Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and the Fisher-Function

[A]t the limit of discursive thought experience tends not only toward the outside, toward death; it also tends toward contact with another, toward community. Indeed, so much that “[t]here cannot be inner experience without a community of those who live it.” Inner experience requires a community of lucky beings drawn together, bound together in their excessive movement, in their fall away from themselves. This, then, is “where” community is located: in the chance movement of insufficiency; in the openness that my being is in exceeding the requirements of homogenization, preservation, and justification—in the movement outside oneself, which falls in love, dies, laughs, cries, mourns, celebrates, suffers. [1]


0            Spectres of Mark’s

January 14th 2017

Saturday: one week into the second semester of the academic year at Goldsmiths, University of London. The library is busy. The days are still getting dark early and it has been raining heavily all week. I receive a push notification from the Twitter app on my phone telling me that a recent tweet is proving popular with my followers:

Sat opposite two friends who were writing essays for Mark Fisher’s postgraduate class before an imminent deadline, our thoughts grasp at one another, sent into a panic on such little information.

I soon start receiving messages from others about the tweet. At first, most assume it to be a hoax or a misunderstanding. I put Mark’s name into Google followed by the word “dead”, not knowing how else to corroborate the rumour. I see that a former keyboardist in the band Wham!, also named Mark Fisher, had died the month before—surely they meant this Mark…

…But Repeater were Mark’s publisher, having just published his book The Weird and the Eerie. They wouldn’t get this wrong…

…Surely…

We sat in silence, continuing to work in short, shocked bursts of disbelief. Then, we stopped. “What am I doing?” someone said. “What’s the point now?”

Later that evening, our worst fears were confirmed: on Friday 13th January 2017, Mark Fisher had committed suicide.


In the months following Mark’s death, answering this question of “What’s the point now?” became an intense collective project within and around Goldsmiths, informing a great deal of activity, including—but by no means limited to—the summer term public lecture programme which was organised by students and staff within the Visual Cultures department that Fisher himself had been a beloved part of.

Titled The Fisher-Function, the series ran for seven weeks throughout July and August and was built around lesser-known works made by Mark in various different registers—from blog posts and academic papers to mixes and audio essays.

The series was named after a phrase coined by Robin Mackay in his eulogy to Mark given at a campus memorial service on 12th February 2017. In his eulogy, Mackay asked:

What is the Fisher-Function? How did it make itself real, and how can we continue to realise it? Many of us naturally feel a need to ensure this is a moment when the force [Mark] brought into our world is redoubled rather than depleted. And to do so, to continue his work and our own, we have to try to understand his life, and the consequences of his death, at once horrifying and awakening, as a part of the Fisher-Function. And I don’t simply mean the intellectual contributions that we can appreciate, extend, take forward into the future; I also mean what we need to learn in terms of looking after ourselves and each other, right now.

It is precisely the Fisher-Function that I would like to explore in this essay through the very experience of community that gave the term such resonance in the immediate aftermath of Fisher’s death. This essay’s opening epigraph speaks to this community explicitly. Fisher’s death galvanised us as we found ourselves bound together in our excessive movement, in our fall away from ourselves—and it is in this fall, in the exceeding of our individual experiences, that our community has since been located. However, this “location” is not locatable; it is not institutional—it is implicitly outside Goldsmiths; outside ourselves. It is a community formed by the molten intensities of a shared experience that cannot be shared.

In the months immediately prior to Fisher’s death, during my first semester as a postgraduate student at Goldsmiths, I had already written on this paradoxical problem of “community” whilst reading through the works of Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot and Jean-Luc Nancy. A conversation on “community” had entangled the works of all three over a number of decades at the end of the twentieth century and it remains a lively area of study. Serendipitously (and painfully), this initially academic train of thought took on a new significance after Fisher’s death, unfolding into newly potent dimensions as it assisted me through the trauma of the formulation of this new community built on an otherwise isolating experience of grief.



Soon to be published by Repeater Books, this post has been cut short.
You can find a further developed version of it in my book of the same name,
coming to bookshops in March 2020.

23 thoughts on “Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and the Fisher-Function

  1. Pingback: LD50 – xenogoth
  2. hello / I am the LmthwL on twitter /

    I wanted to say, I realised I missed all sorts . . . elsewhere you have a tweet from T Morton (a horrible tweet) concerning K-Punk/ Mark Fisher / (who I must have known first as the latter, reading his Wire reviews and articles (remember this extended one about Coil Live 4, I think (obviously many years ago) / then K-Punk blog, which I loved. And I think I found out about Lawrence Miles the awry doctor who(once) writer first from K-Punk…

    anyway, what did I want to say, I’ll try to summarise: the TM tweet is like so wrong I still am not sure what to think about it. I used to like T M/ Friends like him. I feel like directly engaging with him asking what does he thing his tweet achieves etc. Tho western-tibetan buddhists often go odd.

    Then I thought, because I am missing things, on twitter, because I don’t have smart-phone, I my ask my wife to follow you, then she gets notifications, I can keep up with the discourse. So if you see someone following you with hand-drawn cupcakes as avatar that will be that. If that is OK///

    I think you did not like the tentenko cd dropboxxed thing. It is Ok to say so. I don’t get angry.
    I thought the very last minutes are a miracle, but I think many things are miracles, and many people disagree with me. It is OK.

    Main point, maybe, if you could point me to anything I have missed (everything it seems) re: the TM tweet and reactions &c I would be super grateful.

    And if you have any super early jungle I would be happy to have that dropboxxed on to me. I remember when 14, a classmate had a private radio mix tape he was playing, but at that time I had a stupid anti-anything-but-guitar bias, yet (at the same time, in my memory) I recall being intrigued. Must have been 94-ish?

    sorry I have written too much….

    (by the way, when I heard of M F’s death I was utterly distraught, in very unusual-for-me way (I tend not to have heroes) Just a sense of lack of any more voice. Same a year later with another Mark (MES) /

    Odd.

    excuse me,

    via Matthew P

    Like

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