Hua Hsu is on a roll at the minute over at The New Yorker. So far this month he’s published two articles that have a really affecting resonance between one another, although the connection may not be so explicit.
First, an essay on / review of Burial’s new compilation, Tunes 2011 to 2019, which brings together all the tracks from Will Bevan’s EPs, released over the last decade. After running through Bevan’s sonic development over the last decade, which has not sat still for a minute, as you might otherwise expect, considering the enormous success of his late 2000s releases.
Hsu ends with a lovely tribute to Mark Fisher, describing the two as “kindred spirits” and quoting from Mark’s interview with Bevan for The Wire:
While Fisher lamented the politics of the present, Bevan felt a kind of secondhand nostalgia. The provisional utopias of illegal dance parties in the eighties and nineties hadn’t succeeded in uniting the masses. Back then, he told Fisher, the ravers “weren’t running ahead or falling behind, they were just right there and the tunes meant everything.” That spirit of wanderlust was now gone.
Bevan and Fisher’s relationship, and the spectre that haunts their collective politics, so central to both their bodies of work — their tandem interrogation of collective politics, hauntological and speculative — begin to materialise in Hsu’s second essay of the month on Derrida’s The Politics of Friendship. He writes:
Perhaps friendship could offer a model for politics, or a vision of what politics could become. As friends, we volunteer for one another, we choose to keep each other’s secrets. Perhaps friendship is what makes politics possible in the first place, for how else would we understand what it means to call someone an enemy? “The possibility, the meaning and the phenomenon of friendship would never appear unless the figure of the enemy had already called them up in advance, had indeed put to them the question or the objection of the friend, a wounding question, a question of wound,” Derrida writes. “No friend without the possibility of wound.” As with all seemingly natural binaries, one half contains the seed of the other, and the capacity to self-destruct.
This productive binary of friend and enemy, and the capacity to self-destruct, foreshadows the binary of contemporary British leftism: the mourning of past potentials and the speculation towards new forms of collective subjectivity. The dynamic that connects the two can have either a positive or negative charge and it seems like, for the majority of the left today, the charge is currently overwhelmingly negative.
Derrida and others — Blanchot, Nietzsche, Deleuze, Foucault, Bataille, et al. — have so many writings that interrogate the other side of this relation; the extensivre potential of friendship proper. (I have a long chapter on this in my forthcoming book ‘Egress‘ (which Hsu has already said some lovely things about). Fisher and his cultural affiliations extend this anew, in ways that are just as subtle and implicit as the musings of the philosophers; the friends to wisdom.
Together, they deserve more credit for providing a way to deal with and escape our present moment of capitalist ressentiment and stasis.