Go read: this FT piece on the linguistic tendencies and frothings of financial crises.
Sir Isaac Newton, four centuries before, had remained a wallflower, seeing the South Sea Bubble for what it was. But he was persuaded to take the floor for the last waltz. “I can predict the motion of heavenly bodies,” he observed ruefully, “but not the madness of crowds.”
(Thanks to Gopal for this)
Japanese Red Army film, nominally about a plane hijacking, for your viewing pleasure over at Ubuweb: Masao Adachi & Kôji Wakamatsu's Sekigun-PFLP: Sekai Senso Sengen (The Red Army/PFLP: Declaration of World War) . Adachi and Wakamatsu are part of the fûkeiron crew that made the quite incredible A.K.A. Serial Killer. Old school experimental propaganda.
To talk of compromise as a "solution" to the crisis is to mistake a weather vane for a sail. It cannot catch the wind. It can only turn creaking to show the direction of the wind as it blows right by. And it can only promise that it will make nothing of it. No intervention, no harnessing. Just a dull and void butterknife drawing a petty trail in the gathering gust.
Saw this when I was in Des Moines: Joe Scanlan's DIY yuppie death kit, (of course, able to be bought in very expensive, pre-assembled, art world sanctioned form) titled: "DIY, or How to kill yourself anywhere in the world for under $399." Yes, those are indeed IKEA bookshelves and nightstands reconfigured into a white laminated chipboard coffin and flower stands. (Should be called Nekrö.) No, it isn't that different from the umlaut-filled necropolis that is IKEA , that odd site of both the knowing-better-than of responsible Scandinavianism and the fact of actual affordability (cheaper than Wal-Mart). However, we can rest easy knowing that somewhere in northern Sweden, trolls once named Tromsö and Sniglar are furious at those who stole their accursed birth-right names in order to sub-name metal bunk-beds and unstained pine diaper changing tables. And they are coming for their revenge, back to a world where they don't belong. Armed with ancient fury and weird aluminum wrenches that don't fit anything else other than one set of bolts that don't fit where they should, that is to say, that don't fit into the world designed for and against them.
Audio of my talk in London, on apocalyptic politics, in which one can hear me talk very, very quickly, urge all Communists to refuse to bury their dead, explain and come a bit unstuck. (Link here.)
For a bit of total affective contrast (and a shift in political perspective, or at least a deepening of rationalism by the man who claimed he doesn't want an apocalypse because he will be the guy in glasses who will of course be the first killed by tidal wave/wave of fire/wave of zombies), here's Ben Noys' excellent talk on accelerationism and negation from our panel:
Thanks to Mike, over at Avoiding the Void, for recording and uploading these.
Like the greatest number of people today, we are torn apart by the paradox of the situation: on the one hand, we cannot continue to live like this nor let the world, led by an oligarchy of imbeciles, run to its doom; on the other hand, any perspective more desirable than the current disaster, any idea of the practical route by which we might escape this disaster, has been stolen. And no one revolts without having the perspective of a better life, except for several sympathetically desperate souls.
Thanks to Jeff over at Dossier for the reminder that this exists.
In the burnt tundra aftermath of the Hideous Gnosis symposium, documents float to the putrid surface like so many buoyant corpses borne aloft by Luciferian eels. Or something like that. Thanks to Nicola for all the work on this, and keep an eye for the volume to emerge from it, with writing from me and the other usual suspects on this, plus surprise appearances from the likes of Eugene Thacker and Reza Negarestani.
First reflections on Des Moines (here visiting my sister before we all pack up and drive across the plains eastward to Maine) and its mess of near-contradictions:
White dry cold, and Tony Smith black steel rectangles in the laser trip-wire guarded sculpture gardens. Spacious streets, and boutique dog stores selling eerily fetish gear-esque hot pink spandex harnesses for tiny dogs. Insistent pro-life billboards. Those massive copper colored glass and poured concrete blocks of insurance modernism.
And fighting the good fight against the winter, the irrepressible libidinal undercurrent of the Midwest finds its never-to-be-spoken name in two gas station chains: GIT 'N GO and KUM 'N GO.
Communists, Marx and Engels averred in their original conception laid out in The Communist Manifesto, have no political party. They simply constitute themselves at all times and in all places as those who understand the limits, failings, and destructive tendencies of the capitalist order as well as the innumerable ideological masks and false legitimations that capitalists and their apologists (particularly in the media) produce in order to perpetuate their singular class power. Communists are all those who work incessantly to produce a different future to that which capitalism portends.
At its raspy start, black metal begins with the obscene purity of the end: with Pure Fucking Armageddon, the title of Mayhem’s first demo from 1986. Of course, black metal never really begins. It’s always been out of time, eternally out of joint with a world it hates, even as it cannot leave that world behind. But if we take one among many points of departure, it may as well be this one, from the good old dark days, a declaration of where to go from there. The name itself is a founding gesture, and we take it as such, as a formal template and an injunction to be fulfilled: black metal will be pure fucking Armageddon. Or, to specify, it will operate beneath that constitutive fantasy, and it will be constituted by how it keeps reproducing its distance from such a fantasy. That is, it promises itself as pure and as Armageddon, even as it dismantles any possibility of ever being either. Rather, it is impure fucking apocalypse. (As for the fucking issue, that remains spot-on and relatively uncomplicated. To follow Sargeist, it’s the difference between “black murder” and “Black Fucking Murder.” It is one of BM’s great modifiers, endlessly recombined to specify the blackness and metalness of things, ranking up there with necro, grim, dark, cold, Northern, pestilent, Satanic, and in certain periods, Carpathian and Transylvanian.)
Above all, black metal is war. It is fought under the banner of a desired final war to come: the striving march from impure apocalypse of the present to the pure Armageddon of the end. To leave behind the messiness and imprecision of the Now, not by dreaming about the future but through a constant return to buried antagonisms (i.e. Satan’s alternate history of the world, flammable churches, pagan knowledge, ancestral legacies). To become a fierce and directed manifestation of shared hatred toward the assumed positivity of what the order of the day is (i.e. Christianity, liberal democracy, multi-nationalism, warm weather, false metal). And above all, to know finally, once and for all, what the hell to do with that hellish hatred of the present.
What is the difference between apocalypse and Armageddon? Apocalypse is a mode of vision, a process, a revelation of what is hidden, of the unclear, of the undifferentiated. To be properly black metal about it all, if the veil is lifted, the revelation is of the cursed impure that could not be grasped in this rational order. A black sun casts different light, and the growing shadows reveal only what has been hidden in plain sight all along. Consequently, apocalypse is not the end but the beginning of the end. In revealing the hidden, it starts the process of resorting, reorienting, struggling through the mess of what has been shown and now won’t go away. The apocalypse leads to the post-apocalypse. Contrary to this, Armageddon is the site of the terminal end. It is not the end itself (not the eschaton), but the battlefield on which the final confrontation will be fought between the differentiated enemies, now clear and “pure” in their opposition.
What does this have to do with black metal, or with Mayhem’s demo title as a founding gesture? It is to think of black metal as a battlefield from the start, as a phenomenal working through of that imagined site, that promised zone of contestation where the contemporary world is swept away to confront the old antagonisms. But against its endless stated reiterations, the battlefield – and the war itself – is not purified location of Armageddon. It is rather the total messiness of the impure apocalypse and the strewn landscape. A total, unceasing war not between enemies grouped on opposite sides of the final Two, but a war to try and draw forth a Two, to rediscover the possibility of antagonism and movement in the permanent fog and jumble of the present.
So stands black metal, pulled in two again and again, without enlightenment or escape. Composed of antinomies that do not, against all odds, cancel each other out. It is a blurring, buzzing, necessarily late 20th century electric mess (the howling sound of global infrastructure and transmission), but it can only think itself as the cruel and nostalgic articulation of a local heritage of ancient earth and cold blood. And it is the strident forging of the horde’s shared total enmity, yet which can only make itself appear as the individualistic work of loner devotees of Satan with too many crossbows and a love of strolling in the woods. In other words, pulled somewhere between a willingness to be unapologetic enemies of what the world has become, a deep and arcane goofiness riddled with stone-faced mediocre nationalism, a sonic blast, and a melancholia of the unwanted, black metal takes formless shape. Bellicosity and dysphoria, raging mess and lost purity.
The point of this investigation isn’t to redeem this or iron out its contradictions. It certainly isn’t to separate the musical wheat from the crypto-Fascist chaff. Rather, to dwell in the utter overdetermination and to start to grasp, as black metal itself does raggedly, what can never be separated or cleared away. Black metal is the failure of dialectical reason, and for that reason, it is a razor sharp capture of the stuck-record world it rejects. All that cohabits impossibly cannot be separated, and it therefore must be a site of war, a contested site of destruction without clean-up or resolution. That which is negated sticks around in its own negation, and it starts to reek. Restless decay that does not fade away, but only gets louder. Nihil unbound and bound to fail.
What, then, is black metal if not totality itself: overdetermination that does not cancel out, the impossible whole that lumbers on? Following Ben Noy’s application of the logic of the partisan (according to which the “bad partisan” produces the end of discernible enemies by making enmity absolute and universal), this bellum omnium contra omnes is not a war between discrete individuals all against all. It is the war fought between two totalities, between black metal’s endless antagonism and liberal capitalism’s eternal present.
The condition on which black metal is staked is that of militancy, of how to transition from melancholic dejection of the Now to furious rejection in the name of Then (as interstitial moment of lost pagan battle or future Ragnarok). The lyrics of Vordr’s “From Ruins to Victorious Triumph,” screeched over its D-beat stomp and churning fuzz, precisely map this envisioned arc. From “I do not care / For the earthly pleasures / Of humanity / I couldn't care less / I couldn't care less” to “Along with the unseen / I shall rise / From ruins to victorious triumph / My time is yet to come.” This may start with the frosty and properly misanthropic turn away from the accepted sphere of the human, yet it still remains trapped in the potential realm of the petulant bedroom shut-in, the dysphoric who dwells in the petty pleasures of feigning disinterest in the earthly sphere. That is, who prefers to stay home and out of the fray. The point of transition is truly apocalyptic: to rise with the “unseen”, the impure, the undifferentiated. It begins in the ruins, not in the lyrical twilight solitude of the allegorical death’s head but from the ruined ground, if not from farther below, and the accumulated broken weight of past struggle and constant failure.
To move toward a temporary conclusion, from this sense of the where, I venture three further questions about this war of fractured and antinomian totality. When does it take place? Who is fighting and leading the battle? What kind of war is it?
To start with the temporal dimension, the when of the war: black metal is the restaging of a past war that was to have been yet which missed its chance. (The beginning of the end that didn’t take, the failed start.) If, returning to that Vordr line, “my time is yet to come,” black metal hinges on the incapacity – and fury at that incapacity – of that time ever coming to be. Apocalyptically, it is caught between imminent and immanent eschaton: it predicts and describes a final battle, yet it grasps that final battle as one which has been there all along. Out of this noisy deadlock, it reaches in one of two directions. Either it hails toward a past that wasn’t there (the time of lost telluric tradition, to be approached gnostically or through embedded folk traditions), or it approaches a stance outside of human time (the sublime of Nature, the atemporal adversity of Satan, the anti-thought of nothing itself). Either the nostalgia of degraded purity, or the purity of the concept of the inhuman itself. What binds the two together, even as it remains beyond the explicit purview of black metal thought, is an underground awareness that the banality and brutality of the contemporary world is both intolerable and inescapable. And furthermore, that it is far worse than any necrotic pestilential midnight hell swarm ever conjured by Norwegians. Therein the desperation of black metal vocals: it’s just the howl of the thought that this is both the worst of all possible worlds and the only possible world. The point, then, is to find a mode of virulent resistance and acid bath negativity, and it can only ever come from afar. Not from the immanent same of the present, not from the imminent difference of the future, but from an absent past.
Who fights this war, and who leads them? Despite the constant lip service to the affective portrait of the loner individual, we should venture the contrary: black metal has no individuals, and it has no leaders. At times, it has nations, folklores, heritages, and kingdoms. It has pasts. But above all, it has that corrosive negativity which takes as its first target the very individualism black metal reifies. This is no ideological swindle or disavowal. It is there in relentless repetition of the imagery (hordes, legions, swarms, armies of the night, cults, fasces), and it is there in the music, in the sheer nihilistic impurity of the din, crushing the possibility of any individual sustaining itself as a discrete positivity. The war by the human in the name of the inhuman devours the former. And no one can lead, no one deserves such a reward of being worth a damn in the face of it all. Instead, it is the sovereignty of the partisan group, the collected enemies of the world. In this way, despite its moronic and frequent attempts to be Fascist and despite the fact that we should ourselves wage total war against all such attempts, it never can be. It is perhaps always marked by its tainted proximity and distance from it, the negative term persisting even in absence: all non-Nazi black metal is still NSNSBM (not so National Socialist black metal). But its contested and scarred ground remains the battlefield of the impure and the undifferentiated. It can never leave this, and it doesn’t want to. If we do talk about blood and land, it can only be a feeling of blood, a cold comportment against the warm torpor of the capitalist present, not a genetic coldness shared by the northern tribes. And it can only be a land to be taken en masse, not to be rescued from a untainted past. Black metal dreams a sovereign, and, in the next breath, severs his head to spatter the blood across all. What remains are the headless horsemen of the apocalypse, the acephalic leaders of a chiefless crowd marching off to permanent war.
Finally, what kind of war? It is the war of totality against itself. Always caught mid-flight, black metal is the negative insistence: no transcendence, no redemption, no revelation. Yet this negation does not hack and slash open a clear spot on Armageddon’s planes. It does not allow for apocalyptic krisis, the clarity of separation and judgment, or for the understanding of what the battle has been about from the start, the secret history of the world made bloody well clear. Black metal is the obsessive yearning lunge toward such clarity, and it is the abortive impossibility of reaching it. What is all this desire for, and talk about, purity but the mislocation of real lust for clarity, for knowing who your enemies are? Because it knows, with imperfect gnosis, that the enemy is something immense and diffuse, and so it becomes that enemy itself, singing of the far-off End’s clarity with the voice of autophagic contradiction.
And so it is sonically. It is a static war, restless and bristling, but it is also a war of static. A war both by and against static: the buzzing howl nearly drowned out in the constant growl of late capitalist totality. For despite its hailing back to the absent origin, black metal is the sound – and politics, for there is no divorcing of the two – of this infernal and eternal present turned up and back on itself. It is feedback literalized. The pickups register, amplify, and ramp up to overdriven fever pitch all the circuits of the world order, the pathways of circulation, the electrified hum of production and calculation. And above all, the inhuman voice of the once-human nearly lost in the roar.
Black metal brings out the deadlock that was there from the start, between individuation and totality, and between a principle of negativity and the inertia of the positive. If the condition on which black metal is staked is indeed that of militancy, its impossible solution is collective militancy: that alone can make the deadlock tremor. To strike a totality by becoming a negative totality together, not the smooth individual rods of a fascist bundle, but a storm and swarm of the anti. To take on the abortive passage of the apocalyptic as a mandate and injunction, not to do right, but to do wrongly to a wrong world. Never to fall into sadness or dejection at the prospect, but to rage with joy. The crooked grin of the misanthrope who finds his grim horde, the smile hidden behind the shared illusion of non-pleasure. And above all, to do this together. To become totally singular and negatively universal is to take on the acephalic mess that we are and to undo the idiocy of any nostalgia for a purer time. Only from there do we forge Luciferian, not Satanic, collectivity: knowing very well that we can’t take the throne, and doing it all the same. There’s a reason that it isn’t Wolf in the Throne Room. It’s Wolves, that strident, impure, unwanted pack of inhuman negativity, the absent crown shattered into knives for and against all.
The dialectic makes a triumphant return to American soil, with Historical Materialism New York. A formidable gathering, no doubt, and any and all should come: what matters, as always, are less the papers and more the collective geist. (On my end, I'll be talking about "Communization and its Discontents": militancy, negative zones, provocation, occupation, pleasure, torches, misanthropic realism, and all the rest.) Come join the fray...
January 14-16 2010, New York City
Opening Plenary Thursday January 14th, 7pm
City University of New York
365 5th Avenue
New York, NY
REGISTRATION NOW OPEN!
Please join us for the second North American Historical Materialism Conference, beginning the evening of January 14th, 2010. Founded in 1997, the quarterly Historical Materialism (HM) journal is among the foremost publications of critical Marxist theory in the world, known for both its breadth as well as its intellectual rigor. Following upon successful conferences in London and Toronto, the New York City conference – the first ever in the US – will provide a lively space for scholars and activists to critically engage theoretical, historical, and practical issues of crucial importance to the movement for a world beyond capitalism.
The ongoing economic crisis continues to disrupt political and business establishments across the planet and inflict suffering upon millions in the form of mass unemployment and food shortages. Despite the popular expectations raised by a new presidency, U.S. imperial ambitions appear locked in place. The existential threat of climate change looms. Economic, political, military and ecological crises intersect as they intensify, making the world a much more dangerous place— but also one in which the space for theory and practice aimed at challenging capitalism, and exploring systemic alternatives, has grown.
In organizing the first US Historical Materialism conference we hope to open a space for critical, rigorous and boundary-pushing theory, to explore and provoke our understanding of capital and anti-capitalist alternatives with a critical eye to the traditions of the past, while confronting the crises and struggles unfolding around us.
The Future of the Radical Left / Theories of the Developmentalist State / Witch-Hunting and Enclosures / Philosophy of Finance / Race and Labor / The Politics of Oil / Communism and Catastrophe / Women, Work and Violence / Theories of Exploitation / Ecology and Crisis / The Problem of Organization / Commons and Subjectivity / Capitalism, Slavery and the Civil War / Communization / Sexuality and Marriage / Fetishism and the Value Form / Marx’s Theory of Money / Post-Operaïsmo / Crisis Theory…
Anna M. Agathangelou, Stanley Aronowitz, Gopal Balakrishnan, Banu Bargu, Deepankar Basu, Karl Beitel, Riccardo Bellofiore, Aaron Benanav, Jasper Bernes, Paul Blackledge, George Caffentzis, Dana Cloud, Patricia Clough, Gérard Duménil, Hester Eisenstein, Sara Farris, Silvia Federici, Robert Fine, Duncan Foley, Benedetto Fontana, Maya Gonzalez, Paul Heideman, Nancy Holmstrom, Matt Huber, Robert Hullot-Kentor, Andrew Kliman, Sabu Kohso, Michael Krätke, Tim Kreiner, Deepa Kumar, David Laibman, Neil Larsen, Paul Le Blanc, William Lewis, Geoff Mann, Paul Mattick, Michael McCarthy, Annie McClanahan, Geoffrey McDonald, Alan Milchman, Simon Mohun, Gary Mongiovi, Fred Moseley, Justin Myers, August Nimtz, Bertell Ollman, Melda Ozturk, Ozgur Ozturk, Mi Park, Nina Power, Nagesh Rao, Jason Read, John Riddell, William Clare Roberts, Heather Rogers, Sander, Anwar Shaikh, Hasana Sharp, Tony Smith, Jason E. Smith, Richard Smith, Hae-Yung Song, Marcel Stoetzler, Lee Sustar, Peter Thomas, Massimiliano Tomba, Aylin Topal, Alberto Toscano, Ben Trott, Ramaa Vasudevan, Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo, Chris Vials, Marina Vishmidt, Joel Wainwright, Victor Wallis, Paul Warren, Evan Calder Williams, Ted Winslow, Christopher Wright
Conference supported by:
The Center for the Study of Work, Culture and Technology
SpaceTime Research Collective
for all enquiries email: email@example.com
Garbage city, airplane boneyard: "And then they come here. The problem is they're just not wanted any more."
Two remarkable instances of salvage, one utterly lumpen, one utterly big business, both minus the punk, and both material signs of the times.
From Erik, this io9 article (and the Inhabitat piece here, with more pictures and gestures toward the socio-political backdrop) on Manshiyat naser ('Garbage City'), on the outskirts of Cairo, where the Zabbaleen (garbage collectors) carve an "informal" - a term that always leaves a bad taste in the mouth - economy from the city's constant refuse output, recycling, reselling, dwelling total in the cast-off. Much to say about this, but I don't know the geopolitcal context as I should. Cynically, I can't help but noticing how the light in the pictures only ramps up the Wall-Eness of the view from above, the odd quiet of the reshaped piles of sorted trash. (The asubjective POV that marks so much of the post-apocalyptic.) More interesting/desperate is the consequences of swine flu epidemic fears this past spring, which led to the mass slaughter of the Zabbaleen's pigs, pigs that were crucial in the processing (read: eating scraps) of the garbage. This of course leads to the inability of fully taking on and working through the wasteheaps, which now spread back from the zone composed solely of excess waste to the central sites producing waste and excess.
And from Alberto, a lighter note, given the fact that there really is a company called Air Salvage International (with whom I'd like to/fear to fly, on a shitty dirigible made of leftover beer bottles, car seats, and wings of melted down action figures). The story of the "jet cemetery":
"Against a backdrop of the Cotswold hills, three giant Boeing 747s which had until recently been plying their trade in southern Africa as freighters, await their turn in the new year to be painstakingly stripped of anything of value, before their gleaming aluminium airframes meet the jaws of an industrial wrecking machine."
[Updates on the Greek situation, via Retort.]
The university asylum has been repeatedly undermined in recent days, while the government is pressing for a ban on university asylum through its ministers and mainstream media. Apart from preventing students from entering university buildings and detaining them, special forces entered university premises on several occasions without reason or provocation, most notably in Thessaloniki, making several arrests.
The raid by special forces at the autonomous political/social space Resalto (http://anarxiko-resalto.
There has been a lot of talk in mainstream media about the injured rector of the Athens University. According to these reports, the rector was hit and suffered a mild concussion and a minor cardiac episode when demonstrators entered the University Administration Building. A comrade who witnessed the scene states that the rector appeared in a state of shock but was not hit by anyone. This much emphasized injury could still be used as a pretext by the government to allow police into the university.
There are occupations throughout the country including the Athens Polytechnic, Thessaloniki Theatre Department, Kozani Town Hall. More actions and solidarity demonstrations are scheduled in the next days.
A December 8, 2009
December 8, 2009
(see minutes 3′07” and 5′32”, where the “delta force” motorcycle cops run two demonstrators over on purpose.)
Prying back open the gap that never could be really closed (hotel bar interior design, insurrectionary negation, and capitalist bad wiring)
Looking at the very particular (i.e. totally typical) red upholstery plus refracted fake crystal lighting decoration choices of a shitty Holiday Inn hotel bar here in London, where A and I stopped in to escape the post-work banker crowds, can't help but be struck by the thought:
What is genuinely, cancerously unthinkable about contemporary capitalism isn't the speed and breadth of its fiber optic tentacles. It isn't automated container shipping, it isn't necro-economics and the phantom gargantua of bail-outs. It isn't hunger or plague or rising oceans.
If there actually is an unthinkable Real of capitalism, it is that somewhere, at some time, a meeting was held in which was discussed, in good faith, the genuine connection between the choice of a particular reproduced Italian architectural drawing with fake gilded frame and the tangible profitability of the business as a whole. Someone actually had to accept and enact the overleaping of that absent linkage, actually decide, or pretend to the point of performative belief, that the selection of this exact thing - and not some other - was the correct decision and that in some impossible way, its singular presence creates the conditions for the further influx of capital.
The horror of it isn't moral. It isn't just that it's culturally stale, a mass approximation of yuppies after the fall. It's the fact that such a forced connection becomes itself real and tangible, there in the smell and sound of the place, ground into the carpets, there in the minute calculations of how many pounds charged versus how few paid to dishwashers.
Against this, total corrosive negativity against the positivity of that connection. While of course recognizing that collectively being "against" something doesn't negate its existence - it negates the legitimacy of its right to existence. And in this case, the existence of an impossible leap that has become the natural terrain of everyday life, of forced correspondence between phenomenon (that shade of carpet, that pattern of wallpaper) and value itself. Against both the assumed subtlety of the relation and the assumed flimsiness of it: it is because it is a fundamentally "unnatural" link that it keeps repairing itself.
Therefore, to start with the insistence that such a point of contact is the hardest - and first - fuse to be blown. It needs to be short-circuited, and we might start with our willful laughter, at the very idea that there ever be any organic connection between the specificity of objects and the value they generate. There is no connection beyond that leap, the leap that makes itself the well-spring of the reproducing world.
Coupled with laughter (excuse us if we think you're just fucking with us), concrete practices (excuse us if we need to borrow this space for a while) of prying back open, and stepping into, the gap that never could be really closed. At the edge of thought, the big leap of bad faith and bad wiring, the crisis of legitimacy at the missing center of every connection between phenomena and capital.