[Editors Note: Initially believed to be evidence of an attack on this website by Russian hackers, it was later translated from the original German and identified as an assemblage of texts and precepts developed in Los Angeles and North Carolina (US) for training in the creation of and performance in devised theatre.  The many hyperlinks take the reader to the “Borrowed Things” of texts, videos, songs, and non-sequiturs.]


The New Thing (Third Manifesto)[1]

a Minor Gesture[2]

Tony Perucci

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern (Durham, NC)

The Performance Collective (Chapel Hill, NC)




For Carlo


In principle, I am against manifestos.

                                                Tristan Tzara 

There's no reason. There's no reason why you couldn't.

                                                            Amelia Gray


As a way to try to name an ethic of making work, a mode of collaboration, an animating spirit of contestation, etc., the term The New Thing is borrowed from Free Jazz musicians who knew that jazz had become what Ornette Coleman called a conventional thing, ruined in no small part by white critics. The New Thing named some of Free Jazz’s key characteristics: horizontality of organization (of the ensemble), challenging the primacy of melody, the veneration of improvisation, the valuing of chance and composition, the potentiality of performance as a means of creation not just exhibition, and putting all of these artistic practices in the service of challenging white supremacy and capitalist exploitation.  Just as white folks attempted to, as Amiri Baraka said, change swing from a verb to a noun, The New Thing enacts a continual return from noun to verb.


   The New Thing is in this way a process – it is the perpetual event of materialization, of reification, which must then be continually revivified/re-enlivened/re-newed.  The New Thing is the ongoing and heightened dialectical process of being both new-ed as well as being thing-ed.

   The concept of reification in The New Thing moves from Marx to Mary Overlie: the formation of language … reifying is an act of creating a progression of understanding our own existence.  There is no product as such, there is only the search conducted on the edge of our knowing of the unknown.

   A thing is not a thing …  that is, not until the thing has been thing-ified.  The thing is produced through reification.  It is not a preexisting material object, creature, body, being, product.  It is making something concrete, which is to say, material, which is to say, real.  But, due to its condition as having been made to be real, it is not actually real in any absolute sense.  #pinocchio

    A performance cannot be created that is essentially new.  Yet, it cannot not be.  The contingency of time, space, body, words do not allow for replication.  The New Thing calls the artist’s attention to this fact, thus making that newness part of the substance of making.

   Thus, the newness of The New Thing is also reified into a thing, thus putting its status of being new in perpetual jeopardy.

   Make it new. — Ezra Pound

   The general use of Make It New as the slogan for this kind of radical novelty turns out to be a misunderstanding and misapplication of the phrase.

   The New Thing is not a new thing.  That is to say, it is not the pursuit of a thing that is new like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (though I’ll accept one if offered).  Rather, the new must be constantly discovered in each and every thing that constitutes the theatrical event.

    If we start to examine the laws of perception, we see that as perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic. […] Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one’s wife [sic], and the fear of war.  […] And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things; to make the stone stony.  The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.

   The New Thing is modernism after postmodernism (didn’t) happen. That is, it is a veneration of newness (as immanence & materialization), with an awareness that said newness cannot be absolute.  It is both necessary and inevitable that every new act has a history and is constructed. And vice versa.  It reckons with the “pre-modern,” “anti-modern,” and alternative modernities that (post)modernism has destroyed, suppressed through the mechanisms of colonialism and neoliberalism.


   It would be downright silly to think that The New Thing’s minimalism is a search for pure form.  As a phenomenological practice, it brackets meaning to allow the perception of the thing in its thingness.

   It’s more like Coltrane: structure upon structure upon structure.

   Pursuit of The New Thing as if hunting a white whale will inevitably disappoint.  It will keep you from seeing the flying seahorses that already surround you if only you will see them.  The latter encounter is The New Thing.

   The New Thing is in a battle to the death with the new thing (whatever it is today), which is the commodification and spectacularization of experience in the service of capital.

   In opposition to consumerism’s new things and in the war against cliché, The New Thing follows Ornette Coleman’s lead and does Something Else!!!!

   The New Thing can also be understood as My Thang, which James Brown describes as being perpetually regenerated by a brand new funk. This is to say, that if we can understand the thing in question – the thing that you should Get Up Offa – to be a porous container, a diaphanous bag, then Papa’s Got a Brand New one.  In these ways, The New Thing enacts both The New Funk and The New Bag; it ain’t too hip, but is rather in the swing.

   If the The New Thing is a container it is only porous because of the resistance of that which is (not) contained.  If The New Thing has any value, it is because of its fugitivity. So, it resists containment and capture as a political and aesthetic act of ungraspability. That ungraspability of the The New Thing is the resistance of the object.  Fred Moten: Fugitivity is immanent to the thing but is manifest transversally.

   The New Thing is a fugitive gesture, a movement of movements.

   This fugitivity is produced by the radical, political production of collectivity to be found in the performance of ensemble. The New Thing’s participatory, collective ensemble performs the movement of movements, which can be felt and touched and exists in language and in fantasy it is flight, it is motion, it is fugitivity itself.

   All that is to say after Boots Riley, We Takin Everythang.

   The New Thing is for the abolition of prisons – those that enforce the tyranny of capitalism and those that enforce the tyranny of meaning.

   Emerson: Poetry must be new as foam, and as old as the rock.

   Emerson: “I hate quotation.”

   The New Thing tilts at windmills.

   The New Thing is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  The New Thing is mashed-up, cut-up, and détourned. You don’t make The New Thing, you find it or it finds you.  It can only be produced through the admixture of improvisation, chance, structure, play, repetition, failure, repetition, juxtaposition, continuity, rupture, and the breaking of expectations.  If it is even possible, then The New Thing can only be discovered by making it, which is also to say by being made by it.

   The New Thing is a performance of possibilities that is the dynamic encounter with the interrogative field.

   The New Thing performs political possibilities: social experiments, revolutions, and utopian schemes.

   The New Thing is almost impossible, gives an instance of the practicality of the impossible.

   The performance of possibilities specializes in the wholly impossible.

   The “new thing” is not a thing, nor can it ever be a thing. [Me— and yet it must be!] Our compulsion to try to make it a thing, though, is exactly what makes “the new thing” a performance method.

   The New Thing is against method and is also against the instrumentalization of art.  Once sedimented in the fixity of a defined system, such art could be useful, but it would cease being The New Thing.


The New Thing is constituted by (and through) attending to these practices:









The New Thing is generated by and dependent upon paradoxical principles:


1.     It is alternately minimalist (in its commitment to the phenomenal encounter with materiality) and maximalist (in its production of an excess of things).

2.     Or, another way to put this is that The New Thing is material substance that could not be any other way, even as it haunted and taunted by the many other ways is could be.

3.     It contends that

a.     Performance is most itself when it is completely fake—characterized by theatrical artifice, make-believe, amusing hats.

b.     Performance is most itself when it is really real – characterized by the accident, the error, chance and the unknown.

4.     Real and Fake are categories that are hopelessly (and hopefully) saturated by each other.

5.     The presence of presence must be enacted even as we have no access to anything like pure presence.

6.     The New Thing is beautiful when it is ugly and ugly when it is beautiful.

7.     The New Thing is urgent as it enacts rupture and does the unnecessary.

a.     Ruptural Performances are interruptive, becoming-events, confrontational, confounding, becoming-a-problem, and give rise to the virtuosic multitude.

b.     Doing the Unnecessary is the task of interfering with ordinary, automatic actions.

8.     Doing The New Thing is almost invariably a bad idea.  It is goaded into being by Imp of the Perverse.

·      Working in and through these paradoxes should be confounding. Confusion is a gift, I have always thought. That is the reason for the smile. The eruption of that particular smile is The New Thing’s performance on, in, through, and of the body.  In confrontation with paradoxes, The New Thing is picking blackberries.

·      And the public will believe in the theatre’s dreams on condition that it take them for true dreams and not for a servile copy of realityAntonin Artaud

·      The New Thing is an increasingly common practice known as hypothetical mining, also known as weird farming.  

·      The Buzzcocks’ Strange Thing makes you face new directions / get new expectations.  But is it really so strange?

·      The New Thing asks the audience, “What’s the matter?” because it is the matter of performance (time, space, bodies, etc.) that matters.

·      Working with and being worked on by matter that matters invests in the somatic and the haptic, not just the good idea. In fact, when bad ideas produce a failure, the reveling in (im)possibility that failure as a failure is the matter that matters. 

·      The New Thing knows that Samuel Beckett is of little use as a tennis coach. While the new thing attempts to fail better, it cannot recuperate failure by turning it into a success.  Rather it is to become better at failing.

·      Ideas alone are not worth the paper they're written on. Including this one.  Confronted with The New Thing, Manuscripts (don’t) Burn.  Not satisfied with an ideational concept of the new that emerges from brainstorming with those burning texts, The New Thing requires the corporealizing of sharing and colliding texts through BodyStorming.  The ecology of The New Thing tells us that proliferation and increasingly destructiveness of BodyStorms is attributable to the (revolt against) climate change produced by industrial capitalism.

·      The New Thing does not make statements.  As a practice of collaborative questioning, it lives in the interrogative mood. Of the audience (and itself) The New Thing always and continually (re-)asks:

What is this?

What is it now?

Can you help me construct a better question?

Will you?

·      Even still, in the context of injustice fomented by capital and other practices of exploitation and violence, we may confront the audience with a list of demands.  The New Thing presents itself to the public to allow itself to be seen.  But it always and necessarily demands to be reckoned with.

·      Anarchism is the heart of The New Thing, its soul; the source of most of what’s new and hopeful about it.

·      The New Thing is Thomas Pynchon’s Anarchist Miracle: another world’s intrusion into this one.  [… ] Where revolutions break out spontaneous and leaderless, and the soul’s talent for consensus allows the masses to work together without effort, automatic as the body itself.

·      The New Thing chases down the frenzied disappearing really really Real real.  And it fails every goddamn time.

·      The New Thing is impossible. And we do it anyway.


[1] Long thought to be an elaborate hoax, some contend that the 1st Manifesto and 2nd Manifesto of The New Thing disappeared alongside Scene 4 of Frederico García Lorca’s work of impossible theatre, El Publico. Like that play, the initial versions of the The New Thing Manifesto were partly written on hotel stationary under fascist rule while attempting to produce a Theatre Beneath the Sand.

[2] Larry Grossberg, Branislav Jakovljevic, D. Soyini Madison, Mary Overlie, and Hong-An Truong graciously read versions of this text and told me what I had right and wrong.  Any errors of fact, conceptualization, and/or attribution, however, are entirely theirs, not mine.