Neurotic I Am

I am very aware that I’m posting a lot at the moment and I’m creating a confused web of content that is incessantly referring to itself. Apologies for that. As I start this post I’m paranoid that I might be getting hard to follow and keep up with. The paradox is that the more I post, the more aware I am of the lack of quality control. I know that I should let things stew for a bit longer but never in my entire blogging life have I managed to give my thoughts the time they deserve when presented in this format. Rapidfire posting is my preferred mode of production.

This posting frequency is definitely counter-intuitive to being read — and I’m okay with that — but I am also appreciative of the support I get from the few people who do sometimes read what I word-vomit up here and I don’t want to overwhelm and bore those people with unnecessary buckets of the stuff…

This blog is only six months old (although there is far more than six months worth of material here by now) and the most flattering comments I’ve received about it so far have been about how my fervour is encouraging others to (re)engage with the blogosphere themselves. I’d like that more than anything. The last thing I want to feel like I’m doing here is talking to myself (even though that is surely an inevitability no matter how many people I add to my blogroll). Twitter offsets that feeling somewhat but engaging in conversation with others over long-form posts is something I would definitely like to encourage.

There is always a reticence to do so, however, and there is perhaps a feeling that to blog (especially if you are involved or pursuing academia) is inherently onanistic. Axxonhorror, new to blogosphere (welcome!), captures the feeling well. I’m sure their first post will speak truth to many people’s blogging experiences. How many times I’ve found myself writing posts like this, interrogating the desire to write by writing and not writing.

Most of the time I’m steeped in self-critical indolences, so always considered the idea of creating and maintaining a blog to be pathetic self-indulgence and a wasteful addition of never-to-be-read words to the vast information oceans. I’ve felt it was a safeguard too: to spare myself the future painful awkwardness of rereading or even merely knowing about the existence of formerly written sentences I immediately loathe. I’ve decided to accept the inevitable embarrassment, as perhaps surprisingly, there still exists some primal impulse towards cognitive action in my unpleasant brain, some desire to write cogent posts, organise mental activity, thoughts, and information. A will-to-think? No, mostly it’s just a means to more worthily procrastinate my degree (maths), devoting some part of my dilettante behaviour to blogging, which is marginally better than some of the alternatives of wasting time.

I’ve been asked a few times how I manage to write so much and for tips on making writing into a habit but the drive behind what I do is just as Axxonnhorror describes it. It makes me wonder what kind of image people have of me in their minds: a studious guy who lounges around all day reading and writing, furiously typing out essays on a daily basis. I only wish that were the case.

To tell you the truth, at the moment I have very little time on my hands. My day jobs have been relentless so far this year and I was sick for most of December and January, run down but unable to afford a break. (No sick leave for the precariat). The time needed to write in-depth essays or work on other projects was something I lost around the time this blog came into being but without such projects I’m left feeling purposeless. This blog a hobby I take far too seriously as I desperately look for job satisfaction from everywhere but the jobs I’m paid for. In essence, it is an excuse to turn my otherwise languorous depression into a neurotically productive one.

Productive depression is something I think is alien to most, and that’s no surprise when we function under the auspices of being productive members of society — that central spire around which all mental illness turns: if you’re not productive, of course you’re unwell.

For me, when I’m depressed and anxious, writing becomes a quick fix and a distraction. There is a self-destructive mania to working on a post at the expense of other life tasks. It is an opportunity to step into and live inside my own head in a way that the majority of my day forbids. It’s an attempt at privately grounding myself whilst, at the same time, being an attempt to public flaying myself.

Now I wake up every morning and feel that constant and insatiable WordPress itch that I am desperate to scratch, like a cigarette craving. I have an unhealthy dependence on the endorphin hit that comes from pushing that “Publish…” button. In this way, hitting that button is closely associated with my own sense of self-worth. It’s all a superficial attempt to keep depression at bay which is, in itself, fuelled by depression. If I was content with my life, I probably wouldn’t be spending so much time here. The WordPress phone app doesn’t help with this as I’m able to work on posts in every spare moment of the day (and I do). Writing is jouissance is suffering. I don’t blog from home, picking at my library of knowledge. I blog from the bus, trying to forget about the day I’ve had or am going to have.

All of this is, I hope, obvious; a reality that is generally known but left unsaid. The intention is not to respond to the question “Woah how do you blog so much?” with a glib “I hate myself”. The currents at play are complex but the discomfort of talking about them frankly risks contaminating the function of the outlet. There is, perhaps, a more impersonal way to approach this that allows for a return to our usual programming…

Continue reading “Neurotic I Am”


Responses to ‘LD50’

I’ve been surprised and amused by the responses to my LD50 post from the other day from the gallery’s supporters.

Below are various Twitter comments posted here for posterity.

Also, I’d rather not leave any misunderstandings or bad readings to fester on the timeline so it seems sensible to clarify things as they come up.

More tweets might appear if I manage to inadvertently irritate anyone else.

I have a longer post on “justice” brewing too.

A Forest

Come closer and see
See into the dark
Just follow your eyes

Into the trees

Suddenly I stop
But I know it’s too late

I used to work with a burly Welshman called Marc.

Marc liked music and we would talk a lot about our favourite records.

Most of the time we worked together it was to install exhibitions and so this was often the perfect time to listen to albums and talk about them. Other times, we’d just listen to the radio.

This morning, whilst on the bus into work, The Cure’s A Forest came on and I was reminded of the last time I had heard that song. It had come on the radio whilst I working with Marc around three years ago.

Marc began to laugh to himself when he heard it and told me a story about seeing The Cure at Glastonbury in 1986. I’ve never been to Glastonbury but one part of its reputation that precedes it is the size of the festival site itself. Marc said this can be irritating but it has its uses.

He told me that, whilst standing around all day, eating and drinking and listening to music, he had felt the need to relieve himself. He walked around for a while but felt that this was an “evacuation” that warranted more privacy, shelter and a wider berth than your usual duck behind a tree…

Marc decided to walk for some distance, away from the festival site, away from camp sites, away from any potential passersby.

He found himself walking through a forest, through patches of bluebells and wild flowers, and soon he was in a suitable clearing, alone.

Marc dropped his trousers to his ankles, placed a selection of large leaves in a pile in front of him and attempted to squat next to a tree.

Before he had had a chance to exert any pressure on himself, he heard a low rumbling sound. The clearing around him gradually came alive with activity, like a storm had brewed out of nowhere, and then continued to excite itself beyond the possible influence of any natural source.

Before Marc’s very eyes, too shocked and too unstable to move, buffeted by the violent currents of air now billowing around him, his pre-selected leaves lost to the wind, a helicopter descended into the clearing.

As it touched down, a succession of bodies, their heads bowed towards the ground out of reach of the rotor blades, exited the helicopter and made their way to the edge of the clearing, towards the festival site, some carrying bits of equipment and lighter instruments.

The final person to disembark the helicopter, their hair a black bramble mess, caught Marc’s eye as they looked up towards their destination and, were it not for the force of air at their back, may have otherwise stopped in horror at the sight of Marc’s Somerset greeting.

It was Robert Smith.

“Hello Darkness…”

Following the announcement a few days ago that pioneering junglist Tango has died, @peculmile shared an article by Mark Fisher that appeared in the New Statesman back in 1994 — which, it turns out, was already up on Egress. It was nevertheless new to me.

It feels like a good time to revisit this piece. Almost 25 years on, it still resonates.

I’ve recently been thinking about the key difference between desire and pleasure in Mark’s Acid Communism for another essay. The reason for this is, as ever, Jeremy Gilbert and his declaration that, for Mark, “the liberation of human consciousness from the norms of capitalist society is a desirable, achievable and pleasurable objective”.

For me, this invocation of pleasure is completely wrong. I do not believe that Acid Communism was, for Mark, a purely affirmative project. In line with so much of (if not all) his writings, Acid Communism was to be a project beyond the pleasure principle. (I’ve already discussed this at length elsewhere — check this blog’s ‘Acid’ tag —  and so I won’t go over old arguments as to why that is the case here. There’ll also be new ones to come.)

Mark’s Dark Side article is no exception to this. Even in 1994, the tension of a politics and culture beyond the pleasure principle could not be clearer:

Dark Side is a music not of ecstasy, but of dread. Like dub reggae, though, it displaces dread into celebration.

The atemporal “spectre of a world that could be free”, as invoked by Marcuse in Eros & Civilisation (and by Mark in Acid Communism), can be found here too, in aural form.

[T]his music could come from the near-future as imagined by the cyberpunk fiction of William Gibson. In reality, it hails from the proletarian quarter of what Jonathan Meades has taken to calling “the distant present”.

If Mark, in part, hoped to rehabilitate the potentials of the 1970s, it is because the anxiety of that decade is, once again, “back on the agenda” — as it was in the 1990s and as it is again now. (Should we expect this anxiety to re-emerge every 20 years…?)

It is also interesting that this resembles some sort of “Dark Enlightenment” for Fisher:

To assume that these changes must be negative is to buy into the old story that both socialists and conservatives still peddle. If Steve Redhead was right when he said that the 1980s saw “Britain’s version of the Enlightenment turning in upon itself”, perhaps the “darkness” now emerging is everything kept repressed by enlightened reason. Dark Side’s dread futurism invites us to recognise the way things are mutating. Our horror might only be the death throes of the old order. Who knows what the new may bring?

The new didn’t seem to bring anything as drastic as Fisher and others had hoped and predicted, and Mark wrote about this sense of a future lost frequently throughout the 2000s. There doesn’t seem to be the same culture of dread in music today, but it certainly hasn’t gone away either.

Flowdan’s Disasterpiece has been back on heavy rotation for me this past week. Hugely underrated album. It even has its own flatline construct…

Open-Source Self

Reza Negarestani has returned to the blogosphere. We’ll have to wait and see what results from that…

I did very much enjoy the sentiment of the opening of his first post:

If people can build on your ideas even when your ideas are still in their larval stage, then it does not matter whether they reference you or not. As long as ideas and concepts can be enhanced, refined and propagated, plagiarism is a virtue rather than a vice. The task of a philosopher is to highlight the hard fact that the concept is that over which no single human has a final grip. Therefore, the whole obsession with working in secret, keeping things in the closet until the book is published is absurd. To take the concept of open-source seriously, one must first take the idea of an open-source self seriously.

I have felt this way for a long, long time – and a CuriousCat anon caught me a joyous mood of wanting to express this earlier today – but it is not a very easy position to maintain.

Xenobuddhism, quote-tweeting the CuriousCat response, put it perfectly:

I couldn’t agree more.

Blogging is my favourite thing about the internet. However, and particularly with photography (that most bloggable of the visual arts where I first started), there is an expectation that when you move from being an “amateur” to a “professional” you privatise your practice, as if openly sharing what you do online cheapens it inherently.

(But it’s not just your work that becomes privatised, of course. A friend of mine used to refer to a prevailing sense of “neoliberal professionalism” which I always enjoyed – the sense that to be professional under neoliberalism is to be cold and atomised and don’t you dare show any affiliations or speak your mind online, it’ll only affect your job prospects.)

There was a moment not so long ago when this thought got under my skin. I shuttered my longest-running blog over Christmas in 2015, making it private, password-protecting a written and photographic diary of my life that ran from 2010 to the the first week of 2016.

I was sad to kill it but I had begun to feel like my blogging habits were holding me back and not being anally-retentive with my creative practices meant I was not to be taken seriously. I felt an overwhelming pressure to privatise and find a way to make money from what was immediately available to me.

I came back with a new blog a few months later (as I always do) but one that was far less forthcoming and, as a result, far less interesting.

Reza’s “open-source self” is the perfect phrase for what has been lost. Not just in the photography blogosphere or the philosophy blogosphere but everywhere.

Can we get back to this? Can we migrate back to long-form blogging and away from Twitter threads?

Make the Blogosphere Great Again!

Continue reading “Open-Source Self”