This comment articulates really well what I am finding most fascinating about the intersection between Mark and k-punk at the moment, particularly in relation to his thoughts on modernism:
I wonder how much of this comes back to the old modernist argument about impersonality – viz, Eliot’s claim that one must necessarily have a personality, perhaps to an unbearable degree, to appreciate the value of impersonality as a literary/theoretical strategy.
Certainly an explicit, explicitly worked-out, aspect of the k-punk program was the practice of writing as a way of getting besides oneself, and this was dramatised as a desperate, fugitive action, beset on all sides by the “human security” machinery of personalisation, identification, facialisation. This is a common theme all the way from the earliest texts through to the VC essay – there are Oedipalising Others who insist on gluing faces to us that can never be removed, who want to round us up and put us in identi-camps, and so on. It’s against this somewhat paranoiac imaginary that the desire to become an anonymous vector, a deterritorialising cybernetic operator, etc, emerges. The closing paragraph of Libidinal Economy was a big inspiration here, no doubt: “set dissimulation to work on behalf of intensities”, and so on.
All of this was thrilling and inciting – it authorised Mark and many others around him to write, to explore, and to do so without immediately trying to format everything they produced so that it would satisfy the demands of online brand-identity. It also meant not having to be pinned down to a particular political position, or situated within a recognisable political camp. I think that when you are still trying to work out what your commitments are, or should be (and of course k-punk’s singular canon-building staked out a series of very strongly-held theoretical/aesthetic commitments – I’m not suggesting there was anything wishy-washy about him…) this kind of self-authorising freedom is useful and necessary. Does it have to be given up, later, when the “right” programme finally announces itself? (I think we are probably seeing the break-up of Corbynism as a coherent political project at the moment, and there will be a considerable dispersal of temporarily-concentrated energies as a result: these questions are never finally resolved, but only set aside for a time.)
At the same time, there was a personality, singular and powerful, at work in all of this; and the desire for impersonality was unavoidably a desire to extricate himself from the toils of this personality, and subject to the vagaries and misdirections of every desire: sometimes the door marked “exit” takes you on a loop around the building back into the entrance foyer. Some of the most ostensibly abstract, detached, analytically impervious pieces of Mark’s writing are at the same time bitingly personal, and ineluctably tangled in inter-personal beefs, mutual admiration societies, rifts, trials of strength and all the other occasions and theatrics of a vigorous “scene”. That’s just – in a cybernetic sense, if you like – how these things work.
As I’ve said in various ways over the past couple of years, for me the sense of having at one time or another encountered Mark “in person, shorn of pseudonym” has to co-exist with a sense of hardly having known him at all; anyone who purports to be telling you what he was “really” like is inevitably going to be giving you only part of the picture, often as not curated to reflect their own priorities and projections. In the end, what I think about the particular drama of impersonality he staged is that it should be recognised as a powerful (and, for him, perhaps necessary) enabling fiction, a “device” which made a certain kind of writing community possible for a time. I don’t think it translates into a general formula for making exciting blogospheres happen: each scene has to discover and cultivate its own enabling conditions. My perspective on this is Badiou-ish really: everything runs to exhaustion in the end, but nothing proscribes the appearance of the new.