PlaguePod Live Day 53

I was last on the Urbanomic PlaguePod on day 9 of lockdown… Day 9…

Last night I jacked in for day 53. I feel like I’ve been chewed up and spat out the other end since then. Anyone else experiencing some hard mood swings since about day 25?

Anyway, it was an honour to do a bit of chatting with Agnès Gayraud and Mark Fell last night. Just like the shea hand cream in the drawer by the bed, PlaguePod remains the softening moisturiser applied generously to my cracked, dry and over-scrubbed quarantine interiority.

Urbanomic blurb below:

PlaguePod returns to take a look at Crack-Ups and Lockdowns, with readings of real-life and fictional breaking points and call-ins from listeners about their own, plus a return to the subject of mental health in weird COVID times with Matt Colquhoun aka Xenogothic. We have Mark Fell joining us to chat from deepest Rotherham with some extremely tidy tracks, and welcome Agnès Gayraud as our guide on a journey into ‘impossible’ French pop.

Rep for the Living Room

If you’ll allow me a momentary simping, back in February, before all… this happened, Robin was in Melbourne giving a lecture at the MSCP. They’ve just put the audio up online and I spent the morning listening to it.

At the start, Robin makes the case for doing philosophy in our own way right now — whatever that is. “Philosophy has not yet attained its contemporary form,” he says. The “old style” is too encoded in a bourgeois leisure time that is not afforded to the rest of us, so rather than ape an old way of doing things that is categorically unavailable to us — unless you can afford to leach off Mum and Dad — we need to find new ways of doing things.

Pop (or pulp) philosophy is his term for what might be to come, but there’s a great rallying cry in here that insists we are the ones that need to shape it rather than wait for it to land in our laps. Or, rather, the mediums for it are already all around us but we need to push a little further to really strike them in our own image.

There’s one anecdote in particular that takes on a double resonance right now, I think, in which Robin implores us to “rep for the living room.” I wanted to transcribe it:

I turn here — with apologies for repeating the anecdote from elsewhere — to something that Mark Fisher once said to me. I was bemoaning to him the fact that — we were listening to the Wu Tang Clan and I was saying, “people like us are never going to do anything as good as this.” And Mark just said, well, “we don’t come from the street, we come from the living room.” I thought that was brilliant. In a way, it kind of sums up Mark’s authenticity to who he was and where he came from. But in the current context, we also don’t come from the palace or from the Greek agora. And what does the living room mean? The living room means not being a first-hand participant in culture, and especially high culture, but being immersed in and surrounded by technologically mediated mass cultural products: TV, film, records, comics, paperbacks… We don’t come from ancient Athens or from Yan’an so, while we can have admiration for all of these historical figures, I feel like it’s our duty, if we’re not gonna be fakes, to take seriously Deleuze’s demand that we find our own way of doing it.

I don’t know who needs to hear this right now but go and give it a listen. This lecture feels like a defibrillator thrown into the heart of the blogosphere.

PlaguePod: Day 9

I’m gonna be back on the PlaguePod tonight with Simon Sellars and Lee Gamble to chat about how we’re all keeping it together (or not).

Robin writes from Urbanomic HQ:

For this PlaguePod, we’re joined by guests including Simon Sellars, author of ‘Applied Ballardianism‘, to talk about the psychological effects of the Coronavirus crisis, and the ever more alarming prescience of Ballard’s tales of isolation and quarantine, social breakdown, inner space, and the psychologically debilitating yet possibly liberating liberating effects of living through catastrophe. With soothing ASMR readings from Sellars, Ballard, and others, crisis music, plus listener phone-in on how lockdown is affecting mental health.

Tune in on 28th March 2020 at 2200 GMT. What else have you got to do other than pick at the edges of your own subjectivity?

By the North Sea

In more appropriate post-election news…

Robin has shared a trailer for his upcoming project By the North Sea — something he began working on with Mark Fisher back in 2001 which was never finished but which he’s been revisiting since Mark’s death back in 2017.

Robin sent me the audio from this last week as a fitting sign-off for the k-punk fundraiser. I first heard it at work and it bowled me over. I’m really glad he’s chosen to release it today. As Robin wrote on Twitter earlier, it’s “the Lemurian pluriversary of Mark Fisher’s death.” Every Friday the 13th, since January 13th 2017, has carried a strange power with it. More often than not, they end up being days when a k-punk post is desired more than anything.

Today is no exception, but Robin’s meditative trailer for channeling uttunal signal on the Suffolk coastline is the next best thing.

Applied Ballardianism | Ballardismo Applicato

Nero have just published an excellent essay by the one and only, the goth I wish I was, Enrico Monacelli, going over an old hellthread I documented on the blog about the intersections and tensions between art and politics and introducing the new Italian translation of Simon Sellars’ Applied Ballardianism — or, as they’ve translated it, Ballardismo Applicato.

Monacelli has created “an illustrative pamphlet” to aid any misadventurers wishing “to establish first contact with the profound logic of Ballardianism.” As ever, even via Google Translate, it’s an awesome read.

Whether you’re already familiar with Simon Sellars’ book or new to the cult, let Enrico be your guide.

I will not spoil the thrill of initiation, but I will give you grips that will facilitate your descent.

Spinal Catastropism

An excellent night was had on Thursday at the New Cross House to celebrate the launch of Thomas Moynihan’s new book Spinal Catastrophism.

Robin and Tom ran through a bunch of the book’s connections, from the earliest examples of speculative thought through to German Idealism and crashing on the capitalist exacerbation of contemporary back ache. It was a wide-ranging conversation that may end up online at some point and, judging from the Q&A afterwards, it sparked off so many thoughts within our audience.

It’s a “classic Urbanomic publication”, as Robin put it, but I can’t help but feel pride over Tom carrying forward the post-Ccru torch from the Cave Twitter catacombs. From Pepsi to spines, Tom is jumping from niche to niche and exploding intellectual histories wherever he goes.

Professor Barker previously explained his thoughts on spinal catastrophism in an interview with the Ccru as follows:

For humans there is the particular crisis of bipedal erect posture to be processed. I was increasingly aware that all my real problems were modalities of back-pain, or phylogenetic spinal injury, which took me back to the calamitous consequences of the precambrian explosion, roughly five hundred million years ago. The ensuing period is incrementally body-mapped by metazoan organization. Obviously there are discrete quasi-coherent neuromotor tic-flux patterns, whose incrementally rigidified stages are swimming, crawling, and (bipedal) walking. Elaine Morgan persuasively traces the origin of protohuman bipedalism to certain deleterious plate-tectonic shifts. The model is bioseismic. Crustal convulsions and animal body-plan are rigorously interconnected, and the entire Aquatic Ape Theory constitutes an exemplary geotraumatic analysis. Erect posture and perpendicularization of the skull is a frozen calamity, associated with a long list of pathological consequences, amongst which should be included most of the human psychoneuroses. Numerous trends in contemporary culture attest to an attempted recovery of the icthyophidian- or flexomotile-spine: horizontal and impulsive rather than vertical and stress-bearing.

The issue here — as always — is real and effective regression. It is not a matter of representational psychology. Consider Haeckel’s widely discredited Recapitulation Thesis, the claim that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. It is a theory compromised by its organicism, but its wholesale rejection was an overreaction. Ballard’s response is more productive and balanced, treating DNA as a transorganic memory-bank and the spine as a fossil record, without rigid onto-phylogenic correspondence. The mapping of spinal-levels onto neuronic time is supple, episodic, and diagonalizing. It concerns plexion between blocks of machinic transition, not strict isomorphic — or stratic redundancy — between scales of chronological order. Mammal DNA contains latent fish-code (amongst many other things).

Tom takes this matrix of human thought and posture and explodes it, like a lighting bolt sent up from your vestigial tail that blows out the top of your skull. For anyone who wants a concrete exposition of how the relevance of the Ccru’s misunderstood legacy resonates as far into our pasts as it does our futures, this book for you.

Justin Barton on the Xenogothic

RevisitingOutsights” today — that brilliant conversation between Mark Fisher, Justin Barton and Robin Mackay published in When Site Lost The Plot.

I really like these comments from Barton below, encapsulating the very feeling which this blog was built on.

In a sense, there is no word for the other side of the eerie, this dispassionate positive side of the eerie is precisely what’s been edited out of the world. […] I think it’s really important to get this right, it’s fundamental to see that with M.R. James, the problem is that you have something which is an expression of the birth of Gothic horror in the modern world. And the modern world loves gothic, it loves horror, but it absolutely has a shutdown on the opposite dimension of the eerie, because that’s the way out.

Basically, gothic horror just in the end plays into Christian — or Judaic or Islamic — entrapment metaphysics, with its violence of transcendent maleness. Because in the end it just frightens the hell out of people, points out that horrific things happen if you open yourself up in the direction of the unknown, and people are likely, in the end, having just frolicked around as critique-freaks in the zone of the gothic, to go precisely nowhere, and to have played into the hands of people who say, yes, there’s something out there other than the material world, and be afraid, be very afraid — if you genuinely open yourself up to the unknown, you’re going to go to hell to be roasted by M.R. James’s demons. Which means it’s the last great attempt to defend Christianity — M.R. James was a Christian, he read his stories out at Christmas! In Cambridge, a bastion of traditional Christian values.

So that incredible attempt by the religious system to defend itself by scaring people, which in fact goes on all the way through the twentieth century and is still going on as strong as ever, and which is gothic horror, has got to be fended off. Because the opposite direction is what’s been edited out. It’s really important to see that. Unless you get to the thought of an intent towards absolute deterritorialization — dispassionate movement towards absolute intensification, absolute freedom — you haven’t seen what’s at stake in all of this. And the gothic keeps you staring in completely the wrong direction, keeps you staring in the direction of the old Christian myth system.