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Name redacted so as not to embarrass the sender, but this has really touched me – I’ll be reading it many times, when the pressure of a PhD feels too great – thank you so much, ____

Album of the Day: Black Cilice – Transfixion of Spirits

Album of the Day: Aaron Dilloway – Modern Jester

Few albums in the history and canon of “difficult music” straddle quite so effortlessly the “high art” / “low art” divide as Aaron Dilloway’s 2012 magnum opus Modern Jester. Though assuredly less overt in its mirroring of the sonic aesthetic of Dilloway’s live shows than his 2017 follow-up The Gag File, the tensions between chance-oriented performativity and expert concrète manipulation are fully and continuously extant. The centrality of the loop does privilege a sensation of eternalism to the proceedings, but never to an extent that the sheer immediacy of Dilloway’s exceedingly physical presence is ever less than tangible. The result of this dialectic, however, is not the impression of a man, but a world being created. Nevertheless, it is a world comprised of monads of such unwieldy junk, just as Frankenstein, the mad scientist Dilloway is not master to his creation, but interpellated subject to it. An assemblage of Deleuzo-Guattarian conception, the machinic repetition of Modern Jester‘s jagged loops are not ones of predictable movement, but of horrific event-production. It is a document of egress, fracture and monstrous reconnection. A barbaric non-euclidean terrain to be approached with terror and joy.


What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

(T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland)


The Curse of Straight Lines

Achille Mbembe’s essay on his conception of necropolitics follows several machinations of power whose efficacy appears dependent on its proximation to various notions of death. In Agamben’s “The Politicization of Life” in Homo Sacer, we may understand the division in thought between Karl Löwith, Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben himself as one of time: Löwith considering the introduction of biopolitical control to be a seemingly sudden pragmatic component of the French Revolution and its immediate after-effects, whilst Foucault understands the shift in genealogical terms: relatively smooth (from the perspective of the ruler, not to suggest that no violence was involved in the biopolitical turn; similarly that it was not a revolutionary by-product), whilst Agamben draws what he considers to be lines of relative consistency, with developments in its implementation being predominantly evolutionary in nature. By contrast, Mbembe considers certain questions of origin of – for instance – the dispositifs of Nazism to be “in the end, irrelevant” (p23). Nevertheless, Mbembe does provide a sense of ontological immediacy that invokes a vertical conception of temporality, in which Foucault’s demarcated sovereignty “of the sword”, disciplinary power, and biopolitical technologies of subjectivation are stacked on top of one another: the surveillant control of individuals is one of a politics of death: “the generalized instrumentalization of human existence and the material destruction of human bodies and populations” (p14).

Mbembe’s interests turn for the most part from the camp to the colony: the camp already eschewing temporal concerns regarding the state of exception through the definitive process of spatialization, the colony may be understood, in Hegelian terms, as the negation of that negation. In other words, there no longer is a need for the concept of “exception” at all: rather, the widespread process of dehumanization is such that notions of rules – even rules of war – are not applicable to the colonized people. Whilst there are many technologies upon which this process may be dependent, the most crucial of all is that of the border, through which sovereignty generates techniques of spatalization-of-terror. It is an old adage of geographers that, if one needs to locate quickly on a map where sites of violence and terrorism will be found, one need only look for the straight lines, as such national borders may only be imposed exogenously. Indeed, Mbembe makes multiple references to Eyal Weizman’s conception of the colony’s vertical sovereignty, established by a combination of partitions and the techniques of their maintenance that may be considered infrastructural warfare. The necropolitical paradox here is that, whilst the implementation of a border might suggest, if nothing else, clear modes of subjective striation, there is, rather, a prevailing violence of ambiguity, even ambivalence in the colony. “[They are not] a human world. Their armies do not form a distinct entity, and their wars are not wars between regular armies. They do not imply the mobilization of sovereign subjects (citizens) who respect each other as enemies. They do not establish a distinction between combatants and noncombatants, or again between an ‘enemy’ and a ‘criminal.’ It is thus impossible to conclude peace with them” (p24).

This liminal colonized state is that which affords colonized people the status, in Mbembe’s words, of the living dead. The existential void of confusion that emanates within these bordered environments, in which subjectivities are obliterated in preference for technologies of violence is a state of, as Italian philosopher Adriana Cavarero describes it, horrorism. The techniques of resistance to this state are often of a similar kind. I shall end this week’s post with a particularly disquieting true story from Cavarero:


“[The story] tells of two sixteen-year-old girls: the Palestinian Ayat al-Akhras and the Israeli Rachel Levy, who was born in California. Both were brunettes with long hair. When they entered the Supersol supermarket on the outskirts of Jerusalem together on 29 March 2002, some took them for sisters, although they did not know each other. Ayat was wearing an explosive belt studded with steel nails… She detonated it near the entrance. The effect was devastating [but] according to the first count, in fact, there were ‘only’ two victims: Ayat herself and the security guard… Actually Rachel too was among the dead, but the pieces of her body at the site and the resemblance between the two girls led the investigators to suppose that all the female remains belonged to the body of Ayat. The least damaged of these, in any case, was taken to be hers: a severed head with beautiful features and long black hair.”

As with the living dead of Romero’s vision, the barricades cannot hold the spread of death forever.

Album of the Day: Body Void – I Live Inside a Burning House

Album of the Day: The Rita – Female Statuesque (Female Titans)

Album of the Day: Dark Worship – Fullmoon Over My Castle

As recent scholarship has shown, there are many…Bazins, and one of them has always proposed plausible arguments for regarding the cinema as part of a very long history of human preoccupation with mortality and death, under the duel heading of preservation and afterlife. The cinema for Bazin belongs to the same spiritual urge, fed by anxiety and dread, out of which humans have wanted to preserve the dead, by mummifying them. Reminding his readers, among other instances, also of the Turin shroud, Bazin insisted on the cinema’s role as trace and index, in the way that plaster casts and death masks preceded photography and at the same time were continued by photography, even to the point of eventually using the same negative=positive reversal in order to preserve the uncanny likeness of human beings after death, fixing their faces and expressions as if they were alive. The cinema – defined in this way – is both very ancient and very modern, and therefore, as long as human being fear death and wish for an afterlife that is both immanent and tangible, the cinema will persist and survive. Bazin’s film history as media archaeology, ni other words, makes room for a genealogy that embeds the cinema in a history of opacity rather than transparency, of material objects like an envelope or a cast, rather than identifying it solely with a view to be contemplated and as a window on the world.

Album of the Day: The Cherry Point / Moth Drakula – Two Sides of California