Day 13,009

The mind is like one of those chrome grabby things at the end of the pier, fauxmanipulate, that steadfastly refuses to grab the thing itself, only touch a few surfaces of the furry toy or dubious-metalled wrist watch at one go before necessarily letting it pass.

The train South, from Farringdon, through Blackfriars, Herne Hill, and on to East Croydon affords a pretty clear view of the broad topographic fronts along which the city is changing. You begin with a preponderance of neoliberal glass, steel, struts, sprouting, vulgar eruptions of sameness posing as newness, and then you get further out, and nearing Croydon you are scraped back twenty years: corrugated iron, weathered wonky wood, scrubland, half-painted brick, stasis fringed by entropy, all as sorry as something neglected for two decades, which is mostly what it is. This is punctuated by the occasional hideous monolith of glass and trespa, luxury prole stacking for the professionals who can’t afford the first clutch of zones. Creeping banlieuisation is creeping pretty fast. Comfortingly logical, topologically hygienic, in service to the decanting tendency of bubbles. The suburbs are, as Ballard suggests, the last great mystery. What happens in the suburbs has never, yet, troubled the people at Whitehall. But these are new tensions, more frictionful than those 90s postmodern dystopias.

“This isn’t a suburb of London. It’s a suburb of Heathrow and the M25. People of Hampstead and Holland Park look down from the motorway as they speed home from their West Country cottages, they see faceless interurban sprawl, a nightmare terrain of police cameras and security dogs, an uncensored realm devoid of civic tradition and human values.”
“It is. I’ve been there. It’s a zoo fit for psychopaths.”
Exactly. That’s what we like about it. We like dual carriageways and parking lots. We like control tower architecture and friendships that last an afternoon. There’s no civil authority telling us what to do. This isn’t Islington or South Ken; there are no town halls or assembly rooms. We like prosperity filtered through car and appliance sales. We like roads that lead past airports, we like air freight offices and rentavan forecourts, we like impulse holidays to anywhere that takes our fancy. We’re the citizens of the shopping mall, the arena, the internet and cable tv. We like it here, and we’re in no hurry for you to join us.”

Day 13,008

On the tube. The eternal, necessary, implacable thing that sits between my eyes, beneath/beyond my mind, and behind my feelings. That flat static waterfall of me. That translucent concrete sensor of me. The me which survives. That me which just is. Which is able to observe my feelings like strange ripples and contusions in the thickness of body-psyche, where accreted debris, strange occult recursions, broken feedback loops, going all the way back, churn, and everything is at different temps & moving at different speeds – basinfuls of worms, a single peck from a woodpecker, a pulsar.

Against this, the I can watch my mind clench and contract. A spasm of production. A movement in which feelings are garbled symptoms, and nature is subdued. Socio-economic, socio-political, all culture shapes me, but there’s always that gap, that place of imperviousness to being thrown into the other’s gaze like unmoulded pottery. I am glad I identify with concrete. Maybe art and architecture ppl are closer to all this than theatre ppl. The point where feeling and abstraction meet. Theatre is too obsessed with ourselves in language. With being made and remade. With human content and human form. This is its strength insofar as this is our weakness.

Day 12,998

Chemtrails could only be thought in a time when government is so subtle, broken and recessive; and the individual so firmly and prominently defined. To look into the sky and imagine, to covertly wish, there is sufficient political will, that they care enough, to systematically poison me!!!!!!

Day 12,994

Once there was a tradition of public service documentary making on the BBC that encompasses Raymond Williams, Lyndsay Anderson, Adam Curtis, early gave-a-shit Broomfield, but sorry indeed is the land in need of a Louis Theroux documentary.

But I’m drawn to his stuff, and interesting to see in the latest one how the relationship with one’s own alcoholism can confer agency. Not the relationship with the bottle, the dimensions of which are p obvious to anyone whose been or been around an alkie, but the recognition of oneself as an alcoholic in trouble. We have to be careful here, because it’s imbricated with the fact a documentary was happening. But with that in mind, what I saw was a portrait of something like a *negative agency*. This was nothing to do with recovery, the opposite in fact. It was a life reduced to contact with nurses, NHS detox for as long as they’ll take you, and this being the stuff and structure of life: when this occured to the guy, a young middle class lad, it came not as a diminution, or as hopelessness, but a kind of brightness. It was a kind of self-realisation and return of expression, not in a narrative of recovery, but in the apprehension of something progressive, because progress it does. Not nihilist, not fatalist, *hopeful*, of *becoming oneself* on a the trajectory of self annihilation. As if – if you drink to destroy meaning, you are an alcoholic to recuperate it.

But as I say, we can’t omit the observer effects on the guy in question. He was doing so *on camera*, with the attention of Louis and the crew, asking for the successful performance of the alcoholic, offering a window of reflexive triumph in the fog and despair. Would this make the documentary culpable for offering negative agency, for eliciting with him that feeling of overcoming which was linked to *being* an alcoholic? Is this why it ended unconvincingly on the same guy’s recovery, awkward, brushed hair and new coat at the sea-side?

I think what I saw was a decent account of agency. Agency is in relation to its surrounding structures, and individual agency, tho it might look bright and in some way transcending of the situation, can appear fully as itself within a doomed architecture.

day 12,991

A corporate innocence to the “club kids” in NYC in the nineties. Ketamine, chicken costumes, cartoon S&M, reheated disco, crossover techno, free x 3, VIP, VVIP, promo x 5, lots of cod-Leigh Bowery styles, homespun surreal courts in big financially successful venues. Michael Alig, the instigator and Caligula figure (but as for all scene makers, wealthless), fabulous, conspiratorial, scheming, puppyish, playful, acidic and inarticulate, chickenhawk at 21, a lost boy hosting flash mob parties on the subway, standing on tables at McDonalds throwing burgers into the party crowd, peeing on people from balconies, smashing things, addicted. The Post-Warholian sense that you were your own product was met with a reflexive impotence — doused in MDMA, coke, crystal, crushed rohypnol, K, inevitably heroin, and lit. The absurd infantile innocence of the scene is something that you could only get in this fin de siècle, hedonistic egoist, Cyrenaic ecstatic, yt ppl playground at the end of history. For a last NY moment the freaks aligned corporate to rule over the yuppies. Parties were like something Ed Fornieles would dream of: networks of Queens, innocently free of the systems level sociality to come. The last hurrah of macro-mediated urban space. The retrospective narrative climax of the scene was Alig’s murder of the kid Angel Melendez, dismemberment in the bath, head in the freezer, package thrown into the Hudson. Back in the 2ks I knew people who ran in the Pete Doherty / Libertines scene, similarly white, similarly lacking in artistic quality and output, and that ended with a murder too: Pete’s hench mates chucked a kid off a balcony down at the junkie baudelaire-freak ‘professor’ ro’s flat in Whitechapel. That’s the end of the party – bad deaths on the fringes of the half-lifes of squalid little empires.

day 12,990

The colorless world of GDR cybernetics – (trying to reproduce a dynamic, responsive, information rich economy to meet material needs without capitalism: a socialist modernity) – had only triumphalist exhortation and rhetorical violence to speak of. Today Holly Herndon uses transducers attached to her laptop to convert electrical signals into acoustic sounds because so much of her intimate and erotic life passes through here. (Outside their London show last year we watched a fox trek across the grey convex expanse of a decommissioned gas works, there was something about that.) There is the heart click of the magnetic strip set in machine tooled aluminium. The social imagination of our encounter with a bot. The other body of a drone. The VR affair. The semantic play of real-time augmentation. Cyberpunk fiction, flarf poetry, cyborg aesthetics, machines of loving grace, the skin of the system. The problem for GDR cybernetics probably wasn’t in the maths. It was in the way the maths was apprehended by a party of the tongue, the plan, the sovereign human command. And the resulting inability to express the life desired in terms that didn’t cast as deadly a trace that may have led there.

Day 12,989

A writer as an index of a system, an indexical measure of a system. God as a measure of all things; Protagorean man as a measure of all things; a writer as a measure of their society. More strange: a writer consciously placing themselves at the disposal of a system, understanding themselves as a tool. In the case of Fühmann, over time, he became a tool that could not activate, as he’d hoped he might, instead becoming one that would register. He was superficially perhaps the saddest East German writer because he maintained the initial anticipatory arrangement of a socialist trajectory, (Socialism had saved him from Nazism), accommodated as much law as he could, waited for the meeting of de facto and de jure, and ended as unfinished as he began, holding on for transformation. An unfulfilled systems erotics.

This is far more interesting a path than just renouncing socialism for its liberal opposite: the assertion of the I, the rights and dignity of the western individual, the way many of his contemporaries, hemmed in by Stasi thugs, would go. Yes the promise curdled and turned to nonsense, but Fühmann was there to index that. There was no there there, there was no here against which to hold it. A sensor in the rain and in the night.

(He would take the view of Parmenides, as he waited, infinitely patient for his emerging, that all equations would tend toward 0 = 0. “Everything comes from nothing and returns to nothing, and we who write letters to each other are what is in between.”)

day 12,976

A thick-skinned and a thin-skinned dinosaur, one called Germaine, the other called Stephen, have been trampling the little fauna on the vast verdant plains of their media platfora.

Germaine Greer is holding a map of the battlefield. The coordinates have long made sense to her, but she really needs to look up, like yesterday, because the place names are gone and fronts have moved. All these things her map left out because they had no integrity or salience, are now landmasses, and they have radically altered, and are continuing to alter the landscape. Germaine, you’re an old soldier who became a general; all that cigar smoke you had to blow away to get there, don’t think we’re not grateful. But we don’t forget that in order to win that handsome commission you had to tread on a few toes, leave some comrades behind for dead. Now you ferry maps to voices of my generation, who are nourished by harm and exclusion, building their own gun emplacements facing the wrong direction!

Stephen Fry is doing an impression of Furedi for stupid people. He doesn’t like trigger warnings, and thinks those who have suffered abuse shouldn’t be self-pitying, because, he says, presumably talking of some piteous moment of his own reflection, it’s the “ugliest emotion”. Sometimes it’s called “millenials”, sometimes it’s called simply “the culture”. Most of the time it’s cast as some oppressive spectre. But what it is is the fragile, hopeful, and bold projects of LGBQT activists and New Ppl on Tumblr and on campuses, insisting some care is taken over context in a post-media environment, trying to jam casual semiotic violence, suggesting some things might actually be beyond the pale, and taking some control of some of the means of communication which have served them badly in the past.

In case you didn’t kno Yung Ppl are not so hot rn. They are simplifying machines. They are cultural Stalinists, and against the democracy of speech acts. They don’t do politics, but insist on replicating the authoritarian party form at bbqs. They excel at imposing their cloying sensitivities on the hale, healthy, and entirely representative population of media and academic establishments. They are vampires, who delight on feasting on the simple universal vibrations of human vocal cords. They are feral panthers, orgiastic in the black light of the anti-enlightenment, under cover of which they pull down statues in silence. They are au pied de la lettre, fundamentalists, fanatics. They are “the culture”, and representative of it, but their interests and causes are statistically insignificant. Their speech is the inaudible traffic of bowels. They are too loud. They would flatten all the difference that wealthy white men bring. They do not obey the debate club rules.

Amidst all this “Free speech” has become a somewhat unlikely rallying cry for a reactionary liberal commentariat out of step with its constituency. Unlikely, because it’s an argument that’s never really worked in societies which don’t operate an apparatus of formal censorship. To take them at their word would be to apply the principles of free speech to a society which structures the ability to articulate, not by top-down banning, but by the unequal distribution of voices and uneven concentrations of power within a market media economy, with the result that some voices have megaphones while others are barely heard at all. It would entail the dismantling of public schools, and of Oxbridge, and of all the amplifying apparatuses on which people like Stephen Fry rely to ferry them bottles of chilled truffle sweat, and the design and engineering of a more equitable, horizontal, participatory, convivial media and political landscape. It would require a decolonisation of the academy. This isn’t what they mean, of course. They mean a market liberal media and academia has served them themselves perfectly well, and things should carry on as they are.

day 12,975

Ballard’s characters, faced with an irregularity in the universe, and, potentially, on the threshold of a changed world, start speculating. One of his many gifts is the the uncanny knack for transplanting bourgeois fiction: he draws the pig with fine sunlit hairs, he is true to the nature of the pig, and its determination by the barn, and the fact that the barn is burning down and hurtling through space as it does so. Because the author and I are both pigs, we work it out together, what is available given the change of rules, rationalising limitedly, using our imagination to spin off possibles, delighting in the suspension of our piggishness.

I’m learning German at the moment on mp3, and one of the tutor’s tics is to say “riiiggght” in deep liquor-filled Bavarian tones when one of the recorded pupils grasps an important structural principle; “riiiggght” like an elephant in galoshes, is a ‘right’ of affirmation, but also it’s said in the manner of delighting in the pupil’s discovery, as if they had discovered it together. A performed evincement of Ranciere’s Ignorant Schoolmaster, but it’s not faked. While the tutor does know the thing under question he is able, by bracketing the thing as an object of his own, to be a part of the process of coming to know.

I recall Coney’s Better Nation, one act of which was a simulated border crossing. Our team was on one side of the border apparatus, guards patrolling, a manned checkpoint requesting papers we didn’t have. I just rushed it, (a psychological category in the larger game typology they called the Elephant), and made it across. Once across I looked back forlornly at my team, realising this wasn’t going to help them much – they weren’t up for a rush and push. I tried to semaphore back to them that this physical shortcut was working, but they had their heads together working out the social system of the checkpoint.