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.
It was recorded in Lucy’s amazing flat on a swelteringly hot August Sunday but it was an appropriately Bacchanalian affair with copious amounts of wine, berries and cigarettes.
As you can see from the timestamp above, we talked for hours about the sprawling mythos of Hannibal Lecter, serial killing in general and the strange relationships we have to these things through culture and queerness.
Give it a listen and go and support Sean and Lucy’s excellent podcast over on Patreon.
I was recently invited by Marko Bauer and Primož Krašovec at ŠUM to contribute a short text to a radio show they host on Ljubljana’s Radio Študent called Pisalni stroji. They select a theme, each contributing a short text on a topic of their choosing and invite a guest to contribute a third. This month they invited me to write something (and pick a track to play too) on the topic of “Hyper / stition“. I tried to write something about the concept’s apparent connection to the Real / realism.
It was a tough exercise in condensation which I’m not that used to over here, particularly as it was written during the mania of my recent sleep deprivation. I’ll put any errors down to that.
A huge thank you to Marko and Primož for inviting me and, as ever, much love to the Ljubljana contingent.
The political attraction of hyperstition, and the strand which it is often reduced to, is that it generates “fictions that make themselves real.” This is not the only mechanism of the hyperstitional process but it is seemingly the most accessible — the first signpost on a journey towards the outside of present hegemonies.
The innate pull of hyperstition towards the outside has always been explicit, with the term firmly embedded within the Lovecraftian mythos of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU). In the decades since, this position of outsideness has been argued for most explicitly in the writings of Nick Land on his Xenosystems blog — his rightwards flight “relat[ing] itself to what it escapes”, considering the Outside to be the “‘place’ of strategic advantage” — but also, we find a desired outsideness in the work of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams who proclaim, emphatically, from the left, that the “future must be cracked open once again, unfastening our horizons towards the universal possibilities of the Outside.”
To reach this outside, however, from whatever direction, requires a new unbelief in the future. This is not a belief based on pre-existing evidence, relics or established authority; it is, instead, radically speculative, contrarian even. It is a hyperstition understood as the psychosomaticism of a body politic which produces “real” symptoms; an unbelief in a social sickness from which mutations abound. However, in our present moment, it is hard to ascertain “what” kind of sickness this might be and “where” exactly its outside lies. With left and right facing off against the other, we see how the perpetual movement of the inside erects mirrors and false flags with an alarming efficiency. The system is all too good at containment.
Much has been made of the contemporary resonance of the term “hyperstition” in the last few years. Many on the right, in particular, argue that the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States was the direct result of some of his supporters’ hyperstitional prowess, in succeeding to bring about the seemingly unthinkable through a doubling-down on Trump’s own irreality. However, this new — or rather “alt” — trajectory is still, notably, internal to the dominant infrastructures of the Western world. This is to say that Trump’s election was a relative trauma; a “fiction” explicitly for the post-Obama left, exposing their entrenched disbelief in any alternatives, whether of a positive or a negative nature. However, one side’s win over another is not, in itself, a hyperstition. As Iris Carter tells us, hyperstitions “are not representations, neither disinformation nor mythology”; they are not the product of ‘fake news’ and propaganda because they “cannot be judged true or false.” All Trump’s presidency has done is rupture a hegemony that many did not know existed: the realism of progressive politics; the “realistic” belief that things will, always, eventually, get better.
The biggest lesson of the last four years, in this respect, should be that “fiction is not opposed to the real.” Political realities are, in fact, as the CCRU tells us, “composed of fictions” — that is, fictions plural — of “consistent semiotic terrains that condition perceptual, affective and behavioural responses.” Each terrain contains within it the virtualities of other forms of life and it is these virtualities which may come to realise themselves, often whether we like it or not. However, whilst the transformations we have seen in recent years are undeniable, they are also superficial. To realise one virtuality is not to change reality itself. All we see is a change in direction; a shift in favour of another trajectory which is nonetheless internal and current to the overarching system. Fictions will always realise themselves but not all realisations will bring us to an outside.
Nick Land himself has already made more nuanced distinctions along these internal lines, of particular relevance to the neoreactionary ideologies that he has explored in depth on his blog. In one post, for instance, he notes how there are “Inner” and “Outer” neoreactionary politics. The former “models itself on a protected state, in which belonging is sacred, and boundaries rigorously policed”; the latter “is intrinsically nomad[ic], unsettled”, looking for “opportunities for leverage, rather than a menu of potential homes.” Trump’s election, was such a moment of leverage, but one which nonetheless became a home. the outward momentum that Trump’s presidency seemed to promise for an Outer-Neoreactionary nomad has surely already been squandered on the grounds of the mundanely familiar, subsumed into an already dominant realism.
There are similar outward-facing arguments on the left as well. Mark Fisher’s most famous coinage “capitalist realism” has done particularly well to give shape to our present global hegemony. Realism, for Fisher, in this instance, is the naturalisation of a politics. It is to give an ideology its “biological foundation”, in the words of Herbert Marcuse. But that it not to say that realisms in themselves are to be frowned upon. Fisher’s move is rather to represent the dominant realism as it appears to us; to represent and re-present it. As the CCRU would argue: “Far from constituting a subversion of representative realism, [hyperstition] merely consummates a process that representative realism initiated.” Representative realism is not, then, in itself, the Real. Hyperstition should be seen as putting the Real back in realism. The question is what we do with it.
Similarly, Fisher also writes of a potential “communist realism” which takes a realist’s approach to its own development, echoing the affective mechanisms of hyperstition. He writes on his K-Punk blog:
[Communist realism] isn’t an eventalism, which will wager all its hopes on a sudden and final transformation. It isn’t a utopianism, which concedes anything “realistic” to the enemy. It is about soberly and pragmatically assessing the resources that are available to us here and now, and thinking about how we can best use and increase those resources. It is about moving — perhaps slowly, but certainly purposively — from where we are now to somewhere very different.
Here we see a call for an Outer Communism which has plans far beyond those beloved by socialists. Whereas Land expresses his ideas in terms he hopes will be most repulsive to the realism of the modern left, Fisher expresses himself in ways that might coax them outside of themselves more gently. Both, however, should be seen as wholly hostile to the status quo.
Many CCRU orbiters, past and present, have argued that the term “hyperstition” has fallen into disrepute — being at once diluted and overdetermined — but this is due to our failure to adequately contend with this very fact: that “hyperstition” is not something you do but rather something which you make the best of. As Land, again, tells us, in terms which can be applied to a myriad of political movements on both the left and the right:
We do not, and cannot, know what we want, anymore than we can know what the machines of the next century will be like, because real potentials need to be discovered, not imagined.
He writes, more recently, in an essay from 2017:
Realism begins as a subtraction of attachment to illusion — as disillusionment. To determine it positively, from the beginning, would be already unrealistic (in exactly the same way that naive realism is unrealistic). Reality hides.
Here we see the true nexus of Fisher’s question which lurks within his Acid Communism, interrogating the nature of postcapitalist desire and asking whether or not we want what we say we want. Unbelief comes to resemble desire itself: the desire to find what reality hides; the desire of discovery. Hyperstitional fictions, then, must also be discovered. They cannot be created. We must remember that fictions are more than capable of transforming themselves. The best we can do is latch onto them and, perhaps, embed them in our realisms.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days. It’s been the centrepiece of a new episode of Xenogothic Radio but nothing is really coming together. There’s not enough singular intent.
So I’ve lopped it off. Here’s a little something to carry forwards into 2019: some wise words from Robin.
This is old. Almost four years old. Posting this as Episode #4 of Xenogothic Radio might be cheating a bit but I’ve been revisiting this recently as I find myself in that cold, sad December mood of nostalgia for brighter climes, trying to take my mind away to somewhere other than London on a miserable Tuesday morning commute.
This was initially made as a CD for the population of a small Welsh coastal village, around the bay from Laugharne, the adopted home of Dylan Thomas. In hindsight, it’s basically just a radio show. It’s about time I gave it the chance to exist as such.
In 2015 I did an artist residency programme in Llansteffan, a tiny coastal village in Carmenthenshire, West Wales. It was my first and only residency after I graduated from my undergraduate photography degree in 2013 but I had decided I wanted to swap my camera for a microphone.
I came across this project again today and, whilst it was initially presented in a very different format, it is essentially a radio show and one which still warms my heart so, for Xenogothic Radio #4, we’re going for a dip into my archive.
I was living in Cardiff at the time and, at the National Museum, at some sort of art event in the depths of winter, I ended up chatting to an artist called Lauren Heckler.
A residency whizz, having already travelled the world making site-specific work, Lauren had just recently moved to Cardiff and was looking to return home, organising a residency in Llansteffan where she had grown up.
It sounded really interesting and so did she so, still unemployed at that time, when we said goodbye, she gave me the details, and, later that week, I applied to be a part of it.
In March 2015, I joined a group of four other artists and, together, we would spend a number of weekends throughout March and April in the village making work before putting on an exhibition in the village hall.
The ethos of the residency was to bring contemporary art to a rural community but, in truth, this community was no stranger to artistic flirtations. Llansteffan was already home to the artist Osi Rhys Osmond, a renowned Welsh psychogeographer — “graphic psychogeographer”, as he’d call himself — who occupied the old dog pound in the village square.
Osmond was a psychogeographer in quite a literal sense. His artworks were made up of layers of maps and photographs and drawings and text. His abstracted cartographies resemble a sort of pre-digital deepdream of landscape and memory that didn’t quite resemble either — free-floating signifiers of time and place.
I liked Osi’s work and I liked how he wrote about it too. I hadn’t heard of him before starting to plan for the residency and I was quite looking forward to meeting him. (There was a plan to have a somewhat formal meeting with him to discuss our approaches to this new — for us — space.) Unfortunately, shortly before the residency was about to start, Osmond lost his battle to cancer. I remember Lauren, who had been mentored by Osi, was heartbroken and considered calling the whole thing off. Instead, we went ahead with the residency in his honour.
The first day — a Saturday in early March — also happened to be the day of Osi’s funeral. We stood outside the church with other members of the overflowing crowd, listening to some wonderful eulogies. I think we mostly felt like we were intruding, but it felt only right to pay our respects to Osi before proceeding to make work in his substantial shadow.
The implicit influence of Osi on our thinking was hugely important for all of us. We each tried to map the space and its people in our own ways. I wanted to work with sound rather than photography — taking only one (proper) picture (not simply for documentary purposes) the entire that I was there. I’d previously, as a student, made photography installations that were soundtracked by mix CDs that I would pump into a space and give away, as a sort of soundtrack to the work and its making.
I wanted to find a way of exploring the experience of photography itself. That’s what I loved: taking pictures, not looking at them. Everything after that experience of walking around and clicking that shutter was admin. I started to make field recordings of my photowalks, the sounds of the country or the city, punctuated by camera clicks. Then, after a while, the camera became altogether redundant. I wanted to capture that experience, not hide it behind the romanticism of Photoshop and big white spaces.
I started to make guides instead, inspired by the works of Janet Cardiff. I made aural accompaniments to the experience of photographing, retaining the aural experience that was so important to me but that was, most of the time, exorcised from the final “representation”.
That’s what I ended up putting in the village hall: a little hub, reminiscent of a half-forgotten tourist information centre, all cork board and pinned up bits of paper, maps, local info… And then, on the table, a Walkman and a stack of CDs. I only made 50 copies but they all went on the first day. I hope the people of Llansteffan still listen to it sometimes.
I wanted to share it here too. It’s not particularly Gothic, but it certainly contains all of my interests: consciousness raising, sound, the political potentials of mediated experience, mythologies, humour, new futures out of lost pasts, etc. It’s a project that I look back on so very fondly — mostly because Llansteffan is one of the most beautiful and relaxed places I’ve ever been — and sometimes I still listen to this to take myself back there.
I never shared it around that much because, being so site-specific, I wasn’t sure it would survive outside its immediate context. But now, I think maybe there’s something there…
See what you think.
We interrupt our usual philosophising to bring you a 90-minute Halloween mix of black metal, noise, jungle and other stuff. Enjoy.
Recommended volume: LOUD.
From Xasthur to Kanye West to Albert Ayler to Sister Nancy and back to Phil Elverum.
Episode #2 is about breakdowns and breakthroughs.
The more time I spend putting these together, the more aware I become that this is not my natural habitat.
Please forgive my tongue being slightly too big for my mouth and please forgive my laziness over going back and pronouncing words properly.
I never nitpick on this blog. I’m not about start now.
Previous episodes: #1
I said ages ago that I was going to do this and, well… I’ve been doing it…
This project has grown out of control. The first episode was turning into a 2+ hour monstrosity and so I’m figuring out how best to break things down. This initial titbit, consisting of a ten-minute introduction and a 30 minute mix, is to start us off and also light a flame under my butt so that I might finish the next parts off more quickly…