A Note on Acid Communism

I never met Mark Fisher, nor was I much of a fan of his work during his lifetime. Sure, I had seen some k-punk posts over the years, and I read Mark’s book Capitalist Realism at some point a few summers before his death. Given the work I had done exploring the intersections of Marxism and cultural studies, as well as the dissertation I had written on the fate of utopian thought from the Cold War to the present, much of Mark’s theory of capitalist realism struck me as welcome, but nevertheless a retreading of ground I’d already encountered elsewhere.

However, I also remember feeling challenged in a more productive way both by Mark’s piece on Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy in The Accelerationist Reader, and by his controversial 2013 polemic, “Exiting the Vampire Castle.”

When the news arrived, then, of his suicide this past spring, I noted with some surprise the many comrades of mine who testified to the profound influence of Mark’s work upon their thinking. Given this reaction, I promised myself that I would set aside time this summer to look at his two most recent books, Ghosts of My Life and The Weird and the Eerie.

And for the most part, that’s where matters stood, until a few days ago, when I learned that Mark’s next project, left unfinished at the time of his death, was to be titled Acid Communism: On Post-Capitalist Desire. “In particular,” writes his friend Jeremy Gilbert, Mark was “exploring the connections between the idea of ‘raising consciousness’ in the political sense — be it class consciousness or the other forms of collective political consciousness promoted by women’s liberation, gay liberation, and black power — and the consciousness-expansion promoted by the psychedelic and anti-psychiatry movements in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.”

Imagine my mixture of emotions upon reading this: mixed, first and foremost, because of the undiminished sadness of Mark’s passing, but also because my own work has arrived independently at a similar place. As I wrote a few days ago, I’m interested in creating “an openly, unashamedly Gnostic-themed, psychedelia-inflected Marxism, one that presents the raising of consciousness as the relay switch between previously competing or previously antagonistic codes.”

In the months since Mark’s passing, a number of his friends and colleagues have launched Egress, a collaborative archival site collecting Mark’s scattered early attempts to theorize Acid Communism. Over the next few weeks, I plan to work my way through this material, looking for further confluences of ideas (as well as, I assume, some divergences), and posting notes when time permits. My hope is that, as these trance-scripts unfold, they might serve among other things as expressions of an attempt to prefigure through daily self-experiment an as-yet undefined philosophy and practice of Acid Communism.

Sunday August 6, 2017

As writers, we can populate our voices by sampling the whole of media memory. The sounds come to us as the equivalent of radio signals from within. A voice says, “I gave you Logos a long time ago.” The unlocking of secret heights of language-use prompts shifting of the puzzle parts of reality. Not just a mountain blast or a rhetoric, but a reset of the object-world and of all living subjects’ knowledge and memory of it. Matter complies masochistically to Mind’s urgings. The differences are negligible but real. Like an escaped prisoner, my mind wanders free of discipline, and by that I mean not inner, transcendent discipline, but discipline as imposed by man upon man. By fleeing capture in the language games of others, we pick up the frequencies of an authentic, single-and-continuous, cosmos-creating act of speech. When I allow that speech to hypnotize me, I become capable of writing it down, and what it says becomes what I realize I want to say. The self that speaks itself thus also speaks another. This other self remembers falling asleep the other night while writing, and awakening the next day in the shade of his day, his back deck dappled piebald with spots of sunlight. He burns the social surplus of his days reposed in languorous, language-stupefied gratitude, having learned to worship through pleasure his one true master, the present. It’s like his Boolean microprocessor obeys a different logic, more generous in its handling of circumstance. Mariah’s work continues to astonish in these instances. (The incantatory “Shonen” and “Shinzo No Tobira” are current favorites of his.)

He observes rows of captured sunlight along the boards of a wooden fence, and feels at ease, the rest of the world of irrelevance somewhere behind him. On his run, he dodges a crushed Arizona Iced Tea can. A pointless thing, he shrugs, a trifle of a collapsed civilization. Flowers hung beside sidewalks become for him beings to sniff and touch lightly along his daily, leisurely, mind-adjusting dérives, the latter being a revolutionary strategy he acquired years ago during his apprenticeship among the Situationists. If he knows a word, it holds purpose, and he will use it. There is no active revolutionary strategy for the creation of communism, he thinks, until more residents in the US decide they want this. If this sometimes becomes Trance-Scripts’ Marxist Guide to Wellness, so be it. Still, the kind of joy he extracts from each day is not the kind of joy he’d had in mind. Today is the day on which he and friends had planned to head to the shore for a brief vacation — a trip the group had to postpone due to weather. “The influence of weather on dérives,” wrote Debord, “although real, is a determining factor only in the case of prolonged rains, which make them virtually impossible.” Perhaps he and his friends will find time in their lives to reschedule.

Saturday August 5, 2017

I listened as a wonderful time-lag unfurled between the sound of my voice and the act of my speaking. As I sat up from my reveries beside a fire-pit the other night during magic hour, the air rich with a choir of cicadas, something in the experience awakened in me a memory of the drunken interplay of voice and sampled sound in the virtual acoustic space of Blonde Redhead’s “In an Expression of the Inexpressible,” a track I hadn’t blasted in at least a decade.

Like the spinning double-sided mask in Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of the Poet, one always contains at least two.

“You have but one solution,” says the statue, as one’s hand whispers in one’s ear. “You must enter the looking glass — and once there, you must walk.” When the shadow of what looks like a telephone gets a pin in its ear, I wince and shudder. Through the process of identification, I become other. Through a keyhole, an angel captures me with a spinning Hypno Disk. The poet’s eye is pulled as if by gravity, whereas off to the side springs the Cartesian Ego. Cocteau advises, “Mirrors would do well to reflect more before sending back images.” Like in videogames, creation often requires repeating levels. Have I broken too many statues? I work by associative logic and montage. A small voice beside the pounding of my heart says, “I can’t think, I can’t think!” against the unsynced clapping of a crowd. René Gilson’s assessment captures the essentials: “That which reveals itself is a vision of the invisible.” One must “dream the film subjectively,” by identifying it with one’s own experiences. One may think of it as the equivalent of sensing invisible tapestries with one’s dead antennae. But sometimes one’s own experience is just one’s own experience, as when my head goes nuts to Mariah’s “Hana Ga Saitara.” 

Shoulders dance and my neck unbolts into the neck of an ostrich as I hurtle down the air-conditioned carnival of the open road. Sarah packed us a delicious lunchtime feast the other day of salami, provolone, and bread. Our love, like A.R. Kane’s, is from outer space. Clinic’s “The Second Line” enters the transmission, another trance-script classic.

The Left should serenade itself with tales of its stolen pleasures, tools of consciousness used to tack the sails of subjectivity away from the Towers of Capital-Time toward the gardens of Utopia. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins really lets us have it on his version of “Monkberry Moon Delight.”

Catch up, cats and kittens, don’t get left behind. We on the Left should follow suit.

Friday August 4, 2017

With my lips wet, I go to meet my maker. I often need to become reacquainted with my body. The chair would have to expel the sitter on some occasions to get me to go outside: I guess just because I fear the policing impulse that operates in the bodies and minds of my fellow citizens. Some of those fuckers are looking to unload bullets into those they regard as nuisances or plagues. I’m surrounded by rightwing minds that make no sense to me. Part of me is so angry, particularly when encountering my opponents on the streets, that I almost want to provoke their ire, give to them the blood that burns in me. Of course, the ideology of nonviolence steps up and roundly quells these dissident stirrings — though in the head, the effects of testosterone linger. Granted, these are ugly thoughts. And granted, I don’t want to think them — so I won’t. How are you today, readers? Minus the part of me that is dead to all social feeling, unable to fully trust the good in others, I genuinely wish to hear from you. Emotions are, I think, sometimes that simple. File again, I suppose, under Left melancholia. But when I actually interact in the world, the details of the Spectacle fill me with a non-dualistic sense of wonder. I look up and see electrical cords hung in the windows of a Chinese takeout, the dangling of a metal-beaded chain from an ancient ceiling fan, an old man in blue pastel slacks moving hesitantly with a walker toward his souped-up golf cart, on which I may or may not once have wanted to spit, as it was attired in bumper stickers supporting various heinous rightwing causes. Can one’s anger debase one’s vision? Ah, fuck it: let’s get high and watch Suspiria!

Sarah jokes that this will be her in Cyprus. I’m convinced that Suspiria is the greatest “bad trip” movie in the history of cinema. Adapted from an 1845 essay by English opium eater Thomas De Quincey, Argento’s film is, for those who prepare themselves accordingly, a luscious visual and sonic treat. Characters pass through light and shadow speaking hypnotically against psychedelic wallpapered walls. The camera for instance at one point tracks dreamily into the shadow-architecture of a blind man. From our body, with dogs at our throat, we are torn. “Magic is all over,” says the doctor. “It’s a proven fact, everywhere.” Bats flapping around our necks. Over us, a spell has been cast. Through vidscreens we tumble. And on our lips when we awaken: “The current conjuncture awaits its proper theorization. Consciousness unfurls itself halfway between earth and sky.” I, Jacaranda, listening to learn all the hours and seconds, witness garbage bins strewn strange beside the bouncing fellow subject. I tell myself the silent others when I run undertake a process of self-subsumption. Go away into yourself, I tell myself, even in this fight, or as I believe you call it, this “section.” We spoke about it: we had just spotted a basset hound on our run. I needed to pay attention, so I walked. I nosed up on a lily. I stared at faded but still colorful beach towels hung over the picnic-red rail of a neighbor’s raised deck. For a moment it felt as if the built environment had been crafted solely to gratify my senses. One is taught to think it profoundly bourgeois to want the world as one’s stage set for self-discovery; yet all the same, I take great pleasure walking sweat-covered through my neighborhood on an overcast afternoon, in the hour before the arrival back home from work of the nine-to-fivers. Somewhere in this pigpen, the sounds of Luurel Varas reaffirm my focus.

Thursday August 3, 2017

I move from wondering if I suffer from dissociative identity disorder to imagining myself and my friends living in a commune. That, for me, represents a typical day. Thanks, capitalism. I also sometimes imagine myself touring a guest silently through my home, reaching down now and then to adjust a throw pillow on an armchair, and in a mime-like manner, offering him or her a drink. Through a swirling haze of dope smoke we arrive at events that feel like interruptions of the trance-script. The words of trance-scripts sometimes go unheard. I am too busy stumbling experimentally toward what I hope will be a happier practice of everyday life. The programmed self isn’t only made aware that the sounds it is hearing are recorded, it is also made conscious of the playback systems it uses to access the recordings. I’m like a prisoner trying to lift a piece of furniture to cast it from the wall of my cell. My thoughts turn to Manchester artist James Leyland Kirby, whose work under his “Caretaker” alias explores early-onset dementia.

Last Sunday’s Game of Thrones began with white dudes having to hand over their firearms upon arriving on the shores of a multicultural superpower. My pet dachshund laid her head across my leg as I watched. The image degraded at one point, so what I was viewing (Daenerys in close-up) looked like a videogame cutscene. As the show proceeded, I admitted begrudgingly that we live in a game-world ruled by prestige. Players compete through the art of negotiation (what liberals call “the rule of law,” or what Trump’s ghostwriters call “the art of the deal”). Mere word games, I think to myself, while the fascists come for us all. We believe in the existence of many games, don’t we, until we’re bound by One. Then again, how do we prevent communities from reverting to territories when citizens aren’t following the same story lines? Between the equal rights of two internally consistent and thus equally valid interpretations of reality, Marx noted (I’m paraphrasing), force decides. But we needn’t submit ourselves to this tedious competition of wills. Every possible sequence of events is happening all at once, as Game of Thrones teaches. Live that way, a character commands us. Imagine yourself to possess a third eye. When others see me, they probably think to themselves, “he doesn’t recognize yet that he has given up.” But Mark Fisher would have understood that, by contrast, I’ve kept true, I’ve remained constant in my refusal to adjust to reality. What remains to be worked out, however, is the connection between psychedelic culture’s reconstruction of its audience’s nervous systems, and Fredric Jameson’s imperative for subjects of postmodernity to “grow new organs” and expand their sensorium to match the multi-dimensional realities of global capitalism. Next time, Gadget, next time.

Wednesday August 2, 2017

Lest I be accused of mere nostalgia, let me begin today’s post by explaining how I see the relationship of our moment to what some are now calling “hippie modernism.”

Following the logic informing the Walker Art Center’s exhibition of that name, I take “hippie modernism” to designate a countercultural formation of unsurpassed Utopianism that flowered unevenly in a wide range of national contexts in the 1960s and early 1970s. This formation was never just a reflection of its time; rather, it actively dreamt and desired a future that, by remaining unrealized, continues to make demands on us today. Postmodernism, meanwhile, is that which emerged in hippie modernism’s aftermath. A product of post-60s Prohibition (here in the Americas, the moment of the highly militarized War on Drugs), postmodernist culture coincides with active state suppression of hippie modernism’s technologies of consciousness. Of course, drug wars have never had much success in eradicating supplies of psychedelics, and so the ongoing era of Prohibition has long been haunted by revivals of hippie modernism’s ghosts. Nevertheless, when I look to hippie modernism today, I see a cultural formation the totality or full international breadth and extent of which has only just now become mappable by individuals, thanks to the art-historical archival efforts of reissue labels and museums. As a result, the time is right, I think, not just for a Marxist account of the history of psychedelia, but for the creation of an openly, unashamedly Gnostic-themed, psychedelia-inflected Marxism, one that presents the raising of consciousness as the relay switch between previously competing or previously antagonistic codes. But enough of that. In what follows, I will not think but do. Returning home after visiting my family, I arrive briefly at the impression, before self-correction, that neighborhoods in the places I’ve lived all look the same. With that, I prepare myself for admission before the court of my town’s public pool. And the self I prepare is a mischievous little child. A scheming little imp. Well, not really. I’m just a sun child. And it feels good, I declare, to lay out in the sun while high — if not for you, then at least for me. I associate all of this, in fact, with the photo on the cover of Kantner and Slick’s otherwise unmemorable — indeed, practically unlistenable — Sunfighter (“Million” being the only song on Sunfighter that I would recommend to others).

There were many pictures of me worshipped like that as a baby. I ate strident dreams of that sort for breakfast. The Guitar Army peered at me with its harmonicas at the ready. Hence my love of sun and pool. Watch me swim now: a swamp thing, a rangy plant-like consciousness, floating at the water’s surface. Hold fast to this image, for in it lies the key. The sunlit sky, the cool body of water, and the public at play: these three shall form the pillars of my religion’s temple. My Hippie-Communist Temple of Joy. It is THIS for which we strive. Justice has been and so will continue to be our rallying cry — but a justice on behalf of pleasure. The world must be made pleasureful and fully present for all those who want it so. To the haters, I reply with the immortal words of Edward FitzGerald and Omar Khayyam: “Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring / Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling: / The Bird of Time has but a little way / To flutter — and the Bird is on the Wing. […] Some for the Glories of This World; and some / Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come; / Ah, take the Cash, and let the Promise go, / Nor heed the music of a distant Drum!” And one more for good measure, to drive the point home: “Waste not your Hour, nor in the vain pursuit / Of This and That endeavor and dispute; / Better be merry with the fruitful Grape / Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit.”

Tuesday August 1, 2017

Topics appear laid out as if on a blanket at a swap meet. If it’s important, these posts will get to it. All in due time. There remain so many branching paths of possibility. And here I am performing real-time running commentary on it. My dog’s health is declining, the quality of her life worsening in minute increments of perception each day. Time appears like swirling digital mandalas anchored to objects recognizable among the observation deck where I select among sensory inputs. Consciousness slows down and dwells at a state of readiness, as if the planet were a spaceship I were captaining through a VR helmet. The noosphere, as Teilhard de Chardin referred to it, is itself a kind of helmet — a crown placed upon one’s temples. What would it mean to wear it well? The colliding voices are sometimes deafening. The world of the seen keeps reloading or reinstalling itself on my mainframe. Psychology is where the world inside the computer becomes cognizant of its surroundings. Or like the home movie that suddenly realizes it’s being watched. Around this time, the music comes on: the world births unto me Kikagaku Moyo’s House in the Tall Grass.

The album self-consciously hallucinates itself as the emanation of a stoned mind, a parallel cartoon fantasy landscape lit by moonlight. One can practice breathing in irregular counterpoint with its rhythms. The Tokyo-based band, I find myself wanting to say, channels a unique amalgam of psychedelic precursors — but I worry that my tone is too much that of a barker. Perhaps this is just that part of me — the barker part. My best self can run with it, whereas my other self — let’s just say, I sometimes so lack confidence in the quality of my utterances that I find myself needing to subtract from conversation, excuse myself from planned gatherings, and hang back somewhere outside the social event, tensing and loosening through wavelike motions muscles in my neck and shoulders. I can imagine much of this anxiety lifting in a country that provides its citizens a universal basic income. My higher-ed indentured servitude due to student debt has rendered work itself — labor in all its forms — the scourge of my existence. Better to blame work than to blame bad genes or bad chemistry. Or even worse, bad taste. All I know is, that song “Silver Owl” lifts me up. The finale of a bittersweet July, or the opening outward of an endless August. And the chaser for that is “Backlash” off the band’s Stone Garden EP (look out, it’ll get ya.)

Stenciled citadels populate the sky on that same EP’s “In a Coil,” a track that sees the band swiss-cheesing its way to some as yet unexploited bit of land on Planet Krautrock.

Among contemporary acts, Kikagaku Moyo tops the list of those I most admire (i.e. those with whom I can conduct my worship). The current Tokyo psychedelic scene has also been blessed with the likes of Dhidalah, who for what it’s worth I find far less convincing. Yet Japanese retro culture remains uncannily precise in its renditions of the past. Look, too, for instance, to Guruguru Brain labelmates Minami Deutsch, who play the scene’s Neu! to Kikagaku Moyo’s Can.