A Gothic Line, Broken: Fragment on Worringer, Deleuze, Fisher

Here’s an off-cut from an unpublished essay trying to tie accelerationism to an explicitly Gothic sensibility. It may not make much sense out of context but isn’t a Gothic line a line that interrupts itself?

I’m thinking a lot at the moment about how both the Gothic — or Goth more specifically — shares with accelerationism a consideration of the ungrounding of the subject of modernity. There is a line here — a Gothic (flat)line — that connects Wilhelm Worringer to Gilles Deleuze to Mark Fisher, who together diagram an intensity that has struggled to survive a politically nefarious reductivism.

Accelerationism is Gothic but it likewise suffers from a Dr. Frankenstein problem — far too often is the diagnostician mistaken for the monster running amok.

Is it any surprise that, in our own contemporary moment, that the Gothic — or that which is, at the very least, recognisable as such – is aesthetically maligned, confused and impotent? Today — and online most explicitly — cyberspace is the natural pasture for our newly xenogothic considerations after all — the Gothic finds its unhome in the constellation of thoughts known as accelerationism.

Nick Srnicek, speaking at an event held at the Artworkers’ Guild in London in 2013, would describe “two ideas of accelerationism” which broadly hold true today — although many more particular subsets of this grouping of theories have since proliferated. He speaks to an “epistemic acceleration, which involves broadening knowledge and synthesising all the different fields” — that is, fields of understanding — “and political accelerationism, which essentially is the use of certain technologies and social capabilities.” For both formulations of this widely misunderstood theoretical umbrella, Worringer’s understanding of the Gothic’s “will to form” remains prescient. We may even extend Worringer’s conception of the Gothic in our present moment to include a will to deform.

In 2019, another and increasingly more dominant understanding of accelerationism emerged within the popular imagination — an extremist and (alt)right-wing accelerationism that looks upon the “truth” of a supposedly maligned white Western subjectivity and attempts to exacerbate chaos in order to strengthen anew the consolidatory tendencies of a patriarchal and white supremacist late capitalism. This accelerationism represents a fight for the preservation of a dwindling subjectivity instead of an embrace of difference and change; of post-historical becoming. The present malignance of accelerationism is commensurate with a maligning of the Gothic — a Gothic that struggles to retain its speculative nature under the weight of both the future and the past: a past that is, for all intents and purposes, seen as complete and closed and a future that we increasingly fear will not involve our species.

And yet, as Mark Fisher writes, in indirect response to Srnicek’s paper, it is this moment of historical and speculative dissensus that warrants a new Gothic explicitly. For Fisher, death and the end of experience, “not just individual death but hyper-death, and not just the unexperienceable but the evaporation of the very possibility of experience, via extinction or whatever … has consequences for this question of aesthetics.” This question is precisely that already explored by Worringer in his study of the Gothic. Just as the architects of Worringer’s immediate past were concerned with their own experiences of a world emerging from a complex past into an unknown future, we too today require a newly speculative aesthetics. This is to say, quoting Worringer, that “if we dismantle to its very foundations the marvelously delicate fabric of the unbroken chain of transmitted characters, we are left with a creature who confronts the outer world as helplessly and incoherently as a dumbfounded animal, a creature who only receives shifting and unreliable perceptual images of the phenomenal world, and who will only by slow stages of progressive and consolidated experience remodel such perceptions into conceptual images, using these as guides for finding his way, step by step as it were, in the chaos of the phenomenal world.”

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