The writer, theorist and Wire contributor Mark Fisher died on 13 January. He was 48.
After a brief dalliance with making music in the early 1990s – a 12" Entropy In The UK was released by his group D-Generation – Mark entered the orbit of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, a para-academic wing of the Philosophy Department at Warwick University, in the middle part of the decade. The Ccru was conceived by Sadie Plant and Nick Land (it was never officially founded, nor has it ever officially dissolved) and after Plant’s departure, Mark became one of the primary driving forces of the group. Dance music, in particular drum 'n' bass, was crucial to the unit’s theorisation of the relationship between society and sound in the era of sample technology, and Mark wrote widely on dance music at this time, sometimes under pseudonyms such as Dr Mark De’Rozario and Maria De Rosario. In 1999, he helped produce a death garage track “Anticlimax (Inhumans Moreerotic Female Orgasm Analog Mix)”, released under the name Xxignal (a Ccru glossary still available online describes death garage as “Sonic subgenre characterized by (loud) Swarm-beats”). Mark began a long association and friendship at the Ccru with Steve Goodman aka Kode9, whose webzine Hyperdub was heavily inspired by Mark’s ideas, and later morphed into the successful record label.
After completing his PhD Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism And Cybernetic Theory-Fiction in 1999, he began working as a philosophy lecturer in Kent. In 2003, despondent at the pressures of further education, and kicking against the constrained intellectual structures of academia, he began his longrunning blog K-Punk. “Blogging seemed a more informal space… a way of tricking myself back into doing serious writing, I was able to con myself, thinking, ‘it doesn't matter, it's only a blog post, it's not an academic paper’,” Mark recalled in a 2010 interview with Rowan Wilson for the website Ready Steady Book.
K-Punk ranged widely across philosophy, culture and politics, taking in Doctor Who, The Fall, Metalheadz, Spinoza, HP Lovecraft and everything in between. It became a central hub of a prolific generation of music bloggers in the mid-2000s, and Mark co-founded the internet forum Dissensus with blogger and future Wire contributor Woebot aka Matthew Ingram in 2004. Mark was instrumental in coining the concept of hauntology – the term, borrowed from Jacques Derrida, alluded to a cluster of musicians then referencing or riffing on the past, from Ghost Box to Mordant Music to Ariel Pink, as well as what he saw as the general condition of wider music in the 21st century to look backwards. In 2005 he completed londonunderlondon, an audio essay inspired by JG Ballard, with Justin Barton.
Mark began contributing to The Wire in 2007, and the same year he completed his first cover feature: an interview with elusive Detroit techno collective Underground Resistance, whom he met in the Netherlands. He joined the magazine's staff as Acting Deputy Editor in 2008, and filed several major features around this time, including cover stories with Tricky, Mark Stewart and Ultra Red, as well as a rare in-person interview with the London producer Burial. Mark also contributed frequently to the magazine's own blog The Mire, including entries on minimal techno and satirical magazine Private Eye's column Pseud's Corner – a forum for naming and shaming intellectuals and their jargon. His inclusion in the latter was a source of particular pride: “If the section from the Mark Stewart feature that they selected is considered fair game,” he wrote, “then they might as well open up a permanent spot for me.” When his tenure as Acting Deputy Editor was over at The Wire, Mark forged a close alliance with Zero Books, acting as a commissioning editor; his own book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? was a word of mouth success in 2009. Since then, he has collaborated widely across spheres including art (alongside artist collective The Otolith Group, whose Kodwo Eshun was a longterm associate) and politics (he wrote the pamphlet Reclaim Modernity: Beyond Markets Beyond Machines with Jeremy Gilbert in 2014).
A second book Ghosts Of My Life: Writings On Depression, Hauntology And Lost Futures followed in 2014, and he wrote widely on the connections between politics, economics, class and mental health around that time. A new collection The Weird And The Eerie was published shortly before his death. He continued to contribute to The Wire throughout the 2010s, and participated on numerous panels and discussions on hauntology, dance music, listening and politics during his association with the magazine.
Mark Fisher, 11 July 1968–13 January 2017