Non-Time and Hauntology

Malcom Harris went to a talk by Mark Fisher on hauntology, and wrote an incredibly fascinating breakdown of it. Including this definition of a hipster, which we’ve all be wondering about: Hipsters don’t experience non-time negatively, as a loss, as melancholic, as indicative of deep alienation. Instead they seem to be thoroughly subjectivized by neoliberalism to the extent that they regard it as opportunity to show off how creative they can be in their cycle of appropriations. That last thing they want is to be reminded of how their personality is conditioned by the times they live in; in nontime, one can feel transcendent and immortal, one can permanently defer adulthood.

Here is a description of the talk:

Through their generic and transient qualities – workstations devoid of personal effects, relations with colleagues as fleeting as those with passengers on a commuter journey – many workplaces now resemble non-places, either literally, as in the case of a hotel, corporate coffee chain or out-of-town supermarket, or symbolically, in the form of temporary assignments for faceless employers (dis)located in anonymous buildings, where the worker-commuter then follows the same global timetables, navigates the same software applications and experiences the same sense of placelessness, the feeling of being mere data in the mainframe.”

So writes Ivor Southwood in his analysis of precarious labour, ‘Non-Stop Inertia’ (2011). In the last decade, the proliferation of corporate non-places has been accompanied by the spread of cyberspace-time, or Itime, a distributed or unpunctuated temporality. It’s no coincidence that, as this unmarked time increasingly came to dominate cultural and psychic space, Derrida’s concept hauntology (re)emerged as the name for a paradoxical zeitgeist. In ‘Specters of Marx’, Derrida argued that the hauntological was characterised by “a time out of joint”, and this broken time has been expressed in cultural objects that return to a wounded or distorted version of the past in flight from a waning sense of the present. Sometimes accused of nostalgia, the most powerful examples of hauntological culture actually show that nostalgia is no longer possible. In conditions where pastiche has become normalised, the question has to be: nostalgia compared to what?

James Bridle has recently argued that “the opposite of hauntology … [is] to demand the radically new”, but hauntology in fact operates as a kind of thwarted preservation of such demands in conditions where – for the moment at least – they cannot be met. Whereas cyberspace-time tends towards the generation of cultural moments that are as interchangeable as transnational franchise outlets, hauntology involves the staining of particular places with time – albeit a time that is out of joint. In this lecture, Fisher will explore the hauntological culture of the last few years in relation to the question of place, using examples from music (Burial, The Caretaker, Ekoplekz, Richard Skelton), film (Chris Petit, Patrick Keiller) and fiction (Alan Garner, David Peace).

 

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