“Turning Nothings Into Somethings”:
Phil Christman on ‘Postcapitalist Desire’

A new essay for Commonweal magazine by Phil Christman on Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures of Mark Fisher is a magnificent read, and maybe does a better job of stitching together Mark’s various perspectives, hopes, ideals and flaws than I’ve managed to before. It’s called “Turning Nothings Into Somethings” and I’d say it is essential reading.

What I like most about this essay is how it grounds Fisher’s post-punk sensibilities within his humanism (or rather, inhumanism — his Promethean belief in the human as an incomplete category). Connecting Fisher’s belief in post-punk, then and now, to his teaching and other cultural activities, Christman writes:

In an entry on his blog, k-punk, he wrote, “More or less everything I’ve written or participated in has been in some sense an attempt to keep fidelity with the post-punk event.” Post-punk: not the loud, colorful, simple, proudly incompetent, and often nihilistic music known then and now as punk rock, but the strange and often foreboding music that came immediately after it, made by artists who occupied the space of possibility that punk had created by saying “No” to manners, taboos, and musical skill. Such artists — Joy Division, the Mekons, the Fall, the Raincoats, Wire — turned punk’s nothing into something, or many somethings. And just as Fisher attempted to keep fidelity with that brief opening in cultural history, that moment when a person could turn on the radio and instantly feel that the world of the possible had expanded, his students and friends, in the days after his death, kept fidelity with the event of Mark Fisher, who had done the same for them.

I really do implore you to read the rest. I could keep sharing highlights from this essay but I’d most likely just end up copying the whole thing out here. So I won’t.

However, I would like to share this one additional paragraph on the blog, if only because it feels very appropriate, and asks a question that lingers in my head constantly when I hit publish on things on the strange zombified fate of the blogosphere and its hyperlink graveyard. I have spent much of this year excavating the old blogosphere, using the WaybackMachine to paint a picture of a new obfuscated accelerationist network, and it is strange now, when I hit publish on something here. I feel very aware of the web ghost that XG might one day become…

You can still read the k-punk archives, and I recommend doing so to anyone who admires Fisher’s work—he first came to general notice as a blogger, and the medium is the message. But it can be a melancholy exercise. In part that’s because of the intensities you encounter—the Fishers, good and bad, that ultimately weren’t—and in part because the blog form itself, with its long-dead links, becomes an unwitting illustration of the split between Fisher and Land, the Left humanist Fisher became and the post-humanist that Land already was. He raves about an essay, you click on the link (and Fisher always links; he seems to want you to read all his friends and influences as much as he wants you to read him), and you wind up on another blog that hasn’t been updated in a decade, or on one of those zombie websites that cannibalizes old URLs, leaving a seemingly computer-generated text about “what employers should never do.” Or you follow the link embedded in a description of his friend Nina Power’s flat—“a space,” Fisher writes, “in which impersonal production is always happening”—and you find yourself at another zombie website, this one reading that business casual attire is “one of the best styles any gentleman can wear.” Impersonal production, indeed. The colonization of old web pages by the sort of search-engine-optimized advertisements that robots can and do write suggests what a Landian post-humanist world might sound like. Does the future belong to Fisher’s nervously excited human voice, or to these chittering algorithms?

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