Is Accelerationism an Iteration of Futurism?

After watching Hyperstition, a friend writes, “Is Accelerationism an iteration of Futurism?”

“Good question,” I reply. “You’re right: the two are certainly conceptually aligned. I suppose I’d imagine it in reverse, though: Futurism as an early iteration of Accelerationism. The former served as an experimental first attempt at living ‘hyperstitiously,’ oriented toward a desired future.”

“If we accept Hyperstition’s distinction between Right-Accelerationism and Left-Accelerationism,” I add, “then Italian Futurism would be an early iteration of Right-Accelerationism, and Russian Futurism an early iteration of Left-Accelerationism.”

“But,” I conclude, “I haven’t read enough to know the degree of reflexivity among participants. I hope to read a bit more along these lines this summer.”

The friend also inquires about what he refers to as the film’s “ethnic homogeneity.” By that I imagine he means that the thinkers featured in Hyperstition tend to be British, European, and American, with few exceptions. “It could just be,” I reply, “that filmmaker Christopher Roth is based in Berlin and lacked the budget to survey the movement’s manifestations elsewhere.”

The friend also wonders if use of concepts like “recursion” among Accelerationist philosophers signals some need among humanities intellectuals to cannibalize concepts from the sciences in order to remain relevant.

“To me,” I tell him, “the situation is the opposite. Recursion isn’t just a concept with some currency today among computer scientists; it was already used a century ago by philosophers in the Humanities. If anything, the Comp Sci folks are the ones cannibalizing the American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce.”

“At best,” I add, “it’s a cybernetic feedback loop: concepts evolving through exchange both ways.”

A Course on Accelerationism

“I should teach a course on Accelerationism in the years ahead,” thinks the Narrator, mind already in the elsewhere of a desired future.

“Imagine the writers and texts I could assign,” he writes, handing the assignment over to his Unconscious. “Marx. Deleuze and Guattari. Mark Fisher on Acid Communism. Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. Sadie Plant. J.G. Ballard. Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie.”

“Manifestos have been central to the movement,” thinks the Narrator, “so we’ll read three: Donna Haraway’s ‘The Cyborg Manifesto,’ the Laboria Cuboniks collective’s The Xenofeminist Manifesto, and Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams’s ‘The Accelerationist Manifesto.’ We’ll also watch and discuss several films, including John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History (1996) and Christopher Roth’s Hyperstition (2016).”

“Ideally,” he adds, “as those two films suggest, it would be a course that places Accelerationism in dialogue with Afrofuturism.”

Back to the Future / By Way of Recursion

“Next on the block is ‘recursion,’” says the Narrator, “a concept discussed at length by philosophers Armen Avanessian, Pete Wolfendale, and Suhail Malik in Christopher Roth’s 2016 film Hyperstition.

“Recursion explains how the New enters existence,” says Avanessian. “Where reflexivity is a sequence of stacked meta-reflections, as in a pair of mirrors, recursion involves an integration of parts into a whole, changing in the process both the part and the whole.”

Roth employs cinema both recursively and dialectically. Parts of Hyperstition are thus able to speak to one another via montage in the style of Eisenstein, Vertov, and Godard.

So it is that Suhail Malik appears in the wake of Avanessian, arguing from the year 2026 that recursion is how those of us who code encounter time. “Recursion,” he states, “is what the operation of coding does when, meeting up against the inexorability of time, it tries to compensate for that inexorability and produce memory.”

HYPERSTITION from Christopher Roth on Vimeo.

Thursday August 10, 2017

A house I pass while out walking in my neighborhood wears a mask with a sideways haircut. I am asking you to read me as a destitute Utopian realist, friend, inflated with chemicals and making it up as I go. It is nice to have loved ones you can join on walks. And neighbors who are radical anarchist gardeners. How easily, though, that can slip into radicalism reduced to a mere lifestyle. Sarah hips me to the hedge-jumping acid-folk Utopianism of Van Morrison’s divine transmission, “Sweet Thing.”

She and I live out the prophecy of “We shall walk and talk in gardens all misty and wet with rain.” So much of Astral Weeks is like that. We Acid Communists need to dip in finally to Ernst Bloch’s multi-volume The Principle of Hope. And maybe also Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, with its group of revolutionaries, the Accelerationists. (And no, for those who are wondering: I do not consider myself an Accelerationist. The only thing I wish to hasten is the coming of the Utopia of Acid Communism; but for me, that means labor’s exodus from capital, not the latter’s acceleration.) As for the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, it was founded at the University of Warwick in 1995 by Fisher, Sadie Plant, Nick Land, Robin Mackay and others, and had ceased to exist as a functional entity by the turn of the millennium. Major downturn here as the dog started pissing on the bed. I cope by practicing intuitive breathing exercises. The depiction of existential dread through a montage of found media in the Zero Books channel’s “Kill All Normies” video speaks fluently of my current predicament.

Why have we talked ourselves into such a dreadfully degraded form of consciousness? How do societies respond to pervasive nihilism? Surely that signals the approach of our show’s finale, no? Are our peers, even the most devout, all secretly traumatized by the death of God and the subsequent purposelessness of existence? I’m barely able to continue to process this. It uses brainwashing techniques such as subliminal messages and emotional association through imagery. Their claim to have control of my mind frightens me. Is “meme magic” legitimately a thing? I feel like I’ve crossed a threshold, and the world has crossed it with me. The interregnum between paradigms. Whose dream am I in if not my own? “Relax, it doesn’t matter,” the shadow self whispers. “Commit yourself only to Being.” Can I square that with the implied monism of “Nature as system of systems”? I feel like I’ve become a person who talks beside himself in public. Angela Nagle’s shamefully ill-informed critique of the politics of transgression in Kill All Normies resembles a student pretending to speak with smug disdain on a topic known only through ideologically-driven potted online summaries, ideas from the Nietzschean / Sadean Left of the 60s and 70s cherry-picked and drastically oversimplified in an attempt to prove a point — that point being that the time has come to lay to rest the entire paradigm of resistance through cultivation of counterculture. To claim as Nagle does the cultural dominance of the Left during the Obama years is to ignore in one’s conception of culture the culture of business, as well as the cultures of the religious right. This is what happens when analysis of culture sidesteps participants’ relations to means of production (including but not limited to means of consciousness-production). The Right transgresses, yes, even under capitalism — but only by falsely hypostasizing the part for the capitalist whole.