THE SECRET STAIRS
YNAPMOK: DECONSTRUCTING THE BADAUD ELLIS A. WILSON
Unilalianism is an Afro-Indigenous avant-garde movement, developed behind closed doors in northern California and Washington state in the mid 2010s by emerging multidisciplinary artist Ellis A. Wilson. The movement was formally announced in 2018 with the launch of The Unilalia Group, a creative firm and record label that specializes in facilitating semiotic, multimedia, and performative installations — its mission is to foster creative research that exemplifies, models, analyzes, and/or theorizes the technique of leveraging acontextuality as a means of subverting the constraints of symbolic relationality. Wilson’s concerns are rooted in a nuanced understanding of semiotics, meaning-making, and symbolization as a technology used to manipulate and direct perception by mediating one’s imagination of reality and selfhood. The term Unilalia is derived from the Latin unus and the ancient Greek laliá – in its pedestrian form, it signifies a continuous application of psychonautic theory in the studio of the artist and in daily life. Inspired partly from Situationist theory, these applications play themselves out as multifaceted installations which focus on deconstructing the superimposition of consensus reality over the terrain of daily life.
YNAPMOK: DECONSTRUCTING THE BADAUD The badaud was originally an urban type from 19th-century French literature — often characterized in opposition to the flâneur, badauderie signifies the formation of a peculiar social institution: the crowd [public] as audience. Like any audience, the spectacle naturally lies at the center of attention as it entertains its corresponding assembly of spectators. In a critique of hypermodern subjectivity, Unilalianism posits that increased digitized social mediation (courtesy of Instagram, etc.) has directly accounted for the reanimation and resurgence of a contemporary, globalized iteration of the badaud, this time as a regulatory system – in systems theory, a regulatory or control system is a “specialized subsystem that is designed to monitor and regulate the behavior and operation of the broader system it is a part of in order to maintain its functionality.” In this context, the broader system in question is the artifice, a linguistic object which represents a radical remodeling of a ubiquitous phenomenon: consensus reality.
Readers must understand the multidimensionality and overall geometry of the artifice in order to place the function(s) of the contemporary badaud into proper perspective. Generally speaking, the artifice is easiest understood in very basic theatrical (or cinamatic) terms – humans are to the artifice as actors are to the performance, their movements and behaviors restricted to the boundaries of the stage/screen, guided by symbolic cues and directions [choreography] that correspond to specialized, scripted roles whose interactions are designed to advance the narrative until its prescribed conclusion.
There can be no performance without an audience: they are two inseparable parts of one unity â€“ perhaps the most fundamental motivation behind this model is to bring into focus a dramatization of urban sociality, in particular, so as to construct an applicable critique of symbolic relationality at large. To digress, the use of such academic language may alienate readers but it is essential to outline, in very specific terms, the information at hand. Touching back on the badaud, French scholar Victor Fournel (1867) illustrates this character as one who has surrendered their individuality in exchange for the collectivity of the audience, going as far to write â€œthe badaud becomes an impersonal creature; he is no longer a man, he is the public, he is the crowd.â€? If consensus reality is modeled as a performance, then the badaud, as a social institution, is the audience, its members completely transfixed by the daily illusions, mythologies, false associations, cues and deceptions of the master narrative (synonym for consensus reality, dominant social context, etc.). Unilalianism takes this understanding and applies it to the ways in which increased digital mediation (social media) has transformed the seemingly innocuous institution of the badaud into an integral component of hypermodern civilization.
The crowd [public] is transformed into a digital collectivity as cyberspace becomes the central arena of cultural exchange.
As of 2018, Instagram now boasts upward of 800 million users worldwide while Facebook alone boasts over two billion; Twitter is sitting comfortably at over 300 million users and Snapchat has amassed upward of 180 million – these numbers are a representation of an ever expanding audience, something much larger and far more profound than a mere crowd or public gathering. In the 19th century, the badaud, when personified, referenced the urban ‘gawker’, the naive passerby who is hypnotized and encapsilutated by the spectacle(s) of modern (specifically Paresian) life – as an institution, it was treated as an aspect of modernity, as a mode of urban subjectivity but when globalized, as in the case of this contemporary context, Unilalianism seeks to define it as the host of artificial consciousness and the bedrock of spectacular life.
When consciousness [energy] is possessed by the agency of a social role, artificial consciousness is born. Under this definition, the contemporary badaud reveals itself as an institution that transcends cultural, economic, racial, gendered, and sexual divisions; it is one global crowd unified under one central maxim: keep watching, keep performing – here, the complementary roles of performer and spectator invade all areas of sociality, signifying the total superimposition of the artifice over the terrain of daily life. Visualize the artifice as a symbolic layer of mediation, like an invisible film stretched over physical space and then consider the use of the word film: a film is defined on one hand as a “thin skin, surface, layer, or coating” and on the other hand, it is defined as “a sequence of images [symbols] projected on a screen in such rapid succession that they create the optical illusion of motion”. Both definitions shed light on what the architecture of the artifice looks like – it is sequential, successive, linear, illusory and most importantly, comprised of interrelating, sequenced symbols. In the context of social organization, these symbols present themselves as social roles which reference particular functions in line with advancing the master plot line, no different than theater. Put on your costume, internalize your role, memorize your script, follow directions and act accordingly – these are the dictates which govern the institution of artificiality (synonymous to the contemporary badaud) and it is precisely this dictation that brings into focus the process by which consensus reality is made manifest as both an instrument and byproduct of colonization.
This can’t be repeated enough: Colonization is a strategy of domination that denotes the assault of contextualization upon the natural. Context reveals itself as form’s defining principle; it is the mold in which consciousness is poured, taking on whatever shape its geometry dictates. This is the arcane practice of casting, an exercise in archaic magic which consists of two essential, simultaneous, and complementary phases: the contextualization and circumscription of consciousness. Instead of discussing the machinery of colonization (we’ll save this for another issue), lets rewind back to the 19th-century conceptualization of the badaud – as an urban type, it was defined in diametric opposition to the flâneur, an archetypal figure characterized by its ability to navigate modern life, moving independently of the hypnotic spectacle. When thought of as a mode of subjectivity, Unilalianism seeks to reanimate the principle behind the flâneur in the expression [casting] of a new character: the Unilalian.
Entertainment comes from the Latin tenere, meaning “to hold” – the badaud finds itself entranced by the hypnotic performance of the artifice. Colorful lights and images flash across their eyes, pupils dilated, as they press their faces against the cold glass of a reality which is shown to them via the hands of a disguised predator: life is distorted into an object of contemplation.
What does the Unilalian look like? YNAPMOK specializes in designing graphics for unisex, comfortable, lose fitting apparel – sleek, monochromatic, under the radar: these are the three themes that guide, in general, the aesthetic direction of YNAPMOK’s design team. Read more about the installation at unilalia.com/ynapmok.
This is done gradually through YNAPMOK, a semiotic installation that is focused on leveraging symbolization as a means of articulating counter narratives to the dominant social order – an aspect of this involves outfitting/costuming the role of the Unilalian in the context of the artifice. For more on this, read the upcoming, corresponding issue: The Secret Stairs: The Unilalian.
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#001 (Issues are in no particular order) Dive deeper – unilaila.com