Secessionist Outernational: Self-Exile & Poetry

“Still today I am only counting on what comes of my own openness, my eagerness to wander in search of everything, which I am confident, keeps me in mysterious communication with other open beings, as if we were suddenly called to assemble.” – André Breton

It has been the practice of groups to expel, to exercise the ‘sovereign ban’.These groups take kudos from expulsions, they rehone their position, and grow closer together. The one expelled is normally a one that troubles the group; the unconscious anxiety of the group is personified in the expulsed one. Cohesion grows in such cases because the group, based to a large extent on shared belief and an interest-consensus, can, once the anxiety is expelled, untroubeledly continue believing and idealising in the same way.

The claims to collectivity of such groups, in neglecting the unconscious dimension of its ‘hidden third’ and expelling it symbolically, fails to be fully cognisant of the creative surplus of the collectivity. This surplus, a modality of the affective charges of any ‘putting-into-relation’, is the very stuff of collective production. Ostensibly abstract, this impersonal force, when recognised, modifies the individuality of the group members, making them both object and subject. Without such an individual dispersion and internal contradiction – which is the equivalent of letting desire diffuse through the group and, overflowing its bounds, animating its practice of sociality – the group remains at the level of a collection of individuals.

Here we have the problem that afflicts groups of all sorts: the repression of the unconscious dimension and thus this disavowal of the affective charge, not only permanently thwarts the collective production of the group but, a priori, maintains the individual member as an ‘identity’ rather than as a ‘field of energy’ (circulation of affect) and fences-off the outside of the group; it demarcates a boundary. In this way the group becomes a pseudo-collectivity that adopts the stasis of an identity. Its visibility is conditioned by the irrepressible joy of belonging in the midst of an alienating society, and is sustained by the absence of the expulsees who, furthermore, become hypostatised as ‘individualists’.

These principles of non-contradiction and identity that afflict such groups, that give them a pseudo cohesion and a super-ego function, are a main cause of alienation and repression in that the ‘affective charge’, seeking a form of expression, is often subject to de facto censorship in that it can be tangential to the content and aims of the group. When a group has come together to combat the alienation of capitalist society this unconscious identitarian and cohesive effect leads to a surplus of alienation, a double alienation that is mirrored by the valorisation of the manifest sociality of the group. A value that obscures the latent labour of the affective.

These affective elements become unspeakable because the group, emotionally unaware of its unconscious dynamic and through a functional, aim-centric, use of language, lacks the verbal equipment to deal with these matters. It lacks the necessary objectivity that comes from a dispersion of individuality, a secession from identity, that allows for a de-personalisation by means of the group’s ‘hidden third’. Personal conflicts are heightened in such groups because the individual is not retroactivised as a ‘field of energy’, a cluster of emotions responding to an ‘impersonal force’, but maintained in identity. Information, as identitarian expression, takes the place of the ‘expressible’ (1).

In this way, then, there is, it seems, no scope to be alienated from a group that purports to be unalienated, that enshrines the image of communicative collaboration at its ‘heart’. To be alienated from such a group leads to a vicious feedback whereby continued belonging amounts to a passive acceptance and growing resentment; ennui transforms into a narcissism of minor differences that, fruitful in other circumstances, is exacerbated by the unconsciously competing individualities of the collective that colour the atmosphere with the odour of ‘oppressively disguised thought.’ (Gombrowicz)

But, in the midst of such groups and with a will to remain opposed-together, it seems there cannot be ‘other circumstances’. An implosion occurs in the ones whose emotional vocabulary, an unvoiced underlife, has been extended through processes of felt-contradiction. There is an in-break of repressed material that reveals the fellows as gaining a disavowed psychic sustenance from belonging ‘in-itself’. This reified sense of belonging, contiguous upon the maintenance of identitarian perspectives, maintains the group in an idealist equilibrium, a steady-state that de-charges ‘fields of energy’. The group is instituted but not instituting.

The host-group ‘wards-off its outside’ which was internally figured by the expulsed one. It ‘repeats itself without differentiation’ and encircles its own raison d’etre (ideological core) because, unresponsive to the expressible of affect, its access to the unconscious dynamic and hence to the impersonal force of its social production, does not provide the necessary nuances through which to effect a dispersion of identity (becoming-singular). Moreover, this repression leaves the ‘hidden third’ of the collective production as an abstract entity that faces it oppressively. This abstraction is unconsciously recognised as being ’outside’ the group; a source-object of fear that provokes a controlling impulse.

In these circumstances, and increasingly in the more informal groupings of today, there is, then, a growing practice of ‘self-exile’; a strategy of secession, dropping-away, from the epistemological and paranoiac oppositionists in order to overcome the recursive abstraction of ‘individuality’ and the concomitant disavowal of unconscious dynamics that are enshrined in the group (2). This ‘self-exile’ is chosen in place of what is increasingly transparent in the host-group as ‘self-exclusion’. The host-group, motivated more and more by ‘ideas’, becomes a protective vesicle that grows socially inept, de-differentiated, the more it hones down an acceptably denigrating and unenigmatic language.

The ‘self-exiled’ are those who, in the clinic-prison of the group, have experienced the dialectical swaying of ‘being’ and ‘non-being’. Not meaning ‘death’ as such, this non-being, conditioned by the affective vacuum in the group’s idea of itself as a collectivity and its increasing alienation from an ‘outside’, is felt, by means of repression of the affective, as non-being in the sense of frozen feeling (affects cease to circulate). Without this de-individualising dynamism of expressible affect and the concomitant immersion within the ostensibly abstract collective surplus (general intellect), continued belonging is felt as both a loss of the ‘group being’ of the ‘self’ and as a hardening of a ‘being-self’ in the group. Breton: “…this being must become other for himself, reject himself, condemn himself… abolish… to the profit of others in order to be reconstituted in their unity with him.” (3)

To remain transitive and poised between being and non-being, to remain potentiated in a state of becoming, to remain open to objective chance and the fortuitousness of encounter (‘surrealist’ markers of the abstract collective surplus), the self-exiled, rejected by themselves and on pain of possible denigration, leave the group whose inability to perceive, let alone articulate, the affective charge of the ‘hidden third’, means that the possibilities for collective requital and sensual appropriation of the alienated are gravely handicapped. The vacuum of relation, mediated by information and individualised through the double-reflection of personal identity and group identity, has the effect of nullifying the ‘general intellect’ as symbolised by the ‘hidden third’, and, through self-exclusion, reinforces a personalised pessimism about wider social possibility: the onus is always on the ‘self’.

The self-exiled, in leaving rather than being expelled, may have been expected to remain and articulate their critique of the group. Not only is this not possible as a result of the affective vacuum that negates the ‘expressible’ but, strategically, the self-exiled no longer wish to either affirm the discourse of the group or, more troublesomely, assume the discursive power to do so. In silently leaving, in becoming the abandoner of the group, the self-exiled ‘signify themselves as not being the source and the master of signification’; they repudiate this power in favour of a permanently instituting ‘proto-meaning’ (the expressible). Never substantified enough to remain, too emotional at times to speak, clairvoyant enough to feel the ripple of minuscule gestures, the ‘self-exiled’ embrace the abstraction of the general intellect, the surplus social product, as an enigmatic signification.

The ‘self-exiled’ find a muster-point in the Secessionist Outernational.
Communicating by means of a poetic collision, that, objectively abreactive and foreshortened, wards off the valorisation of their sociality, the Secessionist Outernational, not so much a ‘group’ but a ‘zone of proximity’, an aggregation of ‘fields of energy’, participate in the ‘unconstituted praxis’ best described by improvised musicians (4). Here the affective charge is not individualistically overcoded as a ‘libidinal organisation’ (the reduction of affectibility to personalised genital pleasure) but is enabled, by means of social-doing, to open up a field of desire and proto-meaning that is wider than the participants yet, as the ‘hidden third’, materially arising from the ‘intellect-in-general’ of their relation. In contrast to such a sensual re-appropriation of the ostensibly abstract, the abandoned group’s pursual of meaning and the means by which to become effectively active leads to ‘constituted unpraxis’ and an accumulation of ideological produce (overvoiced supra-life).

As affective dynamism, now additionally propelled by the dialectic of being and non being, creates ‘experimental positions’ of proto-meaning that correspond to the ‘expressible’ of emotional states, it becomes clear to the ‘self-exiled’ that the problem of speech in the abandoned group was one of ‘mastery’ rather than a transitive, poetic means of expression. The indentitarianism of groups, their enshrining of individuality, makes such transitive, poetic, utterances become indications of fixed, personal positions: attempted mastery. The self-exiled of the Secessionist Outernational overcome this by using the form of poetry as an objectively abreactive means of speech: cognisance is given not only to the alteration of position as an indication of affective dynamism, but to the reappropriation of the abstract generality of language – contradiction, as an individualised marker of non-coherence and failed mastery, is superseded by a form of the poetic that that enables the unspeakable to be said; intimacy unfurls from the edges of inner speech.

This ‘poetic’ aspect enables the Secessionist Outernational to maintain itself as continually constituting for it is permanently open to the outside, predominantly porous: at the level of each of the ‘self-exiled’ there is the maintenance of the permanent otherness of the psyche (the endowment of socialisation from the monadic core by means of the psychical agencies of ego, super-ego, id etc); there is an openness to the ‘tracks left by feelings’, to the affective dynamism of relation as it is creative of personae that can come to expression;
there is, in embracing language as a praxis of proto-meaning, an openness to the permanent otherness of the general intellect in which portions of individuality (combinations of psychical agency) are subsumed to become ‘anonymous capacities of affection.’ (Paresi) (5).

But the ‘poetry’ here is not of a formalistic variety, it is not a matter of bringing to expression within the confines of meter and standardised forms of sonnet. It is not even a matter of free verse. For the Secessionist Outernational the poetic form is the form of feelings-in-action, is the form of thought-affects (passion) as pre-articulations, is the form of the articulation of the enigma of the self as other, the enigma of the perpetual acentric motion of transitiveness. In this way the ‘poetic’ can be a matter of objective abreaction: the disavowed can find their ‘unvoiced underlife’ by means of an oblique refraction in a manner akin to a novelist ‘fleshing out’ a character. But with the crucial difference of being actually living conceptual personae that are not prone to ‘development’ in a milieu but to endless relational modification in mobilelieus.

This sense of poetry as an ‘emotional-volitional tension of form’ (Bakhtin) means that the poetic within the Secessionist Outernational becomes more a matter of conjoining the materiality of language with the transitiveness of the psyche. The ‘poetic’ is thus not abstracted from its utterer in some reified ‘artwork’, but becomes a ‘characterological’ aspect of the multi-contexed person, a temporary unity, a reappropriation of the abstract surplus of the ‘hidden third’. Breton: “I intended to justify and advocate more and more choice of a lyric behaviour” (6). The self-exiled, nomads in the ostensibly abstract social product of language, become congruent poet-persons involved in a raising of language from its informational utility (tendency to become ‘signal’) to its being inhabited as a polysemantic co-relational breadth (tendency to become ‘enigmatic signifier’ beyond language). The poetic in the form of the person, as human life, passes from sign-value to the invaluable.

Such a ‘poetry made by all’ is not solely comprised of stanzas and an always manifest meaning, but by unsolicited honesty, disarming frankness and semi-formed utterances. This means that the poet-person is not fixedly in an authorial position but is, at the same time, an auditor. The ‘poetic’ is thus informed by a ‘sympathetic co-experiencing’ that, with a vari-directional and historically dynamic relation to the latencies of language, helps to solicit the expressible. Attempted and unfinished expressions mean that there can be a lack of clarity and informational directness, an opaqueness that makes the utterance enigmatic. It is these very ‘enigmatic signifiers’ that need to be pursued, over time, by an openness to proto-meaning, that itself has transformational qualities: the poetic as ‘affectibility’ has the extraliterary effect of opening up ‘existential territories’.

At play here with the poetic is not a sense of an interpretation leading to an accumulation of facts (group as enterprising organisation) but a sense of proximity conduced by the unconscious of the text that is akin to a transference, a proceeding by affect rather than any logical causation. The ‘poetic’, as the inviolable invaluable, which cannot be informationalised, becomes more a matter of an ability to ‘empathise-into other states’, more a matter of the ‘desire of the other’ as it affects its auditors with the challenge of the enigma. This willing in the direction of the enigmatic and proto-meaning means that the ‘signifiers’ come to take on a radical potential: with nothing defined they have a tendency, once they are cathected, to veers towards the ‘transmental’. The poetic in this sense could be said to ‘open for the subject an access to meaning as open meaning and to signification properly speaking, as the virtually interminable putting into relation mediated by the absolute other of the psyche….’ (7).

It is this ‘absolute other’ that propels the ‘self-exiled’. The absolute other in regards to the psyche; in regards to the desire of the other; in regards to the surplus social product, the ‘hidden third’; in regards of the ‘enigmatic signifier’. The ‘absolute other’, then, is what is ostensibly abstract and what the host-groups, jettisoned by the self-exiled, are gathered together to keep at a distance and ward-off. In this light such groupings are means of protecting individualities in their identity rather than having being exposed to the ‘absolute other’ that is creative of haeccity and identity dissolution. This, to some degree, explains the continued fascination that the surrealist project continues to exert. The ‘sleeping fits’, the group analysis of dreams, was a brave attempt to bring the social surplus into play, to make its ostensible abstraction manifest. As with the surrealist project the Secessionist Outernational also puts its faith in an expanded poetics that through processes of heteronymy, and active attention towards the enigmatic signifier, enables them to re-appropriate what has been alienated from human powers by processes of individualisation set going by capitalist social relations. Of course, the confusing thing is that this all begins with the ‘unsurpassed trope of our internal murmur” (8).

(January – July 2005)

(1) “The expressible is something that can somehow take shape and exist apart from expression”. (Voloshinov: Marxism and Philosophy of Language, p84)
(2) See Tiqqun, conscious organ of the imaginary party – “To start again means: to rally social secession/ opacity, to join/ demobilisation”.
(3) Breton: Communicating Vessels (p137). In relation to ‘non being’ Toni Negri speaks of the ‘edge of being’: a poise between the past-as-eternal and the yet-to-come. See Time For Revolution p 174.
(4) See, for instance, Mattin: Going Fragile.
(5) Luciana Paresi: Abstract Sex. These ‘anonymous’ capacities are related to phrases we have been using to describe the collectively generated surplus as a de-individualising force i.e. ‘hidden third’, ‘field of energies’ and ‘intellect-in-general’. There is a non-human element: neither being nor non-being but a dehiscence of the subject, a psychic forcefield that, to echo Andre Breton, makes humans no longer the focal point but ‘sensitive points’. See Andre Breton: Prolegomena to A Third Surrealist Manifesto. In this connection see Gellu Naum’s ‘condition of requital’ in his Zenobia novel.
(6) Breton: L’Armour Fou. See also Rene Char: “Daring to be for an instant oneself the accomplished form of the poem”.
(7) Cornelius Castoriadis: Imaginary Institution of Society (polity, p? )
(8) Gherasim Luca: The Inventor Of Love.

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