VII

 

"Theory means getting off on immobilization...  What gives you theoreticians a hard on and puts you on the level with our gang is the coldness of the clear and the distinct; of the distinct alone, in fact; the opposable, because the clear is but a dubious redundancy of the distinct, expressed via a philosophy of the subject.  Stop raising the bar, you say!  Escaping pathos -- that's your pathos."

Jean-François Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, 1975

 

When you're a writer, poet or philosopher it's customary to talk about the power of the Word to hinder, foil, and pierce the informational flows of the Empire, the binary enunciation machines.  You've heard the eulogists of poetry clamoring that they're the last rampart against the barbarism of communication.  Even when he identifies his position with that of the minor literatures, the eccentrics, the "literary lunatics," when he hunts down the idiolects that belabor their tongues to demonstrate what escapes the code, so as to implode the idea of comprehension itself, to expose the fundamental misunderstanding that defeats the tyranny of information, the author who knows himself to be acted through, spoken through, and traveled through by burning intensities, is for all that no less animated, when seated before his blank page, by a prophetic concept of wording.  For me, as a "receiver," the shock effect that certain writings have deliberately dedicated themselves to the quest for starting in the 1960s are in this sense no less paralyzing than the old categorical and sententious critical theory was.  Watching from my easy chair as Guyotat or Guattari get off on each line, contorting, burping, farting, and vomiting out their delirium-future makes me get it up, moan, and get off only very rarely; that is, only when some desire sweeps me away to the shores of voyeurism.  Performances, surely, but performances of what?  Performances of a boarding school alchemy where the philosopher's stone is hunted down amid mixed sprays of ink and cum.  Proclaiming intensity does not suffice to engender the passage of intensity.  As for theory and critique, they remain cloistered in a typeface of clear and distinct pronouncements, as transparent as the passage ought to be from "false consciousness" to clarified consciousness.

 

Far from giving into some mythology of the Word or an essentialization of meaning, Burroughs, in his Electronic Revolution proposed forms of struggle against the controlled circulation of pronouncements, offensive strategies of enunciation that came to light in his "mental manipulation" operations that were inspired by his "cut-up" experiments, a combination of pronouncements based on randomness.  By proposing to make "interference/fog" into a revolutionary weapon, he undeniably introduced a new level of sophistication to all prior research into offensive language.  But like the situationist practice of "detournement"/media-hijacking, which in its modus operandi is in no way distinguishable from "recuperation"/co-optation -- which explains its spectacular fortune -- "interference/fog" is merely a relative operation.  This is also true for the contemporary forms of struggle on the Internet which are inspired by these instructions of Burroughs': piracy, virus propagation, spamming... all these can in fine only serve to temporarily destabilize the operation of the communications network.  But as regards the matter we are dealing with here and now, Burroughs was forced to agree, in terms inherited - certainly - from theories of communication that hypostatized the issuer-receiver relationship: "it would be more useful to try to discover how the models of exploration could be altered so as to permit the subject to liberate his own spontaneous models."  What's at issue in any enunciation is not whether it's received but whether it can become contagious.  I call insinuation - the illapsus, according to medieval philosophy - a strategy consisting in following the twists and turns of thought, the wandering words that win me over while at the same time constituting the vague terrain where their reception will establish itself.  By playing on the relationship of the sign to what it refers to, by using clichés against themselves, like in caricatures, by letting the reader come closer, insinuation makes possible an encounter, an intimate presence, between the subject of the pronouncement and those who relate to the pronouncement itself.  "There are passwords hidden under slogans," write Deleuze and Guattari, "words that are pronounced as if in passing, components of a passage; whereas slogans mark points of stoppage, stratified and organized compositions."  Insinuation is the haze of theory and suits a discourse whose objective is to permit struggles against the worship of transparency, attached at its very roots to the cybernetic hypothesis.



That the cybernetic vision of the world is an abstract machine, a mystical fable, a cold eloquence which continually escapes multiple bodies, gestures, words -- all this isn't enough to conclude its unavoidable defeat.  What cybernetics needs in that regard is precisely the same thing that maintains it: the pleasure of extreme rationalization, the burn-scars of "tautism" [tautological autism], the passion for reduction, the orgasm of binary flattening.   Attacking the cybernetic hypothesis - it must be repeated - doesn't mean just critiquing it, and counterposing a concurrent vision of the social world; it means experimenting alongside it, actuating other protocols, redesigning them from scratch and enjoying them.   Starting in the 1950s, the cybernetic hypothesis has been the secret fascination of a whole generation of "critical" thinkers, from the situationists to Castoriadis, from Lyotard to Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari.  One might map their responses in this way: these first opposed it by developing their thought process outside it, overhanging it, and these second by thinking within the heart of it, on the one hand "a metaphysical type of disagreement with the world, which focuses on super-terrestrial, transcendent worlds or utopian counter-worlds" and on the other hand "a poïetic type of disagreement with the world, which sees the path to freedom within the Real itself," as Peter Sloterdijk summarizes.  The success of all future revolutionary experimentation will essentially be measured by its capacity to make this conflict obsolete.   This begins when bodies change scale, feel themselves deepen, are passed through by molecular phenomena escaping systemic points of view, escaping representations of their molarity, make each of their pores into a seeing machine clinging to the temporal evolutions of things instead of a camera, which frames, delimits, and assigns beings.  In the lines that follow I will insinuate a protocol for experimentation, in an attempt to defeat the cybernetic hypothesis and undo the world it perseveringly persists in constructing.  But like for other erotic or strategic arts, its use isn't something that is decided on nor something that imposes itself.  It can only originate in something totally involuntary, which implies, of course, a certain casual manner.   

 

 


changed April 27, 2010