Deep Assignment #5

Last night, after our descent into the Cornish jungle in search of a mysterious obelisk, Robin and I watched Blood on Satan’s Claw.

Neither of us knew about the film but we found it resonating with our day exploring village enclosures and abandoned churches in the deep countryside.

In the film, a mysterious band of children take over an abandoned church in feudal Britain, in which they conduct their Satanic rituals and sacrifices. The church we found had not been cleared for any such activities (although the graveyard outside was remarkably well maintained). There was a sense that if the trees and brambles growing up beyond where the roof once was were removed, the entire structure might collapse.




Today, looking for an example of one of the church scenes on YouTube, I instead stumbled across an excerpt from a documentary which revisits the church in the film as it is today, further resonating with our activities and conversations this week…

The harvesting of skin aside…

“Just don’t call it the Cathedral!”

Just yesterday someone made this joke (by which I mean the title of this post) — online, in a private conversation so I won’t name names without asking — as if to say as soon as the Left gets close to articulating an analysis like the Cathedral it shuts down, or formulates it in such a way as to cleanse the analysis of any right-wing affinity.

“Just don’t call it the Cathedral!”

And then today, on the timeline, there’s an essay from Adam Kotsko which seems to encapsulate this completely. (Deepening the irony, perhaps, of this @Outsideness tweet.)

I do like Kotsko and read him a fair bit last year, coming to him as a translator of Agamben, whose Foucauldian analyses of the deep-rooted influence of Christianity on contemporary politics of the Left I find really interesting — which led to this post / talk.

The Cathedral, even as a Moldbug-Landian concept, does have much to say to many a Leftist blindspot, particularly the Left’s inherent complicity in the neoliberal subjectivity it so often tries to vocally position itself against.

Kotsko, in line with this, has a new book coming out called Neoliberalism’s Demons and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound precisely like “Just don’t call it the Cathedral!” in book form.

In an essay for the Stanford University Press Blog, he writes:

The question of neoliberalism’s legitimacy is not an economic, or even a political one. It is not simply a matter of tracing the history of the laws and policies that created the neoliberal world but of understanding the ways that the neoliberal paradigm exercises its influence. As many commentators have shown, this influence is profound: it goes beyond public policy to shape our own sense of ourselves and our self-worth. Under neoliberalism, we are continually marketing ourselves; we establish a personal brand where we might once have had a reputation, or we network where we might once have made friends. This market for selfhood is a deeply competitive one. We are in a constant struggle for attention, prestige, and respect—and can easily lose all three at any moment.

Clearly it is not enough to point to the power of law and state enforcement when dealing with such phenomena. There is a coercive element to neoliberalism, yet it would not be able to function without the soft power of persuasion and voluntary compliance. In other words, neoliberalism needs to make something like a moral claim on us. ‘Neoliberalism’s Demons’ contends that it achieves this by emphasizing the value of freedom. In many ways, the neoliberal model of freedom is very narrow: it prizes participation in the market through voluntary transactions and contractual agreements above all else. As for other forms of freedom—particularly the freedom to engage in collective rather than individual action—they are dismissed or even proclaimed contrary to “true” freedom. But this very narrowness is what grants neoliberalism its remarkable consistency and staying power.

To show why this is so, I draw on the conceptual resources of political theology. This hybrid field, which originated in the work of the German jurist Carl Schmitt, studies the often striking parallels between political and theological systems as well as the “secularization” of medieval theological concepts in modern political thought. My book attempts to broaden the field. It asks why parallels between the political and theological realms should exist in the first place and answers that both realms deal with a similar problem. On the theological side, we can speak of the problem of evil, namely, the problem of how an all-powerful and all-beneficent God can allow bad and unjust things to take place. On the political side, we can speak of the problem of legitimacy, which is to say, the problem of why the political order deserves our obedience and allegiance. I contend that these problems are fundamentally one and the same: the problem of evil asks why God deserves to rule over creation, and the problem of legitimacy asks why the political order allows bad things to happen to good people.

Freedom provides neoliberalism with an easy answer to the political problem of evil: bad things happen because we have chosen for them to happen. The market chooses winners and losers, and we all choose how to equip ourselves for market competition. Whatever happens, no matter how apparently unjust or arbitrary, thus reflects the free choice of everyone involved, which is in turn reflected in market outcomes. This dynamic reveals that the neoliberal concept of freedom is narrow in still another way. Not only is it limited to market transactions, but it is limited to generating blameworthiness.

And this, I argue, is where we find the strongest parallel between neoliberalism and Christian theology. In its classical forms, Christianity has always insisted on the existence of human free will, even while also insisting that exercising that will in any way that does not echo the will of God is evil or destructive. In other words, God has given us free will so that we will freely choose not to use it. This reasoning offers a two-pronged solution to the problem of evil. On the one hand, God is not responsible for it, as evil results from the free choice of his creatures; on the other, out of evil, God can draw even greater good, at once undoing that evil while ensuring that it contributes to his glory.

Over the centuries of Christian tradition, this latter point is increasingly emphasized, and eventually, it appears that God, in his endless pursuit of glory, actually entraps rebellious angels (that is, demons) in order to make sure that there is plenty of evil available for redirection toward the greater good. It is this perverse pattern that gives my book its title. My intention is not to demonize neoliberalism but to show how neoliberalism demonizes us. Just as God lures the fallen angels into making the mistakes that he will gloriously correct, so too does neoliberalism entrap us into taking the fall for its shortcomings and failures—all for the greater glory of shareholder value.

Joking aside, I’m genuinely interested to read this. It’s about time someone took this accusation (indirectly) to task and consider it seriously. I’ll have to read the book to properly consider how good a job it does though, of course… The first paragraph of the book’s introduction certainly seems to display the right amount of self-awareness:

Every academic critique of neoliberalism is an unacknowledged memoir. We academics occupy a crucial node in the neoliberal system. Our institutions are foundational to neoliberalism’s claim to be a meritocracy, insofar as we are tasked with discerning and certifying the merit that leads to the most powerful and desirable jobs. Yet at the same time, colleges and universities have suffered the fate of all public goods under the neoliberal order. We must therefore “do more with less,” cutting costs while meeting ever-greater demands. The academic workforce faces increasing precarity and shrinking wages even as it is called on to teach and assess more students than ever before in human history—and to demonstrate that we are doing so better than ever, via newly devised regimes of outcome-based assessment. In short, we academics live out the contradictions of neoliberalism every day.

Patchwork is not a Model (Part 2)

I must admit, my previous post on this was a stray thought had in the pub whilst reading Bonnet’s The Order of Sounds — a deeply interesting book which has far more to offer than first appearances suggest — which is to say, beyond the realm of sound studies which is its primary focus. It’s the kind of book that masterfully cultivates all these little offshoots in the mind as you read through it. It’s awesome.

“Patchwork is not a Model” was one such stray thought that felt like a nice little provocation to throw into the midst of all the recent “I’m just not convinced by patchwork as a model” tweets I have seen more frequently on the timeline recently. Not to single anyone out. I have heard seen this phrase more times over the last 9 months than I can possibly remember. It’s common.

I wrote the post in about five minutes, right before having a chat with my prospective — I guess now confirmed — PhD supervisor. We talked a bit about Mark’s work, how his suggestion that what we need now, as ever, is a previously unimagined and perhaps unimaginable “collective subject” and how this call to noumenal arms has been the jumping off point for this project that I have been incessantly sketching out on this blog since January.

There was an interesting moment where he suggested that the answer to Mark’s question “Is there no alternative?” is a very affirmative “yes”. Right now, we are seeing nothing but the proliferation of alternatives — “alt-this and alt-that” — but these alternatives still feel somewhat impotent in the swarming face of capitalism. Impotent because they feel like an explicit product of its currently fragmentary constitution.

The suggestion made in various places on this blog is that this sense of proliferation and fragmentation — the inherent engine of a post-capitalist patchwork geopolitically and subjectively understood — is the key to what comes next, but we have to first consider it for what it really is rather than swipe at everything with the broad brushstrokes of our similarly proliferating “realisms” — capitalist, nationalist, etc. (The irony of a term like “capitalist realism”, of course, is that it explicitly signifies the absence of the Real.)

“…Patchwork as a model” feels like such a broadstroke to me and one which I think this blog has routinely written against, if not so explicitly as in that very brief post.

To expand further on what I meant by that post:

Bonnet’s use of the Borges story is related to listening and the way that the sublimation of sound into structures of meaning removes something from the experience. Sound is all too readily subsumed into language, into the “administered sensible” (as he calls it more generally in The Infra-World).

Bonnet’s compelling argument through his (so far) translated works is very much that there is something beneath language, some infra-sensible which we cannot help but automatically administer into the semiotic but which must surely still be there. It is a project considering the transcendental outside of the sensible. He writes in The Order of Sounds:

It is through the action of regimes of discourse and of modelizing tensions that sound speaks to listening, and becomes audible. The primary problem of listening is to identify and establish the traces in sound that will permit listening to grasp and appropriate it. But the trace ‘exhibits the (voracious) property that the geographical system has of being able to transform action into legibility, but in doing so it causes a way of being in the world to be lost’.

In causing a ‘way of being in the world’ to be forgotten, though, it proposes another way, an aggregative vision, a vision of aggregation that structures and coordinates the position (and condition) of its being in the world. Tracing and marking are the instruments of possession, the premises of language and of the structured universe. […] What the model or map delivers is the objectivation of experience via the representational operation provided by a system of language.

Why this is relevant to patchwork, I think, is that it is likewise an attempt to consider the already inherent fragmentary properties of human experience and its politics prior to them being formulated into the homogenised spatio-temporal regime of the State.

I think this is the key point explored to my early Yorkshire Patchwork essay, “Lovers’ Flight: The Gothic Line in ‘Wuthering Heights” in which I meander from the structures of language to the Oedipal family and State. Wuthering Heights is precisely the kind of novel that resists a modelling. You can draw a map of the spaces in which the novel takes place, and some editions have, consisting of the houses and the space between them, but the moors themselves, the in-between, where libidinal energies fly free, are explicitly resistant to cartographic assimilation and I do not think this is a coincidence.

(A follow-up essay on moors themselves has been in draft limbo for a very long time now, but an extension of this argument to be explored via the example of the Moors Murders, is that, even today, they are spaces associated with nefarious, transgressive activity which are wholly resistant to the omniscient powers of the State.)

Central to the Gothic is this resistance of administration and the holding on to a way of being in the world, the eerie (dis)appearance of which is both uninstantiated and on the edge of being lost. This is why patchwork is an eerie politic to me. It must resist administration into contemporary (capitalist, neoliberal) subjectivities and instead be nurtured so that it might grow into something else.

What I’d like to do here, in light of the above expansion on my initial thought, is address some of the comments / posts written in response to “Patchwork is Not a Model” by Ed Berger and Michael James.

Ed was the first to respond in the comments below the original post, writing:

It seems to me that the slippage towards patchwork-as-model has to do with how Moldbug articulates it, as both a thought experiment (and thus only an ideal) and as a blueprint (though doubtful that it can actually be executed?). Land, meanwhile, takes it as both an extrapolation of the currently-existing world (meta-neocam as heuristic) and as a kind of solution to the current crisis. Land at times presents it as an “operating system” that is running, making the patches into kinds of programs. I dunno if this metaphor exists in Moldbug, but this does start to a kind of conceptual slippage towards patchwork-as-model, in that it suggests that some agent is doing the programming.

I think this is precisely what I mean also. This eerie agency at work beneath; in the depths of things. Patchwork’s “infra-model”. Ed continues:

The ‘soft’ reading, which I think is more Moldbuggian, is that this is the case, that humans instantiate patchwork as political program, but the ‘hard’ reading – the Landian reading – is that yes, ‘programming’ is happening, but its the byproduct of emergent computational intelligence taking place at the systemic level. Interestingly, in this sense we have a space of tension, in which patchwork does appear as simply a continuation of abstract social domination, but the counterpoint to that is that it is literally the mechanisms of that abstraction that provide escape from it, if ‘turned’ the correct way.

Maybe a way that clarifies things is by thinking patchwork not as operating system per se, but apprehending it as a temporal force – that is, we continue to think “patches” themselves in their spatial configurations (“blocks” of space-time, per D&G in ATP, would be the most accurate presentation imo), while the “patchwork” is this ungroundedness through which these fluctuations unfold, and ultimately annihilates them (not necessarily in a “dark” manner, but as the kind of Dionysian shattering that the 3rd synthesis of time inflects). Maybe this gets us closer to bridging the gaps to the Deleuzian patchwork, tangled as it is to both active experimentation and positive affirmation, the Yes of Dionysus against the Yes of the Ass.

Michael James, whose recent chat on Justin Murphy’s YouTube channel on patchwork and communism is a must watch on this topic, writes below:

Quickly, I don’t know why we wouldn’t see it both as a model (as blueprint, strategy, heuristic) and as something to be empirically instantiated (as infrastructure, economic systems, territory)?

Or, rather, I think we need cognitive models of patchwork to start the process of re-imagining what ecosystemic social assemblages are and can be (free as is possible from existing ideologies of statecraft, community, etc.), and technical models to go about the work of actually building them and possible assist others to reproduce them with modifications to fit a given bioregion – that is, if bolstering our patch viability by networking them and building cross-patch alliances is on interest.

So far, I agree. Cognitive models are certainly a necessity. I won’t ignore the fact that the more ethereal and abstract horror approach of this blog emphasises antecedent aesthetics rather than contemporary action. That’s not to say the latter is not of interest but I can’t feign to be a well read in these areas as Michael or Ed and I greatly admire the work they have both been doing to more rigorously formulate actionable alternative.

In line with our initial elaboration here, I think Michael is right to say, in his post, that patchwork is “both model/diagram (heuristic, blueprint, strategy) and as something to be empirically enacted (as material configuration, infrastructure, economic apparatus, territory)”. What I think is likewise worth emphasising, however, is this apparent undercurrent that we find exacerbated in various fictions. That which is resistant to the consolidatory baggage of cartographic and infrastructural understandings of space and self. It is a fine line and a slippery nuance but one which I want to privilege and hold aloft, consciously aware of the risks of allowing patchwork to linger in elusiveness to the point of impotence.

Michael continues:

Models are how we hook rationality to action, and how we diagram fields of problematization and possibly. If we don’t continually model, work, revise, work, model, work, revise we run the risk of a) continuing the reactive and maladaptive ad hoc nature of social organizing practices since the emergence of agriculture, and b) will fail entice and/or activate agent-participant’s understanding of what they are a part of and how they can engage with it (thus decreasing the cognitive attraction and positive “buy in”).

If I prefer to elaborate the aesthetic problems of patchwork over this kind of materially productive thinking it is because that I think a major part of what is needed for patchwork to be instantiated as a radical alternative is the kind of horrorist outsideness that is integral to Land’s elaborations of Moldbug’s project on Xenosystems — even (maybe even especially) for more explicitly left-wing variants on the process.

Which is to say, rationality is relative — and I think an eschewing of rationality as it is presently understood by the populist left is something that needs course-correcting before a properly leftist project of patchwork can be formulated. This is not to say the left needs a little bit of the contemporary right but that the left has already largely strayed from its own historic sense of radicalism and outsideness — a point that Land recently acknowledged in his chat with Justin Murphy in an interesting and far more nuanced than usual way.

I should stress I don’t lump Michael’s own work in with this, both on- and offline — the latter he discusses in his chat with Justin which I found fascinating if alien to my own (potential) experiences. But the warnings he highlights here are two-fold for me. The potential missteps of not modelling are as present as the potential missteps of continuing the problematic results of consolidation that patchwork is, for me, inherently against. (Although not cleanly and the paradoxes and contradictions remain messy all the way down.)

Complex socio-ecological situations call for adequately complex cognitive and technical models [plural] that avoids both violent reduction (of everything from food-chains to human cognition) and over-articulation that would overtake our capacity for comprehension and cause dissonance. A particular ‘patch’ is much more than its abstract diagram and models, yet patchworking as such seems to require such models (ontographies?).

Also, what Ed said….

Here, I think, is the key. Patchwork is certainly, in line with Deleuze and Guattari, a double-pincer move and I do agree that both pincers must be emphasised. My attempts to emphasise one — which I perceive to be more maligned — over the other, must be wary of forgetting about its opposite altogether.

In his post, Michael further expands and reconfigures this comment and my thought on it largely remain the same as above. Michael writes:

How many times have we read/heard the admonition that ‘the map is not the territory’? Polish-American scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski remarked that “the map is not the territory” and that “the word is not the thing”, encapsulating his view that an abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself. Korzybski held that many people do confuse maps with territories, that is, confuse models of reality with reality itself. This, of course, is a truism that seems obvious when stated, but can often be forgotten in our attempts to understand complex problems and then communicate about them when seeking solutions. Xenogothic rightly refers to Jorge Luis Borges’s one-paragraph short story “On Exactitude in Science” (1946), as lesson on the tensions and challenges (and often absurdness) of modelling and exactitude.

(This is, again, a perfect encapsulation of the ground Bonnet is working with, I think, and why I found his passage initially relevant.)

That said, I do think we desperately need cognitive models of patchwork to even start the process of re-imagining what massively complex ecosystemic social assemblages are, and can be, free (as possible) from existing ideologies of statecraft, community, etc. We also require technical models to go about the work of engineering and administering actually existing patches. Without both of these types of interacting modeling projects how could we possible track patch dynamics in ways required for operational efficacy, or cognitively navigate the patches of which we are enfolded within?

These technical and pragmatic dimensions of patchwork theorizing and modelling cannot be ignored.

I think part of the un-unpacked critique that I am finding in Bonnet is key here, and relates specifically to his use of the phrase “administration” in relation to the subject. He writes in The Infra-World: “The administration of the sensible, as a structural harness facilitating strategies of distribution, intervenes at all stages of the process of the reception and exposition of the sensible.” He continues:

The second stage of the administration of the sensible, which is truly that of its distribution, is the moment of its mediatization and its ‘routing’. The represented, perceived part of the sensible is precisely the communicable part, that is to say the sensible of which we can have a common experience. Every community must a priori be founded as a community of sensible experiences. It is in seeing and hearing the same things and in rendering them communicable, that is to say in testifying to them, that a sensible capable of distributing a community can be constituted.

This sense of mediatization and the uncommunicable being absorbed into hegemonic structures is very much on my mind at the moment as Robin and I have been discussing it at length in relation to space, capital and Eerie Cornwall. (An important if brief snippet here.)

This is, of course, not contradictory to what Michael or Ed are saying, but what concerns me is the work to be done to ward off the hegemonic processes of administration that are already deep-rooted. For instance, Bonnet goes on to highlight Jeremy Benthem’s panopticon as one of “the most celebrated and accomplished examples of a modelling of space designed to distribute and administrate the sensible”, highlighting how structurally important this is to class systems and the state even today. He goes on to warn of the double-edge of administration as it has long been put to use:

[A]ny means necessary will be seized upon in order to retain the subject’s very faculty of perception under the empire of power — from the tactical use of drugs and toxins to the fanaticisation of masses, via (and this is doubtless the principal procedure) acculturation, education, and the disciplining of the ear and the gaze. Learning how to see, how to hear, knowing what to touch and when to touch it: this is what is implied by the administration of the sensible in its educative or disciplinary (depending on your point of view) dimension. It lays the groundwork for an ethics and a policing of the sensible.

This is not to forget Michael and Ed’s own emphasising of multiplicity but this is something that I think requires more emphasis at present to counteract prevalent understandings and thought processes — the productive engine of difference must be more effectively distinguished from the consolidatory and hegemonic functions of administration.

In this sense, it would be just as easy to have titled my post “Patchwork is Not Just a Model” but I am anxious to guard against potentialities of slipping back into hegemonic administration — at least at this stage.

Nevertheless, Michael’s later suggestions remain cogent and necessary to keep in mind. I will concede that much. It is not my intention to throw the baby out with the bathwater but I nevertheless want to taken it out and dry it off before putting it back in something else…

Michael concludes, leaving much more food for thought:

Another important consideration here is that modelling is required if we are interested in assisting others to reproduce – with the necessary modifications to fit bioregional specificity – patches in a similar vein as ours. Reproducing like-oriented patches would help bolster our own patch viability via networking cross-patch alliances resulting in trade, mutual protection pacts, etc.

Complex socio-ecological situations call for adequately complex cognitive and technical models [plural] that navigate the twin-errors of reductionism (which would fail to track the flows and functions of everything from food-chains to human cognition to swarm dynamics) and the kinds of over-articulation that outstrips our capacity for comprehension, resulting in systemic psychological and social dissonance.


We know that any particular patch is much more than its abstract diagram and models, just as we should (for the reasons outlined above) be aware that patchworking as personal-to-social endeavor seems to require such ontographies to navigate effectively.

The Swarming Face of Eerie Capital

There is something to be said for the new ways we are now imaging the unknown in contemporary science fiction.

Philosophy has often utilised these pulp horror instantiations of the Alien Other and the Outside and put them to work in its thought experiments. Cthulhu in the works of H.P. Lovecraft is perhaps the best known example in this corner of philosphere. The mysterious agency of plant life is another one (and one I think about a lot, as it is found in one of my all-time favourite films, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

John Carpenter’s The Thing may be the best, and it has been used on numerous occasions to describe the outsideness of capital as a shapeshifting, all-consuming but also nefariously stealthy planetary infection, extracted from the earth, having lain dormant for millennia, waiting to pray on the human. This example has long been my favourite and it has various antecedents in b-movies such as The Blob, used brilliantly by Reza Negarestani in Cyclonopedia to connect capital’s “blobjective” nature to Middle Eastern religion, mythology and oil. It is “geotrauma” given a foot soldier — matter will have its revenge on the naive human endeavour of extraction.

There is a new dominant visual for this force, however — one that is perhaps inspired by the “black smoke monster” in Lost

It shares many of the qualities of The Thing, with its talents for shapeshifting and impersonating human life. It also has a certain templexity, coming from the deep past but signifying a kind of unknown (and somewhat “future”) technology. It is a time-twisting, nanomachinic entity whose primary “form” is one of formless dispersion. It’s “call” — the hyperactive, mechanical but also magpie-like ratchet-click that echoes around the jungle — and its predilection of random deforestation connects it more explicitly to the horrors of reckless industry whilst retaining a fundamental unpredictability that makes it one of the most enigmatic cogs in the plot’s early seasons.

I’ve more or less blocked out the unfortunate turns taken by Lost‘s later seasons from memory but I have strong memories of the fan theories that proliferated online during the first few seasons. The smoke monster remains in my mind as a kind of unknown technology that haunts us from a past future, something we are yet to discover and bend to our will (on this timeline), echoing the fears so often associated with AI and robotics but completely devoid of the human shape common to the figure of the “slave”.

(There is probably a lot more to be said for the racialised nature of the scene embedded above in this respect, reminding me of a previous post exploring the racialised symbolism of Ridley Scott’s Alien, and Arthur Jafa’s analyses of the Alien as the “bad “n*****”.)

The acutely unquantifiable nature of the smoke monster in those early seasons seems to have permeated into all corners of sci-fi, particularly recently. They seem to be all over the place nowadays. 

I’m reminded of the Cthulhic variation in Arrival…


and also the strangely agentic “void” in this new (and bit shit) Netflix film called The Beyond which I watched the other day.

What is notable about these later examples, however — and minor spoiler alert here, I suppose — is that what is repeatedly challenged is our suspicion of their swarm-like nature. Our fear of the hive-mind, or of a more general atomised form of alien, is ridiculed. In each case, these swarms, whether appearing as smoke or as an otherwise unidentifiable collection of agentic particles, are treated with hostile suspicion which later underpins the tragic irony of our (near-)downfall as we attack (or nearly attack) an unknown entity that has, in fact, been sent to save or protect us.

What I find interesting in each of these examples is that they continue to carry the baggage of our fear of The Thing, as an unindividuate being of unknown intent, but this is later supplanted with an egress into a wholly new kind of existence. Arrival is a case in point: the smoke creatures, complete with smoke language, are treated with outright hostility but an understanding of their nature allows the film’s protagonist, linguistics professor Louise Banks, to acquire a new understanding of and way of being in time itself. In The Beyond, this phenomena — which, as it turns out, didn’t really warrant any kind of investigation — is a catalyst for the successful creation of a transhumanist subject.

I wonder: does the use of these aliens as an analogy for capital still hold? Each signals a kind of escape from present (capitalist) existence but suggests that capital itself is the key to its own outside. This suggests the answer is “yes” but nevertheless, does it remain an analogy for capital or is it more of an inbetween (and, as such, eerie) state of capital and that which follows it? There is no “smoke” without fire, of course — without the technic, without capital itself — but it is a product of the process rather than being symbolic of the process itself, a product that escapes as a diffuse entity back into a world that could / would exist without us (as we currently image ourselves). A symbol of a swarm-to-come.

I’m reminded here of the Ccru text, “Swarmachines“, written about the Situationists but abstracted into future (and current) processes of “jungle technics”:

Cut-out romantic revolutionism and it leaves dark events. Autopropagated happenings.


The trauma of exclusions and inclusions was always a spectacular distraction. Only multiplicities, decolonized ants, swarms without strategies, insectoid freeways burrowed through the screens of spectacular time. They have neither history nor its end, neither memory nor apocalypse, neither accidents nor plans, no lines, no points, no infinite loops. No forward plans and no spontaneous combustion, but careful engineerings, out of sight, out of mind. Imperceptible mutations, waiting in the wings, just off stage.

The politicians called them revolutionaries, made them persons, with faces and names, coded these meshes of contagious matters into acceptable human forms.

But they were always tactical machines, natives of the future hacking into the past, trading places, swapping codes, endless replications of micro-situations engineered without sources or ends. Flocks are always flying in the faces; hives of activity behind the screens.


Jungle functions as a particle accelerator, seismic bass frequencies engineering a cellular drone which immerses the body in intensity at the molecular level. The neurotic Cartesian body of evidence with its head-up-top-down control centre is precipitated into a Brownian motion of decentralisation and disorganisation.


becoming snake, becoming clandestine in nights of microcultural mutation. becoming zero as machinic assemblages mashup and crossfade. becoming diagonal as markets lock into guerrilla commerce, ever-decamping nomad cultures, melting in the heat of the chase. Alienated and loving it. Current.



I used to have this documentary on a home-made VHS in the early 2000s. I was fascinated by it.

I was also about 12 years old. I remember I even lent my VHS to my teacher at school on a quest to convince someone of authority of this new creature’s existence. He wasn’t as convinced as I was in my naivety.

All these years later, watching it for the first time in about 15 years, I can’t stop laughing at just how much these people were able to extrapolate from the now-obvious sight of insects caught on now-outdated camera equipment. It’s interesting how less credible this phenomena becomes with the steady advance of media technology.

As Robin pointed out whilst we watched this documentary one morning: are rods not a perfect example of what Francois Bonnet, in The Infra-World, calls the “infra-sensible” — that object that appears projected on the otherwise “invisible wall between the perceived sensible and the unperceived sensible”?

The invention of modern media technology has rendered this wall visible through the process of mediatization. Bonnet writes: “The moment of mediatization is thus the moment of a channelling, a second-order conditioning where it is no longer the object itself that is altered, but its deployment within the space of the sensible.”

Semiotic Apophenia

On the drive down to Cornwall from Bristol, Robin and I discussed the eerie effects of a kind of semiotic apophenia that is particular to the late capitalist subject. How, in absence of any grounding, we see the echoes of the “semiotic pollution”, as Mark called it, in everything.

Large parts of Cornwall remain untouched by this kind of pollution but you can nonetheless catch your mind in the act of grasping for familiarity, something epitomised by Robin’s son declaring “LOL” at the sight of the standing stones of Mên-an-Tol.


Deep Assignment #1


I’m currently on deep assignment in Cornwall, urbexing outwards from a base at Urbanomic HQ.

A large catalyst for being here is a shared desired to fold together different modes of thinking, different modes of worldly engagement.

This blog has largely overridden a previous photo blog which has lain dormant for almost all of 2018. I’m quite happy to have moved on from it but there remains a deep desire to carve out a space for photography on this blog. I’m hoping this week I’ll find a way to include it more frequently and also allow it to have its own space here too, unburdened by theory but nonetheless offering some other kind of insight.

We shall see.