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Occasional Documents: Towards Situation
In a culture still driven by commodity exchange and representation, driven by the submergence of social relationships in the object, the means of expression, as the vital component of creative activity, is often overlooked. Yet, if there is to be a popular participation in culture, a sustained participation that, as a revolutionising presupposition, can actively work towards 'a dual power in culture', or a 'crisis of proliferation', then this can only be feasible if more and more people come to be 'expressed'. 'Expression' here means an undisciplined creativity that, above all else, above the consumption of relationships, seeks to deal in the production of subjectivity an autonomous creativity that circulates desires as the expression of singularities and differences, and not a commodifiable creativity whose expressions are overcoded as individualistic, subject to 'qualitative aesthetic judgements' and easily professionalised.
In order for there to be a renewed outgrowth of expression, an outgrowth already made possible by technological advancements, there has to be a shift in social perception wherefrom our relation to the means of expression is not seen as a 'stage' we have reached and surpassed, but an ongoing rhythm that informs our creativity and makes of being a becoming. Expression, then, has to become conscious of itself as a social practice which, being formed by social relations, can effect those social relations, create new social relations. Already it can be said that over the past decade the means of production in the cultural sphere have been instaurating a change in social relations which are as yet inchoate. The 'leap forward' of these productive forces is leaving a 'lag' into which the increasingly outmoded social relations of creative production are attempting to infill with more of the same. Artistic activity, be it that of fine artist or musician or writer, is coming to be represented as an economical link to an outmoded manufacturing industry (creation of objects, valorisation of information), as a means of orientation for society in terms of future models of wage labour (micro-entrepreneurial, affective labour), as a means of maintaining the circulation of capital (the uninterrupted metamorphoses of value and the creation of new markets c.f. Benjamin's "exhibition value") and as a means of ensuring that social relationships are made valorisable and thus integratable (historification of cultural practices). It is from such contradictions, the antagonisms they offer, that new social relations could spring; ones that seek to reappropriate their own 'living labour' through a winning of the means of expression.
The categories of 'writer', 'artist' and 'musician', as individualising mainstays of the old social relations, are thus becoming increasingly untenable. As the means of creative production become increasingly accessible more and more people enter into 'processes' and the former categories come more and more to assume a representational status through which desire is inveigled to abandon its polymorphous course as 'free energy' and hence accede to patented subjectivities that, to a certain degree, police themselves. That the means of expression are both an outcome and result of such a diffuse and hypercathecting polymorphism means that the categories, practices and contexts into which practitioners are encouraged to place themselves are simply a means of straightjacketing creativity, channelling 'free energy', and making sure its practice does not turn its attention to the social relations at large and the time-space these relations are producing.
Such representational categories as 'writer' and 'artist' ensure that this turn of attention does not occur and therefore does not undermine the separable disciplines and vested interests by which creativity is recognised in this society. Keeping the disciplines separate from each other in niche magazines, university departments and museum institutions is awarded not just with salaries, bursaries and kudos, but with over-exposure and a stilled desire that does not circulate anything except a representation of a representation - hollowed-out signifiers known variously as celebrities or avant-garde artists. In other words, the widespread use of such categories, by becoming acceptable as the self-definition of their practitioners - who thereby do not develop their meaning - help to reproduce the present social relations rather than seeking to realise experimental social relations that take the means of expression as their motor, the 'social field' as their object, and relationships as their material. The means of expression have always been subject to such privatisation. Desire, as the 'beyond' of pleasure, as 'free energy' (or Marx's 'vital force'), is entrammelled by a representational homeostasis that limits the scope of possibility. Imbricated and intertwined with each other, desire and the means of expression together constitute a kind of 'hidden labour', a submerged relationship, that can be used to both spectacularise commodities and enable cultural products to make an appearance as already pleasurably reified (i.e. irony as inviolate cynicism, criticality as carefree kudos). The means of expression, privatised and dealt-in as the possession of individuals, not only ensure alienation, but makes visible its concurrent link to the old social relations wherein wage-labour confronts its own product, the very machinery it utilises, as alien to it. If the latter are involved in production then the former are involved in reproduction: an enforced factory model becomes a willing participation in the social factory.
2. That such statements as these are indebted to the cultural revolutionaries of the 60's should not simply translate as their being indicative of a utopianism. They are undoubtedly utopian, but their utopianism is only an expression of the 'lag' between the means of creative production and the inchoate social relations. This 'lag' is extended further when we consider how social confidence is blocked as a desiring-energy by contractual positioning and authoritative exclusivity. It is perhaps foreshortened when we consider that the new technologies, with their capacity for mediating what already circulates and with their speed of distribution, bring to the fore the means of expression as a prime (and as yet problematic) component in the creation of new social relations. However, the 'lag' between what-is and what could-be is itself a prime area of creative antagonism: desire, as creativity in a nascent state, reaches out to the future and is, to some degree, a trajectory that seeks a social materialisation. The blockage it encounters is the blockage of the old social relations as they become increasingly reified (reproduced) by the very activities that, we are assured, intend to make a difference: urban re-development reinforces and expands private property; 'life-long learning' daren't touch upon a 'critique of knowledge'; affective labour is just as alienated as its more prosaic and unfashionable counterparts.
This, then, does have its lineage in the 60's in that the cultural revolutionaries therein did draw attention to one vital factor that they recognised back then and which is becoming more glaringly apparent today. This factor, attested to by such as Guy Debord, Asger Jorn and Alexander Trocchi, is the refusal of work. Such a refusal, as an articulation of the contradictoriness of capitalist 'development', cuts to the core of a system that has the capacity to provide for the needs of all whilst holding back the reappropriation of our "own general productive power" (1). This is an area that has been extensively theorised by the Italian Autonomists who, following the Marx of Grundrisse, spoke of 'self-valorisation' as that component of work which could be wrested from the capitalist valorisation process. Wresting such a value, the refusal of wage-labour, is an area in which Marxist theories elide with those cultural revolutionaries who attempted to install the means of expression into the critique of political economy. Asger Jorn spoke of value as a "quantity of changing qualities in process" and thus deemed "variability" and "qualitative difference" to be an aspect of human labour, 'living labour', that he called "human surplus value" (2). This variability and difference, as the means of expression, becomes the key to a self-valorisation that, it is to be hoped, can elude capitalistic valorisation and begin to instate new values, new social relations. However, just as technological developments make such surplus a realisable possibility they are also used to harness such a surplus, its 'difference quotient', by making wage-labour 'creative' and creative work 'monetised', by bringing diverse social relationships into the exchange-value nexus. One of the key factors of such an acculturating capital is that technological developments have led to a situation in which "general social knowledge has become a direct force of production" (3). By thus bringing a vocational element into the wage relation, a demand for the 'free energy of attention (desire) to be directed towards its own monetisation, this 'general social knowledge' has not only led to the positing of an individual's entire time as labour time (the hidden meaning of 'life-long learning') it has altered the rhythm and intensity of work through the much vaunted short-term contracts and freelance work culture that could be said to be concurrently shared by manufacturing and cultural workers alike.
Whilst these both share in being subject to wage-labour (or at least its resultant alienation) it also points towards a renewed use of 'leisure time' as a site for productive pre-occupation and not simply as the time set aside for workers to recoup their energies. The point is that work becomes a vocation, a practice of the 'general social knowledge', at the very moment when technological developments -"knowledge objectified in fixed capital" (4) - give rise to a situation in which less labour hours are necessary for the production of any one good. So, when, in the 80s, the Fiat factory became more or less robotised those advocates (personifications) of capital responsible thought they were issuing a threat to an unruly 'refusnik' workforce when it could also be said that they were revealing an astronomical surplus capacity that could make wage-labour a superfluous and archaic social relation. So, the technological means of production are not only able to reduce labour hours to a minimum they are, when wielded as design, redevelopment and 'branding', coming to conceal more seamlessly the reproduction of those archaic social relations that befit the manufacturing ethos that capital is at pains to outgrow. Not only is wage-labour coming to be ideologised as pleasure it reveals that the crucial antagonisms around technological developments are inimical to a conflict over 'needs': work under the terms of 'general social knowledge' becomes concerned with the creation of new needs and hence with a valorisation of social relationships.
Thus work, as wage labour, becomes a matter of social control ('command' in the parlance of the Autonomists) and it is, in part, able to be effective in this by appealing to the desiring element of vocation, by constantly differentiating 'needs' and, where these fail, by having recourse to the myth of scarcity. This ideology of scarcity, whereby there is a continual denial of the tremendous surplus capacity of material production as well as a conservationist denouncement of 'free energy', is one that finds a parallel in the culture industries whereby competition for funding and the rarity value of some practitioners actually conditions the means of expression of others and brings their articulation into the valorisation process: their entry into a series, a loop, that both ensures and presents a smoothly functioning circulation of values. So, whether it be the exemplary and distinctive 'work' of the artist or the sullen labour of the machinist, across all sectors, work becomes an industry for itself, an industry concerned as much with the reproduction (circulation) of social relations as with production proper, and one in which the ideology of work is contradictorily propounded amidst a means of production that has the propensity to liberate a surplus of energy and time, a winning of the means of expression, from which the new social relations could arise - relations between becomings rather than beings.
3. What the cultural revolutionaries of the 60's intuited, then, was the increasing imposition of work as a means of maintaining the social relations that go along with it, but what fewer of them saw was an acculturation of capital wherein the working class has had to adapt to the vocational model of work as a means of survival. This model, whereby labour becomes a lifestyle and leisure is a pre-occupation, makes wage-labour that which produces the reproduction of social relations and as such, as culture, becomes a means of binding us to capitalist social relations through such modulations as individualism, hierarchy, need, commodity production and divisions of labour that are reactivated, albeit modified, in the cultural industries.
But, however crudely an echo of Marx, this situation in which the means of production are used for work and for play can, by traversing the divide between labour-time and leisure-time, also bring forth not only a wider alliance of resistance than that of 'class membership', but can foreground the means of expression as that surplus energy which is being valorised by capital as a 'labour power'. In this way the means of expression, as an increasingly important component of labour power ('living labour'), are coming to be a strategic tool in the reproduction of social relations. The recomposition of class, once analysed by Toni Negri as a move from the 'mass worker' to 'social labour power', leads not only to the re-appearance of the working class via a winning of the means of expression (affective labour), but to a search for 'new subjective forces' that, as he puts it, arise from the "coming together of individual marginalisation with collective socialisation" (5). If the 'object' of work is becoming not so much the production of a particular good, but a service, another 'need', an ambience, a relation, then could it not be the case that, just as these interactions are controlled by behaviour-inducing languages and formalised knowledges, they are also the subject of potential transformations, the harbinger of antagonism - an autonomous valorisation of the surplus, a creative use of avant-garde techniques by collectivities? Such a revolutionising transformation, then, would be presupposed by an engagement with the means of expression as they clash with the 'general social knowledge' and by the detournement of the means of production towards a circulation of desire that takes as its 'object' the very social relations that are being reproduced and valorised.
This is the danger of the vocational model of work. It brings the energy of desire, an energy between need and satisfaction, into the circuit of labour not as a sublimation and a repression of activity, but as the hope for personal fulfilment and socialisation; as an investment of energy. Alexander Trocchi, taking a cue from Raymond Williams, wrote that gaining "control of the means of expression" leads to a "relation to a community" (6). This points towards a use of creative energies beyond their being used to reproduce the current social relations and therefrom towards their taking the material of expression to be 'lived experience'. This is one of the meanings that can be taken from the Situationist International's loud refusal to create commodified art objects and their consequent exploration of 'constructing situations': creating new social relations. Entering into relation with our means of expression, then, becomes a way by which resistance to capitalism takes place without necessarily having recourse to the factory. If the factory is now a 'social factory' which has 'general social knowledge' as a force of production, then our very relation to expression as a foregrounding of desire, brings us into a combative relation to capitalism not only as that which reproduces itself through an extortion of surplus-value beyond 'necessary labour', but as that which imposes its own space-time, its own institutional values, its own ontology.
This poses the problem of just what the 'general social knowledge' entails. The breakthrough issue here, developed in the slipstream of the Situationist project, is that capitalism no longer becomes solely an economic relationship which equitable distribution and debt relief could solve, but it is also that which seeks sustenance from its own social relations - hence its increasing valorisation of socialisation (c.f. 'Reality' TV/Radio show banter) and the Situationist obsession with recuperation. We experience time, space, desire and knowledge as representable commodities, as spectacles, pleasure and information. In this light Toni Negri mused whether it was the "cultural dimension of command" that was becoming fundamental (7) and Asger Jorn wondered whether "surplus value is not as the Marxists would have it, a purely capitalist phenomena" but whether it was that which "exists under various forms at all biological and social levels" (8). Taking a cue from Negri and Jorn, is it that desire, as a registration of sociality, as a surplus uncovered by our struggle with the means of expression, becomes that which the 'new subjective forces' must withhold from capitalist valorisation whereby value is coming to be realised through the reproduction of social relations? As well as the physical energy expended in manufacturing industry, desire, able to be released as a materialisable surplus through the new means of production, becomes the pivotal component of 'labour power', a 'desiring-energy' that capital seeks to command. In the social factory, it achieves this command, in part, by subjugating subjects to a pleasure (being) that must not know the intensity of desire (becoming).
4. An acculturating capitalism, in developing new technologies and forms of communication, could reach the 'crisis point of proliferation' wherein expressive capacities outstrip their valorisation and become a surplus energy that is free to rove and be deployed in social space - rather than remaining reproductive these capacities could become productive once more, become modes of communication. Vocation could be de-cathected and pleasure could become desire. With there not being enough opportunities for all the 'writers', 'artists' and 'musicians' is it not that they could secede from the 'cultural dimension of command' instaurated and propelled by established institutions and, in so doing, help to make the new social relation conscious of itself - a social relation that is opposed to the means formerly used to discount, discourage and reject their practice: the archaic social relations of competencies, selection, aesthetic judgements and taste (all components of a 'labour of signification) that have their managerial parallels in the work culture of manufacturing (command over 'living labour'). This raises the notion of 'self-institution' as being not just the formation of counter institutions, but as situations for the investment of those energies and desires that, winning the means of expression, are creative of new social relations - relations that are formed in the process of harnessing energies as the force necessary for an 'appropriation of our own general productive power' (desiring-production).
But before discussing the means by which we can defend such 'self-valorisation' is it not that the means of expression, the energies they entail, are indicative of a new form of surplus that capital seeks to valorise. Are we moving from the recuperation of ideas and products to the subsumption of energies? Capital has, through a positing of 'need-pleasure', already successfully exploited that surplus energy known as libido and it may well be that a collective winning of the means of expression by means of self institution is a way that we maintain our autonomous control of that surplus for, as a form in which energy takes, libido informs creativity. Our relation to the means of expression would thus translate as securing a surplus energy for ourselves, an energy not dissipated by wage-labour, but maintained by us as diffuse libido - "a capacity of a capacity to be" (becoming). This is where the capitalist ideology of scarcity comes into play as that which effects not just economic concerns but psychical ones as well. Our having a superfluity of energy is a fact attested to by the continual replenishment of libido, but it is a fact that, like the dangers to capitalism inherent in vocational work, runs the risk of exposing the myth of scarcity and energy conservation. This surplus, created by perception and social interaction, is an energy, a singularity, that capitalism seeks to appropriate in its efforts to veil the reproduction of social relations (singularity used to produce infinitesimal differences in the same). Its myths of scarcity, exploded by such as Nietzsche and Bataille, are such that it has sought to control the 'generative impulses' and have these activate and replenish those forms that it already knows how to valorise: commodity objects, art works, novels etc. Instead of inveigling surplus energy to resuscitate the old social relations, and exhausting itself in a process of conforming to delivering presupposed expectations (anxiety formation), a relation to the means of expression entails that the energy replenishes itself as part of the process of its own idiosyncratic input into a social relation that it is helping to form: a situation. In this way the means of expression, as that which ensures our singularity, can be a tool of resistance to capitalism in that, the surplus of energy that can form and sustain 'self-institution' is not a surplus that capitalism can always count on valorising, for, not only can it not allot a place to all those who seek its patronage, it cannot always hinder the means of expression coming into conflict with the status of the 'general social knowledge'.
In this light the avant-gardism of the cultural revolutionaries was not solely a matter of the van guard of forms (which bring about new market opportunities for capital, new needs i.e. the 'functional aesthetics' of the Bauhaus), but an interrogation of this social knowledge as knowledge/power, as a relation of conditioning that offers being over becoming, and pleasure before desire. The Situationist project was, then, a collective endeavour of 'self-valorisation', an emergence of social relationships, through which it was possible to discover that "what gives the individual a social value is their variability of behaviour in relation to other people" (9). Not only does this offer affinities as well as class as a mode of organisation, it also leads to our taking the means of expression to be inclusive of all manner and means of enunciation irrespective of pre-established competencies. Here, then, is the antagonistic aspect of the 'cultural dimension of command': differentiated singularities resist their own surplus being transfigured into that valorisable differentiation that is used to replenish investment in the continuing reproduction of capitalist social relations.
5. Is it not, then, that this very variability that informs Jorn's expansive notion of surplus is itself a site of conflict, a fluid contradiction, and therefrom a prime component of the new social relations? Such a variability, long deemed to be the mark of a dilettante, implies such a degree of process that those social relations which produce stabilised identities for their conductance, are exploded. Variability becomes the outcome of those energies that, if conduited by situations conducive to desire, can turn into intensive singularities that are unreproducible and increase the need for direct communication and assembly, for 'self institution'. Jorn: "For us, the present is not the instant, but it is the moment of dialogue, the time of communication between question and answer" (10). Rather than the energies being extracted from us as blunted expressions and being sapped by wage-labour and/or being trapped in a cultural 'labour of signification', the energies, when led by a collective exploration of the means of expression, become articulateable as "the absolute movement of becoming" (11), a between question and answer that is the motor of communication as process, as excursive rather than as being prone to commodification in a 'discourse object'.
In this way the 'human surplus value' of which Jorn speaks is a surplus, a latent conflux of singularities, that are always already present in the psyche: as the unconscious it is a relation we enter into with our own process of becoming - memories provoke returns and the returns themselves are fore-echoes of activated futures; as the space-between question and answer, knowledge and meconaissance, it is that which is always mistaken and which endlessly generates an energy that is productive of a consciousness that is 'pre-ontological'. Our being 'unrealised' in this way can be traumatic in that it brings us into conflict with the 'general social knowledge'. But it is such autotraumatisation that is creative of an energy which informs our use of the means of expression as they are pitted against the 'general social knowledge' and lead us to our renunciation of the representational snares of a representative identity ('pleasure-need'). Such a move towards becoming, where our means of expression work with the materials of desire as 'desiring production', could be the factor necessary to provoke a secession from the 'general social knowledge' and preserve the movement of singularities and differences in the direction of 'constructed situations' that nurture to expression experimental social relations. The conflicts that would arise are ontological conflicts that move on from the measurements and equivalences of identity, wherein we are encouraged to abandon our singularity in exchange for varying degrees of power, to ones where these very singularities that we are always coming near to expressing could become the necessary rhythm of the new social relations.
This is a process that is conducted by our coming into relation not only with ourselves (i.e. abreaction of unconscious material), but with the others around us and with the language that we use and that uses us. Indeed, at a simplistic level, the very means of expression, the very content of our communication with each other is premised on having something to say to each other and this is itself both a surplus and an enigma: it is a continuation of what has previously been said that has hitherto remained latent, it is an anticipation of what will be said, it is already a social relation, a language 'habitus', that enables us to speak in the first place and it is, fundamentally, a striving between question and answer, an enigma. Such latency and anticipation, as desiring-energy, is part of the processual rhythm of becoming which the means of expression enable us to articulate not as a 'discourse-object', but as excursive-relation that could just as well be musical or visual or gestural. Indeed when the SI spoke of "the decomposition of the individual arts, the impossibility of renovating or prolonging these arts" (12) and Alexander Trocchi offered that "it is all the grids of expression we are concerned to seize" (13) they could not fore see how on the one hand these 'individual arts' are still thriving and yet on the other the 'grids' have come to not only include such activities as research and music, but have led, in some cases, to a collapsing of the divide between 'activist' and 'artist' and a refoundation of group-centred activity. However, they could not perhaps have foreseen how art, beyond the salerooms, has become indexed to the monetary not solely through its exemplary 'virtuosity', its 'labour of signification', but through its valuable marking out and construction of a social consensus indexed to the creation of needs.
So, whereas we would be led to believe that the means of expression are the domain of coherent and competent identities, could it not now be that the means of expression, if widened to more and more people with access to differing 'grids', could no longer be the means whereby 'virtuosities' are expressed, but the means whereby becomings come into relation as dissensual affinities. The 'object' of the means of expression, the site where energies are deployed, would become that 'self-valorisation' process as it is encouraged in its becomings by collective endeavour. When extended to the social field, such an improvisatory approach, one that is creative of a space of becoming and dependent upon the conductance of 'free energy', could enable a shift in focus from producing things in space (art and architecture) to the production of polymorphous spaces (situations and desires) from which experimental social relations could both arise and take the impetus to arise.
6. The means of expression, then, are not something we win outright; we are always winning them. The means of expression are, thus, a continual social practice that brings us into conflict with the prevailing organisations of an acculturating capital that seek to transform our fledgling process into a product or into that which adds value to other products, other institutions ('labour of signification'). However, as products, the means of expression are not only valorisable in terms of the commodified transactions of exchange value that extends to a latent, future realisable value, but, when won once and for all, they circulate as knowledge/ power: "If I had authority at my disposal everything within me would be servitude" (14). The interaction between valorisation and individuality has its outcome in a power that circulates the 'generative impulse' as a representative of capital complete with 'hidden labour'. Paramount here is the denial of the social-source of the knowledge, its interactive process. It thus becomes the 'property' of its purveyor, the object of a labour that instaurates competition, narcissistic defensiveness, and therefrom the reproduction of the social relations.
The means of expression, as a form which our 'free energy' takes, are seduced away from the process of becoming by a not dissimilar operation to that which attends to the libidinal component of energy. In this case the self-image of a stable identity is cathected rather than a diffuse sociality. Desire is pent-up in the closed circuits of representation (representative needs), and, taking on an 'authentic' discursive form, it becomes knowledge/power. This points to the valorisation of academic discourse by an acculturating capital and we see how such discourse can take its place in the 'general social knowledge' as a managerial function: the 'idiolects' of expression, the tentative becomings associated with passion, the very materiality of desire is hindered from circulating and blocked from becoming an expression of experimental social relations. The knowledge/power of 'virtuosities' only serves to reinforce the social relations that are associated with wage-labour wherein experimentation is farmed out to 'research and development' and mistakes and trial-runs are always made in secret as if, always, the public profile of 'discourse-objects' should be so well controlled, so well edited, as to proffer a usefully misleading idea of 'knowledge' as an exclusive and reified property, as valorisable information.
In this way the concept of 'general social knowledge' could be one which sanctions a use of knowledge that hides its own process of production, its struggle with the means of expression, and thus encourages its use to expand quantitatively (as 'successive differences') rather than to reach its limits in the qualitative secession of singularities wherein desires are not only made conscious, but are endlessly replenished by being the very material of experimental social relations (combinations of mutually-affecting singularities). As opposed to the voluntary servitude of an exclusive knowledge/power, whereby comparisons and equivalences are made between individuals, the 'self-valorisation' of the means of expression, the tracking of singularities and differentiations, can entail a revolutionary agenda linked to the reappropriation of 'living labour': "It is just this combination of individuals (assuming of course the advanced level of modern productive forces) which brings the conditions for the free development and activity of individuals under their control, conditions which were formerly abandoned to chance and which had acquired an independent existence over against the separate individuals" (15).
However, the hazards attendant upon an excursive means of expression are manifold: there is the difficulty of negotiating a utopianistic 'realm of freedom' no matter how presuppositionary it knows itself to be; there are the expectations of others who have differing degrees of relationship to the 'general social knowledge'; there is the imposition of work as that which maintains 'needs' unfulfilled except as a reward of a wage-relation enforced by the myth of scarcity; there are elementary, 'everyday', matters of social confidence, shyness and effective methods of communication and organisation. In short, to experiment in new social relations leads to a potentially hazardous profiling of the outmoded social relations that, with capital and the social organisation of space-time on their side, with a prevailing ontology of individuality and authoritarian knowledges at their disposal, with an id-deep channelling of 'free energy towards individualising representations, will maintain their hold over the means of expression as long as those means aren't diversified, improvised with, shared and used to spread a mutual recognition of each others' tentative attempts. For, as Alexander Trocchi offered, a propos his 'definition' of a situation, it is a matter of "inventing effective behavioural procedures" for, as he urged, "we must learn how we shall have to be if we are to be and do together at all" (16).
7. When Guy Debord wrote, in 1959, that "the epoch has arrived at a level of knowledge and technical means that made possible, and necessary, a direct construction of all aspects of a liberated affective and practical existence" (17) he was not only voicing the shared belief that the means of production had reached a position that could surpass their social relations, he was claiming the means of expression for a social activity that was concomitant to the new means of production: breaking with the way that 'cultural command' is effected through the reproduction of capitalist social relations and experimenting with new social relations. Whilst it could be argued that 'a direct construction of... a liberated affective and practical existence' is tantamount to an outlining of the potentialities of the means of expression, Debord, in aligning these with the technical capacity of the production of abundance was seeking to politicise the means of expression by turning their use away from their being alienated in product and urging them to be used to directly construct the social field: the emergence of social relationships. Debord foresaw that the minimum means of such an endeavour would be the 'construction of situations' and it is not surprising that we find in his writing on the subject an almost continual reference to 'desire' and 'passion' and, at the same time, a constant temptation to delineate the situation in terms of 'unitary urbanism'. The latter, whilst addressing the key issues of social space and the capitalist imposition of space as a thing and not as "a set of relations between things" (18), tends to too quickly shift the 'construction of situations' towards a critique of the built environment and neglects a further exploration of the means of expression that, who knows, could have been taken up in the project for a "situationist-orientated psychoanalysis"(19).
Whilst all the components of this early situationist theory feed-off each other it is perhaps tempting to neglect the more open and practical-poetic dimension of the 'situation' especially as, giving the group its name, this aspect becomes overcoded and further elided by the later trajectory of the Situationists towards the 'constructed situation' being a revolutionary or insurrectionary moment. Returning to the late 50s, then, we see how the situation can be a matter of self-institution, an opportunity for secession from the prevailing methods of organisation and the perennial contexts for creativity, one that seeks to retain 'free energy' and use this for the 'self-valorisation' of becoming. A process, then, that seeks to develop the social relations that the mode of production makes realisable but holds back by means of the imposition of work and the dynamic of 'cultural command'. For the Situationists it was no longer a matter of alienating their surplus, the excess of relation, in the commodity objects of art, but of bringing about a "unitary ensemble of behaviour in time" (20). Rather than people coming together to create objects and works that are 'valorised' in the art markets under the umbrella of a group functioning as a 'corporation', the Situationists envisioned a coming-together where the participants, the social relations between them, extending to the society at large, become an uncommodifiable work, one that escapes the purview of the art institution and in so doing recognises, perhaps presciently on their part, the potential
commodification of socialisation. This aspect of relation as 'behaviour', one which Alexander Trocchi picked-up on, is such that the situation becomes an opportunity to explore other modes of being, other means of expression, than the ones instituted and maintained by the outmoded social relations.
Whilst this relates to a 'use' of the 'general social knowledge', a negotiation of knowledge/power relations by means of an effective, unmediated communication ("communication without the incommunicable" as Giorgio Agamben would say), it also relates to those aspects of psychoanalysis that are concerned with providing a space for the participants to get an objective view of themselves, an historical overview of lives lived as process: "~e are concerned to know how we behave" (21). In a passage that has a faint psychoanalytical ring to it, Debord offers that "we have to multiply poetic subjects and objects... and we have to organise games of these poetic objects among these poetic subjects" (22). Such spaces of play, theorised by analysts such as D.W.Winnicott as 'transitional spaces', are spaces of becoming in that, according to Winnicott, they have no climax, no pay-off. In this light, when Debord offered that "the life of a person is a succession of fortuitous situations" (23) he was not only describing the individual as a 'poetic subject', a subject open to chance and to a variety of means of expression, he was, perhaps, also offering the situation as the space for a temporary unity of such subjects whose very becoming, whose very process, is the poetic factor.
The role of 'games' in a situation becomes one that helps establish an improvisatory tenor, an openness to the aleatory, but, crucially, according to Winnicott, such play, with its lack of climactic experience, its suspended animation that overturns the insistent pressures of commodified time, becomes that which can be distinguished from "phenomena that have instinctual backing, where the orgiastic element plays an essential part, and where satisfactions are closely linked with climax" (24). This lack of 'instinctual backing' leads to a notion that energy is socially created anew through the activity of games and inter relation and does not, as some psychoanalysts argue, remain as an energy that is related only to endogenous drives, that takes the course of libido and is subjected to the homeostasis of the 'pleasure principle' (remains caught between need and satisfaction). From this it may be possible to offer that there are exogenous drives, social drives that take the form of institutions, into which energy has been invest ed. A situation could be one form by which the drives are not always pregiven, but are created as 'social organs', self-institutions that determine the deployment of energy, diverting the course of libido towards maintaining a 'self-valorisation', a context for the means of expression. As with those notions of a desire not premised on 'lack', the situation could be that activity which instaurates a space between need and satisfaction - its value thus becoming immeasurable, unexchangeable and irreducible to representative needs.
8. This potential space of the situation, then, is transitional to the degree that it implies a degree of temporary autonomy from the norms of an everyday life informed by the 'general social knowledge'. At one level the situation as a 'transitional space' can be expressed as a capacity to profile and take sustenance from the contradictions of practice, the conflicts inherent in 'cultural command', and to work with these rather than subject them to repression (i.e. de-dialecticise them). At another linked-level the situation could be a space where the imagination, as that which is neither real nor false, but tentative and exploratory, is non-metaphorically instituted between participants who do not thereby alienate their own powers, their own surplus, to the 'general social knowledge', whereby it can be measured and valorised as a representative commodity, but use these powers of imagination to inform the struggle with the means of expression. Ordinarily what can occur is that the powers of the imagination, with all their contradictions, are, as with the 'vital forces' of labour power; alienated in the production process and become, as Marx suggests, an alien power that adds to the weight of the 'general social knowledge' (which in the case of cultural production takes the form of the ever expanding canon etc.). Without a situationistic control over a means of production activated by the means of expression, without, in other words, a socially transformative orientation working with contradiction and antagonism, the realisation process of the imagination is at the same time its de-realisation process. Maintaining control over the realisation of the imagination, being able to "body forth their own horizon of possible contextualisations" (25) is, then, one potential function of the situation as an experimental 'realm of freedom' in which desires can circulate as the material bases of new social relations and anxieties too can circulate as the marker of those residual social relations that still persist.
For Debord the situation is thus a matter of desiring-production: "The really experimental direction of situationist activity consists in setting up, on the basis of more or less clearly recognised desires, a temporary field of activity favourable to these desires. This alone can lead to the further clarification of these primitive desires, and to the confused emergence of new desires whose material roots will be precisely the new reality engendered by situationist constructions" (26). whilst not naming the means of expression, Debord hints that desire, as a surplus of 'free energy' that is as diffuse and dynamic as affect, is the poetic element that is sought to be materialised by communicative activities and game playing that have neither object nor climactic outcome. The desires themselves are to be 'clarified', their 'primitivism' is, perhaps, the 'primitivism' of the endogenous drive marked out by Freud as the life and death drives, whereas the 'new desires' are linked to the 'social organs' of situations and self-institution wherein desire is that which is coming to be articulated through a winning of the means of expression (singularity). In this light those participating in situations are the subject-objects of becomings that, as 'new desires', are themselves illustrative of new social relations: "a community enacting itself in its individual members" (27). Interestingly, Debord speaks of the 'new desires' having a 'confused emergence'. This is, perhaps, a reference to the struggle for the means of expression and the contradictions brought to light by such excursive communication as would occur in a situation. For a self-sure polemicist like Debord this is a rare concession to the struggle people experience in becoming expressed, an acknowledgement on his part that the constructed clarities we are accustomed to from 'discourse-objects' would be more likely to occur in an academic context or within a political party than they would be to occur in a situation. For this reason Raoul Vaneigem extended the practice of 'situations' away from specific 'situationist constructions' (such as Constant's New Babylon project and the plan to establish an experimental micro-city off the southern coast of Italy) towards non-materialised networks. He held out that these latter could contain "direct relationships, episodic ones, contacts without ties, development of embryonic relations based on sympathy and understanding" (28).
The key, then, is maybe that the 'construction of situations' is also concerned with the construction of an embryonic form of communication that encourages participation: a communication in which the dialogue the participants have with themselves is also a dialogue that they have between themselves - a communication of the incommunicable that does not find its way into the 'general social knowledge' and that makes contradictions circulate. By thus introducing an 'unconscious' dynamic into the situation it becomes possible to negotiate the reticence-inducing force of a power/knowledge and to transform 'knowledge' into an autotraumatic practice that brings into effect a mutuality (those little childhood fears that bonded us together) and transforms 'power' into that which is creative of an anxiety that, as with the 'overflow' of the neurotic, disbars deception from communication. This unconscious aspect, as an affective dynamic, a movement of contents in search of some form, is also a means whereby passion informs communication to become the prevailing ambience. As Debord noted, the 'emotional effect of space' is a paramount consideration for the construction of situations. Institutional spaces are often already replete with the baggage of knowledge/power wherein knowledge, subject to a division of labour that conditions it, is wielded separately from the desiring component that informs it and, as an object of discourse, makes our struggle for the means of expression not only inaccessible, but the locus for a nuance of guilt ("that's the way it should be done").
For new social relations to arise the chosen space of the situation must become so imaginatively charged, drawn into the means of expression, as to be a support for both desire and its obverse, anxiety: "The phantasy is the support of desire; it is not the object that is the support of desire. The subject sustains himself as desiring in relation to an ever more complex signifying ensemble" (29). The situation can thus be a site of abreaction (itself a means of expression), but unlike some conventional spaces of psychoanalysis the phantasy is not viewed as a compensation and an overly-rehearsed language is not the privileged form of communication. A major facet of the situation, and one which picks up again the Situationist concern for 'unitary urbanism' (30), must be, then, a 'signifying ensemble' that expands the means of expression to include the aural, the visual, the gestural, the spatial, the abreactive, the unrehearsed etc, as signifying practices that not only sustain and lubricate desiring and hence becoming, but which, taken together as a temporarily unified ensemble, elicit a far wider participation than that confined to the category of 'art'. In a situation the enigmas that we are to ourselves and to others are the basis of a communicative practice that, no longer reliant on knowledge/power, learns how to enunciate itself as a production of subjectivity, a becoming, a new social relation.
9. As one of many possible precursors to the 'construction of situations', Antonin Artaud's series of manifestos entitled The Theatre Of Cruelty, similarly shows a disdain for the privatisation of the imagination as this is expressed by the supposed separation of art and life. Such a separation, the highlighting and breaching of which was a major facet of avant-garde activity, serves the ideological function of maintaining the investment levels of desiring-production as that which, by cathecting the current social relations (the vocational model of work, representative needs), ensures the latter's reproduction. The possible scope for the means of expression, as that which could turn towards the social relations and spatial creativity, is such that it is deflected, by obedience to the 'general social knowledge' and in conformity to its allotted reproductive function, towards the 'pleasure' of its own fulfilment as 'art'. Such a fulfilment is premised upon the comfort of inhabiting a stable identity, a specialised persona that is only specialised to the degree that it restricts the means of expression available to it and in so doing limits the potential becomings that are possible. The current social relations, then, institute a notion of ontology as the private individual, a stable entity that is self-sufficient and independent; one whose 'pleasure' is won at the expense of a desire that is only recognised as anxiety and whose 'knowledge', unruffled by the sensory practice of becoming, is wielded as a surrogate power that is always under appraisal.
Artaud called such an entity "psychological man with his clear-cut personality and feelings" and intended his Theatre Of Cruelty to be "an impassioned compulsive concept of life" that would appeal "to the whole man, not social man submissive to the law, warped by religion and precepts" (31). This submissiveness, enwrapped in the comfort of an alienation from singularity, fearful of the polymorphous sensuality of a pre-ontological existence and wielding knowledge like a security blanket, is precisely the modus operandi of the 'spectacle': all contradiction is ironed out by the velleities of coherence. Artaud's Theatre Of Cruelty, like the 'construction of situations', was, rather, intended to increase participation by an expansion of the means of expression rather than their diminishment by means of their formal professionalisation (valorisation). The Theatre Of Cruelty, then, was intended to be a 'complex signifying ensemble', one that, perhaps, could be better appreciated by using the phrase Space Of Affectivity: "Words means little to the mind; expanded areas and objects speak out. New imagery speaks, even if composed in words. But spatial, thundering images replete with sound also speak, if we become versed in arranging a sufficient interjection of spatial areas furnished with silence and stillness" (32). The object of art and its corollary, the object as commodity are, as with the situation, dispensed with by Artaud to become 'expanded objects' and 'expanded areas', spatial expressions, that could form the setting for the 'self-valorising' activity of becoming, the reappropriation of 'living labour'. Imagination is not hived-off into the separable components befitting of an expanded notion of theatre nor is it reduced to a descriptive and narrative function. Instead Artaud aimed for a "total creation in real terms where man must reassume his positions between dream and events" (33). The division between art and life that privatises imagination and turns desire into a personalised and commodifiable 'need-pleasure' is also that which, functioning as an ideology, as part of the 'general social knowledge', refuses to register imagination and desire as active social forces that are continually informing that which is empirically classified as real (the social organs and the social imaginary that comprise 'the system'). This division between art and life not only maintains the illusion of changelessness, covering over how art is used in the reproduction of social relations and how social relations inform artistic products, it concomitantly distances us from our own means of expression, our own processes of becoming that do not take place within the framework of 'art'.
In speaking of the 'space between the dream and the event', Artaud converts the problem of an art/life divide into an ontological problem. He politicises the ontological by making his Theatre Of Cruelty the instituting of a transitional space not at all dissimilar to that of the situation with its potential unconscious dimension. Whilst it may have been a matter of the 'unconscious being structured like a language for the Situationists - especially when we recall their later goal of 'theoretical coherence'- for Artaud it was a matter of the unconscious ensuring a responsiveness to all manner of signifying qualities, a responsiveness to the degree that 'cruelty' and 'trauma' are accepted by him as the energising facets of polymorphous sensuality as this is made conscionable: "I use the word cruelty in the sense of hungering after life... above all cruelty is very lucid... there is no cruelty without... the application of consciousness" (34). In this way Artaud's Space Of Affectivity was very much concerned with a 'semiotic of the impulses', an extension of feeling in communication, a more effective communication that is reliant upon sensuality in its guise of associational energy, sound and gesture. For Artaud, then, language was not to assume its usual privileged position, but become just one means of expression amongst others. His was a quest for a new language, a 'semiotic of the impulses', whereby language could be disembarked-from and become the impetus to gesture, inflection, light, colour and sound: an actual body was to assume its position in space rather than the body of a surrogate, a representative known as actor. So, in line with this, language was to be afforded only a relative position in Artaud's 'theatre', a position wherein its limitations could be revealed as that which could craft a seamless identity rather than assume the "abortive postures" and "lapses in the mind" that could rather be associated with becoming and its improvisatory struggle with the means of expression (which by attempting to expand Artaud was undoubtedly struggling with). For Artaud such a struggle could result in a "unique language somewhere between gesture and thought... a new lyricism of gestures which because it is distilled and spatially amplified, ends up surpassing the lyricism of words" (35). The practice of music, lost in the Situationist Project, seems to be being announced here by Artaud as a subversive mode of communication, one that, when improvised from 'scratch', when intent on 'noise' and on forming its own codes and contexts with this noise ('messthetics') can be revolutionary, can be the 'herald of a new social relation' that can overcome knowledge/power, virtuosity and the exchange-relation (36).
Such a semiotic of the impulses, a music of gestures sounded by its situation, is that which corresponds to singularities comprised of different speeds of desire. The rhythm that is able to be established is not just the rhythm of sound ("a tangible idea of music where sound enters like a character"), but a rhythm of the overall combination of the means of expression that Artaud sought to draw upon and which, if gathered in an acoustic space, could make all participants 'sound in unison'. It is this sense of site, the particular characteristics of place imbued with poetic resonances, that unites Debord and Artaud. For both, as with Alexander Trocchi, it is a matter of bringing all the 'grids of expression' into play to form an ensemble capable of provoking "the intuition which drives us to articulate" (37). The role of space in the 'construction of a situation' is such that it provides a mode of unification drawing the participants together regardless of the content of their meeting and their processual disagreements. Debord: "The situation... is contained in gestures contained in a transitory decor. These gestures are the product of the decor and the gestures themselves" (38).
10. The 'construction of situations', as a socially extended 'musical' activity, is such that it actively seeks to multiply the expressive registers at which it can operate. There is no specialised field of activity that emanates from the situation nor any prescriptions as to how it should organise itself. Desire is the method, emotive communication its methodology. In fact, with Debord describing the individual participant as a 'succession of fortuitous situations' it is as much a matter' of the situation coming into a resonance with Felix Guattari's exploration of 'modular subjectivity' and his offering that "new collective assemblages of enunciation are beginning to form... out of fragmentary ventures... trial and error experiments... different ways of being and of bringing to light modalities of being' (39). With participants being open to the fortuitous, the unexpected, with them thus placing themselves between different modes of signification (the verbal, the gestural, the musical, the spatial, the unconscious) through which to be surprised, to catch themselves unawares, they are not only able to 'sustain themselves as desiring' through the way that there is no specific object for desire to cathect (energy is kept free rather than bound) but can, as an outcome of this desiring-without-aim, this 'semiotic of the impulses', instaurate new social relations, new modes of behaviour and being.
It is no surprise that Debord, who wrote a Theory Of The Derive, did not do the same for the 'construction of situations' as, under the terms of desire and fortuitousness necessary for a situation, organisational problems are ongoing and fall under the rubric of improvisation: the flexible equilibria of communicative practice. The free energy, once it is allowed to circulate in this way, and not be hampered by constitutions, directives and goals, is creative of social organs that are then able to advance individuals as associated and mutually produced singularities. In the parlance of Guattari, the situation, the 'collective assemblage of enunciation', is a means of expressing an 'ontological productivity', a production of subjectivity from the materials of desire and their corollary, the communication of the incommunicable (contradiction is not severed from social practice by means of 'theoretical coherence' but can be its impetus). Just as this could be the basis for a retrospective situationist psychoanalysis, wherein it is a matter of creating a space in which "we are subjects not at the level of our identity, but rather at that of our desire" (40), it is also, and following on from this, a way that the role of 'artist' or 'writer' dematerialises to rematerialise elsewhere. For being 'subjects at the level of our desire' means that we are pre-ontological just as our means of expression can be pre-articulatory) and this very factor problematises rather than resolves our relation to the means of expression. For those participating in a situation it is not a matter of producing objects, but of producing their own subjectivity which becomes, then, less of a specialised and private affair and more of a shared process in which subjectivity is always in the process of production (becoming) and in which the production is facilitated by both the ambiance of the space and the ambiance of the interaction. For desire to circulate as a material it cannot be channeled back, via the privatisation of psychoanalysis or oeuvre, towards pleasure, consensus and valorisation, but needs the conductance of space and the non-judgmental conviviality of the other participants: a free, uncensored and abreactive exchange, a music without instruments, a space for pre-articulation and shared words.
Pointers such as these, then, may be a reason why the situation is described by Debord as a "simple gathering of a group of individuals" (41), a selection of participants that could be considered to be elitist if we discount the fact that the participants themselves need some assurances that their co-participants are attempting to construct a situation from the same premises, that their expressive fumblings are an indicator of a modular subjectivity, that they are aiming for desire rather than pleasure. Such an ethos of affinity in the construction of a situation is crucial for not only does it prevent forms of organisation conducive to the old social relations replicating themselves, it also enables the feeling of confidence to be introjected by each of the participants. Such confidence, a matter of mutual dependability, is often under mined by our falling under the thrall of the 'general social knowledge' whereby each feels that they are lacking, that their access to the means of expression is insufficient (in such circumstances 'full speech' falls back upon a taught ritualised discourse). As with psychoanalysis the shift in social relations that can be instaurated by the situation is one that seeks to disengage from the operation of a 'general social knowledge' that inculcates lack by means of representative needs, by means of an adherence to an identity, a self-image, an ideal, to which no-one can live up to. The 'one who knows', the agent of power/knowledge who distributes lack by not foregrounding the struggle with the means of expression (not residing in the space between question and answer), is replaced by a 'collective assemblage of enunciation', in which ego-relatedness, the prime factor for confidence, creates a space for what D.W.Winnicott has called 'id experience' - the free energy of desire undermining the 'general social knowledge' by means of an excursivity that becomes an unmappable group articulation that to some degree makes identity redundant, reveals authorship as proprietorial and hazily profiles culture as an intensive and plunderable webwork of free association and cathexis, a social production.
Such a situation elides with the pre-ontological status of the subject and it is no surprise the D.W.Winnicott speaks of this 'id experience' as being related to the child's capacity to be alone whilst being in the orbit of a parent: "The infant is able to become unintegrated, to flounder, to be in a state in which there is no orientation, to be able to exist for a time without being either a reactor to an external impingement or an active person with a direction of interest or movement" (42). Such a state, a polymorphous suspension of identity in favour of the free energy of desire, where agency and action is not suspended per se, is not a state that is surpassed during the 'maturational process', but is one that continues in changed form throughout our lives. It is one that offers the 'construction of situations' as a similarly negotiated rhythm between autonomy and dependence, between production and reproduction, between need and satisfaction, and which points to the benefits to be won by experimental groupings becoming conscious of their practice as one that is self-instituting.
11. The problem in not only sustaining such social relations but in recognising them in the first place is a problem that is bound to the current organisation of social relations under capitalism which, to keep it brief, take their impetus from the central role allotted to work and wage-labour in this society. At the most visible level these are relations, that, in varying degrees of complexity, take in everything from the exchange-relation of exploitation and interchangeability to the negation of desire in the figure of 'need-pleasure' to the organisation of time and space, as that which not only directs the means of expression into the narrowest of representational confines, but which even reifies sensual perception. Cornelius Castoriadis has theorised such a society as an heteronomous society, a society in which "individuals become what they are by absorbing and internalising institutions. This internalisation... is anything but superficial: modes of thought and of action, norms and values, and, ultimately the very identity of the individual as a social being all depend on it" (43). For Castoriadis, society is an ensemble of institutions that 'cover over' the fundamental fact that they have themselves been socially created. In thereby imputing an 'extrasocial' dimension to their creation, institutions not only become reified and transcendent, but institute social relations that are themselves heteronomous; social relations that are indicative of what Castoriadis describes as a 'unitary ontology' - heteronomy as the conditioning factor of identity, as a mode of being inscribed in the social fabric, becomes internalised: "the rigid structure of the institution and the disguising of the radical, instituting social imaginary corresponds to the rigidity of the socially fabricated individual and the repression of the psyche's radical imagination" (44). In adding a further layer to the work of Marx, Castoriadis is suggesting that not only is a creative living labour alienated from the worker in the product, but the creative activity of self-institution, of seeing institutions as social organs that can be modified and transformed, is itself similarly subject to an alienation. As creativity, the 'psyche's radical imagination', the desiring-production of becoming, is harnessed by these institutions in the reproductive work of 'covering over' the creativity that is, in the final analysis, not just overdetermined by the wage-relation (entrepreneurship), but which is fed back into the endlessly self-defeating loop of individuality (identity). In other words institutions from government offices to universities to museums and art galleries are engaged in the reproduction of social relations, but this reproduction itself requires 'living labour', the 'labour of signification' to effect this.
In this light the 'construction of situations' can be seen as an attempt to self-institute, to work towards creating institutions that are not only creative of new social relations, but capable of recognising and sustaining them. Just as Castoriadis develops the idea that we cannot escape from institutions, that the social is a fabric of institutions, so too the Situationists appear to have followed their interest in the 'construction of situations' towards that form of working class self-organisation known as the 'soviet' or 'worker's council'. In this both seem to be suggesting that in order to escape from the pitfalls of a creativity always reified as 'individual' then the first step towards a general creativity, a revolutionary creativity of the social field, is to create autonomous institutions through which new social relations informed by desire and becoming can come into a mutually recognised existence as social entities. For both this depends for its efficacy upon the continued relevance of 'internalisation': "So the first object of a politics of autonomy... [is] ... to help the collectivity to create institutions that, when internalised by individuals, will not limit but rather enlarge their capacity for becoming autonomous" (45). This problem of internalisation, mastered by the advertising industry, takes us back to the struggle for the means of expression, for, in order to both combat internalisation and to harness it, it is a matter of coming to communicate the incommunicable, to finding not just the words but the space, the collectivity in which to speak. In this sense, then, for such social organs as situations to function effectively in the production of subjectivity, they must bring the unconscious into a closer relationship with the conscious; not so much in the manner of Maoist confessionals that seek to absolve middle-class people from their non-proletarian status, but in terms of a breaking down of the ontology of knowledge/power and its replacement in a basis of meconaissance. As Situationist Uwe Lausen said "We are not against conditioning... our own appropriation of the factors of our conditioning is the only possibility that exists for the liberation of our imprisoned dreams. Only then can we explore the domains that we have only previously sensed" (46).
Internalisation, then, is a fact of life. A 'modular subjectivity' is formed by such perceptive precipitates as identification, transference, projection and introjection which all ensure that there is a continual negotiation of contradictions, a continual becoming, that requires such social organs as situations to both recognise such internalisation and work with it. The hazards of drawing back from such a confrontation is that the social relations associated with a capitalist production of subjectivity (as individuality, identity, as 'need-pleasure') are prone to reappear; not just the predominance of knowledge/power, but a mindset, often accompanying it, that takes an opposition to capitalism to an extreme of alienation that can end up with 'self-slaughter'. Henri Lefebvre has drawn attention to this aspect as a "conflict between the 'lived without-concept' and the 'concept-without-Life"' (47) wherein the pursuit of 'theoretical coherence' comes to effect a fleeing from the contradictions of practice and posits a mode of communication that is individualist in the extreme ('an absolute uniqueness that confronts the world'). This latter is perhaps the out come of a 'produced subjectivity' that, foregoing the unconscious dimension of meconaissance, is thus alienated from the production of its own subjectivity as a continuous becoming. This is what the situation as a transitional space, a space for contradiction, should aim to combat through its communication of the incommunicable, the entry of the inadmissible. Neither on the inside nor the outside, neither individual or mass, right or wrong, those participating "will find themselves 'in and stimulated by the situation consciously at last to recreate it within and without as their own" (48). The situation as a space for emotional solidarity too.
12. The Situationist move from the construction of situations to the workers councils has continuity in the sense that both are social organs concerned with the production of subjectivity. However, such continuity has a further ramification when we ask for what purpose do we want to produce our own subjectivity? The undoubted answer is that to take control of our own production of subjectivity is to come face to face with a capitalism that attempts to produce us in order to 'enact' us, to reproduce us in order to become the personifications of capitalism, the agents of its process, the bearer of its 'needs' (Marx: "the wage worker... is himself an independent centre of circulation"). This is the extent of the capitalist creation of the social terrain: circulation becomes a site of living labour, a 'labour of signification'. As a relation between us it not only seeks to open new markets, extending these to the valorisation of 'social imaginary significations', it seeks to valorise the 'between', the social relations, the span and modulation of life and associate these with a wage-labour made pleasurable. As a bio-politics it will stop at nothing less than our desire, the circulation of 'vital forces' - the very process of our becoming and the surplus energies it entails are being brought into the valorisation process by being grafted onto that wage-relation established as vocational work and in selling back our social relationships as the commodified 'idea' of those relationships (c.f. Baudrillard). In line with this what passes for public space is being eroded and the sphere of politics, a by-word for corruption and graft, has been 'deactualised'. Democracy, the illusion of an 'ideal order', the mediative mechanism between people and a state in which their potential power is accumulated, is nothing short of a sham that, in fulfilling its pseudo-representative function, professionalises politics, executes managerial decisions, oversees the reproduction of social relations and alienates the will-to-act in heteronomous institutions riddled with procedures, protocols and delays
In the light of such a "deficit of the political" (49) the public sphere, where it is said to exist, becomes the domain of public intellectuals who, like politicians, only represent to us the image of our own power as the pleasure to be taken in self-recognition. But praxis is not always pleasurable and the 'construction of situations' returns today as the social organ necessary not only to carrying out an 'institutional analysis' and to protecting fledgling socialisation from valorisation, but to unify the occasion of our desires in their diversity. Furthermore, situations, like the workers councils before them, could be developed to the extent that they become charged with rebuilding the public sphere as a practice of popular democracy that aims at the production of subjectivity (becoming) rather than at the representation of citizen-subjects (being): "Experiments in nonrepresentative democracy could at this point be more ambitiously undertaken, based not on an aggregate of voluntary social pacts (the political equivalents of the centrality of labour, the representation of the social nexus in voting and in money), but on forms-of-life that incorporate what Marx calls the 'general intellect"' (50). In a similar vein Toni Negri has taken up again the notion of the soviet with his phrase the 'soviets of mass intellectuality'. Like Illuminati and others, Negri takes his bearing from the thesis of the 'general intellect' and offers the hope that such soviets could institute "outside of the state, a mechanism within which a democracy of the everyday can organise active communication... and at the same time produce increasingly free and complex subjectivities" (51). This is particularly close to the excursive discussion of the situation that is being offered in this text, but yet it also points to the problems that the 'construction of situations' as hereto encountered. On a basic level the situation is so wedded to the theories of the Situationist International that, as a power/knowledge encased within texts and exegesis, it has become mystified as a practice that can be reinvented and reused. No one feels that they know how to construct an 'authentic' situation. This has its parallel with Negri's 'soviets of mass intellectuality' in that, as hinted at above, the 'general intellect' is still indicative of a relationship to knowledge that, as, say, 'common sense', is the source of a power that is exchanged for maintaining the status quo. As an economy of knowledge takes hold, value is not just allotted to the content of that knowledge, but to the manner and ramifications of its wielding. In other words knowledge per se does not give rise to becoming and it can, on the contrary, serve well and be well paid in the reproduction of social relations that, say, in the instances of a writer, make that individual author a substitute, a representative, of a wider culture, a burgeoning way of becoming. Against this the situation makes clear, as more than one has already said, that 'when no heed is paid to the relations that inhere in social facts, knowledge misses its target'.
Giorgio Agamben has pointed us a little in the direction of such criticism when he urged us to distinguish between "the mere, massive inscription of social knowledge into the productive process and intellectuality as antagonistic power and form-of-life" (52). Intellectuality can become antagonistic not when it is pleasurably, yet servilely, demonstrating its aptitude, but when it knows itself as part of a wider praxis, when it can cohere with and be informed by other desires, when it is in rhythm with affect In other words when it seeks to be used to bring about new social relations. Whilst it is highly tempting and a useful rhetorical device to substitute 'intellectuality' for 'labour power' and arrive once more at soviets it may well be that a different tenor is established by a situation. Instead of being reduced once more to the sociality of wage-labour is it not that a situation's approach towards "new affective formulations", its self-institutional move towards regaining control over its own mode of association, is tantamount to creating a social relation more in keeping with our liberation from wage-labour and its exploitative offshoots that Baudrillard has identified? That the Situationists were intent on leaving behind their avant-garde status and on joining-in with an 'authentic' working class struggle perhaps points to an historic reason why the situation was never fully formulated as a revolutionary social organ in itself, or, rather, why it has remained at the level of a poetic foresight that no one Situationist penned and is beginning to be taken up again (53). For, whereas the soviet form has fallen foul of the re-composition (diversification) of the working class, the situation - with its emphasis upon internalisation, desire and affect, with its attraction to psychoanalysis and the production of subjectivity, with its communicative balance of singularities spurred on by the enigma of each's poetry and with its being drawn towards a re-creation of social space through 'unitary urbanism' - the situation seems to be well placed to meet the challenge of a capitalism that has long issued its intent to fight at the bio-political level, at those very subjective levels of desire and expression, of the individual and the group, that avant-garde currents such as the Situationist International had been exploring. Crucial here is that whereas the industrial working class were not, on the whole, in control of their own association in the factory - "Their combination is not their being but the being of capital" (54) - avant-garde currents, on the otherhand, have offered this 'combination' as the material of their work, as a process of becoming shared by affinities.
And so the Situationist project, criticised by Jean Barrot as the "extension of the construction of intersubjective situations to the whole of society" (55), has left us with much food for thought. The 'construction of situations', understandably left behind in the wake of enthusiasm for detournement, psycho-geography and left-communism, overshadowed as an organisational form by the necessary allure of the revolutionary workers movement, could well lead to forums that attempt to make knowledge passionate again and thus put the incommunicable, the inadmissible back into circulation. They may once again be the laboratories of new social relations, organs for the reappropriation of affective labour, the site of non spectacular audiences, intimacies where discourse-objects melt into excursivity and improvisation, where differences aren't instituted into commodities, where meconaissance leads to closer ties rather than exclusions. They could be the beginnings of a nonrepresentative democracy. If this is an extension of 'intersubjective relations' then so be it. The last words should be left to Guy Debord: "Such a resumption of radicality naturally also requires a considerable deepening of all the old attempts at liberation. Seeing how those attempts failed due to isolation, or were converted into total frauds, enables one to get a better grasp of the coherence of the world that needs to be changed. In the light of this recovered coherence, many of the partial explorations of the recent past can be salvaged and brought to their true fulfilment..."(56).
89 Vernon Road, London, E15 4DQ
October - July 2001
1. Karl Marx: Grundrisse, Pelican 1972, p705. Marx goes on to say that the reappropriation of this 'general productive power', a power alienated to the capitalist under the conditions of wage labour, is a vital part of the "development of the social individual".
2. Asger Jorn: Critique of Economic Policy (1960), Transgressions No.4 1998, p18.
3. Karl Marx, ibid, p706. Paolo Virno theorises this as 'general intellect'. See his contributions to Radical Thought In Italy: A Potential Politics, University of Minnesota, 1996.
4. Karl Marx, ibid, p693.
5. Toni Negri: Revolution Retrieved (1968-1983), Red Notes 1989, p223.
6. Alexander Trocchi: A Revolutionary Proposal, City Lights Journal 1964, p21. Reprinted in Invisible Insurrection Of A Million Minds (ed) Andrew M.Scott, Polygon 1991.
7. Toni Negri, ibid, p190. Jean Baudrillard expressed this 'cultural dimension of command' as the "labour of signification" and the "labour of need": For Baudrillard our consumption of products, itself reproductive of social relations, bares the traces of other unpaid-for labours: the labour of assigning value to products by allotting them differences (advertising, record reviews, art criticism etc.) and the labour of needs whereby, in reputedly satisfying the basic human needs such as hunger, commodity production goes on to create new needs which take on the aura of an indisputable naturality. See Jean Baudrillard: For A Critique Of The Political Economy Of The Sign, Telos 1981, Chapter 3.
8. Asger Jorn, ibid, p25.
9. ibid, p21.
10. Asger Jorn: Guy Debord And The Problem Of The Accursed. Preface to Debord's Contre Le Cinema (1964), translated by Roxanne Lapidus and taken from the Not Bored website (www.not bored.org).
11. Karl Marx, ibid, p488.
12. Constant Nieuwenhuys: Inaugural Report To The Munich Conference 1959. See Mark Wigley:
Constant's New Babylon, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam 1998, p101.
13. Alexander Trocchi, ibid, p34.
14. Georges Bataille: Inner Experience, SUNY 1988, p55. For our purposes we could here substitute authority for power and offer that such power is always on loan; it is always constantly subject to appraisal and re-appraisal. Hence the 'servitude' BatailIe speaks of.
15. Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology and Social' Philosophy ed. T.B.Bottomore and Maximilien Rubel, Pelican 1969, p254. Sourced to The German Ideology (1846).
16. Alexander Trocchi: Sigma Portfolio No.5 - General Informations (1964) in Break/Flow No.1.
17. Guy Debord: On The Passage (1959) in Situationist International Anthology ed.Ken Knabb, Bureau Of Public Secrets 1981, p31. (http://www.slip-net/~knabb)
18. Henri Lefebvre: The Production Of Space, Blackwell 1999, p177.
19. Guy Debord: Preliminary Problems In Constructing A Situation (1958), ibid, p43. The means of expression is alluded to by the Situationists in terms of unmediated communication. See Jorn above and also Debord's Theses On The Cultural Revolution in Intemationale Situationniste No.1,1958: "One must lead all forms of pseudocommunication to their utter destruction, to arrive one day at real and direct communication (in our working hypothesis of higher cultural means: the constructed situation)". Translated by John Shepley and taken from the Not Bored website.
21. Alexander Trocchi, ibid.
22. Guy Debord: Report On The Construction Of Situations (1957), ibid, p25.
23. Guy Debord, ibid.
24. D.W.Winnicott: Playing And Reality (1971), Routledge 1991, p98.
25. Bruce Andrews: Paradise & Method - Poetics and Praxis, Northwestern University Press, 1996, p89.
26. Guy Debord: Preliminary Problems In Constructing A Situation, ibid. In an 1960 essay entitled Constant And The Path Of Unitary Urbanism, Debord had further cause to speak of desire: "We must not restrict the scope of our desires to the already-seen which coaxes us back emotionally, thus letting our generally difficult and incomplete approach to the known desires contribute to their further embellishment". See Mark Wigley, ibid, p95.
27. Alexander Trocchi: A RevoIutionary Proposal, ibid, p34.
28. Raoul Vaneigem: Basic Banalities (1963) in Situationist International Anthology, ibid, p133. The Achilles Heel of the Situationist project can be seen in the way that, following the 'discourse object' route of 'theoretical coherence', announced by the 1962 expulsion of the artists, the Situationists unwittingly removed contradiction and 'variability' from their practice and instaurated what Baudrillard has referred to as an "ideological model of socialisation". See Harvard Medista: Divided We Stand, Infopool No.4, 2001(www.infopool.org.uk).
29. Jacques Lacan: The Partial Drive And Its Circuit (1964) in Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Penguin 1994, p185. Using Baudrillard's schema this could also be read as another indication of how desire is in symbiosis with capital: signs proliferate, desire is caught.
30. In a lecture held at the Stedelijk Museum in December 1960 Constant described unitary urbanism as "the objectification of the creative urge, the collectivization of the art work". See Mark Wigley, ibid, p132.
31. Antonin Artaud: The Theatre And Its Double (1933), Calder 1993, p81-82.
32. ibid, p66. As is the case with the Situationists, Artaud too appears to be predicting this expansion of capitalism towards the social factory, towards the valorisation of social relations. Thus, perhaps, art now serves this 'futures' function for capitalism, a means of forecasting social desires that, as 'needs', can be thus provided for by the market. Another instance of the 'labour of needs'?
33. ibid, p71.
34. ibid, p80.
35. ibid, p70.
36. On this see Jacques Attali: Noise (1975), Manchester University Press, 1985. Attali, working with Marx's idea of "really free working, e.g. composition" (Grundrisse p611), but discussing 'composition' in terms more indicative of improvisation, comes close to describing the import of the construction of situations': "Beyond the rupture of the economic conditions of music, composition is revealed as the demand for the truly different system of organisation, a network within which a different kind of music and different social relations can arise. A music produced by each individual for himself, for pleasure outside of meaning, usage and exchange". Attali, ibid, p137. The problems in Attali's approach stem from the status of this 'individual pleasure' (referred to bluntly as "egoistic enjoyment", ibid p145) as well as his insistence that 'composition' remain a solely musical model: "We can explore these different forms of organisation [of music] much more easily... than we can explore different ways of organising reality." See The Wire No.209, July 2001.
37. Alexander Trocchi, ibid, p29.
38. Debord, ibid, p43.
39. Felix Guattari: Chaosmosis -An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, Power Institute 1996, p120.
40. Kaja Silverman interviewed by Martina Pachmanova: The World Wants Your Desire in N.Paradoxa Vol.6, p8. Guattari's theory of modular subjectivity would have it that we are 'subjects at the level of affect'
41. Guy Debord: Report on the Construction of Situations, ibid. As with Attali, the status of the 'individual' within the situationist project is fraught with hazards. See Harvard Medista, ibid.
42. D.W.Winnicott: The Maturational Process And The Facilitating Environment, Hogarth 1985, p34.
43. Cornelius Castoriadis: World In Fragments, Stanford University Press 1996, p133. It could be added that such internalisation is creative of 'identity' rather than desire. See Note 40.
44. ibid, p132. Baudrillard would counter that this 'radical imagination' is not repressed but brought into play as the 'labour of signification'.
45. ibid, p134.
46. Uwe Lausen: Repetition And Novelty In The Constructed Situation- Internationale Situationniste No.8 (January 1963). Translated by Reuben Keehan and taken from the Situationist International Online website (http://members.optsunet.com.au/~rkeehan/)
47. Henri Lefebvre: The Survival Of Capitalism (1973), Allison & Busby 1976, p19. There have been several situationist suicides: Heimrad Prem, Uwe Lausen, Guy Debord.
48. Alexander Trocchi, ibid, p16.
49. See Antonio Negri & Michael Hardt: Empire, Harvard 2000, p188. Negri and Hardt are very clear about the pitfalls of representative democracy and their genealogy of sovereignty highlights, in summation, a chain of political representation into which our powers are alienated: "The people representing the multitude, the nation representing the people and the state representing the nation". See p134.
50. Augusto Illuminati: Unrepresentable Citizenship in Radical Thought In Italy, ed Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, ibid p183.4.
51. Toni Negri: Constituent Republic, ibid, p221.
52. Giorgio Agamben: Form-Of-Life, ibid, p155.
53. Lefebvre attributes the 'situation' to Constant (See interview with Kirsten Ross in October No.79 1997). Jorn to Kierkegaard (See Situationist Times No.5,1965). Art historians to Alan Kaprow. But there is always Sartre. The paragraph on Artaud may be indicative that 'the situation' was always 'in the culture'. At the 1970 Situationist Delegates conference in Trier, J.V.Martin, a Scandinavian member, pyromaniac and painter, asked what had become of our "best weapon, i.e. construction of situations". See Report From The Delegates Conference Held in Wolsfeld and Trier on the Debordiana website.
54. Karl Marx: Grundrisse, ibid, p585. Marx adds: "The individual worker relates to his own combination and co-operation with other workers as alien, as modes of capital's effectiveness."
55. Jean Barrot: What Is Situationism (1979), Unpopular Books 1987, p20. The problem of individualism within the SI can cast Barrot's criticism in a different light i.e. what inter subjectivity? This has been taken up elsewhere: See Harvard Medista, ibid.
56. Guy Debord: The Situationists And The New Forms Of Action In Politics And Art (1963). Translated by Ken Knabb and taken from the Not Bored website.
Acknowledgements: Research carried out from Wellbrow to Laessoesgade. Layout and design by Ian Burn Appreciation Society @ Salon/ Soviet Cover image adapted from Grafika VI by Dubravko Detoni - see Paradigm Discs 11.
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