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:
Mark addressed this in the first seminar of the course, highlighting a particularly smug example of this argument given by Louise Mensch on a British comedy panel show:
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…
Whilst desire is, on the one hand, that thing which capitalism has put on a leash so successfully, it is nonetheless incapable of taming it absolutely.
To return to Deleuze, his references to Event and desire may at first seem somewhat obscure but they are also closely linked and deserve further unpacking.
Deleuze wrote of the Event that it “is revolutionary due to an integration of signs, acts and structures through the whole event.” Echoing this elsewhere, he writes that desire is a “system of a-signifying signs out of which unconscious flows are produced in a social-historical field.” For him, desire “is revolutionary because it is always seeking more connections.”
In this way, both Event and desire are framed as harbingers of revolutionary potentials due to the necessity of their assemblage through various multiplicities. The relation of this to “becoming”, it seems to me, is that the Event is a way of thinking “becoming” without limiting it in reference to the individualised subject; beyond a strict ontology, beyond Dasein; as a way of thinking pure multiplicity beyond the two poles of the subject and object. (Although, I’m thinking now, this is also, partly, perhaps, the importance of Riemannian geometry to Deleuze and Guattari’s thinking in A Thousand Plateaus — a way of mapping infinite curves between two points…)
The necessity of this sense of multiplicity becomes clear when thinking of flows, of which desire is surely one. There can be no being-there of flows. To situate, to make present, a flow is surely to halt it. If ontology, as the philosophy of “being”, is the study of that which is, the Event of becoming problematises our considerations of ontology’s traditionally anthropotemporal nature. As Deleuze says in conversation with Claire Parnet in L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze: “When anyone says, every time anyone says, I desire this or that, that means that he/she is in the process of constructing an assemblage, and it’s nothing else, desire is nothing else.”
The eerieness of this desiring-production — eerie in its avoidance of absolutes — comes in its opposition to Lacan. For Lacan, desire arises from lack. For Deleuze and Guattari, however, desire is a productive force in itself. That is not necessarily to say that lack is itself lacking. It is to emphasise that lack is never absolute — it is not some clear absence to be overcome. Desire is eerie in the way that it is a force which arises from a failure of absence and a failure of presence. To make desire a process of acquisition only is to Menschically oversimplify it.
Deleuze and Guattari, speaking of desire, quote D.H. Lawrence on love: “We have pushed a process into a goal.” We can say that desire, then, in this way, arises from the eerie in Mark’s formulation. Entangled failures of absence and presence begin to function like a Bataillean engine of expenditure for the ouroborosic “production of consumption” which is expanded outwards onto the plane of the Event: the plane for an immaterial production of consumptive forces.
It is this pivot of an eerie process that I think first provoked Ed into requesting this series.
On occasion, on this blog, I have referred to patchwork (amongst other things) as an example of an eerie politic, in explicit relation to what Mark refers to as “eerie entities“. If an eerie entity is that indeterminate thing which exists beyond itself, producing and consuming itself, defined by its failure to both instantiate and be devoid of agency, invoking a relation to the Nietzschean eternal recurrence as an inherently revenant question (to invoke Derrida, ew) — surely Mark was right, in light of this, when he said that capital is an eerie entity par excellence — an eerie politic is likewise that politic which pivots on an axis of failed absence and presence, such as Deleuze and Guattari’s “people-to-come” or Mark’s postcapitalist “collective subject” or my own view of patchwork as a name for the similar engine internal and external to the productive consumption of the state and its subjects.
What is worthy of further consideration here, as Robin wrote to me, are the stakes of exiting the present / presence for such an eerie politics. What does the eerie, running on this kind of paradox engine, do to the already familiar failures of presence / the present — familiar because, as Robin noted, presence / the present are already important for Deleuze.
Robin wrote in his email:
The logic of the event in Deleuze is always a matter of escaping or disrupting the illusion of the present/presence (or as Eric Alliez has it “the excessively presentist representation of the present” that weighs us down with its apparent inescapability).
This certainly speaks to Mark’s sense of the eerie and its relation to the outside: to the exceeding of presently understood boundaries of space, time and subject. (Hence de-ontologising the Event in allowing it to exist beyond our understanding of the boundaries of being.)
Robin continued this point, in his email, by expanding marvellously on the points made about sound in the previous post:
There is a link here with the question of the ‘deregulation of the senses’ vs. the integration of sensory modalities: when one sense gives you data that the others cannot corroborate, it’s always a problem for presence. I’ve explored this a bit with Florian [Hecker]’s work. Michel Chion talks about ‘synchresis’, the process by which our minds strive to integrate auditory and visual information (his example being when you see an object on the cinema screen, and the appropriate sound is played, you will hear the sound as coming from the visual image). I talk about ‘asynchresis’ as a mode of de-integration of the sensory subject (which of course is also a dismantling of world).
A major part of Robin’s comment was on pointing out the one-sided nature of my exploration of the Deleuzian Event, to which I must confess an level of ignorance — blog as public notebook showing my workings, etc. etc. — the importance of which he makes explicit in his notes on the senses above.
Following this, Robin went on to write about how Deleuze “insists on always twinning EVENT with SIGN (‘my work has always been nothing but a vitalism …’ he writes — this bit is always quoted — but then goes on to say: ‘that is, a theory of EVENTS and SIGNS’).”
This seems to be a quote that causes much confusion around the extent of Deleuze’s vitalism but an old post on Levi Bryant’s Larval Subjects blog does well to clarify what Deleuze may be getting at. Bryant writes that vitalism, for Deleuze, is “the presence of some other force or activity within the depths of things.”
Rather than giving ourselves two options about the nature of objects (mechanistic causation versus vitalistic agency), why not instead bite the bullet and argue that Newton-Laplace et al got it wrong, and that mechanistic causation as conceived by these thinkers is an exceedingly abstract, limited, conception of matter.
On first reading, this makes me think of Deleuze’s empiricism via Hume’s billiards analogy but that’s a longer thread for another post…
In thinking about causation in this way, we can easily slide on down towards semiotics and, in line with this, Robin, in his email, referred to the weird and the eerie as potentially providing us with a “semiotics of the unrecognisable”, pointing towards C.S. Peirce’s theory of signs.
For Pierce — put very simply — the basic structure of semiotics is to be found in the relations between sign, object and interpretant. Framed in more familiar terms, this can be understood as the signifier (sign), signified (object) and, most interestingly, an agency (interpretant) equipped with the necessary understanding of their relation. (Hence an empiricism.)
Robin’s suggestion for this blog was to attempt to work out where the “eerie sign” may sit within Pierce’s system. (Pierce’s system, it must be said, does not end with this structure. He was concerned with semiotics for the whole of his life but, for the sake of blogger’s brevity, I won’t go much deeper.)
Robin was to ask of the “eerie sign”: “Is it indexical, symbolic, iconic, none of the above, or not yet even a sign”? He also asked: “Animals use indexical signs and the ‘pointing to’ aspect of such signs I suppose is an indication of ‘agency’, but does the ‘eerie cry’ have that kind of indicative dimension?”
In thinking about these questions, I fell into a K-Punk clickhole.
Mark was to write about the semiotics of the weird and the eerie more explicitly on his blog than in his eventual last book, discussing the events of the “Weird Symposium” held in 2007. He writes about a presentation given by one of his collaborators, Andy “English Heretic” Sharp:
English Heretic looked at the etymological roots of the word ‘weird’ in the concept of the Wyrd as weaver of Fate. It was Shakespeare who introduced ‘weird’ into the English language in the Fate-driven story of Macbeth; and, in its hyperstitional structure, Macbeth interestingly echoes the story of Oedipus. In both, the prophecies generate the catastrophe; or, rather, the attempt to escape the prophecies makes them come true. The signs are themselves the engine of fatality.
In line with this, perhaps we can draw clearer lines here between the weird as sign and the eerie as event. Each needs its counterpart to be semiotically understood. Only by considering the two together can we get to the depths of things. Signs are, perhaps, what capitalism has become so adept at producing. In attempting to escape its prophecies, we nonetheless make them a reality, leading us to believe — in our present moment of absolute embeddedness — that there is no alternative.
However, we can find one of the clearest investigations of this depth of things in Deleuze’s book on Proust and signs. Opening with a consideration of the title of Proust’s magnum opus, In Search of Lost Time, Deleuze notes how this Search is perhaps a signifier for the temporal paradox of learning and remembering; of understanding. He writes that
memory intervenes [in the search for “lost time” — not just time passed but time wasted] only as the means of an apprenticeship that transcends recollection both by its goals and by its principles. The Search is oriented to the future, not to the past.
Learning is essentially concerned with signs. Signs are the object of a temporal apprenticeship, not of an abstract knowledge. To learn is first of all to consider a substance, an object, a being as if it emitted signs to be deciphered, interpreted. There is no apprentice who is not ‘the Egyptologist’ of something. One becomes a carpenter only by becoming sensitive to the signs of wood, a physician by becoming sensitive to the signs of disease. Vocation is always predestination with regard to signs. Everything that teaches us something emits signs; every act of learning is an interpretation of signs or hieroglyphs. Proust’s work is based not on the exposition of memory, but on the apprenticeship to signs.
It is all too easy to consider Mark’s work as another kind of search for lost time, in this sense — time passed, time wasted, absent time — or, as Mark may more likely put it, back in his explicitly hauntological period, as a search for lost futures, by making himself an apprentice to the “signs” produced by that eerie entity: capital.
As we discussed last time, Mark’s focus on a term like “lost futures” perhaps led to an unfortunate doubling-down on nostalgia amongst his readers but he was always concerned — productively — with the future, and his subtle reorientation towards The New in The Weird and the Eerie makes this far more clear.
Mark was, perhaps, to borrow from Robin, an apprentice of signs unrecognisable; an apprentice of signs-to-come.
At this point in our exchange, Robin and I moved onto talking about jungle, surely the perfect subcultural — and now somewhat, unfortunately but inevitably, nostalgic — example of making oneself an apprentice to unrecognisable signs. Jungle, as Robin put it, was always entangled with the “eternal promise of disturbing novelty”. Robin continued: “Maybe the role of music, and especially fast-evolving electronic genres, is that this is a space free enough to stimulate fleeting moments of unpresence, which may then act as a fuse for further weirdness.”
I’ll quote Robin here at length here, with his permission, because I couldn’t say this better myself:
What always stuck with me about my initial experiences of jungle was that it was truly a transcendental = traumatic experience i.e. I could actually experience the sensation of my “faculties” desperately attempting to piece together the complexity of something that therefore, in a sense, never “happened” or was never “present” because I couldn’t yet manage to process it in real time. Nowadays I guess listening to jungle is a mixture of sometimes genuinely reliving that experience and being nostalgic for it, but the only other genre I have got it from was footwork.
I think for CCRU this was precisely the role that jungle played: the site of a kind of leverage, producing a compelling sensory experience of outsideness that could then be parlayed into other domains. “Thought always begins with an intensity”…
I got thinking yesterday about how crucial this point is re. trauma and the transcendental — in CCRU, “Sarkon lapses”, Templeton’s time experiments, etc. (all riffing off of Kant): This “recursion” you mention [in the previous post], when it goes unchecked, is surely nothing but the inescapable acknowledgement that these anomalous “gaps”, “wrongnesses” or “glitches” — where events unexperienceable or traumatic to the integrated subject turn up as holes in experience, or have to be retro-assembled and therefore somehow bear evidence of nonpresentness — are in fact not at all anomalies in an otherwise ordered system. Although the ‘system’ as such requires us to discount them in this way, instead they can light a fuse that leads to the conclusion that experience/world as a whole is never immediate but always subject to assembly, from the outside, and by some thing (process-entity — which is as valid for Kantian transcendentalism as for Metzinger’s nemotic neuroscience).
The eerie sound produces an acousmatic body which, in its incongruity with the known world, tears a hole in the benighted integrity of the present — before becoming, retrospectively, “just” a fox’s cry…
Robin noted that he previously discussed similar ideas with Lee Gamble in an interview for Electronic Beats, the extended version of which is on the Urbanomic website.
I had forgotten about this interview but this is certainly the draw I have to Lee’s music: the unfortunate label of “deconstructed techno/jungle” he is often stuck with in the music press often feels like it ignores the strength of the eerie engine he employs for himself.
As he puts it: “Embedding ghosts into sound.”
I have a very strong attachment to his 2014 album KOCH. Not for its heady deconstruction of music that I love but for its productive exacerbation of what drew me to jungle in the first place: its negentropically productive consumption of sound. I remember, when that album came out, I rinsed it repeatedly whilst replaying Silent Hill 2 and that is an association I cannot shake. It is, in light of this, not, for me, jungle or techno deconstructed, but jungle and techno’s unconscious writ large — it is the construction of an unfamiliar otherworld, always already present in jungle as the underside of what we all know, of sonic familiarity. It is like a productive document of rave trauma in the way it harnesses certain unconscious desires unearthed unceremoniously in the teenage bedroom (but also, of course, on the dancefloor).
This sense of trauma is integral here, and particularly to me, personally and immediately, I must say.
Previously I wrote a (now reverted to draft) post about depression and the event, and writing (and then deleting) this has caused something of a stall on this blog.
Recently, my anxiety has become painfully exacerbated. I am struck by a guilt and sadness over the events of the last year — the year after Mark’s death. Mark’s death is central to me, personally, on this blog, because it is a gigantic hole in my own experience. Only now am I feeling the nonpresentness of that moment. I live closer to Goldsmiths University than I did at the time of Mark’s death — although now I am no longer a student there — and this continuation of space alongside a processional re-consolidation of my own subjectivity, has made me feel everything I didn’t feel last year.
I feel a past nonpresentness that is now exacerbated by my renewed presentness.
I wish it wasn’t, but the experience of Mark’s death is a trauma in the way that the theoretical body of Mark Fisher, like the acousmatic body of thought, ruptures the expectations of a space in which he himself is no longer present.
Musically, however, such an experience is far more attractive and easier to contend with. Reading Lee and Robin’s descriptions of their first encounters with jungle reminds me of my own. I remember that my musical taste, as a young’un, was heavily influenced by my Dad’s. I remember, on our way to Hull Fair one year, in the late ’90s, we listened to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy (still my favourite album of theirs), sitting in the car at the Humber Bridge car park, waiting to board the Hull Fair park’n’ride, listening to the track “No Quarter” (still my favourite Zeppelin track) as car headlights played on the leaves of nearby woods…
The beauty of this track remains its sonic environment — its weirdness by traditional rock standards (The Beatles’ Blue Jay Way is, for me, another important bridge between Dad’s music and this junglist outside) — acting as a precursor to the utter rupturing of the sonic that Hull Fair would later provide: a square-mile of mechanical theme-park behemoths, each with their own sound system, competing with each other, blaring the latest in jungle, drum’n’bass and gabba.
The entanglement of the physical familiarity of Hull Fair — a central experience for any Hull child and adolescent — smashed together with what was, for many, the unfamiliarity of its body-penetrating soundscape… (I don’t think this has been retained from the late 90s — I haven’t been in years.)
Without going too deep into jungle’s Proustian capacities for me personally, it is nontheless worth noting this experience (and those of Lee and Robin) for its importance as an encounter with unfamiliar signs. This is common to many things and Robin explains the synthesis of this kind of experience well in the interview, describing the affinity between the edges of philosophy and dance music:
All of the work we publish is about challenging inherited conceptions of what it means to be a human, what it means to sense, to understand, or to think. This means expanding your perception of the world through concepts, using philosophical thinking to break down what’s known and familiar until you realise that underneath those recognisable ordinary surfaces there’s a whole world of intricate abstract mechanisms working away. Isn’t that really the same as what happens when you begin to understand how to synthesize sounds, and on a sensory level when you’re making tracks, when you’ve spent 7 hours listening to the same samples over and over and shifting things millisecond by millisecond; or when you’ve been dancing all night and the music has got right inside you? You get a totally different sense of time, you hear things differently, you tune in to things on an unfamiliar level. So both of these processes are getting to similar places through different means. I think they have a lot to offer each other.
Here, jungle and philosophy entwined, become processes for reaching the depths of things.
Robin continued, three years later, in his email:
I wrote recently to François [Bonnet] about his work’s demand (against rationalist denigrations of phenomenology and appeals to pre-discursive experience) that we hold open the validity of that precognitive space of sensation: even if we admit that there is no knowledge or even ‘experience’ as such upstream of the symbolic order, there is nevertheless a beforeness, before (re)cognition, and even though it is mute, it can have greater, more important ramifications if it is nurtured, perhaps precisely because it is experience that is not “mine” but precedes me. So this is a slightly different but related point [via, I think, Bonnet]:
“not just the existence but the innate value of inchoate experiences, ones that leave their impressions but cannot be represented or communicated directly.”
This is certainly the experience explored in my “Egress” essay but jungle does well to culturally impersonalise this.
Turning again to Robin’s email:
I think I was guilty of severely undervaluing this realm of ‘unshared experience’.
It’s partly a cultural problem (we are all used to sharing everything, all the time, so the unshared ceases to have any value).
It’s partly a personal problem with pressure of work and family, plus depression (feeling like the ‘inside’ is empty, or feeling like my own experience is worthless or a ‘waste of time’ unless it’s directly ‘productive’ or validated externally).
It’s partly a problem with too many encounters with a certain type of philosopher (hardline rationalists of some sort or another who disparage phenomenology, interiority, imagination, dream….).
Reading [Bonnet’s] Infra-World I was very strongly reminded that, even if what we value ultimately is to produce, to externalise, to share ideas, concepts, words, etc., the crucible of this is very often that uncontrolled, unshared, incommunicable world. There is an inner life with which we are highly familiar as children, with shifting, gentle, surprising tides of sensations, ideas, speculations, emotions. A few writers (such as Proust) can evoke it and take us back there. Its value is difficult to uphold as adults, and it is difficult to give it time — particularly in the current state of distressed, anxious and over-connected culture (I guess from what I have read so far that [Bonnet’s presently untranslated(?) book] Après la Mort talks about this too).
Now I think of that inner sanctum where the infra-world resides as being like a cooking pot: sometimes you really have to leave the lid on in order for the flavours to develop. If you take the lid off to show people continually, nothing will ever cook, and you will be one frustrated chef…
The tension of writing about first experiences of jungle becomes clear here. I cannot help but feel a desire to share them, particularly as experiences which were experienced so fluidly and uncritically, as a child at a fun fair, feeling sensorially ungrounded on a cocktail of rollercoaster adrenalin, candy floss, and drum and bass.
These experiences, in being processed, become an attempt to ground such experiences within their affects on the subject equipped with hindsight but this, too, is a cul-de-sac for thought — an interesting one but one that feels, on reading Deleuze (and Guattari) especially, explicitly limiting.
As ever, the crux of our investigation must necessarily become impersonal — but how can it remain useful? This is the problem that arises, and which will be explored in future posts, when considering what exactly is meant by the concept of “agency” in Mark’s (and others) writings.
Robin writes in his email, echoing the Gamble interview:
The eerie definitely characterised by the notion of agency […] reminds me of something that I always used to get from listening to great jungle tracks featuring continual hyper-articulated changes in drum patterns — it was often like the drums were speaking to me in some language I couldn’t quite understand (or, I guess, reconstitute into any signifying form). Which reminds me of the archetypal ‘colonial eerie’ of the talking drums (which is in Conrad too)…
If jungle presents us, sometimes traumatically, with an outside, how can we think of this this experience without subjecting it to the limits of subjection? (For instance, how is this possible without offering it up to the stakes of thought outside the (nonetheless important) cultural relation to African — or otherwise non-Western — drumming? Is this possible? Worthwhile?)
Robin noted how this experience is not exclusive to jungle but related to processes of recording more generally:
I remember as a kid I was really excited by my tape recorder (yeah I’m that old) and I remember secretly recording my Dad then playing it back to him, I have a distinct memory of how angry it made him, lol… (reminded here about Burroughs’ use of tape recorders as riot instruments) …. this is maybe a generational thing (i.e. he would have been more distressed than I would now be at hearing my own voice. But still, even “millenials” are far less used to hearing themselves than to seeing themselves.)
I disagreed with Robin that this is a generational thing — or at least I still related to it despite being a sprite young thing (I can’t speak of the experiences of those younger, even, than me).
I remember the first time I heard my own voice played back to myself quite vividly when making radio reports in primary school. (Year 5, to be exact.) I remember listening back to a recording we had made in class and denying categorically that the voice I was hearing was my own. I remember finding it hilarious and traumatic in equal measure.
More recently, I experienced the disparate tensions of the aural and visual often when I was still trying to make it as an artist-photographer interested in sound.
For example, I have a lot of pictures of my girlfriend’s parents from going on daytrips and holidays — I document everything — and if I ever put them on previous blogs they wouldn’t mind. However, I remember once making a sound collage of one New Year’s Day, the end of the year that I bought myself my first bit of proper sound recording gear: a Zoom H4N. I recorded my girlfriend’s parents ooo-ing and ahh-ing as we watched the London fireworks on the TV from Derbyshire and, when I later put this diary-collage on Soundcloud, they were really upset by my intrusion.
It seemed totally irrational to me, at first. I nevertheless apologised and took it down but I still felt a bit annoyed that they were so upset. In hindsight, I definitely understand why it was upsetting for them and it’s precisely related to that disconnection of sound and vision. This disconnect was central to my “photographic practice” after completing my undergraduate arts degree — philosophy has derailed exploring this (practically) any further.
I had gotten used to sound in this respect but they hadn’t. My “artistic practice” — that will never not sound wanky — was built on my own confronting of this disconnect but, on a more interpersonal level, it was not fair of me to push this experience upon them.
[This is distressing] because of the difficulty in integrating the inner self with the auditorily objectivated (non-)self ? As you say, the sound of ourselves is usually mediated by our own bodies. Is there some link between that kind of intimate hearing and the experience of the vocalic/acousmatic body? Is the experience of a music such as jungle also related, in the sense that it presents us with sounds whose production we have to impute to impossible instruments or alien drummer glitch-beings (which is perhaps why sample based jungle is more weird/eerie than techno)?
The true stakes of this thinking emerge when we try to consider Mark’s thought in this area, once again, in relation to politics, as the shadow of Acid Communism seems to demand that we do in its absence.
Sound cultures seem relatively innocuous to consider in this way, whilst still being nonetheless somewhat political.
Robin continued by asking questions that have plagued me for over a year now and which are, in part, integral to the existence of this blog:
I appreciate the concentration on these liminal experiences and their possible transcendental valence, but I am worried about it possibly leading into a non-politics of vaunting individual transcendent experiences — I [worry] that all of this high-falutin’ stuff [will] just ultimately collapse into “it’s a bit weird when you go in the woods innit? Makes a nice change to get out though”, lol!!
– So, can we be more precise about this than “the eerie makes you doubt reality for a moment” and be more critical about its supposed debouching into some collective sociopolitical valence, and about the relation between actual eerie experiences, and how they relate to a human-planet relationship, and the literary eerie … (I somehow feel that this comes back to […] the relation between myth and ritual i.e. if the weird and eerie potentially open up these other spaces, then how can they be inscribed in an alternate collective symbolic order…).
Perhaps what I had done previously was equate this specific present/presence notion that Robin picked up on in an unhelpfully broad sense of the experience of being a subject. It is unhelpfully broad but this feels like where the political stakes, made impersonal, truly lie.
I don’t have answers to Robin’s questions — yet — but they are explicitly the questions I want to try and answer, in line with the Fisher-Function that Robin, previously, described so perfectly.
I cannot shake the sense that The Weird and the Eerie is a more literary/artistic foundation for a much bigger political project. It is the egress necessary before Acid Communism — at the very least in terms of Mark’s thought but also I feel it is necessary more generally.
Perhaps it is a superficial point to make but it does at least lay the groundwork for other kinds of exit/egress. I think this is maybe what I expected more of in The Weird and the Eerie, upon first reading it. It is also what I expected to emerge from the reading group that I was involved in — the notes from which will remain the foundation for this series of posts.
Throughout the reading group, I was waiting for a bait and switch of, to put it as glibly as Robin: “it’s a bit weird when you go in the woods innit? WELL WHAT ABOUT THE WOODS OF POSTCAPITALISM.” Mark resists such a move throughout, exacerbating the book’s own eerie ambivalence, whilst nonetheless always hinting at that implicit something, hard to grasp, in the depths of things.
This implicitness I feel , for instance, is inherently tied to all of Mark’s invocations of the death drive and its repetitious nature. I think this is what I also get from Marcuse’s Eros and Civilisation, which seemed to be a major influence on Mark’s later thought.
We will continue this thread in future posts, but, for now, this is more than enough to digest…
To be continued…