Poetic experiment reveals interactions in language that uncontrollably alter the situations in which they occur, because of the discontinuous changes characteristic of signifying processes.

The immediate consequence of this is that, in general, every experiment performed to determine a semantic quality renders the knowledge of other qualities illusory, since the uncontrolled perturbations of language alter even the character of previously determined significations.

This “alienation-effect” obtains both within signifying processes & on the level of experimental knowledge. It represents an irreducible separation while at the same time prohibiting this separation from fulfilling the traditional requirements of science & philosophy – to divide the world into subject & object – & hence provide a clear formulation of the laws of causality.

The solid ground of experimental proof submits instead to a constitutive ambivalence. The systematic (“controlled”) exploitation of this constitutive condition produces a “system of alienation.”



The “alienation-effect” is thus not derived from a transcendental a priori of language, but from the materiality of language in its broadest ramification. It cannot, therefore, be reduced to a description of a “gap” between knowledge & truth, for example, or between language & meaning, or subject & object, since dichotomies of these kinds are only contradictorily coherent: antagonistically ideological processes which preclude any “self-transparence.”

Rightly may the philosophers ask, What are the precise political implications of this “thesis”?

In this, if nothing else, McLuhan was right to speak of a typographical “human condition.” Which is to say, the evolution of symbolic language as a system of abstraction, immanent to its present ideological form as commodity, as the characteristic feature of individual & collective experience.

Commodification isn’t a teleology.

Moreover, the preoccupation with the “individual” in western society is contiguous with the domination of abstract language – epitomized by alphanumerics, movable type & digitization.

The “alienation-effect” born-out through the substitution of things by exchange-value, in the classic Marxian critique, isn’t a product of the system of commodities but is its constitutive condition. Globalisation isn’t its apotheosis, but merely its historical articulation – as a GENERAL POETICS degraded & reified as cultural-economic TOTALITARIANISM.



Against reification stands an irreducible ambivalence. Abstraction produces commodification, but not only commodification. It produces capitalism, but not only capitalism. The primary means by which totalitarianism has to guard itself against inherent contradiction is to maintain the antiquarian charade of poetry’s exclusion from its ideal polis (Plato) – whereby all that remains is the political self-satisfaction of institutional kitsch. It is a charade that speaks volumes, alerting us to what is truly at stake.

Who among you hasn’t so easily been persuaded, that poetry – the poetry of life, like whole continents & races in their time – is so inconsequential as to be better traded for beads & mirrors?

The haters of poetry, of ambiguity, of indeterminacy, wear their colours openly on their sleeves – for they assume an attitude of impunity. These human parodies would hold a mirror up to the world, not for “art’s sake,” but to convince the world that it is nothing but an empty reflection – for a mirror doesn’t doubt its precedence in the order of things. Like those self-proclaimed “gods” of universal meaning, endlessly insistent upon their dominion over THE WORD, totalitarianism is the One Law because it is the Law of One.

But “Law,” like Literature, possesses no divinity or divine right, it derives solely from the wielding of power.



The first task of a poetry that refuses reification, is to recognize that words like illegal & legal aren’t the sole co-ordinates of action; nor the private property of a dominant discourse, or of a dominant social order. They’re words, like any other words.

Language doesn’t wait upon permission.

Power is never as immune to parody as it wishes you to believe. Words expropriated to the Law just as equally represent a danger to it. False choices can be refuted. Permissions can be broken.

What’s poetry that renounces its own violence?

Increasingly, in a world day-by-day more thoroughly seduced to the Law of One, the only option available to a poetry of refusal is to radicalize the weapons of ambivalence. To strike at the “hidden storehouse of Meaning.” Not to graffiti the walls (with sentimental slogans about moral improvement), but to rip the foundations from beneath them.

Totalitarianism, born of the alienation of poetry, precipitates Alienism.






*Photomontage: D. KULBASHNA

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