Cthulhic Tendrils Lubricated by Oil


This poster was shared by Notes on Liberty today:

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.


Leave a Reply