Tools to work with Zombies


Manifesto | 2013

An approach to understand undead productivity in arts and life, in form of a manifesto/essay/list.

Published in brink magazine #2 (von der beständigen wiederkehr der unruhe) and in Leeren in 2013.


In 2011 I got obsessed by zombie. I felt that the zombie is very present in my hometown Cologne and went to collect sightings. I found out zombi is:
a senseless and (by whoever) exploited worker, and with that:

  • a state of mind, and
  • a victim of oppression and/or capitalism
  • who works towards the extinction of humankind
  • but isn't necessarily “bad” or “good” but “unhappy” or “rather happy”.
  • and never free

thus he is as well the very broad meaning of first western descriptions, as the very specific modern flesh-eating, doom-bringing revenant, they're the same thing.

The Zombie of Cologne manifests himself especially in winter. He appears in Christmas, New Year's Eve and Karneval, in shopping areas, family houses, parks and alleys, he is an individual, just some people and everyone, he's us, someone else and me.

Tools to work with Zombies
Zombie is hard to work with, as anyone who intended would agree. He consumes and decays, he strives away. These are the tools I found to be helpful.

  1. They refuse to be understood
    You cannot expect to understand them. Pretend, or make things up. Say you know what they want.
  2. They cannot be described
    You cannot get a finished and perfect description. You cannot know which aspect of them is the most vital one, ore which one is not worth a note. Obvious things might really not matter, and invisible details might be the summary of their existence.
    Describe them anyway. Make a non-hierarchical collection of aspects you observe, a collage. Make it as vague as possible, chances are you're close to the truth.
  3. They cannot be finished
    Since they refuse to be understood and described you will never be satisfied with your work. Try to understand incompletion as a quality. You will not finish the collage. Bury them alive.

How to be a Happy Zombie (Basics):

Step 1:
Be aware of the problem: you're undead and a slave.
Step 2:
Understand that there's no solution to this problem. You will never again live and you will never be free.
Step 3:
Revolt anyway.
Step 4:
Stay undead and a slave.
Step 5:
Repeat Step 3 and Step 4 until humankind is destroyed.

How to be a Happy Zombie (Advanced):
Step 1:
Be aware of the problem: you're undead, a slave and destroying humankind.
Step 2:
Understand that there's still no solution to this problem: You will never again live, you will never be free and you will destroy humankind.
Step 3:
Try to find out whose slave you are. Try to find out who benefits from your undead slave labour.
Step 4:
If you don't like who or what benefits from your undead slave labour, try to shift your working power. Try to be a slave to something more vague or something joyful.
Take your time when shifting your working power. As a zombie you're not made for sudden changes, and you've got time until the end of humanity.
Step 5:
Keep up your senseless, joyful slave work. Keep revolting, stay undead and a slave until humankind is destroyed.
Congratulations! You're now a (rather) happy zombi!

Zombie Rebellion
For an aspiring rebel a zombie revolt is as terrifying as inspiring to witness. Its stunning in violence, absolute in its performance and flawless in ideology.
Young Revolutionist! Learn from a zombi rebellion!

  1. A revolting zombi is the incarnation of revolution. Fight and rebellion is everything, there's nothing else.
  2. There's no ideology to be installed instead of the system-in-destruction. During the fight and even after victory he stays oppressed by the then destroyed system.
  3. He doesn't revolt because he wants to change the current system, neither is it anger nor frustration. The Zombi destroys out of Cluelessness.
  4. Thus the zombi is an idol of uncertainty, for action is born not despite of, but out of cluelessness. And different from the reason the action is very certain and bold.

How not to kill a Zombie
“If violence is done against those who are unreal, then, from the perspective of violence, it fails to injure or negate those lives since those lives are already negated. But they have a strange way of remaining animated and so must be negated again (and again). They cannot be mourned because they are always already lost or, rather, never 'were', and they must be killed, since they seem to live on, stubbornly, in this state of deadness. […] The matter is not a simple one, for, if a life is not grievable, it is not quite a life; it does not qualify as a life and is not worth a note. It is already the unburied, if not the unburiable.” [Judith Butler: Precarious Life]