A Quick Note on Patchwork Subjectivities

A new post from Arran Crawford over at Synthetic Zero:

if fractal polarization (or reality forking) proves anything it’s that the world no longer exists. The shattering of the assumptive world presages the shattering of the geoclimatic planetary normal. When we read about assumptive world we need to read this in its full Lovecraftian dimensions as the world we thought we inhabited is stripped away by a resurgent real that defies our capacity to domesticate it in thought, that deforms and perverts thought, introducing new logics and new geometries, a total phenomenological and temporal instability, accelerated by inhuman arctic awakenings. This is the familiar in and as its own breakdown, a process of xenoforming.

I love this, obviously, and from there Arran goes on to address the following passage from my #WyrdPatchwork talk given last weekend. I said, after quoting Mark Fisher’s definition of “the weird” from the introduction to The Weird and the Eerie:

Perhaps, then, we can say that the “weird” is a word for the dissent of the Real. It is reality dissenting against our sense of itself, alluding to the existence of alternative realities and other possible existences in the moments where that which is does not coincide with itself. 

To which Arran adds:

From a Buddhist perspective we could say that this weird is simply the real as it intrudes on our neurotic world-simulations, manifesting in the present context as the abrupt insistence of impermanence within and upon our essentially confused perception that there is a world and that that world is permanent. The weird isn’t really the dissent of the real because the real can only ever seem to dissent from within the fundamentally delusional coordinates of our projective reality. The real doesn’t dissent from us, we dissent from the real.

To this I will only echo Fisher again: “The inside is a folding of the outside.”

I agree with Arran — my mistake was perhaps not insisting this recursion goes without saying. Fisher’s weird is, along with the eerie, a “mode of perception” and both terms are associated with the inside and outside. What Arran is describing here is, I’d argue, more in line with the eerie but the two are only subtly and circumstantially differentiated, in part based on a certain subjective reorientation.

The rest of Arran’s post is primarily concerned with climate change and if I don’t address his analyses in the detail it obviously deserves here it’s because I want to spend more time with his sources, related to an area of study I know little about, but also because I think there is overlap here with a post I currently have in the oven — to be titled: “Fanged Noumena: Or, We Don’t Know What Death Can Do” — so I’ll probably reference his post again there because I think the path he’s pursuing at the moment is really interesting and important.

“Fanged noumena” is obviously Nick Land’s most famous but least discussed concept and I want to unpack this properly in future, particularly because the ways he describes it — via Kant (of course) — in The Thirst for Annihilation, seems like a far more rigorous description of the agency behind what Fisher calls “the eerie”.  For now, what’s worth noting is that “fanged noumena” is initially described via a report on Bangladesh’s typhoon season — it is epitomised, it seems, by the way that “everything which had seemed solid is dissolved into the vortex of the storm.”

In his post, Arran notes an interview with social scientist Mayer Hillman who suggests, bluntly, that the “outcome” of our climate crisis is “death”. No doubt, but I’m particularly interested in the ways that many already consider the process itself to be death — climate change as a planetary death drive that we have accelerated and exacerbated. For many, these noumenal threats have always been a part of life. It’s only just become an issue for many of us Westerners to be concerned about in our seemingly previously predictable and temperate climates.

This is likewise similar to how Eugene Thacker talks about a violent Outside in his book In The Dust of Our Planet, in which he writes about how “we are increasingly more and more aware of the world in which we live as a non-human world, a world outside, one that is manifest [in] the effects of global climate change, natural disasters, the energy crisis, the progressive extinction of species world-wide.”

Echoing Land’s “fanged noumena”, Thacker continues:

Tragically, we are most reminded of the world-in-itself when the world-in-itself is manifest in the form of natural disasters. … [W]hile we can never experience the world-in-itself, we seem to be almost fatalistically drawn to it, perhaps as a limit that defines who we are as human beings.

Individual death is made somewhat redundant when faced with the challenges ahead and many accelerationist writers have considered these implications — of particularly relevance here, I think is Mark’s discussion of “hyper-death” in his essay “Practical Eliminativism” in Speculative Aesthetics, as well as many books in the current sphere of writings on the Anthropocene, in particular Thom Van Dooren’s book Flight Ways here in particular — which address the ontopolitical demands of species-death on our anthropocentric conception of death and grief.

I’m finishing off a little book at the minute which I’m going to self-publish, extending out my “Egress” post. (I’ll announce this properly when I’m good and ready but here’s a placeholder.) In the third chapter of the book — “Necropolitics” (not an intentional nod to Achille Mbembe, although in thematic orbit of his use of that term for sure) — deals with these issues of geopolitical and climate collapse explicitly, particularly how they’ve been expressed and invoked in pop culture and in analyses of Trump’s election. I’m expecting a proof imminently so this will hopefully be out soon.

Also, my very first essays on patchwork focused on this dynamic of the subjective and geopolitical explicitly — returned to in “Wyrd Sisters…” but by no means a new argument for me to make — that is, the ways that patchwork is an exterior reflection of a repressed (which is to say, consolidated) psyche.

There was a poignant tweet I saw recently which spoke to this:

For me, patchwork is an attempt to rethink the geopolitical in light of our shifting subjectivities. This was the original jumping off point for my original patchwork essay, “State Decay“, which seemed to be the start this year’s general patchwork fever (sorry!) and it’s follow-up “State Decay: Collapse” in which I responded to criticisms of my apparent encouragement of state dissolution.

So, I think Arran is right that these dynamics are central to patchwork and I’m looking forward to seeing where else he takes it. I’m looking forward to a moment where we might nicely coalesce!


Arran has posted a follow-up response to this post featuring material from his original post ended up on the cutting room floor, including notes on Thacker’s world/earth/planet schema in his book, In The Dust of Our Planet:

…these paradoxes resemble the structure of the ko’an. The ko’an is a device used in Rinzai Zen that is a problem that lacks a solution that is given to the student. The novice must come before the master in ritual context to present his solution to the insoluble. The point is to demonstrate the deep inadequacy of conceptual thinking in an embodied experiential way. In Thacker’s language, it’s to show how the world fails to solve the planet. What’s striking in the ko’an is that it uses logic to show the inadequacies of logic and deploys language to gesture allusively beyond language. In this sense then, global weirding is the earth that refuses containment in either world or planet.

At this point where are we but in mysticism? Haven’t we been there for some time? The paradoxes that mount around us. The deepening mystery of the world that Thacker reads as tragic. There is undoubtedly tragedy in natural disasters and climatic breakdown but that derives from the suffering they cause and the threat of extinctions, human and nonhuman, and our apparent powerlessness in the face of them. The other side of the equation, the humiliation of thought, has another aspect, one less bathed in pathos. It’s this turn towards mysticism understood as an attentive immersion in the mystery of experience. To put it another way, it’s to awaken our participation in the mystery of the world.

That could sound dismissive. It could come over that I’m minimising the realities of climatic breakdown and its various horrors. Yet I’m very alive to those grim scenarios and my thinking about patchwork is entirely oriented by them. The deeply adaptive ecotechnic community is one seeking to mitigate and prevent whatever harm it can. Looming always in the darkness, behind every particular jolt or laceration we could endure, is death, and, exceeding that, the “existential risk” of human extinction.



  1. I think it is quite a feat of dogma to be posting a blog post in a world that does not exist. Why would you even be writing? To whom are you discussing or attempting to prove things to and in what theatre am I making the reply?

    1. This is such a common but lazy argument people often try to make which really isn’t as profound as anyone thinks it is.

      First of all, you’re betraying an ignorance of the whole analysis, which is conceived to address the ways that a self-destructing “World” is only one part of what has to be considered. But most embarrassingly, the theatre is obviously philosophy. You’re reiterating the foundation on which countless philosophers have built their works. Reiterating the question isn’t clever. It just betrays an ignorance of the very lineage being called to here — Kant, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer, Bataille, Blanchot (in particular), et al.

      It’s the most Banksy of comments. Leave it out.

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