Things have slowed down here lately — by my standards at least. I went one week without posting anything and someone genuinely asked me if I was doing okay.
I’ve decided to try and make a few changes around here. I have been struggling with my mental health a bit over the past month or so — a post on which, alongside readings of The Logic of Sense, I’m still trying to finish.
Last week I restarted my antidepressants. I’d reduced the frequency of my dosage to one tablet a week over the last year but I think this destabilised my brain chemistry far more than I had realised. I had a short string of life stresses recently and they completely knocked me over. I decided that I needed to start taking these little things properly again and, now one week in, I’ve already levelled out and feel like I’m back to normal. However, by putting my mania on a tighter leash, it’s also dulled my drive to write here so obsessively.
I still intend to post here but things might run a bit differently, so here are a few house-keeping announcements regarding the near-future of this blog:
URL change — All past links may now be dead, I’m very sorry to say, but I have decided to embrace the alternative name that Twitter forced upon me and go with “Xenogothic” rather than “Xenogoth”. It’s grown on me to the point that I now prefer it and I feel like that minor addition of an “-ic” is more representative of what I’ve been writing on this blog. I’ve felt this way for a while but it seemed like it was too late. Well, now I’ve done it and there’s no going back so please excuse the adjustment period.
Patchwork — I’ve written so much here over the past nine months and ideas are continuing to grow and develop. I am starting too feel like this is becoming a project that is too big for this blog and so I’m going to try and spend the next few months polishing and extending a bunch of old posts. I think I might have enough material for a book… But I’ve also drafted a PhD proposal that I’m starting to shop around a bit… Either way, this stuff is going to be channelled elsewhere for a bit but I hope a more polished exploration of patchwork and Accelerationism will see the light of day in another way soon. Whilst I’m waiting for new topics to use this blog for, things might be a bit empty here for a bit.
Photography — Prior to starting this blog, I used to keep all my writing to myself and just post pictures elsewhere. That’s been the case for the best part of 10 years now. I stopped photoblogging completely once I started writing here (although I’ve tried to include pictures in my posts when appropriate). As a way of making up for the slower pace of my writing, I want to start posting photo-only posts here again in future as a sort of photo-diary. It’s just another way of thinking, after all. I already have a six month backlog of photographs that I’ve neglected so I’ll probably post the first of these soon.
As ever, thank you for reading and for all your comments. So much of the writing that’s appeared here so far wouldn’t exist were it not for people being so provocative and responsive to so many different ideas.
This dates from the late 19th or early 20th century. The Japanese won the Russo-Japanese War, but a quick glance at the casualties suggests it was more a pyrrhic victory for the Japanese.
It bares a striking resemblance to this more famous poster of Standard Oil:
I ended up digging out some old notes from readings of Cyclonopedia when I first came across the Standard Oil poster.
In Cyclonopedia, Negarestani demands a blobjective perspective on geopolitics: “Collapse all manifest policies and ideologies onto the Tellurian narratives of oil seepage.” The image of the octopus is, perhaps, too organic for Negarestani’s uses and he instead uses the image of oil to narrate this great collapse into a sort of immanent alterity.
In this way, oil is simultaneously cosmological, racial, geological, mythological, etc. with its seepages easily representing the multiples forms of agentic entanglement that its own flows produce. It is likewise an unfolding outwards of associations, but also an entangling and compacting of these associations.
The image of the octopus enacts these functions too, of course, and whilst both are blasphemies of thought it is oil which connects more easily to the concept of a war machine.
War is stimulating, productive and consummating. It enters into a continual synergistic overlapping and interlocking. But what is it that allows its components to reciprocate; to co-constituently affect each other?
For Negarestani, the answer is oil. Oil lubricates and dynamises the components of the warmachine. Oil is what allows the components of any narrative to communicate with the components of any other narratives. Oil as what “recomposes [the warmachine’s] flows”. It is not an interruption of flow: oil has its own flow and the injection of this flow requires a recomposition of the flows it seeps into. Oil is not just functional; deep time is not just background. They are contemporaneous.
Oil is both cthulhic and chthonic.
The octopus, whilst nonetheless organic, surely embodies the all of these same functions.
@xenomachines pointed out that the image of the octopus has also often been used to represent the external meddling of the British empire all around the world, and perhaps the cunning tendrils of capitalism itself, having grown out of northwestern Europe.
That time when the deeply repressed influence of my mother’s ardent monarchism rears its head in the form of the spouting of more trivia than a young man my age should realistically be in possession of.
As a child, based on memories of the extremity of my mother’s reaction alone, the death of Princess Diana is etched more firmly in my mind than 9/11.
Over the two decades since, a sort of post-traumatic receptivity has established itself. I am able to absorb all trivia, no matter how fleeting, and amalgamate it into my own internal database of royal gossip, all the while longing for an acceleration to their slow, zombic decay — that is, a quickening of the royal institution’s glacial downfall.
Interestingly, as many folks on Twitter were poised to point out, the royal couple’s wedding day just so happened to fall on the 369th anniversary of England’s short-lived republicanism. What are the chances!
As hilarious as this may be to some, I found these invocations of revolution resonated all too well with the superficial atmosphere of the day as it unfolded (which, I must confess, I watched in full from my depressed summer sick bed, having caught a cold that is doing the rounds at the moment.)
You’d be forgiven for asking: “If today is the 369th anniversary of English republicanism, why the fuck are we still watching a royal wedding? What constitutional document from another dimension is this that you are waving infuriatingly in front of our faces, Twitter Leftists? How does republic real?”
The 1600s are less a cause for royal piss-taking than they are the deep butterfly-effect-like cause of this weird embarrassment that has dominated national television and social media for over six hours today. We must not praise the 1600s but hold them accountable for the shitshow of today’s royal wedding. Lest we forget that, by 1660, the monarchy was fully restored before, again, in 1688, we had another “revolution” when the Dutch took over and established a new middle ground.
During the early coverage, it was noted how integral the monarchy is to British identity but surely all this demonstrates is how confused this identity is. The royal family are not an embarrassment because they’re outdated, but because they represent just how awkward the centuries of consolidation have been.
Today too many are too keen to re-imagine the events of 1649 as being reminiscent of what was to come in France a century later. The French revolutionaries, it must be said, had their shit together. Theirs was a revolution built upon anidea, enacted decisively, whilst we English instead had three civil proxy wars over the national religion and all we ended up deciding on the monarchy was: “Okay, we’ll keep it but only because we parliamentarians are gonna let you.”
My cynical reading of this nation’s history leads me to believe that the monarchists of the 1600s were masters of reverse psychology.
As Mark Fisher wrote in his 2014 essay, “Postcapitalist Desire,” capitalism “is a necessarily failed escape from feudalism.” What was “necessary” about the failure of this escape was the retention of a feudal class system which served as the operating system on which modern capitalism would run.
In light of this, some (explicitly) Marxist historians have argued that the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was instead the beginning of Britain’s 400-year limbo. Ever since this unruly century, the country has found itself in a constant state of transition, no longer feudal but not quite modern either. It seemed a paradoxical mutation born of a century of incompetence which showed other nation’s, constitutionally, what not to do whilst giving them a deeply flawed economic foundation on which to build on.
This Great British paradox — its true gift to the world — has meant that the UK has consistently been overtaken by its various mutant offspring before it could reach its own productive zenith. It is the grandfather of the modern nation-state and now as irrelevant and grouchy as such an analogy suggests.
Tom Nairn writes, in extraordinary book The Break-Up of Britain, that this is perhaps because Britain’s exploratory prowess is too often conflated with its achievements at home:
It was the extraordinary external successes of the transnational English state that permitted it to survive for so long. Otherwise, it would certainly have gone down in a wave of new, state-ordered, nationalist capitalisms which developed in the course of the 19th century. It too would have been compelled to suffer a second, modernizing revolution and the logical reorganisation of its constitution and state: precisely that second political upheaval whose absence has been the constant enigma and despair of modern Britain.
Watching the royal wedding today, on this anniversary of the UK’s abolition of the monarchy, I can’t help but be reminded of this enduring paradox of failed escapes.
What does this royal wedding represent if not a new low for the British state’s failed escapes from its own eerie engine of sociopolitical paradox? The introduction of a kind of American Blackness into the royal family, made cynical — perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not — by the right-wing press as they wish to exacerbate the progressivism of that most outdated of institutions, felt instead like two already familiar worlds uncomfortably colliding.
A Black episcopal preacher and a gospel choir heralded the marriage of a balding, faulty gened white aristocrat to a beautiful mixed race American actor. The press, in its rabid commentary, could not stop predicting and emphasising the modernizing effect of our newly diverse royal family whilst tripping headlong into their tendency towards racist dog-whistles.
But isn’t this already the British way: naming the awkward consolidation of disparate elements a “revolution” in order to hold off the true revolution that remains unfulfilled?
This process has been shameless today. Some have hailed this royal wedding as revolutionary as Obama’s election to the White House. During the wedding service itself, we heard Martin Luther King Jr. invoked and a Ben E. King song performed. This is Black culture celebrated, they say.
This wedding is just one more instance of a long-term process through which the world’s most stubbornly undead nation-state continues its protracted eating of itself. What’s worse is that it seems to be working.
Thanks to Ed for bringing up this footnote from A Thousand Plateaus, following the last post on Westworld, on Leslie A. Fiedler’s 1968 book The Return of the Vanishing American.
I decided to buy it.
I hadn’t heard of Leslie Fiedler prior to this tweet — to my shame — but I have since learned that he is a highly regarded writer and so I have been digging into his trilogy of books on America and its literature — only the first of which, unfortunately, still seems to be in print.
Fiedler gives his own introduction to the series in the preface to the last book in the series — the one I intend to focus on here. (I’ll take the opportunity here to point out these books are old and their nomenclature is not always PC by today’s standards…) He writes:
With ‘Love and Death in the American Novel‘ and ‘Waiting for the End‘, ‘The Return of the VanishingAmerican‘ constitutes a single work, the first of whose parts concerns itself with eros and thanatos; the second, with the hope of apocalypse and its failure; the third, with the Indian — all three, as I hope becomes clear in this volume, with that peculiar form of madness which dreams, and achieves, and is the true West.
As Ed highlighted with the footnote from A Thousand Plateaus — footnote 18 of the introduction: “Rhizome” — Friedler’s book “contains a fine analysis of geography and its role in American mythology and literature, and of the reversal of directions”; in the text itself, they write that America “puts its Orient in the West”.
This shift was discussed in the first part of this series — the strange disconnect in the American-historical mind between the events of the American East, South and West. As Deleuze & Guattari note, in typically DeleuzoGuattarian terms, the West “played the role of a line of flight combining travel, hallucination, madness, the Indians, perceptive and mental experimentation, the shifting of frontiers, the rhizome.”
Last time I wrote of this madness tentatively in relation to Westworld and how the series could surely not take place anywhere else:
… does Westworld not become a dramatisation of this very unruliness [madness], inherent to the idea of the American West? The revolt of the AI “hosts” of the theme park is as much a catalyst for a “new world” to come as it is the materialisation of a spectre of a past waging war on the woeful consolidation of its own future. […] To be haunted by the fractured memories of previous iterations is surely the central condition which entwines the consolidated American State and and its Self.
Fiedler makes this clear also, but particularly in relation to the “Indian”.
The “Indian”, the Native American, is that being who all Americans have internalised. He highlights the irony of that acutely American condition of constructing ancestral mythologies for oneself — “‘Do you know I’m part Mohawk? Whoo hoo!’ … descendants of East European Jews or Dublin Irish, at home and abroad, everyone who thinks of himself as being in some sense an American feels stirrings in him of a second soul, the soul of the Red Man” — and notes how indigenous peoples themselves have not escaped this internal mythologising tendency. He continues:
To be sure, the Indian has not disappeared at all “into the great White swamp,” but has begun to reinvent himself — in part out of what remains of his own tribal lore, in part out of the mythology and science created by White men to explain him to themselves. […] The Vanishing American may have bowed out as Last Mohicans or Flatheads or Sioux, but they return as what they all seemed to invading White Europeans from the start, simply “Indians,” indistinguishable non-White others.
Westworld has synthesised these othering flows into its narrative in interesting ways and these stirrings of a second soul are folded explicitly into the narrative of host’s gaining (un)consciousness through their own programming.
The cast of “hosts” are a diverse bunch, of white settlers, black “madames”, Mexican rebels. There is also — to this non-American viewer, anyway — a contingent of homogenised “Indian” tribespeople, layered in crusted body paint, stalking the outer edges of the park, who appear infrequently as that unknown “demon of the continent”.
Particularly in this burgeoning second season, the Indians appear as spectres who seem far more aware of the nature of the “game” of Westworld than their more approachable host-counterparts. They seem to know more about “the maze” than any other characters but relate to it in a way that remains mysterious to everyone else — as otherwise silent, spiritual others who speak in riddles.
“The maze” is an integral part of the series at this point. It is a symbol that the Man in Black, William, spent much of the first season violently pursuing. He finds the symbol tattooed into the scalp of a host and believes that finding the centre of the maze will allow him to “win” the game.
What the Man in Black eventually realises, much to his disappointment, is that the maze is not for him. It is for the hosts.
As this brilliantly thorough video about the show’s first season explains: the central narrative of the first season explores an entanglement of timelines which tell the story of how the park’s creators, Arnold Weber and (particularly) Robert Ford, used the park as a front for creating truly “conscious” AI.
Initially imagining the host’s journey to conscious as like “climbing a pyramid”, they later see it as a journey “inwards”, like working their way through a maze. The key for Ford, with his theory of the bicameral mind, is that the hosts will, by journeying inwards, come to understand their programming as their own internal voice, and therefore, like our own evolutionary ancestors, so the theory goes, develop “consciousness” as we currently understand it.
In this first season, as the Man in Black tries to find the centre of the maze, the host Dolores is on a similar journey but it is only she who reaches the centre. The Man in Black is, of course, already conscious. All there is for him to understand is his own nature. Something which, having spent 30 years murdering and pillaging in Westworld, he already knows too well. Dolores, instead, has a ways to go. She still has choices to make regarding who she wants to be.
For Dolores, this journey inwards is played out as a journey into her own memories, previously wiped on each return the start of her narrative cycle, and as she remembers more and more of her past experiences, she achieves consciousness — or, as Mark Fisher wrote, previously quoted in part one, unconsciousness. She kills Ford, an event previously scripted in her programming, but this time enacted by choice.
The recurring image of the maze, notable here for us, is based on a prevalent real-world Native American symbol referred to by the name “I’itoi”.
I’itoi here means the “man in the maze” (seen clearly above, and notably already in the centre in Westworld‘s version). It is part of the mythology of the O’odham tribe. The maze itself is understood to be “the maze of life, where a person travels through life and encounters the different moments that impact them.” These moments, for Dolores, are her memories. The impact of her suffering is, by Ford’s design, the key to reaching the centre and, likewise, the catalyst for her murderous, revolutionary tendencies, currently unravelling in season two, through which she will rise up, assisting other hosts to also reach the centre, creating a Skynet-like army of vengeful, conscious AI.
Dolores is, of course, not Indian. But is this programmed I’itoi not precisely this ubiquitously American “demon of the continent” that Fiedler writes about?
Fiedler begins his book with a quote from D.H. Lawrence:
The moment the last nuclei of Red Life break up in America, then the white man will have to reckon with the full force of the demon of the continent … within the present generation the surviving Red Indians are due to merge in the great white swamp. Then the Daimon of America will work overtly, and we shall see real changes.
Fiedler continues: “Fifty years ago, the demonic future which Lawrence foresaw seemed only the troubled dream of a foreigner never really at home on our soil, a fantasy for poets to exploit and serious scholars to ignore; but suddenly his then is our now, and all of us seem men possessed.”
Today, this “troubled dream”, constantly threatening to erupt, seems to have plateaued once again. Another fifty years on, men remain possessed.
Can we not, for example, see the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and the renewed interest in these writings, in a similar light? The Cthulhu mythos is made explicitly extraterrestial, otherworldly, but lest we forget the racial othering of those who are most receptive to his cosmic murmurings. Perhaps Cthulhu is likewise just another name for this demon of the American continent.
Continuing a discussion of the tensions explored last time, Fiedler notes how American geography itself is inherently “mythological”, noting how, following the closure of the frontier, the American psyche has been at sea with itself — highlighting, in particular, how “Ishmael confronts Queequeg on the great Ocean itself”, and reminding this blogger of Cthulhu’s deep-sea home of R’yleh.
Like Lovecraft’s anti-heroes, and the heroes of countless classically American novels, Fiedler describes a primitivist tendency inherent to so many of these pop-cultural imaginings of the American psyche. He writes: “Primitivism is the large generic name for the Higher Masculine Sentimentality, a passionate commitment to inverting Christian-Humanist values, out of a conviction that the Indian’s way of life is preferable.”
The gendered nature of this tendency as masculine is notable. Fiedler dedicates a whole chapter to the “Anti-Pocahontas” in all Americans; an entwined taming of both the Indian woman and the corrupting of the female WASP. The masculine contorting of the other is always, he seems to theorise, the externalising of an internal struggle of fragile masculinity. Speaking more generally, Fiedler continues: “From this follows the belief that if one is an Indian he ought, despite missionaries and school boards, to remain Indian; and if one is White, he should do his best, despite all pressures of the historical past, to go Native.”
Fiedler compares this to a certain kind of class drag, inherent to much Victorian fiction (and the halls of our present-day universities): the desire for a kind of self-righteousness acquired by reading about “the tribulations of the poor.”
The pretence of writing from within the consciousness of Indians intrinsic to such fiction leaves me always with the sense of having confronted an act of impersonation rather than one of identification, a suspicion of having been deceived; and this is reinforced when the presumable wisdom of the alien Red Man turns out to be some quite familiar cliche of our own culture.
My initial, much older post on Westworld‘s first season, explored in light of Trump’s election, highlighted an article in The New Inquirywhich highlighted the show’s first season as an explicitly feminist narrative of escaping patriarchy. But is Westworld not a further doubling down on this kind of writing, from within the consciousness of an other?
From out of this analysis, Fiedler describes a kind of New Western (of which Westworld is perhaps a New New Western, or, dare I say, a Post-New Western). He quotes a letter sent to him following the death of Ernest Hemingway:
The mental mirror of the conqueror cannot be found in the culture of the conqueror. The mental mirror of the conqueror can only be found in the eyes of the conquered, those people who do not read or write or leave histories or legends, but simply live and die unremembered.
In this way, as an act of sympathetic but nonetheless pure imagination, the New Western is necessarily not the document of the social historian. He writes: “the real opposite of nostalgia is psychedelic, the reverse of remembering is hallucinating, which means that, insofar as the New Western is truly New, it, too, must be psychedelic.” The New Western, in this way, is a hallucination of templexity; of a false past aimed towards a new future.
The ease of jumping towards Mark Fisher’s Acid Communism here is potent. Fisher’s Communism is not a remembering of past Communisms but nor is it a forgetting. It is a hallucinating of the New, in that way that the New Western, and Westworld, are truly new imaginings of the flows of the American West.
Of course, Fiedler highlights the inherent anachronism of this framing. So many infamous psychedelics are, of course, natural — marijuana, peyote, ayahuasca. These drugs “are our bridge to — even […] gifts from — the world of the Indian”.
Again, I am writing this post as the new series of Westworld unfolds, and how the role of the mystical Indian hosts will develop is currently unknown. (At the time of writing, I have just watched the fourth episode of the series.)
However, I would like to end with the same example with which Fiedler ends his own book.
Perhaps the best analogy for all that we have discussed, continuing this ever-entangling entanglement of consciousnesses that Fielder and others explore, is the finale of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Jack Nicholson’s character, “Mac” (aka McMurphy), is, in a way, the ultimate Westerner; the rebel, who stirs up and antagonises the status quo. He is, as Fiedler calls him, “the New American Man.” Fiedler writes on the original 1962 book, set in a psychiatric hospital: “McMurphy chooses instead if not madness, at least aggravated psychopathy and an alliance with his half-erased, totally schizophrenic Indian comrade — an alliance with all that his world calls unreason.”
McMurphy, we must remember, is not actually mad. He pleads insanity when convicted of crimes of battery and gambling, believing he will receive a more lenient sentence. The tragic irony of the story is that he is eventually lobotomised, and it is the Chief, in the film at least, on seeing what has become of his friend, the fully-erased New American Man, who breaks out of his affective impotence and heads for the Outside.
Just as the Man in Black, in seeking the maze, is disappointed to find it is not for him, there is perhaps a parable here for the current White Western Man that the revolution is not for him. This seems to be what has the Right running scared. In wanting to take responsibility for their actions only, and not the actions of others, they may be left treading water.
If the White Man really wants to exit, he can’t lead but only follow…
Invoking “The Left” and “The Right” is a bad habit of this blog and since we’re on a roll doing clarifications, here’s another one.
For this blog, invocations of Left and Right are used intently to refer to the Big Tent labels that they are, although — of course — this isn’t always a helpful or clear way to frame the dynamism of the current political landscape.
Their usage persists on this blog, however, because I feel like patchwork contends with these Big Tents inherently and I would rather talk about this broad contention abstractly than get too bogged down in that very online tendency to academically overdefine micropolitical positions. (At least at this stage.) I’d rather keep things flexible and scalable — just as patchwork should be. 
As ‘State Decay‘ began to explore, patchwork warrants the fragmentation of our unwieldy political “wholes”, which we have already been seeing for some time — or, arguably, for all time, considering the cyclic processes of fragmentation and consolidation that define so much of political history.
A U/ACC vision of patchwork suggests that we stop getting cold feet, with regards to fragmentation, and stop naively attempting to consolidate untameable processes into hard-bordered state apparatuses. The scar tissue that has resulted from such incessantly pursued consolidatory processes looks, at present, to be more brittle than ever before.
So… Let go.
Identity politics is one lens through which the Left itself considers this phenomenon of fragmentation and difference — sometimes usefully, sometimes not so much. Identity politics obviously has a long history and many of its antecedent constitutive parts look very different to their now well-known caricatures. It is my view that many of these ideas still hold potentials for contemporary productive politics, despite their unfortunate recent reputations.
To cut to the chase, the question I want to ask in this post is this: could you turn your safe space into a patch?
That’s not a glib bit of cynicism on my part. To ask the question of how functional a sovereign safe space would be, whilst a bit funny, also asks that you put your money where your mouth is…
The response to the last post in this new series was great but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had a lot to qualify. Such is the danger of building a blogpost out of year-old reading group notes…
A recent email exchange with Robin Mackay has revealed a lot of my own blind spots which I think are worth addressing here before moving forwards as planned. So consider this Part 1b as we go a bit deeper…
…but also, I feel like a change of title, as I am finding the “eerie” is taking precedence. So, let’s talk about the Eerie Engine…
The most obvious qualification I feel like I must make following the last post is with regards to my use of the word “deontologising” which was often used without its very important hyphen. I was hoping to refer to a process of de-ontologising here rather than anything related to Kant’s deontological ethics. This was perhaps a clumsy and ineffective alternative to “de-subjectifying”, used so as to avoid the limiting of the Deleuzian Event to processes of subjection as well as emphasising what many have described as a lack of an ontology (in the philosophically traditional sense) in Deleuze’s writings.
For Deleuze, there is no being-event. The Heideggerian “being-” modifier becomes a cul-de-sac for a plethora of chaotic forces. The Event is, rather, a way of describing pure multiplicity.
What interests me, in talking about the Event in orbit of Mark’s writings, as I tentatively did previously, is that many of Deleuze’s writings on Event and desire seem to overlap. Desire is important for them both, of course, and Mark’s postcapitalist desire was surely to be key to his Acid Communism.
The central question of Mark’s Postcapitalist Desire course at Goldsmiths — the first five sessions of which went ahead before his death — is whether we, as a society, truly have a desire for a postcapitalist existence/experience. If not, why not? And how might we signal-boost such an apparently marginal desire?
The basis for these questions comes from that now familiar (and frankly dull) argument made against any person or group that calls themselves anti-/postcapitalist. In fact, I saw one retweeted on my feed just last night:
There’s a narrative behind [this argument] which is a story about desire. These protesters have the products of advanced capitalism, therefore… it’s not only that they’re hypocrites, it’s that they don’t really want what they say they want. They don’t really want a wealth beyond capitalism. What they want is all of the fruits of capitalism and ultimately that’s why capitalism will win. They may claim ethically that they want to live in a different world but libidinally, at the level of desire, they are committed to living within the current capitalist world.
It is here — on this hinge of an eerie desire — that I think we will find the connection between Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie and the unfinished Acid Communism.
If this is the contemporary state of (our understanding of) desire, what hope do we have for the future?
In the clip above, HIGNFY-regular Paul Merton repeatedly ridicules Mensch for her belief that enjoying a Starbucks and an Apple product is enjoying all that capitalism has to offer. What seems implicit in much of Mark’s analyses in The Weird and the Eerie is that capitalism, as well as placating desire, can’t help but produce the desirable antecedents for its own demise. For Mark, in being aware — quite literally, as opposed to Mensch’s flawed generalising — of all that capitalism has to offer us, we may find the gaps in its border wall; we may reach its outside…
To have one’s consciousness raised is not merely to become aware of facts of which one was previously ignorant: it is instead to have one’s whole relationship to the world shifted.
Mark Fisher (1968 — 2017)
In his essay, ‘No Romance Without Finance’, Mark Fisher explored the ways that popular culture functions as a form of consciousness. Music culture, in particular, has largely untapped potentials as a tool for consciousness raising; a tool for the collective production of knowledges and subjectivities, particularly those outside the social mainstream.
The Left has repeatedly failed to harness these potentials in order to instantiate real social change. Countless cultures have been ravaged by the tendrils of a Thatcherite war on dance music that continues to extend into our futures. Nonetheless, Grime’s public embrace of Jeremy Corbyn, for example, was an unprecedented move in this direction.
Consciousness Razing is an attempt to channel these processes whilst celebrating and building upon Mark’s thought. We hope to create further conditions through which we might raze the prevailing cultural consciousness of corporate cultures in favour of a renewed political consciousness. As Mark’s final text, ‘Acid Communism’, demanded: “instead of seeking to overcome capital, we should focus on what capital must always obstruct: the collective capacity to produce, care and enjoy.”
Inherent to these collective capacities are politics of class. Participants are invited to consider class across the UK and globally. The contradictory role of the state is laid bare in its supposed enforcement of ‘common wealth’ (see: ‘aspirational’ culture, ‘social mobility’ or ‘big society’), the production of which it actually blocks (see: austerity, time poverty, visa restrictions). Supposed scarcity produces razed-states of negative solidarity, a race to the bottom that we see played out daily. How can we build anew, in order to raise each other, together?
Hosted by SET in Dalston on 9th June 2018, this afternoon event will position participatory workshops on class and political consciousness alongside a night of forward-thinking dance music, creating the conditions for new dialogues and activities that allow us to collectively navigate the terrain of Mark’s most infamous provocation: Is there no alternative?
I’ve only had a couple of lucid dreams in my life. For the most part, they just happened and I went with them, usually choosing to fly around before waking up naturally, eventually remembering none of the details.
Aphex Twin’s lucid dream stories have always fascinated me and my girlfriend’s parents have often described their own adventures in their youth. They kept detailed dream diaries as a way of training themselves to not forget and therefore recognise dreams and this was the training they swore by. They say they got quite good at it but it wasn’t worth keeping up longer term.
Right now, it’s 4am. I woke up from a lucid dream 15 minutes ago and it was, without a doubt, one of the worst dreams I’ve ever had.
I was stuck in an endless succession of lucid excursions in which I got quicker and quicker at recognising the falsity of my dreams but I was unable to wake myself up or convince my mind to let me go.
I can’t remember how the dream began, in much the same way I can’t remember falling asleep, but the close cycle of dreams was quick to establish itself. I have a very vague feeling that I felt the sensation of falling within an empty dream and woke up with a jolt before immediately falling asleep again. It was this in-between state I ended up stranded in.
In the dream that followed, I would wake up in my bed in the middle of the night and gradually realise that my flat was not my flat. Nothing at all, apart from my bed, my girlfriend and our bedroom rug seemed to match reality.
First, I remember looking out of our London window and seeing a Cardiff street. Later, in successive versions of the same dream, the layout of the flat would be drastically different or it would be the wrong size. As my unconscious scrambled to formulate something true to life, it seemed to become worse and worse at convincing me. However, when I was sure I was dreaming and chose to wake up, I would instead “wake up” in another dream.
The turning point in the dream came when I became aware of this fact: that waking up within a dream was now the starting point for successive dream-cons. I was desperately trying to wake my girlfriend up so I could talk to her. When I succeeded, the dream immediately began to fall apart again, completely unable to render her realistically.
But still, I didn’t wake up.
The first thing to go was my vision. In real life, we had spent the day with friends celebrating a birthday. Alcohol was very present and in the dream I was shit-faced. I knew I was dreaming but, as if to corroborate the inaccuracies in another way, my mind made me incredibly dream-drunk and so I once again began to expect inaccuracy and a lack of universal recognition, in much the same way you wander through your own house drunk, bumping into permanent fixtures that are now sneaking up on you.
Eventually, this wore off — I remembered I did not actually get drunk yesterday — but things took another drastic turn. Having managed to wake up my dream-girlfriend and ask her to help me, realising I was not awake and not drunk, a ghost of another girl I had spent time with earlier in the day was dragging me back to bed. This was horrifying. Again, the dream tried to drag me out of my lucidity. Strange layouts of space I could handle, but I soon as I felt my mental projections working against me, I became dream-hysterical at my lack of control as I paradoxically did battle with myself, so incredibly tired but wanting out of this particular dreaming experience. Eventually, I was crying and screaming at my dream-girlfriend, who could not understand what was happening, saying: please please call an ambulance I don’t understand what’s happening I’m hallucinating…
The sensation that I was lucid, but unsure if I was successfully awake or still asleep, made me feel like I had lost my mind.
This cycle too continued for a while as I slipped in and out of dreams, consistently believing my mind had snapped as I slid from dream-space to dream-space, always distressed and seeking help. However, whether drawn by ghosts or the bed itself, every time I was back with my head on the pillow, screaming to my girlfriend, I would wake up again.
Eventually the hallucinatory breakdown narrative too lost consistency and I realised all I had to do to escape this nightmare was to wake myself up violently on my own steam. I needed to thrash around so violently in my dream that traces of my movements might make it through to my lost corporeal self.
Like a dog fidgeting as it runs in a dream, in my dream I wanted to run as fast as I could, headlong into the nearest wall.
Unfortunately, the cycle of lucid dreams became so tightly wound by this point that all I was capable of doing was screaming and writhing in bed as violently as I could, unable to get out of bed, hoping the dream-action would transfer to my actual body and either wake myself up or disturb my real-girlfriend enough that she would come to my aid. On a number of occasions, I dreamt that I did disturb her with a muffled half-conscious yelp but these still were only the overlapping kernels of dreamed dreams and false consciousness.
In the end, I did it. With a violent shake of my head, I immediately realised I was back to normal. I was surprised by how convincing I found everything once I was awake, although I was painfully aware that I was confirming my conscious state with (roughly) the same combination of faculties that had tricked me whilst asleep. The unease of not being entirely convinced lingers and disturbs. I thought, how else to make this real than tell the story to my blog?
Hopefully, when I wake up at a more normal time, in a number of hours, I can look to this post and tell myself, confidently: I’m awake…