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Mark Fisher

Off The Page 2014: Mark Fisher: Another Grey World

November 2014

The Secret Sadness of the 21st Century: An extended reading from Ghosts Of My Life, followed by a Q&A with Derek Walmsley

A sadness subsists beneath the 21st century's busy hedonism – a grey world lurking underneath all the high-res digital gloss. Listening to a consummate 21st century pop artist like the Canadian rapper Drake, it's clear that this sadness isn't straightforwardly opposed to pleasure seeking, so much as it is its flipside. The melancholia arises in part from the insufficiencies and impasses of digital hedonism itself. But it is also a consequence of the 21st century's failure to properly begin. The 21st century is clogged with the relics of the 20th. It's no surprise, then, that some of the key moments of 21st century pop melancholia, such as Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreaks or Darkstar’s North, should have (re)turned to 1980s synth pop as a resource.

For this talk, Mark Fisher examined what this morbid attachment to the 1980s tells us about the temporal pathologies of our current moment, musical and otherwise.

Mark Fisher is a UK academic, author and cultural critic. His books include Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? and Ghosts Of My Life: Writings On Depression, Hauntology And Lost Futures.

The fourth edition of Off The Page, The Wire’s literary festival for sound and music, took place at Bristol’s Arnolfini, 26–28 September, and was coproduced by The Wire, Arnolfini and Qu Junktions. Audio recording by Gary Fawle at Events in Sound. Photography by Paul Samuel White.


Self-negation and ironic recycling--probably the most poignant qualities of 21st century music. When did we lose our sense of wonder? And will we ever get it back. I hope so.

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