Accelerationism: Questions for the Accelerationism of today

Just thought I'd outline a few of my thoughts and questions around Accelerationism today. I tried briefly to outline these sentiments at our first Accelerationism workshop, but today I feel that a clearer outline of my concerns is needed. My question concerns the aesthetics of Accelerationism and the role of technology: what does technology (be it electrical, chemical or social) do for an Accelerationist praxis today?

The more vehemently materialist and pseudo Neil Cassidy/Neuropath strands of thought on the topic may feel that a question about aesthetics is unhelpful – but after hearing Peter Wolfendale's presentation about Hegelian beauty as a somewhat inspirational and emancipatory force I feel my concerns are bolstered. Both Nick Srnicek and Peter Wolfendale presented questions and thoughts that traced vectors of aesthetics and freedom. Peter’s introduction of art as a creativity representing freedom from purpose and an opportunity of social imagination that inspires and can augment freedom was particularly reassuring; reassuring in that the concepts fortified my concerns around Accelerationst aesthetics and technologies.

Without any naïve nostalgia or fetishism for Landianism I want to briefly outline my rearview mirror perspective. Technology played a massive role in shaping many of the aesthetics that bled into 90’s accelerationism. The internet was newly deployed and spawned an intense jargon of cyber-theory. Cyberpunk fed into the technologist anti-capitalist modes of Accelerationism, the cold sweat stench of William Gibson, the uber-masculine petroleum and semen sojourns of Ballardian dystopia and Burroughesque hallucinations inspired much of the prose and language that was many peoples introduction to accelerationsim. The occult, numerology, dystopic sci-fi films and horror all contributed to the text-cocktail too. As did the Lyotardian venom for critique (I feel Libidinal Economy is a pre-cursor to theory-fiction in many ways) and Deleuze and Guattari Anti-Oedipus subjective decentralization. I doubt I am alone in approaching accelerationism though a giddying triptych of Hyperstition blog posts, Nick Land texts (Thirst for Annihilation or Fanged Noumena) and Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia. I bring this up not to look backwards but to accept that an aesthetic was synthesized, an aesthetic that was as intrinsic to technologies as much as it was an inorganic reaction to them. Sound pieces (that don’t sound dated today) and Jungle/the rave scene were playing in the background – but these are both sonic forms of creative expression and social interaction that owed their aesthetic to technologically afforded possibilities. Take, for instance the infamous sound pieces that removed all the vowels from a the recording of a speaker to create a jittering tic-talk monologue. Also Jungle, although being shackled to an amen break base, used the new technology of time-stretching to flood raves with a metallic and inhuman glottal drawling. Both of these sonic forms were impossible without the emerging technology of the 90’s.

But there is another technology that fed into the forms of social engagement, sonic manipulation and hyperspeed cyber-gothic prose; the technology is chemical. Chemical modulation of aesthetics affects and the creative and social feedback loops play a part in all aesthetic shifts and social changes – this is not news but the technological resources (both electrical and chemical) are what I want to pursue in this question. It is a large part of the New Accelerationism manifesto to emphasize the potential of the former technology, but I feel that both technologies are liable to operate in a suppressive mode rather than as potential for emancipatory aesthetics or creative fruitfulness. This is not ludditism but rather a reaction to understanding that technologies (both electrical and chemical – and sadly I do not have the time nowadays to pursue either for aesthetic inspiration) have continued to change and progress since the 90’s – whereas creative engagements and relationships with these technologies has been waning. I am not saying that it ended in the 90’s, there have been many creative and emancipatory technological engagements since then, no doubt (not least in context with another technology: social technology); but I feel all technologies are increasing and progressing whereas the creative and positive utilization of these technologies is decreasing. In many instances I fear that these technologies are operating as machines of control – but whereas previously there was the cyberpunk and black shades cunning of Case et al, today there is only the fort-da trauma of endlessly looking back and creating the past for the present over and over again – an impasse – manifested through absurd folk politics, retromania and social lethargy. Artistic conservatism is rife in music and cinema: the newest thing today is a more retro version of yesterday.

Shaviro’s Post Cinematic Affect looks at the few creative endeavors that reach towards a new aesthetic. Boarding Gate, Southland Tales, Corporate Cannibal and Gamer are posited, I feel, as an index of what Accelerationist aesthetics could be today. But there is no new technologically afforded creativity in any of these films; in some more than others the cinematic aesthetic (most notable in Southland Tales – a work which spills out of the traditional cinematic framing into publishing and music) is pushed and explored but intriguingly without any debt to an emerging or innovative technological change.

Accepting technological potentials, either electrical, mechanical, chemical or social is vital (and the manifesto reiterates the Marxism inherent in this), but the question is how to accelerate, how to navigate, to a new technologically catalyzed change (social/political and/or aesthetic) without falling prey to the paralyzing forces of technologies that I feel are ordering aesthetics and societal dynamics today. It is a question of avoiding firstly rose coloured nostalgia for nihilist inhumanism trajectories and secondly ludditism whilst hoping for a better exploration of the vital practical and social potentials that technologies harbour. What is the creative politcal Case of today?


  1. Awesome piece.

    one example of the type of aesthetic you're crying out for is Leos Carax's Holy Motors, a film lashed together from youtube-friendly vignettes that suggests that the compressed narration and lack of context of youtube may well be this moment's defining piece of cultural expression.

    Actually... I say that but youtube is getting a bit long in the tooth. Way too 2011. Behold the Modern:

    1. jonathan - thanks for the reply, I had a look at vpeeker, I must say this feels like the same content but just hyper-disseminated via tech.... i.e. speed not navigation. Similar to Microsofts vision of 2019 - - nothing changes - but there is some jolly nice tech filling most aspects of life. Extensive use of new technologies or C/tech commodity ubiquity is not enough for me - rather I'm concerned for the prospect of an aesthetic which is new and exciting and intrinsically due to technology - this is something I do not see nowadays, I just see existing forms, already co-opted - re-distributed through which white gizmos are hot right now... see retromania and file sharing, reading old lit on touchscreens....

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