Theory rush

“[…] Nominally affiliated to the famously poststructuralist Department of Philosophy of Warwick University, England, the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit [CCRU] is a rogue unit. It’s the academic equivalent of Kurtz: the general in Apocalypse Now who used unorthodox methods to achieve superior results compared with the tradition-bound U.S. military. Blurring the borders between traditional scholarship, cyberpunk sci-fi, and music journalism, the CCRU is striving to achieve a kind of nomadic thought that to use the Deleuze and Guattari term — “deterritorializes” itself every which way: theory melded with fiction, philosophy cross-contaminated by natural sciences (neurology, bacteriology, thermodynamics, metallurgy, chaos and complexity theory, connectionism), academic writing that aspires to the future-shock intensity of jungle and other forms of post-rave music…” [1]

The Tragic Conversion of Salvador Dalí (after John Martin) 1998

“Explaining one of [CCRU’s] numerological diagrams (“an attempt to to understand concepts as number systems”), Nick Land describes it as a gift from “Professor Barker.” Inspired by Professor Challenger—the Conan-Doyle anti-hero reinvented by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia —Barker appears to be a sort of imaginary mentor who reveals various cosmic secrets to the CCRU. “But we’d be a bit reluctant to say ‘imaginary’ now, wouldn’t we?,” cautions Land. “We’ve learned as much—well, vastly more from Professor Barker—than supposedly ‘real’ pedagogues!” This would include Barker’s “Geo-Cosmic Theory of Trauma.” Following the materialist lead of Deleuze and Guattari, human culture is analyzed as just another set of strata on a geocosmic continuum. From the chemistry of metals to the cycles of capitalism, from the nonlinear dynamics of the ocean to the fractalized breakbeat rhythms of jungle, the cosmos is an “unfolding traumascape” governed by self-similar patterns and fundamental processes that recur on every scale. Picking up on Deleuze and Guattari’s submerged Romanticism, CCRU have developed a full-blown mystic-materialism.

“Following the materialist lead of Deleuze and Guattari, human culture is analyzed as just another set of strata on a geocosmic continuum. From the chemistry of metals to the nonlinear dynamics of the ocean, from the cycles of capitalism to the hypersyncopated breakbeat rhythms of jungle, the cosmos is an “unfolding traumascape” governed by self-similar patterns and fundamental processes that recur on every scale.

“Libidinizing “flows” and investing them with an intrinsically subversive power, Deleuze and Guattari have been criticized as incorrigible Romantics. The CCRU has developed this element of A Thousand Plateaus into a kind of mystic materialism. Discussing what the CCRU calls “Gothic Materialism” (“ferro-vampiric” cultural activity which flirts with the inorganic and walks the “flatline” between life and death), Anna Greenspan talks about how “the core of the earth is made of iron, and blood contains iron,” about how the goal is to “hook up with the Earth’s metal plasma core, which is the BodyWithout-Organs.” Body-without-Organs (B-w-O) is the Deleuzian utopia, an inchoate flux of deterritorialized energy; Greenspan says they take the B-w-O as “an ethical injunction,” a supreme goal…” [2]

“The mania of CCRU’s texts – with their mood-blend of euphoric anticipation and dystopian dread – is contagious. Much of the time they’re trying to create a “theory rush” that matches the buzz they get from contemporary sampladelic dance music; they describe, half jokingly, what they do as “sub-bass materialism”. “The musical model us really key to us,” says Land. “it’s absurd to say that music doesn’t represent the real and therefore it’s an empty metaphor. Every theorist who hasn’t a real place for music ends up with one dimensional melancholia.” [3]

Simon Reynolds, “Renegade Academia”, Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. Paul D Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, ed. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2008. [1]: p 171. [2]: 172-173 [3]: 176-177.

Image: Glenn Brown, The Tragic Conversion of Salvador Dalí (after John Martin), 1998.

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