A-Signifying Semiotics

The third category is a-signifying semiotics. There is a circular connection, skirting around signifying semiologies, between form and matter, but without leaving – unlike a-semiotic encodings – the expression and content planes. It is this circularity which allows asignifying semiotics to remain independent of, and in a non-hierarchical relation with, signifying semiologies and language. Guattari specified that a-signifying semiotics retain a partial use for signifying semiologies. The polysemiotic connections established between the abstract machines (form) and material intensities escape the overcoding functions of signifying semiological systems (they are not arbitrarily related, as I pointed out above). But neither are they completely deterritorialized nor reterritorialized. Consider an example from linguistics such as idioms. Idioms jump over denotation and form assemblages by grouping existing words together, giving them new connotations. Idioms even focus on what are called `prone words’ (such as, in English, ‘take’ and ‘get’ – ‘take off, eh’; ‘get real’) and hijack them. The a-signifying semiotic potential of idiom formation is constantly threatened by paranoiac recodings of signifying semiologies (respectable academic grammar – grammar is imperative: ‘The formation of grammatically correct phrases constitutes, for a “normal” individual, the preliminary step in a complete submission to the laws’ (IM 29) which want to reduce them to a single proper, formal, substance. A-signifying semiotics leave behind significative redundancies for the production of non-redundant, even improbable, and original conjunctions of signs and material fluxes. Such conjunctions between semiotic and real material machines, which create a-signifying collective assemblages, do not imply that the semiotic machines are less real than the material machines, nor that the material machines are less semiotic. // On the contrary, they share these attributes. The question of the conjunction between signs and fluxes, between abstract machines and material intensities, between form and matter, are all unmediated by representation; they are, in other words, in constant and direct contact (Bosteel’s ‘flush’ also indicates Guattari’s rejection of Saussure’s sense of language as a link or a bridge between two masses). There is no recourse to representative structures. Guattari described the shift from signifying semiologies to a-signifying semiotics in terms of the de­localization, de-privatization, anoedipalization of the individuated subject of enunciation to a collective assemblage of enunciation. He correlated the individual with signification and the collective with machinic assemblages, adding that the signifier plus the signified and form plus substance equalled signification (individuation of phantasms belonging to subjugated groups) and that collective assemblages of enunciation consisting of conjunctions of abstract machines and material fluxes belonged to the phantasms of subject groups. Guattari then enumerated dialectically negative and positive attributes of the individual—collective relation: signification involves self-reference and thus the rupture of machinic conjunctions, whereas collective assemblages may give up comprehension, being in some instance without signification for anyone, for the sake of creating meaning directly from the fluxes (MRr 260). Signification thus has no machinic meaning because of the absence of conjunctions with the real fluxes. The collective assemblages composed by creative machinic connections of semiotic and material fluxes cannot be individuated, having left the field of representation. A-signifying semiotic machines free desiring production, the singulari­ties of desire, from the signifiers of national, familial, personal, racial, humanist, and transcendent values (including the semiotic myth of a return to nature, to the pre-signifying world of a-semiotic encodings); in short, desiring production is freed from all ‘territorializing aliena­tions’ and set coordinates (MRr 263); elsewhere, Guattari described how ‘signifying formations of power, in order to maintain their positions, seem forced to submit to a sort of permanent escalation of adaptation and recuperation of a-signifying machinisms’ (IM 103- 4).This freedom must not be exaggerated. Signifying semiologies are only tools to be employed in the semiotics of schizoanalytic practice in and outside of radicalized (transversalized) institutions. Mixed semiotics // has the task of ‘furthering the formation of relatively autonomous and untranslatable semiotic substances, by accommodating the sense and non-sense of desire as they are, by not attempting to adapt the modes of subjectification to signification and to dominant social laws. Its objective is not at all to recuperate facts and acts that are outside the norm; on the contrary, it is to make a place for the singularity traits of subjects who, for one reason or another, escape the common law’ (MRr 284). For Guattari, this was the task of a genuine analytic practice that involved respect for singularities. One of the important elements of this practice was the recognition that the subject in contact with desiring machines in a-signifying semiotics oscillates between reterritorializations on signification and deterritorializations into new machinic conjunctions. This oscillation helps to explain why signifying semiologies still have a role to play. Guattari’s semiotics was always, it needs to be emphasized, mixed. — Gary Genosko, “Felix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction” pp – 169-171, orig. ital. [// = page break]

I have been getting into this book since it arrived a couple of days ago. I have another draft post relating to some comments in the introduction regarding football(!), but I thought I had better read the rest first. However, this little extract was too good not to post (in conjunction with my previous Deleuze — singularities quote/post).