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"Can poetry save us?": An Interview with Bifo


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In the English-language edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, Mike Huguenor interviews Franco “Bifo” Berardi about his recent book Breathing: Chaos and Poetry, the legacy of Occupy, and the new movement against climate collapse led by youth like Greta Thunberg. Among other things, Bifo argues that the abstraction of the artistic avant-garde anticipated the abstraction of modern finance. Here’s an excerpt:

So, then, the question. Can poetry save us?

Nobody will save us. Nothing will save us, and I don’t want to be saved actually. We have to understand: the real point is you will die, sooner or later. And me, and everybody. So the problem of extinction. The concept of extinction is entering the history of the human kind with a new strength and a new consciousness.

Did you see the last work of David Bowie, Blackstar ? It’s all about extinction. David Bowie is a great poet, first of all, but he is the first poet to stage his own death, his own extinction. So, we will die. Also in Blade Runner, Pris, the beautiful replicant, says: ‘we are stupid, and we will die.’ If we understand extinction as a natural process of coming together, we will not die in that sense. What we need now is a conceptual and aesthetic understanding of what is happening to us.

Of course when you say ‘save the world’ you mean avoid war, avoid famine, ok, ok. But the real point is understanding. And capitalism is impeaching our understanding. Because capitalism is suggesting some superstitions as natural, like growth, expansion, salary, competition. These are concepts. Words. Not natural things. We have to deconstruct the naturalization that capitalism has imposed on our life. And poetry is the preferred tool for doing that. Because poetry does not accept superstitions.

Image of Bifo via silvima.com.