have spoken about my writing and performance projects on several academic panels, and currently conduct workshops around the US on activist art and artful activism. I occasionally write for the Village Voice and contribute articles to social movement anthologies.
I also combine my writing and performance work. For each book, I develop an accompanying costumed persona and performance piece to animate the text. These include: the Global Village Idiot, a post-modern wise fool; the Chef of the Activist Kitchen, who saves democracy with the help of wind up toys, a blender and a bad French accent; and Brother Void, a dark saint and cyber monk who downloads scripture and performs with a laptop.
Somewhere along the way, I completed a B.A. from the University of Michigan in Communications and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, an M.Ed. from the Harvard School of Education, and various course series in new media production, computer programming and creative writing.
Somewhere else along the way, I've also been a competent dishwasher, apprentice tile-setter, adequate but unfulfilled researcher and developer of educational technology, amateur game designer, and clandestine data-processor for Third World revolutionary movements.
Somewhere else entirely along the way, I have knocked out a few inspired poems and mixed media pieces, hitchhiked through snowstorms, jumped freight trains across the desert, designed existential clocks, and exorcised the commodity value out of 25 green bicycles.
Soulful yet fierce, wacky yet responsible, radical yet ironic, Dionysian yet Apollinian SWM, seeks tender yet tenacious S?F.
SWM w/o MBA, down on CIA, hip to ERA, too short for NBA, seeks S?F who shares similar acronym orientation.