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Namings As Portals

Mark Fisher

Speaking of postpunk autodidacticism, Owen Hatherley picks up on what I too thought was of the most interesting lines in Mark Sinker's Sight & Sound review of Grant Gee's Joy Division film:

Curtis' own writing was a teen scrapbook of anti-pop titles and sensibilities ('Interzone', 'Atrocity Exhibition', 'Colony', 'Dead Souls', invoke Burroughs, Ballard, Kafka and Gogol respectively, the effect dismissable only if you decide not to see such namings as portals).

Sometimes the names condensed more than one reference: 'Colony' invoked Conrad as much as Kafka's 'Strike Kolony'. Sometimes the references were unintentional misdirections; 'Atrocity Exhibition' is surely one of the least Ballardian tracks that Joy Division produced. In any case, construing these allusions as 'portals' that led somewhere – rather than as citations in a seamless postmodern circuit – is highly suggestive. Such portals could take the listener into formal education, but were also doorways beyond the school and the university, an alternative curriculum.

(Also well worth looking at on Owen's site: this essay on Neu!, published in honour of the recently deceased Klaus Dinger.)

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