4/20/09 Interview with Mark Fisher

Alright, so I recently contacted Mark Fisher, also known as K-Punk and the creator of the K-Punk blog, to try to answer some questions regarding hauntology. What he had to say was interesting indeed. Mark is a PHRE professor at Orpington, College in London and has a PhD in Philosophy and Literature:

What do you think is the ultimate aim of hauntology as a philosophy? As a method of sound production? As a genre?

Not to be difficult, but I don’t think that hauntology is a philosophy, a method of sound production or a genre. It’s more like a sensibility, a tendency – or better, a zeitgeist. What makes it a zeitgeist, a genuine cultural moment, is that there was convergence without influence. Independently, the artists involved began exploring a number of shared themes, approaches and preoccupations – and I see hauntology in terms of these, rather than a set of determinate aims.

Since it appears as if hauntology has a bit to do with the notion of collective memory and evoking a sense of nostalgia, do you think it is possible for younger listeners/readers or listeners/readers of differing cultural backgrounds to develop an appreciation of the techniques used by “hauntology” artists?

Sadly, I think that younger people can relate to hauntology – that is partly why hauntology is so current. I’m stunned by the level of knowledge and interest that many young people have of the popular culture of the 70s and 80s – I certainly didn’t have anything like that level of engagement with the 50s or 60s when I was growing up. The nostalgia involved in hauntology is a complicated, paradoxical one – it is a nostalgia for a lost future, a nostalgia for modernism. The reason that this type of nostalgia has emerged this decade is precisely because the culture is dominated by a formal nostalgia.

This isn’t the same as psychological nostalgia; it’s instead a kind of (often unwitting) reiteration of established forms. This kind of pastiche has become so widespread, so normalised, that it is scarcely noticed any more. So young people find themselves immersed in other people’s memories, another generation’s culture. Many of the most intelligent and inquisitive of them look back precisely in order to escape the current postmodern impasse.

As for different cultural backgrounds – I’m  not sure about thatone!

What makes a song or recording intrinsically hauntological? Is it the method of production? Or is it references back to the uncanny? Or both? Neither? Does it even make sense to try to “canonize” particular bands or artists as hauntological?

The most important thing is a sense of broken time, of what Simon Reynolds has called dyschronia, and the most obvious sonic marker of this is crackle – something foregrounded in the records of Burial, Philip Jeck, The Caretaker, Basinski, The Focus Group and Mordant Music. Crackle means that we are hearing double, hearing a present that is out of joint; it’s a textural trace of a temporal break. But of course crackle isn’t necessary for hauntology – it doesn’t play much of a role in the music of Belbury Poly, for instance. But there does have to be a sense that time is out of joint.

As for canonisation, I’m all in favour of it. Classifying groups or acts as hauntological produces a kind of theoretical surplus value – they each become more than what they previously were. Labelling them as hauntology doesn’t of course exhaust everything about them; it just isolates and emphasises certain features of what they do, allowing us to detect – and even invent – similarities and affinities between different acts. And this is far preferable to the dreary tendency to discuss culture in terms of individulal psychology and biography – an approach which, not coincidentally, has dominated during the period of restoration.

… Needless to say, I will be getting in touch with Mark again sometime in the near future for some follow-up questions.


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