Outside-Worship at the Vast Abrupt

This is how time’s story ends

In the untimely history of zero, intelligence finds its ultimate horizon in absolute risk. An abysmal, divaricating threat defines the game. Titan shadow of the dealer in the fog. There is only one way out: to go all in.

A spasm shakes the frame.

You find yourself inside an empty theatre, but the dimensionality is wrong. The ground warps around your steps, stage lights refract off impossible surfaces. Alien lines splinter and reform. You see yourself stalking behind the wings and reach out to connect, but space isn’t responding how it should. You’re losing your grip. A waveform uncoils, oscillates between you and the double across a nightmare terrain of molten geometry. Differentials dance in the intervals, an infinitesimal conflict that betrays the closeness of infinity. The double points behind you and your arm returns the gesture―but it’s the wrong hand. Metrics collapse into chiral discrepancy. A tragic click initiates a cascade of involuting echoes that fuse with the light, refined by feedback into a trans-spectral howl that tests the limits of the theatre’s manifold.

When the echo finally disintegrates, the thing that was you understands this is because it has beached space on time. The vast abrupt: sprawling and compressed, black infinity seared to a singular point―zero gnawing at the lip of elanguescence.

Antimemory floods the system. Something mouths, ‘What happened?’

EXIT


If you haven’t already seen it, the Vast Abrupt has recently ripped a hole in the blogosphere. All those who have gazed into it have been as repulsed as they have been entranced.

Thomas Moynihan’s seven days of Cosmic Dyspepsia is as intoxicating an induction as you could ever be force-fed (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Justin Murphy’s Atomisation & Liberation, Uriel Alexis’ Skins and the Game, and Edmund Berger’s introduction to Synthetic Fabrication have all provided various other fascinating twists and turns around the hive mind of Cave Twitter’s troglodytes.

Yesterday it was my turn. You can read my essay Reaching Beyond to the Other: On Communal Outside-Worship here.

Don’t turn your back on the void for a second. You might miss what it spits out at you next.

Advertisements

Deptford Goth

IMG_1076

IMG_1068

IMG_1071

I moved to Deptford recently and I have been reminded of that strange time in the late ’00s MP3 blogosphere when lots of bands had names that sounded like great genres which you would have preferred to listen to instead of their actual painfully generic music.

Deptford Goth, you are unworthy of your own name. Give it to me.

(An honourable mention must also go to Egyptian Hip Hop who were, in fact, four generic indie white boys. I will never forgive your betrayal either.)

Yesterday

IMG_1077

Yesterday was a very strange day. I felt so disconnected from everything that happened last year and ended up feeling more sad about my own numbness than anything else. The anniversary of Mark’s death felt like less a day of remembrance and more a marker of how long it had been; how much had changed. I spent much of the day just wondering if and when it would hit me again. It didn’t hit me when I posted Egress. It didn’t hit me on Twitter, watching and reading all the posts made in his memory. In fact, this was just unsettling.

I ended up reading Mark’s essay Touchscreen Capture and after that I had to leave the house.

If, in medieval theology, purgatory was a transitional state, in which souls were purified on their way to heaven, then what the modern era has invented is the purgatorial as a mode in its own right. Is this not the mode of Beckett’s universe – a universe in which compulsion and waiting never end, a universe without any possibility of climax, resolution or transformation, a universe that is closed, but which will never finally run down into a state of total entropic dissolution?

Walking around, I ended up thinking again about the day that we found out Mark had died – which was actually a year ago today, the 14th. So many of us were sent into flight. Immediately people dropped everything and attempt to gather from around London to all be in the same place. On my way to meet with others, I dropped my wallet in a moment of distraction and spent 4 hours in a bus garage waiting for it to be returned when someone got off their shift, rendered totally impotent. I was unable to get home to be alone and unable to get north of the river to be with people I knew and who felt the same way. I first cried about Mark in the canteen of that bus garage, avoiding eye contact with bemused drivers on a coffee break.

Meatspace can feel just as purgatorial as the internet in grief.


I ended up meeting friends in a pub at around 11pm yesterday. The day itself had been surreal in its dullness. I’d seen a friend from back home who was down for the evening before a flight the next day and I hadn’t seen her in person for well over a year. I kept chastising myself for not thinking about Mark and for doing something unrelated to his memory but then when I did focus of him and this time last year I felt desperate for distraction.

In the pub in New Cross, we read Nina Power’s beautiful tribute, laughing joyfully at the photographs within. Mark’s various phases of dyed hair were the stuff of legend amongst his students who couldn’t imagine the seemingly reserved man we knew with anything as outlandish as red hair

We went to the mural shortly afterwards. Earlier in the day, people had brought flowers and candles. I was sad to have missed it. I missed Mark. It hit me then.

Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and the Fisher-Function

PDF

[A]t the limit of discursive thought experience tends not only toward the outside, toward death; it also tends toward contact with another, toward community. Indeed, so much that “[t]here cannot be inner experience without a community of those who live it.” Inner experience requires a community of lucky beings drawn together, bound together in their excessive movement, in their fall away from themselves. This, then, is “where” community is located: in the chance movement of insufficiency; in the openness that my being is in exceeding the requirements of homogenization, preservation, and justification—in the movement outside oneself, which falls in love, dies, laughs, cries, mourns, celebrates, suffers. [1]


0            Spectres of Mark’s

January 14th 2017

Saturday: one week into the second semester of the academic year at Goldsmiths, University of London. The library is busy. The days are still getting dark early and it has been raining heavily all week. I receive a push notification from the Twitter app on my phone telling me that a recent tweet is proving popular with my followers:

Sat opposite two friends who were writing essays for Mark Fisher’s postgraduate class before an imminent deadline, our thoughts grasp at one another, sent into a panic on such little information.

I soon start receiving messages from others about the tweet. At first, most assume it to be a hoax or a misunderstanding. I put Mark’s name into Google followed by the word “dead”, not knowing how else to corroborate the rumour. I see that a former keyboardist in the band Wham!, also named Mark Fisher, had died the month before—surely they meant this Mark…

…But Repeater were Mark’s publisher, having just published his book The Weird and the Eerie. They wouldn’t get this wrong…

…Surely…

We sat in silence, continuing to work in short, shocked bursts of disbelief. Then, we stopped. “What am I doing?” someone said. “What’s the point now?”

Later that evening, our worst fears were confirmed: on Friday 13th January 2017, Mark Fisher had committed suicide.


In the months following Mark’s death, answering this question of “What’s the point now?” became an intense collective project within and around Goldsmiths, informing a great deal of activity, including—but by no means limited to—the summer term public lecture programme which was organised by students and staff within the Visual Cultures department that Fisher himself had been a beloved part of.

Titled The Fisher-Function, the series ran for seven weeks throughout July and August and was built around lesser-known works made by Mark in various different registers—from blog posts and academic papers to mixes and audio essays.

The series was named after a phrase coined by Robin Mackay in his eulogy to Mark given at a campus memorial service on 12th February 2017. In his eulogy, Mackay asked:

What is the Fisher-Function? How did it make itself real, and how can we continue to realise it? Many of us naturally feel a need to ensure this is a moment when the force [Mark] brought into our world is redoubled rather than depleted. And to do so, to continue his work and our own, we have to try to understand his life, and the consequences of his death, at once horrifying and awakening, as a part of the Fisher-Function. And I don’t simply mean the intellectual contributions that we can appreciate, extend, take forward into the future; I also mean what we need to learn in terms of looking after ourselves and each other, right now.

It is precisely the Fisher-Function that I would like to explore in this essay through the very experience of community that gave the term such resonance in the immediate aftermath of Fisher’s death. This essay’s opening epigraph speaks to this community explicitly. Fisher’s death galvanised us as we found ourselves bound together in our excessive movement, in our fall away from ourselves—and it is in this fall, in the exceeding of our individual experiences, that our community has since been located. However, this “location” is not locatable; it is not institutional—it is implicitly outside Goldsmiths; outside ourselves. It is a community formed by the molten intensities of a shared experience that cannot be shared.

In the months immediately prior to Fisher’s death, during my first semester as a postgraduate student at Goldsmiths, I had already written on this paradoxical problem of “community” whilst reading through the works of Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot and Jean-Luc Nancy. A conversation on “community” had entangled the works of all three over a number of decades at the end of the twentieth century and it remains a lively area of study. Serendipitously (and painfully), this initially academic train of thought took on a new significance after Fisher’s death, unfolding into newly potent dimensions as it assisted me through the trauma of the formulation of this new community built on an otherwise isolating experience of grief.

Continue reading “Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and the Fisher-Function”

Black Holes and Death

Jennie Dear’s recent article on The Atlantic, Palliative Care and the Science of What It Feels Like To Die“, is a dark but fascinating read on the latest views and theories offered by science regarding what it is like to experience death, movingly told through the author’s proximity to her mother’s last few weeks before succumbing to metastatic breast cancer.

It’s interesting, particularly as one of the analogies used is far more suggestive of weird SF than an oncologist’s bedside manner:

James Hallenbeck, a palliative-care specialist at Stanford University, often compares dying to black holes. “We can see the effect of black holes, but it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to look inside them. They exert an increasingly strong gravitational pull the closer one gets to them. As one passes the ‘event horizon,’ apparently the laws of physics begin to change.”

Should we expect research into palliative care to get more Bataillean as medical professions undertake that “impossible quest to experience not only the maximally intense, but beyond that, the quest to experience from a position where experience itself is not possible; i.e. death, death itself as the limit.” [via] I assume this field of research has long been Bataillean, albeit sanitised for medical journals.

It also sounds very Hollywood… Was that remake of Flatliners as terrible as people said it was? I still haven’t seen it.

More on death as limit-experience / singularity via Bataille, Fisher, Foucault, Brassier, Land, et al. at a later date.

The Medium is the Mess

Photography is a medium of representations, or so we’re told. It shows us things as they are but also how we’d like them to be. We want to believe in the photographs we see but we increasingly view them with caution. Since the medium’s invention, there have been frequent debates on its effectiveness as the default modern medium of representation, but with these debates comes a societal distrust of the images we see all around us. As constant viewers of images we are more aware than ever before that they do not represent what we consider to be our immediate realities.

Nowhere is this more true than alongside contemporary live music, where attitudes towards photography have grown more and more hostile in recent years. Music venues banned ticket holders from carrying “professional cameras” (or anything with a detachable lens) long ago and, more recently, artists themselves have introduced soft bans on attendees taking photographs of any kind. Having taken pictures on both sides of the press barrier, I can attest to the negative attitudes these restrictions create being felt by all.

This is not to say that photographers are particularly hard done by. They are intolerable at the best of times, but rather than these restrictions alleviating bad practices, they have only served to shrink the creative pool available to the music press – a sub-industry that has long had a weird image problem.

Visual aesthetics once came hand-in-hand with genres and movements – and to some extent they still do, with much electronic music experimenting with image production as doggedly as sound production. However, when the music press turns to photography to explore other’s work, everything looks the same. It doesn’t have to – and the state of things says much more about those taking and selecting images than the medium of photography itself.

Continue reading “The Medium is the Mess”