{The Art of Change opera is an opera that has been commissioned to the composer and multimedia artist Jean-Baptiste Barrière on the occasion of The New School’s Centennial celebrations.

The following is the opera’s libretto, conceived and developed by the philosopher and writer Chiara Bottici. In accordance with the spirit of Public Seminar and of The New School’s legacy, it is an ongoing and open libretto: we invite all readers to suggest changes, to propose quotations from their favorite authors, or to develop the various narrative threads, by leaving a comment below.

Every sentence, every act, can change on its own, but it can also change along with the other parts. All changes are welcome. We periodically update the libretto by incorporating changes that have been recommended and recognize individual contributors by name. A preview of the 0.1 version of the libretto was performed at the Centennial Festival on 5 October 2019, with the title The Art of Change Opera Prelude, whereas the first results of The Art of Change Workshop will be performed at The New School on 16-17-18 and 21 January 2020.

The current 1.0 version of the libretto has been realized by incorporating comments from Austin Burke, Aris-Komporosos Athanasiou, Christen Clifford, Stefania de Kenessey, Dmitri Nikulin, Timmy Ong, and Giuseppe Vicinanza.}

Synopsis: A city decides to radically re-organize its life by adopting the principle of accelerated change (AC) and apply it to all and every aspect of social life. The result is a utopian (or dystopian) world that may (or may not) turn out to be ours.

ACT 1

Scene: A city town hall, during which the leader of the AC movement addresses the audience. In a dark corner, the angel of desire does its shadow work.

“I cannot understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I am frightened of old ones” (John Cage, 1988).

The economy is stagnating.
We need new ideas.
We need to fight inertia, indolence, idleness.
We need to reorganize social life from its very fundaments.
We must change our habits, our statutes, our constitutions.
Change has been too slow.
We must change change itself.
This is the road to success:
We must install the new AC (Accelerated Change) Laws:

The AC Laws declare that:
I. It shall change, it shall increase
The labor force shall be separated from the means of production so that the
latter can be accumulated incrementally, exponentially, incessantly
−enabling uninterrupted investment in scientific and technological
research.

The change of change will bring progress,
the progress of progress will win the market,
the marketing of the market will increase productivity

{ACQUISITIVE DESIRE SONG}
Will increase
Will increase
Will increase

II. They shall change, they will not stay

The produce we eat shall change,
the crops we plant shall change,
the commodities we sell shall change.
Nothing will ever be the same − Again.
The genes we modify shall change every five hours.
The produce we consume shall change every five minutes.
The commodities we sell shall change every five seconds.

One citizen takes her shirt off and throws it on the floor.

III. You will change, you won’t remain

Nothing shall change unless you change, so you will change too.
You shall change your private properties every month.
You shall change your life partner every week.
You shall change your personal wardrobe every day.

Another citizen takes her shirt off and throws it on the floor.

You shall change your body.
You shall change your habits.
You shall change your I-phone.

Another citizen takes her shirt off and throws it on the floor.

Every contract will automatically expire within a month,
every relationship will be consensually dissolved after a week,
every screensaver will be randomly replaced at the end of the day.

Change your settings:
everything shall change!

As the light dims, the Angel of Desire gets out of its corner and starts collecting cloths from the floor.

ACT 2

First Scene: in a secluded space, two lovers of undetermined gender meet.
The Angel of Desire keeps doing its shadow work in silence.

“In this understanding of an imagined fullness of love, of true, good love, love is virtually linked to the inner-subjective conflict, which ultimately demands change and de-individualization from the individual.” (Hannah Arendt, 1929)

First Lover A: Where have you been? I was worried for you.
Second Lover: I was worried too. We are not supposed to be here in this
moment.
First lover: But the mandatory divorce was only a few days ago!
Second Lover: I know! But they seem to be pretty rigid in the implementation
of the new laws.
First lover: There must be a grace period! They cannot expect it to vanish so quickly!
Second lover: Maybe we should just continue to exchange text messages: it is
too dangerous to meet!
First lover: I loved your texts and all the pictures you sent me! But it is so much
better to have you here with me.
Second lover: The law is the law, and you know what could happen if they find
out…
First lover: I cannot live without you.

Lovers hug each other and kiss passionately: but the second lover suddenly interrupts the encounter .

Second lover: You will have to live without me.
First lover: What do you mean? I do not understand you. I thought you loved
me.
Second lover: I do, and I have something for you. Here!
First lover: What is this?
Second lover: A cup.
First lover: A cup?
Second lover: Yes, a cup to continue the uninterrupted kisses.

Noises of very loud, repetitive steps. Lovers look at each other with terror.

First lover: What is this sound?
Second lover: I do not know! But it may well be the Sittenpolizei! I must go! Do
not forget the cup!

Second lover exits.

First lover: A cup. A cup to continue uninterrupted kisses.

First lover alone, sitting with a cup in her hands. She brings the cup to her lips as if to take a sip, but then looks at the cup in astonishment, and meditates.

First lover: And so I am continuing uninterrupted kissing.

Bring the cup again to her lips, but then puts it down, meditating again, until she suddenly stands up in a burst of excitement.

First lover : This is what I am doing! Continue uninterrupted kisses! I have to keep drinking! And if the cup will ever break, I will glue all the pieces back! And continue the uninterrupted kisses!

Brings the cup to her lips, avidly.

First lover: Yes, I will glue it back! I will do the hard work of the mosaic, because the work of the mosaic is the work of love!

First lover keeps bringing the cup to her lips, repetitively, until something starts happening to her body, her face deformed by pain, collapses on the ground, while, through spasmodic and intense contractions, words come out of her body, as if they were her own viscera, broken into smaller particles, no longer belonging to her, but to the entire cosmos:

flesh, I felt beautifully dressed, I wanted to wear those images, all those changing images, I felt like I could wear them whenever I wanted, the image, the digital image, inexhaustible, inextinguishable, the copy that had become more authentic than the original itself, you had brought life to it, to it and to me, but ended up naked when you stopped sending images, naked, naked in my bare skin, but can anyone ever be naked, naked, like the naked body, which is always and necessarily dressed, always a portrait, there is nothing more caught in the image than the naked body, image of itself, essence of bourgeois individualism, the naked body, the classical body, the sculpture, the painting, the bronze, there is no nakedness, there is just being, being and not being, plenitude and lack, a being that is for itself, flesh, fullness, and overabundance, and a being that is for an-other, a being in others, and for others, to be looked at, with no smell, and no touch, and thus no flesh, so perhaps you were right, my image is too intellectual, too cerebral, an image caught in seeing itself from the outside, and we should try to make an image from the inside, from the body and through the body, so the skin will leave its flatness and become flesh again, flesh and tissue, flesh and meat, flesh and viscera, flesh and fruit, flesh and taste, flesh and health, flesh and death, flesh and decay, flesh and living

ACT 3

Scene: citizens are assembled in an emergency town hall. Speeches are progressively interrupted by more and more greenhouse gases molecules.

“All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and [wo]man is at last compelled to face with sober senses [their] his real conditions of life, and [their] his relations with [their] his kind” (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848).

We feel the heat
We C2F6 feel the cold
We are all on the same boat
− and the boat CH4 is sinking

LAMENTATIONS
All that is solid melts into air
All that is solid melts into air
All that is solid melts into air
And comes back to us as acid rains
And comes back to us as carbon dioxide
And comes back to us as greenhouse gases

An asphyxiating mixture CO2 of wet and dry acid components keep depositing all around us. Precipitations CFC12 have changed, they are unusually acidic, there CCI2F2 are too many hydrogen ions in this world: on our fields, on our crops, on our skin, on our lungs, on our keyboards.

The rain is wet, NO the rain is dry
We need more studies NO
But they must change, too

One citizen goes into the dark corner, where the Angel of Desire repairs her outfit by sewing pieces of the disposed shirt back into her dress, as if they were a mosaic.

LAMENTATIONS
All that is solid melts into air
All that is solid melts into air
All that is solid melts into air
And comes back to us as sulfur dioxide
And comes back to us as nitrogen oxide
And comes back to us as their endless combination

One and many, many and one
NOy, NOx, NOz
The nitrogen oxides pollute the molecules we breathe,
and even those they themselves breathe.

The rain is wet, the rain is NO dry
We need more studies NO
But they have changed, too

I did the change
You did the change
It did the change
Who did the change?

A second citizen goes into the dark corner, where the Angel of Desire continues its labor of repair.

LAMENTATIONS
All that is solid melts into air
All that is solid melts into air
All that is solid melts into air
And NO comes back to us as nitric oxide
And comes N2O back to us as nitrous oxide
And comes back NO2 to us as nitrogen dioxide
And comes back to N2O3 us as dinitrogen trioxide
And comes back to us N2Oas dinitrogen tetroxide
And comes back to us as CF4 tetrafluoromethane
And comes back to us as hexafluoroethane C22
And comes back to us as sulfur hexafluoride SF6
And comes back to us as nitrogen trifluoride NF3

{GREENHOUSE GASES SONG}
NF3
SF6
C2F2
CF4
N2O4
N203
NO2
N2O
NO

A third citizen goes into the dark corner, where the Angel of Desire continues its labor of repair.

ACT 4

Imaginal space outside of the human illusions of space and time. The narrator and the actor become the same person in the figure of the poet-philosopher.

Citizens move around with their repaired, mosaic-like clothes.

“Birth is both in the world and a world’s beginning. Every body counts, every body is a testament to hope. The hope of the world […] rests in the newborn infant. The infant’s hope resides in the world’s welcome.” (Sara Ruddick 1989)

At the beginning was the imagination, with its capricious, subversive nature. But a charming guy arrived on the scene and promised to bring bread to every-body. People believed him, although he turned out to be more interested in actually enriching only some-bodies.

Market productivity increased but labor became boring, repetitive, alienating,

Until, one day, a mob of angry kids stood up and cried:

“Let’s stop it! All the power to the imagination! No more one-dimensional [wo]men!”

And the guy, being quite smart, timidly replied: “Let’s try it out. Let’s be creative and express ourselves. We will get digitalized machines to do the repetitive work of the factories! Yes, that’s what we’ll do!”

And now we have too many images and too little imagination.

Too many identities and too little time to try them out.

Too many climate change studies, and too little faith in them.

We asked for more creativity but ended up with too many screens and not enough vision.

Can there still be a place for imagination in a world where imagining has been enlisted to the production machine? Can we imagine something new in a world that is so full of the old, because every new has already been sold? And what if imagination itself proves to be not a faculty that we possess but the homologated imaginary possessing us?

At the beginning is the imaginal, that space which is neither an individual faculty, nor a social context, but pure immanent flux of images, re-presentations that are also presences in themselves.

Re-orientation of images can then begin the revolution of our times.

Re-innovation, Against Compulsory Innovation!

The old to create the new,

Strata of images to digital dullness,

Lost words to re-discover new, living ones.

Re-innovation, Against Compulsory Innovation!

A straight line, against the phantasmagoria of commodities.

Fixity, against the constant flux of capital.

Cosmic love, against bourgeois mortgage romance.

One globe, so that interruptions are possible − Again.

Re-innovation, Against Compulsory Innovation!

The new, through the same.

Eternal return, against empty difference.

Bodies, against flatness.

Touch, against the excess of seeing.

A mountain, against the sea: next to the sea, made by the sea.

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