The Rozz Tox Manifesto

Back in the early Eighties, underground cartoonist Gary Panter wrote an artistic manifesto. Originally published as a series of free personal ads in the LA Reader, then later spread through places like the catalog of the Residents’ album label, the Rozz-Tox Manifesto was a DIY middle finger to the worlds of fine art and corporate content. Among the people it supposedly influenced is Matt Groening, creator of a couple TV shows you might have heard of.

Copies of it online are few and far between, and slowly vanishing – at the moment, the only site with a text version is down; I had to transcribe this from a scan of a tattered, yellowed page that some guy tore from the Ralph Records catalog and kept folded up in his wallet for a few years. So I’m taking the time to present it nicely here on my website. I do not agree with every item, but I keep on returning to some of them to meditate upon as my Internet-boosted art career slowly advances.

For context: this was written twenty years before Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser. Your television would probably pick up affiliates of the three networks that dominated the airwaves, a PBS station, and a couple of local channels that ran old shows and movies.

  1. The avant-garde is no corpus. It merely lies in shock after an unfortunate bout with its own petard. It feigns sleep but one eye glitters and an involuntary twitch in the corner of the mouth belies a suppressed snicker. The giggle of coming awake at one’s own funeral dressed in atomic TV beatnik furniture. A mutant with a mission.
  2. There are twenty years left in the twentieth century. Twenty years to reap the rewards and calamities that have been put in motion in this period. At this time a current of aesthetic function is emerging: the inevitable culmination of concepts and experiments pioneered and conducted in this century. We declare society as an amusement park and one to be dead reckoned with.
  3. A deadly texture and tone have taken the cereal Nirvana: a misanthrope borne of capital realities, tendencies and inter-office memos. Sightless businessmen-posed-entertainers shovel up tons of soulless Saturday morning animation. Would that you could make cost-effective the rubbery genius that was the Saturday morning of our youth.
  4. We say enough to the instigators of game show design for we are sick and dizzy. Show us the backs of these monstrous façades, for even bare plywood is a healthier texture. Oh you seekers of the new who run terrified from history into the clutches of an eternal life where no electric shaver can be built to last.
  5. Close the bars! We require well-lit media centers that serve soft drinks and milk. We require that top-40 radio stop it. And this for extant executive entertainers: We know when to laugh. Machines don’t, and it is irritating to hear them laugh at the wrong time. They laugh at nothing and nothing isn’t funny.
  6. Find the evil-doers, the merchant peddlers of Pavlovia who use our unmentionable parts against us! Will you hide behind a scrim of two-dimensional phosphorescence when Biology exacts its reward?
  7. Profound faith in glamour is a surefire way to not see that you kill what you eat. We believe and worship a two-dimensional world. No god printers save us when we stand naked and brainless before an uncompromising and impartial physicality. We are sick now/get wise to the media. Join the art police. We call for posting of cow pictures in every fast-food franchise. And for vegetarians: recording of screaming vegetables at every salad bar.
  8. Beautiful and effective communicative marketing and aesthetic media are not innately evil; merely seductive. However, seductive aesthetics and media are prone to undermine common sense and vision in a capitalistic culture. Our own creations have shamed us. Teaching us that the hand and opinion of the individual are not as legitimate as that of opinion transmuted and inflated by broadcast… especially when that opinion is on 60-pound coated stock, in full color… or when that opinion steals invisible and incomprehensibly into a box in our homes. We are overawed and superstitious still. Would that society reveled in certain varieties of vandalism and disarray. May we mow our lawns and remain civilized.
  9. It is unfortunate and unacceptable that vile and lazy do-nothings are given unwarranted credence for mouthing such foul and mean cliches as “rip-off” and “sell-out”. They have no understanding of our economy and the time it takes society to go. Confess and shut up! Capitalism good or ill is the river in which we sink or swim. Inspiration has always been born of recombination.
  10. In a capitalistic society such as the one in which we live aesthetics as an endeavor flows through a body which is built of free enterprise and various illnesses. In boom times art may be supported by wildcat speculation or by excess funds in the form of grants from the state or patronship as a tax write-off. Currently we are suffering from a lean economy. By necessity we must be self-supporting. Popular media are bigger than fine art media. Aesthetic mediums must infiltrate popular mediums. We are building a business-based art movement. This is not new. Admitting it is.
  11. Business:
    1. To create a pseudo-avant-garde that is cost-effective.
    2. To create merchandising platforms on popular communication and entertainment media.
    3. To extensively mine our recent and ancient past for icons worth remembering and permutating: recombo archaeology.
  12. Waiting for art talent scouts? There are no art talent scouts. Face it, no one will seek you out. No one gives a shit.
  13. Market saturation was reached in the sixties — everyone knows that Fine Elitist Art is of diminishing utility. There is no more reward for maintaining or joining an elite and sterile crew.
  14. Elitist art cannot help the emergent complex through its painful and potentially stupidly dangerous adolescence. Start or support primitive industry, propaganda to no dogma, and environmental jams.
  15. Law: If you want a better media go make it.
  16. We are born capitalists and manufacturers of alternative goods and services. We are made propagandists and propose an antimedia to no dogma. We call for popular environmental manipulators, primitive industry, an avant-garde placed squarely in the entertainment field, for archaeologists and synthesizers.
  17. A call for mutant intuition and wrestling is real. A current that synthesizes idea and entertainment… an antimedia that creates, participates and services a broader-based lunatic fringe and one that is capable of finishing the century outright. An avant-garde that has no mean diversion and stocks the supermarket.
  18. Our lack of popularity in high school has led us to think and thinking has led us to this. No war is waged here: only a strain, a virus, a toxoid, a Rozz-Toxoid. The emergent complex asks for just twenty years of your time. Now stand and sing…

FINAL NOTE: Capitalism good or ill is the river in which we sink or swim, and stocks the supermarket.

Web design by Margaret Trauth. All art based on the little sigil-looking dude that Gary drew to accompany the Ralph Records publication of the Manifesto.