ponedjeljak, 3. rujna 2012.

Hauntology - sablasti prethode postojanju

Intelektualni trendy koncept u teoriji/filozofiji, glazbi, filmu, stripu: sablast (kao nešto što nije ni prisutno ni odsutno, ni živo ni mrtvo) prethodi sadašnjosti/prisutnosti; progonjenost sablastima prošlosti, nestabilnost višestrukog vremena i postojanja; prošlost unutar paralelnih sadašnjosti, potencijalne budućnosti koje su se mogle dogoditi... U glazbi su hauntolozi Burial, Leyland Kirby/The Caretaker,  Moon Wiring Club, Mount Vernon Arts Lab, The Advisory Circle, Roj, Belbury Poly...
Svojedobno je to bila opsesivna tema Marka Fishera (k-punk), Adama Harpera, Simona Reynoldsa, Davida Toopa. Od novijih autora temu je preuzeo Liam Sprod. Hauntološke teme teoretičari nalaze u stripovima Granta Morrisona, Kubrickovim filmovima... Spooky theory at a distance.

Andrew Gallix: Hauntology: A not-so-new critical manifestation

The new vogue in literary theory is shot through with earlier ideas

Hauntology is probably the first major trend in critical theory to have flourished online. In October 2006, Mark Fisher - aka k-punk - described it as "the closest thing we have to a movement, a zeitgeist". A mere three years later, Adam Harper prefaced a piece on the subject with the following caveat: "I'm all too aware that it's no longer 2006, the year to blog about hauntology". Two months ago, James Bridle predicted that the concept was "about six months away from becoming the title of a column in a Sunday supplement magazine". Only four months to go, then. My hunch is that hauntology is already haunting itself. The revival starts here.
Like its close relative psychogeography, hauntology originated in France but struck a chord on this side of the Channel. In Spectres of Marx (1993), where it first appeared, Jacques Derrida argued that Marxism would haunt Western society from beyond the grave. In the original French, "hauntology" sounds almost identical to "ontology", a concept it haunts by replacing - in the words of Colin Davis - "the priority of being and presence with the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive".
Today, hauntology inspires many fields of investigation, from the visual arts to philosophy through electronic music, politics, fiction and literary criticism. At its most basic level, it ties in with the popularity of faux-vintage photography, abandoned spaces and TV series like Life on Mars. Mark Fisher – whose forthcoming Ghosts of My Life (Zer0 Books) focuses primarily on hauntology as the manifestation of a specific "cultural moment" – acknowledges that "There's a hauntological dimension to many different aspects of culture; in fact, in Moses and Monotheism, Freud practically argues that society as such is founded on a hauntological basis: "the voice of the dead father". When you come to think of it, all forms of representation are ghostly. Works of art are haunted, not only by the ideal forms of which they are imperfect instantiations, but also by what escapes representation. See, for instance, Borges's longing to capture in verse the "other tiger, that which is not in verse". Or Maurice Blanchot, who outlines what could be described as a hauntological take on literature as "the eternal torment of our language, when its longing turns back toward what it always misses". Julian Wolfrey argues in Victorian Hauntings (2002) that "to tell a story is always to invoke ghosts, to open a space through which something other returns" so that "all stories are, more or less, ghost stories" and all fiction is, more or less, hauntological. The best novels, according to Gabriel Josipovici, share a "sense of density of other worlds suggested but lying beyond words". For the reader or critic, the mystery of literature is the opacity – the irreducible remainder – at the heart of writing that can never be completely interpreted away. The whole western literary tradition itself is founded on the notion of posterity, which Paul Eluard described as the "harsh desire to endure" through one's works. And then, of course, there's the death of the author ... All this, as you can see, could go on for quite a while, so perhaps we should wonder if the concept does not just mean all things to all (wo)men. Steen Christiansen, who is writing a book on the subject, explains that "hauntology bleeds into the fields of postmodernism, metafiction and retro-futurism and that there is no clear distinction – that would go against the tension which hauntology aims at".
As a reflection of the zeitgeist, hauntology is, above all, the product of a time which is seriously "out of joint" (Hamlet is one of Derrida's crucial points of reference in Spectres of Marx). There is a prevailing sense among hauntologists that culture has lost its momentum and that we are all stuck at the "end of history". Meanwhile, new technologies are dislocating more traditional notions of time and place. Smartphones, for instance, encourage us never to fully commit to the here and now, fostering a ghostly presence-absence. Internet time (which is increasingly replacing clock time) results in a kind of "non-time" that goes hand in hand with Marc Augé's non-places. Perhaps even more crucially, the web has brought about a "crisis of overavailability" that, in effect, signifies the "loss of loss itself": nothing dies any more, everything "comes back on YouTube or as a box set retrospective" like the looping, repetitive time of trauma (Fisher). This is why "retromania" has reached fever pitch in recent years, as Simon Reynolds demonstrates in his new book - a methodical dissection of "pop culture's addiction to its own past".
Hauntology is not just a symptom of the times, though: it is itself haunted by a nostalgia for all our lost futures. "So what would it mean, then, to look for the future's remnants?" asks Owen Hatherley at the beginning of Militant Modernism, "Can we, should we, try and excavate utopia?" It might just be worth a shot.

Hauntology: The Past Inside The Present

Luc Tuymans, The Valley, 2007.

I’m all too aware that it’s no longer 2006, the year to blog about hauntology, but I’ve been planning to write a piece like this since the summer of that year, initially for a student magazine that found the idea a bit niche and long-winded (me? ridiculous), and in the end that plan fell through. Actually it was when a friend pointed out that the aesthetic connection between Boards of Canada and Ariel Pink I’d been pondering was being discussed online and there was a whole record label devoted to something similar (Ghost Box) that I first started following Dissensus and the network of blogs surrounding it. I was going to do this divided up into standalone instalments, but since it made sense to include it in a four-part series with other pipeline essays, I’m posting this all in one go (needless to say, it’s ‘make a cup of tea long’, but it’s still in bitesize chunks). What follows isn’t intended, even by implication, as a response or challenge to any of the theory and debate on hauntology that’s developed since January 06, but rather as a contribution in parallel to it. Though I’ve needed to start from a personal interpretation of the subject of ‘hauntology’ (as the aesthetic consequences of Derrida’s term and not just a specific musical style) it shouldn’t be taken as a (re)definition, and though I’ve been relatively thorough, what I present is clearly far from comprehensive or encyclopaedic and doesn’t constitute (god forbid) a ‘hauntological canon’. My main aim here is to discuss the famously hauntological in more detail and expand the hauntology aesthetic to cover more music and particularly art, and secondly to provide an introduction for anyone interested in one. I hope that’s constructive, but in the end it’s just that I’m very interested in the parameters and problems of hauntology as a way of looking at art, I’m keen to pass on some observations and I’m really into writing about it.

What is hauntology?

The word was first coined by philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1993 book Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning & the New International, which began life as his contribution to a conference that asked the pertinent question ‘whither Marxism?’ following the dissolution of communism in Eastern Europe. Derrida challenged the opinion held by some commentators that Marx’s theories had been effectively defeated and liberal democracy had triumphed (which was Francis Fukuyama’s argument in The End of History and The Last Man), and proposed that Marx would continue to haunt history, just as ‘the spectre of communism’ was described as haunting Europe at the opening of Marx’s Communist Manifesto. The word ‘hauntology’ is a pun on the word ‘ontology’ (both words sound almost identical in Derrida’s native French) and describes the problematic, intangible and paradoxical ontology that such spectres, in their incessant haunting, pose for discourse on history. Hauntology describes the haunting of a historicised present by spectres that cannot be ‘ontologised’ away.
As is often the case in Derrida’s writing however, ‘hauntology’ is a concept that’s arguably better suited to interpretation than strict definition. It can easily be linked to the general methodology of deconstruction Derrida pioneered – as metaphors, spectres, being neither one thing or the other, challenge basic binary oppositions like ‘alive / dead’, ‘present / absent’ and ‘past / present’ and so are ‘deconstructive’ in nature. Or they can be linked to the psychoanalytic theory of Lacan and Žižek – the spectres Derrida discusses conceivably residing in an area beyond the abilities of the Imaginary and the Symbolic to reflect and describe the Real. Here the haunting metaphor can be extended: traditionally, a spectre invades the present to redress a balance there, to warn the present concerning the future. Hauntological spectres come to bother us and our images from any zone of deficit lying between things as they were / are / will be and things as they are thought or hoped to have been / be / be in the future, thus history haunts (Marxist) ideology, and (Marxist) ideology haunts history; theory haunts practice and practice haunts theory, Utopia haunts reality and reality haunts Utopia, and so on. Art that permits a hauntological reading would facilitate this process of haunting.

A hauntological effect in art

Take a look at this picture:

Aww – a young lad lounges on vividly green grass in total sunlight in apparently blissful, Arcadian communion with a cute woodland animal. The hedgehog’s spikes suggest it could be dangerous, and yet the hedgehog and the child seem like friends, and no threat is posed to the child – indeed, with his withdrawn hands and relative distance, the boy seems suitably respectful of the hedgehog. It’s a utopian scene, given extra evocative, sentimental charm by the child’s circa-nineteen-seventies hair and clothing. You could call it kitsch, sure, but there’s no denying its basic appeal.

This picture is one of my favourite postcards, and it’s lovely image in itself, but it’s not the image alone that really interests me. This postcard has a history – it’s from the (East) German Democratic Republic, postmarked 25th of March 1989. Associations with the GDR are probably going to affect, perhaps quite significantly, the way the postcard is perceived. I’m not making the facile suggestion that the image suddenly becomes monstrous and false simply by association with the GDR, and in fact postcards like that could probably be found all over the world in 1989, maybe not always as saccharine as this, but even so. What we know about the internal problems of the GDR in 1989 – mass protests, mass exodus, the harshest, most efficient secret police force in the world (the Stasi), censorship, police brutality, pollution – fiercely contradicts the overtly utopian image on the postcard. We know the GDR planned and claimed to be a relatively utopian state, we know that state ‘propaganda’ aimed to uphold a utopian image of the GDR despite the reality, we suspect that images on postcards were probably controlled to portray the GDR in a favourable light, and we begin feel a very complicated ambivalence towards the image that transcends simple notions of ‘good vs evil’, ‘right vs wrong’, ‘sympathy vs antipathy’, ‘real vs imaginary’.

This postcard haunts and is haunted. In 1989, its utopian promise haunted a reality that was unable to make good on it, and in turn the postcard was haunted by the increasingly dystopian qualities of reality. In 2009 this haunting-problem now haunts the present as an example of the Marxist hauntology Derrida wrote about. The problems of our imagined Utopias and Dystopias haven’t gone away – the postcard is a ghost of the GDR, exploding like a spectre the neat symbolic binaries we put our faith in by being both nice and nasty, wrong and right, innocent and guilty, present and absent. It’s also the ghost of childhood, of innocence personal or ideological, imploring us to know its killer, manifesting to us so as to haunt and correct injustice in the same way that ghosts traditionally do. It’s a poignant lie about reality and reality is a poignant inadequacy compared to it.

Undead superhero Deadman, like many a more traditional ghost, manifested because of unresolved issues, rising from the grave so as to find his killer and bring them to justice. The suit was just for fun.

I like that it’s haunted and that it haunts me. Like a ghost it creates problems which are interesting and provocative. It gets me thinking about the problems of art and cultural history in an open-ended way. It seems to express a melancholy frustration with The Way Things Are. As an overall aesthetic experience it deconstructs the historically utopian, romanticises the post-utopian, and yet the Utopia it presents is stubbornly ‘undead’. In all this it has what we might call a ‘hauntological effect’.

The hauntological effect of this postcard arises from the ‘real’ context that surrounds its status as a kitschy art object, but works of art can within themselves reproduce the hauntological effect that this postcard has. Hauntology is not a genre of art or music, but an aesthetic effect, a way of reading and appreciating art. Like wonky / wonkification, hauntology is a theme that can be read into many subjects, and which can be brought out in many different ways.

Hauntology as an allegory of knowledge

The small space between the picture’s explanation and the picture itself provides the only possible perspective on painting. Every picture is incomplete, just as every memory is also incomplete – Luc Tuymans.
Hauntological art (i.e. art that permits a hauntological reading, art that has hauntological aesthetic effects) can be thought of as having two stages, or layers. The first layer seems to present something that’s in some way idealised – this is often but not always an image involving the past (as I hope to show, this image is frequently depicts Nature). In the example of the German postcard this layer is the perfectly charming, kitschy image as separate from its historical context.

The second, ‘hauntological’ layer problematises, compromises and obfuscates the first layer, undermining or damaging it in some way and introducing irony into the work, and represents the opinionated viewpoint of the present. While the first layer might express hope and confidence, the hauntological layer contradicts and undoes this by expressing a satirical doubt and disillusionment. In the example of the GDR postcard the hauntological layer corresponds to the darker historical context we’re aware of that transforms our perception of the first layer. As was the case with the postcard, the hauntological layer can result from a relatively unintended consequence of context, but in the purposefully hauntological art I’ll look at below, both layers are to a relative extent suggested in the text itself (inasmuch as there is such a thing as ‘the text itself’). This can be achieved using ‘lo-fi’ effects (such as fading, dirt, or low quality materials in plastic art; noise, reverb, filters and audibly decaying or broken technology in music) and various forms of ‘unprofessionality’, surrealism, fragmentation and collage, all of which is analogous to a traditional ghost’s ectoplasm, pale colour and binding chains, signifying undeath. It’s the key role played by this hauntological layer that distinguishes hauntological art from art that’s simply retro or idealistic.
The hauntological layer ‘deconstructs’ the first layer – in this way hauntological texts deconstruct themselves. Just as it’s impossible to pin down a ghost conceptually, it’s not always easy to separate the two opposing layers of a hauntological text because they occur simultaneously. The first layer is ‘inside’ the second layer (‘the past inside the present’). The first layer (‘the past’) can only be seen through the medium of the second layer (‘the present’) so that we can’t be entirely sure of the image portrayed by the first layer. This process of obfuscation is a metaphor for memory (or more specifically an allegory of memory), and more broadly an allegory of any sort of representation of the world or any inadequately (‘untruthfully’) symbolic or imaginary conceptualisation. The hauntological layer shows the first layer to be ‘untrue’ (as k-punk puts it, ‘the origin was always spectral’ to begin with) and hints at some unresolved lack in this truth. The perceived inability of something to adequately express the ‘truths’ expected of it is sometimes referred to as its ‘Death’, as in ‘the Death of Painting’, ‘the Death of Rock’, ‘the Death of God’ etc. Appropriately enough, hauntological art negotiates these sorts of ‘Deaths’.

‘Show that you are showing’: hauntological effects and alienation effects.

In many cases a hauntological layer in art pointedly reminds us that what we’re witnessing is an imperfect, failure-prone and/or all-too-human construction by drawing our attention to the form or medium of the art: we hear the sonic by-products of obsolete or broken technology, we see the unrealism of painting, and art’s status as a magical window onto the world is denied. Such aesthetic experiences can haunt, mock, accuse and open our minds to the delicately contingent and circumstantial nature of art and history.

Bertolt Brecht, 1898-1956.
In doing this it’s rather like the Verfremdungseffekt or ‘V-effect’ developed by twentieth-century dramatist and theorist Bertolt Brecht. Most often translated loosely as the ‘alienation effect’ (‘Verfremdung’ could also be translated as ‘estranging’ or ‘de-familiarisation’), it aimed to disrupt the seductive, seamless and ‘trance’-like flow of sympathy from a play’s audience to the characters portrayed on stage in various ways but most famously by ‘breaking the fourth wall’, a theatrical metaphor that can be applied to other arts to describe any situation where the illusion of transparent artistic surface is broken. Brecht’s plan was that the V-effect would work satirically, denaturalising bourgeois notions of the ‘alleged “eternally human”’ that supposedly remained permanent throughout history and the world and served to maintain the political status quo by implying that ‘it’s always been this way…’:
‘The field has to be defined in historically relative terms… we must drop our habit of taking the different social structures of past periods, then stripping them of everything that makes them different; so that our own period can be seen to be impermanent too’ – Brecht, ‘A Short Organum for the Theatre’, 1948.
The V-effect can also demonstrate hauntology-like allegories of symbolic representation (if ‘actor’ is taken to be analogous to ‘artist’ or ‘music-maker’):
‘The audience identifies itself with the actor as being an observer, and accordingly develops his attitude of observing or looking on… It is quite clearly somebody else’s repetition of the incident: a representation, even though an artistic one’ – Brecht, ‘Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting’, 1936.
These ideas can help give some particular insights into hauntological aesthetics, but they’re only relevant up to a certain point. Hauntological effects certainly alienate and estrange the familiar and the idealistic so that it can be reassessed, but the question that could remain to be asked of any work of hauntological art is whether it makes a culturally satirical temporal disjunction of a Brechtian sort, or demonstrates and mourns the (eternal) tragedies of the human condition, or is simply a matter of personal nostalgia.  - Rouge's Foam


Paul Sietsema: Ship drawing, 2009 (detail); ink on paper diptych; each 50 3/4 x 70 in.; © Paul Sietsema/courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York.

Hauntology, essentially the logic of the ghost, is a concept as ephemeral and abstract as the term implies. Since it was first used by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in a 1993 lecture delivered at UC Riverside concerning the state of Marxist thought in the post-Communist era, the term hauntology has been widely discussed in philosophical and political circles, as well as becoming a major influence in the development of various sub-genres of electronic music.

This exhibition focuses primarily on the museum’s recent contemporary acquisitions, mixing these with a number of other works representing a wide range of periods and styles. Although the artists included in Hauntology do not necessarily see themselves as part of a larger movement, when viewed collectively a number of resonances appear, not unrelated to the musical interpretations of the theme. Works in Hauntology frequently incorporate archaic imagery, styles, or techniques and evoke uncertainty, mystery, inexpressible fears, and unsatisfied longing.

For Derrida himself, hauntology is a philosophy of history that upsets the easy progression of time by proposing that the present is simultaneously haunted by the past and the future. Specifically, Derrida suggests that the specter of Marxist utopianism haunts the present, capitalist society, in what he describes as “the persistence of a present past.” The notion of hauntology also can be seen as describing the fluidity of identity among individuals, marking the dynamic and inevitable shades of influence that link one person’s experience to another’s, both in the present and over time.

In the fifteen years since Derrida first used this term, hauntology, and the related term, hauntological, have been adopted by the British music critic Simon Reynolds to describe a recurring influence in electronic music created primarily by artists in the United Kingdom who use and manipulate samples culled from the past (mostly old wax-cylinder recordings, classical records, library music, or postwar popular music) to invoke either a euphoric or unsettling view of an imagined future. The music has an anachronistic quality hinting at an unrecognizable familiarity that is often dreamlike, blurry, and melancholic—what Reynolds describes as “an uneasy mixture of the ancient and the modern.”

This exhibition marks the first time that a museum has presented works of visual art within the framework of hauntology. Works by Luc Tuymans, Paul Sietsema, Carrie Mae Weems, Bruce Conner, Robert Gutierrez, Diane Arbus, Travis Collinson, Paul Schiek, Arnold Kemp, and others form loose groups in which one can discern various thematic concentrations: the enigma of place and placelessness, memorial and longing, transitional beings, displacement and disappearance, demonic manifestations, auras, elegies of nature, and the translucency of the psyche.

Scott Hewicker, artist and musician
Lawrence Rinder, director, BAM/PFA

Against all ends: Hauntology, aesthetics, ontology

By Liam Sprod

Although it is already old, considering hauntology as either genre, aesthetic or zeitgeist is problematic; and is so for precisely all of the reasons that it claims to be each of these things. As nostalgia for lost futures or mourning for utopia, it falls into for the exact problems of utopianism that lead to its initial loss. It is also these problems that hauntology was developed to overcome, so its reduction precisely to them is somewhat ironic, if not cause for yet another mourning. Thus through exploring the way in which hauntology has been co-opted by the over-theoretisation of music, and indeed art more generally, in such a way that repeats these problems, I will also show the way for a return to hauntology as a solution to these problems and the affirmation of a more radical thinking for the future.
This path will also necessitate a return to the origin of the word hauntology in the work of Jacques Derrida; an origin that has often been maligned and marginalised in the subsequent use of the term — a parricide that foreshadows the return of the betrayed father. The necessary key to approaching Derrida and the nature of hauntology can be found in Simon Critchley’s observation that “Derrida will tirelessly insist, the closure is not the end and he persistently places himself against any and all apocalyptic discourses on the end (whether the end of man, the end of philosophy, or the end of history)” (1). It is in light of this opposition to all ends that hauntology should be considered. Included amongst the ends Derrida opposes is the very idea of utopia or any utopianism. Indeed, in thinking the closure without end, Derrida is also thinking of a new image of the future, one that is not watched over by the idea of utopia. Utopias are always destined to fail, as their name suggests they are literally no-places, which can never be. This is the problem with the future in general, if it is always considered as some specific thing that will arrive at some point in the future then it is never possible; these futures always collapse into the now and the to come always remains out of reach, always lost in advance.
Hauntology as aesthetics is firmly rooted in the idea of nostalgia as a disruption of time. The lines from Derrida that are quoted to support this interpretation of hauntology are Hamlet’s “the time is out of joint,” which serves as a refrain throughout Specters of Marx, and, rather curiously, the only mention of nostalgia in the whole book: “The spectral rumor now resonates, it invades everything: the spirit of the ‘sublime’ and the spirit of ‘nostalgia’ cross all borders” (2). Mark Fisher identifies the dyschronia of the time out of joint as the crucial feature of hauntology (3). Through this, the past invades, or haunts, the present with its return and in this disjuncture makes possible a new aesthetic that is hauntology. The form that this takes is nostalgia, not as repetition of forms of the past, but instead a return of the ideas, images and ideals of a past age, which now grate and creak against the joints of the present.
Unsurprisingly, the main features of this aesthetic are sampling in music and appropriation in the visual arts. By emphasizing the anachronisms of these samples and appropriations, mainly through the maintenance of the distance from their origin and the decay that occupies that distance: as crackles and scratches, or faded colours and images that become almost literally ghostly. Instead of mere repetition, this distance provides a sense of loss and mourning, making the present the future of that past, and in turn providing the possibility of another future for the present, a new utopia. This is why past images of the future, such as the fetishisation of the BBCs Radiophonic workshop, become so prevalent in this form of hauntology. Taken out of their original historical context these images become ideals, which in turn once again grate against their contemporary settings, which is where the supposed haunting of hauntology appears, and revitalizes the potential for a utopianism for the present age. As Adam Harper concludes his discussion of hauntology: “Hauntological art is a present-day construction that illustrates the present’s problems as it approaches the future” (4).
Hauntology as Derrida defines it, is also obsessed with the remains of both the past and the future, but as they remain, or, as they maintain themselves now (maintenant in French is literally ‘now’), neither as something lost nor as something to come. But this also reveals the problem with hauntology defined as either nostalgia for the future or a lost utopianism. The definite future of utopianism already in advance hides behind the past and opens itself up to the possibility of nostalgia. This is as the grammatical form of the future anterior, where the future is considered as something already complete, that can now be looked back upon and referred to; and thus operates in the same mode as the past. Remembered in advance and fully accounted for, always to only ever slip away as it slides backwards into the future.
Derrida’s hauntology is forged in his opposition to ends, specifically to the end of history declared in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of communism and the supposed triumph of ‘liberal democracy,’ or as it is better known, capitalism. A cultural dead end, where all that is possible is “the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history” (5). This is the double-edged sword that gives rise to both nostalgia as pastiche and retrospection, and also the musicological definition of hauntology as nostalgia for the lost future. Rather than dealing with the fundamental problems raised by the end of history, the musicological sense of hauntology merely pushes any possible confrontation to yet another new end deferred once again into another future. In doing so it also falls prey to the problems that both support and motivate the end of history. By repeating these problems it will now be possible to see Derrida’s conception of hauntology as a solution to these very problems.
To frame this debate, let us commence by repeating the end of history. Not the one which took place in 1989, but nearly two centuries before in 1806: as Napoleon rode through the streets of Jena following his famous victory, and Hegel, the great thinker of historicity, looked out his window and saw in Napoleon, as he wrote to a friend “the spirit of the world,” or, another triumph of freedom and another end of history. If we read this moment with Maurice Blanchot in it we find “Lie and truth: for as Hegel wrote to another friend, the French pillaged and ransacked his home. But Hegel knew how to distinguish the empirical and the essential” (6). Here, Blanchot reveals the stakes for both the end of history and the hauntology that Derrida will later develop: the empirical and the essential.
Specters of Marx is Derrida’s deconstruction and critique of the theory of the end of history, specifically in its 1989 guise developed by Francis Fukuyama. Derrida’s attack on Fukuyama is as scathing as it is simple: that through a sleight of hand, Fukuyama willfully confuses the empirical and the essential in order to make his argument work, slipping between the two as required to advance his argument. The end of history is proven by the empirical event of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but this itself is an essential historical truth that cannot be disproved by pointing to the empirical evidence that freedom (be that liberal democracy or the free market) has not yet extended across the entire globe. This is just an empirical accident that will eventually be rectified once the essential truth of the end of history is fully realised.
The ridiculousness of Fukuyama’s argument made readily apparent by this rather simple deconstruction, there is no need for Derrida to develop his logic of hauntology at all in order to confront the end of history. It is somewhat telling then that he does. He writes:
As for this sleight-of-hand trick between history and nature, between historical empiricity and teleological transcendentaility, between the supposed empirical reality of the event and the absolute ideality of the liberal telos, it can only be undone on the basis of a new thinking or a new experience of the event, and of another logic of its relation to the phantomatic (7).
There is something deeper than merely the end of history going on here. Hauntology is part of Derrida’s wider critique of ends in general, the possibilities of the future and the closure of metaphysics. Before delving into this reconfigured futural event and its phantasmatic logic, the question of hauntological aesthetics or genre must be addressed.
What is immediately obvious is that this musicological account of hauntology, as well as repeating the paradoxes of the future it supposedly mourns for, also repeats the same mistake as Fukuyama and fails to remember the difference between the empirical and the essential. Thus reducing hauntology to a set of empirical characteristics of genre or aesthetic and missing its essential rethinking of the very categories of essential, empirical, event, and the future itself. These two failures are most likely connected; for in falling into the trap of repeating an anachronistic desire for a future that is lost, this form of hauntology misses the essential nature of this future as always-already lost.
Doing so demands an entirely new logic, and this is perhaps the only sort of newness that hauntology engages with, not new in the sense of to-come, but a new logic of temporality and futurity. This logic is not specific to hauntology and Derrida has explored it elsewhere under the names of “aporetology or aporetography” (8) and organised around the aporia — the contradiction or puzzle that cannot be moved beyond. Importantly, the aporia rethinks the problematics of before and beyond, as Derrida writes: “the partitioning among multiple figures of the aporia does not oppose figures to each other, but instead installs the haunting of one in the other” (9). This has consequences for the specifically temporal interpretation of hauntology as the “time out of joint” commonly referenced in Specters of Marx.
The out of jointness is not the opposition of the present to either the part or the future of indeed a mere disordering of these temporal modes. Derrida specifically warns against this: “A spectral moment, a moment that no longer belongs to time, if one understands by this word the linking of modalized presents (past present, actual present: ‘now,’ future present) … Furtive and untimely, the apparition of the specter does not belong to that time” (10). As a result, hauntology in its Derridean formulation counters the criticism put forward by James Bridle, that “it deals with the problem of the future by going back to the past” (11) and that it needs to be opposed by the radically new. This reiteration of the standard modal temporalities of past, present and future is both symptomatic of the problems of an aesthetic interpretation of hauntology and at the same time, the very problem that Derrida is confronting with his concept of hauntology.
It is as the rethinking of the new experience of the event that the relation between hauntology and its homophone ontology becomes important. Hauntology rethinks temporality itself, abandoning the progression from the past to the present and the future anterior. The specific end of history is only a manifestation of the deeper problems of ends themselves, temporality and the future, and it is through addressing this essential ontological problem that the path out of the end of history can be found. Along with the necessary rethinking of the sublime and history that this requires (12).
Hauntology as an aesthetic admirably attempts to confront this problem, but as a descriptive mode of critique it unfortunately can never escape the empirical and deal with the essential. Not directly anyway. Heidegger claimed that the danger of technology was not in the machines themselves but the way it mysteriously hides its own essence, and that this hiding makes the question of the essence of technology all the more pertinent (13). Likewise, the reminders of the remains of lost temporalities that scatter the present landscape of the end of history can also begin to ask the question of the temporality of ends that lead to this landscape. The answer lies not in repeating lost gestures, methods and sounds or calling for a failed utopianism, but in rethinking the very possibility of the lostness of that temporality itself. The musical genre of hauntology calls into question the ontological status of time at the end of history, but not by moving beyond that end into a new future, rather through the repetition of the impossibility of such a movement. Hiding the impossibility of the future behind an impossible striving for the future makes its impossibility all the more apparent.
(1) S. Critchley, ‘Derrida: The reader.’ in Cardozo Law Review, Vol 27:2, 2005. p. 557.
(2) J. Derrida, P. Kamuf (trans.), Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (New York: Routledge Classics, 2006). p. 169.
(3) M. Fisher, (2006) ‘Phonograph Blues.’
(4) A. Harper (2009) ‘Hauntology: The Past Inside The Present.’
(5) F. Fukuyama, ‘The End Of History’, in The National Interest. Summer 1989. p. 18.
(6) M. Blanchot, ‘The Instant of my Death.’ in, J. Derrida, M. Blanchot & E. Rottenberg (trans.), The Instant of my Death & Demeure. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000). p. 7.
(7) J. Derrida, Specters of Marx. p. 86.
(8) J. Derrida, T. Dutoit (trans.), Aporias: Dying — Awaiting (One Another at) the “Limits of Truth” (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993). p. 15.
(9) J. Derrida, Aporias. p. 20.
(10) J. Derrida, Specters of Marx. p. xix.
(11) J. Bridle, ‘Hauntological Futures.’
(12) This is precisely the problem that I address in my forthcoming book Nuclear Futurism (Winchester, Zer0 Books, 2012).
(13) M. Heidegger, ‘The Question Concerning Technology’, in, M. Heidegger, D. F. Krell (ed.), Basic Writings Revised and Expanded Edition. (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993). p. 333.

Non-Time and Hauntology

by Rob Horning

There are lots of plausible and interrelated explanations for why the pop-culture future can no longer occur.
I went to a talk last night at NYU by Mark Fisher about “hauntology,” which refers to a kind of intermediate space-time between places palpably shaped by organic time and nonplaces (shopping malls, etc.—see Marc Augé), which are wrenched out of time and posit an unending nontime, the end of history, an undisruptable retailing present that perpetually recurs. I didn’t really get what hauntology was all about: it seemed to have to do with cultural productions that are aware of the nonplace/nontime crisis—the way neoliberalism has foisted non-space/time on us, along with a subjectivity without depth that must flaunt its requisite flexibility by shuffling the deck of floating signifiers—and are “reflexive” and “critical” and “negative” about this condition. Fisher made this point with music: British pop music now is blithely appropriational of the past without foregrounding that in any particular way; retro has ceased to be a meaningful descriptor. So music made now would not be at all disruptive, he argues, if someone living in 1979 heard it. There would be no retroactive future shock. It doesn’t sound like the future; the future that should be occurring now has been thwarted, lost, effaced. The sense of cultural teleology is gone, vanished, perhaps, in the now pervasive relativism that regards all culture product as potentially valuable.

There are lots of plausible and interrelated explanations for why the pop-culture future can no longer occur, including:

(1) The demise of a hegemonic culture industry (and the rise of digitization and peer-to-peer distribution) brought the end of a shared sense of the cultural moment. We’re not all watching the same TV show at the same time and hearing the same records on the radio. Instead we have access to all culture all at once, on demand—whether it’s, say, Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the complete works of Margaret Cavendish, yesterday’s episode of Survivor, or all of them at once. This AV Club article by Steven Hyden about Def Leppard’s Hysteria gets at the idea:

As everything changes rapidly around us, we as music fans in many ways still think we’re living in a Def Leppard world, where winning a Grammy means you’ve arrived, and going to No. 1 on the charts makes you a pop star. In reality, we live in a culture where the terms “mainstream” and “underground” have become virtually meaningless, as practically every song by every band ever is equally accessible, frequently at no cost, to anyone with an Internet connection and the interest to seek it out ... It’s clear that music rarely unites us under the banner of mass-accepted artists anymore; even in a concert audience, we’re all just a bunch of individuals, with little connecting us to one another beyond a shared interest in the artist onstage—one artist among hundreds on our abundantly stocked iPods. Sounds lonely, doesn’t it? Sometimes I yearn for the old world, the one I grew up in, a place where dinosaurs like Hysteria stomped around pop culture for months, if not years, leaving sizable impressions in the hearts of a generation, whether they liked it or not.
The availability of everything means that particular works of pop music lose “symbolic efficiency” to use (and possibly misuse) a term from Žižek. Nothing successfully connotes the zeitgeist; everything invokes a desire to one-up with a better reference or a new meme or detournement of the contemporary. We are too knowing and skeptical to accept anything as unproblematically representative of the now.

(2) Neoliberalism/post-fordism/late capitalism has projected itself as the end of history, normalized nontime, and generalized the reception of conditions of ontological insecurity as freedom. We lack a subjectivity that can experience or recognize historicity. 

Fisher links the idea of a “missing future” with the disappearance of negativity and criticality in contemporary pop culture, which (as I interpret it) has no space for anything oppositional or which transforms oppositional gestures into postures that circulate only as signifiers of personal identity. It reminds me of Douglas Haddow’s “Hipsters are the dead-end of Western culture” argument:

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.
Hipsters don’t experience non-time negatively, as a loss, as melancholic, as indicative of deep alienation. Instead they seem to be thoroughly subjectivized by neoliberalism to the extent that they regard it as opportunity to show off how creative they can be in their cycle of appropriations. That last thing they want is to be reminded of how their personality is conditioned by the times they live in; in nontime, one can feel transcendent and immortal, one can permanently defer adulthood.

Hauntological music (like Burial) tries to at least evoke the feeling of loss, tries to register the missing future as a kind of catastrophe, Fisher argues, though it can’t actually instantiate this missing future. It tries to at least restore meaning to the concept of retro, foregrounding the appropriations of the past by sounding like a scratchy record, and so on. (I don’t know; all electronic music literally sounds the same to me.) I wasn’t persuaded that a work’s reflexivity about how symptomatic it is itself of the impossibility of escaping non-time made it viable as a mode of resistance. I’m probably too skeptical of reflexivity to ever regard it as resistance; I see reflexivity as the quintessential mode of neoliberalist subjectivity—a calculating self-consciousness that can’t be escaped, that forces us to be considering our identity as an alienated thing to be developed and invested entrepreneurially. (The following is highly provisional and may ultimately prove embarrassing): Whatever is reflexive needs to become collective. The problem of non-spacetime is that of an isolated individual subject who admits of no possibility for intersubjectivity, which is perhaps the primary way we experience history, through how our relations with others subjectivize us in particular, contingent ways. Reflexivity about our loss of that intersubjectivity seems to still cling to the individuation, to see and secretly cherish one’s isolated uniqueness and incontingency in the recognition of it as a loss.

In my view, social media have become the extension of non-spacetime, where nothing, no identity or incident, is necessarily contingent or organic, and one is doomed to the “freedom” of endless ontological insecurity, the forever search for a grounding authenticity that can only generate more memes. Social media are where we go to protect our experience of nontime, which is threatened by the Real, by historicity, by death. Facebook is the ultimate nonplace. Being on it is to enter non-time, to maintain a continual pseudo-presence.

The non-spacetime crisis, I think, is a crisis of presence. When we exist in non-spacetime, presence becomes impossible—or it is known by its absence, in a kind of negative theology. To put that less cryptically (or maybe not): technology has basically dissolved the unity of the subject in a particular place in time. Smart phones, etc., let us be in many places at once, conducting any number of conversations and self-presentations asynchronously. This casts an air of provisionality over everything we do; our lack of total commitment to a that place at that moment is always implied, always understood. No one is even bothered anymore when someone they are talking to looks at their phone. There is no ethical requirement to be fully present, and without that, there is no genuine (I know, how can you even ever define “genuine”) intersubjectivity. The refusal to be fully present is a restatement of the refusal to permit our identity to be socially contingent or to be palpably collective. The smart phone reserves our right to check out of any collective identity formation at any time. This is the essence of contemporary “convenience,” which I have long interpreted as being able to avoid interaction with other humans and being forced to empathize with them and recognize their existence as other. (We can only tolerate other people when we regard them as extra in our movie.)

Fisher referred to Jameson’s distinction between psychological nostalgia and formal nostalgia, between the ability to evoke a real lost past and being trapped in pastiche. What I took from this is that the postmodern/neoliberal subject cannot access psychological nostalgia, but can only simulate it through pastiche, as this sort of subject has only existed in nontime as opposed to historical time. My sense is that this subject doesn’t yearn for historical time at all but worries about historical time erupting into nontime via some sort of terrible Event. When something that threatens to be an Event happens, subjects rush to assimilate it to nontime by mediatizing it, “sharing” it in social media, or meme-ifying it. I’m not sure if this holds, but it may be possible to interpret the ad hoc celebrations of Osama bin Laden’s execution this way—an effort to experience a historical moment in a way that dehistoricizes it—puts the partyers back at the center of their personal hermetic history, claims the Event as just an event in their individual story.

Because we have no access anymore to psychological nosalgia, we end up nostalgic for the capability for nostalgia, we feel homesickness for a home we never had. These leads to a compensatory attraction to childhood kitsch, to moribund objects (joining a typewriter club is an extreme manifestation of this), to anachronism, atavism, whatever seems genuinely and indelibly marked by a past. This perpetuates the cycle that denies the creation of a distinctive future, guarantees that the future is a more attenuated and annotated reconfiguration of detritus from the past.

(Malcolm Harris has more thoughts inspired by the talk here.)
There are only five dates in Johnson's life that can undeniably be used to assign him to a place in history: Monday, November 23; Thursday, November 26; and Friday, November 27, 1936, he was in San Antonio, Texas, at a recording session. Seven months later, on Saturday, June 19 and Sunday, June 20, 1937, he was in Dallas at another session. Everything else about his life is an attempt at reconstruction. As director Martin Scorsese says in his foreword to Alan Greenberg's play 'Love In Vain: A Vision of Robert Johnson', "The thing about Robert Johnson was that he only existed on his records. He was pure legend."- Wikipedia on Robert JohnsonThe way that Tricky works – fucking around with sounds on the sampler until his sources are unrecognisable wraiths, ghosts of their former selves; composing music and words spontaneously in the studio; mixing tracks live as they're recorded; retaining the glitches and inspired errors, the hiss and crackle – all this is strikingly akin to early Seventies dubmeisters like King Tubby.
- Simon R on Tricky, June 1995
Owen's brief comment on blues records a while back says something crucially important about sonic hauntology:
    there's surely no music more utterly dominated by its recording technology than 1930s blues. Listening to Robert Johnson you have, rather than the expected in yr face earthiness and presence, layers upon layers of fizz, crackle, hiss, white noise, as if its been remixed by Basic Channel rather than recorded in a room in some mythologised deep south.
All that needs to be added to this is the idea that the 'mythologized deep south' arises from the 'layers of fizz, crackle, hiss, white noise'; there is no presence except mythologically, no myth without a recording surface which both refers to a (lost) presence and blocks us from attaining it. Rockism could be defined as the quest to eliminate surface noise, to 'return' to a presence which, needless to say, was never there in the first place; hauntology is a coming to terms with the permanence of our (dis)possession, the inevitability of dyschronia.
I repeat, I re-cite: hauntology is the closest thing we have to a movement, a zeitgeist, at the moment (and one of the uncanniest aspects of it is the fact that there seem to be very few lines of explicit influence among the artists involved).
In his crucial piece in the new Wire, Simon backs away from the term 'hauntology' because of its 'post-structuralist baggage'; but that 'baggage' is what gives the term its special purchase; and the fact that the hauntological discontinuum connects with the dyschronic condition which Derrida describes is what makes it more than the 'latest thing'.
Given that Simon devotes so much of his Wire piece to discussing the end of pop history, it is worth recalling that Derrida wrote Spectres of Marx in part about the 'end of history' thesis then being propounded by Fukuyama. In addition to being Derrida's book on Marx and Marxism, Spectres of Marx can also be read as his engagement with postmodernism. Postmodernism only achieves full-spectrum dominance after 1989, when 'apparently victorious' capitalism thinks it is in a position to declare the end of history. (It's worth noting here that Pop's confident forward motion doesn't long survive the end of the Cold War.) Derrida's title, needless to say, was a play on all of the ghostly imagery in Marx - most notably, of course, the opening line of the Communist Manifesto. 'A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of Communism.' Part of the point was: if communism has always been spectral, what does it mean to say that it is now dead?
Derrida's other major reference plex is Hamlet, especially the line, 'The time is out of joint.' It is this sense of temporal disjuncture that is crucial to hauntology. Hauntology isn't about the return of the past, but about the fact that the origin was already spectral. We live in a time when the past is present, and the present is saturated with the past. Hauntology emerges as a crucial - cultural and political - alternative both to linear history and to postmodernism's permanent revival.
Ten years ago, we would have looked to SF and cyberpunk for this alternative. But hauntology and cyberpunk can now emerge as twins; travelling back in time in Butler's Kindred is the complement of the violent irruption of the past in Morrison's Beloved. It's no accident that hauntology begins in the Black Atlantic, with dub and hip-hop. Time being out of joint is the defining feature of the black Atlantean experience. As Mark Sinker wrote, the 'central fact in Black Science Fiction - self-consciously so named or not - is an acknowledgement that Apocalypse already happened: that (in PE's phrase) Armageddon been in effect.' In this disjunctive time, it makes perfect sense for Terminator X to juxtapose samples of helicopters with discussions about the slave trade, as he does on Apocalypse...91. There is no way in which a trauma on the scale of slavery - 'the holocaust that's still going on' as Chuck D had it - can be incorporated into history, American or otherwise. * It must remain a series of gaps, lost names, screen memories, a hauntology. X marks the spot... The deep, unbearable ache in Kindred arises from the horrible realisation that, for contemporary black America, to wish for the erasure of slavery is to call for the erasure of itself. What to do if the precondition for your being is the abduction, murder and rape of your ancestors?
The trauma that postmodernism screens is the catastrophe of Capital: the terminator of history, there from the beginning distributing microchips to accelerate its advent. Postmodernism is characterised by what Jameson calls the 'nostalgia mode'. Now, it is important to remember that the nostalgia mode is not explictily nostalgic. On the level of content, the productions of the nostalgia mode make no reference to the past at all; yet formally, they are reiterations. Jameson's example is Body Heat, a film given a modern-day setting but which was clearly made according to the formal conventions of 40s noir. Here, there is dyschronia but is disavowed. The exact equivalent of this in pop are Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys (I note that hype about the latter seems to be dissipating at an unseemly rate - with any luck they will be this year's Darkness). There is an interesting way in which cultural products that are openly nostalgic cannot belong to the nostalgia mode - precisely because they pointedly raise issues of temporality and historicity which the nostalgia mode must suspend.
Compare Burial to the 'New Rave' for an illustration of the difference between a hankering for the past and the nostalgia mode. Burial implicitly accept that the whole concept of 'New' Rave is a contradiction in terms, that rave posited an endlessly dilated Now eternal, that to 'repeat' rave would not to be to re-iterate it. Far better, to mourn for rave, to point to its absence, than to pretend that it could be re-lived - since re-living was what Rave precisely was not doing. That was what Rave was: an alternative to (Indie) re-living. (Incidentally, it's hard to believe that the Guardian's piece on New Rave - which talks of 'the dark days of 1991-93' when 'it looked like the guitar really was extinct' - isn't a piece of deliberate comedy; it is certainly rockist self-parody, establishing that the Guardian apparently has an infinite pool of buffoons to draw upon when it comes to pop coverage. Who would listen to the Prodigy's 'Charly' and Altern 8 these days, eh? It's only fifteen years ago when such records could be hits but the gap between then and now seems absolute.)
Dyschronia is not repressed in hauntology; it rises to the surface. Or rather, it unsettles the very distinction between surface and depth, between background and foreground. In sonic hauntology, we hear that time is out of joint. The joins are audible - in the crackles, the hiss...
It's no accident that Tricky should keep coming back at the moment, that Ian's groundreaking piece on Tricky in the Wire should have been the first to broker seriously the concept of 'sonic hauntology', that, when I first heard Burial, I would reach for Tricky as a point of comparison, or that as I listen to Stone Cold Ohio I am continually reminded of Maxinquaye. Listen back to 'Aftermath' - with its Blade Runner sample ('Let me tell you about my mother'), and its citations from Japan's 'Ghosts'; it's almost too perfect. Listen, again, to what Ian had to say:
    Is it merely coincidence that the Sylvian quote and the Blade Runner lift converge in the same song? "Ghosts"...Replicants? Electricity has made us all angels. Technology (from psycho-analysis to surveillance) has made us all ghosts. The replicant ("YOUR EYES RESEMBLE MINE...") is a speaking void. The scary thing about ‘Aftermath’ is that it suggests that nowadays WE ALL ARE. Speaking voids, made up only of scraps and citations ... contaminated by other people's memories ... adrift ...
What Little Axe, Burial, Ghost Box, The Caretaker share with Tricky is that they foreground the surface noise. There is no attempt to smooth away the textural discrepancy between the crackly sample and the rest of the recording. This is one reason why hauntology is not just some lazy, hazy term for the ethereal. Hauntology isn't about hoky atmospherics or 'spookiness' but a technological uncanny.
The spectres are textural. The surface noise of the sample unsettles the illusion of presence in at least two ways: first, temporally, by alerting us to the fact that what we are listening to is a phonographic revenant, and second, ontologically, by introducing the technical frame, the unheard material pre-condition of the recording, on the level of content. We're now so accustomed to this violation of ontological hierarchy that it goes unnoticed. But in his Wire piece, Simon refers to the shock he experienced when he first heard records constructed entirely out of samples. I vividly recall the first time I went into studio and heard vocal samples played through a mixing desk; I really do remember saying, 'It's like hearing ghosts...'
(As to the necromantic aspect of sampling: remember that when Keith Leblanc sampled Malcolm X's voice on 'No Sell Out', it was practically regarded as an act of sacrilege at first.)
Whether or not Robert Johnson really did strike a Faustian bargain, the Gothic dimension of the recording process could not have escaped the imagination of the man who wrote 'Phonograph Blues' and 'Hellhound on my Trail'. What cinema had commented upon and instantiated in films like The Student of Prague - the uncanny presence of the double - Johnson confronted in the encounter with his recorded voice: the part (object) of him which would achieve immortality, returning, buried beneath crackle and hiss, as a phono-doppelganger.
Modernity was built upon 'technologies that made us all ghosts', and postmodernity could be defined as the succumbing of historical time to the spectral time of recording devices. Postmodernity screens out the spectrality, naturalising the uncanniness of the recording apparatuses. Anyone hearing a recording of their own voice or seeing a photograph of themselves is presented with a double. The uncanny thought, often repressed or forgotten, is that the recordings and the photographs will survive us; that as we contemplate them, we are put in the position of a ghost. (It's no surprise that Poe wrote one of the earliest essays on photography. Who knows what he would have made of phonography? One of the interesting things about Skeleton Key, a film of little merit but which has kept coming back to me since I saw it last year, is that the horror is intimately connected with records and recordings.)
It's no accident that Johnson was recording at around the same time as Al Bowlly - that is, at a time when recording technology had developed sufficiently to achieve a kind of sepia effect but not well enough that the audio simulation had become convincing, life-like.
Too high a resolution and we enter the time of the ubiquitous icon, that which is all-too-familiar. The ellipses in Johnson's life - 'there are only five dates in Johnson's life that can undeniably be used to assign him to a place in history' - are another kind of 'hiss' that adds to his mystique, of course. It is as if history never happens; either there are too many gaps, which have to be filled with rumours, supposition and fantasy; or there is an excessive, exhaustive record, so complete as to render the narration of history redundant.
In an excellent summary of hauntology on Dissensus, possibly the clearest and most succinct yet, John Doe refers to 'disinternment - a disinternment of styles, sounds, even techniques and modes of production now abandoned, forgotten or erased by history'. Yet, in sonic hauntology, disinterment goes alongside internment, the deliberate burial of signal behind noise.
What is mourned for most keeningly in the Ghost Box and Mordant Music records, it often seems, is the very possibility of loss. VHS, DVD and multi-channel TV mean that the fugitive evanescence that once used to characterize the watching of television programmes - seen once, and then only remembered - is now gone (think of how the very word 'broadcast' now seems quaint). 70s television was in modernist time; and with Ghost Box, it's difficult to know whether you are dealing with nostalgic modernism or modernist nostalgia, or whether the distinction makes any sense.
The story of Basinski's Disintegration Loops - tapes that destroyed themselves in the transfer to digital - is a parable (again almost too perfect) for the switch from the fragility of analogue to the infinite replicability of digital.
Mordant Music's Dead Air sounds like an electro/rave version of The Disintegration Loops. Mordant are fascinating in part because, as Simon points out in his Wire piece, they affirm decay and deliquescence as productive processes. It is as if the mould growing on the archives is the creative force behind their sound. Listening to Dead Air is like stumbling into an abandoned museum 200 years into the future where old rave tracks play on an endless loop, degrading, becoming more contaminated with each repetition; or like being stranded in deep space, picking up decaying radio signals from a far distant earth to which you will never return; or like memory itself re-imagined as an oneiric television studio, where fondly recalled television announcers, drifting in and out of audibility, narrate your nightmares in reassuring tones.
There are obvious parallels between Mordant's 'uniquely British tone of despair and decay' and the Burial LP, even if Burial's ghosts are junglist, while Mordant's a more motley bunch. What is compelling in both cases is that the sounds that are being elegiacally de-vived belong to dance music. Dancehalls submerged in hiss.... collective dreams buried....

* Mention of American history brings us back, inevitably, to Greil Marcus. (Before I go on, and for the record, I make, surely unnecessarily, all of the disclaimers about acknowledging Marcus' brilliance etc.) But Ian's original point was more subtle than it is being given credit for. It's not that Marcus' preferences are 'sonically incorrect'; dub is exactly the sort of thing he will claim to like, but which he avoids writing about in any depth. The suspicion must be that the evasion of dub (and rap) is more than a matter of contingency, it is constitutive. I think this is evident by posing a simple question: where is production in Marcus's writing? References to producers - or production techniques - in Marcus are, at best, fleeting. There is a very definite metaphysics of presence at work in his writing. For all the alleged disjunctures of Lipstick Traces, it ultimately centres not only on the Pistols, but a Pistols' live performance. The unlive, dubbled aspect of pop is what Marcus represses, consistently: why Gang of Four and not the Pop Group, why do Joy Division merit only a passing mention but the Clash and Costello get page after page, why are the Slits celebrated until they are ... produced (by Dennis Bovell)?
It is this perpetually deferred encounter with the technological uncanny which means that, no amount of using the words 'weird' or talking about old records, will necessarily give Marcus a take on hauntology. I haven't read any of Marcus' Old Weird America material, so correct me if I'm wrong - isn't it about Dylan? - but couldn't all this return to field recordings be fitted, all-too-comfortably, into a quest for presence? I haven't read any of the new one, either, but The Voice of American Prophecy has metaphysics of presence written all over it. The whole reterritorialization on American history could also be read as a repression of the Black Atlantic, but that's another story.-k-punk

1. The sound of hauntology
Conjecture: hauntology has an intrinsically sonic dimension.
The pun – hauntology, ontology - works in spoken French, after all. In terms of sound, hauntology is a question of hearing what is not here, the recorded voice, the voice no longer the guarantor of presence (Ian P: 'Where does the Singer's voice GO, when it is erased from the dub track?') Not phonocentrism but phonography, sound coming to occupy the dis-place of writing.
Nothing here but us recordings...
2. Ghosts of the Real
Derrida's neologism uncovers the space between Being and Nothingness.
The Shining - in both book and film versions, and here I suggest a side-stepping of the wearisome struggle between King fans and Kubrickians and propose treating the novel and the film as a labyrinth-rhizome, a set of interlocking correspondences and differences, a row of doors – is about what lurks, unquiet, in that space. Insofar as they continue to frighten us once we've left the cinema, the ghosts that dwell here are not supernatural. As with Vertigo, in The Shining it is only when the possibility of supernatural spooks has been laid to rest that we can confront the Real ghosts.... or the ghosts of the Real.
3. The haunted ballroom
Mark Sinker: 'ALL [Kubrick's] films are fantastically "listenable" (if you use this in sorta the same sense you use watchable)'
Where does
The conceit of The Caretaker's Memories from the Haunted Ballroom has the simplicity of genius: a whole album's worth of songs that you might have heard playing in the Gold Room in The Shining's Overlook Hotel. Memories from the Haunted Ballroom is a series of soft-focus delirial-oneiric versions of Twenties and Thirties tearoom pop tunes, the original numbers drenched in so much reverb that they have dissolved into a suggestive audio-fog, the songs all the more evocative now that they have been reduced to hints of themselves. Thus Al Bowlly's 'It's All Forgotten Now', for instance, one of the tracks actually used by Kubrick on The Shining soundtrack, is slurred down, faded in and out, as if it is being heard in the ethereal wireless of the dreaming mind or played on the winding-down gramophone of memory. As I.P. wrote of dub: 'It makes of the Voice not a self-possession but a dispossession - a "re" possession by the studio, detoured through the hidden circuits of the recording console.'
the singer's voice
4. In the Gold Room
Jameson: 'it is by the twenties that the hero is haunted and possessed...'
Kubrick's editing of the film does not allow any of the polyvalencies of that phrase, 'It's All Forgotten Now', to go un(re)marked. The uncanniness of the song, today and twenty-five years ago when the film was released, arises from the (false but unavoidable) impression that it is commenting on itself and its period, as if were an example of the way in which that era of beautiful and damned decadence and Gatsby glamour were painfully, delightfully aware of its own butterfly's wing evanescence and fragility. Simultaneously, the song's place in the film – it plays in the background as a bewildered Jack speaks to Grady in the bathroom about the fact that Grady has killed himself after brutally murdering his children – indicates that what is forgotten may also be preserved: through the mechanism of repression.
I don't have any recollection of that at all.
Why does this Gold Room Pop, all those moonlight serenades and summer romances, have such power? The Caretaker's spectralized versions of those lost tunes only intensifies something that Kubrick, like Dennis Potter, had identified in the pop of the Twenties and Thirties. I've tried to write before about the peculiar aching quality of these songs that are melancholy even at their most ostensibly joyful, forever condemned to stand in for states that they can evoke but never instantiate.
For Fredric Jameson, the Gold Room revels bespeak a nostalgia for 'the last moment in which a genuine American leisure class led an aggressive and ostentatious public existence, in which an American ruling class projected a class-conscious and unapologetic image of itself and enjoyed its privileges without guilt, openly and armed with its emblems of top-hat and champagne glass, on the social stage in full view of the other classes'. But the significance of this genteel, conspicuous hedonism must be construed psychoanalytically as well as merely historically. The 'past' here is not an actual historical period so much as a fantasmatic past, a Time that can only ever be retrospectively – retrospectrally - posited. The 'haunted ballroom' functions in Jack's libidinal echonomy (to borrow a neologism from Irigaray) as the place of belonging in which, impossibly, the demands of both the paternal and the maternal superegos can be met, the honeyed, dreamy utopia where doing his duty would be equivalent to enjoying himself.... Thus, after his conversations with bartender Lloyd and waiter Grady (Jack's frustrations finding a blandly indulgent blank mirror sounding board in the former and a patrician, patriarchal voice in the latter), Jack comes to believe that he would be failing in his duty as a man and a father if he didn't succumb to his desire to kill his wife and child.
White man's burden, Lloyd.... white man's burden....
If the Gold Room seems to be a male space (it's no accident that the conversation with Grady takes place in the men's room), the place in which Jack - via male intermediaries, intercessors working on behalf of the hotel management, the house, the house that pays for his drinks - faces up to his 'man's burdens', it is also the space in which he can succumb to the injunction of the maternal super-ego: 'Enjoy'.
Michel Ciment: 'When Jack arrives at the Overlook, he describes this sensation of familiarity, of well-being ("It's very homey"), he would "like to stay here forever", he confesses even to having "never been this happy, or comfortable anywhere", refers to a sense of dèja vu and has the feeling that he has "been here before". "When someone dreams of a locality or a landscape," according to Freud, "and while dreaming thinks "I know this, I've been here before", one is authorized to interpret that place as substituting for the genital organs and the maternal body."'
5. Patriarchy/hauntology
Isn't Freud`s thesis – first advanced in Totem and Taboo and then repeated, with a difference, in Moses and Monotheism, simply this: patriarchy is a hauntology? The father – whether the the obscene Alpha Ape Pere-Jouissance of Totem and Taboo or the severe, forbidding patriarch of Moses and Monotheism - is inherently spectral. In both cases, the Father is murdered by his resentful children who want to re-take Eden and access total enjoyment. Their father's blood on their hands, the children discover, too late, that total enjoyment is not possible. Now stricken by guilt, they find that the dead Father survives – in the mortification of their own flesh, and in the introjected voice which demands its deadening.
6. A History of Violence
Ciment: 'The camera itself -- with its forward, lateral and reverse tracking shots ... following a rigorously geometric circuit -- adds further to the sense of implacable logic and an almost mathematical progression.'
Even before he enters the Overlook, Jack is fleeing his ghosts. And the horror, the absolute horror, is that he – haunter and the hunted - flees to the place where they are waiting. Such is The Shining's pitiless fatality (and the novel is if anything even more brutal in its diagramming of the network of cause-and-effect, the awful Necessity, the 'generalized determinism', of Jack's plight than the film).
Jack has a history of violence. (And as I have written before, The Shining in many ways doubles Cronenberg's film of that name from last year. More of that parallel below.) In both novel and film of The Shining, the Torrance family is haunted by the prospect that Jack will hurt Danny.... again. Jack has already snapped, drunkenly attacked Danny. An abberation, a miscalculation, 'a momentary loss of muscular coordination. A few extra foot-pounds of energy per second, per second': so Jack tries to convince Wendy, and Wendy tries to convince herself. The novel tells us more. How has it come to this, that a proud man, an educated man, like Jack, is reduced to sitting there, false, greasy grin plastered all over his face, sucking up everything that a smarmy corporate non-entity like Stuart Ulman serves up? Why, because he has been sacked from his teaching job for attacking a pupil, of course. That is why Jack's will accept, and be glad of, Ulman's menial job in Overlook.
The history of violence goes back even further. One of the things missing from the film but dealt with at some length in the novel is the account of Jack's relationship with his father. It's another version of patriarchy's occult history, now not so secret: abuse begetting abuse. Jack is to Danny as Jack was to his father. And Danny will be to his child....?
The violence has been passed on, like a virus. It's there inside Jack, like a photograph waiting to develop, a recording ready to be played.
Refrain, refrain...
7. Home is where the haunt is
The word 'haunt' and all the derivations thereof may be one of the closest English word to the German 'unheimlich', whose polysemic connotations and etymological echoes Freud so assiduously, and so famously, unraveled in his essay on 'The Uncanny'. Just as 'German usage allows the familiar (das Heimliche, the' homely') to switch to its opposite, the uncanny (das Unheimliche, the 'unhomely')' (Freud), so 'haunt' signifies both the dwelling-place, the domestic scene and that which invades or disturbs it. The OED lists one of the earliest meanings of the word 'haunt' as 'to provide with a home, house.'
Fittingly, then, the best interpretations of The Shining position it between melodrama and horror, much as Cronenberg's History of Violence is positioned between melodrama and the action film. In both cases, the worst Things, the real Horror, is already Inside.... (and what could be worse than that?)
You would never hurt Mommie or me, would ya?
8. The house always wins
What horrors does the big, looming house present? For the women of Horrodrama, it has threatened non-Being, either because the woman will be unable to differentiate herself from the domestic space or because - as in Rebecca (itself an echo of Jane Eyre) - she will be unable to take the place of a spectral-predecessor. Either way, she has no access to the proper name. Jack's curse, on the other hand, is that he is nothing but the carrier of the patronym, and everything he does always will have been the case.
I'm sorry to differ with you, sir. But you are the caretaker. You've always been the caretaker. I should know, sir. I've always been here.
9.I'm right behind you Danny
Metz: 'When Jack chases Danny into the maze with ax in hand and states, "I`m right behind you Danny", he is predicting Danny`s future as well as trying to scare the boy.'
Predicting Danny`s future Jack might be, but that is why he could equally well say 'I'm just ahead of you Danny...' Danny may physically have escaped Jack, but psychically....? The Shining leaves us with the awful suspicion that Danny may become (his) Daddy, that the damage has already been done (had already been done even before he was born), that the photograph has been taken, the recording made; all that is left is the moment of development, of playing back.
(And how does Danny escape from Jack? By walking backwards in his father's footsteps).
10. The No Time of trauma
Jack: Mr. Grady. You were the caretaker here. I recognize ya. I saw your picture in the newspapers. You, uh, chopped your wife and daughters up into little bits. And then you blew your brains out.
Grady: That's strange, sir. I don't have any recollection of that at all.
What is the time when Jack meets Grady?
It seems that the murder --- and suicide --- has already happened, Grady tells Jack that he had to correct his daughters. Yet --- not surprisingly --- Grady has no memory
Bowlly's 'It's All Forgotten Now' wafting in the background
of any such events.
'I don't have any recollection of that at all.'
(And you think, well, it's not the sort of thing that you'd forget, killing yourself and your children, is it? But of course, it's not the sort of thing that you could possibly remember. It is an exemplary case of that which must be repressed, the traumatic Real.)
Jack: Mr. Grady. You were the caretaker here.
Grady: I'm sorry to differ with you, sir. But you are the caretaker. You've always been the caretaker. I should know, sir. I've always been here.
11. Overlooked
To look over or at from a higher place.
To fail to notice or consider; miss.

“Hauntology: A peculiar sonic fiction”

The discourse developed around Jacques Derrida's concept of 'Hauntology' and its application to music in the minds of writers like Simon Reynolds, K-Punk and David Toop is one of the most discussed philosophical and aesthetic musical ideas of recent years. Derrida's original use of the phrase can be linked to a sense of 'threading the present through the past', or a ghostly re-imagining of the past defining our existence. But in its musical sense, Hauntology has been used to describe a gathering of disparate artists dealing in "haunted" sonics; music resonating with the emotions and feelings of past analog, and digital ghosts. While there are many interpretations of the concept, we've taken it to cover artists who have tried to to re-engage with intangible musical feelings and experiences that have affected their formative years or that have become forever ingrained on their sonic psyche, without merely rehashing them as pastiche. Looking specifically at the British musical landscape of the early 21st century, it's been said that after the 'death of rave' we're experiencing a sort of creative comedown, where the dubbed ectoplasmic traces of the musical past are caught in an ever-decreasing feedback loop of nostalgia seeping through music and other artistic forms, resonating echoes of intangible elements from days gone by. Our selection veers from The Caretaker's apparitional sample morphology, through Ariel Pink's exquisite MOR narco-pop, the Ghost Box label's miniaturised vision of middle England, onto Burial's mournful rave dreams, all leaving an abstract yet indelible mark on this very particular musical landscape we find ourselves in today.

by Frederic Jameson


Bomb Light in Faraway Windows: The Invisibles and Hauntology

“Now let me ask you again: is he this writer, this Kirk Morrison, is he Gideon Stargrave, or is he King Mob?”
“I… Perhaps He’s all three…”
—Sir Miles and Ms. Dwyer, 1995
At this point in his interrogation of the leader of the terrorist cell incubating the future Buddha, Sir Miles is taking a severe ticking off from his kinky commanding officer, the were-bug, Ms. Dwyer. The man in question’s identity is still unconfirmed, and the future crushing of enemy forces, forces opposed to the mind-tyranny of the Outer Church, the secret rulers of the earth that Miles and Dwyer represent, hangs precariously in the balance, and if results aren’t forthcoming soon, well… Dwyer’s threatening her poor, beleaguered second in command with her tit. The problem is that whenever Miles barges his way into his captive’s mind to prise from him the details of his cell - its origins, structure and planned future insurrections - instead of being presented with a smooth self-history from which any relevant information can be plucked like paragraphs from a book, he’s met by a discontinuous jumble of conflicting narratives, a choose your own adventure set of identities that resist coherent interpretation: the hard facticity of the man in Room 101 pinned to his chair by electronic manacles, psychotropic drugs, and a gunshot wound, sharply contrasted with the hazy question of who said man actually is.
Of course Ms Dwyer expects answers, and so the script above resolves itself into an affirmation of Miles’ certainty that they’ve got the right man, the “King Mob” they’ve been looking for.
Which would be all very well if only Miles’ voice didn’t waver.
And if by this time, we, the readers, weren’t wavering on this point too.
Perhaps he’s all three.
Because in fiction characters aren’t bound by their pasts, they’re not fixed in place, and if their creator wills it they can be a violent super-ninja freedom fighter, a successful, totally harmless horror writer and a dimension hopping agent of Chaos simultaneously, their ”true” self located only in whatever overlapping sites of meanings the reader cobbles together from each cover story, forever hidden in the gaps.
The Invisibles, Grant Morrison’s hyper-sigilic magnum opus detailing the final phase of the primordial war between the forces of Order and Chaos, ended eleven years ago and with it an age of conspicuously politically motivated popular comic books, a trend beginning in the early eighties with the advent of 2000AD, which briefly flourished in the early nineties with comics like Crisis and Animal Man (another of Grant’s books) and was finally killed off by Mark Millar and his CNN-infused but ultimately apolitical Ultimates run, where the news leader of the day was employed as entertainment as opposed to the starting gun for real critique. I was obsessed with The Invisibles at the time, but as my twenties wore on and even Morrison began distancing himself from many of the book’s conclusions, as good as admitting in recent interviews to their retrospective naivety, I became aware of an increasing disconnect between myself and the book. Revolution is a young man’s game, isn’t it?
Cut to early November 2010, the Tories are in power again and the papers are screaming “RIOT!” I sit there drunk and incredulous as my girlfriend runs through a list of tactics the police employ in such situations. By the time I’m settling down to sleep that night, I’m utterly convinced by her argument that the police leave sacrificial vans in areas where they know protesters convene, the burnt-out, graffiti-scrawled husks that inevitably result on the front pages of the tabloids the next day “proof” of the kind of animals who go on these marches and the libidinal splurging these events are really about. Why have I always assumed the best? Because the Powers that Be are people too? Let’s face it, people can be shits. We live in a world where the right-wing press make up stories about homosexual teachers foisting their “agenda” on classrooms full of eight year old, we live in a world where Rupert Murdoch’s media boy is Dave Cameron’s right hand man, where Fox News tried, and arguably succeeded, in dragging a country to war… The phone-tapping scandal… Power and its abuse are real, conspiracies are real, and in the end isn’t it just expedient for the police to collude in making the protesters look bad? You don’t want the thing to catch on, do you? It would make the working day that much more difficult.
Somewhen in late ninety-one, a student tosses a molotov cocktail through his science block window, his triumphant cry, drowned out by the intervening two decades, slowly fading up again now.

But I can’t hear him yet.
Until the other day. I’m trawling through Found Objects, one of the many image aggregators I’m obsessed with, with the special lady friend rifling through and eventually settling down on my bed with a couple of my comics, when one of the posts triggers a memory, something to do with Alan Dunn’s House of Fun. And I start to wonder…
“Hey, this comic… It could be happening right now!”
What’s she talking about?

Suddenly everything falls into focus.
That afternoon I’d been idly mulling over the similarities between Found Objects and The Invisibles. The hauntological obsession with revenants of now defunct ideologies, aesthetics, and futurisms, from the covers of seventies sci-fi novels, to Tales of the Unexpected and Madame Tussaud’s, seemed to me loosely in line with the tone of the comic. The Invisibles drew upon a seething stew of pop-cultural detritus, bouncing in tone from pulp spy novel to the Ley Hunter’s companion often in the course of one panel, but more than that, than the merely post-modern, it was always interested in invoking the uncanniness always present in any truly hauntological text. But this alone wasn’t enough, just a surface similarity, and there was always the chance that the connections ran no deeper than that. After all, as well read as he appears to be, there was a good chance Morrison had never heard of hauntology when he wrote the comic. But Clare’s outburst (name changed to protect the innocent), quite coincidentally, synchronicitously, uncannily, reminded me of another hauntological component present in the work: the ghost of dissent.
And I decided to investigate further.
For those of us interested in ideas like hauntology, it’s not simply an exercise in identifying an aesthetic movement, but a way into the historical moment we’re living through. Very loosely speaking, it posits that as a result of living in a post-industrial, post-ideological society, people will turn increasingly to the past for authentic experience and that this disjuncture between now and then, coupled with the spooky moans of the unquiet spectres of inequality and exploitation, things we’ve never truly been able to put to rest, will result in the idea of revolution re-emerging again. Hauntology, however, isn’t an explicitly Marxist ideology, with its united worker’s front and overthrowing of the capitalist hegemony as inevitable byproducts of the historical process, in fact strictly speaking hauntology isn’t an ideology at all, but instead describes a world disrupted by incursions from beyond, by things both there and not there simultaneously. The crowded out Marxist readings of consensus reality, for instance, clanking the chains of the proletariat in the margins. Much has been said about hauntology in other media, but little has been said about hauntology in comics, including the one comic that directly concerns itself with the spirit of revolution. For shame.
One of the reasons I wanted to write this piece is because I feel The Invisibles has been somewhat misrepresented in other media. I’m sad to say I haven’t been able to get my hands on Patrick Meaney’s book yet, but I’ve got a copy of Anarchy for the Masses on my shelf. Flicking through it again for the first time in what must have been years, and largely because I was interested in the interview at the back, what immediately struck me was how at odds with the spirit of The Invisibles the book is. While the authors appear to recognize the comic encourages multiple interpretations, their bolt-holing together of detailed character biographies and time-lines, their frequent literalizations of potentially metaphoric and figurative elements, and their general insistence on uncovering the “truth” of what occurs, belies a desire to flatten everything out and turn the comic into something it defiantly isn’t. A story. (Although you must forgive me if I continue to refer to it as such for the duration of this essay. The word meta-text makes my girlfriend’s teeth hurt.) You can see them there, pulling their hair out, because if one could just unravel all the time travel nonsense, then….. Like the man in Room 101, The Invisibles is always half finished, and any solution to it necessarily contains a lacuna to be filled in by another solution and then anoth… You get the point. Morrison even states in the interview at the back that everyone saves the world — not everyone plays a hand in saving the world, but everyone, all the cell members, save the world. This isn’t possible in a world with one solution. There is no magic key that unlocks the text.
The reader can see the book scaling up in complexity as it progresses. We begin with a simple and straight aheadtale of good versus evil, which progresses by the closing chapter of volume two into the syncretic, quantum reality of Schroedinger’s Cats and then by the third volume collapses altogether. But it’s the comic’s final issue that really spells it out. Issue twelve of volume three sees a billion “solutions” bearing down on December the Twenty-Second, Two Thousand and Twelve simultaneously: The Invisibles is a super virtual reality video game from which, in order to “win,” the player, embedded in his avatar, must wake up; The Invisibles describes the process of a 4D entity as it struggles to be born; The Invisibles is John a Dreams’ flowering into Buddha-hood; or maybe the Invisibles don’t matter at all and it’s the nanites that transform everything and everyone into whatever happens next….
If hauntology is concerned with revealing the ghosts – the dormant meanings – haunting the text and finds its artistic correlate in half-finished, negative art, like Aerial Pink’s muddily allusive anti-pop and Burial’s assassinated seance-rave, then The Invisibles is the hauntological text par excellence. It is ghosted by as many different readings as you like, from straightforward interpretations of the action, to autobiography, to auto-critique. And it’s this quality, this re-imagining of reality as something pregnant with its own disruption, its own anti-mirror, this permanent recuperation, not some Sherlock Holmes style breaking down of the comics events (which holds some pleasures, yes, but is ultimately, gloriously futile if it refuses to recognize its own limits) which makes The Invisibles interesting, relevant and, perhaps, important.
So is if The Invisibles is hauntological, what does it contribute, if anything, to the body of work already identified as such? Why should we care?
“These were the thoughts that ran through my head as I dissected the time machine.”

Invisible Vol. 1, Issue 1
A spooky surprise greeted me when I began rereading. Strangely enough, the first  supernatural event to occur in The Invisibles, right there on page eleven, in book one of volume one, is a visitation by a ghost. It’s another dismal nothing-to-do evening in Liverpool and Dane, future Buddha and little shit, is kicking it by the Mersey having been turfed out of his flat. He’s understandably pretty pissed off, but he’s distracted mid-sulk by a conversation between two men taking place further down the riverbank. Dane doesn’t realize it at the time, but the men in question are Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon, and the subject of their conversation: whether or not Stu will stay on with their band or return to Sweden and his artist girlfriend, Astrid. For those even passingly familiar with Beatles’ history this conversation represents the point at which they became the band who would go on to take over the world, and later soundtrack the late sixties’ atmosphere of dissent. The comparisons between the Spectre of Marx and the spectre of John Lennon should be obvious here, and it’s very weird that Dane’s, and our, inaugural Invisibles’ experience should involve the invoking of this revolutionary from outside time.
As Elfayed, King Mob’s friend and teacher explains to him on the comic’s opening page: “And so we return to begin again. Khepra the sacred beetle goes down into darkness and rises again, bearing the sun in his mandibles.”
Then he hands him a mummified scarab.
The spirit of transformation is endlessly resurrected.
As its title suggests, The Invisibles is a comic concerned with the spaces in between spaces and the negative beings inhabiting them. The decisive events of the final phase of the war between the forces of Chaos and Order take place behind the scenes of the everyday, evidenced only by reflected bomb light in far away windows’ and the ramblings of deranged conspiracy theorists ranting from their soapboxes in Hyde Park. This is the sidelined world of exploitation and the machinations of Capital and of permanent revolution. We feel its incursions as a spooky presence in our own lives, but for the most part it rarely finds form or substance – it is always insubstantial, as are the combatants on either side. It’s not part of the story we tell ourselves, not until there are casualties or by other means the veil is ripped wide.
Which of course is King Mob and his team’s job.

The Invisibles Vol. 1, Issue 2
Although we meet some of these individuals early on, for the comic’s first five issues they’re a shadowy presence lurking in the background. Because of this, because they remain largely unseen but felt, the reader is left unsettled, anticipating their intrusion at any moment, like the thought of dissent always hovering behind the scenes of the everyday. Dane’s aimless frustration and dissatisfaction suggests a questing after the other, but what is interesting from a hauntological perspective is that this questing entails the other taking an interest in him. And when the moment is right, it strides through the walls of consent and hijacks his life. This is the way for all the characters in the story, as we shall see.
Early on in the narrative, as part of Dane’s initiation into the Invisible Order, he voyages down into the secret subway system beneath the city, there to imbibe a rare psychedelic drug, a blue mold, which, upon his return to the surface reveals to him an invisible London hiding in the brickwork. A London where black dirigible angels prowl the sky, Blake’s Urizen squats in the Thames and even the late night revelers promenading along the South Bank take on unearthly aspect – pale fairy girls wrapped in feather boas against the cold, pulling on pink – blue mold filled? – cigarettes. This is the city haunting the text of our own, a city of poetry, dreams, and derives, recuperating the workaday narrative of coffee shops and the daily commute.

The Invisibles Vol 1, Issue 2
But, as is made evident to Dane, there are other ghosts hidden in the text of the everyday too. Another reading contiguous to this one is that this is also a city, a world, where secret armies war for and against us. This is where they undertake their actions and where we are acted upon. And in the case of the Outer Church that means “Making us smooth between the ears and smooth between the legs”, transforming spirit into product, long before that product winds up shackled to a real world production line.
Although Dane has a guide on this journey, a perfect example of the unquiet spectre of inequality mentioned above, the homeless Invisible Tom o’ Bedlam, we never really feel as though these are things he’s being shown, but rather things that happen to him. Morrison employs the metaphor of alien abduction, which while drawing from a different mythological current than the ghost, in the comic shares many of the same motifs. There is the sense that Dane’s is life being invaded by these new revelations, that they come from another “planet” beyond our own. Spirit World or Sirius, in the end it’s all the same thing. And isn’t that often the way when we are finally confronted by the horrors wrought by inequality and injustice – the sweatshops, starvation and war – and our place in the production line: we experience it as a reality exploding grenade lobbed at us, not as something arrived at? It’s as if we do not possess it, instead it possesses us.

The Invisibles Vol. 1, Issue 2
In the end, perhaps this image best illustrates my point. The Invisibles’ ID, the blank badge, embedded in Dane’s hand: a ghostly non-presence from a world outside his own, piercing his flesh and his soul. Dane’s looking for something more, but in the end that something more finds him first, visiting itself upon him.
While we don’t get to see every Invisible’s induction into the Order, those we do differ only according to the culture and symbol system each character inhabits. The fundamental qualities of the event are always the same. Like Dane, King Mob and Mason Lang are abducted by aliens, and Lord Fanny by ancient Aztec gods. Only Boy, the earthiest of the Invisibles, encounters the conspiracy on her own, street level terms. But the black helicopters and FBI spooks she collides with are just as alarming and paradigm annihilating as anything out of a M.R. James story, and in the end just as spectral.
Interestingly, this is a pattern shared by the Invisibles’ enemies also. Sir Miles, to all intents and purposes the human face of the Outer Church for much of the story, has a close encounter with this invisible world sometime in his early twenties and the horror of what he sees nearly causes him to lose his mind.
“Our reality…our entire frame of reference had become the breeding ground for a kind of bacterial civilization. A machine race of meaningless, ruthless efficiency… Endless ghettos… Atrocity camps… An empire of psychic army ants eating its way through the very foundation of things.”
What better metaphor for the mindless brutality of capital could there be? Miles’ is a world governed not by people, but by a blind, soul devouring machine, a machine of lethal purposelessness within which we are all only a cog, to be used until destruction and then replaced. The difference between the servants of the Outer Church and the Invisibles, then, is what they do with this revelation. Miles loses all hope and in the end embraces his role as a cog – perhaps with a chance of being upgraded to, I don’t know, a sprocket or something – whereas the Invisibles revolt.
Hauntology is deconstructivist. It has as one of its axioms the idea that if you look hard enough, the body of any text, whether or not it’s a book, a cultural movement or the man in Room 101, is implicit with its own disruption. A James Bond novel manifests as a completely male space, indeed a paradise, but it’s the very absence of a female presence within the text that, to paraphrase Ben Kenobi, only makes her presence stronger. Bond is haunted by the ghost of feminist critique, just as our predominantly white, male, heterosexual oriented society is haunted by the shadows of these states. The goal of the Invisibles, then, in the words of Cell 23 member, Oscar, is to ‘make the darkness visible’. This, we quickly come to realize, is in and of itself a revolutionary act and immediately places the individual communing with the spirit world out with her own. After that, one is left with the choice of either turning away in denial or pressing forward into this ghostly territory, but, its rules having been broken, the world as we know it is permanently undermined.
And so we venture forward with Dane, peeking behind the curtain…

The Invisibles Vol 1, issue 2
“Harumagedon is coming but your time machine can take the faithful back into the Golden Age…! I Just wanted to escape Harumagedon, Takashi…”
“Your misunderstanding of the teachings shows that your karma is not good, boy. Have you not heard? Harumagedon is already here…. This is how the collapse appears to those condemned to live in it.”
From the perspective of the ghost the world had already ended. Undead, it manifests only via decaying, zombie materials.
The Invisibles began just five years after the Berlin Wall fell and the American economist Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the End of History, and the events of the comic play out against this backdrop of cultural implosion. But what does this look like? As I mentioned earlier, the comic’s mise-en-scene is constructed from inter-textual hyper-links, many of them connecting to the type of cultural remnants beloved by hauntologists. This jumbled up backdrop is spooked by sturdier stage sets from a time before the End of History, when the Western narrative had yet to be subsumed by postmodernism and forward momentum still existed. One of the (now) retro-futures The Invisibles incorporates, Terrence McKenna’s Time Wave Zero, imagines space-time undergoing a collapse into a four dimensional black hole, the rate of which can be measured by the degree of information present in our world. We start with a swirling cauldron of Doctor Who and Grange Hill references and end up with last night’s birthday drinks reproduced as Facebook updates and tagged photos, our present moment wheeling back in on itself, doubling and redoubling – a perpetual, inescapable NOW. We transform ourselves into spectators not participants – ghosts looking in at our own world. No wonder Derrida, hauntology’s originator, knew we’d be unhappy with this state of affairs - it’s an ontological itch that demands to be scratched.
Morrison seems to recognize that this unhappy state of endless referral is a precondition upon which the spectre of revolution depends if it is manifest, because this is the terrain upon which the Invisibles and the Outer Church conduct their war, the base for all their operations, and the place Dane, now rechristened Jack Frost, makes his home.
And loses himself in the process.
So we’ve described the Otherworld’s incursions and taken a brief look at the lay of the land, but that’s only the start of the story. One of the strangest qualities The Invisibles possesses is the jump it affords its readers and its characters, the movement from Here to There. The comic gives us the chance to experience reality from the perspective of the ghost, from Outside. And this is what really interests me about it, the insight it gives us into the mechanisms of the spirit realm and the behaviors of its denizens, something many traditional hauntological texts, which tell the story from the point of view of the haunted, barely touch upon.

The Invisibles Vol. 1, Issue 18
At first this seems counter-intuitive. Isn’t the whole purpose of the ghost to unpick the seams of an immaculately constructed, seamless reality? Isn’t their very softness and unknowability the point? We want to unsettle the hard surfaces upon which Capitalist Realism depends, do we not? Well, yes, but there are different kinds of unknowability and like the map of the Phantom Zone hanging on the Fortress of Solitude’s wall in Morrison’s unused Superman pitch – another ghostly text – the attempt to delineate the shape of their unknowability, their un-structure, may prove useful. What happens when the characters are absorbed by the blank badge and become the ghosts that formerly terrorized them? What kind of entities exist beyond this gateway?
Because only by becoming free floating and ephemeral can one hope to navigate and articulate this disintegrating world, like King Mob in Room 101 – deconstructed and inconclusive, a hauntological text made flesh, which, when you peer closely enough at it, disappears from sight.
This is the kind of discorporeal non-body we’ll be examining in part two.
Next up we take a look at the un-atomic structure of ghosts, dyschronia, and the time machine, and what happens when a comic attacks you in a hotel lobby.
For now I withdraw in a rain of wailing cubes and move to attack my enemies in their future.

King Mob and the rest are ghosts.
Dane is pierced by the blank badge and killed.
Let me show you how.
Ever since he was a little kid, Dane’s been haunted. We meet this spirit just after John and Stu make their way off along the river – a spindly, hunched mass of black icicles Jack Frost appears to Dane and proclaims the death of both men. Dane’s ‘Fuck off, you’ in response suggests a longstanding relationship, but it’s not until issue three that Tom o’ Bedlam, his initiator into invisibledom, gets to the heart of it. Jack Frost was the threat Dane’s Mother terrorised him with when he was naughty, in lieu of having an actual Father around.
‘And you still see Jack Frost, do you? He still comes round when you’re bad, does he? He must come ’round a lot then…. He’s a bit scary, is he? But he looks after you, eh? It’s worth being a little scared of him because he makes you feel tough when there’s trouble. He makes you feel hate instead of uncertainty and fear.’
Jack Frost is the bad-father, the empty father, the vacuum frozen up. He’s the absence of love making Dane so restless and angry. And later on in the scene, this is what Tom brutally attacks, assaulting Dane’s emotional armour by physically attacking him, by threatening to touch him the way his dad didn’t. He forces Dane to stop projecting his pain as a demon Out There and accept the absence as part of himself. He makes the darkness visible, forcing it into awareness. And so the negative space around Dane McGowan opens its eyes and blinks, and the boy sculpted by his parents’ unhappiness (who in turn were sculpted by their parents’ unhappiness, and so on, successive generations of unfulfilled lives sculpted by poverty) is sloughed like a dead husk. By becoming cognizant of and processing his pain, Dane becomes free, amorphous and invisible.
Jack’s story parallels those of the rest of his cell. Those whose origins we’re made aware of, at least. Lord Fanny, the cell’s resident transvestite shaman takes hir magickal name from Tlazolteotl, ‘the Eater of Dung, Goddess of Lust and Shame’, hir patron. And it’s this identification with and awareness of the demonic energies presiding over hir former life as a prostitute, the patriarchal power structures that transformed hir from person to product, which affords hir the same freedom Jack enjoys. In short, ze reclaims the role ze’s been forced into and transforms a weakness into a strength, a dirty joke dedicated to her God. Hilde, hir former self, sacrificed to Lord Fanny. Likewise Jim Crow is the negative space around racial oppression, King Mob around the idea of the revolutionary and Ragged Robin around the sex interest. At one point in volume two Morrison actually forces the characters to perform auto-critique, exposing the negative ideas informing each of them. The characters are stereotypes, but they’re stereotypes in possession of themselves, aware of their chains and pregnant with the possibility of transcendence.
Each Invisible, then, is the ghost of an original text, the anti-being in the margins of their previous representation. This is who they become when they wave goodbye to the chronically reflexive slave self they were, their magickal name its headstone.
This intangibility doesn’t end there, however, it’s a theme returned to again and again. Many of the characters are locked into multiple cover stories, losing track of their original Self in the process, King Mob’s cell members rotate elemental roles between adventures and ’ultimate Invisible’, Mr. Six, beats King Mob’s performance in Room 101 hands down, discarding and acquiring personalities depending on when the mood takes him. But it’s the Supercontext, the 21st century alternative to selfhood, which best articulates this quality.
Being as it’s the logical conclusion of themes already strongly present in the comic, it makes sense that we’re only introduced to the Supercontext in the comic’s final issue, but Grant gives us plenty to go on. The Supercontext circumvents the book’s up until this point primary dialectic by suggesting that all conflict derives from an insistence on an illusory self, and in action manifests as the MeMeplex, or, as future invisible Reynard puts it, Multiple Personality Disorder as lifestyle option.’ This idea’s not new to Morrison, it’s been present in his work since his 21st century schizoid Joker in Arkham Asylum, but Grant more thoroughly argues his point here. I’ll let Dane and Reynard do the talking:

Reynard later goes on to describe her own initiation into invisibledom, an initiation which entailed total identification with a lifestyle as antithetical to the Invisibles’ own as it’s possible to get: she became an accounts manager. All of this in an attempt to dissolve her own ‘existential alienation dilemma in unity’. The comic’s focus on exploding the boundaries between This and That deeply disrupts traditional notions of Being, assuming you’ll forgive the conflation of the term with identity. Upon its transformation into the MeMeplex, the stable narrative of selfhood disintegrates into the dynamic interplay of occasionally conflicting, co-operating, or indifferent micro-narratives, losing all solidity, in a condition of permanent revolution.
Seeing as it directly reflects this restless, churning approach to character, it’s probably worth probing deeper into the Invisibles’ mise en scene here. In part one of this piece I talked about the way the comic’s shifting scenery articulates the mediated sludginess of early 21st century postmodernity and its inevitable collapse into the hypermoment, both of which I’ll return to later, but right now I want to go way back to the beginning and expand on the stuff that inspired all this. It began with that pig mask hanging inside the window of Alan Dunn’s House of Fun: the fake shop-front acting as a disguise for the Outer Church’s east London interrogation centre in volume one’s closing story arcs, Entropy in the UK and House of Fun. It was the way it resonated with so much of the iconography of my childhood and late seventies’ British pop culture, particularly the spooky kind…. Here, take another look.
There’s the Wicker Man in there, there’s the monstrous shop owners and landladies crouched behind a beaded curtain straight out of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, there’s even the old Jokes and Trick’s toy cards, and not only that but there’s the overriding abjectness of British vanity shop culture, an energy which, although not entirely vanished in the present day (for proof you need only check out the weird, abandoned RACEWAY: Racing on Giant Scalextric’s Sets …err.. ‘shop’ across the road from my flat), has dissipated in the thirty odd years and become doubly creepy in the process. This is an image which is not only haunted by the very real threat, in story terms, posed by the Outer Church, but by our memories of prior ghostlinesses also. Because of this, it’s not simply an exercise in nostalgia, but in dyschronia. The feeling that time is out of joint is one of the key features of a haunting, a feeling the undying spookiness of the referents here feed directly into. Because the figure wearing the animal head mask is still waiting at the newsagent’s window, the shopkeeper still crouched behind that curtain, the face on the Joke and Tricks’ cards still leering out of some imaginary turnstile of the mind. But as I said in part one, if this was the only hauntological feature of the terrain the two armies war for then it would hardly be worth mentioning – however it isn’t. In the story arcs featuring the House of Fun alone there’s Dr Who monsters and stage sets, the acid laced sci-fi of late seventies’ zine and comic culture in the form of Gideon Stargrave, the eternal horror of Orwell’s cobwebbed but ever felt torture chamber, Room 101… And it’s not just British hauntologies referenced, but in the second volume American ones too.

Hauntology isn’t big in the U.S.A, probably because it’s an esoteric subject and its recent resurgence has largely been limited to blogs with a distinctly British bent, however that’s not to say America doesn’t have any skeletons in its closet. Volume two arrives with a blast of James Bond and Man from Uncle military bases, Whitley Streiber style alien abduction and Roswell UFOs. What fascinates about this particular hauntological strand, is the way in typical American fashion it materialises the immaterial Other. As I said in part one, just because these entities come from Mars and not the Spirit World, or from underground as opposed to the Underworld, they still perform the same function as their British counterparts. The secret government is still plotting against us, the aliens may still come to steal time from us at bedtime and the UFO still sits beneath the desert, waiting. Dissections happen as we speak. All of this in an eternal sideways realm outside of conventional history, through which brittle partition the flying saucers may burst through, lasers firing, at any moment. Or as a tranced out Fanny tells it, complete with Hollywood special effects…
‘In the endless, floodlit cells of the Reverse Universe, the armies of the Outer Church are gathering in their millions. Stealth armour continually scanning for and imitating human nightmares, waiting for the order to come and for it to begin at last… the Invasion. The Armageddon.’
Just as the comic’s British mise-en-scene doubles this effect by referencing not just spooky themes but half-forgotten, half seen texts with spooky themes, so does the American. I could give endless examples of the kind of thing I mean, but there’s really not enough space and I’m sure you get the idea by now. Anyway, what really interests me here is the meta-narrative serving as the bonding agent for this torrent     of competing hauntological narratives, Conspiracy Theory. Conspiracy Theory, with its basic Us vs Them dynamic is often hauntological. It suggests that there’s our world Over Here and then there’s the Other World, where shadowy powers, whether or not that’s the Illuminati, the Space Brothers, Cthulhu or the blind teleological currents of McKenna’s Timewave Zero, conspire eternally to overturn our own. Not just in a physical sense, by colonising, but in a psychic sense too, making a nonsense of our past, our futures and our place in the universe – our very sense of being. Talk about spooky visitations collapsing history! Conspiracy Theory is also ghostly in another sense: the way it dates. Front loaded into most conspiracy narratives is the idea that at the appointed hour the plot will bear fruit and the conspirators’ hand show itself. But, as we all know, in reality this is generally never the case. Ultimately the year 2000 did not see a global computer crash empty the silos of the world’s nuclear powers and the New World Order never arrives on schedule, and while this might be a problem for the people who’ve invested themselves in these non-events, in the Invisibles it only strengthens the transparency of its landscape. Retro futures, futures that never happened, are big in hauntology. Vanished utopias and dystopias haunting our present remind us of a time before History ended, and Grant Morrison races through them panel by panel, just as our present day online culture channel surfs them at light speed, everything available so rubbishable, disposable, making history of the ends of history. This dreamy comic is musty with the dust of decomposed iconographies and we cannot find purchase because it’s moving too fast and if for a split second we think we do, our foothold collapses into nothingness almost instantaneously. There’s nothing solid here.
And being a ghost world, it trails soul stuff in its wake.
Whenever the magic is really flowing and the boundary wall of the Space-time Supersphere the Invisibles inhabit is reached, this slimy sci-fi gunk appears condensing on its surface. It comes in two different varieties, Magic Mirror and Anti-Mirror, but, amusingly, Mr Six and his friend’s in the P.I.S (the Paranormal Investigations Squad) refer to it simply as ‘ectoplasm’. And just like the ectolasm conjured in the famous spirit photographs of the early twentieth century, across its swirling surfaces we can discern the faces of the dead, from the dinosaurs to Shakespeare. Of course it arrives with a typically credulity busting explanation in tow.
‘Try to understand this impossible ‘It’ as an Angel, a God fallen into the world it had created. An artist trapped in its own masterpiece.’
Everything, basically, trapped inside everything. And everyone, the goodies and the baddies, want to get their hands on it. Which makes sense because it’s one of the core mysteries in the comic – it describes ultimate reality. It goes without saying that when you get right down to it, the fundamental stuff of the Invisible Universe should be a superfluid, reflecting all of ‘space-time’, all texts, across its surface, because that’s what I’ve been describing for the vast part of this essay. It’s just a further subtraction, another negation, atop another negation, etc., right down to the purest symbol of ghostliness it’s possible to arrive at. It relects our present day information culture back at itself. On the surface of the mirror every story that’s ever been told is immediately available, with one narrative flowing seamlessly into another, the distance between each bridged by thought. This is a poetic description of the world we scry via our laptops and I-phones, our online world, our ‘information age’ and Grant knows it. But for him and the Invisibles, the mirror isn’t a direct route straight to nostalgia, as it is for so many of us, but a portal to revolt.
This is the topography of the Negative Zone, its landmass and unhabitants. .
I promised you a map, didn’t I? Well here it is.

Here the map is the territory.
The only common features we’ve been able to find in this place are dispersion, revolution and a corresponding rupturing of the rules of time, space and being. And this is what the ghost comes to deliver. I believe Derrida makes much of the fact that in Hamlet the message of the the King’s ghost, the message which kickstarts the action, is conveyed as much by its presence as by its gloomy utterances. In the end the raw fact of its being there tells Hamlet all he knows about Denmark being out of joint: his family’s unquiet history stalking the battlements is in and of itself an omen. The ghost, then, is the act of rupturing incarnate, the medium and the massage both, and this is the only function it can perform, able to speak only in terms of condemnation, able to express via its wails and shrieks only discontentment with the current state of things. This schematic is exactly the same in the Invisibles. One of the many esoteric maxims the Invisibles makes much of is the hermeticist’s famous ‘As Above, so Below’, and I think by this point it’s clear that the Invisibles are, if you like, the ‘voice’ of the disruptive world their war plays out on. They are, as I said in part one of this piece, the revolutionary thought that occurs when time and the world are put out of joint, an emergent property of the mise-en-scene, reflecting all its characteristics. And made flesh, this world, now able to convey itself, naturally does so – as a function of its fundamental disruptive impulse does so - the characters able to move freely in time and space, conduits of disruption, bearing the flag, the map, of their territory as a blank badge pinned above their hearts. Or to their hands.
I did mention the Invisibles travel in time, didn’t I?

As anyone who’s read The Invisibles knows, time travel is one of the story’s key features. We begin with Tom and Dane’s blue mould enhanced Situationist style derive through London, reclaiming physical space, and quickly move on to the second arc where time itself is detourned. This is the difference between the invisible revolution and its physical counterpart. The latter is confined to an exact location on the map and a specific moment, whereas the former will intrude anywhen, whenever the revolutionary thought occurs, in whatever form. And so the Invisibles’ time jaunts takes in the sights of of Revolutionary Paris, the 1920′s with its death knell for the aristocracy and the hyper-sci-fi end of history itself in 2012. It’s interesting to take a look at the specifics of each mission, as well as the form the time travel takes. For much of the book’s duration, the Invisibles are only able to travel in time via a technique Morrison dug out of the bizarrely named Gnostic Voudoun Workbook, a technique which employs a kind of astral projection. In short they manifest at their destination as ghosts. Hauntologists obsesses over signifiers like crackle, hiss, decay and degradation and they characteristically picture the haunting as moving forward in time, objects from the past emerging in a future where they cannot belong,  but The Invisibles is happy to break this rule. I have no problem with this. If the ‘goal’ of the haunting is dyschronia, then it matters little whether or not the dyschronia is the result of the object moving forwards, backwards on sideways in history. All that matters is that the flow of events is shattered and correspondingly stable narratives, stable selves, and the unbroken sense of Being is broken down. But doesn’t whatever direction across the space-time Supersphere you’re talking about have to be a real direction, somewhere we’ve actually been, for rupture to occur? Well, hmmm, I think it’s fair to say that most of us haven’t been to Hamlet’s Denmark. But, whatever, I’ll go deeper into this in part three. For now, though, all we have to do is drink up the strangeness and put ourselves in the shoes of the Invisibles whom King Mob and the crew visit themselves upon to get an approximation of the hauntological effect. Back to the missions…..
In their first two missions, then, the Invisibles are constrained in terms of what they’re able to do. Happily for hauntology traditionalists, in revolutionary Paris they’re tasked with plucking the Marquis de Sade from his ‘square’ on the chessboard of history and depositing him in 1994. While on the surface of it the Marquis and Derrida’s famous Spectre of Marx share little in common, the two both perform a revolutionary function. The Marquis is employed by the Secret Chiefs of the Invisible Order to chart new sexual frontiers, and, although he doesn’t represent revolt in a physical sense, his ‘intrepid new breed of men and women’ haunting the mansion at La Coste where he makes his base conclusively overthrow traditional notions of the Way Things Are. We only get a snap shot of their ‘work’ but de Sade’s brave young perverts are seen in the space of one short issue reclaiming their physicality by public farting and shitting, disrupting the dominant ocularity of a culture obsessed with distinctions by surrendering their sight to the all pervading sensuality of blind sex in floatation tanks, sublimating their trauma via contact with the ‘bad’ ectoplasm, anti-mirror, and, in the form of La Coste’s pervert elite, the Nons, jettisoning gender itself. The Nons are particularly relevant in terms of this discussion because they embody Queer Theory, with its perpetually deconstructive approach to sex, gender, self and the power dynamics we’ve slathered on top of them. Like the Invisibles, they have no stable core of selfhood, but fluctuate according to whim or necessity, whatever they appear to be on the surface  haunted by the possibility of another, negative, reading. A ghost text which may manifest at any moment….

And all of this, this ultimate kingdom of the flesh, presided over by the spectre of the super-libertine.
The Invisibles’ second act of time travel also embodies deeply spooky themes. The 1920s with its backdrop of dreamy opium dens, political instability and spiritualism provides a perfect backdrop for all things hauntological, and King Mob, the only member of his cell to make the journey there, gets a mouthful. Mob’s mission centres around the Hand of Glory, a powerful magickal artefact his cell have obtained in the present but to whom its operations and functions are still a mystery. Not so, though, to Billy Chang, the 1920′s team’s expert on the Occult. And so Mob travels back to 1924 to learn how Chang gets it to work. Chang’s cell members, King Mob’s anarchist predecessor, King Mob, his lover and consort, Queen Mab, along with the libertines Lady Manning and her cousin, the young Tom o’ Bedlam, activate the Hand twice in all. The specifics of each activation aren’t important, although in predictably spooky fashion the culminating rituals bear a close similarity to that mainstay of spiritualist culture, the seance, but instead of calling down the spirits of the dead, the team contact ‘time spirits’. The Hand of Glory is described in folklore as the consecrated hand of a thief or murderer and it performs the function of turning its user invisible, but, as we have seen, invisibility in The Invisibles is symbolic of a ghostly, time-dislodged state, and the Hand of the comic is a tool to operate in this sphere. Morrison, employing the comic’s frequently occurring game metaphor, at one point has Jack describe the Hand as a ‘cursor’ which moves around in time, opening windows (pun intended) into the future and the past. Obviously, then, things go pretty badly for our ‘little band of anarchists’. The first operation of the Hand unsticks time, so that after its completion the Invisibles arrive slap bang in the next day, the temporal elipsis never explained, and leads to a lovely sequence which sees King Mob and his 1920s counterpart slack-jawed in the middle of a timequake, the city around them boiling up with dyschronisms: a 1920′s ford becomes a modern sports-car, the sky is suddenly crowded out with skyscrapers and passenger planes. From a hauntological point of view its enjoyable to watch the first King Mob, a dyed in the wool Marxist materialist from before the End of History, freaking out over the results of their magickal time meddling. ‘Forget Whitehall. We could blow up reality’, his ancestor explains. Later, things get worse, as Tom, unable to cope with this state of being in ‘so many places at once’, uses the hand to minimise time itself, collapsing the world into a point, catapulting his team mates wildly across the supersphere and eventually returning the present day King Mob via a circuitous route through his own memories of the past and future, back to his home time. As the book goes on its interesting to note there’s a steady progression from the ‘solid state thought-forms’, the living thoughts, the Invisibles become in order to travel through time at the beginning to physical time travel – a slow and steady concretization of the idea of non-local revolution. Because purring away in the background to all this is one of the book’s major subplots, a subplot which reaches its culmination at the end of volume two and the completion of the world’s first time machine.

Created by future Invisible Takashi and test piloted by Ragged Robin, the time machine represents the point at which time travel not only becomes a literal fact, but also freely available to humanity at large. It presages the dawning of the civilization Mason Lang, the time-project’s bankroller, envisages midway through volume three.
‘What would they look like if they could move through time and space at will? Would we know them if we saw them?’
The whole idea being that if we could move as freely in time as we do in space, then we’d be here already, all of history a soil cultivated by our Omega Level future selves, ending in their own germination. So the time machine really equals the end of progress within three dimensions – the final point of revolution. It promises the absolute nonsensing of linear time, a jumping off the game board. And in the end even it is revealed to be a flimsy first intimation of our future reality. Like the rocket-ship before it, a tin can which will inevitably prove to be absolutely useless for deep space travel, it must eventually be discarded in favour of other, safer, more appropriate means. In the Invisibles this final stage is represented by the Harlequinade and their Outer Churchian iteration the King in Yellow and his dwarves, both of whom represent the last stage in human development, our dissolution into magic matter itself, making their home permanently outside time, the time machine only the key which unlocks this door. If the Invisibles’ first time travel adventure was about dislodging specific entities in time, then the second is about dislodging time itself and the third doing away with the concept altogether.
We all become invisible.

‘Initiation never ends.’ Mantra of the Invisibles
Although the apocalypse it prophesies and progresses towards, ostensibly, for the purposes of telling a story, inhabits a specific point in the map-grid of reality, December the 22nd, 2012, at that point the calendar stops and notions of prophecy and progress are torpedoed altogether. However, this isn’t simply an articulation of the existential ennui we all experience in postmodern, western society – no, as I’ve said before its the mise-en-scene, the eternally collapsing hypertext, which articulates that – but of the moment of permanent disruption this resolves itself into. Morrison expresses this idea in many ways in Glitterdammerung the comic’s final issue. To begin with there’s the fact that it occurs after the story has arrived at its conclusion. In the previous story arc the Outer Church and the Invisible College have been shown to be one and the same and so the war is to all intents and purposes over, everything subsumed by total reality, and issue 2 (or 11, depending on how you view the topsy turvy numbering Vertigo went for) is full-stopped by a conclusive: THE END. But unlike the total reality of Francis Fukuyama’s End of History, unending capitalism, there’s a coda which shows what happens ’beyond’ this point. Because it takes place outside of the confines of the actual story, issue one, like the King’s ghost, transmits its message of chronological disruption via both form and content. It exists in a space which is neither yesterday or tomorrow, so immanent - always happening. This meta-disruption which occurs everywhere at every point, this hole in everything, is reinforced further by the steady disintegration of the comic’s panels as the issue progresses, cigarette burns eating away at the text, until we’re left with the final iconic image of a blown up full-stop on a white field, the Ur Hole if you like. When all is said and done, this is perhaps the most elegant expression of the hauntological ideal – not a ghost or ghoul, but a pure representation of the collapse itself. The absence that is a presence.

Forever bored into the mind of the reader who, at the time of publication, had invested six or so years in arriving at that final ‘panel’.
By locating the apocalyptical final issue outside time, The Invisibles states that the world is always haunted by a ghost of itself, at every point pregnant with its own overthrowing. This is, of course, the fundamental feature of the magic mirror: it is holographic. Every moment contains every other moment, all possibility inhabiting the same space. The text fucked and fucking itself. The Invisibles message is of always latent possibility, rereading and reinterpretation, and its unstable, uncanny atmosphere and labyrinthine, self-reflexive, recursive structure makes this feeling almost impossible to shake off, its readers often leaving the text with a new attitude which naturally resists the reality we daily inhabit.
‘But surely it’s just a comic book!’ you say.
We’ll see about that.
Coda: when I reached the final leg of this piece, the ‘victory lap’ as my fellow Mindless One, The Beast Must Die, would say, I thought I’d check out some music a mate had sent me via Facebook. The opening sample ran thusly:
‘Seven is both there and not there, same as nine eleven. So these numbers, one through twelve, all have their own role and function. Nobody invented numbers. They came simultaneously with the creation of the universe.’
But, blah, It wasn’t very good, a bit sub Orb circa 1990, so I stuck on some Kashif instead.
Join me, won’t you, for part three of this essay. Magic mushrooms, flying saucers, the Great Old Ones and magic numbers await.

Brannten Schnüre and German Hauntology.

Although the tendency to fall for trite, romanticist pastiche is always only a step away in Germany, I’ve felt that hauntology as an artistic concept has never really gained a foothold in the local experimental underground (as opposed to fine art, a point convincingly made by Adam Harper in reference to Neo Rauch). Considering this, I was both very surprised and quite intrigued to come across the latest offering by Frankfurt-based cassette imprint SicSic Tapes, a C-40 split between Johannes Schebler aka Baldruin and Christian Schoppik, who records under the moniker Brannten Schnüre.
In fact it was the latter’s side of the tape that really grabbed my attention. Brannten Schnüre’s six tracks (that can all be streamed over here) deliver a disturbing if not outright frightening séance made up of looped, slowly meandering instrumental sound collages that feature a good deal of crackling and tape hiss (most likely because the snippets were directly taken from an audio or video cassette). However, what struck me most was Schoppik’s choice of source material. As it turns out (according to the description given by the label), he derived a lot of (most?) samples from “obscure Czechoslovakian films”, a method that in my view deserves a closer look in regard to the condition of possibility of a “genuine” hauntology in the domestic music scene.

Brannten Schnüre – Gole Gandom

Let’s consider how the use of early electronic music taken from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop etc. by Mordant Music and the Ghost Box label led Mark Fisher and Simon Reynolds to first come up with a description of hauntology as a musical concept (I’ll leave it that way, others have described it way better), i.e. music that was mainly used to score 60s to 80s educational programmes and the like. And then let’s also look at what induced David Keenan to give birth to hypnagogic pop in 2009, a “genre” that’s in many ways related and by some regarded as the American counterpart to hauntology, namely the exploitation of the all-American canon of 80s pop culture, from early MTV videos to all kinds of TV series by h-pop’s main proponents such as James Ferraro). Considering this, I find it a very interesting question to ask what would be the appropriate source for a likewise inspired compatriot to come up with a similar piece of art (I admit that I haven’t asked myself this question before, which probably says more about my personal relationship to the music of this country that about the music scene itself).
Now it seems to me that Schoppik might have found a very compelling, indeed intriguing answer. Trying to remember my earliest childhood, it indeed appears that we’ve been raised on things like Arabela or Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Three Nuts for Cinderella), or briefly, fairly cheesy fairytale movies and TV series that were produced in Prague’s famous Barrandov Studios. More precisely, at least this was the main cultural influence druing our 80s childhoods (apart from Astrid Lindgren adaptations perhaps) that was not derived from or exposed to the prevalent Anglo-American culture (needless to say, this observation is non-judgmental). So I’d argue that if there’s anything like the possibility of an original hauntology as a musical concept in Germany or other countries of Central Europe, it would be built on such source material that was used by Schoppik for Brannten Schnüre, or anything similar, and this is what makes his release truly noteworthy.
The music’s hauntological effect gets further reinforced with the accompanying video for “Gole Gandom”, in which the artist uses exactly the esthetic these productions were famous for (unfortunately I couldn’t confirm that the footage is actually taken from a Czechoslovak movie, but it definitely fits their general esthetic and it appears to match the timeframe as well). Don’t know what this film was about, but at least the editing leaves quite a terrifying impression:

The (highly recommended) split tape may be ordered directly via SicSic Tapes.

Schoppik takes the concept further with his work “Zaharia Farâmas Protokoll in sechs Teilen” (protocol in six parts), in fact the only other piece of music I’ve found by him, and of which “Gole Gandom” actually constitutes the last (i.e. sixth) part. Zaharia Farâmas is the protagonist of the 1967 novella Pe strada Mântuleasa (The Old Man and the Bureaucrats) by the (rather controversial, but we need not elaborate this here) Romanian author Mircea Eliade. Farâmas, an elderly school teacher, gets caught by the Securitate (secret police) and subsequently interrogated. The communist officials (thus being representatives of a regime that at least formally pursues the path of Europe’s last true utopian philosophical concept) then get mesmerized by the teacher as he starts telling fabulous, labyrinthine stories from the past. Eliade later stated that he (quite obviously) attempted to “engineer a confrontation between two mythologies: the mythology of folklore, of the people, which is still alive, still welling up in the old man, and the mythology of the modern world, of technocracy”. This is of course not only postmodern, post-utopian. Moreover, if we accept that hauntology “doesn’t merely show or recall an image of the past, [but] shows the present – or more specifically, (…) the past as it exists and is perceived from inside the present”, and that “hauntological art is a present-day construction that illustrates the present’s problems as it approaches the future” (again Harper), then what Schoppik does here by using samples from our faintly remembered childhoods and by establishing a connection between the musical result and Eliade’s story is a pronouncedly hauntological project, and one that is not a pale imitation of its British or – provided we accept to include hypnagogic pop – American counterparts but that is distinctly, originally Central European (if not exclusively German). - nofearofpop.net/2011/10/brannten-schnure-and-german-hauntology/

On Hauntology: Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve been here before? Superintendent Idle Tiger

Musica Globalista: Simon Reynolds on undead hauntology By Bruce Sterling

This being the case, I thought I'd take the opportunity to expand a little on how The Hauntological Society works. Then, I'm going to do some thinking out loud, regarding Hauntology's love/hate relationship with the reoccurring theme of ghosts.

The Hauntological Society is about the business of gathering together information on that which can be considered Hauntological. That which can be considered Hauntological, and therefore suitable for inclusion, is arrived at via a some-what idiosyncratic check list. This ultimately becomes a value judgement, for which I make no apology.

"our aim is to curate the sum of hauntology's parts, from the available information, so as to give you a better understanding, over time. if you think we have referenced you without credit/or link, please let us know"

The majority of posts feature text from existing articles and, wherever possible, images created by THS, or from our own archive (magazines, photographs, promotional stills, books, etc). The idea behind using existing articles, is to recontextualise, through inclusion, within the context of Hauntology. This is a very important aspect of THS blog. Occasionally additional text is added, say, by way of an introduction. As time goes by, or not, as the case may be, more and more material is added to the THS archive. As well as recontextualised sources, THS regularly features exclusive posts, with information supplied by their respected subjects. The audio selections, used on many of the posts, are legally obtained and offered for your consideration under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, 1976.

It's no surprise that it feels like there should be more than 101 posts, thus far, as there in fact have been. However, over time, post have been re-examined, redefined and moved over to our sister site R/J/L-H. It is also worth noting that existing posts on THS are regularly revisited, revamped and updated, so check back on your favourite posts from time to time, to see what's new.

If you have any questions, ideas for submissions, etc, please use the link on the right, about 2/3 of the way down.

Every now and again, on a semi-regular basis, a prevalent misunderstanding that Hauntology is all about ghosts prevails. My Father has even asked "what’s this sudden interest in ghosts?". In the general scheme of things, this misunderstanding is of no great importance. But, the problem here is, I find myself responding to these kinds of comments/questions by immediately stating that Hauntology has nothing to do with ghosts. Then, in the next breath, correcting myself by saying "well, it's not as simple as that". I’m not sure we’ll get to the bottom of this, but lets give it some consideration…

I recently submitted a definition for Hauntology to Collins Dictionary; Social movement concerning the idea/s of the past and the future, haunting, bleeding into, the present. Often filtered through themes such as Childhood and the Phenomenology of Landscape. At the time of writing, I’m still waiting to hear back.

Derrida clearly takes inspiration from this concept of haunting, amongst other things, when arriving at the term Hauntology "The spectral rumour now resonates, it invades everything: the spirit of the "sublime" and the spirit of "nostalgia" cross all borders" (Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning & the New International).

Yes, I know, not the quote you expected, but this particular part of the text moves things on a little further.

Derrida also makes reference to the ghost of Hamlet’s father: “Let us go in together, and still your fingers on your lips, I pray. The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite, that ever I was born to set it right! Nay, come, let's go together" (Hamlet Act 1, scene 5). These lines are spoken by Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, upon encountering the ghost of his father.

Now, we’re dealing with ideas here. Ideas that are hitching a ride on metaphors, so as to get to where they need to go. I have, In point of fact, very little interest in ghosts, from a supernatural perspective. I’ll go further; I’ve looked into it, and outside of Metaphysics, ghosts do not exist. And yet, obvious metaphors aside, ghosts, in a supernatural sense, have somehow made their way into Hauntology.

It is testament to Hauntology's 'it just is' value system, that we can talk of Hamlet’s Father’s ghost and include M. R. James in the Hauntological universe, yet state, when asked, that Hauntology has nothing to do with ghosts.

James’ supernatural ghosts are not metaphors, as such, but they do exist to teach us that we should mind our own business, and don’t poke our nose in, where we know we shouldn’t. Well, I suggest you ignore this warning and keep poking your nose in where it is most certainly wanted, so as to see us through another one hundred and one posts. -

Hauntology Beyond the Cinema

The Technological Uncanny

Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar