In the middle of 2013, Twitter burns in Britain. The essayist Owen Jones and the comedian Russell Brand shake up different cultural panels trying to re-discuss an idea as evanescent and preconceived as that of “class consciousness”, while the algorithmic horizon of the new media already begins to hint at its power to motorize discord.
Jones comes from publishing his stinging essay Chavs (2011), an injection of anger against the stereotypes created to lash out at the working class. Brand, for his part, detonates the stages of the stand-up club circuit and the television sets where he is often interviewed, warning supporters of the Labor left that his own ideas have been used against them for decades. Between both, Mark Fisher leaves the bird’s social network pointing out doubts and blowing up the categories of cultural criticism.
The text with which Fisher says goodbye to Twitter is entitled “Exit the vampire castle” and is a point-blank attack, not shy or condescending, against the British “academy”, the university departments of philosophy that, for the administrator of the now essential blog “K-PUNK”, they are nothing more than big complaining and stagnant bureaucracies where the left managed to macerate a “reflexive impotence” based on apocalyptic cynicism and emotional blockage.
Tony Blair’s academic contemporaries, Fisher proclaimed, have fed back a generation of college students committed to enduring in an almost hedonistic way the major surgery of Thatcherism “with no other alternative.” His ideas are no longer old but old, and by now it is clear that one cannot think outside of capitalism. It is, purely and simply, to go through it to see how it emerges to the other side.
In the hands of the theorist and heretic Nick Land – mentor of Fisher and others in the famous Cybernetic Culture Research Unit of the University of Warwick – this position that proposes to stimulate the possibilities of expansion of the capitalist system to the limit, in order to overcome it in a good and definitive way. time, it would lead to positions close to eugenics and the right. But it is towards 2015, when the rise of Jeremy Corbyn fosters the renewal of labor ideologies, that Mark Fisher still allows himself to believe in a class reaction, even when he guesses it tinged with the murky colors of postpunk.
The intersection between popular culture and avant-garde, which Fisher placed at the center of his critical program from his beginnings as a cultural analyst, can still generate the enthusiasm and enjoyment (the “enjoyment”, he will say, in Lacanian terms) that take progressivism out of the conformist mausoleum of the “papers” and the cloisters, that “vampire castle” where ideas vegetate and minds dry up.
The texts and interviews compiled in the third and last volume of the compendium K-punk they go through that ideology and pose the nonconformity of pop culture as an antidote to the impotence and the position of legitimizing actor self-assumed by academic criticism. “The Castle of Vampires feeds on the energy and anxieties and vulnerabilities of young students, but above all it lives by converting the suffering of particular groups – the more ‘marginal’ the better – into academic capital.
The most praised figures of the Castle of Vampires are those who have opened a new market of suffering, “writes Fisher, digging an acidic and intermediate trench between the departments of philosophy and the technological block of social networks, which only offers the possibility of” to get indignant ”quickly and superficially while undermining solidarity between subjects to replace it with aversion and competition. The ghost of Walter Benjamin falls between the digital pages of K-punk like a short-circuited cyber angel. The new generations, Fisher sentenced, have internalized failure to the point of assuming it as a pathology.
Fisher’s theoretical combinations are puzzling and incredibly attractive; they sound like a false harmonic note in the flat music composed by most of their contemporaries, who could never get out of the schizophrenic and anti-Oedipal scales of Deleuze and Guattari. In the short and forceful essay “Spinoza, K-PUNK, Neuropunk”, from 2004, Fisher places the Dutch philosopher as the forerunner of cyberpunk: the first hacker of an anthropologically programmed “human operating system” to go against his own nature.
If Spinoza had announced that the greatest interest of the human species is to become inhuman, Fisher confirms that the brain – perhaps the most “plastic” of organs – is naturally programmed to do so. Disassembling it and rearranging it (along with the body that bears it, of course) is the only option, even if we run the risk of equating ourselves, in the process, with the formless and “Lemurian” creatures of an HP Lovecraft.
Rare monsters of the unconscious. Fisher’s critique is haunted by the hauntological specters of the past, haunted by the ghosts of 20th-century culture and politics. The ideological monstrosities born with the Industrial Revolution feed the medical history of our dark present.
Your essay The weird and the creepy (2016) divides the mental territory to explore into the two categories that define our reaction to otherness and alienation. But both “weird” and “creepy,” Fisher warns, are different categories than “supernatural,” “weird,” or “creepy.” Rare is that which confuses our own nature, which disorients our subjectivity; Creepy is the absolutely unknown, an original form of terror that dispenses with the “human”.
“Without a doubt, there is something that the weird, the creepy and the unheimlich share,” Fisher writes in the introduction to the text, “they are sensations, but also modes: cinematographic and narrative modes, modes of perception. After all, it could be said that they are ways of being. In any case, they do not become genres ”.
By recovering the original term and the historical examples with which Freud referred to the sinister or the ominous (double entities, mechanical, prosthetic or with human appearance), he is relapsing in the fugitive figures of a feeling of unease much more abstract and complex than that of simple fright in the face of what, even though it must remain hidden, insists on appearing.
Fisher’s classification redirects him again and again towards horror genres, but does not reduce him solely to them. The territories outside the human mind, the fascination for what is located beyond perception, allows him to combine David Lynch with Borges and Tarkovski, transplanting them from the common places where they are usually cornered to play with their respective universes as well as a A geneticist could identify traits that, over time, pass from grandparents (Freud) to parents (Lovecraft), and from there to sons and daughters (the Surrealists and Daphne Du Maurier).
By going back to the basic Freudian notion – not so much its sinister nature as its ability to make us feel “out of the house” – Fisher can fix cinematic, acoustic (the music of the band The Fall!) And literary modes of perception, where things are not so much as they happen, but as they are seen, imagined or heard before filing or burying them forever in the unconscious.
Not for nothing does he write that psychoanalysis is the sinister genre by definition, condemned as it is to pursue an “exteriority” that it can never fully affirm or recognize.
K-Punk vol. III, Mark Fisher. Trad. Patricio Orellana. Black box, 256 pp.
The weird and the creepy, Mark Fisher. Trad. Núria Molines. Alpha Decay, 168 p.