Thoughts on the Fisher-Function

The five-year anniversary passed by strangely, and I found myself exhausted and infuriated by that same old comment, made every single year like clockwork, that Mark’s final act was easily explained by his penchant for ghosts and his depression.

It makes me want to log off every January. Instead, I ended up embroiled in another public spat, with someone who claimed to be a reader of us both but who couldn’t help but profligate stupidities. The general foul mood these encounters generated stuck with me over the week since and irritated me at intervals, like a rolled ankle for the soul.

That it is somehow fair game to comment on the reasons for anyone’s suicide publicly is one thing, but what makes it so much more nauseating is that Mark would have hated this Romantic melancholy more than anything. Maybe I was a bit touchy about it. After all, at the end of the day, is there not a shred of truth to these assertions? Sure there is. But the speculation is ultimately dis-intensifying, because it will never be and cannot be the whole story.

Mark wrote about this very process himself, some twenty years ago:

There are of course many fates worse than death, and one is being posthumously canonised as a ‘genius’ who is ‘too sensitive to live’ by the same class who made your life unliveable, the very intensity of your life serving as an alibi for the mediocrity and complacency of those who necrospectively pore over its minutiae. Stay inside, because if you let go and you end up like Van Gogh, Nietzsche, all the madmen … Such, of course, seemed to be the fate of Artaud, who wrote so corruscatingly about how this process of disintensification-by-canonisation was happening to Van Gogh and who must have had some intuition that the same reterritorialization project was already underway in his own case. It’s via the Deleuze-Guattari Gothic materialist machine that Artaud can be sprung from his assigned (captured) role as a (new) Romantic tragic genius to assuming his materialist-efficient function as a neuro/mancer — an electro-nerve sorcerer, an abstract engineer who left behind diagrams, plans and maps for escaping the meat. “Even if Artaud did not succeed for himself, it is certain that through him something has succeeded for us all”.

The increasingly dominant tendency to flatten the intensity of Mark’s work is two-fold in this regard. Is he being appropriated by Kapital, posthumously commodified, as the market latches onto the intensity and popularity of his work? Unfortunately, yes. But the solution isn’t to abandon him and let it all go. Better to keep spreading contrarian Fishers — there are plenty — who rebound and reject any stable, unified, whole, singular subject. He wrote essay after essay after essay trying to do exactly that whilst he was alive. It’s the whole point of his Janus-like approach to the writer’s life.

There were (and are) a multitude of Marks. That is why it is a difficult to present the curious with a coherent and fully-developed appraisal of his thought — something which is true enough in an online space. All of his posts and essays and musings could never constitute a single book, or even multiple books. He could never be captured by an all-encompassing corpus. There are too many posts, comments, essays, articles, theses. They overlap, echo each other, unravel in conversations increasingly lost to data death. Some will appear academically opaque to readers today; others will be pop-culturally basic and outdated. All are necessary for not only reaching out to different groups at different times but also for pushing those same groups out of their comfort zone. But beyond the contradictions, the stylistic flips, the divergent intentions and audiences, there is a thread running through that still deserves celebration and understanding.

We haven’t really seen it discussed publicly yet. The Fisher who has been celebrated in recent years is the Fisher who was exciting and accessible, who hoped to inspire his students or readers of the music press to enter a strange new world with him. And yet, whilst the Fisher-man’s lures have been celebrated, the net remains broadly misunderstood, resisting summarisation. Indeed, the disparity between pop lure and theoretical net has led to one often being discarded in favour of the other. I saw a comment recently about his use of the word “subjectivation” in Capitalist Realism, for instance — an alienating concept for the working man, surely? But is “capitalist realism” not a concept? The meaning of which has been learnt through proliferation? Any word can alienate; any word can inspire — the best ones do both, and Mark sprinkled his work with these liberally.

What was precisely so exciting — so provocative, stirring and radical — about Fisher’s thought was its unruliness and its refusal to stick in one category. With nothing to prove to anyone, he was as comfortable spit-balling about low culture, engaging publicly in a kind of blogosphere water-cooler talk about whatever was on the BBC last night, as he was philosophising in journals, producing high-density texts with a Burroughsian irreverence for the nomenclature and a deep appreciation for the power of the word-virus. Neither was a contradiction of, but rather essential to, the other.

It’s for this reason that he opened himself up to capture when he was alive, unafraid of co-option, excited by the prospect of his ideas being spread further throughout the system. It’s the sort of act you see often in monster movies, where some kamikaze soldier lets themselves be eaten by the heavily-armoured monster only to let some grenades off on their soft tissue from within.

So don’t mourn Mark’s digestion in the belly of the beast. It’s precisely where he wanted to be. “[S]chizoanalysis = pop philosophy = rhizomatics = stratoanalysis = pragmatics = micropolitics”, he insisted. But tis is worth noting not as some rousing eulogy but as a question of strategy. Those who complain about his co-option are the enemy, filling in the mournful other side of his disintensification. “Is nothing sacred?” No. Definitely not. Get over it. Push through. Lie in wait. He is indigestible. Relish the backlash that attacks the one-dimensional figure and re-intensify with other Marks who still populate cyberspace.

Mark died one death in January 2017, but doesn’t need to die another one every year afterwards.

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