Signifier Surfing – or putting a surfboard to the S1 S1 S1 waves

Filed under:Signifier Surfing — posted by Schizostroller on March 18, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

So I’ve been reading Lacan’s psychoses, I’m also currently reading Foucault’s The Order of Things, I’ve finished Merlin Coverley’s Psychogeography and Rebecca Solnit’s Field Guide To Getting Lost. I’m reading Sue Gerhardt’s Love Matters, giving me a dose of Damasio’s ideas on the evolution of the emotional brain and how it compares favourably to Freud’s unconscious, or at least the size of it compared to the ‘ego’. As Nietzsche said, ‘Da Es’ speaks. And I’ve been sitting in on lectures (invited of course) on neuroscience and biochemistry. Marius Romme has written an article in Asylum magazine arguing that ‘voices are emotions’ how close he is yet how literally wrong. And I have attended a couple of workshops by Rufus May.

I’ve also been in a few positons that have made me feel so powerless, not just as a human , but in particular relations to discourses and institutions that have tested my already confused aware ego’s to deal with severely conflicting emotions. Not least when the good they do for me is immense yet I am aware that the powerlessness I feel is so necessary due to the current world condition yet so potentially unnecessary. Yet here I am in the world, here and now, and this is the way it is. And there was nothing I could do, or what i could do seemed so insignificant that, It seemed to be better to do something more powerful elsewhere.

And so my voices that come from my experience of those who vehemently defend the status quo, this is the way it is and there is nothing else you should do lest you break the law, have gained supreme ascendancy, thus making it hard to retain my autonomy. Or that which I am permitted and I have fought for. In the sense that you are permitted only that which you fight for, if you stop that too is taken away.

To the extent that I have felt powerless, my psychoses has from time to time entered Delphian proportions, although related to the Three Theban Plays, it is not so directly related to the taboo on incest, more the inability to escape the pronouncement of the Oracle at Delphi, in the sense that, again incest story aside, Oedipus feels that no matter how he tries to escape the prohecy, fate comes back at him, as if each futile attempt to tread one’s own path turns out to have been preordained. In the sense that otherwise it relates to Oedipus, considering Lacan’s fragmented body, I have felt far more akin to both Eteocles and Polynices fighting myself, failing to take on the might of the tyrant Creon,  having forsaken Oedipus to Antigone and Ismene, but within the same body.

In Coverley’s book on Psychogeography, depsite the criticisms levelled at it for taking a particularly measured or skewed view of psychogeography, I was taken by his suggestion that Pete Ackroyd, the mystically inclined, conservative London historian and biographer, saw an occult presence in the history of places, or the genius locii, stemming from an earlier Catholic history underlying the Protestant one dominant until (and this is scarily too quickly forgotten in what seems to be the general memory, lampooned so successfully in the BBC Quiz show QI’s General Ignorance round) relatively recently. Of course others may want to take this back earlier to pagan beliefs too. Of course as i mentioned I am currently reading Foucault’s Order Of Things and I find his argument for the changes in epistemic understandings of the sign far more convincing to explain this.

Recently I went to a lecture by the Marxist philospher Andrew Chitty where he was talking about the Fichtian understanding of alienation with respect to the meaning in the original German of Marx relating specifically to the fact that what is understood as alienation in English stems from two words in German: Entfremdung (estrangement), most often associated with alienation but also Entausserung (Externalisation). Afterwards I took to wondering where placing language in the symbolic whether Lacan was alienating language.

I also, whilst reading a general book on Semiotics realised that whilst i can relate to Lacan’s S1 S1 S1, which also relates to Foucault’s argument that Classical thought removed the study of the sign from the study of its meaning such that these connections would become psychotic, in the sense that what is required for the signifier surfing of the psychotic, required an understanding of the conventia, aemulatio, analogy, and sympathy of signs. So that at the moment that one encounters a difficulty in one’s emotional environment that refuses an ability to express them in more enlightenment approved language, often for reasons of trauma and failed learning,  one falls back on the past understandings of signs that at least in my part finally finds purchase in the sixteenth century, however in doing so one becomes estranged from one’s body, from which one’s emotions communicate to one’s cognition. In this sense one becomes externalised in one’s language, reality, that shared discourse, is not immediately available and one has to surf the signifiers until one finds a break that can allow one to calm enough to return from this general system to a more conducive meaning. This means in a hostile environment either vacating the scene to a palce of safety to allow one’s body to do it’s own thing and finally realx or at least pass out with exhaustion if this is not possible, it is acknowledge amongst mental health survivors if not mental health professionals that all psychoses are temporary, breaking the chain, often using body-cognitive techniques such as moving one’s right foot clockwise whilst simultaneously moving one’s right hand clockwise, or equivalentally tracing a triangle (for example) with one’s left hand and a square with one’s right, or more effectively connecting with another being who can recognise one’s uniqueness, acknowledge one, and return one to discourse. That whilst this connection may relate through Foucault’s archaeology of language and to Lacan’s understanding of signifier and signified that stems from Saussure, I experience this not least from my experience, and now that I have got to a stage in my recovery, that I get to a palce where I am signifier surfing from a language game that i can directly recognise as the double bind. This of course stems from Gregory Bateson, who along with Erving Goffman was influenced by Charles S Pierce. Now not only is this an Anglo Saxon tradition, albeit it American, it uses the English language. I have no idea what form these double binds may take in the French language but one thing worth noting re: Foucault’s archeology is that Pierce uses a triadic semiology in comparison to Saussure’s diadic. Analogous with Foucault’s analysis of a break in episteme in the sixteenth century.

However returning to psychogeography, leapfrogging Ackroyd, to perhaps the work of Iain Sinclair, Stewart Home or Rebecca Solnit, maybe with a homage to at least Blake, but using Debord merely as a French connection the English tradition, intentionally recognising the differences in English and French histories of madness most specifically to the contention of Roy Porter that Foucault’s ‘Great Confinement’ did not happen here, conterminous with the long parallel history of care in the community, coterminous with that of the asylum in English history now being excavated,  I now wonder whether the techniques of psychogeography may be useful as a tool in personal recovery.

However I may add to further confuse things that the history of psychogeography had also been heavily influenced by male writers, the American Rebecca Solnit aside, this is an interesting point to add and investigate in so far as the parallel history of care in the community has a long history wrapped up in the history of the family, not least that of women whose place in survivor history both as in her place as receiver of particular diagnoses from hysteria to borderline personality disorder so finely intertwined with the enforced subjugate positon of women in history, but also positively as activist in the movement. Not least too that the tradition amongst mental health professionals outside the psychiatric one historically stemming through the place of nurse and social worker, comes up though one of the midwife and healer, and persecuted witch. In turn, though bizarrely given his association with hysteria, or not so bizarrley, if one exorcises their unreflexive attitudes to the role of the father, Freud and Lacan, one can perhaps more speculatively see a history of knowledge, parallel to the male dominated one returning back metaphorically through Adam, Eve and, importantly, Lilith, and (ahem, speculating, if i may use a word so close to the word speculum, given what i am about to say) originary fertile matriarchal knowledge of creation that the phallic serpent, Lucifer, the bringer of knowledge, and son of the morning, also known as Venus (I have read Russell but am happily signifier surfing), gave to Adam that allowed him to name the animals and himself the father.

Which, returning again to Foucault, at the end of the Order of Things, when he suggests that perhaps one day the idea of man, the subject, will disappear like a face of the sand, perhaps before that, or in order to do that, we need to lose the idea of the father.

[Dedicated to my dear children]

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace