Patchwork Epistemologies (Part 1): Memoirs of a Recovering Cyclonopedoid

Serendipitously, the day Reza left Twitter — and apparently forgot his password — I sent him an email I’d been intending to send for weeks.

Ever since the “Patchwork Is Not A Model” cross-platform debates, I’d wanted to reach out to Reza to try and get a better understanding of whereabouts he was coming from.

When Reza first arrived on Twitter, however, it felt like my probing email would no longer be necessary.

Questions seemed to be fired at Reza almost immediately after he signed in and much of what ended up going down over those few days of Twitter hyperactivity was — for me anyway — mind-boggling.

(Reza went on to deactivate his account, citing early onset symptoms of Twitter addiction, and sadly, as a result, all of his responses to his curious and/or hostile interlocutors have now been deleted. Thomas Murphy takes credit for dealing the final blow — watch out, y’all!)

I must confess that, instead of approaching Reza with questions of my own, I ended up sitting back and spectating for the most part. I felt incredibly stupid, wandering through various hellthreads, feeling like a prisoner of my own “liberal arts college” education — or whatever the UK equivalent of that is. It felt like Reza and others had suddenly begun to speak a very different language. 

(There’s a whole other post to be written about how useful, sobering and enlightening that kind of intellectual experience is but this is not that post.)

Part of what kept me on the edge of my seat as a spectator during these conversations and arguments was that, whilst I felt like I was having to decipher a new language, I also felt like I was beginning to see the true correlation between the problems being tackled. Whereas previously I had felt there were chasms between many of us, it gradually became easier to trace the roots of various positions back to a common ground and goal.

So, I decided again to try and chat to Reza in private — tabula rasa — and see if we couldn’t try and assemble a platform in good faith for starting a new conversation out of more than hyper-condensed tweets, Facebook comments and rattled-off blogposts.

So here’s a rattled-off blogpost… (Or two…) 

But also here are some blogposts which I hope will open a new chapter for a 2019 patchwork blogosphere.

My main reason for wanting to reach out to Reza in particular was that, in many ways, he was my first philosophical focal point when I began my deep dive into this blogospheric realm of niche philosophies. Over the last 10 years or so, I’d read a lot of Ccru stuff, some Deleuze & Guattari, some Heidegger, some Foucault, some Nietzsche, other stuff here and there, but — looking back — I can’t say I really got a lot of it. I put this sheepishly down to having never studied philosophy formally before. I had no real conception of the history of philosophy, its various images of thought or an understanding of how all these different things connected together. My aim was simple and not so studious: I just wanted to understand weird music better.

S/O K-Punk, Hyperdub and Mille Plateaux.

Starting a Masters degree in late 2016, I still felt like no more than a hobbyist (and I still do, in some ways). I knew I had a lot of catching up to do but I did pretty well for a twelve-month crash course in contemporary art world theorising. (It wasn’t as horrific as that may sound.) Prior to embarking on this course, for the sole purpose of filling in some of the glaring blanks in my knowledge, I spent a whole year working my way through a Hubert Dreyfus course on Being & Time — then I just hoped for the best. However, rather than go hard on Kant’s Critiques or some Hegel or whatever other canonical cornerstone might have been advised when starting a formal philosophy degree, the only text we read with any obligatory closeness Reza’s first book Cyclonopedia, which was read in excruciating detail for a class piloted by Kodwo Eshun in 2016/17…

Looking back, I’m surprised I made it out with my sanity (relatively) in tact.

Kodwo’s class was an “experiment in decelerated reading”, during which, for fifteen weeks, we read Cyclonopedia one sentence at a time, pulling at every thread encountered, unravelling it and ourselves, feeding our minds to the Lovecraftian abyss of hyperactive and contradictory philosophy that Reza had given to the world, sketching out a history of unruly thought as we sought to better understand this strange book and its relationship to philosophy proper, taking it to be the occulted manuscript that it truly appeared to be to so many. (I ended up getting really into Bataille as a result.)

Later, we used the US presidential election as a sort of grounding-ungrounding point for considering, in particular, the polytical legacy of the term “hyperstition”.

Suffice it to say, I spent a lot of time with Reza’s work during this time, particularly his earlier, more Bataillean texts — “The Corpse Bride” being my favourite — and that experience has remained in the background of all my other readings ever since. But this has always been coupled with an awareness of the fact that Reza himself has moved on from this book, now a little over a decade old (in book form at least).

I’ve been back in this headspace in recent months, attempting to decipher Reza’s new book, Intelligence & Spirit, from this very position as a recovering Cyclonopedoid — which is to say, as someone with a decent knowledge of his previous work but not the references he is currently deploying.

At the same time, I have been revisiting many of his older essays as I help put together his forthcoming Urbanomic collection, Abducting the Outside, has only intensified this experience of charting two Reza’s in tandem.

I have the feeling that this collection will help many make sense of Reza’s trajectory, but at the same time, maybe not. Has Fanged Noumena clarified the events of Nick Land’s life that led him towards neoreaction or has it only further complicated things? Perhaps the issue is the format of the collection in itself as a record of the wilderness years between Cyclonopedia and Intelligence & Spirit; as a record of all the other roads travelled in the interim.

This is a common problem when dealing with philosophers who have, at some point, been digested by the spectre of the Ccru. Both Reza and many of his previous interlocutors are now most often understood by their distance from one another rather than from a more productive rhizome of divergent philosophies. The post-Ccru milieu today is made up of Landian hangers-on, neorationalists and a scattershot of other vaguely Accelerationist trajectories that have found themselves embedded in a cork board of new pop / pulp modernisms. In the distance lie the decaying corpses of various speculative -isms. Deciphering it all is a seemingly impossible task to the casual reader.

Perhaps the most pressing issue for me is that this otherwise admirable disparateness, which continues to define a vague collection of people who remain largely resistant to historicisation, is that this may now be detrimental to the philosopher that Reza has become. Like so many other people who have followed Reza since his orbit of the post-Ccru blogosphere, the disorienting sensation of having no idea what has led him to this point is quite palpable — until very recently, anyway…

Perhaps 2019 is the year when the story gets set straight.

The irony is that this shift in itself has compounded matters for understanding Reza’s intellectual trajectory. Lest we forget that, when Cyclonopedia first came out, many assumed Reza was a Ccru avatar. He remains, in this respect, the living embodiment of hyperstition — he is a fiction that made itself real.

However, rather than being a product of Nick Land’s drug-addled cerebellum, as so many assumed, Reza’s shadowy profiles were more the result of his position as an Iranian citizen, for whom online anonymity was less the fun LARPing of English grad students in masks and a more general necessity of his existence on social media.

To go from this spectral persona to someone who is very active and open online — particularly on Facebook — is undoubtedly a strange and unruly phenomenon to contend with, philosophically and personally, and I think that is particularly relevant to the process that so many are currently faced with: making-sense of these new matters of mind.

The posts in this series — “Patchwork Epistemologies” — have been constructed out of a labyrinthine email conversation that I had with Reza during the last few months of 2018, as I tried to make sense of some of the more recent schisms and divergences opened up and revealed by (particularly patchwork-oriented) conversations online.

As a warning, and due to the nature of my initial reaching-out, many of these issues are selfishly posed in the context of my own personal interests and experiences, as well as the general interests of this blog. Personal tangents and expansions abound from here on out, partly because this wasn’t intended to be a blog post but rather a personal attempt to inquire and find a “way in” to a different kind of interpersonal conversation, and also as a nice attempt to get to know each other as I helped work on Reza’s next book.

So let it be known: if I go on at length too much, as I already have done, my excuse is that this is an exercise in making sense of things for myself rather than trying to dominate and override what was, in private, a really enjoyable and generous conversation.

The only reason you’re reading this now is that I think much of what was discussed between us in our tennis-like exchange may be interesting to others who have orbited this corner of the blogosphere over the past 12 months.

That is the primary intention here. My quest was then — and remains — to better understand “how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term”, if I might borrow, straight away, from Reza’s own vocabulary.

Whilst this recent Urbanomic document is a wonderful intro to Intelligence & Spirit and Reza’s more recent trajectory, this is instead something of a Xenogothic primer to a Patchwoke Reza in 2019. (I’m joking… But also I’m not really.) If an intro to Intelligence & Spirit is all you’re after, better to start there and come back here later — or maybe don’t come back here at all. Much of this is embedded in blog chat and, whilst I try to provide context for everything discussed, that doesn’t make the conversation any less… “niche”.

Almost as hellthreadish as the fragmentary Twitter conversations this blog occasionally attempts to document, taking on the archivist’s task of untangling topics and overarching points which can get lost in the debris of the convivial aftermath, this series is formatted as a series of loosely connected topics, but it is worth keeping in mind that, during our back-and-forth, all of what is to follow was very much entangled up within itself.

I’m very happy to say that, despite all that has happened online in the last twelve or so months, I found myself at a point, not long before Christmas, with nothing more to add — for the time being, anyway — feeling in total agreement with Reza as our conversation turned to communism, regarding a general approach to philosophical and political thought in this very strange decade.

Over the course of putting this series together, however, many further threads have emerged that it would be nice to pursue and answer at a further date. And, of course, there are numerous moments throughout where my own knowledge and internal library fails me but these moments are purposefully left to dangle as threads to be followed up on later. The preliminary first two parts of this conversation may just be the beginning…

Such is the way of the blogosphere.

It has taken a number of weeks to disentangle this conversation and make it readable for the blog so please forgive my current exhaustion with these posts and the occasional moments where it wanders off, lost, noticeably underdeveloped. (I am breaking this mammoth post up into various chunks to try and rectify this but a conversation about patchwork with Reza could be a book in itself, honestly.)

If you are left dissatisfied by any path left here, I strongly encourage picking up a topic for yourself on your own blog, on Twitter or in the comments, and we can continue the conversation, hopefully with Reza’s own input too, later on.

But, rest assured, whilst this series may already be very long, it has a happy ending… A happy ending which I hope will function as a jumping off point for the blog-months ahead in 2019…


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