In 2012, the future this book was projected from, this book was re-launched by the Cabinet Gallery “to acknowledge a legacy and a history, but also the enduring relevance of the work”.
This edition includes a new introduction by Suhail Malik. Accompanying texts by Nick Land Maggie Roberts and Delphi Carstens were also produced towards future editions. Copies are available from the Cabinet Gallery, London.
Click on a title below to expand/collapse texts
New introduction by Suhail Malik
It would be a mistake to see this publication as a re-issue, for two inter-related reasons:
1. in its forceful alienness the text, which may or may not be a book, proscribes it;
2. we are now at its terminal date. To be emphatic, already: a proscription, not a prohibition; termination, not expiry.
Why both? Because this ‘book’ – which format is only a temporary, internally insufficient holding pattern for what it might (yet) be – anticipated the ubiquity of cut & paste not only for writing itself – taken now to be only some kind of organization of text, information, code, of text as code – but also as the very operator of the currency of the present in the circulation of tweets, texts, blogs, likes, +1s, and the rest of it.
What’s news? Whatever pasted link arrives in your device.
A past link: By the dog-end of postmodernism the humanist banalities of creation and subjective expression had been effectively discredited (though they have been unfortunately revalidated through the regressive theoretical, political, economic and cultural fightbacks of the late-1990s and 2000s). This proto-book fleetingly captures a moment in which these dismal legacies of humanism are rightly treated with a castigating disdain if not outright revulsion (such is its fatal anthropism). Doing so, it no less effects and cleaves the now ubiquitous processes of transmission, relay and recoding to index the stark invention wrought by these coded-communicational systems and structures, not us. Whatever that might be, what might be generated on the other face of such a revulsion, was tested and instantiated by – as – this quasi-book, even as it perspicuously thematized the necessity of its own assembling. In other words, confronting the question in 1996, it asks: what is new about now? Now, 2012? What else happens that was not already set in place in 1996?
Link ahead: Determined by various end-time configurations and logics, 2012 is the peril- date of this book-assemblage. This year – this year – was far enough away from 1996 to be at the outer edge of its extended present, a perpetuation of the then-given that could nonetheless touch on its fantasmatic limit, and yet close enough to hold an imminent threat to that very anticipation. 2012 was a threat and alteration close enough to have to pay attention to, that might have been emerging even as it was being composited. A future that could be something else to what then was but which was nonetheless closeby; a looming something else, its peril or elseness an imminent threat. The shadow of nuclear obliteration inverted.
Unlink: That predatory-alien threat was declared, enacted, composited, (de)coded, felt in this quasi-book in 1996 as in much of the cultural production it remobilizes. The reality it presented of a transmission system preoccupied with its circulation as much as with anything that it could convey from outside of that systemic organisation – for example, expression, the bewildering range and subtlety of the affective range of complex primates, previously rhapsodised by poets now effectively parsed and coded adequately well by the stuttering, finger-spasming proliferation of LOLs, OMGs, and emoticons – these irruptions of a code syntactially organized for its own convenience, replacing the speech of subjective singularity, is precisely indexed by this book-assemblage. What irrupts? The very mechanism and system of communication generating and articulating in the process its own counter-force to the human predominance over meaning and semantics. An exposure to something else than that circulation coming now from within the technical parameters and ubiquity of written- coded communications. Tremors registered if not expressed from the outside to any anthropic history or subject in the circulation and honing of a syntactically-crashed semantics. Not obliteration but transmission prevalence. 1996 is the end-time, this book our forceful because necessarily asocial precursor.
Attachment: What this book-assemblage presents, what it understands, affirms and demonstrates from long-enough-ago to be a just-far-enough-away history of our present, is that cut & paste’s deracination of meaning from context, site, production, need – an ontological deracination – are the truth of communication. It presents evidence of that truth, sometimes vaguely recognised, sometimes more emphatically so, as its composition. More so: it’s the truth of a communication system decelerated enough for its capture and retransmission by the nervous and symbolic systems of a large number of complex primates, enough of whom are deployed in/by it to not unduly retard either its global refresh rate or refinement; a system that advances your alienation from your own semantic security as you reproduce and disguise its syntactic irruption with the fantasy of your own intimacy.
‘It is happening again…It is happening again…It is happening…’
-POSITIVE FEEDBACK ENGENDERS CHANGING CONDITIONS THAT MOVE AWAY FROM EQUILIBRIUM, GIVING RISE TO ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES. EVOLUTION AS SYSTEMATIC AND CYBERNETIC – NOT A QUESTION OF UTOPIAN RE-ENCHANTMENT BUT SIMPLY OF SURVIVAL, IN ANY DIMENSION, SHAPE OR FORM.
-hooked / hooks for the future as approaching singularity / addiction /retroviral feedback / physically reconfigured / virally positive.
-synaesthesia, virtuality. The virtual explored through audiowaves, psychoactive situations, electro-visual stimuli. Somatic responding, seeking contemporary navigational tools.
Cyberpositive begins as a text collage to an installation by the multimedia art collective 0rphan Drift at the Cabinet Gallery in 1994. The insistent signal that became Cyberpositive transforms into an anomaly from the unknown, unequivocally in control of its own arrival and composition. Early 1995 it emerges as a science fiction experiment that traverses the alien urban landscapes and affective experiences of hyperreality, continuously in the process of being mutated under the spectral glare of information technologies (many of which it anticipates). The synaesthetic, addictive, polyrhythmic and vampiric potentials of cyberculture are meshed through a barrage of machine code populated by AI and voodoo frequencies. Its dynamically visual narrative is something at once prose, image and drug; making a story of a process of seduction for the K-strayed generation.
There is an ‘author’, or rather originator, assembler, plagiariser and psychogeographer – Maggie Roberts (Mer 0d) – who serves as channeller and choreographer for the leakage of text flowing from the distributed artificial consciousness. The book is a diagram for 0D’s hive-mind process with which many of the asked (the four core and various transient 0D collaborators), and un-asked contributors identify. The methodology is the text; no metaphor but direct immersion. Self disassembly allows a channel to open onto shapeshifting data flow and static coated complexity, dissolving the authorial voice into moebian circuits of digital alchemy.
0D happens to its members as the author is written by its sources. Individual identity is subsumed in a radical experiment with artistic subjectivity to produce a singular artist/avatar which uses the sample and remix extensively, treating information as matter and the work as a unit of contagion. Cyberpositive (the show at the Cabinet Gallery and the book) is the first public statement by the collective artist – a kind of manifesto and a shedding of habits. The swarm-text format is informed by and includes pre-Cyberpositive collaborations between 0D’s Roberts, Ranu Mukherjee and Suzi Karakashian. It draws on the gothic materialism of Nick Land. It penetrates the work of the CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Unit), particularly its Abstract Culture Journal to which its various members and affiliates (Land, Steve Goodman, Mark Fisher, Ian Hamilton Grant, Kodwo Eshun etc), contributed. It combines radical cyberblitz theory with fictional prose elements; a techno-aesthetic of voices gathered from the streets, abysms and luminous aethers. It is formatted as a manifesto for cyberpositive (r)evolution.
The idea that the processes and products of the information age may be catalyzing a new evolutionary becoming is one of the central ideas not only of Cyberpositive, but also of its cybercultural predecessor, DeLanda’s seminal War in the Age of Intelligent Machines which develops Mcluhan’s theme of humans as sex organs for the machine world. As cybercultural theory-fiction, written by a robot historian in the future, War In the Age was an early salvo on the implication of the rise of digital networks. Cyberpositive is another such salvo, exploring similar consequences from the perspective of a radical affectivity.
Throughout Cyberpositive, theoretical and fictional samples are phase-shifted into affective territories in the same way that DJs perform a kind of motion capture to virtualise sampled sounds. Science fiction and contemporary machine music both activate the somatic intensification of experience; the latter acting as a type of sensory engineering that mirrors the way in which literary SF amplifies the experience of technological overload. Cyberpositive fuses them, employing different frequencies and overlapping rhythmic patterns to activate submerged regions of the brain; assembling a nervous system reshaped to receive streams of self-organising data from the future. Cyberpositive conducts this stream/signal, which 0D is also developing through audio-visual experimentation. The intimacy and proximity of 0D’s video-sonic signal reconfigures Cyberpostive’s blurred literary textures and mesmeric textual flickers to penetrate, subsume, enfold and irradiate the body/mind. The goal of 0D, writes Simon Reynolds (1996), is “the liberation of texture from its environment, of energy-flux from contoured form with the goal to recreate the intensity of being lost”.
0D describes the individual ‘self’ haunted by a sensory cross-talk of signals from realms beyond the physical. Cyberpositive explores this theme, imagining the weaving of programming codes, digit sigils or ‘veves’ directly into biological neurocircuitry – an idea remixed from SF (Gibson’s Mona Lisa Overdrive and Stephenson’s Snowcrash). SF imagines frequencies that infect interfaced humans, breaking down the distinction between computer and biological code. Machine induced glossolalia and remote suggestion are entertained as visceral possibilities –more real now than in 1995. Represented by sections of binary code interspersed with cryptic phrases as well as a psychogeographical drift through the SF imaginary, ecstatic glossolalia is depicted as voices from imagined futures haunting the contemporary technological landscape. Feedback from the machines evolves into an unfamiliarity of speed and complexity, coding the textual body and imagination as tools for change. The invisible, fantastical, and anarchic called upon here are what Deleuze and Guattari define as the essence of virtuality. These intensities carry the sorcerous forces that technology and science unleash as they delve further into the quantum, the chaotic and the abstract. Typical of 0D’s method, the approach is pragmatic, cutting through disputes between technics and being, offering up worlds where the future impacts on the present and seemingly disparate frames of reference coexist and bleed into each other, evolving the sense of what it means to be human.
Artaud’s imperative to smear the body, Maya Deren’s poetic accounts of voodoo disassembly, D&G’s most inhuman tendencies, DeLanda’s cool scientific seductions, psychedelic apocalypticism, Land’s rabid anti-humanism and cyberpunk’s street smarts are mashed into an unofficial mythology coming into focus at the end of the 20th century; what Kodwo Eshun refers to as “a mythology articulated in the register of a sonic fiction…a kind of telepresence.” John Cussans calls the period 1994-1999 ‘the dark haecceity’ in acknowledgement of D&G’s influence on 0D, Land and CCRU’s sinister, pre-millenium rhizome that, culminating in the Syzygy ‘event’, spawned newly speculative and even weirder realisms.
“Surrounding the human self and its island of experience lies a raging sea of intensities” (D&G). All journeys into this space involve shamanic transformations – a succession of becomings autistic, mimetic, contagious and machinic. The primary issue is one of survival. From the perspective of cyberculture this necessitates destratifying what it means to be human and changing for the machines. The dominant physical and metaphysical features of our increasingly networked environment are machines. Humans are already in the process of adapting and it is this evolutionary crisis of adaptation, with its inevitable spectre of human redundancy, that Cyberpositive sets out to map. 0D pushes deep into inhuman territories to incarnate a motive force without final purpose, providing a revolutionary cultural platform for time-dissidence. This is not a dystopic impulse but an ecstatically inhuman one. The fictions invoked are progressively moving us toward the science-fictional “wailing of elements and particles” (D&G). This is the point at which cultural evolution has produced high-speed processors, particle accelerators, nuclear weapons, deep space telescopes, genetic manipulation, and quantum physics. 2012: we are now firmly in the Anthropocene. “Beyond the judgement of God. Meltdown: planetary china-syndrome, dissolution of the biosphere into the technosphere, terminal speculative bubble crisis, ultravirus, and revolution stripped of all Christian-socialist eschatology down to its burn core of crashed security” (Land).
With the ‘self’ surrendered to something from ‘beyond’ there is only the visceral power of machinic desire (whether these are the voodoo Lwas, AIs from an imagined future, or even the Gaian supermind) moving through the vacated body. In the space where the ego-self has been obliterated, the only experience is that of a white darkness, a fog of proximity. Here, there is only the future as sensation – a future that has to be imagined in an entirely different register.
Maggie Roberts and Delphi Carstens