Saturday, 26 June 2010

Black Metal Theory Symposium II: Melancology


Black Metal Theory Symposium II

13 January 2011
The Fighting Cocks
Old London Road
Kingston-upon-Thames, London

Another gathering dedicated to the mutual blackening of metal and theory

Live Act


Plenary speaker

Reza Negarestani

‘Earthly thought embraces perishability (i.e. cosmic contingency) as its immanent core .... such perishability ... grasps the openness of Earth towards the cosmic exteriority not in terms of concomitantly vitalistic / necrocratic correlations (as the Earth’s relationship with the Sun) but alternative ways of dying and loosening into the cosmic abyss ... The only true terrestrial ecology is the one founded on the unilateral nature of cosmic contingency against which there is no chance of resistance – there are only opportunities for drawing schemes of complicity.’ ...

‘Hence, the Cartesian dilemma, “What course in life shall I follow?” should be bastardized as “Which way out shall I take?”’

Reza Negarestani, ‘Solar Inferno and the Earthbound Abyss’


Black metal irrupts from a place already divested of nature, a site of extinction, ‘a place empty of life / Only dead trees ...’ (Mayhem, ‘Funeral Fog’, 1992); ‘Our skies are forever black / Here is no signs of life at all’ (Deathspell Omega, ‘From Unknown Lands of Desolation’, 2005). As such black metal could be described as a negative form of environmental writing; the least Apollonian of genres, it is terrestrial – indeed subterranean and infernal – inhabiting a dead forest that is at once both mythic and real unfolding along an atheological horizon that marks the limit of absolute evil where there are no goods or resources to distribute and therefore no means of power and domination, a mastery of nothing.

A new word is required that conjoins ‘black’ and ‘ecology’: melancology, a word in which can be heard the melancholy affect appropriate to the conjunction. A new word implies a new concept and we know from Deleuze and Guattari that concepts have to fulfil three criteria. Accordingly, the plane of immanence of melancology is extinction and non-being. All things are destined for extinction; immanent to all being is the irreducible fact of its total negation without reserve or remainder. The development of the characteristics of melancology is to be addressed at the Symposium, of course, but there are already a number of apophasic determinations: it is not ecology, it is anorganic; it is not political economy, it is anti-instrumental; it is not love of nature, environmentalism, Gaia, geophilosophy ... But it implies an ethos and a style that delineates the third aspect of the concept, its embodiment in a conceptual personae: the black metal kvltist whose ethos runs across the spectrum of melancholy from bile and rage to sorrow, depression and the delectation of evil all the better to affirm the desolation s/he contemplates in the sonorous audibility of black metal’s sovereign dissonance. This environment of absolute evil is exactly the same as the absolute good of black metal itself: the expenditure of a sonic drive that propels a blackened self-consciousness, a melancological consciousness without object that is the necessary prior condition to any speculation on or intervention in the environment.

The Black Metal Theory Symposium thus invites speculation and interventions on the blackening of the earth, landscapes of extinction, starless aeon, sempiternal nightmares, black horizons, malign essences, Qliphothic forces from beyond ... in a general re-conceptualization of black ecology.

Inquiries & abstracts to Niall Scott & Scott Wilson

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Boredom’s joy: the music of the vuvuzelas

Football is one of the world’s most boring sports, for the fan the boredom being attenuated by constant gnawing tension that is enlivened by anger, rage, moments of euphoria, incredulity and despair. Or at least that’s my experience living in England. For amusia, however, the current world cup is a constant joy because of the general annoyance caused to the world’s broadcasting networks and much of its global audience by the mass buzzing of the vuvuzelas, major networks having lobbied FIFA to get the Thing banned. Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President has refused, however, letting his German unconscious do the talking when he avers, liberally, that ‘I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound’. Remarkably unifying the extraordinarily diverse and geographically remote nations and cultures of Africa, the sound of the vuvuzela nevertheless becomes the universal sound of ‘Africa’s’ specific mode of enjoyment, the rest of the world’s noisy neighbours. For Blatter, it seems, the Africans should be allowed their exotic mode of enjoyment for our enjoyment. People are annoyed, but at the same time annoyed with themselves for being annoyed, the only recourse being to point a liberal finger in the annoying mirror of annoyance. The vuvuzela is ‘only annoying to the annoying’ says a caller to BBC Radio 5, annoyed by white middle-English intolerance.

The vuvuzela is the South African name (apparently derived from a Zulu word) for a stadium horn that has been around for years – in Brazil it is apparently known as cometa. In this world cup, however, it has indeed taken on a new dimension. It is not simply that the vuvuzela is South Africa’s ‘12th Man’ in the tournament as this report suggests. One is tempted to sound all D&G and speak of a plane of intensity or a human-horn assemblage becoming elephant becoming hive etc. etc, the crowd producing a sonic war machine that transforms the site and sound, the whole milieu, of world cup football. The music of the vuvuzelas drowns out applause, cheers, singing, conventional means of support; on the field, players exhausted through lack of sleep having been kept awake by all night vuvuzela parties, cannot hear each other above the din produced in the stadium, described as a massive beehive.

But for the neutral South African supporter, what is watching a boring football match between England and the USA, say, and blowing on a vuvuzela in unison with thousands of others? The buzzing of vuvuzelas is only a mode of ‘African’ enjoyment where it becomes the (phallic) signifier of all the lost enjoyment of TV viewers, especially in the West. But I’m not sure there is anything specifically African or even South African about the stadium horns. An effect of spaces real and spectral, actual and remote, these thousands of thin plastic phalloi vibrate spreading viruses and tele-techno annoyance around the stadium and around the world: they are the pipes of boredom’s joy. Jamie Carragher on TV last night says his kids have demanded that he bring a bunch of them home. Better than the world cup.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The London Graduate School

No doubt you will have followed the campaign to save Middlesex philosophy, which has galvanised an international community of scholars and thinkers. With yesterday's announcement of the transfer of Middlesex's Centre of Research in Modern European Philosophy to Kingston University, the struggle to preserve a future for critical thought in London (something all of us have been engaged in, in different ways), and indeed beyond, now enters a new phase. The imminent launch of a London Graduate School, devoted to renewing the intellectual project of the University, fostering a new spirit of the public sphere, and inspiring new forms of intellectual and cultural practice, is to be accompanied by an inaugural lecture given by Gayatri Spivak in the Large Common Room at 6-8pm 21st June at Goodenough College, London. This will provide the opportunity, we hope, to bring together or at least make possible something like an Estates General in London.

As co-directors of this new initiative, Martin McQuillan and Simon Morgan Wortham would like to invite you to this event. All welcome.