Mark Fisher: Accelerationist Aesthetics
An interivew with Mark Fisher conducted as part of research for my BA thesis in History of Art at Goldsmiths College, ‘Toward a Future Post-Capitalism: Accelerationism and its Aesthetics’. The interview focused on Mark Fisher’s personal work on ‘hauntology’ and the relationship between future-orientated culture of the 1990s and contemporary practices.
In particluar, I was interested to know more about his opinion on contemporary visual art practices and music that profess to use the ‘aesthetics’ of capitalism and science fiction in order to accelerate, to the point of fissure or revelation, contradictory tendencies inherent to the politics of neoliberalism.
“Charlie Mills: The current debate surrounding accelerationist aesthetics seems to oscillate between two ostensibly separate formulations—in your opinion, does an accelerationist aesthetic lies more in a process of ‘cognitive mapping’—combatting our phenomenological discontinuity within globalised capitalism—or with an affective cartography of the latter, an experience of what it feels like to be a late-capitalist subject?
Mark Fisher: I think this question points to a difficult problem with the very concept of accelerationist aesthetics. If accelerationism is about the inadequacy of experience as a category, then how is it possible to render accelerationism aesthetically? Cognitive mapping would seem to be compatible with a leftist accelerationism, but the issue here for me is: what is the aesthetic dimension of this process? It can’t be merely an illustration of a set of propositions that can be apprehended cognitively; the aesthetic has to be doing something in its own right.
For me, a leftist accelerationism could be partly about showing how the “experience” of late capitalism is very different from how it is ideologically rendered. That rendering is not something superimposed over experience, after the fact; it is more that experience (and the subject of experience) is first of all ideological. The problem then is how do we deal with what Ray Brassier has called “the myth of experience”. I think this is an experimental problem, and I guess from my point of view the most important task for a left accelerationist aesthetics is to produce and/ or simulate an “experience” that is beyond capitalism. What would a post-capitalist world feel like, and what kind of being would function in it?
CM: Many argue that an accelerationist aesthetic must utilise the vernacular of late-capitalist imagery in its work—stock, commercial and brand images; digital-rendering and editing software; sci-fi and cyberpunk visuals, such as from video games and movies; references to contemporary social media trends etc.—presumably anchored in the belief of re-engineering capitalist technologies and tendencies against themselves. Do you agree at all with this sentiment?
MF: Not really. I think this misses the point of the accelerationist critique of capitalism – that capitalism essentially inhibits acceleration, continually reterritorializing on the familiar and the familial. All of the examples you gave have an exhausted quality; they are “futuristic” only in some long-established generic sense – they don’t relate to any plausible future. The whole emphasis on IT and communicative capitalism is a symptom of capitalist exhaustion. That was the future in the 1980s – it isn’t the future any longer, just as Kraftwerk is no longer the future of music. Social media and smartphones have already happened; extrapolating them into or as the future is surely a mistake. This is the point of all my work on hauntology – capitalism increasingly can’t deliver the future, because it arrests the potentials of technological modernity.”