Dionysus being this figure of chaos and unruly desire feels like a bit of a cliche. Invoking him is too often a Nietzschean hangover, all too loosely applied to sound a bit high and mighty. However, reading Bernard Knox essay on “Greece and the Theater”, I found this description that makes Dionysus out to be, to my mind, and quite explicitly, a sort of patron saint of rave, spirit of the Home Counties, spectre beyond the M25:
Dionysus was a god whose territory was originally not in the city at all. He was a god of the country but not of the level plain that surrounds and feeds the city; he and his Maenads, ecstatic women who followed in his train, belonged to the wild — on the vases where we see them painted they range through the pine forests of the high slopes. The mythic accounts of his coming to Greece all tell the same story: his rites disrupted the normal pattern of city-state life, and the authorities acted against him, only to be subdued by the god’s irresistible power.
Not only that, but Knox also characterises Dionysus’ relationship to nature — via Dylan Thomas — that doubles up beautifully as a description of Nietzschean Will:
Dionysus is the life-spirit of all green vegetation — ivy, pine tree and especially the vine; he is, in Dylan Thomas’ phrase, “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”
Nothing to add beyond that… I’m reading Sophocles’ Theban plays and also Hamlet and Macbeth at the minute on a weird side quest out from my Deleuzian Virginia Woolf phase (but also via Nietzsche) trying to go deep with some stuff about time and fate. I’ve never been one to go anywhere near classics since doing English at school but I’m getting a kick out of it this December.
I didn’t expect these things to resonate quite so profoundly with a project I’m working right now. Always nice when that happens.
I have a new essay in a publication put together by Vít Bohal & Dustin Breitling, two of the wonderful folks behind Diffractions Collective and organisers of the Wyrdpatchworkshop sessions I’ve taken part in over the last two years.
Exploring contemporary strands of philosophical praxis orientated towards mapping and theorizing the notion of ‘environment’ as geological, organic and social construct. Upon this ground, it formulates the concept of ‘speculative ecology’ as a transdisciplinary form of discursive practice embedded within materiality. The acceptance of the existence and the imposing limitations of the material world functions as a point of departure for the contributors to speculate and experimentally navigate the topology of their surroundings in various, multi-tiered modalities. The main focus is placed upon exploring the integral materiality through digital projects and aesthetic production and is best encapsulated by the three overarching concepts which also create the publication’s basic thematic framework – Representations, Systems and Speculations. These three concepts provide the envelope within which a speculative form of ecological thinking might best function. The integral materialism of such a speculative ecology retains complicity with the relation of the ‘world’ and ‘figure’ insofar as it understands the material mandate of nature, and in this way tries to open space for tentative post-human design.
Featuring Louis Armand, BCAAsystem, Vít Bohal, Dustin Breitling, Paul Chaney, Matt Colquhoun, Digital Garden Lab, Jana Gridneva, Newton Harrison, Alžběta Kešnerová, Bogna Konior, Kateřina Kovářová, Tomáš Mládek, Udo Noll, P Hydrogenous, Paulo Tavares, Gry Ulstein.
My essay is called “When Things Take Time” and it is an (implicit) exploration of unconditional accelerationism, taking its lead from Maurice Blanchot’s seemingly paradoxical writings on communism, and with a splash of Virginia Woolf to boot:
As Woolf would write from the depths of her novel’s templexity: “How to describe the world seen without a self? There are no words.” What an opportunity for the ever-present xenopoetics of late capitalism, for there is no time here either and, for capitalism, as for us, time is all there is.
In more appropriate post-election news…
Robin has shared a trailer for his upcoming project By the North Sea — something he began working on with Mark Fisher back in 2001 which was never finished but which he’s been revisiting since Mark’s death back in 2017.
Robin sent me the audio from this last week as a fitting sign-off for the k-punk fundraiser. I first heard it at work and it bowled me over. I’m really glad he’s chosen to release it today. As Robin wrote on Twitter earlier, it’s “the Lemurian pluriversary of Mark Fisher’s death.” Every Friday the 13th, since January 13th 2017, has carried a strange power with it. More often than not, they end up being days when a k-punk post is desired more than anything.
Today is no exception, but Robin’s meditative trailer for channeling uttunal signal on the Suffolk coastline is the next best thing.
What is it to be a goth at election time? A winter general election certainly makes it easier. So does being a young adult who knows little other than austerity.
I’ve also never experienced an election result that went in my favour. That helps too.
I voted for the Liberal Democrats in 2010 — the first year I was eligible to vote — and that felt sort of good for about a month or so. But otherwise, post-election depression is a standard affair.
It’s not really the disappointment that’s the problem though — not on its own, anyway. Maybe being an election goth means there’s a way to own that disappointment and ride the wave of despair into some macabre masochistic pleasure. That’s what left melancholy is, isn’t it? Owning your defeat like it was tailor made for you to wear?
That’s the main reason I’m not an election goth though. Not by any measure. Let’s not forget what this blog is called and why. My problem is that, despite my aesthetic allegiances, I’m a perennial optimist. And that’s got nowt to do with echo chambers and confirmation bias. I’m just naturally hopeful about everything and, frankly, even after waking up at 4am this morning to see the result, I remain so.
Not for any reason. I’m of a naturally sunny disposition. I’m just infrequently mentally ill. Or bipolar maybe. Who knows. (I was laughing about this the other week. I met up with someone who met me offline first but is well-versed in these corners of the internet and, after a jovial meeting, they said they were always surprised by how cheery I was despite the more prominent online persona. “I respect the camouflage”, they said. I was glad to hear that someone gets it.)
This is why it was so odd to find myself lumped in with Nick Land’s glutinous “sipping on leftist tears” display, nuking my mentions from orbit, making Twitter an even less pleasant place to be first thing this morning. His response to shrugging it off was somewhat predictable (in that I didn’t know how to read it):
This post was already half written at that point and I post it anyway knowing that all I’m doing is risking more smug comments. But I’m not bothered. The fact is that, regardless of the result, Boris did have a shocker of a campaign. Even his media cronies struggled to get behind him as he tucked his Moggs and Cummingses out of sight and then tried to hide from the world himself. It speaks volumes that that observation would be so eagerly transformed into an excuse to gloat.
There were various tweets that followed about working class detachment, commie confirmation bias — a few of those actually — and some truly bizarre feats of logic regarding political engagement but facts don’t care about your self-satisfied feelings, dumb reply guys… Because Boris did struggle. When you’ve got even Piers Morgan laughing at your miserable minders, surely that’s not a controversial opinion? Boris’s gaffs have defined this campaign as much as Miliband’s “tuss enuss” comment. That’s quantifiable cringe, irrespective of whether people voted for it or not.
I certainly don’t feel “owned” in my perpetually surprise that people will vote for their own repression. (Figuring out why they do is Deleuze & Guattari 101.)
It makes Nick’s invocation of Gnon in response a bit odd. An insinuation of the presence of some born-again affectations on my part? A perverse expression of fondness on his? A bit of both? (The latter feels most likely.)
Either way, no matter the scenario or the ridicule, I’m happy to be in the camp that thinks hoping for a certain outcome is fine. Doing what you can to bring about that result, at the level of parliamentary politics, is fine too. It’s what you do with the result. Isn’t that the way of Gnon? The way of U/Acc? Making yourself worthy of the things that happen to you?
(Side note: I found myself revisiting this old post on Nietzschean anti-praxis and post-capitalist Will this morning which feels like it should be read as a relevant pep talk on this point above… And while we’re here: let’s just nip in the bud this weird assumption that supporting U/Acc as a framework or whatever is apolitical. Stop equating yourselves with the systems you’re trying to describe. Thinking U/Acc will somehow make you omnipotently indifferent and immanent to capital is as much a God complex as L/R varieties fall into.)
But whatever, what does it all matter right now. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an incredibly shitty result and it’s going to be a wild ride from us all from here on out, but I’m not of the mind that that weirdness just started now as of this morning. It’s familiar. The silver lining — if there is one — is that it might be UK fragmentation time. Time to revisit old patchwork drafts, maybe, and that mammoth post I never finished on Tom Nairn’s Break-Up of Britain.
Before all that though, I want to affirm the real reason I’m struggling today. It’s less because of the election, more because I’m tired and hungover.
I spent the evening at a Christmas party last night with a wonderful bunch of people who invited me down for drinks. Laura Grace Ford, Col Self, Michelle Speidel, Majed Aslam, Simon Terrill. People I first met at the Acid Communism reading group over a year ago. People who spoke about communal support constantly and did all that they could to live it and become better at it. Not performatively for the sake of appearances but because they care about their friends and their well-being and appreciate the trouble a result like this can cause.
“No one gets to isolate themselves!” was Laura’s defiant response when I merely joked about the prospect of misery-to-come on arrival last night. I was glad for it on the bus home though. Pep talks from Laura in particular are like a political tetanus shot and have been since I met her. The left undoubtedly suffered a big defeat tonight — a defeat I personally didn’t want to see — but that doesn’t change my feelings about much of anything. I feel resilient in the face of change.
The lives we want to live have been denied at the level of the state and that’s nothing new but I’ll be doing what I can do live that life all the same. It’s real Thelema hours. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” That’s what I feel like the true post-election xenogoth vibe is.
Really excellent follow-up to the previous ‘Mall Goth’ post here over at Totalitarian Collectivist. I’m really grateful that the previous post was taken in good spirits — it was intended as such but I was slightly anxious it would be seen as too much of an attack on Amerifriends — so I’m thankful that the yank-splaining has been embraced and further yank-splained.
I am also happy to be corrected — and rightly so — on my not so generous reading of the post-industrial American landscape and the further detail supplied here regarding the position of retro-futurism is great. It’s not something I have any personal experience of — something which evidently showed — and, in response, TC has done well to emphasize our similarities in this regard, which is great to see.
There is nothing in TC’s post I disagree with and so this is more of a blogged excuse to implore you to read it for yourself if you enjoyed my last post. Most of the references made are wholly new to me as well so I greatly appreciate the response and the reading list I’m now working through.
However, I suppose there are a few things I’d like to say that are related to the comment below which are not so much in response to what TC has said and more just me thinking aloud about them and extending them a bit because they have made me reflect a lot more on where exactly the impetus for the last post was coming from. (For what it’s worth, it was already half written before I saw TC’s post which helped me focus in on what I was trying to say better.) I liked this bit in particular:
A Duginist part of me sees Xenogothic’s claims that Britain can resist America as a call for an inward turn. The island that gave the world capitalism rediscovers its love of the land and resists the sea. To resist the corrosion of American capitalism the valorization of British truth is needed, a cultural turn to coincide with the Corbynist call to renationalize.
This picks up on the peculiar cyclone that is British politics at the moment. I was certainly aware of the irony, in the back of my mind, whilst writing the previous post, that this was a bare-faced example of the pot calling the kettle black. The last thing I wanted to do was be all high and mighty about how gross the infectiousness of American capitalism is when the UK was Patient Zero, and I do have a genuine interest regarding America’s break with European sensibilities that I’ve written a chapter on in Egress.
Nevertheless, I think this hypocrisy will always be an issue for any post-capitalist politics that grows out of this weird little island, and one that has a tendency to come across as a largely patronizing position in terms of our broader relationship to the world. This wasn’t the drive behind my last post although, in hindsight, I see there’s a danger that it might read that way. Nevertheless, TC’s extension of their own post has helped crystallize where I think the anxious undercurrent of that post came from, and that is the current backdrop of our imminent general election and our relationships with Trump’s office in particular.
Take this excellent point:
The working class may be wary of what they are being sold, but the real export of the American elite is to their brother-elites. American ideology and its valorization of power, money, and the notion of an elite at all is shared by the British elite without question (though in the question of original capitalist sin, the blame is squarely on the Brits). The grey goo of America is not just a cultural reality but economic and even if Americans are aware of it (and many are) that awareness does little to stop it.
The cultural specificity of America is made a universal through the buying and selling of what constitutes culture in every country that America touches. We may not understand but in a tragic way we don’t need to. I traveled through Europe for the first time recently and found a continent eager to speak English and sell me what it could.
The brutalizing universalism of America’s flavor of capitalism brings up the question between the possibility of communism as emerging from the global homogeny that arises through the standardizing effects of capitalism (all those juicy quotes from the manifesto about the obsolescence of family and religion) or from the specificity of culture and tradition.
I suppose this is what I was pointing to in the last point regarding the reterritorialisation of poshness on both a cultural and political level and this should have been emphasised more. It is precisely this exchange — the persistent reterritorialisation of Reaganomics on the one hand and the persistent reterritorialisation of British poshness on the other — that many rightly lament. The love-in between Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is, unfortunately, just another example of this weird connection happening across what would otherwise be a cultural gulf. And I think this is a symptom of the same universalisation that TC is writing about.
Beyond the Phoebe Waller-Bridges of this world, it is the suggestion that the NHS may be up for sale — even indirectly, through the hiking of pharmaceutical costs — that is the central charge being laid against Boris Johnson by Jeremy Corbyn throughout this year’s winter general election campaign. It is also a charge that speaks to his apparent complicity with Trump, foreshadowing a renewal of the “Special Relationship” to the levels of sycophancy that the Bush / Blair years have since been defined by in public memory — that is, a relationship in which our prime minister is little more than a neoliberal lapdog, moronically licking the toes of the world’s biggest idiot in exchange for biscuits. It is this — more than our Brexit debacle — that signifies Britain’s current attitude of protectionism, I think. Many of us don’t want the NHS opened up to a free(r) market. Many of us don’t want our politics opened up to the new brand of Trumpian electioneering. (Although it’s arguably far too late for the latter.)
This is to say that Brexit is only framed as an inward turn because those are the fears that the Tories and Brexiteers have excessively exploited among some voters. The reality is that a Boris Brexit is an emphatic return to a Thatcherist love of the free market. And “free” is, of course, the operative and implicitly Americanized word. “Free” here means “deregulated”, “reckless”, “selfish”. In this sense, as far as many Conservatives see it, the EU is not a free market at all. It’s defined by the many restrictions and rules of neoliberal bureaucracy and what they really want to do is loosen things up a bit so they can access a wider market with less restrictions and basically hitch a ride on the flows of a far more virulent American imperial-capitalism. The moral panics that have come with this are the creeping privatization of the NHS and an influx of chlorinated chicken. (An odd pairing, admittedly, but that’s what they’ve gone with.)
It is in this push-pull that the cyclonic nature of our politics finds itself encapsulated at present. The scars of former industries are not just a dystopian wasteland of past failures but also a haunting reminder of what can happen to communities and institutions when belligerent capitalists don’t get their way. They gut them. Up to now, the NHS has been a concrete ceiling — or what Land might call a ‘decelerator’ — for the capitalist class that cannot be overcome but, nevertheless, cuts have been made and contracts given over to private companies and the slow creep of a dormant Thatcherism into that crowning socialist achievement genuinely puts the fear in the people who know that any sickness could later exacerbate their enslavement to the landlord class through the imposition of an avalanche of debt.
The centrality of American capitalism, specifically, within this fear at the moment makes me think that TC is absolutely right that “the real export of the American elite is to their brother-elites.”
However, TC’s post also reminded me of that gross self-aggrandisement that the Tories were trotting out when their election campaign first started. They kept talking about how the Conservatives are the oldest political party not just in the country but in the world and that is why they can be trusted with all these things. It was this weird flip of landed gentry entitlement into “we’ve got the most experience running things” (which basically sums up the Tory conception of meritocracy).
But the Tories also want to get in with the new money. They want to get in with Trump as the new kid on the block who might be a wild card but still represents their interests. And despite the illusion of the royal family’s apparent snubs to Trump recently, the Boris/Trump (or Farage/Trump) alliance carries a foul taste that is all too reminiscent of the Epstein/Prince Andrew “special relationship”. Far more is shared between brother-elites than we could probably even imagine.
Again, TC has already said it all, but it bears repeating ad nauseum. Especially today.
If you’re in the UK, get outside and vote Labour.
I didn’t really feel so great about my set for the ‘For K-Punk’ Fundraiser at the Tasty Bakery in Peckham last week — especially because, for some reason, Yannis Philippakis was there? I heard that apparently some people fought their way to get inside and didn’t like that we were still charging money on the door at 3am — it was a fundraiser!? — and then they got in to find out most people had gone home already and it was just me flailing about trying to read a half-asleep dance floor.
I’d brought a lot of jungle with me that night but as soon as I stepped up to the decks I got the distinct impression everyone was jungled out — and I’m not complaining: everyone who played that night went in hard and it was fucking incredible — but I was too jungled out myself to do that well at thinking on my feet.
Anyway, I was a bit sad about it, especially because I’d spent the week leading up to it filling my USBs with weapons for a last-ditch dancefloor shelling. To make myself feel a bit better, here’s a partial reconstruction of my set that fades out around the time I took a hard left turn into some disco for the mellowed-out crowd.