Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures of Mark Fisher — Out Now

Edited with an introduction by Matt Colquhoun, this collection of lecture notes and transcriptions reveals acclaimed writer and blogger Mark Fisher in his element — the classroom — outlining a project that his death left so bittersweetly unfinished.

Beginning with that most fundamental of questions — “Do we really want what we say we want?” — Fisher explores the relationship between desire and capitalism, and wonders what new forms of desire we might still excavate from the past, present, and future. From the emergence and failure of the counterculture in the 1970s to the continued development of his left-accelerationist line of thinking, this volume charts a tragically interrupted course for thinking about the raising of a new kind of consciousness, and the cultural and political implications of doing so.

For Fisher, this process of consciousness raising was always, fundamentally, psychedelic — just not in the way that we might think…

This collection of five lectures and associated course materials, along with an introduction by me, is out today as an eBook. There will also be a limited edition hardback out in early 2021. We’ll be organising a few online events between now and then maybe… More info on those soon.

Buy here from Repeater Books

For those who have read Egress, I mention pretty early on that one of the first things I set about doing after Mark’s death, as a way to ground myself in the process of memorialisation as I spent time away from my mourning London friends in Manchester, was to transcribe the first lecture of FIsher’s postgraduate seminar from the academic year of 2016/17. That experience, conducted in isolation over a bleak two-week escape, is what led me to start that Egress in the first place.

Over the years since I’ve kept coming back to those lectures time and again. I never bothered finishing the transcriptions though. For a long time, the thought of listening to ten hours’ worth of recordings of Mark’s voice was too much to bear. But I was also aware that the material collected there was really important.

The first session alone is a really great introduction to Mark’s thought, and the course as a whole really dives beneath the surface of his interests. He gives lectures on Herbert Marcuse and his Freud / Marx synthesis, the frustration of Seventies feminism over the failure of the counterculture, György Lukács’ psychedelic Marxism, the neoliberal invention of a reactionary working class that continues to be a problem within the political imagination to this day, and Jean-François Lyotard’s libidinal Marxism.

Despite the heaviness of the topics at hand, Mark tackles them in a way that is accessible and conversational. He successfully opens up a whole new world to the uninitiated. But, of course, it’s all still unfinished — only five of the projected fifteen lectures went ahead. We miss Mark’s analysis of cybernetic socialism, xenofeminism, accelerationist aesthetics, and various other avenues within his thought that he wanted to thread together over those few semesters. Nevertheless, these five recordings constitute a document unfinished in a way that feels productive rather than bittersweet. After all, the entire course is set up as an experiment and a dialogue. There is clearly more here — as with all of Mark’s works — than meets the eye.

Nothing else has ever been done with those recordings, as far as I’m aware. Almost four years on from when they were made and shared online by Nace Zavrl, they have languished in obscurity. The onset of coronavirus lockdowns around the world felt like as good a time as any to return to them and finally unearth Mark’s hopeful project, re-affirming its persistent relevance and fleshing out his “Acid Communism”, which has become so popular despite being based on very little.

And so, alongside transcribing these lectures, I’ve written a lengthy introduction that connects the lectures and their assigned readings to essays of Mark’s already out in the world (mostly online). In 2017, Kodwo Eshun repeatedly made the point that Acid Communism was a project to be reconstructed. Whilst plenty of people have taken up this mantle, I think Kodwo meant this quite literally. Many of the lectures Mark gave (or intended to give) at Goldsmiths that year arguably already existed in essay form on various websites and in various magazines. Connecting the dots between these articles, written between 2012 and 2016, gives a far more lucid outline to this unfinished project and its concerns than many others have bothered to look for and share.

Personally, I think this collection of lectures should be the starting point for anyone interested in what Mark was working on at the time of his death and what he’d been working on ever since Capitalist Realism. After all, Ghosts of my Life and The Weird and the Eerie, as great as they are, can be traced back to that prior period of blogging productivity from the 2000s. They were more like streamlined statements regarding past projects rather than new directions in his thinking. The essays he later wrote (but which never quite found his posthumous audience) developed a thread that persisted in his thought until the very end. Unfortunately, we never quite saw the pay off, where Mark’s hauntological thinking would, via The Weird and the Eerie, give way to a full-blown accelerationist politics that sought to ask the most difficult questions facing us at present, concerning our tandem desires for capitalism and capitalism’s demise. This was, quite explicitly, Mark’s next big project, the sequel to Capitalist Realism proper, and he had spent almost a decade mapping it out. A very useful portion of that map can be found here.

If that’s not reason enough for you to check this out, I don’t know what else to tell you.

Postcapitalist Desire is only available as an ebook for now from the Repeater Books website but a limited edition hardback copy is being printed and will be released early next year. Keep an eye out for that.

To the pirates: all proceeds go to Mark’s family, so please support it if you can.

K-Punk Quarantined — Ctrl Network

A few weeks / months ago — what is time? — the Contemporary Theory Reading Group at the University of Birmingham organised an amazing series of lectures and workshops during quarantine around the work of Mark Fisher. The sessions brought together some wonderfully like-minded people and I was honoured to be asked to present some of my research as part of the series.

The Contemporary Theory Reading Group has now changed shape and they have re-launched themselves as a proper online entity called Ctrl Network. They’ve started a blog and written a little something here explaining their shape-shift and their plans for the future. Embracing the way that quarantine exploded their existence, they hope to function as a node for wider discussion in a network that exceeds their institution. I’m sure anyone who took part in their K-Punk Quarantined series will vouch for this as a really exciting endeavour for anyone theoretically inclined looking for a way to share ideas and chat with people.

You can check out their website here for more information, and make sure to follow them on Twitter. If you want a taste of what the group have done, the entire series of workshops and lectures around Fisher’s work is now up online here and my guest lecture is embedded below.


The Story Is We’re Stuck: Notes on Accelerationism and the Climate Emergency

A contradictory tension that has defined the last couple of decades of life on earth is one between the accelerative nature of technological progress and the encroaching stagnation that defines life for the rest of us. Something has got to give. How can we catch up and get a piece of the progress? Because speed isn’t just for the owners of the means of production — it’s clear they can’t handle it on their own.

The rest of us have surely proved, by now, that we can keep up. We have adapted better and more quickly to new ways of life in 2020 than many ever thought possible. But the capitalists can’t. They don’t like change and so they scramble to get things back to “normality” for the sake of their own interests.

This is what fat cats do best. They fortify their own interests, even at the expense of life itself, gorging on accumulated wealth until there is none left for anyone else.

Fat cats are fat, lest we forget. The chub of accumulated capital deprives them of their otherwise spritely nature. It’s about time they were put out of their (nonetheless contented) misery.

When we say accelerate the process, what do we mean? Accelerate what? What process?

The process. There is, arguably, only one. Nature itself is a speed freak. It is always moving but we’re choking it. Nature and capitalism, in this regard, share much in common. We are both separate from and a part of them. We affect them but can’t control them; just as they affect but cannot control us. Our relationships to both seem fundamental but fraught; always-already entangled but unruly and disagreeable. Things only get more complicated the further down we dig.

When we find ourselves beholden to things at the level of desire, where does nature and the natural end and begin? “No nature”, Gary Snyder says. It’s all one big house.

Extinction Rebellion recently blockaded roads around print works for all the major right-wing newspaper in the country — specifically those owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The blockage itself is not the story, they insisted. The blockage they represent is pervasive. We ourselves are blocked — by Murdoch and those like him. Those who have accumulated wealth and power and used it to constipate society.

It is interesting to see XR take the battle to the pockets of the rich and powerful in this way. After muddled tactics pre-lockdown showed protesters disrupting the lives of commuters and, in one widely publicised incident, London’s working classes just trying to put food on the table, it seemed to many that the movement — whilst undoubtedly well-meaning — remained bogged down in the sort of middle-class ineptitude that had come to define (in my mind at least) the UK’s Green Party.

That kind of action did not shine a light through the cracks in the firmament, but this one might.

However, it is one thing for the proletariat, who we know can be freed from the mire of immediacy, to answer the call of the climate crisis, it is another thing entirely for the bourgeoisie to grasp the need for speed and action, (s)trapped as they are in a capitalist-realist death drive of their own devising. Nevertheless, disrupting the world of the latter might make new worlds visible to the former.

Either way, we find a unicorn in our midst here: XR messaging that is on point.

The story certainly is that we’re stuck, and in more ways than one. The climate emergency is the most pressing example but our apparent impotence before a black wall of capitalists mirrors our impotence at large. If XR can break the deadlock, there’s hope for us yet. Accelerationism, in this sense, does not need a green variant. It is instead — and has always been — the observation that the more things stagnate, the worse they’re gonna get. (Not speeding things up for the same result.)

Accelerationism is stopping the slow cancellation of the future by giving it a jolt. A jolt in the pocket of Rupert Murdoch might not solve anything, but it’s a shock that might ripple into unexpected places.

Rejecting the Hardened Subject

It is sad that, for many, Mark Fisher’s career is defined by his essay, “Exiting the Vampire Castle”. It remains controversial — although, personally, I think he has been largely vindicated — but the essay was all for nought if we remain blinkered to its place within the wider context and trajectory of his thinking.

Unfortunately, we’re far from that mode of thinking today. What is so often missed by our perpetual focus on the essay’s fallout is all that Fisher did after it.

Was Fisher “cancelled”? Hardly. He didn’t let himself be. His essay was the subject of fierce discussion and some despicable things were said about him by his critics, but he refused to engage with it. After all, he’d already made his decision to leave Twitter. He didn’t need to stick around for it. From what I’ve heard from others, the fallout was certainly more sizeable than he was expecting and I think that that sort of vitriol would bruise anyone, but he nonetheless managed to put it behind him and move onto brighter things. Unlike those who find themselves in similar positions today, he didn’t proceed to obsess over his being hard-done-by and wear his attempted cancellation like a badge to define himself. He had no interest in affirming his position as a somehow “dangerous thinker”; as a pantomime villain in the then-still-nascent “culture wars”.

If only the same could be said for others today, who define themselves through perpetual victimisation, often by persisting in stirring the pot with the most asinine of takes. In essence, the cancelled turn themselves into the sort of reactionary pundit that defines the right-wing media in the UK and the US — the likes of Piers Morgan or even Donald Trump, contributing enormously to the very thing they say they are supposedly critiquing.

Fisher, on the contrary, chose to built up a positive project instead. His critique of the Vampire’s Castle certainly resonated with some; it really didn’t with others. No matter — those are the breaks. And so, he retained the critique but dropped the polemic, instead striving for that kind of “nihilism without negativity” that he had long been trying to articulate — a nihilism informed by a positive political practice of consciousness raising.

This isn’t a story often told about Fisher, however. Instead, we see him recruited as some member of the new “dirtbag left” or as a forebearer for some Community of the Cancelled. (This was precisely what happened on Twitter yesterday — see tweet below.) The inconvenient truth is that he had no truck with the new tendency to self-pity and shadowbox with those he’d labelled as vampires. According to many who discussed this with him personally, he’d likely be as embarrassed by the ways things have gone as the rest of us.

I think that’s obvious when we look at what he wrote next.

In an essay for Plan C called “No Romance Without Finance” — presented two years after he’d written “Exiting the Vampire Castle, as part of a workshop in 2015 — Fisher opens with a familiar analysis of an alienated and culturally-maligned working-class subject, browbeaten by “the corrosive effects of the neoliberal environment on intimacy.” Referencing Jennifer M Silva’s book Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, he writes:

Over and over again, Silva finds her young subjects exhibiting a ‘hardened’ self — a form of subjectivity that prides itself on its independence from others. For Silva, this hardened subject is the consequence of this generation being abandoned, institutionally and existentially. In an environment dominated by unrelenting competition and insecurity, it is neither possible to trust others nor to project any sort of long-term future. Naturally, these two problems feed into one another, in one of the many vicious spirals which neoliberal culture has specialised in innovating. The inability to imagine a secure future makes it very difficult to engage in any sort of long-term commitment. Rather than seeing a partner as someone who might share the stresses imposed by a harshly competitive social field, many of the working class individuals to whom Silva spoke instead saw relationships as an additional source of stress. In particular, many of the heterosexual women she interviewed regarded relationships with men as too risky a proposition. In conditions where they could not depend on much outside themselves, the independence they were forced to develop was both a culturally-validated achievement and a hard-won survival strategy which they were reluctant to relinquish.

I think this essay is very telling. Understood as a kind of post-“Vampire’s Castle” foray into practices of group consciousness raising, it reads to me now like a retort to those who now define themselves by their stunted careers as members of the commentariat. Whilst he clearly sympathises with the feelings of abandonment and betrayal explored by Silva, hard-baked into a cold and unforgiving neoliberal culture, he does not identify with them. (I imagine he identifies even less with the middle-class constitution of most cancelled subjects.)

It is as if Fisher roots cancel culture and our reactions to it within the class struggle so often disarticulated from discussions of its affects — although, of course, many who are cancelled will comment on the impact it has on the livelihoods, but being denied a seat at the commentariat table is hardly comparable to working class precarity more generally. It is an inspired move, in many respects — reorienting his critique away from the dynamics of Twitter discourse and cementing it within the initial subject that concerned him most.

Most notably, in distancing the critique made in “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle” from that essay’s notoriety and reformatting it into his new Acid Communist project, he successfully skewers both sides of the divide that now defines the so-called “culture wars”: the vampiric moralisers and the self-pitying reactionaries who bleat about the former’s attacks upon them. He rejects the surgical focus on individuality that the moralisers exercise with abandon and he rejects the “woe is me!” attitude of those on the receiving end of it, instead emphasising the need for a new kind of relation on both fronts. He writes:

Where consciousness-raising pointed to impersonal and collective structures — structures that capitalist and patriarchal ideology obscures — neoliberalism sees only individuals, choices and personal responsibility.

This is to say that both cancellers and the cancelled complete the feedback loop of neoliberal hysteria. It is consciousness raising that we require to unplug ourselves from the outrage machine. “Personal shame becomes dissolved as its structural causes are collectively identified”, Fisher continues. Collectively organising around your shame and holding onto it is hardly a successful outcome of that process. That is a recipe for ressentiment and nothing more.

(This is particularly true when so many of those cancelled around issues related to transphobia insist on entertaining “philosophical” positions that are implicitly deployed to block the establishment of a broader feminist group consciousness that intersects with others’ experiences. It is hypocritical to speak of cancel culture, in this sense, when what has gotten you in hot water in the first place is a pearl-clutching attitude towards reactionary categories of subjectivity.)

What we require, instead, is a vigilance.

Vigilance has been a bit of a buzzword on the blog as of late. It’s particularly relevant, I think, to the impotence that has befallen accelerationism — the irony being that, following the 2008 financial crash, accelerationism was itself a critique of impotence. When we go on about “cancel culture” on the left, we fall into much the same trap, giving fuel to or even embodying some of the left’s most reactionary tendencies, even as we attempt to call them into question.

This is, in part, to say that defining yourself in opposition to that which has wronged you — especially if you feel so wronged by the left as to slide right — is a sorry tale as old as capitalism itself. More specifically, however, we can acknowledge that it is also a process of ideological confusion and cognitive dissonance that defines neoliberalism in the present, stretching back to its suppression of psychedelia and its creation of a reactionary working class.

The strange difficulty of separating your critique from the tendencies that you are critiquing is something Fisher untangles well when he analyses Gwen Guthrie’s 1986 single “Ain’t Nothing Goin’ On But The Rent”.

Whilst the song’s insistence on fiscal responsibility might be seen a “reactionary concession to capitalist realism”, we can also understand it “as a rejection of the ideological sentimentality that separates out social reproduction from paid work.” It is a song that echoes so much of modern hip hop. I’m reminded, for instance, of Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” — a song somewhat superficially interpreted by many at the time of its release as being about capitalistic principles of debt collection, but we might just as readily interpret as a far more politically-charged demand for reparations — an interpretation made far more explicit by the song’s video:

Fisher suggests something similar when he concludes that “‘Ain’t Nothing Goin’ On But the Rent’ is the sound of the loneliness that happens when consciousness is deflated, and the conditions for raising it are absent.” It’s a familiar sound. We hear it in the bleating of cancelled writers writing about being cancelled, and the hysteria of those who wish to cancel anything that moves. But this sound does not just the drone of the culture wars; it is, as Fisher makes clear, the sound of “corroding the conditions for intimacy.”

More than ever before, so many of our lives are defined by a radical uncertainty and precarity but many of those who find themselves cancelled are just as guilty of corroding intimacy and shared consciousness as those who are cancelling them. (An argument I’ve made in another context in my old post on the left’s “prison politics”.) Too many of the supposedly cancelled make reactionary concessions to capitalist realism but few go so far as to reject the conditions that make it all possible. Instead, each one, in their own way, is a new shade of the hardened subject Fisher initially pities. The only way to combat this death spiral is to reject both variations of this hardened subject — defensive and offensive — and re-establish the conditions for consciousness raising.

It was this sentiment, above all others, that Fisher wanted to resurrect from the counterculture — from funk and soul and the other musics of that time — using it to attack the Vampire’s Castle he so despised. It was a cultural sentiment that didn’t just impotently make positive affirmations or take reactive swipes against those who dare critique you but rather warned of reactionary forces within our midst; the back stabbers whose “smilin’ faces sometimes tell lies”. Fisher was, in effect — cunningly and implicitly — warning of snakes in the grass amongst both his apparent enemies and supporters.

Those snakes still lurk. In fact, they’re more emboldened now that Fisher isn’t here to keep them at bay for himself.

This Great Society is Going Smash: A Lesson to be Learned from Accelerationism

Shout out to Geoff Shullenberger for pointing out this tweet. I’m used to seeing these by now — who isn’t? — but I think there’s a further point to be made with this one.

The suggestion that “accelerationism” is an “age-old” tactic from white supremacists is silly. I’m sure if you traced their appropriation of the term back to its origin, they started using it no more than three years ago. It has been associated with the far-right in the popular imagination for even less time than that.

As a by-word for “inflaming tensions”, I suppose it is a tactic that goes back much further, and tying this directly to accelerationism as it is popularly misunderstood is hardly a stretch. But the twisted development of this term is increasingly important to understand, I think — not just for those of us invested in its observations but also to those outside of our discussions who pounce on it as some sort of life-raft for understanding these right-wing forces they can barely comprehend.

As far as I am concerned, accelerationism was and continues to be a political philosophy for understanding how we have ended up in our present quagmire and for describing the available trajectories out of it. Whilst there’s a lot of contention around this now, I personally see little difference between what has (since 2016) been called “unconditional accelerationism” and the arguments first developed by Alex Williams in 2008. Whilst others called it a “left-” or “post-Landianism”, it is arguably more concerned with what Badiou called the “crisis in negation”, understood through Ray Brassier’s brand of “nihilism” and various radical reformulations of Marx’s labour theory of value.

All of this has, of course, been buried under various levels of retconning, with too much time spent arguing over the various influences that led to the formulation of this position rather than what futures this position is capable of giving voice to — so much so that the original position has been lost entirely.

I’ve been writing about the dire irony of this a lot recently. I’m trying to hammer it into a book but this is no easy task; unfortunately, the argument is anything but straightforward. Nevertheless, it goes something like this: That a radical politics, which hoped to take the stasis illuminated by the financial crash very seriously, could be captured inside its own reactionary stasis and made so publicly impotent is an embarrassing state of affairs. That those on the left take this as an opportunity to gloat should be careful, however. This trajectory shows how accelerationism itself has not been immune to the forces it hoped to describe. Indeed, it shows how nothing is immune to the disorientating tactics of a postmodernist populism.

It is very important that we emphasise this — not simply to save face but to demonstrate how the world works to those desperate to understand it. The tweets above demonstrate why.

Calling accelerationism an “age-old” white supremacist tactic is ahistorical at best, but it is a mistake worthy of note because, in grounding it in some false lineage, we jettison how central this type of appropriation has been to a very contemporary far-right play book. It is a tactic we see everywhere nowadays, most specifically in messaging around the coronavirus pandemic. The left-wing press in the UK, for instance, has been up in arms about the Conservative party’s poor and confusing messaging, but the point that many find difficult to make (but which is undoubtedly true) is that the government prefer confusion over clarity any day of the week.

This has (somewhat ironically) been clear this week, as the more dominant right-wing media in this country have been up in arms about the political-correctness-gone-mad suggestion that we stop singing “Land of Hope and Glory” at the BBC Proms.

The mundane reason for this cancellation of an even more mundane tradition, according to the BBC, is that the whole point of singing Land of Hope and Glory at the Proms is to end on a big, hearty singalong, but with no mass gatherings permitted they will likely remove this spectacle from the schedule.

Despite this being in accordance with the government’s own guidelines, the media (and Boris Johnson himself) have pounced on an alternative narrative that this is because Land Of Hope & Glory is racist and bad. There is a legitimate argument to be made for that — it is certainly a symbol of British nationalist pomposity — but it is hardly high on anyone’s list of wrongs to be righted in 2020. As such, it is clear to many that this is a story fabricated by the media, leapt on by the right, all to de-legitimise the left and distract from the right’s own failures.

Thankfully, left-wing media have been diligent in pointing out that this outrage has been wholly fabricated and fed by the media themselves. Pundits who have been booked onto news programmes to defend the constructed left-wing position, for instance, who have chosen to instead take the opportunity to call the farce out for what it is, have either been uninvited — as was Ash Sarkar’s experience…

…or they were given a slap on the wrist. Most tellingly, it was seemingly centre-left melt Femi alone who managed to get past the media vetting process and actually tell it like it is, and he was hilariously branded as an extremist for doing so.

This is all very relevant to accelerationism. Whilst I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for a fringe philosophical interest, it has nonetheless fallen victim to this same process. Its claims have certainly caused a lot of confusion, but we might ask ourselves why? Is it not telling that this concerted effort to address the impasse faced by contemporary anti-capitalist discourses has been transformed into the very thing it sort to “accelerate” out of — tactics of “capitalist realist” disorientation that keep the right in power? Is it not telling that this philosophical lightning rod, erected following the great political impotence demonstrated by the left following the financial crash, has become so impotent in itself?

Part of the reason is surely that we cannot see the totality that we are trying to escape from. Countless Marxists foretold this sorry state of limited consciousness — Marx’s negation of the negation and Lukács’ mire of immediacy are the first to come to mind — but even they probably never imagined it would get this much worse. We are wholly incapable, it seems, of seeing just how far down these tactics of distraction, exaggeration and appropriation go.

We must take care to illustrate how exactly these tactics differ from those described by “age-old” Marxist texts. The “brouhaha” around Land of Hope and Glory is a very blatant example of the media constructing instances of false consciousness in ways that Marxists have told us about for decades, for instance, but a more specific variation on these tactics are unique to popular neoliberalism (most visible in Reagan’s electioneering tactics) and have mutated into something quite distinct again since the rise to power of our new far-right populists.

Do you remember the time when both Donald Trump and Bernice Sanders were identified as “accelerationist” candidates? That’s a moment worth going back to. (We see a similar argument made around both Trump and Biden at present.) This was not because either one would wholly destabilise the office of the president, but rather because they would both further illuminate the cracks in the firmament. Trump has certainly done this, but for his own gain. Sanders did this too, but in negative — that he had the establishment running more scared than Trump, both in 2016 and in 2019, spoke volumes. The same is true here in the UK. We were more afraid of Corbyn than bumbling Boris. Both have shaken up politics as usual, but Boris has retained a bourgeois handle on the Overton Window. If it has been shifted, it remains in the favour of those who have been in control for centuries. There is nothing very radical about it.

This is to say, in an underhand sort of way, that accelerationism only retains its use-value as a political philosophy when it retains its Marxist foundations. It is, like so many positions and arguments, made impotent when it is reshaped for use by the establishment it hopes to dismantle. We are certainly aware of instances when establishments around the world do this — and, as the Land of Hope and Glory debacle illustrates, we are still capable of attacking the most egregious examples (although those attacks seem broader ineffective) — but we are terrible are defending the small fry. Perhaps that’s because it doesn’t matter. Would a broad defence of accelerationism online have done anything to change our present fortunes? It seems unlikely. But these sorts of bastardisations and appropriations have built up over the last five years. As each one is neutralised by a nefarious media and a gaggle of high-profile useful idiots, we lose a potential vector for imagining new futures — and such vectors have already in short supply for some time.

(Of all the genuinely interesting readings of The Matrix available, for instance — including the most recently affirmed reading that the film is a parable for gender transition — that we are left with a Red Pill meme that grew out of Men’s Rights Activists forums surely makes it the most obvious example of leftist parable being bastardised into impotency.)

This may start to sound like “First they came for the accelerationists, and I did nothing because I wasn’t an accelerationist…” I suppose that’s, in part, precisely what this is. But it is an argument worth making because its impact is far reaching — it gives the media an ideological bogeyman to point to; it emboldens a misplaced cynicism in the politically illiterate; it generates infighting on the left as people obsess over taking cheap shots at a thought that doesn’t hold sway with a reductive canon, in order to birth new thought that is capable of adapting to our new age. (Accelerationists, broadly speaking, aren’t your enemy — and if they seem like it, maybe you’re more of a useful idiot than you realise.) That new kind of thought is still desperately needed.

This is not to say that anyone needs to start immediately sympathising with the plight of our already edgelordy blogosphere, or even to suggest that accelerationism is salvageable at this point, but it’s trajectory from radical thrust out of impotence to the most impotent thing out there should be better understood by all on the left. It could happen — and, arguably, already is happening — to you too.

“Exiting Left”: Geoff Shullenberger on ‘Egress’ for Athwart

Many thanks to Geoff Shullenberger for writing this essay on the work of Mark Fisher and my book Egress.

It’s a thorough and very intriguing perspective that does an excellent job of pulling together the book’s various theoretical threads. However, I’m not sure its grounding of the term “egress” as a variant on Hirschman’s “exit” is strictly accurate — and that assumption might be my fault anyway — but it is an interesting suggestion nonetheless. This is partly what the book (and this blog, in 2018 at least, during our collective patchwork fever) spent much time trying to make sense of.

Personally, I’d argue that “egress” is an attempt to pull exit back from the libertarian right’s perhaps better known understanding of it — an understanding that causes the left to throw the baby out with the bath water, over-reacting (in a very literal sense) against it. This is much like my argument that the Red Pill has far more potential than its memetic sibling gives it, which Shullenberger discusses here too. It is a sort of ideological Prometheanism but one which, in its original instance, does well to dramatise various leftist problematics.

Whilst the right uses it, at present, to signal a “based” exit from the left’s cultural hegemony, the left has long had the capitalist totality in its sights instead. This is what makes the assertion that this is Hirschman’s concept originally quite intriguing. Whilst I don’t think this is correct, it does make me wonder: When did the “right” — an inevitably ahistorical concept at this scale; bourgeoisie is not much better — first come to understand its desire to “exit”? Has this not always been tied to the exoticism of colonialism or imperialism? Similarly, when did the “left” first come to understand its desire to be emancipated? “Voice” and “exit” become interesting terms when split in this way — one is related to subjectivity, the other to space. My own interest in Hirschman came from an understanding of the fact that, in postmodernity, both of these categories become further complicated and intertwined with one another, but no consideration of this should obfuscate the underlying (and foundational) relation that exists between bourgeois exotic fantasies and proletariat emancipation.

However, one further thing I think is worthy of note today is that many of these (particularly accelerationist) discussions are attempting to answer the question of what is to be done after our bitter acceptance of the fact that, following Lyotard, there is no non-alienated region left to exit onto. Wherever you move to, capitalism is already there, or we’re so indoctrinated that, even if we could, we would probably take it with us without thinking about it — Robinson Crusoe-style: we set up camp on some untouched land, fully capable of starting over, and just replicate (somewhat shoddily) the ideological landscape we have come from.

Egress, to my mind, is an attempt to sidestep these kinds of misadventures. Exit, in so many senses — not just Hirschman’s — is entangled with Christopher McCandless-type primitivist fantasies of returning to nature and leaving modernity behind. They’re seductive tales, not least for the kind of challenge they represent to consciousness, but we must be careful in how we navigate these sorts of fantasies. They can quickly become unproductive and so require considerable vigilance.

I’ve been speaking to people about this recently as part of the accelerationism course, actually. Twice in the seminars we discussed the fallacy of Ted Kaczinski and the ethics of Henry David Thoreau, for instance. Poor Ted K was a bit of an idiot when he exited. He was fine in his cabin until the deforestation company came and that’s when he started sending out his mail bombs. But Ted was naive to think he could set down roots and the capitalist machine wouldn’t catch up to him eventually.

Thoreau, for all the fetishisation of his exit, was far more nomadic, in that he was able to continually adapt, and in the sense that his years “in nature” were still spent in earshot of the town. The main benefit of his exit was to see the town from the perspective of the woods, to see it outside of itself and gain a new perspective, but not to leave it entirely. He did much the same thing from jail. To be removed from the flows of society was not to turn his back on them but see them for what they really are, in their totality, so that he might intervene in new ways.

In this sense, Thoreau understood the power of voice and exit in tandem and exercised both simultaneously. However, for those of us unable to just take a trip out to the woods, Fisher’s egress offers an exit from captured consciousness in the here and now, in line with his Spinozist “psychedelic reason” — “getting out through your head.” That sort of endeavor is all the more important when we note, as Shullenberger does, that “voice” is in crisis.

There is more about this in the Postcapitalist Desire lectures. Egress, for what it’s worth, deals with the difficulties of these questions in a very specific context. Other contexts are available — and much more hopeful.

At its best, and on a very personal level, Egress was an attempt to do what it was describing: find a way out of that depressive mode of thinking when I felt entirely and hopelessly immersed within it. It worked — although the blog hasn’t seen much of the benefits as yet — but what is coming next from me is far outside that cloistered consciousness and I’m excited about it.

Anyway, below are a few passages from Shullenberger’s essay that I think sketch this trajectory very well, extending Egress out into our present COVID moment also. It’s a very life-affirming turn of events, I think. As difficult as imagining alternatives was in 2017, and as horrific as this year has been, in 2020 we’re not just thinking about egresses but enacting them. In that sense, I hope the book remains quite prescient.

Fisher adapted Jacques Derrida’s neologism “hauntology” to evoke the melancholic presence within 21st-century culture of futures never realized by the 20th century’s utopian projects. He differentiated between the sterile nostalgia of “retro” culture and a distinct “hauntological melancholia” attuned not so much to the specific contents of earlier historical moments as to the conditions of possibility, trajectories, and energies embedded within them. While nostalgic retro culture may fall into the pathological impasses Freud and Brown identified, Fisher argued, hauntological melancholia might conversely sustain a defiance of “the closed horizons of capitalist realism” and inspire “a refusal to adjust to what current conditions call ‘reality.’”

Colquhoun develops this idea, suggesting that mourning transfigured into melancholia can render visible the “impossible Real” hidden by capitalist realism. Central to this claim is Jacques Lacan’s notion of the Real as that which any socially defined “reality” suppresses. For Fisher, “one strategy against capitalist realism could involve invoking the Real(s) underlying the reality that capitalism presents to us.” “Negative Reals” such as mental illness and climate catastrophe, that is, might “allow us to see Kapital’s striplit mall of the mind for what it actually is.”

Egress folds these inquiries back onto the narrative of Fisher’s own life and death. In particular, it explores the possibilities found within the collective experience of his mourning among his students, friends and colleagues. As Colquhoun writes, “the surreality of death as it is experienced by those that remain alive injects a strangeness deep into the heart of our communities [and] ruptures the strange behaviours we take for granted.”


The Covid-19 pandemic exemplifies Fisher’s “negative Real.” It is a traumatic irruption that has burst through the seams of our reality and forced us to reassess our ideas of what’s possible, individually and collectively. In Egress, Fisher’s death provides the primary instance of such a Real, but the virus and its economic fallout have lately played this role for all of us. The fact that a massive spontaneous protest movement emerged in the wake of these developments might support Colquhoun’s claim that moments of catastrophe and loss can generate new political subjectivities. On the other hand, the rapid embrace of the movement’s messages by the full spectrum of corporate interests should be cause for concern for anyone who has read Fisher, since it seems to confirm capital’s endless ability to absorb and profit from crises.

However you contemplate the current scene, the politics of voice are in crisis. The fact that recent protests have culminated more in unilateral corporate actions than in coherent political responses is one measure of this fact. The impact of the virus has thrown the sustaining rituals of politics into disarray and accelerated the migration of social life into a privatized virtual realm. Biological and technological trajectories are unfolding in the absence of effective political control. The question is not whether some political collective can harness these tendencies to some determinate political end, or whether we can only watch them unfold. The question is whether anyone is even in a position to make such a choice.

Nihilism Without Negativity (in 2020)

An excellent response to some predictable Twitter snark has me feeling quite inspired going into this weekend.

Kevin Rogan recently tweeted the following:

mark fisher’s legacy is complex. was he an interesting writer? yes. did he write way too much about how bad music evidenced something called ‘libidinal’ this or some shit? yes. but most importantly, has he led to an insufferable cadre of online ‘theorist’ dipshits? extremely yes [1]

It proved a popular shitpost, and it is easy to appreciate as nothing more then that, but it’s also very telling in the wider context or Twitter’s various Cold Wars. Rogan has long been a virulent subtweeter, showing distain for almost anyone who does anything.

This is to say that, whilst on the one hand, it is hardly expressing a controversial opinion — that Mark Fisher needs to be saved from some of his biggest fans is surely widely acknowledged at this point — on the other, it is clear that, for many on Twitter, this sentiment extends to just about any para-academic (or purely “pop”) engagement with Fisher’s work.

It’s always best to just ignore this sort of thing — it’s mostly all rooted in anti-accelerationist sniping going back years now — but some of the replies to this tweet, which were less triggered and more just sad about a desperate need to be contrarian, were encouraging to see. Specifically, I thought this response from Twitter user @miker2049 was excellent:

This is kinda a bummer take to me if only because [Fisher’s] demonstrative effort to deprofessionalize and democratize the work of theory by writing earnest blogs about whatever instead of just working on tenure or being a good academic was so great and I think a net positive thing. [1]

I’d rather have a million “dipshits” thinking about the relations between mental illness and capitalism than a handful of smug career academics who are probably trapped in terrible institutional jobs. or are just assholes [2]

This is something always worth remembering.

Before coming across like a total hypocrite, it is clear that I’m no saint in this regard — I’ve had my fair share of gripes, slinging critiques at Mark Fisher Facebook meme groups I do think are partly responsible for Fisher’s incredibly reductive posthumous legacy. I’m also partial to being grumpy on Twitter, having gotten myself in hot water over this very recently, but what often makes me grumpy in the first place is precisely this sort of sniping, that looks to pick pointlessly at others’ projects and offer nothing that could be mistaken for a productive impulse.

I want to tread lightly here. The temptation to declare that all Twitter miserablists are part of the Vampire Castle that Fisher despised leaves one open to easy ridicule, since that sort of dismissal is very much overused at this point, but it is worth noting how Fisher defined his Grey Vampires. He wrote on the k-punk blog:

Grey Vampires don’t feed on energy directly, they feed on obstructing projects. The problem is that, often, they don’t know that they are doing this. (That’s one difference between them and a troll — trolls usually aren’t under any illusions about themselves, they just find spurious justifications for their activities.)

This is an important point to consider. Whilst negging on the timeline 24/7 might make you feel smart and like you have exercised your critical faculties, you can hardly call that a positive critical project. So where does that leave you? Impotently beholden to the compulsive obstruction of anything you’re not keen on? Ever wonder where that compulsion comes from? (I have some idea.)

These are questions genuinely worth asking. I think it is true that most don’t know that they’re doing it, particularly when engulfed in academia. I’d probably be more of a miserable arse myself if I was stuck chasing the ghosts of clout through my alienated academic labour in a modern university, precisely because the system makes you feel that way — like the rest of the world at large, it makes you feel like an atomised individual swimming resentfully against the current. (The further I get some academia, the more productive and zen I feel, personally.)

Interestingly, this was precisely what the early accelerationists hoped to counter. They didn’t just want the negation of negation but the negation of a postmodern negativity that defined itself purely through what it didn’t like. This was even how Fisher described the resonant strategies of Deleuze and Guattari and Nick Land. (Plenty of questions remain unresolved regarding what we do about this but, as a starting point, it remains provocative and productive.) He writes that theirs was

a kind of nihilism without negativity; the only interdiction was on the negative, in all its senses: the ‘No’ of a sclerotic leftism characterised (or caricatured) as eternally resisting and repressing and the miserabilism of all the parties of depressive deceleration were to be abjured in favour of the unleashed full positivity of Capital as monstrous ex nihilo propagator without limit. The vast, sublime mechanism of Capital as planetary artificial intelligence would liquidate (the illusion) of human agency: you either submit and enjoy or act out the dead drama of your own impotence.

It remains as controversial a position now as it was then, and it is clear that, for Fisher, the benefits of networked communication technologies did not outweigh the further impositions they made upon the postmodern subject. This is perhaps to say that, whilst the choices are clearly the same on social media — submitting and enjoying or exercising your own impotence — that doesn’t mean I get much of a thrill out of infinitely scrolling through the results.

Fisher’s blogpost was, of course, written before the likes of Facebook and Twitter really tightened their stranglehold on communication, but the problematic he is provocatively describing remains unresolved. There is an abundance of cultural and political negativity in circulation today that rarely escapes the flows in which it has long been trapped. Social media certainly won’t save us from this capture — in fact, it epitomises this capture — but, thankfully, there are plenty of other spaces left online for sharing our surplus of info-knowledge. Blogging is still fun — honest. And the driver behind that first blogosphere, for many, was precisely to maintain an output for this negativity that was not beholden to the productive pressures of capitalism. Whether that remains true today is another matter but it certainly feels possible if you’re able to separate it from the generic treadmills you remain handcuffed to in daily life.

This largely depends on the platform being used. Posting on social media is a kind of production lacking in remuneration that nonetheless brings incredibly amounts of wealth to tech giants. Very aware of my own position, I still know an independent domain is better than a WordPress. As such, what Fisher called “touchscreen capture” remains an issue, and it is far better to take that curiosity and find ways to make it productive IRL than subject it to Zucc capture for eternity. This is surely why Fisher left social media in the first place. But he didn’t log off altogether. In fact, whilst the assumption has often been that he got angry and then sold out or tuned out, Fisher instead decided to put his money where his mouth was.

Most don’t realise this — evidenced by the fact his most controversial essay continues to be misread as the very thing he wanted to critique — but it is worth noting that, after “Exiting the Vampire Castle” fell somewhat on its own critical sword, Fisher’s response wasn’t to double down on his anger but instead become the change he wanted to see in the world. He left social media and focused his efforts on building a positive project. Writing for Plan C, for instance, he explicitly sided with feminist theorists like Nancy Hartsock, emphasising that “the point is to develop an account of the world that treats our perspectives not as subjugated, insurrectionary, or disruptive knowledges, but as potentially constitutive of a different world.” The underlining message here, for me, is that being a thorn in the side of a dominant conversation, whether on Twitter or at a much larger scale, is precisely the default melancholic position that has made the left so impotent. Being a gobshite is fine, of course, but if you really care about the things you claim to be defending, surely you should be striving for more than that?

In recent weeks, I’ve been feeling this quite intensely. The cliques and spats have made me think that only posting on the blog or just writing for myself and ignoring the internet altogether might be a much more preferable set-up once I’ve left the big city — extending the clean slate to cyberspace. But I do think retaining some sort of networked presence is vital, despite the drawbacks, and how you contribute to that kind of network does matter. The question is: how can we change things? If such a network is to be sustainable and not lead to yet more miserablist burnout, the least we can do is amplify and repeat @miker2049’s point: Compared to the constant miserablism displayed by so many on Twitter, a popular enthusiasm is surely the lesser of two evils. If all you want to do is pose a problem, good for you, but are you a part of that problem? If correctives are necessary — note to self — better to make them in a way that doesn’t push other people away completely, but rather encourages them to look deeper into what they are interested in.

Everything — every argument, every critique, every shot across the bow — should end up in a positive project. If it doesn’t, you’re just shooting blanks.

Last Nights

As the summers get hotter, I swear London loses a little bit more of its collective mind. August is the month things happen. People snap or let loose. Year on year, this is the month we end up having weird encounters with weird people. The consequences are sometimes shocking but never not entertaining.

Within the last month we’ve seen two police hard stops in the neighbourhood and this week there was a huge party that got shut down on the block. Ten police cars showed up. And a dog. I feel like we’re living in an episode of Cops.

The pictures above were taken at 3am. For all the excitement, I am very tired today. Interestingly, no one else in the neighbourhood really seemed to care. I’ll never not be surprised by how indifferent Londoners are to events outside their houses. I am, unfortunately, a perennial curtain-twitcher. I like to watch the drama.

And don’t tell me things don’t look that little bit more spectacular with Canary Wharf looming over the horizon. As ominous as that skyline is, I quite like it. At its most dysfunctional, Deptford can get quite Ballardian — worlds layered on top of worlds. I’m going to miss it when we move to Brontë country in a few weeks. Just a little bit.

This is me savouring our last nights, before I disappear completely up some idealised literary imaginary.

The Moebian Intensity of Mourning and Melancholy

I can’t stop thinking about a very old series of tweets — old reading group notes from June 2017, predating the blog by four months. They resonate so much more intensely with me now than they did then (if only because, back then, we were inside something that has now started to develop holes).

These tweets were brought to my attention because someone retweeted the last one out of the blue. Their power is only further intensified by the fact I have no recollection of writing them.

The effect of reading them now is quite something. I feel my distance from them profoundly but remember the sensation like a hum in my bones. They capture the intensity of the Goldsmiths moment in 2017, when every event or thought was encased within and punctured by Mark’s death — an event that overshadowed everything. But, sometimes, that shadow felt powerfully productive when we forgot we were inside it; nowadays I feel an ache when I forget that we are outside it…

There’s a trajectory hard-baked into this — from productive grief to accelerationist anti-praxis. I’m truly blown away by this, as if it was a seed sown unconsciously that’s now borne considerable fruit. It’s like being visited in the present by a former self.

Subliminal note-taking, posted below for posterity:

Lyotard said: “be inside it and forget it, that’s the position of the death drive.” [1]

Folds, curves and corridors. By making your interiority labyrinthine you increase potential encounters with the other; the outside. [2]

An impossible maze suspends decision-making. The suspension of decision is an intensification and immanentisation. Suspense is a plateau. [3]

Fisher writes, “There is no inside except as a folding of the outside.” [4]

What does this say about the relative interiority of mourning and the exteriority of melancholy? [5]

Are these not precisely the Moebian intensities capable of rupturing Lyotard’s ‘great ephemeral skin’? [6]

If these notes came from anywhere, it was likely our reading group around Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie, which developed out of a slightly uncomfortable and tentative desire to make our weekly support group more productive when we kind of ran out of steam talking about our feelings. We decided to start memorialising Mark alongside working through his just-released book — a book none of us really wanted to read alone. This gesture, in itself, became a way of deploying his own mode of thinking — making our mourning productively impersonal; not abandoning it but extending it beyond ourselves so that it might have other (more political) uses.

I’m tempted to situate these quotes in our reading of the Weird & Eerie chapter “Curtains & Holes: David Lynch”. I turned back to this on Sunday in the XG reading group when discussing “The Smooth and the Striated” chapter of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. It is a perfect example of Mark seamlessly deploying his understanding of high theory in the context of popular culture.

Talking about Lynch’s films, specifically Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, in which dreams and screen tests are “redoubled and refracted”, each laid on top of and allowed to cross-contaminate and inform our understanding of their other — the smooth space of the unconscious intersecting with the striated productions of Tinsel Town — Mark writes:

Each embedding contains the possibility of a dis-embedding, as something that was at a supposedly inferior ontological level threatens to climb up out of its subordinated position and claim equal status with the level above: figments from dreams cross over into waking life; screen tests appear at least as convincing as the exchanges in the supposedly real-world scenes that surround them.

This is similarly how theory and fiction, high culture and low, pop and avant-garde intersect in Fisher’s work, but also how the weird and the eerie interrelate, and mourning and Melancholy too.

I saw a Goodreads review of The Weird and the Eerie the other day that mentioned this — I like the idea of Goodreads but find it very difficult to get into — and I think it is a common complaint: why does Mark separate the strange or the uncanny into the weird and the eerie? What’s the point? Is it to create a new dialectic? Maybe but not really. It’s a way to uncover a multiplicity within the uncanny; to make the conceptual interior more labyrinthine so that it has more potential to interact with its outside. And each term does this very easily.

This was, for Fisher, the modernist sensibility — a sensibility that struggles to persist today, at a time when we continually insist upon tying off all loose ends at the end of history. When we take these various poles — and the two poles of theory-fiction are perhaps the most obvious examples in this corner of the internet — and then conflate them into a singular type, we miss the point somewhat. We cover over the concept’s “psychotic geography”, as Fisher puts it — the very thing that makes it interesting.

Theoretical bumbling aside, we also cover over this geography, this topography, inadvertently when we attempt to make sense of our more unruly cultural artefacts. Take what Fisher has to say about the default critical appraisal of Lynch’s body of work (and Mulholland Drive in particular):

Ultimately, Mulholland Drive is perhaps best read as something which cannot be made to add up. That is not to say that the film should just be considered fair game for any possible interpretation. Rather, it is to say that any attempt finally to tie up the film’s convolutions and impasses will only dissipate its strangeness, its formal weirdness. The weirdness here is generated in part by the way that the film feels like a “wrong” version of a recognisable Hollywood film-type. Roger Ebert remarked that “there is no solution. There may not even be a mystery.” It could be that Mulholland Drive is the illusion of a mystery: we are compelled to treat it as a solvable enigma, to overlook its “wrongness”, its intractibility, in the same way that, in Club Silencio, we are compelled to overlook the illusory nature of the performances.

This is deploying the suspension of judgement — an inability to judge absolutely — as an onto-aesthetic quality. Not judgement in a moral sense but an aesthetic one. It suspends decision-making and, most importantly, removes us from immediacy by entrapping us in an uncanny experience. In so doing, we can hone a vigilance and attune ourselves to the “wrongness” of the everyday.

This is what made consciousness-raising a psychedelic activity for Fisher. It is seeing real life for the Lynchian family drama that it really is.

Fisher makes this point more explicitly in his Postcapitalist Desire lectures — out next month — when discussing the psychedelic Marxism of György Lukács. Uncovering the unassuming radicality of seeing the world in a way not prescribed by hegemony — an experience integral to second-wave feminism and the raising of class (or group) consciousness more generally — is a “red pill” sort of moment in that it is a psychedelic experience, where new knowledge (or suppressed knowledge) leads to the development of political agency. Capitalism is nefarious in that it hides things in immediacy. To understand the way of the world takes vigilance and consideration. The way of the world lies hidden in plain sight. You can’t see it unless you can get past what the system is telling you you’re looking at. As Fisher explains:

Patriarchy is not going to come in here and announce itself, any more than ideology is. It’s a bit like when Thatcher says that “there’s no such thing as society”. It’s the same sort of claim, because, OK, well, you can’t see it, can you? It’s not given in immediacy, this society. So, when Lukács talks about the bourgeoisie and a thought mired in immediacy, that’s exactly it! The English: we take this to an absurd degree. Things are only what they are and no more, and probably a little bit less. Capitalism itself is not given in experience! You have to construct it in consciousness. It isn’t given to you. Your work is given to you. What you do is given to you. Your little bit is given to you. The totality is not given to you in experience. Never. Never! Your experience is only your experience — and not even that. It doesn’t belong to you because both you and your experience are already ideologically packaged … it’s trippy quite quickly. …

Then it gets even more psychedelic.

Part of the problem of the old idea of objective truth, you could say, was this idea that consciousness has no effect on the truth. That might well be true of the state of a black hole or something like that, but it can’t possibly be true of social relations. I’m in those social relations! I’m already in those social relations. So, when I — and it can’t be me alone, ever, who does this — when group consciousness develops, when class consciousness develops, when any subordinated group [consciousness] develops, this immediately changes things — straight away. Because in being lifted out of experience, you’re broken out of ideology. You — and I’m using this as a second-person plural — you can then achieve agency! You can’t achieve it before.

Even before you do anything, something has happened, which is the production of this new consciousness. When we think about this set of social relations… Something has shifted in the set of social relations by the sheer fact that your consciousness has shifted anyway. That’s the first thing. It’s already changed things. Secondly, then, once a group recognises its common interests, then it can act together. Once workers realise the problem is capital, not them — once they stop competing against one another and realise they have a common enemy — capital — this is when they’re going to have agency. Similarly, when women realise the problem is patriarchy, not them as individuals, then their consciousness has immediately shifted. You feel better! That’s the first thing. You’ll feel relief from the guilt and misery of having to take responsibility for your own life, which you shouldn’t have to — despite everything neoliberal propaganda tells us. It is not you! It’s a direct inversion of Thatcher! “There’s no such thing as society. There are only individuals and their families”. It’s the other way round! There’s no such thing as the individual. But the individual is immediately given. And that’s part of the problem of immediacy.

This is what David Lynch offers his viewers — the Moebian intensity of thought-space, leaking out the holes in cinematic immediacy. This is to say that Lynch takes the individual and viewer both — often a great American archetype whom the viewer is ideologically primed to identify with: the rebel without a cause; the femme fatale; the sheriff; the outlaw; the homemaker; the artist — and dissolves them into the collective unconscious, removing them from immediacy and into the kaleidoscope of Hollywood ideology and idealism.

Fisher makes the point, albeit implicitly, that what is true of Lynch’s cinematic psychedelia is true of our emotional experiences more generally in the waking world.

At Goldsmiths in 2017, we saw another world, where a collective mourning picked holes in the encasement of a pervasive leftist melancholy. The Mobius strip of individual mourning and collective melancholy, individual melancholy and collective mourning, was deconstructed by a handbrake on immediacy. “No one feels this pain quite like we do”, was the sensation. “Those who aren’t here and did not know this man could never know what we have gone through.” But this “we” was pervasive and we were many and we slipped out of the ways of the world. Traumatically for some, both inside and out, but we saw another world.

It was hard to sustain that world and it didn’t last, but Fisher still shows the way. He had his own Tibetan method.