Thanks to Rickard Eklund for inviting me to speak to students on the Materialities course at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm yesterday. It was a really interesting afternoon. Rickard had spent the morning using the I Ching to generate a title for their forthcoming exhibition, and I spoke a bit about my research and different ideas of how the new in produced in philosophy and culture more broadly, from the recombinant new to the new created ex nihilo.
It was something of a dry run of my talk at the University of Birmingham next week, organised by the lovely folks in the CTRL Network. As a reminder, I’ll be giving a brief history of the new. If you want to listen in and participate in the chat afterwards, you can register your interest here.
(Sidenote: Rickard made an accelerationist t-shirt last year with a quote from me on, if you wanna show everyone how you just gotta go fast.)
I’m very excited to be returning to Ctrl Network in April to give another guest lecture on “the new”. Last time I spoke at Ctrl Network, I presented new research, which later turned into the introduction to Postcapitalist Desire. This lecture might end up being something similar. A prologue of sorts to a book on accelerationism I started last year.
How do we free ourselves from the tyranny of the “post-“? Jumping off from Fisher’s unfinished lecture series, which ends with post-structuralism’s moment of absolute negation, this lecture will return to the philosophy’s beginnings, tracing a wandering line of abstraction from Heraclitus to the Ccru, considering how “the new” has been thought and we might begin to think “the new” anew again.
This event will take place online via Zoom. A link will be supplied nearer the time. There are limited places at this event so register early to avoid disappointment!
Please note, Matt’s lecture will be recorded and made available at a future date on our website.
In the meantime, our reading group will be exploring the final lecture transcripts as well as Matt’s introduction to the book in our monthly online sessions. All are welcome to join. To find out more, see our website.
The originality of these two events, and the variation between them, speak to the durability of Fisher’s ideas as cultural source code, and the potential they have — with growing institutional support — to engender crosscurrents and modes of production as yet unforeseen.
He notes that Test Dept represented, for Fisher, a form of “‘popular modernism’, that point of contact between mass audiences and the avant garde”, adding:
If popular modernism was an aesthetic for the advancement of the proletariat, then hauntology is the aesthetic that keeps this new precariat hanging on. For K-Punk: Postcapitalist Desires at the ICA offers variants on this uncanny mode and mood, in which the irrepressible spirit of utopian optimism is held in a melancholy tension with a future of surveillance, exploitation, and climate catastrophe.
The overview of the sets is really positive, but Iceboy Violet was the highlight for Meehan:
The programme’s crescendo belongs … to a live set by Iceboy Violet. An adept sonic contortionist with a bracing, confessional speak-song, they address the knot of all too contemporary anxieties that their rhythm strains to untangle.
For Mark Fisher, the future was something to be excavated. What those that come after him will bring to the surface remains to be seen. But their numbers are growing.
It’s an excellent write-up that I think clarifies the generative but nonetheless Baudrillardian tension within Mark’s legacy brilliantly. Go check out the full review in issue #446. It’s been fantastic to see the event being so well-received. We’ve already got ideas for next year…
I’ll be in conversation with James Butler, co-founder of Novara Media and easily one of the most interesting writers and speakers on the left today.
To book tickets, as well as pre-order a copy of the book from Housmans (if you live in the UK), follow the link here. [NB: Best viewed on desktop, as the ticket booking app tends to disappear on phone browsers.]
This Hallowe’en, Repeater Books are teaming up with the Neon Hospice to bring you almost 12 hours of live-streamed spooky goodness. There will be live sets and mixes from — as well as conversations with — Leila Taylor, Kemper Norton, English Heretic, and Claire Cronin, and more!
I’m going to be presenting an introduction to the eerie, considering how Mark Fisher’s final book The Weird and the Eerie relates to his capitalist critiques, before we broadcast a rarely-heard “eerie mix” by k-punk himself.
From October 30th to November 13th, the spooky folks at Bristol Transformed are organising a series of Goth Communism events that, frankly, couldn’t be any more up my street…
In 2020 every day is a horror. Join Bristol Transformed in a celebration of the dark and the macabre. But Goth Communism can show you the light in the abyss.
We’ll explore how leaning into the darkness can reveal a path forward for the movement.
You can keep tabs on the full lineup of events (with more to be announced) over on Facebook.
On Sunday 8th November at 14:00 GMT, I’ll be taking part in “Hauntology House”, a one-off reading group where we will look at the new Mark Fisher collection, Postcapitalist Desire, specifically the fourth lecture on “Union Power & Soul Power”.
You can book tickets for the event here and keep tabs on it on Facebook here. Every ticket comes with a free eBook of the collection so get involved! I’m very much looking forward to this — not least because it provides ample opportunity to talk about my two favourite if seemingly disparate interests: goth and disco.
You can read Bristol Transformed’s introduction to the session below:
In partnership with Repeater Books, we’ll be reading a new collection of lectures from the late Mark Fisher — Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures. We will be joined in this discussion by Matt Colquhoun
Matt Colquhoun is the collection’s editor and author of Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and Mark Fisher. He will be discussing a little bit about how the book came about before we dive into a discussion on the chapter titled: “Union Power & Soul Power”
People who register free for the event ahead of time using the link provided above will receive a free copy of the Ebook + a zoom link. The deadline to register is Friday 6th November and spaces are limited.
Over the weekend, I followed @thejaymo down a clickhole for his incredibly wholesome web show, Come Internet With Me. We spent an hour talking about what I’d probably be writing about if I wasn’t doing all this other nonsense — tornadoes — as well as Microsoft Excel…?
Towards the end of our hour-long chat, we ended up reading about tornadoes in London — one that occurred in 1091, apparently destroying London Bridge and another that happened in 1954. For some reason, there’s only footage of the aftermath of the second one but its a terrifying sight. It is reminiscent of the London Blitz in a way must have been pretty traumatic for people.
I promised Jay I would continue this click hole to see where else it led me.
I ended up looking up two further storms to strike Britain in the twentieth century — not just singular tornadoes but “outbreaks”. One was in 1913, which led to two tornadoes in England and three in South Wales — this website provides a pretty thorough timeline of the destruction — and the other was in 1981, the largest tornado outbreak in European history. This resulted in tornadoes touching down in Liverpool, Birmingham, Hull, Manchester, the Welsh town of Holyhead and the Warwickshire village of Stoneleigh. Over a five-hour period on the 23rd April that year, there were 104 confirmed tornadoes. I found this very dense 2016 academic paper with diagrams galore re-examining the conditions that led to the outbreak.
I think part of my interest in tornadoes comes from the few I used to hear about happening over Hull. I remember one year there were reports of one that felled a tree and flipped a few cars. I tried to find a few reports about this but couldn’t find one I recognised. There were, however, various reports of other tornadoes forming (if not quite touching down) over Hull with a surprising frequency. The most recent was in 2019 (with video here), another in 2014 which caused considerable damage (with another report here). The one I heard about must have been in the mid-2000s.
I wonder if East Yorkshire experiences these things more frequently than I first thought? It would explain the strange synchronicities I’ve found in relationships with people over the years. I will never forget the first time I ever met my birth mother, we somehow ended up on this topic and I told her that it was a secret dream of mine to live in a van for a year and just chase storms full-time. She literally replied, “oh my god me too!” And that was weird…
Anyway, tornadoes are crazy and fascinating and wild.
Go check out the rest of Jay’s stuff on his website. He publishes a wonderfully diverse range of content and is legitimately one of the most interesting people I know.
Meta-Nomad very generously asked me to collaborate with him on a course about accelerationism six weeks ago. He suggested that he’d cover the philosophy of accelerationism and I could cover the politics of accelerationism. I thought this was a really interesting idea. The result is a load of content that we’re going to be releasing this Friday (24th July 2020) via his Teachable page.
I don’t want to give away too much — we’ll be sharing more info later in the week, including course outlines and costs — but we have recorded the above chat which begins a particular conversation that we hope this course will go on to further develop.
A promotional video for the second Hermitix course called The Philosophy and Politics of Accelerationism, a collaboration with Matt Colquhoun (www.xenogothic.com). The course will be a paid course consisting of 10 lectures and transcripts, with optional seminars and one-on-ones. James Ellis (Meta-Nomad) will cover the philosophical aspects of Accelerationism and Matt Colquhoun will cover the political aspects.
This Saturday I’ll be taking part in “Simulations Like Us”, something of a conversation between myself, Reza Negarestani and Enrico Monacelli, which is running as part of Turn Us Alias, an online event organised by Saturnalia.
From the 90s onwards, the idea of a simulated environment has become a pervasive, intrusive thought. From the hype surrounding the Matrix trilogy to contemporary neuroscience, which has transformed our cognitive abilities into a series of functional simulations of the outer world, from Philip K. Dick’s techno-gnosticism to the VR-craze of the past ten years, the idea that we are stuck in a fake and controlled world has become the metaphor for our contemporary predicament. What once was a cyberpunk metaphor is now almost a lived and urgent fact of our day to day life.
Come join us on Turn Us Alias festival to see how deep the rabbit-hole goes, as we discuss through the lags, the glitches and the hiccups of a post-lockdown Discord server, the future and the fate of this idea.
I think this is going to be a lot of fun. Swing by and read more about Turn Us Alias below, including what you’ll need to do if you want to play.
Turn as alias is a video game and a 24hrs music festival, following the tradition of our beloved Saturnalia.
Join us on Minetest to access music stream and play to find the hidden secrets of digital Viale Molise.
As Macao in Milan, this space is open to everyone, celebrating the freedom of expression of any kind, so respect all other players online as you would do irl. Turn Us Alias supports Brigate Volontarie per l’Emergenza, you can do it too
Recordings of the two k-punk sessions from this year’s CTM Festival are now online.
The first panel, “On k-punk: Egress and the Fisher-Function”, featuring Lisa Blanning, Steven Warwick and myself, can be heard here:
About the panel:
The late Mark Fisher’s work, like all philosopher’s work, oscillated through different stages throughout his life. Starting in cultural-studies, to philosophy under the CCRU, to cold rationalism to anti-capitalist critique, Fisher’s work was a project of constantly trying to come to terms with a world that begged belief, as is the case with the evolution of any intellectual worth their salt. There was throughout all of this a constant undercurrent indebted to psychoanalysis.
For Fisher the idea of world-building came with responsibility, something his work takes into great consideration with very sincere care. As he described in his later writings, the socio-political disease of our time is that of pervasive stasis in a rapidly accelerated culture. If we take the liminal as that which can occupy either side of a boundary, that which acknowledges complexity, then we see an opportunity perhaps to the deadlock of binaries presented by the worst trapping of the contemporary right and left.
This panel takes as its kernel the concept of Egress, a word used by Fisher to describe the exiting of the current cultural malaise through analysing the politics of teleology and collectivism. Liminality itself must be critiqued with the urgent need for determinacy in mind. Perhaps a solution to the pitfalls of liminality is that of determinacy, that cultural production must operate within a strong pedagogical model if it is to make its way out of its liminality. Fisher postulated that what was required for real transgression was a reprisal of the spirit of a world that could be free, to go beyond the beyond the pleasure principle.
The second panel, “After k-punk: Labour, Death and Cultural Artefacts”, featuring Dhanveer Singh Brar and Dane Sutherland can be heard here:
About the panel:
The dominance of certain cultural logics are an interesting point of departure from which to analyse the landscape of cultural artefacts and what’s at stake in maintaining them, given that these artefacts themselves produce their own logics, both good and bad. They might be physical spaces that foster new communities, scenes that evolve styles, or anything that propels music as a distribution of intelligence.
What kind of cultural logic produces a turn? With evolution comes culture, and with culture comes cultural logic, and with cultural logics come fields of knowledge—ones that compete against one another. And it is in the delineating of these lines, and perhaps even producing them, through clarifying complexity, that perhaps cultural criticism needs to take its next turn. How can we splice the DNA of cultural production and criticism in an age where music’s turns are emergent and occupy a complex horizon of possibility?
Throughout the K-Punk project, we find cultural artefacts analysed with a sense and appreciation of compulsion and pathology, both adopted and generated. Given Mark Fisher’s now seminal examinations of the capital’s cultural logic through to his desire that mass culture return to being a terrain of struggle rather than a dominion of capital, this panel attempts to draw preliminary lines across what cultural logic can do and how, what it cannot do and why, and what would be needed to change these conditions.
Both panels were organised and moderated by Terence Sharpe.
I did a write-up about the whole experience here back in February. CTM was an amazing time and it’s great to finally have these recordings up. Enjoy!