Heavy Lifting: Egress at the ICA

Thank you to everyone who came out to the ICA last night for the launch of my new book, Egress. It was a packed house and amazing to see so many people there. Not just for this book but for Mark. It speaks volumes, I think, that he is still packing rooms out, three years after the initial shock of his death.

It was also an absolute pleasure to be in conversation with Kodwo. We had a whole series of talking points prepared that we had pieced together over a two-hour Skype call last week and, after all that, we didn’t touch on any of it. I think we could have spoken amongst ourselves for hours and I think we intend to, in private, at a later date.

It was a really strange event, as far as I was concerned. There was an underlying anxiety, as I read the book’s afterword and Kodwo and I began talking about what exactly the book may be trying to do, that this was a very strange conjuncture. It felt like a conversation had directly off the back of the year that Kodwo and I first got to know each other and, for those arriving at this event with little knowledge other than “Mark Fisher is a writer who is no longer with us”, the specificities of our experiences may have been a bit morose and hard to penetrate.

But such was the moment. “Conjuncture” was Kodwo’s repeated word of choice, not just for the evening itself, but the very strange way that events have since fallen into place, thanks to the passage of time. Events become moments to measure intensity by — its ebbs and flows. Last night was no exception. It was surreal for me because it felt like the latest in a series rather than a singular moment of contextualising.

Because of all this, I’m not sure I have the capacity to try to summarise what was discussed. I was braindead immediately after leaving the stage and suddenly lost the capacity to string sentences together.

However, the one thing that stuck out for me personally was Kodwo’s amazing summary of one of the book’s central tensions that I hadn’t considered before.

There was a moment where he discussed the ways in which so much philosophy is deployed within the book to unpack words that are otherwise shrouded in a quotidian banality. This is not to inject these words with pretentious amounts of significance but rather to uncover the surprising amounts of heavy-lifting they do in our day-to-day lives.

Kodwo listed a number of examples but the one that stuck out for me was “friendship”. In a later chapter, in which “friendship” is considered philosophically through the writings of Blanchot, Nietzsche, Deleuze and others, the drive behind the writing and researching this chapter was not so conscious. Like “community”, it felt like a particular word that had certain philosophical valences that were interesting to consider in the book’s context. It is an attempt to pop the hood on a concept like friendship — not simply in a philosophical sense but in a social and political one also.

I am obviously missing the particular potency of Kodwo’s articulation but it was the clearest summary of what the book is trying to grapple with that I’d yet heard. It opened a new dimension to it even for me.

The event was filmed, although I’m not sure that footage will ever see the light of day in its entirety. I may also have more to say on the event once the dust settles. For now, I just want to say thank you to everyone who came last night and who made it happen and who ended up in O’Neill’s with us in Chinatown at 1am.

As a bonus, below is a 30-minute mix that Kodwo and I put together — our entrance music. Something to get us in the mood more than anything. I certainly won’t forget the sight of Kodwo’s air-synth to Sylvian & Sakamoto.

A beautiful evening. ❤

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