Mark Fisher’s work still gives an electrifying rush. There was no hedging with him – no couching ideas in hazy jargon, no windy and unnecessary verbiage. His writing is still charged with urgency, and many of his essays seem eerily prophetic. In our current catastrophic political climate, we need him more than ever before.
A massive 817-page tome of Mark’s writings edited by Darren Ambrose, K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016), was published in November 2018 by Repeater Books. Taken together, these pieces present a total world view. Beyond Mark’s numerous notable contributions – including the wide-ranging expansion of Derrida’s ‘hauntology’ concept, and the cutting analysis of Capitalist Realism: Is there no Alternative? (2009) – Mark’s writing presented an eloquent argument to take music and popular culture seriously. Mark wrote about many things that had a sheen of hipster cool – The Fall, J.G. Ballard, and the Ghost Box label, for starters – but he also wrote about Drake, Madonna and Batman with equal fervour.
‘The way I understood theory, primarily through popular culture, is generally detested in universities,’ Mark told me in 2005, when I interviewed him for the Village Voice. ‘Most dealings with the academy have been literally clinically depressing.’ He darkly surmised that his blog, K-Punk, and the surrounding blogosphere, ‘seemed like the space – the only space – in which to maintain a kind of discourse that had started in the music press and the art schools, but which had all but died out, with appalling cultural and political consequences.’ Mark and the Village Voice are both dead now, leaving unfathomable voids in their wake.
It’s a bit odd to see all the K-Punk blog posts together now, entombed in a huge, elegant book. When I first encountered his blog online in 2003, I was immediately struck by the stark, low-fi design. The rigid Courier font in glaring white on a solid black background. Very little colour, aside from the occasional photograph. No ‘selfies’; no egotistical identification. When Mark dropped a new piece on K-Punk, it was a major event. ‘There was a certain edgy excitement to turning on the computer every morning and immediately checking to see what Mark had thrown down in terms of an ideas-gauntlet – a definite feeling of having to keep up,’ Simon Reynolds writes in the foreword to the book.
I was part of the blogosphere in those days, along with Fisher, Reynolds and many other critics. It was a head-spinning thrill to read these dispatches on blogs every week – and to respond, to be part of a cultural conversation unfolding in real time. Part of the dull, prosaic quality of Facebook and other social media is that they’re always on. Social media never turns off; it’s a constant drip of blandness. What’s missing now is the ecstatic jolt of a bold new idea – the dramatic off and on.
Depression was one of many recurring themes in Mark’s work. These lines by Fernando Pessoa surface when I think of Mark now, and his tragic decision to end his own life. ‘The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most,’ Pessoa wrote, ‘are those that are absurd – the longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.’
Main Image: Mark Fisher. Courtesy: John Hunt Publishing, Hampshire
First published in Issue 200