K-Punk

nomos

Administrator
Robin MacKay at Urbanomic

Mark Fisher, 1968–2017.
Grieving is a bleak business. But how do you grieve for someone who made it his life’s work to face up to the bleakest realities and yet to recognise joy where it existed and to forge hope for the future? A writer who himself grieved the passing of cultural and political possibilities, portrayed an utterly dismaying world populated by malign forces that reached into the very soul, but used writing to understand them, to resist them, and to project new virtual futures?

I first met Mark Fisher at Warwick University in the 90s, where his overpowering enthusiasm and determination to ‘produce’ (not just ‘think about’! he would insist) within and across multiple cultural forms and disciplines—and to produce cyberpunk-style, using whatever came to hand, experimenting with high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech, without needing to seek approval from any institutional authority—was inspirational. Mark was instrumental in the formation of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, which quickly became an official nonentity (but a productive one). He submerged himself in its collective endeavours, which resulted in a body of work I still find immensely compelling and intriguing, culminating in the coining of the term ‘hyperstition’ (cultural processes which make themselves real (of which the CCRU was one (or several))), the creation of the occultural Numogram, and the revelation of a pantheon of numerically-coded demons. This masterpiece of pulp theology combines a gleeful comic-book grandiosity with a diligent mapping of the space of human affect and an understanding of the human psyche as a mere switching-station for warring demonic currents. All of which continued to work beneath Mark’s writings, I think: he saw the world in terms of abstract forces and Spinozan struggles, and sought to name (demonise?) the cybernetic complexes of affect and power from which the circuitry of so-called reality is constructed; his writings continued to be populated by Katak and Uttunul, among others, as well as new conceptual personae such as the ‘gray vampire’ and malign apparatuses such as ‘business ontology’.

Mark also relished CCRU’s enterprise of collaboration and collective production, keenly anticipating the emergence of ‘microcultures’ that would spring up in-between, unassignable and unattributable to any one author. This search for new modes of collectivity was something he never let go of.

Yet the CCRU work also unmistakably bore the imprint of Mark’s zeal for supercharging theory with pop culture. Refusing all received cultural hierarchy, he always championed the conceptual and formal achievements of pop music, comics, fiction, TV, and film, aiming both to map and contribute to what he described as ‘pulp modernism’.

Beneath all of this simmered his intense class-consciousness and sensitivity to the invisible barriers, insider codes, traps and tricks that protect high culture and academic thought from those not already endowed with cultural capital and bulletproof confidence. He was never embittered by these barriers, but made it his business to expose and diagnose them, and to openly share his own frustrations, minor triumphs, and defeats as he was dashed against them. And his refusal of the assumption that mass-consumed pop culture is necessarily of a lesser conceptual density was just as uncompromising.

As well as being fascinated by the expression of the collective unconscious in even the ‘lowest’ forms of entertainment, he celebrated the cultural achievements of those who came from outside the media establishment, had got in before its rules had been set down, or had autonomously nurtured their own microcultures, and were thus able to realise singular, subversive visions of modernity untroubled by culture cops and homogenizing ‘managerialism’. Ever more deeply captivated by the resonances of the oddball canon he had assembled since childhood, he delighted in propagating both its pulp modernist obscurities and its poptastic gems to others; many a cultural itinerary has been sent off in an unexpected direction by contact with Mark Fisher’s work.

While there is a sense in which, for Mark, everything was personal, since he always gained theoretical purchase by connecting theory to his own experience, he also relentlessly attacked the very notion of the ‘person’ or ‘individual’. For many years Mark wrote about his struggle with depression; but his question was never ‘What is wrong with me?’ but ‘What is wrong with the world that it should produce such a suffering, closed-off subject?’ This conviction that ‘mental health’ is not adequately addressed as a merely personal condition, nor as a purely medical issue, led him to challenge all quick fixes that aim merely to restore the social (consumer-worker) functionality of the ‘unwell’…and entailed frustrated encounters with exasperated ‘mental health professionals’ who got more than they bargained for.

He multiplied his burden by believing that he could only heal himself by reconfiguring the world, or at least by seeding a social collectivity capable, against all prevailing forces, of breaking out of the prison-house of capitalist subjectivity. That’s because he was for real, ‘theory’ was not a game for Mark. And he was right in his belief that personal affect is a tributary of social, cultural, class, and economic forces. He was also right in his unflagging faith in cultural production as a source of energising joy, insight, and understanding, and a vector for emancipation; and in his belief that writing and theorizing about culture need not mean ‘critical’ dessication, but can in fact transform and intensify its effects and propel them beyond mere aesthetics, unlocking their political charge—something he proved to readers time and time again.

At a distance of twenty years, for me the Warwick era is lost in a general blur of intensity (and people talking intensely about intensity). But one trivial episode reminds me of qualities I loved in Mark: Having unexpectedly had an abstract for a joint conference paper accepted, and following a lengthy train journey, Mark and I began writing our paper the morning before the conference (of course), and a state of panic swiftly morphed into a sleep-deprived, hysterical flow state. It was hugely enjoyable, because Mark was never happier than when swept up in working on something that seemed to be building itself, soliciting further input, coalescing into some unexpected entity before his eyes, suggesting new double-meanings, puns, unexpected connections between the abstract and the empirical, Marvel Comics-style names for as-yet unnamed forces, concepts for unrecognised processes. Then the self-doubt would disappear, the anxiety would dissipate (even if the paper had to be given in a few hours!) and he would be in his element: that outside element, something beyond the strictures of the personal, that fuels enthusiasm and enthralled fascination with what is being ‘channelled’.

The paper was delivered. It was messy, it was truculent, it was sarcastic, it was a bit punk. Everyone hated it. Nevertheless, relieved of our duties, we later slunk into the posh conference reception held in a grand Victorian museum, where high-flying postmodern academics chatted politely with local dignitaries. Immediately we both knew this was not ‘for us’, and there was mutual relief in realising we shared the feeling that we were not supposed to be there. For a short while before we ran away, we skulked around in corners giggling at the professors’ fruity voices, sarcastically clinking our champagne flutes, and cracking up at being served canapés from a tray—like street urchins who had sneaked themselves into a palace.
And to me, that was Mark: the accidental interloper at High Table, the punk in the museum. Even when his work was acclaimed and he was appointed to a ‘real job’ at Goldsmiths, I think he always feared he was an impostor, just one who had decoded the scam and learned how to ‘pass’. But whether or not you agreed with him, whether or not you shared his passion for John Foxx or Sapphire and Steel, whatever your opinion on the philosophical rigour of his Schwarzenegger/Kant mash-ups, he was as close to the real thing as it gets: always in earnest (sometimes dangerously unfiltered), always keen to share his excitement and to respond to engagement, synthetic and eclectic in his sources but obsessional in pursuing the themes that he knew mattered, modest in person but passionate, ambitious, and vehement in thought. It felt good to know that he had finally ‘made it’, that he fought through, unable and unwilling to adapt his work to the requirements of academic tedium. Following the publication of ‘Capitalist Realism’, it was heartening to see his unique style and aptitude for rendering ideas dynamic, accessible, and connected to pop culture finally break through and create its own audience.

The path from anger and sadness to collective joy has taken a terribly wrong turn here—we have lost someone who painstakingly sought to construct and communicate hope, for himself and for others. There are many who can attest to his innate passion for thinking and creating, his positive influence, and his unaffected, sincere, and generous character. Realising at this moment that I assumed he would always be there, it’s hugely painful to think that he is no longer among us.
-
Robin Mackay
 

datwun

New member
Of all the deaths over this last year, none has shook me anything like this one...
His writings and this forum have been such a major influence on my thinking and musical activity I don't even know where I'd be without them...
I don't agree with every opinion he had, but he taught the power of music and culture to change the world, how the status quo simple isn't good enough, and why we deserve a better future in both art and politics... Like very few are able to his writing actually potentiated and made music bigger, better and more important. It's super sad that we no longer have his singular voice to help us make sense of the world and the crazy direction it's going in. It's even sadder that someone so caring and sensitive had to suffer so badly. He'll be sorely missed...
 

boomnoise

♫
Profoundly sad. I echo the sentiment above. Thinking of his family and everyone here he reached and touched with his intellect and friendship. Rest easy Mark.
 

tryptych

waiting for a time
I've not visited Dissensus for a very long time, but wanted to come by after hearing this terribly sad news. My exposure to K Punk though this place was a huge deal for me in my own intellectual devleopment, having never really engaged with critical theory up til then. His blog was such an inspiration and source of incredible writing. I never met him in person sadly.

On the day he died I was reminiscing with a friend about Mark's posting here, and she told me he had offered to supervise her PhD, and laughing about is occasionally combative nature. If you didn't agree with him, he alwasy took it quite stongly. So strange to hear the day after about his passing.

Such sad news. I'll be re-reading some K Punk entries, and listening to this today:

https://soundcloud.com/tonguetiedwiredstate/k-punk

My heart goes out to his family.
 

sadmanbarty

New member
Condolences to those of you who knew him personally.

It might be an idea to raise some money, either to support his family or for a mental health charity in his honour. The most practical thing to do would be an online whip-round, maybe through a crowd-funding website.

Given the notoriety of his peers there’s also the possibility of an event to raise money (such as lectures) or even to publish a collection of essays about his work (charities such as Mind publish books and pamphlets, so maybe this could be done in conjunction with a charity).
 

nomos

Administrator
Last edited:

boomnoise

♫
Here you go: https://www.facebook.com/urbanomicdotcom/posts/1614505868566538

I'm also uploading Mark's londonunderlondon audiomentary from a CD he sent me at the time. I don't see it anywhere online.
This is his blog post about it: http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/005355.html
Original thread: http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=1192
I've thought about that too but he never put it online so wasn't sure. But it's a shame that more people haven't heard it.

He had hoped to release On Vanishing Land too in some form too from what i recall from an old email. Would love to be able to hear that again.
 

matt.poacher

Wild Horses
Haven't been in here for years (and, indeed, didn't post a huge amount when I was here) but was compelled by the news to come and say what a huge effect Mark's writing had on me and to wish him a safe journey.

Very much up for donating if and when such a thing is up and running so will check back frequently.
 

BSquires

New member
Desperately sad news.

I was at secondary school in Loughborough (the one he hated) one year below Mark and remember him clearly. Many of us decorated our ruck sacks with our current music allegiances - his were The Fall and Bauhaus... as I didn't know any better (literally) mine were a number of neo-prog clowns... I think that meant I wasn't someone worth significant time (he was right) but he would say hello at least. I also remember his band covering a Joy Division song (Warsaw) at our school assembly. After I left school I got to know him a little via a mutual friend - enough to stop in the street and chat briefly, usually about our mutual appreciation of Nottingham Forest - and even then, in spite of my previous musical crimes, it was clear he was a lovely bloke. I didn't see him often or chat to him for very long when I did see him but I also worked at the local engineering firm (where I think Mark worked briefly as well) and got to know his father. After Mark left Loughborough to go to university his father would proudly keep me up to date with his accomplishments; I bought the D-Generation 12" from Mr. Fisher and he also gave me a copy of one of Mark's first professional published pieces - on Darkside for The New Statesmen if I remember correctly. I think the last time I saw Mark was either in the early nineties in Loughborough with his brother or at a Tackhead gig in Manchester around the same time.

I remember periodically looking for his name on the Internet in the late nineties/early noughties wondering what he was up to and being amazed and pleased when I finally realised that K-Punk was Mark. I remember devouring his blog, including his appreciation of David Peace and Red Riding, and his (surprising) repping for Dido as well as so many other different tangents. His blog was a portal to another world for me and although our music tastes didn't always overlap, when he wrote something about a band I liked such as Neubauten, it usually hit home. Since those early days I've continued to follow his work and buy his books and ended up here entirely because of him. It is over twenty five years since we last communicated - I thought a few times of emailing him an appreciation but of course like an idiot I never did - and I'm not a musician or a blogger/critic in any way but I will miss the thrill of reading one of his new articles and having the thoughts he inspired fizzing around my head. I was pleased to see his blog return in 2015 and worried that it had been so quiet since then.

Sorry if that was a bit self-indulgent but I am surprised how much his passing has affected me. My heart goes out to his family and friends and everyone who knew him or read his work. Rest in piece Mark.
 
Last edited:

Diggedy Derek

Stray Dog
RIP Mark, you will be missed. It is good to read such personal and heartfelt memories on this thread.

It might be an idea to raise some money, either to support his family or for a mental health charity in his honour. The most practical thing to do would be an online whip-round, maybe through a crowd-funding website.
I think that would be a great idea, and I'm sure the charity idea would be one deeply appreciated by his family.
 

droid

Beast of Burden
I'd chip in or offer a hand, but it would need to be organised by a trusted friend or acquaintance.
 

Leo

Active member
such sad news, condolences to the family. i remember reading mark's posts and usually struggling to keep up with his thinking, and certainly too intimidated to participate in a dialogue. i'll be forever grateful to him for being one of the driving forces behind creation of this forum, where i've learned much about music and so much more.
 
Last edited:

baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
RIP. A really great writer, and as Leo and others have said, he had such a profound impact upon everyone here (including me) whether they knew him personally or not. Maybe more so than he knew. Condolences to all who did know him. I feel very sorry for his children in particular, just an awful, awful thing to happen.
 

mistersloane

heavy heavy monster sound
I would very much like to contribute to any fund. I didn't know he'd been integral to the setting up of this place and this place has been my lifeline at points so keep us posted guys.
 

mistersloane

heavy heavy monster sound
Goodnight to your cavaliers of the dead, internet.

Good night to your obituaries.
Goodnight to your once was.
It had been fun.
It had been fun.
Good night to not being able to format my own work.
Goodnight to that.
Goodnight to the inversion.


Oh good night.
Oh good night, a life do you remember
I can scarecely
A night of
God I can barely remeber
When resistance was a force
Should I google it
Or try to rememeber


When taz was such a force.
That it would rememememember.
 

Rambler

Awanturnik
Another long-time exile here breaking their silence.

I didn't know Mark, and if we'd met I don't if we'd have agreed on much in truth. But discovering K-Punk and the network of blogs around it in 2003 was a lightning bolt for me. I didn't know writing like that existed, that blogging could be like that, that music criticism could be like that. I was hooked instantly and set up my own little voice, within just a few days I think, desperate to join in. Mark was the first person to notice what I was doing, and the first person to write something nice about it and post a link to one of my posts. 2003/4/5 were thrilling years for online writing, when blogs were experimental, underground, strange and violent. I stopped reading K-Punk, just as I stopped visiting here, some years ago - just too many competing demands on my time to take part properly - but in that small way Mark set me on the course that I am still following today, and for that I will be forever grateful. If I ever write anything as powerful as what he seemed to be able to crank out at will, I will be amazed.
 
Top