When I was writing about the effect of Mark Fisher’s death on communities at and around Goldsmiths last year, there was a notable exemption from the timeline of 2017’s events.
I’d thought about including it, as the drama surrounding the gallery and its exhibition and events programme (which Goldsmiths was directly implicated in) was a topic of conversation that persisted for weeks, months even… but it ended up on the cutting room floor.
There was something of an institutional paranoia about being inadvertently caught up in fascism that the intense reaction to LD50 epitomised: the desire to retain some sort of mythical political purity.
It’s amusing in hindsight, in much the same way a lot of my notes from lectures on the Ccru include transcribed questions that ask whether this or that element is inherently fascist (because of Land’s involvement alone).
It’s a wonder anyone managed to get anything done.
I found my notes about LD50 recently, written early last summer:
LD50 has been a major part of this community.
Analysis of right-wing political projects has been very abstract. LD50 brought it right home.
The crisis of Mark’s death brought to a head a number of other crises that preceded and exceeded his death — LD50, Trump, Grenfell. Neo-fascist digital infrastructure and support for it; neo-authoritarian American politics; austerity.
LD50 is a flashpoint within the struggle for Land’s thought. Three groups are fighting for it. LD50 brings this home.
The focus on community in and through grief is correct. The struggle to inhabit the turbulence of this moment and to let it work upon you and make it an intervention. To make your life an intervention.
Even if it’s just a footnote, make concrete the right-wing abstraction.
LD50 brought what many think of as an American thing to our doorstep. Taking on an invasive proximity. Reaching right into the question of the struggle of Acceleration and what to do with melancholy.
It is interesting how dissipated that paranoia now is and how the fight is over having been “won”.
What LD50 brought home has been absorbed but not processed. “Shutting down” the gallery felt like an act of collectivised and externalised repression. Rather than properly coming to terms with what people feared most about themselves and their own politics, they found something else to stamp on as an act of displaced atonement.
An Anon on CuriousCat asked me late last year: “LD50. Fascist gallery or accelerationist hub wrongfully targeted?”
I think the response still stands:
Is this really a question that still interests people? It all took place on my doorstep but I can’t profess to having any real understanding of a protest I didn’t go to over an exhibition I didn’t see. From what I have seen: Edgy twitter archaeology doesn’t seem very accelerationist to me. As for fascist — according to whom? Reactionary, boujee artists who were horrified by a sudden flash of self-awareness illuminating their complicity? Or anon Tumblrs with ulterior motives? The Shutdown LD50 campaign began by asking earnest and necessary questions but I have no interest in defending either side’s contribution to a shitshow that has used up more than enough oxygen in 2017.
However, following yesterday’s post about Westworld and Trump, I can’t stop thinking about what the 2018 versions of 2017’s fights will look like. Short-term victories seem to have done nothing for long-term goals. As the new world order becomes familiar, people sink back into complacency.
What is to be done?
I was at a party recently, having to defend openly reading Nick Land. You know, the usual…
It wasn’t the first time this has happened but this person was perhaps the most belligerent I’ve had to answer to. It was an encounter that stuck with me more than others and finally made me wary of talking about what I write on this blog in public.
It has stuck with me because the argument dropped at my feet was that the crux of Land’s philosophy, as far as this person was concerned, was a rejection of justice. And how could anyone give him the time of day when that is his untenable position?! It’s just so right-wing!
My response was to point to @cyborg_nomade‘s recent tweet about the various political positions on Acceleration and talk about my interest in community/ies but, in a state of utter mental exhaustion after a very long working week, I didn’t actually do a whole lot of talking. I just took all the character judgements on the chin and waited for it to be over.
Much like the aftermath to any other kind of argument, I spent days thinking of all the things I wish I’d said but didn’t think of in the moment. And so here I am, left wanting to articulate something where before there was just an overtired silence.
“What the fuck is ‘justice’?!” I found myself muttering bitterly to myself as I wandered around the house and to the shops and to the office for the next few days…
Justice, it seems to me, is a spectre. It is a social promise but when is it ever meaningfully achieved? The word itself seems to jettison half its agency to the Outside. Too often when invoked does it resemble a theological concept.
In a conversation at a reading group a few days after this encounter, much time was given instead to the word “responsibility”, as invoked by Helen Hester at a recent conference in London — a conference I didn’t attend and so I can’t comment on her sense of the word in any detail but it has nonetheless echoed around my head as I try to come to terms with my own formulation of it. It is a formulation that is important to the first part of this new series (along with its tangent and the in-progress Part 2).
Land’s horrorist approach to the end of the “World”, as laid out on his blog, clearly rejects justice, but it does seem to express a sense of responsibility (responsibility to nothing is a responsibility nonetheless):
It is thus that the approximate contours of the horrorist task emerge into focus. Rather than resisting the desperation of the progressive ideal by terrorizing its enemies, it directs itself to the culmination of progressive despair in the abandonment of reality compensation. It de-mobilizes, de-massifies, and de-democratizes, through subtle, singular, catalytic interventions, oriented to the realization of fate. The Cathedral has to be horrified into paralysis. The horrorist message (to its enemies): Nothing that you are doing can possibly work.
“What is to be done?” is not a neutral question. The agent it invokes already strains towards progress. This suffices to suggest a horrorist response: Nothing. Do nothing. Your progressive ‘praxis’ will come to nought in any case. Despair. Subside into horror. You can pretend to prevail in antagonism against ‘us’, but reality is your true — and fatal — enemy. We have no interest in shouting at you. We whisper, gently, in your ear: “despair”. (The horror.)
I think it is this responsibility to nothing that irks the left the most. The privilege of being able to do nothing transforms it into doing something. The leftist horror, it seems to me, is that they are already closet horrorists. They overcompensate the volume of their doing to make sure that it seems they are doing something of value. (A phenomenon the Right have latched onto in their obsession with “virtue signalling“.)
LD50 offered an opportunity to meaningfully reckon with this. A moment that past with an intense amount of confusion, panic and international news coverage but little meaningful change other than a shuttered and graffitied gallery space.
Following the consideration of counter-intuitive praxes in The Walking Dead and The OA in my post ‘Mental Health Asteroid‘ I was interested to see Adam Kotsko mention the latter show in the aftermath of this week’s school shooting in Florida, which has occasioned the all-too-familiar ineffective public outcry and, notably, accusations that Trump himself has ‘done nothing‘.
Kotsko invokes the concept of ‘liturgy’, related to his study and great work translating Agamben, which I need to read more of as it continues to orbit questions of community that are central to the interests of this blog. (I’d recommend this post by Kotsko for further reading and some of these themes were considered here, again in brief, in ‘Monastic Vampirism‘).
[The OA] does not presume, I think, to offer a solution to school shootings — certainly it does not indulge in the fantasy that such a problem can be solved without cost. But it does suggest that a counter-liturgy, born out of deep trauma, may be able to disrupt the liturgy of the school shooting in which we all find ourselves.
School shootings are the most spectacular and horrifying example of similar events that provoke near-scripted responses. The religiosity of these responses is endemic and increasingly lacking subtly the further down the path of leftist eschatology we travel.
If that is the politics the left are choosing to stick with, they need counter-liturgies for a lot more than mass shootings…