visionism 3/ the art of deviance

a submission to language's public character(s), its we of I, I of we without which no chimerical secrecy could obtain. despite occasional claims to the contrary, neo-modernism has always privileged the normalizing force of communication, its energies transmitted via customary patterns. playacting otherwise merely a luxury for the pampered classes. how many black american artists, for example, find solace in formalist gaming? suffering requires familiar signposts so to locate so to rip out its own throat

of course there come arguments. e.g., two forms of discourse, each with a singular function. prose interrogations must involve a degree of comfort, of the habitual, for the purpose of convincing the reader to exercise new options. what more persuasive tool to provoke comprehension than the affable syntax of speech? distinct from poetry whose function, as art, is to create and recreate, to embody alternate methods of reading, of perceiving

well, either one has conviction in one's faith, or doesn't. problem here involves what by now should appear a critical commonplace, i.e., a severe distinction between speech and writing--in this case, the privileging of the visual mark (new options) over voice (the habitual)

and made stickier by antagonisms toward lyrical and narrative forms. after all, if the lyric, as some claim, promotes an oppressive conformity within its own politics of individualism, and if such subjugation issues from a methodological replication of speech structures, then much neo-modernist poetry and prose criticism (not to mention the accusation itself) is clearly guilty of the same sin. no surprise that each effort to disrupt political/commercial control of language patterns memorializes said structures in order to mean as disruption, as rebellion. plainly, to deviate seems merely to reinforce the common hegemony. the "tyranny" of rhetoric--whether political, commercial, broadly cultural, or a combination of pressures--recreated both by and as the disruptive gesture. before we bet the ranch on yet another art for art's sake "movement," we should keep in mind that the most ruthless tyrannies have always come clothed as beggars. eliot's insistence on the absolute division of art and event was, after all, intended to sustain an aristocracy

at the risk of beating an old mule, I repeat that any distinction between speech and writing is at best provisional. in order to make meaning, both avenues must obey syntactical traffic signals that, tree-like, sprout, and recreate themselves, over time. it may be argued forcefully that speech, oral traditions, the transmission of myths represent language's grandest achievement, its very best writing, i.e., the story of self-creativity. nevertheless any hierocratic invective traces its own risks since speech, story, myth--however useful, fulfilling, necessary and inevitable--are stylized romances both effecting meaning and re presenting it. freedom from the rhetorical control of power brokers no doubt a audable goal--admirably championed by many poets--but can one avoid providing the enemy ammunition in the process

obviously not. rebellion is always (and forever) an exposition of dependence. each tearing-down simultaneously a strengthening, a reconstruction, a revelation of the eternal accorded the corpse by its killer. the centrality of deviance

also rather obvious--in case anyone's missed it--is that the normative structure expresses and promotes the destructive act. nothing more perverse than convention, as it turns out. how can this be? it cannot be otherwise. symbols, like light and dark energies, begin in dispersal. in the beginning was separation, the individual, the self. and the parts, we know, find their identities in relation to one another. an artist may attempt to surgically remove this or that appendage from the body of interrogation, in order to control the experiment, to limit separation, to "discover" what new perceptions obtain when the field of possible interactions is reduced. but this cannot hold. what is seemingly concealed inevitably charges back, reinforced and reinvigorated. it is as if the universe's natural and organic veering, the "conventional wisdom" hard wired into human symbols, reasserts its centrality in its endless coopting of the rebellion, of any and every effort to limit its dispersal, its desire to de-center, to deviate. those artists who happily proclaim the death of the messy self/subject (are we talking serious control freaks here?) offer a potentially dehumanizing and undemocratic aesthetic, wholesale an assault on language which is the structure of self. after all, language depends on what it has made for its own identity, for its very existence. there can be no language without the self, no self without language. put another way, there goes the ballgame

but to re-weave a perhaps neglected thread, when I argue the beginning as dispersal, it should be clear that the beginning as some-thing, or even the one thing, can never be accessed beyond our own mediation of it. we are always removed from that which remains utterly other. yet this process of never quite containing the divergent and diverging is also a beginning, the experience we define and occupy, the lives we live. noun vs. verb. fixity vs. process. though all comparisons, bound by language and life, inevitably fall short of completion. if they didn't, we'd all be dead

of course one may ignore all this and simply chug merrily on as a self styled radical. these days image is everything. despite so many agitated claims for artistic integrity, for anti-establishment gestures, for avant-garde explosions, the rebels most often conduct their "careers" not from mountain caves and forests, but well within the coopting power of political/commercial interests. they become famous for being radicals. they are indeed prized for pointing out, again and again, who the boss really is. they take their seats alongside the brokering hordes

we should accept that certain ironies are inevitable, that revolution is rarely, if ever, very revolutionary. the more severe such gestures seem, the more they define, shape and profit the establishment

so it's hopeless, right? well, maybe not. visionism, as I have claimed elsewhere, is not an aesthetic movement, or school, or gathering of militant dropouts--visionists may, coincidentally, occupy all or none of these territories. it is, rather, merely a comprehension. of what? of the scattering this way and that. of the widest possible range of creative forces which dominate human history and art. of the absolute nothing we are all live to escape, and which escapes us. an engagement with the morass of human experience. ergo, any artistic venture whose methodology pronounces the impossible isolation of intellect from emotion falls without visionism, and likely on the wrong side of significant literary history. nothing particularly wicked in this, especially since pivotal art finds its identity in its contrary. true we live in an age of specialists and specialization, and fixed divisions, well suited to the marketplace of capitalism, dominate one or more artistic avenues. but art is a very different sort of commerce, or should be. the more variance obtains, the more the centrality of deviance is celebrated. and that means dispersal as inclusion. and that means taking on as much as language and talent will allow. and I'm afraid that means lyric and narrative also--respected and continually recreated--as the story of our lives, our fracturing, our insane selves

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