It is sweeter to wander with the wretched and outcasts than to sit crowned with roses at the banquets of the rich
Elisee Reclus

Monday, November 07, 2005

Exodus: From Here to Nowhere

'The key to political action (or rather the only possibility of extracting it from its present state of paralysis) consists in developing the publicness of Intellect outside of Work, and in opposition to it...I use the term Exodus here to define mass defection from the State, the alliance between general intellect and political Action, and a movement toward the public sphere of Intellect. The term is not at all conceived as some defensive existential strategy, quite the contrary: Exodus is a full-fledged model of action, capable of confronting the challenges of modern politics. Today, a realm of common affairs has to be defined from scratch. Any such definition must draw out the opportunities for liberation that are to be found in taking command of this novel interweaving among Work, Action, and Intellect, which up until now we have only suffered. Exodus is the foundation of a Republic. The very idea of "republic," however, requires a taking leave of State judicature: if Republic, then no longer State. The political action of the Exodus consists in an engaged withdrawal'

Paolo Virno, Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus, 1990's

'Delinked from the production of surplus value, Intellect becomes the matrix of a non-State Republic. The breeding ground of Disobedience consists of the social conflicts that manifest themselves not only and not so much as protest, but most particularly as defection, not as "voice" but as "exit". Nothing is less passive than flight. The "exit" modifies the conditions within which the conflict takes place, rather than presupposes it as an irremovable horizon; it changes the context within which a problem arises, rather than deals with the problem by choosing one or another of the alternative solutions already on offer. The "exit" can be seen as a free-thinking inventiveness that changes the rules of the game and disorients the enemy. Defection stands at the opposite pole to the desperate notion of "You have nothing to lose but your chains." It is postulated, rather, on the basis of a latent wealth, on an abundance of possibilities...'

Paolo Virno, Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus

'There are regions that remain outside the reach of reality, that cannot be approached, that are utterly unrecognised. There are words that are unpronounceable because they lack 'signification', perceptions that are impossible, things that cannot be seen; thus, there are screens. This is the aspect that I call 'Dada-reality': reality insofar as the fabric that holds it together is missing. It is obviously in these regions where something is lacking, either the transformative experience or the words to exchange (because they are impossible to say), that works of art can take place'.

Jean-Francois Lyotard, Notes On The Critical Function of The Work Of Art, 1970

Pulled back by strange forces into a world of art that I had left in 1997, I'm tempted here to crush together two possible escape routes: that it may be possible to escape this dreary century and start again via a strategy (a lived experience) of anti-politics, the above-described Exodus, and, that one useful tactic may be found in the forbidden realm of art, or at least in our miraculous human facility for creativity. Forbidden because we have lost 'art' to the artists and thus to the reigning power.

Indeed it is in the notion of 'The Miracle' that I place that laboured explosion, the spontaneous making and doing, the production of un-mediated objects, created things, the alchemical wonders of letting our hands do the talking as we construct 'art'. A miracle because we become gods for one moment as we sculpt and meld, layer and incise, collage and create circuits of meaning and non-meaning in our artistic endeavours. Paulo Virno, citing Hannah Arendt's theory of the miracle in political action, has written that 'Action has something of the miracle given that it shares the miracle's quality of being surprising and unexpected...insurrections, desertions, invention of new organisms of democracy...herein lie the Miracles of the Multitude, and these miracles do not cease when the sovereign power forbids them'. Our artistic practices, free from the pitfall of the gallery treadmill, the culterati, the profiteer or the psychoanalyst, might indeed be a exit point for our non-confrontation with Capital, our desertion or lack of interest. As skirmish or attack (guerilla-style), seeking neither victories nor thus power, we create through creations new forms of communication between ourself (our multiferious personalities), and ourselves (in the chaotic social but coherent human realm). This mode of communication is the continuous creation of other languages, more grasped at than understood, more internal than picaresque, but always a moment of sharing and being together. The content of this 'art' is probably similar to how we humans 'hear' birdsong, we may understand it in the totality without actually understanding it.

As 'art' (made by all), as anti-knowledge, this necessarily involves what Raoul Vaneigem would call 'purity of gesture', meaning that we relate to each other genuinely, forgiving mistakes, confusions and pulls of the ego or the role. That is quite delightful. If it seems like we will need 'a miracle' to get out and away from the capitalist colonies that we live in, then what could be better than an explosion of unexpected but awaited-for individualised/collectivised miracles?

This artistic free communication could be one basis for our walking away from power alongside other devices and dreams in more conventional modes. Not conventional as in petitioning for change or asking for political favours, but conventional like the free exchange of things and ideas, Potlatch and gift-giving, permanent Carnival without a King, the establishment of zones of desertion like how utopian social centres could be, like how free and easy occupied buildings and land could be, like how anti-power could be, like

We dream of Exodus, as put into practice maybe, for example by elements in the Italian Movements of '77. We dream history, histories. We dream nightmare and weep for the undead, the dead and the dying. We despise mealy-mouthed activist-types, all knowing and rational in the face of an irrational Armageddon. Our Exodus is based in the sensing of the impossible, of surreality, 'dada-reality', unknown drives and desires but is also based on the known depth of what is missing. The miserly nature of political activism, an excess of accounting and box ticking, cannot be of any use any more. An Exit set against such political austerity looms (and is gimpsed across the world). All talk of Economy is dead talk for we seek the live explosion of consciousness that seems like a look through the mirror of power, needing the Third Eye of Anti-Politics, in some senses being something like this:

'The eye, at the summit of of the skull, opening in incandescent sun in order to contemplate it in its sinister solitude, is not a product of the understanding, but is an immediate existence; it opens and blinds itself like a conflagration, or like a fever that eats the being, or more exactly, the head, instead of locking up life as money is locked in a safe, spends it without counting, for, at the end of this erotic metamorphosis, the head receives the electric power of points. This great burning head is the image and disagreeable light of the notion of expenditure, beyond the still empty notion as it is elaborated on the basis of methodical analysis'.

Georges Bataille, in 'The Pineal Eye', 1930

1 comment:

mink said...

exit, but not necessarily, to the outside world.
see below: