Weird Immanance: The Eerie Engine

← Part 1

The response to the last post in this new series was great but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had a lot to qualify. Such is the danger of building a blogpost out of year-old reading group notes…

A recent email exchange with Robin Mackay has revealed a lot of my own blind spots which I think are worth addressing here before moving forwards as planned. So consider this Part 1b as we go a bit deeper…

…but also, I feel like a change of title, as I am finding the “eerie” is taking precedence. So, let’s talk about the Eerie Engine…


The most obvious qualification I feel like I must make following the last post is with regards to my use of the word “deontologising” which was often used without its very important hyphen. I was hoping to refer to a process of de-ontologising here rather than anything related to Kant’s deontological ethics. This was perhaps a clumsy and ineffective alternative to “de-subjectifying”, used so as to avoid the limiting of the Deleuzian Event to processes of subjection as well as emphasising what many have described as a lack of an ontology (in the philosophically traditional sense) in Deleuze’s writings.

For Deleuze, there is no being-event. The Heideggerian “being-” modifier becomes a cul-de-sac for a plethora of chaotic forces. The Event is, rather, a way of describing pure multiplicity.

What interests me, in talking about the Event in orbit of Mark’s writings, as I tentatively did previously, is that many of Deleuze’s writings on Event and desire seem to overlap. Desire is important for them both, of course, and Mark’s postcapitalist desire was surely to be key to his Acid Communism.

The central question of Mark’s Postcapitalist Desire course at Goldsmiths — the first five sessions of which went ahead before his death — is whether we, as a society, truly have a desire for a postcapitalist existence/experience. If not, why not? And how might we signal-boost such an apparently marginal desire?

The basis for these questions comes from that now familiar (and frankly dull) argument made against any person or group that calls themselves anti-/postcapitalist. In fact, I saw one retweeted on my feed just last night:

Mark addressed this in the first seminar of the course, highlighting a particularly smug example of this argument given by Louise Mensch on a British comedy panel show:

Mark noted:

There’s a narrative behind [this argument] which is a story about desire. These protesters have the products of advanced capitalism, therefore… it’s not only that they’re hypocrites, it’s that they don’t really want what they say they want. They don’t really want a wealth beyond capitalism. What they want is all of the fruits of capitalism and ultimately that’s why capitalism will win. They may claim ethically that they want to live in a different world but libidinally, at the level of desire, they are committed to living within the current capitalist world.

It is here — on this hinge of an eerie desire — that I think we will find the connection between Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie and the unfinished Acid Communism.

If this is the contemporary state of (our understanding of) desire, what hope do we have for the future?

In the clip above, HIGNFY-regular Paul Merton repeatedly ridicules Mensch for her belief that enjoying a Starbucks and an Apple product is enjoying all that capitalism has to offer. What seems implicit in much of Mark’s analyses in The Weird and the Eerie is that capitalism, as well as placating desire, can’t help but produce the desirable antecedents for its own demise. For Mark, in being aware — quite literally, as opposed to Mensch’s flawed generalising — of all that capitalism has to offer us, we may find the gaps in its border wall; we may reach its outside…

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The Eerie South East

I nearly had a panic attack in Dungeness.

If you want to firmly grasp the sensation of the eerie as Mark Fisher describes it, there is surely no better place.


On Friday evening, whilst having drinks after work in St James’s Park in the last of the evening sun, a new friend suggested a road trip to my girlfriend and I. We had told him that, the following day, we were going to the beach at Rye, on the suggestion of her brother. He said the best thing to do was to take the train there and then cycle to Dungeness. We didn’t have bikes but we did have a car so we decided to more or less follow his advice.

After lunch in Rye and an afternoon on the beach at Camber Sands, which brought back a flood of memories following a top goth weekender I attended there in 2013, we drove along the coast to the Kentish headland.

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Immediately, things felt strange. For miles, we followed a winding country road on the edge of an enormous military installation.

To our left, nothing but flat marshland — so flat that I felt a deep nostalgia for the hills of home. Such a featureless landscape got inside my head to a degree that I was not prepared for. It felt unnatural, as if its details had been purposefully erased, like living in the paradox of an Andreas Gurksy landscape.

On our right, we drove past miles and miles of barbed wire fencing with signs warning of ballistic testing from the Ministry of Defence. This side of the road was peppered with houses and hamlets but they were obviously unoccupied, even from a distance. It was a training ground for urban warfare; a war games playground.

The domestic urban pretence continued to slip until we passed an enormous complex whose walls doubled up as false façades which, were it to actually exist, would surely constitute the largest housing complex in existence. Light shone through the painted windows of the false frontages, looking like stained glass. It gave the illusion of piety to this permanent movie set for death rehearsals.

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Once we reached Dungeness itself I was immediately reminded of an old episode of Grand Designs on the occasion of seeing one episode’s architectural protagonist. The show’s host, Kevin McCloud, had marvelled at how this desert had become an “experimental architectural hotbed” but what is most striking about the place is that it is devoid of such a feeling of activity. Rather, it exudes a near apocalyptic loyalty to the minimal.

What struck me further still, in recognising this landscape from my television, was how much more populated it seemed when seen through the limited view of a camera lens. (Perhaps the same can be said of my photographs here too.)

Every one of us in our party of four conceded that to live here would surely drive us mad. It is so familiar in its disparately positioned constituent parts but so barren, I remember feeling like I was walking through the architectural playground of limbo from Inceptionmoments before the dream collapsed as the markers of the weird unground that force that holds the landscape together. (What is this force? The structural support of the Deleuzean socius? I’m not what else to name this thing which is so explicitly absent…)

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Darkness Itself IV

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Driving along the A63, as it merges wit the Clive Sully, the major artery of Kingston-upon-Hull, having passed under the Humber Bridge and continuing to hurtle towards the city centre, I see the Lord Line building, that rotting and abandoned monument, casting its shadow over the city and its estuary. 

Built to serve Hull’s deep sea trawlermen, the Lord Line and its surrounding out-buildings somehow repeatedly avoid demolition and redevelopment – much like the city itself (at least until recently).

Elsewhere in Yorkshire, reminders of a once-proud mining industry slip from view. In Sheffield I’ve heard they turn slag heaps into public parks, ski slopes, golf courses. Geological matter so deeply excavated cannot be put back but it is nonetheless buried, becoming one more layer of the city’s substrate, albeit uneven, the scar tissue of shifting industries.

In Hull, you can’t escape the water. It haunts and mocks. Worked or not, it laps the shore and the tide never changes.


 

Cod, like coal, was to be a pawn in wider political and economic issues, but in the early weeks of 1968 the enemy was atrocious weather. [via]

Many of the 20th century’s mining disasters are well known. Subterranean terrors calcify the public imagination. The darkness of Hull’s oceanic disasters are equally unfathomable and far less visible. The first two months of 1968 in particular are known for the Triple Trawler Tragedy, claiming 60 lives alone. Coastal industries have the unfortunate complication of being at the mercy of “fanged noumena”.

Is not transcendental philosophy a fear of the sea? Something like a dike or a sea-wall?

A longing for the open ocean knows at us, as the land is gnawed by the sea. A dark fluidity at the roots of our nature rebels against the security of terra firma, provoking a wave of anxiety in which we are submerged, until we feel ourselves drowning, with representation draining away. Nihil ulterius. [1]

Some 6000 deaths have been recorded at sea since records began but Hull has prospered as a fishing town long before then. The true numbers are unimaginable.


In the 12th century,  the fishing monks of Meaux Abbey established what was then Wyke-upon-Hull as a site of national important for fishing and trade, leading to its eventual nomination as a King’s Town. The word “Wyke” comes from the Scandinavian vik — meaning ‘port’ — which suggests the region was important for a few hundred years before records began.

Wyke is a name that locals will recognise as belonging to a local Further Education college but perhaps without knowledge of its origins. The same goes for the city’s peculiar accent which still retains the soft vowel “ø.

Hull remains a Viking town, through and through, but it has a tendency to forget itself.

After hundreds of years of gradually increasing prosperity, Hull’s fishing industry succumbed to the Cod Wars of the 20th century — successive wars over fishing territories between the UK and Iceland, of which Iceland won each one successively. Boats and shipsremain a familiar fixture of the city’s edges and rivers but the smell of fish that once clouded the city in its prime is now, for better and for worse, long gone.

How much thought is given to the olfactory consequences of post-industrial decline?

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Darkness Itself III: Whitstable Flesh

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There is something keeping the south afloat — financially speaking; unnaturally speaking. I am sure of it.

Recent trips to the coastal settlements that dot the seaward edges of Kent and East Sussex have given me a glimpse into an alternate timeline where the all-too-familiar hardships of the north have been kept at bay.

Nowhere is the North more grim than at its edges and if the Justified Ancients sought to encapsulate all of it with their parochial roll call, the oceanic currents of their jagged trance nevertheless suggest a land that is coastal even at its centre.

Nothing disintegrates quite like the coast.

Nevertheless, here in the south, there are far fewer boats left to rot. Greasy spoons are replaced with novelty eateries. London expats bake pies and make the most of easy-access eels, charging double for authentic East London recipes that have been both displaced and returned to their source. Ramshackled fishing huts are yours for £150 a night on Air B&B.

Even the rain is somehow pleasant here. It doesn’t chill the soul in the same way.

Whereas fairgrounds take up beach-side car parks in the north, locked up as travellers and carnies alike wait for the end of the endless out-of-season season, here there are no rides to be seen anywhere. It is as if the heart of a coastal culture of the mildest hedonisms has been removed to stop the gangrenous spread of class strife.

Penny slots remain, of course – there is no accounting for that plague – but they seem to ensnare far fewer drunks and minors.

There are no tanning salons. Even though the south still shares the British weather, they seem to have lost the need to make up for the sun’s abandonment of these isles. Fortunes continue to proliferate here, bringing smiles and strength to the local economy.

The north, in short, is mournful. It struggles.

The south sells itself as the prosperous vision the north forgot.

As I continue to wander and explore, I grow suspicious. There is surely something else at play here – some deal with the devil.

In Whitstable, recently, I could have sworn I felt it.

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Darkness Itself II

That England is populated will always come as a surprise; humans can live on an island only by forgetting what an island represents. Islands are either from before or for after humankind. [1]

What luck to be lured underground by darkness itself in the London suburb of Chiselhurst. What luck to sink beneath the surface at that time so that I might fall out of time itself. There was an agency attached to that experience – I’m sure of it – and it is this agency that is responsible for what has occurred since. Alternatively, perhaps this agency comes from now, or some indeterminate future, making sure of its existence by impregnating the thoughts of today through the recently experienced. Somehow, this sounds more plausible… Either way, I am sure that desires do not naturally dovetail like this through coincidence alone.

My original post, exploring the (per)plexing ahistory of Chiselhurst Caves was surprisingly well received. There was certainly something there too, in the writing, but I felt that others were more aware of it than I was.

In the weeks since my trip underground, despite no longer being a student, I have been lurking in a postgraduate seminar once a week where the subterranean has become a central topic of consideration.

This was not something I had anticipated. I have felt like each thought had in class was struck in relief by my recent excursion, which has continued to unfold within and without myself.

I have recently found myself underground once more.


The first introductory session of the postgraduate seminar drew the attention of the class to Freud’s account of humanity’s three narcissistic wounds. Freud wrote in his own Introduction to Psychoanalysis:

Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love. The first was when it realised that our earth was not the centre of the universe, but only a tiny speck in a world-system of a magnitude hardly conceivable; this is associated in our minds with the name of Copernicus, although Alexandrian doctrines taught something very similar. The second was when biological research robbed man of his peculiar privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world, implying an ineradicable animal nature in him: this transvaluation has been accomplished in our own time upon the instigation of Charles Darwin, Wallace, and their predecessors, and not without the most violent opposition from their contemporaries. But man’s craving for grandiosity is now suffering the third and most bitter blow from present-day psychological research which is endeavouring to prove to the ego of each one of us that he is not even master in his own house, but that he must remain content with the veriest scraps of information about what is going on unconsciously in his own mind. We psycho-analysts were neither the first nor the only ones to propose to mankind that they should look inward; but it appears to be our lot to advocate it most insistently and to support it by empirical evidence which touches every man closely.

What if, it was argued, it is not psychoanalysis but geology that forms our third narcissistic wound – geology, which has endeavoured to prove to the human ego that we are not the master of our own lands, which have existed long before us and will exist long after. Freudian psychoanalysis has always borrowed its terminology and analogies from geology. The unearthing and excavation of traumas from deep within the psyche – Deleuze & Guattari’s “destratification” most obviously – echoes the geological study of tectonic plates.

This analysis, when considering England’s subterranea at least, is further complicated by those spaces that our collective consciousness has long since forgotten that we created. Chiselhurst Caves are, as was previously pointed out, not caves at all but mines, and the forgotten purpose for which the mines were created has led to the indexical nomenclature slipping from the man-made into the God-given.

An even more mysterious subterranean structure can be found a mile inland from the Kentish coast in the heart of the seaside town of Margate. There, just two metres below street level, lies the Shell Grotto.

Here, there is no question that this underground world is man-made. It has been a tourist attraction since the early 1800s and the single-room museum that proceeds these mollusk catacombs is far more honest about its history than Chiselhurst Caves but it is all the more occulted for its honesty. Their mystery is far more genuine.

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Darkness Itself

I spent last Sunday afternoon exploring Chislehurst caves and it was far more goth than I expected.

I’ve been on a few spelunking adventures recently, inspired by the last few months spent lurking around #CaveTwitter. As such, this post is something of a #CaveTwitter tribute – probably the first of many. I have so many thoughts circling since this trip underground but there’s not enough space to get them all down here. Think of this as a prologue…


The Chislehurst Caves are located at the centre of an exceptionally wealthy London suburb. To find the place you must make your way through the kind of winding, bloated neighbourhoods that have you masochistically checking house prices on your phone every few hundred metres. There is an unimaginable amount of money here, making Chislehurst a surprising location for a hollowed-out subterranean city. Below the excess of the living, there is another world – a vast underground cave system inverting the grandeur above with its silence and darkness.

It also has a gift shop, but when it sells merchandise like this poster for £1.50, that is not something to gripe about.

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