I would even say that this infection of the human which contaminates ideas that should have remained divine, far from believing that man invented the supernatural and the divine, I think it is man’s age old intervention which has ultimately corrupted the divine within him. Artaud (1938)
We like the writings of mad poets. We like how their words are made to go about naked of all nuance. There is no pausing in their stark usage, except perhaps, only a slight hesitation where they gather their resources and push on so as to achieve an even starker formulation.
We are grateful to the mad poet because he extracts simple and absolute forms from that which we had previously considered to be a tangle of complication.
We do not seek meaning in the mad poets’ writings, we know that their intent is meaningless, beyond even themselves. Even so, we are drawn to them, and perhaps the reason for our attraction is because of this state of consciousness that they achieve outside of meaning.
Where meaning is absent, patterns of perceptible points become apparent in the scene. The pattern of points replaces the procedures of meaning and organises a different level of response. These points are the intense features of the scene, they are immediately recognised by the poets.
Landmarks, as topographic points of intensity, will draw attention the moment meaning is suspended. They are visited and revisited as if they had been forgotten, they are compulsively returned to, rediscovered and reinvested in. They attract, over time, reinvented rituals and reinterpretations of the rituals. In the movement between these constant points there is described a territory, there is demonstrated a pattern.
It is not meaning that we find compelling in the mad poets’ words so much as a pattern of engagement in the world. Their writings uncover the basic forms of perception which we all use but from which most of us derive too complex and apparently formless meanings.
The simple shadows cast by Artaud’s words are similar in effect to those that neolithic structures make upon the landscape. The shapes thrown are basic, rudimentary, primitive and therefore eternal, generative, irreducible.
We find the found forms in the mad poets’ works, in the pattern described by their works. And in their works they found the forms they found within themselves. In their works, the stone circles and the poetic injunctions, we find what they found in them.
They found the found forms, and in them, we too find the found forms. They arrived at the patterns inherent to speech and to structure from which they set out when making speech, and making structure.
And we arrive back where they started before their works and find again in them the forms and patterns which we too must set out from. The circle, the excavation, the erection, the line.
We do not find meaning in patterns, we only find pattern. It's all a recording. It is because we have pattern that we will later fall into meaning. It's all a tape. We return to the world those forms which we make and with which we are already saturated.
We repeat the patterns in the world which we find within ourselves so that we might then recognise these forms and know ourselves through them.
We recognise the forms so we recognise ourselves through the forms. External construction of patterns in the world permits our further engagement in the world.
From realisation of the first pattern we derive a second pattern that we are then impelled to realise. The second pattern becomes the territory from which we may return to the first pattern or venture towards a third.
Journeys, pilgrimages, compulsive returns, from and to topographical features are driven by the inherent meaninglessness of pattern. The world of pattern is all landmark and no referent. We are drawn by structure, by shape. We are repulsed by structure, by shape.
For us, there is no ‘angry god’ in the volcanoes. There is no tempter in the desert. There is no serpent in the orchard. There is no intelligence in the depths, no affect in the sky. Meaning is a reading of a world that begins from estrangement.
Wherever we are denied the topographical (or geometric) element of our existence, we create meaning. Where we are denied the mountain, we cower before an angry god. Where we are denied the desert, we encounter an agency of temptation. And so on.
Meaning refers only to denied territories and forbidden patterns. We produce meaning as compensation for exclusion. The tendency to fall into meaning, and out of pattern, is a constant of aggregating consciousness (even if it is a process that may also be disrupted).
We re-enter a forbidden place by our recalling it in our memories. We return to it ‘in our dreams’, in our evocations, by our conjuring up of its features in our mind’s eye. Don Genaro returns eternally to the mountain he will never return to, and which he has never left.
We combine a territory’s memory-suffused structures with the processes of our consciousness and thereby change it for ourselves. As we pass from a register of pattern to one of meaning, we transform the territory, through remembrance, into our map of its features which then, in turn, come to symbolise our exclusion from it.
Meaning is always the subjective reproduction of a vestigial territory, as an ideal of consciousness, at the point those recalling it become aware they are categorically denied access to its interior.
Our later returns no longer arrive at topographical patterns but are driven by an impulse to find the locus for a trace of our selves. We desire our own tethering, becoming our own scapegoat, to the meaning, to the tradition, which we are certain is a designated site, a point of origin or entry, that we have ideally located somewhere in the wilderness. We listlessly traipse between the stations of the poets.
It is from the organisational principles of pattern that we learn how only found objects may be found. Lost objects will not be found as they belong to the domain of meaning, which is also the domain of loss.
Lost objects resist finding. The function of meaning is to relinquish lost objects which only exist in order to be relinquished. And meaning is the perpetual compulsion to relinquish lost objects (which never degrade but bob insistently like a floating island on the sea of meaning).
Pattern is contingent, accidental, fleeting. The found objects of the domain of pattern, even as a structural (constituitive) call and response between an exterior and interior, do not necessarily persist (the patterning of patterns which is determined by a given redundancy is not necessarily always there).
A church tower at dusk is a lost object, suffused with meaning, functioning as the output of an unprocessable defeat. It is all a recording. The breeze through a field of barley is a pattern, a found object found. It is all a fake. And only what is found, because it is completed, may be completely erased.
There must be found objects out there before we may find things. There must be lost objects in here before we may lose things. This is the basis of all the possibility, and potentiality, of all reproduction.
Just as 'Christianity' was operational before there was Christianity (a problem set in Purgatory by 'Dante' to 'Virgil'), and just as there was 'capitalism' before there was capitalism, and just as there has to be 'communism' before there may be communism, so the rules of every domain are set as a practical return along pre-existing pathways to recognisable features.
No domain will survive if it is dependent upon willed collective activity alone. All elective relations, stripped of compulsive reference, and thus structured redundancy, will be found lacking in reality - a chronic affliction of all radical and schismatic experiments.
It is only through derangement, our own and that of others, that we may again recognise our proclivity for marking out meaningless patterns. Amongst the lapses of memory, the slips of meaning, we again make out the rippling echoing forms.
For a moment, we find again the found forms that we have carved into the external world and which are carved into us. But already too late, and even as we try not to remember them, the patterns laying over patterns, we begin again to employ them as the means by which we will appropriate ourselves, and ourselves in the world.
*Originally published in 'Species Being and Other Stories' (2007)