Following the announcement a few days ago that pioneering junglist Tango has died, @peculmile shared an article by Mark Fisher that appeared in the New Statesman back in 1994 — which, it turns out, was already up on Egress. It was nevertheless new to me.
It feels like a good time to revisit this piece. Almost 25 years on, it still resonates.
I’ve recently been thinking about the key difference between desire and pleasure in Mark’s Acid Communism for another essay. The reason for this is, as ever, Jeremy Gilbert and his declaration that, for Mark, “the liberation of human consciousness from the norms of capitalist society is a desirable, achievable and pleasurable objective”.
For me, this invocation of pleasure is completely wrong. I do not believe that Acid Communism was, for Mark, a purely affirmative project. In line with so much of (if not all) his writings, Acid Communism was to be a project beyond the pleasure principle. (I’ve already discussed this at length elsewhere — check this blog’s ‘Acid’ tag — and so I won’t go over old arguments as to why that is the case here. There’ll also be new ones to come.)
Mark’s Dark Side article is no exception to this. Even in 1994, the tension of a politics and culture beyond the pleasure principle could not be clearer:
Dark Side is a music not of ecstasy, but of dread. Like dub reggae, though, it displaces dread into celebration.
The atemporal “spectre of a world that could be free”, as invoked by Marcuse in Eros & Civilisation (and by Mark in Acid Communism), can be found here too, in aural form.
[T]his music could come from the near-future as imagined by the cyberpunk fiction of William Gibson. In reality, it hails from the proletarian quarter of what Jonathan Meades has taken to calling “the distant present”.
If Mark, in part, hoped to rehabilitate the potentials of the 1970s, it is because the anxiety of that decade is, once again, “back on the agenda” — as it was in the 1990s and as it is again now. (Should we expect this anxiety to re-emerge every 20 years…?)
It is also interesting that this resembles some sort of “Dark Enlightenment” for Fisher:
To assume that these changes must be negative is to buy into the old story that both socialists and conservatives still peddle. If Steve Redhead was right when he said that the 1980s saw “Britain’s version of the Enlightenment turning in upon itself”, perhaps the “darkness” now emerging is everything kept repressed by enlightened reason. Dark Side’s dread futurism invites us to recognise the way things are mutating. Our horror might only be the death throes of the old order. Who knows what the new may bring?
The new didn’t seem to bring anything as drastic as Fisher and others had hoped and predicted, and Mark wrote about this sense of a future lost frequently throughout the 2000s. There doesn’t seem to be the same culture of dread in music today, but it certainly hasn’t gone away either.
Flowdan’s Disasterpiece has been back on heavy rotation for me this past week. Hugely underrated album. It even has its own flatline construct…