Happy new year, everybody!
Can 2022 be worse than 2021? I doubt it. But a year ago, I thought the same thing and 2021 definitely hit a home run in being the saddest year since 2004. At least for me. So, no expectations. That doesn't mean I can't try to do something about it. I'm introducing more fun in my life. More writing, more thinking, more tinkering. Financially risky. But I'll manage. It's time for a new wind.
Last year, I liked writing my Techtalk column in DesignDigger. I also published my listening session with The Bug in Gonzo (circus) a year ago. It made me think to return there, and I did. For issue #167 I reviewed Mike Watson's The Memeing of Mark Fisher - How The Frankfurt School Foresaw Capitalist Realism And What To Do About It.
Almost described the book as the new Capitalist Realism but didn't. Mike Watson wrote a brilliant book that needs to be read by everybody that is into both theory and activism. It would be unfair to compare it to any other book, especially the one mentioned in the title.
The 1500 words review will be published in the first print edition of Gonzo (circus) in 2022. I'll not review the book here, but I want to explore a couple of questions that I still have. I'm not really interested in the answers, but more in exploring the why of the questions. So let me first give a brief overview of what Watson writes about. The Memeing of Mark Fisher obviously links the ideas of the Frankfurt School - more specific: Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse and Benjamin - to Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism and explores what a new leftfield (online) movement could look like if we use the insights of these thinkers.
Although I use Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in some of my workshops, I wasn't that familiar with his Arcades Project. Watson got me excited. The idea of the (digital) flaneur breaks with a lot of modern(ist) concepts like time (and past and future), linearity, rationality and functionality. Strolling ('flaneren', in Dutch) is deeply involved with the now. There is no purpose, no place, no sense of time. Many current subcultures that interest me (solar punk, lo-fi aesthetics, vaporwave, new aesthetics, hyperpop, bleak futures) embrace these principles. From an old-school point of view, they seem nostalgic, but nothing is further from the truth. By rearranging elements, tropes, objects and ideas from the past, now and future, a new alternative reality is created that challenges the status quo.
The status quo is neoliberal capitalism, but we often forget that on a higher level, it is modernity that holds us in Max Weber's Iron Cage. The idea of organizing society based on production (and consumption) is modern. If we really want to break with this exploitative system, we should first leave the whole idea of economics. In his One-Dimensional Man, Herbert Marcuse shows that every system based on production will eventually become fascist. We need to go past capitalism and past socialism and communism, systems that rose up as alternatives for capitalism. And yes, that also means that we have to leave Karl Marx behind. For me, as a dedicated speculative accelerationist, swarm anarchy is way more sustainable than trying to redefine labor, class, production and consumption. Sure, we need those concepts to fully grasp our current status quo, but we don't need them for imagining our future.
That brings me to the questions that Watson's book raises in my mind. The first one is: can I still identify with the left(field)? Are left and right concepts only useful in exploring a point of view within a production system? Probably, and we definitely need to get rid of that dichotomy.
The second question is: can the ideas in this book also be used to imagine a future world that is not based on production, although their purpose is to rearrange modes of production? Yes, I think so. Especially when combined with ideas from anarchy, the commons, speculative realism, object-oriented ontology and, of course, art practices.
That is far-fetched for most people, even those on the progressive side. The resistance against new social opportunities that arise with new media (or technology) is fascinating. My Twitter and LinkedIn timelines are filled with people dissing NFTs, crypto, DOAs, social media, and even the internet. In his newsletter (link), even music industry icon Bob Lefsetz notices that Covid taught us that nobody is in control anymore. Not our governments, not the people that run the big companies.
Bob writes: "While we were focused on Trump, and then Covid, the whole world changed. It became further decentralized, and not only in politics. There is no universal reach anymore, every act/band is a cottage industry. You try to grow your audience...AND THAT'S IT!"
He is right. Everything is going to implode further. Like it or not (I like!).
Besides having more fun, I am going to put more effort into projects that are actually meaningful. For years I've tried to connect with university research groups, but I never succeeded to get involved (no match with the topics I am exploring and because of my lack of social skills). Should have done this way earlier, but I am going to explore these topics with Studio Hyperspace and Speculative Futures Amsterdam.
Other actions (definitely not resolutions) I am going to take in 2022:
- leave Spotify (already done!)
- become a part of the Resonate community (already done!)
- reboot Speculative Futures Amsterdam (already done!)
- invest in Studio Hyperspace's projects
- improve my intervention design approach
- focus more on pop culture and write about it in this newsletter
- dive deeper into alternative realities
- honor my love for Adorno (the cat) with a second tattoo
- have more fun
- be kinder to other humans and be a better friend
What are your 2022 actions (or resolutions)?
The Memeing of Mark Fisher - How The Frankfurt School Foresaw Capitalist Realism And What To Do About It by Mike Watson is published by Zer0 Books. (link)
– – –
Since 2015 SKY H1 is exploring the boundaries between drum'n'bass, grime, dubstep, techno and trance. On her first full-length Azure, she uses ambient as the basis for her adventures into different styles. Recently she worked together with Berlin-based artists Margarita Maximova during her residency at club Botanique in Brussels, the city she lives in. There is definitely a more moody, almost visual feel on Azure. As if her collaborations in the artistic field influenced her sound. Okay, the visual aspect was always there - just look at the album covers - but Azure feels more visual than her previous work.
For the video clips, she worked together with LA collective Actual Objects. The videos for 'Elysian Heights' and 'Labyrint' are good examples of this collaboration and the role visuals play in her music.
The titles of the tracks refer to the iconic Access Virus synthesizer SKY H1 uses when producing music. It makes this album sound familiar because tracks refer indirectly to the electronic music vibe in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although there is this reference to the work of Aphex Twin or The Black Dog, the mood SKY H1 creates is unique. Oh, and absolutely love the design of her website: https://skyh1.net.
Azure by SKY H1 is released on AD93 and can be listened to here: https://sky-h1.bandcamp.com/album/azure
– – –
Alternative rock veterans Labasheeda released a dark and moody, even a bit nostalgic EP just before the December holidays that captures the disappointment of a new covid19 lockdown in The Netherlands perfectly. https://labasheeda.bandcamp.com/album/old-traditions?from=hp
Must visit for electronic music lovers: the 'Electro. From Kraftwerk to Techno' exhibition in the Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf. Techno comes home ;- ) https://www.kunstpalast.de/electro-en
Listened to this mixtape with Russian hip-hop a lot lately. I'm in a Russian music phase right now. There is so much good music to explore there. I really like Kedr Livanskiy and кис-кис. Check them out if you want. https://soundcloud.com/radonezhbeatz/555traks555-b-sayd-mixtape
One of my favorite j-pop bands is back with a new track and cool video. 'バーチャル・フリーダム' by Capsule is about the blending of online and offline. Hello metaverse! https://youtu.be/2ox44j_QADc
One of the best traditions? The ambient episode of BenedenNAP on the first day of the new year. https://www.mixcloud.com/benedenNAP/254-benedennap-ambient-electronics-special-1-januari-2022/
The Rewire festival for adventures in music and art in The Hague did an extremely cool online version last year (and one physical one later in the year). The organizers made a little documentary about it. https://youtu.be/EcQ__ctttsU
I love cats, memes, and theory. Combine them and you get catboy: post-left irony about neoliberalism. Günseli Yalcinkaya, one of my favorite journalists, wrote about it in DAZED. https://www.dazeddigital.com/science-tech/article/54881/1/deleuzian-cat-boys-the-post-left-and-philosophical-shitposting
It is a thing to be critical and even negative about the new developments in web technology. Especially in the music industry a lot of people working in the chain are not willing to give up their position. Luckily there are initiatives like Water and Music, a platform that explores the opportunities in for example DAOs and Web3 (and yes, that's a buzzword). https://www.waterandmusic.com
Dutch writer and journalist Auke Hulst is famous for his novels. His latest, Mitsukoshi Troostbaby Company, has just been released. He is also a gifted songwriter. The title track of his new album A Most Present Absence has just been released accompanied by this beautiful video. https://youtu.be/4V9_dsYSBZw