So the second season of Westworld has started and it has got me thinking: “Why Westworld? Why the Wild West?”
The end of the first season teased the existence of other theme park Worlds — in particular a “Samurai World” — and already in this first episode of Season 2 we have heard various characters refer to a variety of other worlds. (I believe there’s supposed to be six others in total.)
Whilst many assume we’ll see more of these worlds in Season 2 — and with all the foreshadowing already, it seems likely — I’m left thinking that the Wild West is still the best sandbox for the show’s plot, given the “chaos reigns” narrative of the unfolding AI revolution. (NB: I’ve discussed the burgeoning revolution that plays out during the show’s first season on this blog here previously, if you’re interested.)
But why? What is it that makes the anachronism of Westworld‘s cyberpunk West work so well as an AI theme park overflowing with revolutionary potentials as opposed to any other historically idealised geosociocultural configuration? What is it that endures about the potentials of the American West in the popular imagination?
If these questions are asinine, please remember I am but a humble Englishman. They have nonetheless reminded me of Deleuze’s belief in America’s inherently revolutionary potential and the ways that this potential is explicitly tied, for him, to patchwork.
He writes in his essay “Bartleby; or, the Formula”:
The American is one who is freed from the English paternal function, the son of a crumbled father, the son of all nations. Even before their independence, Americans were thinking about the combination of States, the State-form most compatible to their vocation. But their vocation was not to reconstitute an “old State secret,” a nation, a family, a heritage, or a father. It was above all to constitute a universe, a society of brothers, a federation of men and goods, a community of anarchist individuals, inspired by Jefferson, by Thoreau, by Melville. 
America, for Deleuze, in the nineteenth century, is a becoming. It is not “a puzzle, whose pieces when fitted together would constitute a whole, but rather a wall of loose, uncemented stones, where every element has a value in itself but also in relation to others: isolated and floating relations, islands and straits, immobile points and sinuous lines — for Truth always has ‘jagged edges.'”  He could not be clearer when he says “the Americans invented patchwork, just as the Swiss are said to have invented the cuckoo clock”, aligning the philosophy of American Pragmatism with “this double principle of archipelago and hope.”
If Deleuze’s vision of America seems generous to us today, it is perhaps because what he sees in the United States is difficult to recognise now following another 150 years of state consoliation — and particularly to an outsider who has set foot on its soils only once. It is also difficult to recognise in modern evaluations of American history.
Being a n00b, I’ve decided to dive into some of what are, according to various recommendations, the best history books on America’s 19th century. At the moment, I’m reading Patricia Nelson Limerick’s The Legacy of Conquest. From the very start of the book, I find much which resonates. What Limerick highlights is the way that the American 19th century has changed in the popular imagination; the way that it has been divided up into idealistic forms, with particular visions seeping into popular culture and offering the nation an escapism into certain geographically fragmented ideals of its own past.
As we endure the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, is there any hope left that the spectre he conjured in The Communist Manifesto might finally be exorcised?
The exorcism of the spectre of communism is, first of all, dependent on a spectre being negatively conceived. To exorcise this spectre would be to evict a great negativity — something past; something no longer alive which bothers the present in its restlessness.
The preferred formulation, for this blog, following Fisher, is surely Herbert Marcuse’s spectre, twisting time as the “spectre of a world that could be free.”
Marcuse’s spectre is, in this way, an eerie entity: an atemporal failure of absence and presence. It haunts but is nonetheless speculative — a ripple in spacetime that teases that which is not (yet) ours.
In this way, Marx’s and Marcuse’s spectres are not ghosts. To take a very recent example, we can consider them to be spectral holograms, like those found in Blade Runner 2049.
In the film, Ryan Gosling’s character, K, is “haunted” by the spectre of a normative existence, “personified” (predictably) by his holographic AI girlfriend Joi.
Whilst Joi is commodified in advertisements exacerbating the USP of her sexual desirability, she is likewise the spectre of K’s desired domesticated future — an existence that is (he hopes) to come rather than one that is lost.
Joi is not a spectre of what was once had. She is a hologram of that which has so far resisted full materialisation. For K, this is a mirroring of his unconsolidated self. We, however, needn’t solidify our limitations in this same way.
The challenge of Marx’s thinking today, 200 years on, is surely to shift the hauntological image of the ghostly spectre towards a reinvestment in immaterial forces, directing flows towards the revolution we no longer desire with the same intensity as we once did.
“While he only uses the words ‘territory’ and ‘territories’ rarely in his plays, the concept and practice is not at all marginal to his work. A number of his plays are structured around questions of exile, banishment, land politics, spatial division, contestation, conquest and succession.
Shakespeare exhibits a profound geographical imagination and his plays and poems raise a whole host of geographical questions. We can use them to shed light on the concept of territory as we understand it now.”
This will be something to return to I think, once the book is out. Interested in what readings of regional geopolitics in Macbeth can be attached to this blog’s sense of Gothic Patchwork and the fragmentations of state and self which follow the witches’ flight…
An interesting point raised by @Moctezuma_III was that surely an awareness of the existence of a thought like Accelerationism is better than nothing. (I’m personally unconvinced that an ignorant awareness is any better than pure ignorance.)
Maybe as an American, my standards are just low. Compare this MPs writing to the Zuckerberg testimony in the House of Representatives a few weeks ago.
However, this does perhaps shine a light on some of the progressive pockets of mainstream British politics. Cruddas is also a part of a Future Of Work commission — I’m unsure if this is the same thinktank that I’ve heard Srnicek and/or Williams take part in to lobby for a post-work society. There are active pockets of UK government who are engaged with speculative politics but you’ll struggle to see any material benefits of this.
The article itself has very little to offer the already initiated and most of its traction on the ?/Acc Twitters was focused on ridiculing it. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate Accelerationism’s pervasive populist image problem.
Like an ?/Acc sommelier, @Moctezuma_III picks out the different notes of the populist hybrid definition well:
Yeah, it's like definitions of L/Acc, NRx and Transhumanism all thrown into a blender.
From what I can tell, Cruddas seems to take the populist definition — further popularised by the Guardian in a “long read” from last year — and run with it, albeit writing against the typical l/acc understanding and towards a sort of centrist rebuttal (which is really embarrassing).
The Guardian article was notably written by Andy Beckett whose book on the 1970s I am currently reading and, as great as that book is, perhaps it’s best he sticks to the past than butcher the future.
Accelerationists argue that technology, particularly computer technology, and capitalism, particularly the most aggressive, global variety, should be massively sped up and intensified — either because this is the best way forward for humanity, or because there is no alternative. Accelerationists favour automation. They favour the further merging of the digital and the human. They often favour the deregulation of business, and drastically scaled-back government. They believe that people should stop deluding themselves that economic and technological progress can be controlled. They often believe that social and political upheaval has a value in itself.
Accelerationism, therefore, goes against conservatism, traditional socialism, social democracy, environmentalism, protectionism, populism, nationalism, localism and all the other ideologies that have sought to moderate or reverse the already hugely disruptive, seemingly runaway pace of change in the modern world.
This definition is not wrong but it cuts out many of the points of contention between different Accelerationist positions — perhaps purposefully, perhaps lazily. As @Moctezuma_III points out, this definition is a bizarre melting pot of largely conflicting Accelerationist positions. I have never met anyone who is actively engaged with Accelerationism who would agree with all of the above.
You can argue that the in-fighting is not conducive to a pithy article but the contentions within the various Accelerationist factions are surely its lifeblood and to conflate positions that exist across the political spectrum is actually a surprising tendency in this day and age of firmly patrolled political boundaries.
To Cruddas’s credit, his article is at least more interesting than Beckett’s for its initial self-critical bent (even if this doesn’t last long). He writes:
The character of the left has shifted. It has become obsessed with the belief that politics is an authentic search for the self, rather than a sacrificial contribution to the commons, with its trade-offs and compromises.
This is something I’d agree with, at least for its hinting at a sort of collective subjectivity of the Left but, as the centrist echoes of “trade-offs and compromises” suggests, Cruddas takes this thought down an even duller blind alley than that which he assigns to Accelerationism.
Cruddas’s main criticisms, it soon turns out, lie with Inventing The Future — the text which did for Accelerationism what the Hyperstition movie did for that avenue of thought. (That is, neutered it.) If that book is too radical for you, we’re evidently not going to have much to talk about.
Here’s the real kicker:
Within European left philosophy, the failures of 1968 produced a dramatic reorientation. The superstars of modern cultural studies — Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard — suggested an accelerationist approach to modern capitalism, rather than a search to overcome it, echoed in today’s fashionable texts.
According to another young academic, Lewis Coyne, postmodernism finishes the job Descartes started. As Descartes stripped the dignity from non-human nature Deleuze reduces humans to mere substance. Being — humanity — is construed as “a plane of immanence” — a continuous movement of matter and time: “there are only relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness between unformed elements, or at least between elements that are relatively unformed, molecules, and particles of all kinds. There are only subjectless individuations that constitute collective assemblages.”
It’s really hard to know where to start with this smeared load of entrails. It’s a proper bloody butchering of so much. There’s no hope of course correction from there on out.
Yes, can you believe it. This is my 100th post on this blog,
I’ve only been posting here since October last year — that’s only 7 months, holy shit, I’m really sorry — but since then this corner of the Internet has had 10,000 views and I’m loving being part of a community of people and things that is so funny, generous and insightful.
All the trad trashing and accusations of dubious politics aside, you’re a lovely bunch of readers and I’m really chuffed to have reached this little milestone.
So I decided to ask the timeline what I should do to celebrate.
Presenting: a mix of “Music to Read Xenogoth By” and a short patchwork reader:
If you want to firmly grasp the sensation of the eerie as Mark Fisher describes it, there is surely no better place.
On Friday evening, whilst having drinks after work in St James’s Park in the last of the evening sun, a new friend suggested a road trip to my girlfriend and I. We had told him that, the following day, we were going to the beach at Rye, on the suggestion of her brother. He said the best thing to do was to take the train there and then cycle to Dungeness. We didn’t have bikes but we did have a car so we decided to more or less follow his advice.
After lunch in Rye and an afternoon on the beach at Camber Sands, which brought back a flood of memories following a top goth weekender I attended there in 2013, we drove along the coast to the Kentish headland.
Immediately, things felt strange. For miles, we followed a winding country road on the edge of an enormous military installation.
To our left, nothing but flat marshland — so flat that I felt a deep nostalgia for the hills of home. Such a featureless landscape got inside my head to a degree that I was not prepared for. It felt unnatural, as if its details had been purposefully erased, like living in the paradox of an Andreas Gurksy landscape.
On our right, we drove past miles and miles of barbed wire fencing with signs warning of ballistic testing from the Ministry of Defence. This side of the road was peppered with houses and hamlets but they were obviously unoccupied, even from a distance. It was a training ground for urban warfare; a war games playground.
The domestic urban pretence continued to slip until we passed an enormous complex whose walls doubled up as false façades which, were it to actually exist, would surely constitute the largest housing complex in existence. Light shone through the painted windows of the false frontages, looking like stained glass. It gave the illusion of piety to this permanent movie set for death rehearsals.
Once we reached Dungeness itself I was immediately reminded of an old episode of Grand Designson the occasion of seeing one episode’s architectural protagonist. The show’s host, Kevin McCloud, had marvelled at how this desert had become an “experimental architectural hotbed” but what is most striking about the place is that it is devoid of such a feeling of activity. Rather, it exudes a near apocalyptic loyalty to the minimal.
What struck me further still, in recognising this landscape from my television, was how much more populated it seemed when seen through the limited view of a camera lens. (Perhaps the same can be said of my photographs here too.)
Every one of us in our party of four conceded that to live here would surely drive us mad. It is so familiar in its disparately positioned constituent parts but so barren, I remember feeling like I was walking through the architectural playground of limbo from Inception, moments before the dream collapsed as the markers of the weird unground that force that holds the landscape together. (What is this force? The structural support of the Deleuzean socius? I’m not what else to name this thing which is so explicitly absent…)
To condition the sensible is to place it in a new condition, to bestow upon it a reason for and a context of appearing; but it is also to place it under condition. This condition of possibility is that of its legibility, its univocity. 
Since Deleuze and Guattari advised that we must “accelerate the process” of deterritorialisation, rather than withdraw from it, we have perhaps assigned far too much human agency to this ‘we’, as if the propulsive teleology of such a process were open to affectation by ‘us’ at all; as if time itself were susceptible to our wills.
Theirs is rather a call to enter into the process; to become immanent to the deterritorialising processes of immanentisation in themselves. We must view ourselves from within the depths of things in order to fully recognise the flows that flow through, with and around us. Our task is only to make ourselves worthy of the process.
In this way, theirs is a consideration of the event of acceleration rather than a consideration of acceleration in and of itself as an “object” of study. The prevalence of a tendency towards the latter has nonetheless taken hold, occasioning the conditioning of acceleration, following Bonnet above, into a dichotomy of -isms on the political left or right.
These conditionings have done well to legitimise and personalise that which is inherently impersonal. In conditioning acceleration, we restrict it to a univocity which is in fact a denial of its nature. We, as “actors”, too often disengage acceleration from its abstract line, as if to hold it in our hands, manhandling it in such a way that it loses itself in becoming an object for us. (In this way, acceleration has been manhandled as uselessly as “hyperstition“.)
[W]hile left-accelerationism (L/ACC) and right-accelerationism (R/ACC) seek to recompose or reterritorialize Leviathan in accordance with each of their own political theologies, U/ACC charts a course outwards: the structures of Oedipus, the Cathedral, Leviathan, what have you, will be ripped apart and decimated by forces rushing up from within and around the system, which in turn mobilize the entirety of the system towards its own dissolution point. [via]
U/ACC instead argues that what is open to ‘us’ is perhaps only the possibility of, as Deleuze writes in Logic of Sense, a “becoming the quasi-cause of what is produced within us”. There remains much which is inherently outside ‘us’, however. All we are able to do is produce “surfaces and linings in which the event is reflected”. 
In accelerating the process, Deleuze and Guattari nod purposefully towards Nietzsche, and, in light of the limits of what we are able to produce, we should remember that what is key for Deleuze in Nietzsche’s thought is his amor fati; his love of fate. Fate for Nietzsche is not our theistic destiny in the hands of God but the affirmation of a life caught up in its own flows. It is in this way that Deleuze writes of becoming worthy of the Event, of a life made impersonal.
For Deleuze: “A life is everywhere, in all the moments that a given living subject goes through and that are measured by given lived objects: an immanent life carrying with it the events or singularities that are merely actualized in subjects and objects.”  A life is that force which is outside the subjects and objects that we reduce our lives to. As such, this “mere” actualisation is inherently superficial, relative to a life in itself — it is “entirely different to the actualisation of the event in the depth of things”, which is without subject or object in its deterritorialisation. 
In living a life (as opposed to my life — privileging the immanently impersonal over the segregated and territorialising personal), the task is “to become worthy of what happens to us, and thus to will and release the event, to become the offspring of one’s own events, and thereby be reborn, to have one more birth, and to break with one’s carnal birth — to become the offspring of one’s events and not of one’s actions, for the action is itself produced by the offspring of the event.” 
This is, as Deleuze and Guattari suggest, the “revolutionary path”: to become immanent with the acceleration that already occurs in the depth of things, impersonally, without condition.
 François J. Bonnet, The Infra-World (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2017), 6.
 Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense (London and New York: Bloomsbury Revelations, 2015), 153.
 Gilles Deleuze, Pure Immanence (New York: Zone Books, 2001), 29.
Mark’s last book, The Weird & The Eerie, as its title suggests, is split into two parts: the weird is first, followed by the eerie, but each is nonetheless entangled with the other.
Mark writes, early on:
The allure that the weird and the eerie possess is not captured by the idea that we “enjoy what scares us”. It has, rather, to do with a fascination for the outside, for that which lies beyond standard perception, cognition and experience.
Here at least, both concepts are anchored in their literary origins, but this is not where they have to remain.
From the first introductory chapter, the political subtext of this allure is always present, just beneath the surface, signifying a subtle change in Mark’s thought in which he sidesteps his well-known fascination with “lost futures” and instead stakes out an occupation with “the new”.
Previously, on his kpunk blog, and also in his second book, Ghosts of my Life, Mark makes it quite clear that music is the most advantageous battleground on which the argument for the existence of capitalist realism could be fought. In Ghosts of my Life in particular, he writes extensively on music.
Music is, in itself, a temporal medium — it is inherently “progressive” in a very literal sense, since most tracks begin and end. However, our music cultures themselves, it seems, are stuck in a groove. The record of history is skipping and the cultural and political progressions we once took for granted seem to have slowed to a full stop. The futures we were promised have not materialised and music, perhaps more so than our visual mediums, has made the gap between promise and reality all too apparent.
And yet, in The Weird & The Eerie, Mark writes not of what we have “lost” but the new in which we encounter that which disturbs us:
The sense of wrongness associated with the weird — the conviction that this does not belong — is often a sign that we are in the presence of the new. The weird here is a signal that the concepts and frameworks which we have previously employed are now obsolete.
There are no lost futures here; no ghosts of options which no longer exist. If we can describe the limbo of our lost futures as a rupturing of the temporal, the new instead ruptures the ontological — the two are inherently related, of course, but it is worth noting their difference for the more specific potentials that each unleashes. For starters, whilst the idea of a lost future is recursively graspable — we can only properly make sense of that which has become obsolete — with the new we find ourselves within that which is radically immanent. Jarringly so. We encounter something towards which all our past experiences are obsolete and which alerts us to the contingency and fallibility of the present, the now. In this mode, the inside is not sufficient enough for the outside, rather than vice versa. It requires the outside be folded in and synthesised.
In its very wrongness, the weird uncovers an oversaturated present, in which there is no space for the weird itself (or an experience of the weird). Recursion after recursion: the weird is weird in itself.
Whilst this may seem like a new direction for Mark, instead it harks back to his PhD thesis, Flatline Constructs, and his love of Spinoza. (As an aside, let us not forget that this is — and, astoundingly, remains — the allure of jungle: that music genre which was so influential for the Ccru.) At one point, Mark, summarising the stakes of the theory of Gothic Materialism that is central to his thesis, writes: “While antropo-Marxism still posits a transcendent and authentic human agent which could overcome capital, Gothic Materialism takes it for granted that real materialism must involve total immanentization; one of its chief resources, therefore, is the philosopher whose whole work was devoted to developing a rigorously immanent account of agency: Spinoza.”
For Mark, Spinoza is an exemplary weird and eerie thinker. He continues: “For Spinoza, there is agency everywhere but this never belongs to human subjects.” What Spinoza does, according to Mark, is he “entifies” — form and function are irrelevant, entities are rather processes. Everything is governed by such processes and so, for Spinoza, this is his way of thinking God as/in nature.
This lends itself all too easily to the Frankensteining of matter and material. If Spinoza is an atheistic materialist, as many of his critics claimed, Mark seems to suggest that it is in a way that is more twisted than those critics dared imagine, even more so today when we consider that what Spinoza saw as ‘God, nature’ has undergone an intensive period of expansion and extension.
Spinoza was a regular feature on kpunk thanks to his wide-ranging influence on many of Mark’s favourite thinkers. Mark would later write that Spinoza “took for granted what would later become the first principle of Marx’s thought — that it was more important to change the world than to interpret it”. He continues:
[Spinoza’s] project of systematically rooting out the underlying motivation for irrational behaviours was effectively psychoanalysis three hundred years early. Freud, whose written acknowledgements to Spinoza were few, nevertheless admitted in his correspondence to being thoroughly indebted to Spinoza’s framework; Lacan was more explicit in his homage, comparing his own excommunication from Psychoanalysis to Spinoza’s banishment from the Amsterdam Synagogue. Deleuze’s thought is unimaginable without Spinoza.
This trajectory is most telling when considering Mark’s thought. In this way, Spinoza lingers in the background of all that Mark writes. Deleuze’s Spinozism, in particular, is central for him in this context.
In Flatline Constructs, Mark summarises the above penchant for Spinozic entifying, with all the impetus on processes, with a quote from Deleuze: “True entities are events.” And yet, as Deleuze continues: “It’s not easy to think in terms of the event.” The weird, like the Gothic for Y2k Mark, is perhaps one such way of making this thought more accessible.
What Deleuze is pointing to here — at least in relation to those arguments found in Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense — is that the “life” of the self is less an enclosed Cartesian cogito and more like some thing which is open to the intensities of all that is around it. Being, itself an intensity, passes through “beings”. As Mark puts it, with inverted commas undermining the deceptively holistic nature of linguistically expressed subjectivity, “‘we’ ‘ourselves’ are caught up in the rhythms, pulsions and patternings of non-human forces.”
“We” “ourselves” are not only “caught” — in fact, we dissolve into flows. Indistinguishable.
Mark continues, in Flatline Constructs, by talking about Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of haecceity, referring to “non-subjectified individuation”. Through the concept of haecceity, we can think of entities as events without making entities subjects. For Mark, it seems, this includes processes of non-subjectifying and de-subjectifying.
The Gothic has an affinity with the concept of the haecceity because it refuses to distinguish human figures from their backgrounds … You can’t enter such zones without entering into composition with them.
It is the immanence of the human to forces, the human as an arrangement of forces in itself, which causes Mark to write of Spinoza’s “psychedelic reason”:
Hey kids: could there be a better reason to read Spinoza? He tells you not to get out of your head but how to get out through your head.
But, ever recursive in our immanence, how do we wrap our heads around this? How do we think of this form of agency without anthropomorphising it, separating it, and reducing its power? How do we think the event without trapping its agency in the anthropotemporal? How do you get out through your head without giving your head an unnecessarily Cartesian level of credit?
We can think of the weird and the eerie, in their literary modes, are qualities of events which allow us to retain a certain distance from these problems of thought which philosophy cannot help but ontologise. The benefit of this deontologising manoeuvre for political thinking is only hinted at by Mark in one instance when he writes that capital “is, at every level, an eerie entity: conjured out of nothing, capital nevertheless exerts more influence than any allegedly substantial entity.”
Perhaps the weird and the eerie, and our acknowledgement of their presence(-as-absence) within capitalism, can allow us to interrogate capital anew? At the very least it reveals to us just how susceptible we are to dissolution by capital’s flows.
All that is solid melts into air, etc.
Before we continue, what we first require is a clarification of the difference between the weird and the eerie — although this is by no means an easy task. If the weird is dependent on a Spinozic immanence, what is the eerie in relation to it? Mark’s concepts are, of course, a challenge to Freud’s often misused and misunderstood unheimlich.
Freud’s unheimlich signals a closed reading of multiplicity, forcing childhood experiences of self consolidation down the cul-de-sac of castration anxiety. By introducing a distinction where (you could argue) there is none, Mark injects multiplicity back into where it has long been absent from. The two words shadow each other; haunt each other.
The eerie, for Mark, it soon becomes apparent, is more explicitly concerned with notions of agency. The weird, we could say, is the jarring experience of the new, “a glitch in the Matrix”, for instance. The eerie is rather a sensation, like the sensation of being watched. (We can also argue, however, that the weird can also be a sensation in the form of deja vu, but this is perceptive rather than agentic.) Each concept is an expression for a whole entanglement of intensities, making complex and two-dimensional that which Freud flattened into the uncanny, the unhomely.
(Perhaps — although this is probably something to be further explored at another time — we can think of the weird as indexical whilst the eerie is causal, along the blurred lines of the thing-in-itself and the noumena…?)
If we return to the weird’s deontologising nature, just as Mark saw music as the most accessible way to think the affects of capitalist realism, sound remains the easiest (but also weirdest) way to consider the eerie.
Mark writes, entangling the eerie with the more accurate translation of the unheimlich as the unhomely:
A sense of the eerie seldom clings to enclosed and inhabited domestic spaces; we find the eerie more readily in landscapes partially emptied of the human. What happened to reproduce these ruins, this disappearance? What kind of entity was involved? What kind of thing was it that emitted such an eerie cry?
In discussing this passage during our Weird & Eerie reading group, I was reminded of an experience I had as a teenager, taking my camera for a walk and having a cheeky cigarette in the fields close to the family home.
Walking across a muddy field in pitch blackness, I heard a terrifying sound like nothing I had ever heard before. A scream which quite literally curdled my blood. It made me feel ill. At first I feared the worst: that somewhere, in this darkness, someone was being attacked, unseen and unheard by all but me.
But there was something wholly inhuman about this sound and it wasn’t until I had run home and told my Dad about what had happened that I learned this scream most likely belonged to a vixen.
A vixen’s scream is perhaps the perfect example of an eerie cry. (An extensive section of my notes following this story comes very recognisably from Kodwo Eshun.)
In my experience, this disembodied howl ruptured the event of my experience. It created its own world, the edges and contours of which were undefinable. It dislocated my own capacity to world in the process of listening.
It was a cry which came from a thing, a thing with a body, for sure, but a body which I could not describe with any confidence. It was a cry that overcame its own potential categorisation. Kodwo called it a “vocalic body”: the acousmatic cry creates a “body” which overcomes the body of the fox itself, he said.
This is what Mark would call a “force”.
Sound additionally compounds the eerie in other ways. We spoke previously of how one of the most common sensations associated with the eerie is the sensation of being watched. What about the sensation of being listened to? And being listened to by what?
We can relate this to “our” “selves” through an experience we are all probably familiar with to some degree: the experience of hearing ourselves outside ourselves, i.e. the alien sensation of hearing and failing to recognise a recording of your own voice. We can note, in this instance, that how we normally hear our own voices is haptic. They are not transmitted to us through space, but through our bones. Our recorded selves emanate from a whole other body.
The sensation of the vocalic body can then lead us to ask: How does sound hear us? What do we gain from an understanding of ourselves in the ear of an entity? How do we hear ourselves as something hears us? Hearing, as opposed to seeing, is much harder to imagine. It’s weirder.
What if we are nothing but a crack or a cry. A crack caught up in a pulsion. A cry caught up in a rhythm.
In Flatline Constructs, Mark was to highlight the perfect fictional example of this, found in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The painting showed a hairless, oppressed creature with a head like an inverted pear, its hands clapped in horror to its ears, its mouth open in a vast, soundless scream. Twisted ripples of the creature’s torment, echoes of its cry, flooded out into the air surrounding it; the man or woman, whichever it was, had become contained by its own howl. It had covered its ears against its own sound. The creature stood on a bridge and no one else was present; the creature screamed in isolation. Cut off by — or despite — its outcry. “He did a woodcut of this,” Rick said, reading the card tacked below the painting. “I think,” Phil Resch said, “that this is how an andy must feel.” He traced in the air the convolutions, visible in the picture, of the creature’s cry.”
What is Dick doing, in describing Munch’s most famous painting, The Scream, this vision of the horror of Spinozic immanence, in relation to the specific experience of an “andy”, an android?
If we can identify Munch’s misshapen painting as an image of a vocalic body, what does this say about the way an android would feel? Mark, in Flatline Constructs, writes of media — via Mcluhan and Baudrillard — as an extension of the human body. What becomes of the subjective body and the vocalic body in moments of non-human haecceity? Is this a becoming-weird? A becoming-eerie?
Mark ends the introduction to his book with a more focused exposition of the eerie in particular:
The perspective of the eerie can give us access to the forces which govern mundane reality but which are ordinarily obscured, just as it can give us access to spaces beyond mundane reality altogether. It is this release from the mundane, this escape from the confines of what is ordinarily taken for reality, which goes some way to account for the peculiar appeal that the eerie possesses.
In the next posts in this series, I’d like to consider, through Mark’s own examples, what the rapturous potentials of a becoming-eerie have to do with Acid Communism specifically.
What I hope is clear by now, specifically in our discussion of Mark’s problematising of Freud, is that his deontologising of certain processes aids in the necessary disruption of self consolidation — the self that is consolidated by capitalist society. In this way, Mark’s recuperation of multiplicity is a form of schizoanalysis, but how might this be further put to use to change our world politically?
Some of you may have already picked up on connections between the disruption of self consolidation and the state consolidation antithetical to patchwork. We’ll consider a schizoanalytic patchwork later but first I’d like to write more about desire.
It is desire, as eerie a force as capital itself, that will be our ladder between Mark’s last and unfinished next book.
A recent tweet sent drunkenly into the night brought back some decent returns when I checked my phone the other morning.
Edsuggested, in wanting to take the occasional break from patchwork, I should write about “weird ‘n’ eerie acid communism” instead.
This is actually a very good idea.
Last year, after Mark’s death, we held a Weird & Eerie reading group at Goldsmiths, reading a chapter of his last book — 2016’s The Weird & The Eerie — roughly once a week (with the occasional hiatus).
I remember first reading the book in January 2017, soon after Mark died, in about a day. It was an easy read and I glided straight through it. However, slowing that process down to a one-chapter-a-week reading group unearthed so many more treasures in it. It is an incredibly concise and condensed text and, in line with its own terminology, it becomes eerie in the way that so much feels absent from it.
The reading group was an extension of a series of memorial assemblies. There was a feeling that we could do something more with this time that a small group of us had dedicated to meeting once a week and just being together. Reading Mark’s last book together felt like a good thing to do.
I had one question in my mind throughout these sessions: “What links this book to Mark’s next one: his Acid Communism?”
I didn’t know at the time if there was any connection or if maybe I was forcing a view on the book unnecessarily — looking for what I wanted to find rather than just reading what was actually there. I didn’t want this to be Mark’s last book and I didn’t want its subject matter to in any way define his thinking in years to come. I didn’t want to read it as a dark and depressive book. I wanted to read it as a manifesto for liberation or something.
I had high hopes but I nevertheless think I found what I was looking for.
What I’d like to do here, over a series of posts, is to go through this book again and my reading group notes and draw out these political potentials in more depth. I’m not sure how I’m going to divide this up… Perhaps by chapter… Perhaps in two long posts on the weird and then the eerie… We’ll see which makes sense once I’m in the swing of things.
It should go without saying that I cannot take full authorship of the ideas that are to be reproduced in more fluid form here but there’s no way I can remember who said what.
Before we jump in, I feel it may also be worthwhile reading through my recent post “The Lure of the Gothic” if you haven’t already. As I wrote in that post, I found this to be a book that “tore through the veil of the difficult present moment and revealed something beyond.” The Weird & The Eerie is not only an aesthetic exploration to be tied to Mark’s own “dark side”. The Gothic — the weird and the eerie — are so expressive and what they offer us are (I think, and I think Mark believed) transferable tools for our political lives.
How better to picture other worlds than through the otherworldly.