Saturday, July 12, 2008


In a beautifully written and highly interesting recent post on his interview with Mark Stewart for The Wire, Mark K-Punk writes:

" link between the post-punk trio I wrote about in the July issue (Stewart, Mark E Smith, Ian Curtis) is channeling. In order to get at what is at stake in so-called psychic phenomena (and its relationship to performance and writing), it's necessary to chart a middle course between credulous belief in the supernatural and the tendency to relegate any such discussion to metaphor: being taken over by other voices is a real process, even if there is no spiritual substance. (...) Hence another take on the old 'death of the author' riff: the real author is the one who can break the connection with his lifeworld self, become a shell and a conduit which other voices, outside forces, can temporarily occupy."

K-Punk addresses an issue which is close to the concerns of this blog: that of possession cults in relationship to contemporary artistic practices. Inspired by Current 93's concert at the Roadburn Festival, I wrote a post which implied that Walter Benjamin's Angel of History was dancing in the head of David Tibet.

I would agree with K-Punk that the author can indeed become a conduit for "...other voices, outside forces...". One does not have to accept any supernatural content to accept that more is at stake than mere illusion: the sense of being 'ridden' corresponds to a definite experience. However, in his post, K-Punk does not examine too closely which voices, which forces Mark Stewart channels: Stewart's loa is cursorily described as "...rage and utopian longings...".

Perhaps K-Punk doesn't examine these voices and forces more closely for ideological reasons, to avoid giving in to "...the dreary certainties of capitalist realism"? Perhaps K-Punk fears ruining the music's mystery?

I'm reminded of the "incident of the Mexican jumping bean", an interesting episode from the history of Surrealism. The incident "...involved a crisis about the proper methodology for inspecting freshly arrived objects into the Surrealist orbit, a pair of jumping beans. Caillois wanted to slice them open, to see what made them jump; yet out of principle, as he recounts, Breton refused to do so, for this would have destroyed "the mystery"." (sourced here). Caillois strove for a form of the Marvelous that does not fear knowledge, but, on the contrary, thrives on it.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that I come down on Caillois' side in this debate. We must slice open the Mexican jumping bean to examine the "...other voices, outside forces...". Using the proper methodology, a Marvelous bean stalk will grow from the eviscerated bean.

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