Second Highway II
The Unique Zero Manifesto (2007)
Arriere la muse academique! - Baudelaire
Welcome to Unique Zero – the negation of everything.
Creativity is a value-neutral process independent of all forms of expression.
Vigorously reject any notion of a generalised or theoretical ‘poetic’.
The creative process is not ‘theoretical’.
The specific technicalities of any art form – poetry, painting, music, sculpture, installation or assemblage – are of secondary interest, even a distraction, when trying to understand the nature of the creative process.
From the perspective of the primal creative processes there are no significant factors associated with specialised techniques derived from different artistic 'disciplines' or methods, including poetry. This is always the case, even though some media/modes/genres/forms are, in the context of overall function, or with regard to the individual temperament of the artist, more suited to purpose than others, depending upon viewpoint. Furthermore, distinctions between 'non representation' and 'abstraction' are invalid: all artworks are, in the first instance, symbolic representations or constructed reifications, even 'found objects', ‘ready-mades’ or 'conceptual' artefacts. Nevertheless, a ‘symbol’ can also be non-figurative (non-objective) and can be described, loosely, as ‘abstract’.
All artworks derive from the personality, the mentality, of the auteur. They are polysemic/polyvalent, symbolic objects having as their primary raison d'être the externalisation, via signification, of the psychological-ontological, infinitely evolving presence/existence of the auteur (author/artist/poet) without whom the 'work' (opus) would not exist and without whom language is meaningless.
The Cultural Milieu
This process of externalisation (trace or trail) takes place within a specific socio-cultural context (or Zeitgeist) that partially shapes the final outcome. It is possible to 'transcend' the socio-cultural context, although it very difficult to do so. The chronotope in the cultural ‘ecosystem’ locates the auteur (poet/artist) in a socio-cultural milieu or contextual mise-en-scene, based on the enforcement of norms within specific social structures such as the class system, caste systems and the means of economic production.
Normative structures, sustained by ideology and belief (participation mystique) are usually experienced as hegemonic and repressive to some degree. Such normative structures are Blake’s 'mind-forg'd manacles' of cultural oppression and structural evil and must be psychologically accommodated through sublimation, the discharge of instinctual energies into non-instinctual, ideologically sanctioned forms of behaviour. A form of false consciousness tending toward narcosis is a by-product of this sublimation mechanism.
On the other hand, the normative ideology (‘culture’) of any social system is also capable of the infinite assimilation of any artefact, however innovative, progressive, recondite, radical, marginal, outrageous or avant-garde. In advanced economies any artefact will also be the inevitable subject of homogenised commodification by the forces of The Market (the Mondrian dress, the Edvard Munch screaming pillow). Cultural oppression works through all those inhibiting, regressive, ideological normalisation effects persistently degrading the chronotope, both locally and globally (law of entropy) in the interest of various authoritarian cultural-spiritual power elites. Such high caste power elites may declare war upon ‘false gods’ and each other, but they are all united by an imperative to criminalize the imagination; alongside dope-fiends, loose women, idolaters and apostates, free thinkers and artists – makers of ‘graven images’ – are the real enemy. The ‘Open Realism’ (realisme ouvert) of the unrestrained imagination, a mode of extreme naturalism encompassing the antinomian syzygy phenomenon of complementarity, works against this perpetual state of dispossession, and works for the nullification of everything; a Unique Zero opposed to the wretched standing joke of rigidified ‘culture’. The unreality of the chronotope ensnares the subject in an infinitely receding hall of distorting mirrors where the conflict between utilitarian austerity and indulgent individualism cannot be recognised as a smoke screen. In this context, artworks can be either transgressive or conformist, although the poetic process is innately transgressive (non-conformist) because all art can induce a de-familiarisation (disclosure) effect perturbing, however weakly, the hegemony of the mainstream and disrupting the inauthentic discourse of ‘idle chatter’ (they call it 'metaphysics').
Even if ultimately inconsequential, even if only an imperceptible ‘shudder’ (frisson nouveau), a perturbation of the chronotope and its normative, cultural signifying systems is a transgression – and all such perturbations or disturbances are taboo. But the ‘purpose’ of the poem/work is exploration and discovery at the edge of zone; to explore the experience of limits, to explore experience off-limits; to discover or probe the borders of the human event horizon; to actualise singularity, the aporetic neither-nor and/or both.
However, the transgressive or conformist nature of any given artwork will also depend upon the worldview (Weltenschauung) of the auteur/poet. The dynamic, dialectical interplay of Weltenschauung and Zeitgeist at a singular point of intersection (auteur-nexus) within the chronotope influences the subject’s sense of identity, even though the chronotope may exist in a perpetual state of flux or emergence (the rigidity of cultural norms notwithstanding). The poetic process itself is a problematic factor with regard to the question of identity and can enter into a state of conflict with the ideological basis of the prevailing Zeitgeist. The subject’s personal Weltenschauung may, in reality, be a form of false consciousness – bad faith, ‘structural evil', meconnaissance or avidya. Interpellation, the mechanism of economic and cultural assimilation, may create an unstable atmospheric ‘I’ (a ‘they-self’ or mirage persona) that is not the same as the subject’s ‘true (real or empirical) self’. Most artefacts are determined by the phantom signature of this ‘mirage persona’, rather than the authentic signature of the artist’s true will, Sontag’s ‘principle of decision’.
These factors impact upon attempts to define an individual style, poetic or authorial ‘voice’ or maniera. Assertions of authorship per se can be compromised if it appears that personal identity is ‘nothing but’ a projection, an ideological/socio-economic ‘construct’ of mass consumer culture, the product of an all-pervasive theocratic hegemony like so-called ‘higher’ culture bedevilled by the self-serving Aristotelian humbug of ‘virtue’ and ‘magnificence’. Alternatively, the mirage persona is often confused with, or can masquerade as, the vulnerable and immature empirical self. Yet, the inauthentic, fragmentary they-self can never be the ‘real’ auteur.
Inwardness and Poeisis
‘Inspiration’ and ‘talent’ are conventional terms denoting certain mental capabilities and imaginative capacities. Imaginative activity (active imagination) is 'driven' by innate obsessions or fixations with atavistic affinities, possibly of genetic origin. This compulsion, or impulse, finds 'expression' in an exploratory immersion process of 'inwardness' or descent (the dangerous passage, the voyage to the interior, the night sea journey, the quest or anti-quest).
The ‘descent’ or ‘inverse pilgrimage’ (katabasis) is fraught with anxiety, obstacles and difficulties. This experience assumes the character of an ordeal – an ascesis, even – realised through ‘rites of passage’ comprising three known stages: separation – initiation – return. During this process the subject will encounter or confront uncanny horrors and paranoid connections. These terrors may include resurgent atavisms (the phylogenetic inheritance), pathological forces, every form of self-violation (mortificatio) and shadowy, chthonic ‘elementals’ – all characterised by a ubiquitous undertow of archaic nostalgia. The subject is exposed to all the underworld horrors of personal and collective unconscious contents (the 'inferno') and other phantasmagoria – such as tutelary ‘threshold guardians’ – derived, in the final analysis, from psychic formations known as ‘archetypes’.
These ‘archetypes’ (collective representations or 'categories') can be either structures or paradigmatic processes, not just primordial images. Archetypes are not immutable, and naturally-occurring changes at the archetypal level (creation, evolution, decay, extinction) are reflected by corresponding changes in the prevailing Zeitgeist or world order. Phenomena such as cultural implosion, drift, lag, paradigm-mutation and belief-system burn-out (the death of god, the death of art) manifest themselves through collective time/'deep' history (Geschichte) just as pain is ‘referred’ away from an injured site to various other parts of the body. Thus, ‘archetypes’ can, and do, mutate over time. The archetypal level is, naturally, inherently unstable and without foundation.
Phantasmal figures and motifs (the inchoate raw material or massa confusa) arise from a dynamic, unconscious process driven by libido or unbound psychic energy. This inwardness or immersion process discloses the centre of desire (the heart of darkness, the end of the night, the final frontier), a duplicitous ‘inner world’ (inner space) of cosmic cruelty, proto-animistic fetishism, polymorphous perversity, illicit propensities, unrestrained fantasy, iambic scurrility, and primal narcissism, pathological fixations, retrogression and antinomian 'otherness'. Creativity involves both assimilation of this dark-side (the mutant spectres of desire) and psychic de-conditioning (deconstruction) from the effects of cultural-ideological interpellation (belief, ‘spirituality’ and 'metaphysics'). Deconditioning is achieved by immersion in darkness (blackening or noircissement) or, alternatively, by passage through the dark, haunted depths of the ‘enchanted forest’, the legendary wild-wood.
The ‘heart of darkness’, the capricious, macabre and sinister ‘dark-side’, and its shadowy, subconscious strata of involuntary memory (personal/collective) is the first level of the subject’s inner core, an emergent feature of mutable, fluidic, psychic topography derived from the semiotic, proto-symbolic chora (la chora semiotique). However, the phantasmal ‘contents’ of the dark-side derive from both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ experience: the products of indefinite feedback, everything but the soul. Characterised by the paradoxical, perceptual complementarity of syzygy phenomena (chaos/cosmos, causal/a-causal, subject/object, latent/manifest, light/dark, positive/negative, life/death, psyche/soma, masculine/feminine, self/not-self, fact/fiction, true/false, love/hate, demotic/hieratic, signifier/signified, wave/particle, etc.) the ‘contents’ reflect the indeterminate, bipolar, existential structure of the ‘real’. This is the case, even if there can be no such ‘thing’ as Reality, realism being a quality of understanding.
A primal phenomenon, not sensible or intelligible in itself, the chora semiotique is the universal pre-linguistic precursor ‘matrix realm' (the Platonic ‘receptacle of becoming’, the unus mundus, the quantum vacuum, the anima mundi, the abyssal depths) which underpins all symbolism, language and meaning. It is beyond rational understanding, merging with the ‘sympathetic’ autonomic nervous system and the primeval (visceral) sphere of the ‘old brain’, that proto-sentient, pre-logical ‘reptilian’ and limbic armature of the unconscious anatomy. Creativity consists of a non-verbal, irrational, intuitive, instinctual procedure of imaginative ‘shaping/forming’ or ‘making’ (poeisis) utilising the subject’s entire psyche – although internal incoherence and psychic division always inhibits optimal creative functioning and free plasticity. Phantasmal contents are subjected to a pre-logical transmutation process (khemeia) comprising condensation (metaphor) and displacement (metonymy), articulated through the osmotic interchange of free association (automatism), energised by libido (vis creativa), predicated by differentiation and conditioned by ‘objective chance’.
This process generates a first phase 'work', opus, or artefact, shaped by the gratuitous laws of organic form (deep form) showing how reification becomes representation through metamorphosis. These representations generate, at the level of reader or audience response, an inter-subjective experience, effect or simulation, of ‘significance’, 'meaning' and aesthetic ‘value’ and, almost instantaneously, are co-opted or annexed as vectors of cultural interpellation.
Invention and Aesthetic Effects
Primal poeisis functions independently of all self-conscious artifice, taste, thematic concerns, genre conventions and artistic method, although form and technique can be conventionalised at the socio-cultural level and always are. Naturally the auteur (poet/artist) will also work self-consciously, simultaneously exercising intellectual ability (ingegno), wit, erudition, virtuosity and acquired capability in the utilisation of all facets of creative technique both ancient and modern, formal and informal: style, structure, and content. Yet, the fortuitous automatism, the non-verbal visuality of primal poeisis will, at all times, suffuse every aspect of the work in hand, including the objective technical factors mentioned.
However the faculty of invention (invenzione), comprising discovery, representation and all modes of reification and transformation (inflections, modifications, recapitulations, transpositions, modulations and permutations), is rooted in the automatic mechanism of the libidinous process.
In its pure state (l'art pour l'art), poetic invention operates surrealistically (sans sujet preconcu) upon, and within, the psyche. It draws an intuitive, elemental ‘spark’ (scintilla) from the encounter between, and/or juxtaposition of, mutually exclusive or distant realities: ‘kitchen-cynic’ naturalism colliding with mythic symbolism, for example, or a weird fusion of pastoral Arcadia and urban inferno.
Invention can draw the same elemental spark from the off-beat, marvellous-uncanny ‘inbetweenness’ properties of ‘alien’, interstitial phenomena; from an erratic oscillation between the trite and original, or historicism and futurism; from an incongruous synthesis of low-tone and grand manner or from an irregular union of preciosity and brutalism. Often tragicomic, sometimes bitter-sweet, invention can endow the ephemeral with gravitas, transmuting the despised and the neglected into high art or high camp, into an underground freak-out (ufo) precipitating a mind-warp (dereglement de tous les sens).
The process may manifest in different rhapsodic ‘poetic’ lyrical, or, alternatively, ‘anti-poetic’, passionless non-lyrical, modalities. Modalities such as melopoeia (‘phonetic’ or ‘musical’) or phanopoeia (‘visual’ or ‘pictorial’) commingle with complimentary modes of functioning such as pathopoeia (working with affective elements such as feeling, mood and emotion, even with estrangement, irony and alienation) or mythopoeia (Euhemerism/mythologisation/mythic parallelism).
The epistemological element of ‘meaning’ (semantic relations, etymology, associations, nuance, denotation and connotation) endows the artefact with communicative properties and linguistic capacities that engage with consciousness and psychosomatic exteriority, acquiring in the process a patina of ‘cultural value’.
Meanwhile, at the level of the chronotope, the subject interacts impressionistically with 'the world ' via an interface conditioned by the multidimensional, dialectical interaction of sensation, Zeitgeist and Weltenschauung. Here, through a dialectical interplay of material forces, events and subjective perceptions (e.g. synchronicity and coincidence), inspirational feedback (friction/irritability) continues to fuel and inform the poetic process on a mundane day-to-day basis. This magic-circumstantial aesthetic redemption of banality enhances intensity of perception and poetic intuition, even if it does not necessarily effect a diminution of existential unease, anxiety or ‘angst’.
To some degree this entire procedure is 'convulsive' (explosive-fixed) insofar as it arises from an energetic spasm, a surreal analogue to geological seismic activity, triggered by ritualistic intercession, in alliance with the pleasure principle. This ‘nervous spasm’ is the climax or consummation (Chymische Hochzeit) of the initial impulse. The degree of convulsive intensity generated by the primary processes is conditioned by the level of intensity inherent in any given creative act or event and also depends on the neurological or mental state and personality of the auteur.
This intensity is manifest as an emotional spark or charge comprising energy quanta of attraction/repulsion energising the artefact at an extremely deep level within its infrastructure. In a specifically poetic context the affective/emotional charge, or cathexis, invests the imagistic, lexical and other structural elements of a work with a quantum of aesthetic 'power', either weak or strong.
The charge will have an enigmatic 'effect' (la sorcellerie evocatoire), even, perhaps, an absurd effect of hilarity – provoked, for instance, by cynicism, burlesque, iambic parody, black humour or the vitriol of corrosive satire – upon both the reader and the writer. This outcome can be heightened in certain cases to the level of a paranormal 'numinous effect' (uncanny intensity of feeling) that is often misrepresented in mystical terms by both poets and readers. This problem arises, for example, in apocalyptic or ‘vatic’ (visionary) art and is often associated with the transcendental view that all art aspires to ‘the condition of music’.
The degree of charge/intensity also determines the transgressive potential of the work on the socio-cultural plane. Furthermore, the exact nature of the ‘uncanny’ effect (das Unheimlich) and/or response in specific instances is infinitely variable, multi-factorial, unpredictable, hallucinatory and indeterminate in conformance with The Uncertainty Principle. Audience or reader-response will be conditioned by, among other factors, individual predisposition, immediate circumstances, state of health, degree of socio-cultural alienation, collective expectations or inhibiting horizons demarcating the phobic, ideological miasma of false consciousness.
The open-real ‘lifted horizon’ (epiphany) of de-familiarisation is a consequence of disruption (perturbation or infraction) of the auteur-nexus within the chronotope and, correspondingly, within the psyche. This inter-penetration of the inner and outer worlds of the reader-writer causes a parapraxis or subversive breakdown of normality; a shamanistic ‘break-though in plane’ (a vector, rupture, tear, wound or gateway) disclosing ‘alterity’ (aporia, otherness, surreality, hyper-reality, super-reality, the dis-placed and the dis-located) warping contingent historicity, displacing the distorting mirrors of the hyper-culture. Alterity, in this context, may be defined as the bizarre (or ‘convulsive’) antithesis of false consciousness that embodies the manifest unreality of the prevailing socio-cultural hegemony. De-familiarisation may generate a heterodox mode of ‘open realism’ (disclosure, desacralization) in contradiction to the oppressive unreality (narcosis) of the phenomena of false consciousness and specious ‘identity’ (national identity, social identity, cultural identity). Such phantasmal, collective, consensual mirages of interpellation maintain social and psychological control through denial of the self, ultimately inducing ideological de-realisation (etherealization or dissolution) in the vapours of mystical unreality euphemistically called The Cloud of Unknowing.
Yet, faced with the impossibility of ‘saying’ anything ‘new’, creativity takes its revenge, ruthlessly recycling, plundering or pillaging the phenomenal, theatrical, kaleidoscopic ‘spectacle’ of the world for ‘raw material’. From a position of ‘absolute divergence’, (absolute nonconformism) creativity enhances the autonomous potential of the spontaneous, singular, side-real imagination in a perverse, even tawdry, spirit of panache; a spirit of intransigent opposition, a 'negative dialectic' of contradiction and reverse exegesis, working, always, against the grain, subversively ‘against nature’ (contra naturam). To reduce the eternal to the transient, to transform substance into style, the ‘signature of the artist’s will’ – that is the essence of modernity with its ‘art-house’ experimentalism, with its ‘cool’ cosmopolitan, radical chic, is it not?
Within the chronotope, the falsehood of the subject’s specular mirage persona may be compromised or exposed by aesthetic manipulation of double images, wordplay, rhetorical devices and figures of all kinds including ‘multiple personalities’, alter egos, authorial ‘voices’, poetic ‘masks’ and heteronyms. Similarly the integrity of the poetic process can be jeopardised by self-division and psychic fragmentation. From this perspective ‘impersonality’, or aesthetic distance, is simply one mask among many, just one survival strategy among others equally valid or invalid.
No strategy can be guaranteed, not even Nihilism, Stoicism or Epicureanism. Not even the decadent, dandified insouciance of cultivated dilettantism. Not even the daunting complexities of Post-modern theory – not even the ironies of high camp; not even the mass media glitzkrieg. No, not even the free-floating aestheticism of marginal dispossessed ‘outsiders’ inhabiting ‘unseen’ paraxial, liminal regions of cultural and sub-cultural life.
The creative process has two outcomes: first, an impact at the socio-cultural level, and second, a psychoactive (psychotropic) effect within the psyche of the individual subject.
This 'psycho-activity', this psychedelic epiphany, is an end in itself and the motive for the original creative fixation-compulsion (impetus/impulse). Through feedback this fixation-compulsion evolves into a process of developmental integration, a process of growth-change through ‘altered states’ of lucidity or ‘systematic derangement’ (raisonne deregelement), defined as ‘individuation’.
Often misrepresented in ‘spiritual’ terms and thus neutralised, or blocked, by false consciousness and the devious contents of the mystical mirror-world menagerie or cultural hothouse, individuation is simply the human manifestation of a general drive to entelechy (autarchic self-realisation) common to all living organisms, one aspect of the parabolic arc of the evolutionary process. Artistic activity, as a mode of ontogenic-phylogenic self-actualisation, has an evolutionary function (survival value, realisation of singularity) at the biological, species level.
Enrichment of the anguished existential spectacle; enhanced adaptive capacities; the ‘pataphysical subversion of interpellation in the name of an ‘impossible’, absurd freedom (la liberte absurde); intensification of the contemporaneous, perceptual ‘now’ (the inadvertent lucidity of the ‘sublime moment’, the gem-like flames of synaesthesia); the infinite, ambivalent reinvention of modernity. These are some possible benefits derived from creativity. Others might include the cathartic purgation of ‘spiritual’ accretions, blockages and restrictions impeding psychic integration. However the autonomous imagination is indifferent to such ‘benefits’ and, being neither benign nor malign, its ultimate effect may well be ‘off-centre’, may well induce disarray and further confusion: a sardonic ‘debacle of the intellect’.
The reification and externalisation of the artwork, its conformance to expectations within objective, historical parameters of social exchange, art or anti-art fashions, styles, schools, genres and movements in the fragmentary world of the mirage persona or they-self, is a by-product of this natural process. Nevertheless the opus or ‘work’ may have important, quasi-autonomous cultural effects and implications. These implications are acute when viewed against the background of inevitable, infinite and eternal psycho-aesthetic warfare occurring within the social theatre of the chronotope – the perpetual sectarian conflict and generational revolt between successive schools of thought and ideological movements within the hegemonic domain of cultural oppression. These conflicts, transfigured and intensified by the underlying struggle (agon) between the palliative unreality of false consciousness (inauthenticity) and the paradoxical symbolic-naturalistic ‘Open Realism’ of disclosure, will never end. Expanding and transforming the shared cognitive-epistemological-ontological framework, testing the cultural event horizon, in accord with the arbitrary and ‘uncanny’ principle of ‘strangeness’ and the characteristic ‘charm’ of the unexpected, The Work creates its own tremors and aftershocks, its own future – and the nullification of everything.
Frisson nouveau – Hugo
Noircissement – Celine
Sans sujet preconcu – Breton
Dereglement de tous les sens/raisonne dereglement – Rimbaud
La sorcellerie evocatoire – Baudelaire
La liberte absurde – Camus