Cybernetic Culture Research Unit

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The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru) was a cultural theorist collective that existed at Warwick University, England, from 1995 to 1997. It was set up when British cultural theorist Sadie Plant took up a role at Warwick, moving from the Cultural Studies department at Birmingham University and bringing several of her postgraduate students with her including Mark Fisher.[1][2] As well as having a brief official existence within the Warwick philosophy department, it also existed until around 2003 as a student-run interdisciplinary collective[3] associated with the work of Sadie Plant, Nick Land, and Stephen Metcalf.[4][5][6][7]

History[edit]

Sadie Plant convened the collective, and following Plant's departure Nick Land became the driving force in determining its methods and ideas.[8] Other major contributors included Stephen Metcalf and other colleagues throughout the 1990s, with research focusing in particular on the emerging cyberfeminist and libidinal-materialist Deleuzian thinking. These connections had already been forming at Warwick and shaped the Virtual Futures conferences organised in 1994–96 by Joan Broadhurst, Dan O’Hara, Otto Imken and Eric Cassidy, postgraduate students under the aegis of the Warwick Centre for Research in Philosophy and Literature.[9][10][11]

After only a short time, in 1997, Plant left her academic post and affiliation with the Ccru, and it came under the direction of Land. Under his leadership, the collective became increasingly experimental and unorthodox in its work, with its output (which included writing, performance events, and collaborative art) crossing post-structuralism, cybernetics, science-fiction, rave culture, and occult studies. Land's unorthodox behaviour and writing at this time led many to consider that he was in the midst of a nervous breakdown and he eventually left his academic post following accusations that he was dealing drugs to students.[2]

After it could no longer use space at or claim affiliation with Warwick University, Ccru continued to operate from a flat in Leamington Spa. Ccru had effectively wound down by the end of 2003.

Ccru's written output was largely self-published in zines such as ***collapse and Abstract Culture. Many of these writings are maintained online on a Ccru website.[12] In 2015, a collection of Ccru pieces entitled Ccru: Writings 1997-2003 was published.[13] None of the work is attributed, but largely appears to be written by Land or under his strong influence. Although it states in the collection that it is a complete collection, this does not appear to be accurate.

The doctoral theses of several Ccru members and associates, submitted at Warwick University in the late 1990s and early 2000s, are available online and provide another perspective on the research of the Ccru. This includes: 'Touch-sensitive: cybernetic images and replicant bodies in the post-industrial age' by Suzanne Livingston,[14] 'Flatline constructs: Gothic materialism and cybernetic theory-fiction' by Mark Fisher,[15] 'Turbulence: a cartography of postmodern violence' by Steve Goodman,[16] 'Alien theory: the decline of materialism in the name of matter' by Ray Brassier,[17] and 'Capitalism's transcendental time machine' by Anna Greenspan.[18]

Members and affiliates[edit]

Existing in an official capacity for little over two years—following the departure of Plant, the University of Warwick would deny any relationship to the group—some of the Ccru's members have had an ongoing cultural impact.[19][20] Those who were affiliated with the Ccru during and after its time as part of the University of Warwick Philosophy department include philosophers Stephen Metcalf, Iain Hamilton Grant, Ray Brassier and Reza Negarestani; cultural theorists Mark Fisher and Kodwo Eshun; publisher and philosopher Robin Mackay; digital media theorists Luciana Parisi and Matthew Fuller; electronic music artist and Hyperdub label head Steve Goodman, a.k.a. Kode9;[21] writer and theorist Anna Greenspan; sound theorist Angus Carlyle; novelist Hari Kunzru; and artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, among others.[3][19] Land and the Ccru collaborated frequently with the experimental art collective 0[rphan]d[rift>] (Maggie Roberts and Ranu Mukherjee),[22] notably on Syzygy, a month-long multidisciplinary residency at Beaconsfield Contemporary Art gallery in South London, 1999, and on 0[rphan]d[rift>]'s Cyberpositive (London: Cabinet, 1995), a schizoid work of cut-and-paste cyberphilosophy.[23]

Influence[edit]

The existence of Ccru is not well-known beyond a very narrow intellectual circle but has become heavily mythologised, mostly by its former members.[24] Nonetheless, the role played by Land, Plant, and the Ccru in the development of accelerationism is profound, and its legacy is apparent in contemporary debates concerning the viability of the theory in its various guises.[25] It is important to note that accelerationism as it was deployed by the Ccru should be distinguished from the term more frequently associated with Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ ‘Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics’.[26][27] Land himself makes this distinction clear in his commentary on the manifesto.[28] Land's current version of accelerationism incorporates explicitly racist views and since late 2016 has been increasingly recognised as an inspiration for the alt right.[29][30][31][32][33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Livingston, Suzanne; Fisher, Mark (13 June 2019). "Read a future-facing fictional piece on technology by the late Mark Fisher". Dazed.
  2. ^ a b Beckett, Andy (11 May 2017). "Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b Mackay, Robin (27 February 2013) "Nick Land: An Experiment in Inhumanism." Divus
  4. ^ Metcalf was a central player in Ccru's creation but is rarely mentioned in articles. One of his essays, 'Autogeddon', is included in the Virtual Futures book published by Routledge in 1998. Metcalf translated and edited a collection of Nietzsche's work, 'Hammer of the Gods: Apocalyptic Texts for the Criminally Insane ', published in 1996, that reflected and influenced how Nietzsche was being read by those who formed Ccru.
  5. ^ 'Killing Time/Strife Colony/Neofuturism'
  6. ^ 'Third Terminal'
  7. ^ 'Black Capital'
  8. ^ Fisher, Mark (1 June 2011). "Nick Land: Mind Games". Dazed. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  9. ^ Eric Cassidy, one of the organisersThe Virtual Futures
  10. ^ Virtual Futures Twitter account, 11 November 2017, names these four organisers and states that the idea Ccru was involved is 'revisionist history'. This was retweeted by Joan Broadhurst
  11. ^ Simon Reynolds, "Renegade Academia", unpublished feature for Lingua Franca, 1999. Accessed 27 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Cybernetic culture research unit". Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  13. ^ "Ccru: Writings 1997-2003". Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  14. ^ Livingston, Suzanne (1998) 'Touch-sensitive: cybernetic images and replicant bodies in the post-industrial age' '[1]'
  15. ^ Fisher, Mark (1999) 'Flatline constructs: Gothic materialism and cybernetic theory-fiction' '[2]'
  16. ^ Goodman, Steve (1999) 'Turbulence: a cartography of postmodern violence'
  17. ^ Brassier, Ray (2001) 'Alien theory: the decline of materialism in the name of matter'
  18. ^ Greenspan, Anna (2000) 'Capitalism's transcendental time machine'
  19. ^ a b Fisher, Mark "Nick Land: Mind Games." Dazed and Confused
  20. ^ Simon Reynolds, 'Renegade Aacdemia', unpublished feature for Lingua Franca, 1999. Accessed 27 December 2014.
  21. ^ Sandhu, Sukhdev (16 November 2015). "How dub master Kode9 became the hero of zero". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  22. ^ "0rphan Drift Archive". www.orphandriftarchive.com.
  23. ^ "0rphan Drift :: Neo Future > CTM13 Berlin". www.orphandriftarchive.com.
  24. ^ Doyle, Rob (10 August 2019). "Writing On Drugs by Sadie Plant (1999)". The Irish Times.
  25. ^ Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian, 'Introduction' to #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader, (Falmouth: Urbanomic, 2014) pp.1-46
  26. ^ Williams, Alex; Srnicek, Nick (14 May 2013). "#ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics".
  27. ^ Nick Srnicek & Alex Williams, ‘#Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics,’ Dark Trajectories: Politics of the Outside, ed. Joshua Johnson (Hong Kong, NAME, 2013)
  28. ^ Nick Land, #Accelerate Archived 2015-09-29 at the Wayback Machine; Annotated #Accelerate (1, 2, 3); On #Accelerate (1, 2a, 2b, 2c), series of posts made on Urban Future 2.1 between 13 February and 11 March 2014.
  29. ^ Bacharach, Jacob (23 November 2016). "I Was a Teenage Nazi Wannabe". The New Republic.
  30. ^ Gray, Rosie (10 February 2017). "The Anti-Democracy Movement Influencing the Right". The Atlantic.
  31. ^ Blincoe, Nicholas (18 May 2017). "Nick Land: the Alt-writer". Prospect Magazine.
  32. ^ Goldhill, Olivia (18 June 2017). "The neo-fascist philosophy that underpins both the alt-right and Silicon Valley technophiles". Quartz.
  33. ^ Klein, Jessica (3 January 2019). "Here's the Dark Enlightenment Explainer You Never Wanted". Breaker Mag.