Doctor Faustuses’ Daily Affirmation
With Doctor Faustuses’ Daily Affirmation, Billy Mullaney proposes a speculative (albeit sinister) self-improvement practice based on the tenets of operant conditioning within behavioral psychology. Using rewards and punishments to enforce behavior change, the premise of this practice is to self-inflict operant conditioning in an effort to undo inherent bias and (ostensibly) negative desires. Billy proposes this work as a solo, with himself as the “practitioner”, although the form (a demonstration, a recording, a daily practice, etc) is up in the air–as is the mode of spectatorship he wants to encourage upon the work, which feels necessarily split: Ultimately he wants to produce an idiom about the neoliberal imperative of self-management, and to use the aesthetics of empiricism to blur the line between self-improvement and self-destruction.
At the same time, however, Billy doesn’t want to give the research wholly over to cynicism: he wants to empathize with the (including his own) desire towards self-improvement, and a learned impulse to self-punish for failing to live up to his own values. Moreover, he wants to raise questions about what a “good person” even looks like in 2021–how is “good person” performed, through what platforms, and for whom?