Mark Fisher
Fisher in 2011
Born(1968-07-11)11 July 1968
Leicester, England
Died13 January 2017(2017-01-13) (aged 48)
Felixstowe, England
Other namesk-punk
Alma mater
Notable work
SpouseZoë
Children1
SchoolContinental philosophy
InstitutionsGoldsmiths' College, London
ThesisFlatline Constructs (1999)
Main interests
Notable ideas
Capitalist realism, business ontology
Websitek-punk.abstractdynamics.org

Mark Fisher (11 July 1968 – 13 January 2017), also known under his blogging alias k-punk, was an English writer, music critic, political and cultural theorist, philosopher, and teacher based in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. He initially achieved acclaim for his blogging as k-punk in the early 2000s, and was known for his writing on radical politics, music, and popular culture.

Fisher published several books, including the unexpected success Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (2009), and contributed to publications such as The Wire, Fact, New Statesman and Sight & Sound. He was also the co-founder of Zero Books, and later Repeater Books. After years intermittently struggling with depression, Fisher killed himself in January 2017, shortly before the publication of The Weird and the Eerie (2017).

Early life and education

Fisher was born in Leicester and raised in Loughborough to working-class, conservative parents; his father was an engineering technician and his mother a cleaner. He attended a local comprehensive school. Fisher was formatively influenced in his youth by the post-punk music press of the late 1970s, particularly papers such as NME which crossed music with politics, film, and fiction.[1] He was also influenced by the relationship between working class culture and football, being present at the Hillsborough disaster.[2] Fisher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Philosophy at Hull University (1989), and completed a PhD at the University of Warwick in 1999 titled Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism and Cybernetic Theory-Fiction.[3] During this time, Fisher was a founding member of the interdisciplinary collective known as the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, which were associated with accelerationist political thought and the work of philosophers Sadie Plant and Nick Land.[1][4] There, he befriended and influenced producer Kode9, who would later found the Hyperdub record label.[5] In the early 1990s, he also made music as part of the techno group D-Generation, releasing the 12" Entropy in the UK.[5][6] In the 1990s Mark wrote "White Magic" for CritCrim.org.[7]

After teaching philosophy at a further education college,[8] Fisher began his blog on cultural theory, k-punk, in 2003.[9] Music critic Simon Reynolds described it as "a one-man magazine superior to most magazines in Britain"[1] and as the central hub of a "constellation of blogs" in which popular culture, music, film, politics, and critical theory were discussed in tandem by journalists, academics, and colleagues.[10] Vice magazine later described his writing on k-punk as "lucid and revelatory, taking literature, music and cinema we're familiar with and effortlessly disclosing its inner secrets".[11] Fisher used the blog as a more flexible, generative venue for writing, a respite from the frameworks and expectations of academic writing.[12] Fisher also co-founded the message board Dissensus with writer Matt Ingram.[1]

Career

Subsequently, Fisher was a visiting fellow and a lecturer on Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, a commissioning editor at Zero Books, an editorial board member of Interference: A Journal of Audio Culture and Edinburgh University Press's Speculative Realism series, and an acting deputy editor at The Wire.[13] In 2009, Fisher edited The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson, a collection of critical essays on the career and death of Michael Jackson, and published Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, an analysis of the ideological effects of neoliberalism on contemporary culture.

Fisher was an early critic of call-out culture and in 2013 published a controversial essay titled "Exiting the Vampire Castle".[14][15] He argued that call-out culture created a space "where solidarity is impossible, but guilt and fear are omnipresent". Fisher also argued that call-out culture reduces every political issue to criticizing the behaviour of individuals, instead of dealing with such political issues through collective action. [Note 1] [16][17] In 2014, Fisher published Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, a collection of essays on similar themes viewed through the prisms of music, film, and hauntology. He also contributed intermittently to a number of publications, including the music magazines Fact and The Wire.[18] In 2016, Fisher co-edited a critical anthology on the post-punk era with Kodwo Eshun and Gavin Butt titled Post-Punk Then and Now, published by Repeater Books.[19]

Capitalist realism

Main article: Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?

In the late 2000s, Fisher re-purposed the term "capitalist realism" to describe "the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it".[20] He expanded on the concept in his 2009 book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?,[21] arguing that the term best describes the ideological situation since the fall of the Soviet Union, in which the logics of capitalism have come to delineate the limits of political and social life, with significant effects on education, mental illness, pop culture, and methods of resistance. The result is a situation in which it is "easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism."[21] Fisher writes:

Capitalist realism as I understand it ... is more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action.

As a philosophical concept, capitalist realism is influenced by the Althusserian conception of ideology, as well as the work of Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek.[22] The concept of capitalist realism also likely stems from the concept of Cultural hegemony proposed by Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci; which can generally be described as the notion that the "status quo" is all there is, and that anything else violates common sense itself. Capitalists maintain their power not through violence or force, but by creating a pervasive sense that the Capitalist system is all there is. They maintain this view by dominating most social and cultural institutions. Fisher proposes that within a capitalist framework there is no space to conceive of alternative forms of social structures, adding that younger generations are not even concerned with recognizing alternatives.[23] He proposes that the 2008 financial crisis compounded this position; rather than catalyzing a desire to seek alternatives for the existing model, the response to the crisis reinforced the notion that modifications must be made within the existing system. Fisher argues that capitalist realism has propagated a 'business ontology' which concludes that everything should be run as a business including education and healthcare.[24]

Following the publication of Fisher's work, the term has been picked up by other literary critics.[25]

Hauntology

Main articles: Hauntology and Hauntology (music)

Mark Fisher lecturing on the topic "The Slow Cancellation of the Future" in 2014

Fisher popularised the use of Jacques Derrida's concept of hauntology to describe a pervasive sense in which contemporary culture is haunted by the "lost futures" of modernity, which failed to occur or were cancelled by postmodernity and neoliberalism.[26] Fisher and others have drawn attention to the shift into post-Fordist economies in the late 1970s, which he argued has "gradually and systematically deprived artists of the resources necessary to produce the new".[27] In contrast to the nostalgia and ironic pastiche of postmodern culture, Fisher defined hauntological art as exploring these impasses and representing a "refusal to give up on the desire for the future" and a "pining for a future that never arrived".[28][29][page needed] Discussing the political relevance of the concept, Fisher wrote:[26]

At a time of political reaction and restoration, when cultural innovation has stalled and even gone backwards, when "power ... operates predictively as much as retrospectively" (Eshun 2003: 289), one function of hauntology is to keep insisting that there are futures beyond postmodernity's terminal time. When the present has given up on the future, we must listen for the relics of the future in the unactivated potentials of the past.

Fisher and critic Simon Reynolds adapted Derrida's concept to describe a musical trend in the mid-2000s.[30] Fisher's 2014 book Ghosts of My Life examined these ideas through cultural sources, such as the music of Burial, Joy Division, and the Ghost Box label, TV series such as Sapphire & Steel, the films of Stanley Kubrick and Christopher Nolan, and the novels of David Peace and John le Carré.

The Weird and the Eerie

Fisher's posthumous book The Weird and the Eerie[31] explores the titular concepts of "the weird" and "the eerie" through various works of art, defining the concepts as radical narrative modes or moments of "transcendental shock" which work to de-centre the human subject[32] and de-naturalise social reality, exposing the arbitrary forces that shape it.[33] Summarizing Fisher's characterizations, Yohann Koshy stated that "weirdness abounds at the edge between worlds; eeriness radiates from the ruins of lost ones".[11] The book includes discussion of science-fiction and horror sources such as the writing of H. P. Lovecraft, Joan Lindsay's 1967 Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Philip K. Dick, films such as David Lynch's Inland Empire (2006) and Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin (2013), and the music of UK post-punk band The Fall and ambient musician Brian Eno.[34]

Acid Communism

At the time of his death, Fisher was said to be planning a new book titled Acid Communism,[1] excerpts of which were published as part of a Mark Fisher anthology, k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016), by Repeater Books in November 2018.[35][36] Acid Communism would have attempted to reclaim elements of the 1960s counterculture and psychedelia in the interest of imagining new political possibilities for the Left.[1]

On Vanishing Land

Following Fisher's death, the Hyperdub record label started a sub label called Flatlines which published an audio-essay by Justin Barton and Fisher in July 2019. Fisher and Barton edited together music from various musicians which was made to accompany the text, and Barton, working in part with suggestions from Fisher, wrote the text for the audio-essay, which "evokes a walk along the Suffolk coastline in 2006, from Felixstowe container port ('a nerve ganglion of capitalism') to the Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Sutton Hoo". Both Barton and Fisher narrate the essay.[37] Adam Harper wrote about the elements of Hauntology in On Vanishing Land, as well as its relation to the environmentalist movement.[38] In a review for The Quietus, Johny Lamb referred to On Vanishing Land as a "shocking revelation of the proximity of dystopia."[39]

Critique of political economy

Fisher critiqued economics, claiming that it was a bourgeois "science" that moulds reality after its presuppositions, rather than critically examining reality. As he stated it himself:

From the start, "economy" was the object-cause of a bourgeois "science", which hyperstitionally bootstrapped itself into existence, and then bent and melted the matter of this and every other world to fit its presuppositions – the greatest theocratic achievement in a history that was never human, an immense conjuring trick which works all the better because it came shrouded in that damp grey English and Scottish empiricism which claimed to have seen off all gods.[40]

Personal life

In an article posted to the k-punk blog on 29 September 2004, Fisher wrote about having experienced sexual abuse in his early twenties.[41]

Death

Fisher died by suicide at his home on King Street, Felixstowe on 13 January 2017 at the age of 48, shortly before the publication of his latest book The Weird and the Eerie (2017). He had sought psychiatric treatment in the weeks leading up to his death, but his general practitioner had only been able to offer over-the-phone meetings to discuss a referral. Fisher's mental health had deteriorated since May 2016, leading to a suspected overdose in December 2016, when he was admitted to Ipswich Hospital.[42] He discussed his struggles with depression in articles[43] and in his book Ghosts of My Life. According to Simon Reynolds in The Guardian, Fisher argued that "the pandemic of mental anguish that afflicts our time cannot be properly understood, or healed, if viewed as a private problem suffered by damaged individuals."[44]

Legacy

Fisher has been posthumously acclaimed as a highly influential thinker and theorist.[45][46] Commenting on Fisher's influence in Tribune, Alex Niven recalled that Fisher's "lucidity, but more than that, his ability to get to the heart of what was wrong with late-capitalist culture and right about the putative alternative...seemed to have cracked some ineffable code".[47] In The Irish Times Rob Doyle wrote that "a more interesting British writer has not appeared in this century",[48] while The Guardian described Fisher's k-punk blog posts as "required reading for a generation".[49] In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Roger Luckhurst called Fisher "one of Britain's most trenchant, clear-sighted, and sparky cultural commentators...it is a catastrophe that we no longer have Mark Fisher".[50] He still has a large influence on contemporary Zer0 Books writers, with him being cited extensively in Guy Mankowski's 'Albion's Secret History: Snapshots of England's Pop Rebels and Outsiders'.[51] After Fisher's suicide, English musician the Caretaker, who had a symbiotic relationship with the writer,[52] released Take Care. It's a Desert Out There... in memory of him, with its proceeds being donated to the mental health charity Mind.[53]

Bibliography

Notes

  1. ^ As an example, Fisher devoted about a third of the essay in defence of the controversial working class activist and comedian, Russell Brand, against "posh lefties". This was a decade before the Sunday Times newspaper and Channel 4 television in the UK published allegations of sexual misconduct by Brand, which he denied. The accusations were made six years after Fisher died.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Mark Fisher's K-punk blogs were required reading for a generation Archived 20 May 2017 at the Wayback Machine" by Simon Reynolds, The Guardian, 18 January 2017
  2. ^ Niven, Alex (19 January 2017). "Mark Fisher, 1968-2017". Jacobin. Archived from the original on 25 January 2021. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  3. ^ Fisher, Mark (1999). Flatline constructs: Gothic materialism and cybernetic theory-fiction. ethos.bl.uk (PhD thesis). University of Warwick. OCLC 59534159. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.340547. Archived from the original on 24 December 2010.
  4. ^ Fisher, Mark (1 June 2011). "Nick Land: Mind Games". Dazed. Archived from the original on 9 June 2018. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b "Mark Fisher 1968–2017". The Wire. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  6. ^ Reynolds, Simon. "D-Generation". Melody Maker. Archived from the original on 20 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  7. ^ "Whitemagic". Archived from the original on 17 August 2023. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  8. ^ Fisher, Mark; Gilbert, Jeremy (Winter 2013). "Capitalist Realism and Neoliberal Hegemony: A Dialogue". New Formations (80–81): 89–101 (at p. 90). doi:10.3898/neWF.80/81.05.2013. S2CID 142588084.
  9. ^ "Mark Fisher". Zer0 Books. Archived from the original on 5 March 2022. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  10. ^ frieze Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b Koshy, Yohann (20 February 2017). "The Revolution Will Be Weird and Eerie". Vice. Archived from the original on 28 February 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  12. ^ Braithwaite, Phoebe (11 August 2020). "Mark Fisher's Popular Modernism". Jacobin Magazine. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  13. ^ "Fisher, Mark, Goldsmiths, University of London". gold.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  14. ^ Fisher, Mark (22 November 2013). "Exiting the Vampire Castle". Archived from the original on 4 February 2018.
  15. ^ "Exiting the Vampire Castle". openDemocracy. Archived from the original on 28 November 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  16. ^ Vansintjan, Aaron (29 October 2017). "Beyond Bloodsucking" Archived 23 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine. openDemocracy. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  17. ^ Izaakson, Jen. (12 August 2017)'Kill All Normies' skewers online identity politics Archived 30 December 2018 at the Wayback Machine Feminist Current. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  18. ^ Cowdrey, Katherine (16 January 2017). "British music writer Mark Fisher dies aged 48". The Bookseller. Archived from the original on 21 January 2023. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  19. ^ Mankowski, Guy. "Post-Punk Then and Now: a review Archived 15 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine", 3:AM magazine, 22 December 2016.
  20. ^ Capitalist Realism, p. 2
  21. ^ a b Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (Winchester, UK; Washington [D.C.]: Zero, 2009); ISBN 978-1-84694-317-1 (pbk.); 1846943175 (pbk.).
  22. ^ Fisher, Mark (2009). Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?. Zero Books. ISBN 978-1-84694-317-1.
  23. ^ Capitalist Realism, p. 8
  24. ^ Capitalist Realism, p. 15
  25. ^ For example, Mark Fisher; Jeremy Gilbert (Winter 2013). "Capitalist Realism and Neoliberal Hegemony: A Dialogue". New Formations (80–81): 89–101. doi:10.3898/neWF.80/81.05.2013. S2CID 142588084. and Alison Shonkwiler and Leigh Claire La Berge, ed. (2014). Reading Capitalist Realism. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press..
  26. ^ a b "Mark Fisher – The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology". Archived from the original on 15 June 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  27. ^ "The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology". Archived from the original on 15 June 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  28. ^ Simpon, J. (2015). William Basinski: Musician Snapshots. SBE Media.
  29. ^ Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Zero Books, 30 May 2014. ISBN 978-1-78099-226-6
  30. ^ Albiez, Sean (2017). Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 11. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-5013-2610-3.
  31. ^ "The Weird and the Eerie | Repeater Books | Repeater Books". Repeater Books. Archived from the original on 16 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  32. ^ Daniel, James Rushing (7 March 2017). "The Weird and the Eerie". Hong Kong Review of Books. Archived from the original on 29 March 2018. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  33. ^ Woodard, Benjamin Graham (2017). "The Weird and the Eerie". Textual Practice. 31 (6): 1181–1183. doi:10.1080/0950236X.2017.1358704. S2CID 149095699.
  34. ^ Thacker, Eugene (27 June 2017). "Weird, Eerie, & Monstrous: Review of The Weird and the Eerie by Mark Fisher". boundary2. Archived from the original on 31 July 2017. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  35. ^ "Mark Fisher Anthology To Be Released". The Quietus. Archived from the original on 12 November 2023. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  36. ^ "k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016) | Repeater Books | Repeater Books". Repeater Books. Archived from the original on 16 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  37. ^ "On Vanishing Land, by Mark Fisher & Justin Barton". Hyperdub. Archived from the original on 19 October 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  38. ^ "Retracing Mark Fisher and Justin Barton's Eerie Pilgrimage | Frieze". Frieze. 23 July 2019. Archived from the original on 5 March 2021. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  39. ^ Lamb, Johny (25 July 2019). "The Quietus | Features | The Lead Review | Into The Nerve Ganglion: Mark Fisher & Justin Barton On Vanishing Land". The Quietus. Archived from the original on 10 June 2021. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  40. ^ Fisher, Mark (13 November 2018). K-punk: the collected and unpublished writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016). Watkins Media. p. 620. ISBN 978-1-912248-28-5. OCLC 1023859141.
  41. ^ Fisher, Mark (29 September 2004). "Why I am so fucked up..." k-punk. Archived from the original on 23 July 2023. Retrieved 23 July 2023.
  42. ^ "Renowned writer and K-Punk blogger Mark Fisher from Felixstowe took own life after battle with depression Archived 20 July 2022 at the Wayback Machine", Ipswich Star, 18 July 2017
  43. ^ E.g. "Why mental health is a political issue Archived 17 January 2018 at the Wayback Machine" by Mark Fisher, The Guardian, 16 July 2012
  44. ^ Reynolds, Simon (18 January 2017). "Opinion: Mark Fisher's K-punk blogs were required reading for a generation". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 May 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  45. ^ Seaton, Lola (20 January 2021). "The ghosts of Mark Fisher". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 22 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  46. ^ Arcand, Rob (14 December 2018). "The Marxist Pop-Culture Theorist Who Influenced a Generation". The Nation. Archived from the original on 7 March 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  47. ^ Niven, Alex (13 January 2021). "Our Debt to Mark Fisher". Tribune. Archived from the original on 26 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  48. ^ Doyle, Rob (30 March 2019). "Is Mark Fisher this century's most interesting British writer?". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 18 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  49. ^ Reynolds, Simon (19 January 2017). "Mark Fisher's K-punk blogs were required reading for a generation". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 May 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  50. ^ Luckhurst, Roger (9 March 2019). "The Necessity of Being Judgmental: On "k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher"". Los Angeles Review of Books. Archived from the original on 15 January 2021. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  51. ^ Mankowski, Guy (11 January 2018). "Remembering a Time Before the Great Culture War". Zer0 Books Youtube Channel. Archived from the original on 19 March 2021. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  52. ^ Scovell, Adam (11 January 2018). "Remembering Mark Fisher With The Caretaker's "Take Care. It's A Desert Out There..."". The Quietus. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  53. ^ "The Caretaker and Boomkat donate proceeds from Take Care, It's A Desert Out There in memory of Mark Fisher". The Wire. 25 July 2018. Archived from the original on 25 July 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2021.