In the early s, he became involved in rave culture and the electronic dance music scene, particularly that of the UK, and became a writer on the development of what he would later conceptualise as the " hardcore continuum" along with its surrounding culture such as pirate radio. In , Reynolds published Energy Flash: a Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture , a history of house music , techno and later rave genres like jungle music and gabber. In Reynolds also became a senior editor at Spin magazine in the US. In , he returned to freelance work. In , an updated edition of Energy Flash was published, with new chapters on the decade of dance music following the appearance of the first edition.
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Energy Flash "My purpose was simple: to catch the feel, the pulse of rock, as I had lived through it. CCRU have prepared a re-enactment of a performance-cum-reading given at their Virotechnics conference in October The first cassette-player issues a looped cycle of words that resembles an incantation or spell. From the second machine comes a text recited in a baleful deadpan by a female American voice--not a presentation but a sort of prose-poem, full of imagery of "swarmachines" and "strobing centipede flutters".
The third ghettoblaster emits what could either be Stockhausen-style electroacoustic composition or the pizzicato, mandible-clicking music of the insect world. Even without the back-projected video-imagery that usually accompanies CCRU audio, the piece is an impressively mesmeric example of what the unit are aiming for--an ultra-vivid amalgam of text, sound, and visuals designed to "libidinise" that most juiceless of academic events, the lecture.
CCRU try to pull off the same trick on the printed page. Their "theory-fiction" is studded with neologisms, delirious with dystopian cyberpunk imagery, and boasts an extravagantly high concentration of ideas per sentence. What CCRU are striving to achieve is a kind of nomadic thought that--to use the Deleuzian 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.
But as they say, later for that. Founded in the s, Warwick rapidly became the epitome of a modern university. Through the early to mid Seventies, the university was rife with militancy--not just student unrest, but discontent amongst the staff 70 percent of whom at one point gave a vote of no confidence in the Vice Chancellor.
Socialist historian E. At the same time, Warwick was ahead of its time in terms of seeking corporate funding, such that by the mid-Eighties Margaret Thatcher could describe it as her favourite university. Warwick also has a very modern Philosophy Department. Events like the October "DeleuzeGuattari and Matter" seminar and "Going Australian", a February conference devoted to the new school of Australian feminist philosophy, indicate the kind of work going on at Warwick.
In a typically gnomic e-mail, CCRU outlined its history. CCRU claim that its frenzied interdisciplinary activity embarrassed the Philosphy Dept, resulting in the termination of the unit. Benjamin is a well-respected post-structuralist scholar with numerous books to his name. The plan was for the unit to become an independent, freestanding entity, with the postgrads registered as CCRU rather than philosophy students. But Dr Plant unexpectedly quit her job March , before the paperwork was completed.
Informally, it did exist, still does, lots of things go on under its aegis. But that office will disappear at the end of the year. The way Sadie tells it, she never really wanted to be an academic in the first place, but just fell into a university career. Back in the Seventies, when it was called Centre For Contemporary Cultural Studies, the department was a vibrant place, home of the "resistance through rituals" school of neo-Gramscian subcultural theory Paul Willis, Dick Hebdige, Stuart Hall, et al.
Plant was on the verge of quitting academia for good, when the opportunity of a Research Fellowship at Warwick presented itself in With the promise of her very own research center dangled before her, Plant decided to give academia one last shot, and brought many of her Birmingham students with her to form CCRU. There was an exhilirating sense of being at the heart of something new.
Advertised as "an antidisciplinary event" aiming "to explore the smearing of previously discrete cultural spheres", VF96 alternated DJ sessions with sound-and-vision enhanced talks by a diverse range of guests--theorist Manuel De Landa, journalists Steve Beard and Mark Sinker, SF writer Pat Cadigan, and cyberfeminist Linda Dement, to name just a handful.
Warwick had expected something closer to traditional notions of cyberculture: Internet studies, basically. Warwick clearly got more than it bargained for. Benjamin admits to having "mixed feelings about what Sadie and Nick do", professes to be mystified by "the meaningless term" that is cyber-theory, and keenly stresses the fact that CCRU and the Philosophy Department "are quite separate things". Because who would mark it?! After Plant left, CCRU embarked upon a second phase of trying "to occupy the university" and create a "non-disciplinary" atmosphere by forging links with postgraduates in the Mathematics and Science departments.
But this petered out "with no real engagement". Every couple of years, the staff of university departments make an assessment of the publications the department has produced. Since the kind of work Land and his proteges were producing was not considered philosophy, and therefore not counted in any departmental assessment, Land felt obliged to resign, effective the end of the academic year.
So the third phase is take that programme outside the university. Didya hear about the phase Nick went through only talking in numbers? Or the time he was taken over by three distinct entities? A colleague who sat in on Land classes in the early Nineties remembers both his "impressive pedagogic commitment" and his charisma.
It was conspicuous that his gang of groupies did fall apart during his sabbatical term. Philosophy itself is castigated as "the excruciation of libido". In the early Nineties, Land was wont to describe himself as a "professor of delirial engineering", recalls the colleague. He also went through a "glorious phase in which he offered millenial prophecies for the next global meltdown in world markets, a deduction based on past such cycles. It rather smacked of an infatuation with the power of numbers.
Both of which appeal to rigorous method, of course. Stick insect thin, he is. He and the CCRU crew ply me with endless cups of tea while explaining the curious diagrams on the walls. Lovecraft, and is related to a magickal system called tangential tantra. Another poster--influenced by J. A spiral bisected by a number scale that descends from 9 to one, the diagram looks rather ordinary.
But as CCRU explain its implications to me at considerable length something to do with allowing them to understand "concepts as number systems it becomes clear they sincerely believe it contains something on a par with the secret of the universe. The diagram was a gift from "Professor Barker".
From the chemistry of metals to the non-linear dynamics of the ocean, from the cycles of capitalism to the hyper-syncopated breakbeat rhythms of jungle, the cosmos is an "unfolding traumascape" governed by self-similar patterns and fundamental processes that recur on every scale. Body-without-Organs B-w-O is the Deleuzian utopia, an inchoate flux of deterritorialised energy; Greenspan says they take the B-w-O as "an ethical injunction", a supreme goal.
Maggie Roberts and Ranu Mukherjee, the core of OD, originally met as Fine Art students at the prestigious-but-conservative Royal College, where their ideas about creating a form of multimedia-based synaesthetic terrorism oriented around "schizoid thinking", pre-linguistic autistic states and man-machine interfaces proved way too radical. Formed in late , OD was shaped by two mindblowing experiences: "experimentation with drugs and techno", and a encounter with Nick Land.
He wanted his writing to kick in a much more experiential way. What began as a catalogue for the show escalated into an astonishing page book, Cyberpositive. But where Plant offers footnotes; OD merely list the "asked" and "un-asked" contributors at the end. Published in , Cyberpositive serves as a sort of canon-defining primer for the CCRU intellectual universe, placing SF and cyberpunk writers on the same level as post-structuralist theorists. Marx is obviously a science fiction writer.
The language veers from masochistic mortification of the flesh "deep hurting techno", "the meat is learning to know loss" to imagery influenced by voodoo and shamanic possession "white darkness", "the fog of absolute proximity", "psyclone", "beautiful fear".
Which may be a pretty accurate description of the state of play. Combining Mayan cosmology with ideas about Artificial Intelligence, they sem to believe that humanity will soon abandon the "meat" of incarnate existence and become pure spirit. Throughout the interview, a shaven-headed OD member called Rich sits with baby boa constrictors wrapped around his body. His other contribution to the evening is to make some sandwiches--daintily quartered, but containing peanut butter mixed with sardines.
First aired at the drug culture symposium Pharmakon, "Cyberpositive" was a gauntlet thrown down at the Left-wing orthodoxies that still dominate British academia. It all sounds quite jovial, the way they describe it now--a bustling bazaar culture of trade and "cutting deals".
But "Cyberpositive" actually reads like a nihilistic paean to the "cyberpathology of markets", celebrating capitalism as "a viral contagion" and declaring "everything cyberpositive is an enemy of mankind".
In Nick Land solo essays like "Machinic Desire" and "Meltdown", the tone of morbid glee is intensified to an apocalyptic pitch. There seems to be a perverse and literally anti-humanist identification with the "dark will" of capital and technology, as it "rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities". In "Meltdown", Land declares: "Man is something for it to overcome: a problem, drag". Nothing ever died of contradictions! The real struggle, says Fisher in fluent Deleuzian, is within capitalism and between "homogenisation processes and nomadic distribution.
What feels from any everyday human perspective like catastrophic change is really anastrophe: not the past coming apart, but "the future coming together". Since then, she has come to believe that the privatisation and anti-welfare policies pursued by the Conservative goverment in the s really did constitute "a revolution".
She talks approvingly of the end of "the dependency culture", arguing that this helped catalyse the Nineties upsurge of British pop culture, fashion and art.
Just as particular species or ecosystems flourish and die, so do human cultures". Williamson is an old sparring partner with Plant, Land and CCRU, having had several public fights with them at various academic events. You could not get 20 of my postgrad students in a room and have them agree with me.
A lot of what they say reminds me of tripping experiences, where you have that feeling that everything coheres and makes sense. Metaphor, figurative language, the whole realm of representation and ideology: these are the enemy, as far as CCRU are concerned.
They speak approvingly of "surplus value", sublimation and commodity-fetishism as creative tendencies. Again, the CCRU would fervently disagree. Sadie Plant attributes these bottom-up economic networks to the end of dependency culture, forcing people "to get real and find some ways of surviving" but also to invent "new forms of collectivity" the micro-utopian communality of the rave.
Plant is also writing about book about the interface between drugs and technology. Despite being rave theorists and "sub-bass materialists", CCRU are surprisingly cagey when the topic of drugs is introduced. Acknowledging the cyborgizing, viral usefulness of drugs--as anorganic elements that enter the nervous system and engineer precise changes in consciousness--Land nonetheless resists the "relapse into a biographical narrative". Anna Greenspan talks of the negative "crash-and-burn" syndrome caused by drug abuse, and says the CCRU are more interested in building sustained plateaus of intensity.
As well as being galvanised by music, the CCRU are also influenced by the theory-driven leading edge of music journalism. Eshun describes himself and the CCRU as "concept-engineers", as opposed to thinkers.
Critique, he argues, is a rhetorical mode that puts the heavy burden of History on your shoulders, whereas the concept-engineer is into speculation. Where "thinker" evokes an effete and impotent ivory-tower detachment, "engineer" suggests someone who gets down-and-dirty with the material word in Deleuzian terms, someone who operates and maintains desiring machines. Discussing his own cyber-theory writings, Fuller talks about dismantling traditional "modes of political address" and developing a sort of post-ideological realpolitik of resistance.
A true concept-engineer, he believes in ransacking theory texts for task-specific ideas. I mix up different linguistic registers and narrative strategies so that the text writhes in the hands of the reader, so to speak. Plant says she hopes that subsequent books will become "pure fiction".