Anti-Hauntology, Interrupted Timelines and Popular Modernism

Shortly after writing my last post I discovered this excellent post. I think he tries to tackle some of the things I wanted to express in my post, but much better. His take on the sonic spheres of artists like fka twigs and SOPHIE is mostly explored via Fisher’s notion of the loss of the future shock. I tried to look a little bit more on the conditions instead of the effects (or at least wanted to). I’m really thankful for this post, but I want to hint shortly at another direction to understand hauntology and why I think anti-hauntology isn’t a very good name to describe these fantastic artists.

In 2013 Fisher was interviewed by the German journal testcard (sadly the original interview – at least to my knowledge – was never published in English). In this interview he expresses some things that are central to his book Ghosts of my Life and that are represented by Matt Bluemink very well: We live in a non-time. We have no future anymore. Everything resembles the past. But there is a very important aspect that is sometimes not explored enough. Fisher also writes about the way digital media and the internet have distorted our experience of the past. Everything is archived and available with a click. Fisher doesn’t say thereby that this is bad thing, but tries to understand how it changes our perception of historical time. In this context he tries to extrapolate what hauntology does. It is – as Bluemink correctly states – about lost futures. In the testcard interview he contextualizes this especially with his idea of popular modernism (also explained in the first pages of Ghosts of my Life). Popular modernism describes the modernist, progressive tendencies in 70s/80s culture – especially projects like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Delia Derbyshire. He mourned the vanishing of such projects. The idea of hauntology in the first place is to remember such progressive ideas and think about the meaning of their vanishing.

In the testcard interview he expresses this with something I can’t remember having read elsewhere in his work: as interrupted timelines. This means that these projects that can be collected under the term popular modernism weren’t finished. It means these trajectories can be resumed and that resuming them doesn’t mean to do the same things they did again. Hauntology is in a way an expression to be unable to resume it, but being able to remember it and thereby what we lost.

If we think about hauntology more in the sense of remembering interrupted timelines, there is still a sense where current progressive music is non-hauntological because it resumes and doesn’t remember popular modernism. Writing this I have already hinted at a much better way to describe this music than as anti-hauntology: popular modernism. The tweet Bluemink is quoting – comparing SOPHIE with Delia Derbyshire and Kraftwerk – examplifies how SOPHIE can be seen as a new form of popular modernism.

Artists like SOPHIE and FKA twigs are modern and progressive and they are popular. Why finding a new term and not celebrating a return of popular modernism?

Bluemink’s article is great because he uses Fisher’s interesting ideas to understand contemporary culture. Fisher’s work is rich and enables not only one, but many perspectives on contemporary culture. Likewise artists like SOPHIE and FKA twigs offer a rich multi-layered form of art. Both enable us to discover many aspects of their work and of our world. Uncovering them is always great, but we all have a lot more to discover and I hope Bluemink and others continue on working out the many levels of these great thinkers and artists.

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