Taking a dalliance through Nick Land’s mythos should come with a wristband. Cherished for months after the festival, it performs an inevitable disintegration… ephemera reinscribed to fragmentary notions once again. As rumor (and Wikipedia) would perpetuate, Land’s anthology Fanged Noumena(1) is a rare fae of published work, a brief singularity of agitation and irreverence within a limited canon. Amongst this erratic output, Land apparently went rogue: proper rogue. After ejecting himself from the impingements of palatable academia, evidence suggests that he has since reinstated himself anew.
Land’s tenure at The University of Warwick during the ’90s is generally regarded exorbitantly, and via iridescent lists. Sprawling, clunky webpages that heave with tags of ‘occulture’…’cybergothic’…’rave nihilism’… ‘de-territorialisation’. A kind of epistemic party mix for the post-human sweet tooth. As if in homage to the spirit of the Cybernetic Cultures Research Unit, the one-time axis of Land’s nebulous activites, most of these aforementioned sites are presented obliquely, aloof even. Their abandonment sees them crusted over with Times New Roman in columnar blocks, fervently indented, staunchly at the cusp of Web 2.0 glossiness. The epitome of these is CCRU.NET itself, the virtual portal that has survived the CCRU’s clandestine sign on the office door.
The new visitor to CCRU.NET is hardly encouraged to wade across the dappled Parchment tile bitmap, an unrenovated sickly green. Furtive hyperlinks with with cryptic nomenclature cling to borders and headers. I scroll hurriedly to try one, which deepens my sensation of trepass.
Trespassing, prohibition and refusal are all evocative of this so-called ‘short prehistory’ of the CCRU. My quarrel is not with the length, rather with the general non-disclosure of the CCRU manifesto. I get the sense that nothing so hermetically packed as a linear chronology might be levered out from this text, and most deliberately so.
The swill of ‘-ologies’ deflects all grasping attempts to chart an entity across time or space. The CCRU was a Happening, a collective disturbance in Warwick’s institutional memory. I eventually get a foothold on assemblages, a familiar motif of Deleuze and Guattaris’ A Thousand Plateaus. It’s characteristic of Land’s writing, where Freud, Kant, Hegel and Heidegger bravely leap out from behind mirrors, a delirious ride that collapses and mutates. Fanged Noumena sees the semiotic core of these encounters petrify into actual glyphs:
I feel distinctly trendy reading these, like I’m soaking up some deconstructionist hexes for future nemeses, but it does make for tough going. After all, I had always thought of D&G’s(2) cybernetic intimations as suspiciously optimistic. I felt warmly encircled by the automatic, the operational, and the mechanistic aspects of their ideas. The shattered substrate of technology and identity was permitted- encouraged, even- to fuse. In Land’s collected texts, cybercultures are more ominously cast:
“It is ceasing to be a matter of how we think about technics, if only because technics is increasingly thinking about itself… a becoming inhuman of cognition, a migration of cognition out into the emerging planetary technosentience reservoir… where human culture will be dissolved.”(3)
We telematic dreamers are left bereft, naïve. Land is able to transfix his attention momentarily on recuperation, perhaps haunted himself by recollections of academic stewardship.
“Cybernetics is inextricable from exploration…”(but it’s only a brief glimmer of frontier sentimentality) “…having no integrity transcending that of an uncomprehended circuit within which it is embedded, an outside in which it must swim.” (4)
Last year, I dipped a toe into this swirling milieu with my cybertext titled The Hypersition. In an almost alarmingly serendipitous turn, the name I chose fell in closely to Land’s own vernacular, an onomatopoeic and epistemic acorn to his hyperstition tree. A unanimously frustrating experience of hoarded inputs and neutered agency, my work and Land’s word jostle together.
A coincidence intensfier, indeed.
The CCRU.net glossary is another conflation, and from it we can only know less assuredly that hyperstition might be a labyrinthine detour, an opacity of performance, lifestyle, vapours:
Hyperstition-or brands of the outside-real components of numerical fictions that make themselves real, providing the practical matter of sorcery, spirogenesis, or productive involvement that function consistently with the flatline.
This idea, and indeed the majority of CCRU emanations, appear to be the undead avatars of Land’s cyberhype. We thus tread warily, stepping around Land’s foaming up of signs and cultural material into nonsensicality… a ponderous flattening of excess and emptiness.
Originally published September 2016
(1) Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena : Collected Writings 1987-2007. Falmouth : Urbanomic ; New York, NY : Sequence Press, 2011.
(2) Not Dolce & Gabbana, unfortunately, but Deleuze and Guattari.
(3) Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena : Collected Writings 1987-2007. pg 293
(4) Ibid. pg 295
(5) From http://www.ccru.net/syzygy.htm