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CULTURE MACHINE VOL 16 2015

VAPORENTS: INHUMAN ORIENTATIONS


Dane Sutherland

Although in general you could call us depressed, I


honestly dont believe were pessimistic. Without
nostalgia without even being emotional were
looking to the future. We consider ourselves creative
practitioners, researchers: the process is more
important than the outcome. We modify the existing
environment only to find a sensual balance between
violence and beauty. We like to think that we bend
reality. Our work just helps you digest and move on.
Pussykrew

Mist and vapor predominate over precise,


proportionate articulation and substantially disable
any prospects of sense.
Michael Tawa

THR S NT & NVR HS BN NYTHNG T


NDRSTND !
Plastique Fantastique

As (semi-) autonomous automated systems, or Unmanned Aerial


Vehicles, drones are responsible for a paradigm shift in terms of both
technological agency and generative affordances, towards an
inhuman course for thought and action. Controlled remotely or by
dynamic automation systems, the human pilot and sensorium is
supplanted by a chimeric mode of navigation attuned to a specific
task, whether this is commercial, combative or surveillant. If the
drone archetype, then, opens up a space for expanding or re-drafting
the scope of technological intervention and (re-) construction of

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reality, then what does this mean for its potency as a narrative agent,
and how might this potency already be instantiated?

While Adam Rothsteins detailed and multi-faceted object-


biography introduces the drone as a material repository for the
nebulous complex of human fears and hopes for the future of
technology, the aim of this essay is to carry further, through
considering the transmedial experiments of contemporary art and
music, some of the questions he introduces regarding the drone as a
specular technology (Rothstein, 2015: 125). Specifically, by
focusing on the construction of a drone-heuristic, a symbol
representative of the combined facts and anachronistic assumptions
embedded within the idea of the drone, this essay will sketch the
characteristics, potencies and contemporary manifestations of the
drone as contingent narrative- and speculative-engine (or to use Ian
Bogosts (2006) term, as material and (semi-) autonomous
narrative units), rather than simply as an object reflected upon by
generic speculative fiction. Although the narratives of science fiction
and news media couch an essential general understanding of drones,
they are limited to simply mediating popular imaginaries, rather
than exploiting the drones extant mechanisms as a fundamentally
weaponized and navigational authorship in-itself.

The focus upon examples within contemporary art and music, as


intensive indexes of a wider aural and visual culture and sites for a
cultural cognitive orientation within the opaque mechanisms of a
technologically complex space-time, is essential as an
anthropological gesture that can elucidate actual inductive
experiments pertaining to the specific material conditions and
topography of what Rothstein (2015: 125) refers to as a drone
culture, and China Miville (2008: 128) refers to as a Weird
reality. These diverse para-tactical experiments, or perhaps morbidly
cunning automata (Williams & Srnicek, 2015), perform as drones:
reading and writing the world through a Weird, inhuman navigation,
methodologically calibrated for operating within and through the
ineluctable complexities and opacities of contemporary life.

By way of introduction, the art and music to be considered can be


said to be involved in distinct processes of fictioning, or even what
the artist group Plastique Fantastique, via Sun Ra and Mike Kelley,
have referred to as Myth-Science. Operating with the communicative
network dynamics and economies of the cybernetic present and
with the viral potency of fiction, authors and engineers such as
Plastique Fantastique, Mykki Blanco, RAMM:LL:Z, The

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Confraternity of Neoflagellants, Reza Negarestani, Pussykrew,


English Heretic, Nicki Minaj and the anonymous swarm of internet-
underground salvage-bots comprising the stillborn musical genre
Vaporwave among others, allow this essay to submit a candidate for
inheriting the mantle of drone-as-speculative engineer: the avatar.

What unites these drone-authors, and establishes the transveral


figure of the avatar as a drone-analog, is their methodological and
materialist familiarity with a contemporary Weird
virtuality/topography. A re-instatement of this generic (literary)
category as an epistemological necessity in the organization of
thought and action towards intervening in the construction of the
global narratives, is a continuation of what Karen Gregory (2015)
has previously referred to as weird solidarities.

So, what is the topography of the present, the context from which to
begin? China Miville (2008: 105) has diagnosed an epochal shift in
contemporary culture, commensurate with the ineluctability of
neoliberalisms There Is No Alternative, as the Tentacular Novum.
This is to understand the distributed, teeming and uncontainable
locus of neoliberal influence as comparable to the alien
monstrosities of Weird fiction, such as those that populate H. P.
Lovecrafts Cthulu mythos. (Although Benjamin Bratton (2015)
also looks beyond the market-structures of the world towards the
obfuscated Weird culture of algorithms working beneath the
machinations of the post-internet world, referring to these bots and
agents as Morlocks, a term borrowed from H. G Wells). Such
creatures of the unknown are distinguishable from traditional or
gothic precedents in fiction by their tentacular, centreless
formlessness often confounding the descriptive capacities of their
own authors. Consequently, they engender a breathless and
unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces the dmons of
unplumbed space (Lovecraft, 1927). This is not to characterize the
complexities of planetary-scale computerized capitalism as some un-
representable sublime, nor as something that operates without, or
out-with, the dialectical participation of human habits, emotional
experiences and neural activities as productive labour. Rather, the
Tentacular Novum is a fecund heuristic that illustrates exactly how
deeply entangled these nebulous complexities are with human
subjective chemistries. It is the insidious and tentacular reach of
neoliberal capitalism, and the subsequent colonization of thought
and action that is essential to the conditions of real subsumption and
its anthropological impact. It is Benjamin Brattons description of
the complex, opaque and auto-obfuscatory algo-culture informing

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the geo-political make-up of the world that is responsible for the


material emergence of prescriptive non-human temporalities
(Williams and Nick Srnicek, 2015). Furthermore, one could
speculate that the incapacitating weight and grasp of the Tentacular
Novum, as it is experienced indirectly day-to-day, also provides an
opportunity to consider this impact as an enabling condition for the
fostering of a subject, capable of transmuting the dreadful ambience
of banal psychopathologies into a praxis commensurate with the
accelerationist narrative, which is necessarily, and revolutionarily, a
Weird revision of the human and its technology. In order to traverse
the grounds represented in the cognitive and affective maps
generated by visual and aural culture, it is then essential to expose
the subject they call forth in their abductive experimentation so as
to articulate an effective mode of systems analysis native to the
mutant, psychedelic perspective of alienation; to the schizoid-
anhedonic subject-without-experience.

The reason for this essays turn towards examples of music and art is
due to its recognition of these fields as intensive public wanderings
and wonderings (the navigational and the sense-making, the
cartographic) through the holographic swamp (Lorange, 2014: ii)
and cognition-maiming fog (Negarestani, 2013) of the dense
meshworks and materialities of contemporary technology, politics,
their possibilities, probabilities and their affective conditions. In so
doing, they offer direct purchase upon the constitution and
capabilities of the avatar as a narrative drone-agent by implementing
a para-tactical constructivism from within the accumulated rubble
and ruin of human extelligence. They begin to provide one possible
answer to the question that the work of Amanda Beech broaches:

What is a form of consciousness that culture can


demand and offer that isnt this extension of a
particular kind of human ego, or isnt the
narcissistic projection of an intact subjectivity, or
the narcissistic projection of a subjectivity in
crisis? (2015: non-pag.)

In other words, what are the emergent unmanned, anonymous and


autonomous agents native to the world-for-us (as produced by-us)
that proceed to act within an indifferent horizon of possibility-
without-us? And, if it is possible to borrow a tenet of universal

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accelerationism,1 as this essay believes is already implicitly present


in the speculative re-application of drone technology, it could be
asked to what extent culture, and the human, is moved with and
by an immanently tethered, and radically contingent, inhuman
constructivism?

An answer can begin to be formulated by firstly asking how the


avatar answers the call for such a form of consciousness. What are
the situated formal characteristics of this machinic visual subject
(Bratton, 2015)?2

In Hindu mythology, the avatar is the earthly embodiment of a god,


a divine technology generally proposing an opportunity for the
descent into terrestrial reality by which it may intervene in the order
of the human world through these guises. Deities such as Vishnu
variously manifest as multiple avatars such as the ten Dashavatara
comprised of chimeric anomalies such as Narashimha the half-
man/half-lion figure and Varaha the cosmically-scaled boar.
Although the term has since been brought to wider prominence in
fields ostensibly unconcerned with religious narratives such as those
of multi-user gameplay, virtual reality, and science-fiction, it still
retains some of its essential meanings. Most obviously, the
construction of avatars as rudimentary characters so as to augment
the agency of a user within a virtual environment carrying out
tasks and even interacting with other users avatars. It is with the
construction of these virtual units that their users begin to invoke a
scope for action beyond that of their own anthropic limitations, by
cobbling chimeric projections through which alien fantasies may be
superficially played-out, or the suppressed kernel of a marginal
subjectivity may be expanded for experimenting in a virtual social
environment without fear or threat of exposing ones earthly
identity. However, as early as Neal Stephensons novel Snowcrash it
has been recognized that these virtual, online environments are no
ideal worlds untethered from our own his Multiverse is still rife
with the sophisticated projection of social status and capital, while a
more contemporary reference for the mingling of virtual and
physical labour and leisure would be the phenomenon known as gold
farming. This describes the employment of individuals, working in
poor conditions such as austere Korean cyber-caf-hives, carrying
out menial and repetitive tasks within the MMORPG (massively
multiplayer online role playing game) environment of World of
Warcraft at the behest of financially-privileged gamers in pursuit of
easy levelling-up. This quick example is simply to illustrate the
point that the virtual worlds of MMORPGs and online socializing,

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perhaps the foremost setting for the proliferation of contemporary


avatars, is by no means immaterial, and that fictional quantities
possess a substantial viral potency in the shaping of reality.

So, the drone-authors sought in this essay continue to adapt the


formal trends of katabasis, or ritual descent, across worlds in order to
materially and contingently affect and infect their current order.
Before beginning to compose any kind of introduction to some
bestiary of contemporary avatars as actants, the drone will be called
upon as a type of specular technology, as a machinic visual subject
attuned to the Weird (and Weirdly attuned), and as a current of
inhuman orientation for action. But first, a further related note on
the formal and affective properties of avatars and their dynamics
with reference to a proposed speculation-as-noise complex:

A speculative method lays out the morphological


schemata of thought objects, exposing computing
to what is not yet computable or even revealing
the incomputable in computation as such. A
speculative object is an objectile, bending and
twisting the infinite levels of its reality beyond and
ultimate point of observation. As a result, a
speculative method enters a step-by-step process
of permanence and modification to abstract the
real potentialities of the object in a new field of
relations, a multi-layered architecture of
conjunctions and disjunctions. (Parisi, 2012: 242)

In its transversal and katabatic reaching out, the avatar presents itself
as such an objectile, an epistemic device that introduces noise to a
given system (of thought) by opening a new field of relations
within by infection. Avatars deployed as objectiles breach the
threshold of given systems, opening the opportunity for contagious
maladaptation of that system by its Outside this is noise
operating as the greatest single disease-vector of civilization
(Ballard, 2014: 154). Speculation, in this sense, can be likened to
Deleuze and Guatarris (1988) notion of the probe-head, which,
like noise, is relative to a given situation or system, and might in fact
be any form of practice any regime that ruptures the dominant.
(OSullivan, 2004: 313). As with the drone-agents to be discussed,
[p]robe-heads are produced from within the capitalist mode of
production, from the same materials as it were, but they are that
which deterritorializes its flows further, operating against the
axiomatic functioning of capital, but plugging into its logics of

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invention and innovation (320). So there is an apparent traversal


logic that emphasizes re-appropriation and the significance of given
materials and contexts speculation should be considered as the
negative creative index of a conservative situation, a line of escape
from control as an imaginative act of fugitive planning, (Harney
and Moten, 2013) a kind of contingent xenopoetics (Negarestani,
2011) found also in the popular form, science-fiction, as a modality
of cognitive estrangement, or as a fecund potency of the nested plot-
holes within a narrative.3

One instance of such an attempt at the explicit infection of


normative practices and assumptions, is the burgeoning practice of
theory-fiction. Texts of this genre aim to expose theory and
systemic thought to the alien and Weird contingencies of fiction.
Authors such as Reza Negarestani and The Confraternity of
Neoflagellants deploy avatars, fictional quantities, not as hoax but to
run with ideas exhumed from the world into impossible territories,
opening up speculative applications and the subsequent Weirding
of thought by the horrific rigour of mad scientists or the visionary
asceticism of sit-com anchorites. The imbrication of fictional drives
and logic in this way mixes things up, scrambles the known codes,
upsets the accepted formulae (OSullivan, 2008: 47). The reason
for this kind of cross-fertilization is predicated upon the notion that
[t]he world is already a fiction... [and fiction is] not opposed to
reality but productive of it (49). This is not to propose a
postmodern identification of fiction as a universal tenet for reality,
but rather a realization of fictional drives as a temporally-specific real
condition of postmodernity and of a diffuse Capitalist Realism of
which it is itself symptomatic.

A further exploitation of the speculation-noise-fiction matrix,


relevant to the subjects of this essay, is that of Sonic Fiction. Coined
by artist and theorist Kodwo Eshun in his book, More Brilliant than
the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction, the term represents a gamut of
afro-diasporic artists whose work Eshun sees as contributing to the
fictional engineering of an alternative history of modernity denied to
the Black subject through enslavement and oppression. Such
oppression is seen to be continued in the act of reading history of
Jazz, Hip Hop, Detroit Techno, Funk, etc. with a compulsory
[biographical] logic explaining all Black Music, conveniently
mishearing antisocial surrealism as social realism (Eshun, 1998: 4).
Ignoring such surrealism is to render the speculative constructivism
of these artists as simply operating within and never beyond the
limitations erected by institutionalized racial hostility. Sonic Fiction

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then, enacts through popular form William Burroughs Operation


Re-Write (1962). And it is this exploitation and dtournement of
popular form that is essential to the current discussion: that the
world-making tendencies of these practices aim to infect like a virus,
through the given economies and affective circuitries of pop culture,
positing music as an organon of noise.

Effective description of material can only proceed


through the intelligibility of its various
explanatory levels. And any pertinence of a
prescription or intervention, in turn, is predicated
upon such functional organisation of
description Interventions target and
manipulate inferential and organisational links
between explanatory and functional levels. Thats
how, as James Woodward puts it, interventions
study the causal fabric and make things happen.
(Negarestani, 2013)

Vaporwave is a genre of music, taking root in the early 2010s with


founding experiments such as Chuck Persons Ecco Jams, James
Ferrarros landmark album Far Side Virtual, and the enigmatic Floral
Shoppe album by Macintosh Plus, and continues to germinate online
with artists such as Hong Kong Express and those associated with
the Dream Catalogue label, drip-133, as well as Blank Banshee
among others who continue to explore the generic aesthetic and
conceptual opportunities.

Musicians such as Luxury Elite, INTERNET CLUB and New


Dreams Ltd formulated some of the defining formal operations of
Vaporwave for which it is primarily known and most interpretation
has stemmed that of its repetitive and minimally
chopped+screwed samples from popular songs that define a period
of leisurely consumption, advertising muzak, new-age self-help, and
corporate motivational banalities; the aural culture of late
capitalisms accumulated rubble and detritus. Some of this early
content displays a common commitment to luxuriating amongst the
uncanny and hyperreal cosmology as proposed (advertised) by the
enchanting lure of this source material (hence the approximation of
the genres name to vaporware, a contemporary technology of
enchantment which describes the identification of a product which
is either stalled in development or is even unintended for release

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this unsubstantiated announcement, a fictional quantity, however,


still materially affects the activities of market competitors and
pricing by occupying anticipation). This commitment is reminiscent
of the 1990s and early 2000s rogue para-academic syndicate,
Warwicks Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, and their claim to
alienated and loving it (CCRU, 2014: 331). It is through this kind
of intimacy that one performs Negarestanis dictum of making a
good meal of yourself for the Outside, or conspiring with
anonymous materials, not to enact a Liberal choreography of
toleration (being open-to), but rather allow the subjective
architecture proposed by the capital-mythos to be opened-by the
occult forces of alienation through the bonds of philia, through a
demonic revelry in the axiomatic effusion of capitals own
contradictions. A joyous negativity. An Outside to capital is
immanent with the occulted entrails of its structural hostility, not
marshaled or organized, but alternatively germinated within the
mesh of human subjects, and their relations, who compose it. The
germinal instantiation of the Outside fermenting within subjective
architecture is that of an ambient dread that furnishes the concepts
of individuals with an imaginative, negative and speculative hostility
which can be activated with a new form of collective action native to
this subjective pollination. Vaporwaves formal repetition and
psychedelic slowing down of samples reveals an occulted grain
within the source material, generating a somber, depressive and
alienated condition lurking within the structure of these optimistic
enchantments. J. G. Ballard (2012: 229) proposes that
psychopathology should be kept alive as the last reservoir for this
reason, to understand that a potent dysphoria is the last form of
commons available to the subjects that compose the world as
reflected by Vaporwave. What is encouraged is alienation as
maximal estrangement the splitting of the subject from the self,
[wherein] this split can be embraced as an enabling condition for
thought and practice (Brassier, n.d.). It is this selective acceleration
that Vaporwave activates, in a sabotage or adulteration of subjectivity
though an intense intimacy with the dehumanizing hyperreal. This
is the modality of its constructivism, for a machinic vision, and for
the construction of speculative subjectivities, or avatars,
epistemologically armed for effective situated intervention within
the Weird, nebulous topography of the world as oriented by
Mivilles Tentacular Novum. Thus, the two key components of
Vaporwave for the present text, in the articulation of drone-authors
are an alienated and depressive epistemology, or navigation, and the
traversal, re-use, and re-appropriation of discarded materials. The
Weird reading, and Weird writing of drone fiction.

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It is important here to note Vaporwaves methodological purchase


as a distributed cognitive and affective mapping mechanism is that it
does not strictly produce discrete avatars per se, but rather initiates
the navigational capacities of an anonymous drone-swarm. The
chopped+screwed tracks that pitch diverse vocals down into an un-
individuated stew, a single voice, as well as the adoption of Japanese
characters in the titling of works in order to withdraw from the
familiarity and readability associated with the source material and
immediate community of listeners. Artists working in Vaporwave,
too tend to maintain multiple or opaque identities. There is a form
of consciousness presently distributed across the genre attuned to
the disorientation and fogging effect of contemporary obstacles to
novel thought (Negarestani, 2013). Artist duo, Pussykrew
(comprised of Tikul and Mi$ Gogo), similarly provide a sequence of
images and ecstatic visions depicting virtual landscapes of digital
acid-sludge, human mutations and the deformation of vision
towards a queer, post-human hallucination. Their visions depict
approximations of life in an online future-swamp, throbbing with the
junk of the past-human in a fertile virtual paste. Although utterly
Weird, disorienting and slime-like in its oozing inarticulacy,
Pussykrews work shares with Vaporwave an affective charge
operating as a depressive-psychedelic modality of orientation
namely, that the only way to orient oneself is to be completely
disorientated, and thus gain some kind of traction in the fabric, and
machinations of things. This kind of sorrow can be borrowed from
Nicola Masciandaros reading of the Bible episode depicting the
crucifixion darkness enveloping the world:

It becomes a strange place where the only way to


discern where you are with certainy is to see that
you are hopelessly lost. (Masciandaro, 2014: 192)

And so, there is the shared transversal logic of the avatar here, of
descending into darkness, of katabasis.

Artist and theorist Simon O Sullivan has elsewhere argued for


narrative practices that move away from the stilted image banks and
reservoirs of Facebook and Google, (OSullivan, n.d.) but it is with
those tarrying in the trash-heaps of extelligence, re-claiming and
repurposing the kernel of alienation within the limited horizon of
images made immediately available as an index of the techno-capital
mythos, discovering the plotholes within these narratives, that
alienation is discovered as an enabling condition (Brassier, 2014:

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76). Glasgow-based artist Matthew Bainbridge isolates this very


attempt at articulation in a language composed of nothing but the
stock gestures and tropes afforded by contemporary technology,
such as emojis, slogans, synthetic products and even the pastel-
palette associated with youth as a market-friendly demographic
supposedly spending time and money in generic fast-food eateries,
malls, and arcades: if this is the language you give us, this is the
language we will use ad absurdum, exploiting the contemporary
dreamworld (this reservoir of occulted psychopathology) through
methods of intoxication by images and language(Preciado, 2013:
361).

Lewis Den Hertogs film Protein Shake (Episode 1) introduces a rich


lexicon of negativity and hostility that similarly undergirds that of
the world which Vaporwave reflects and its instrumentalizing
network-positivity. Made up of several vignettes, each is composed
of appropriated footage from softcore adult webcam parties, audio
from a selection of paranoid video-blogs, ttes claques animation
and a haunting soundtrack reminiscent of the BBC radio
programme, Blue Jam. Protein Shake (Episode 1) begins with a
webcam shot focused on a teddy bear, sitting on a bed behind a girl
performing for the camera. The vignettes continue with this focus,
with each shot allowing little or no room for the camgirls
performance only stray limbs and body parts appear without any
hint of identity, and only as a circumstance of attention upon the
bears. With crudely animated lips, the bear announces that we live
in a hopelessly depressing world setting the tone for the coming
onslaught of skewed and obsessive views that range from conspiracy
theories expounding the planetary control of satanic institutions, to
a seemingly improvised yet certain knowledge of an imminent
extinction event, from the speculation of the birth of a species of
higher intelligence that can corral and exploit the cattle-like
behavioral patterns of humans, to an amateur rappers volatile cry for
help that combines desperate threat with deep insecurity. Protein
Shake (Episode 1) offers an opportunity to temper the intellectually
orthorexic impulse of epistemic accelerationism with the
methodological reality-distortion and psychic re-ordering of Den
Hertogs fuzzy avatards.

Den Hertog himself talks of the teddies as being the inhabitants of


Hell (one teddy envisions such a place to be an eternity of moderate
discomfort as a result of a plaque-removal procedure). But the
source material of Protein Shake (Episode 1) belies the notion of Hell
as some distant and other reality. It is not even the depths of the

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deep web that are plumbed for hellish perspectives, but rather the
banal and accessible networks that comprise daily life such as
YouTube and the ubiquitous forums for exploiting and defining
sexual activity. Here, again, hell is the psychic occulted grain of the
commonplace, and it is a pervasive atmosphere of dread, anxiety and
paranoia that equips the characters in the film with a specific
modality of orientation, akin to the Surrealist technique known as
the paranoiac-critical method. Rather than a separate place, Hell is
portrayed as the collective delirium induced in the Tentacular
Novum, which furnishes its subjects with a shock of recognition
that never ends (Koolhaas, 1998: 238).

Animated yet stuck in their hell, the teddies expound a litany of


soliloquys that suggest their delirious views are the result of some
access to a kernel of truth in the pure horror of reality (to quote a
teddy bear). There is a striking presence of the motivations and
patterns of conspiracy theory here, which exists as a form of negative
praxis where there is no singular entity to protest but rather the
nebulous and complex organization of power that insidiously affects
reality, particularly in the tangled circuitries of globalized networked
conditions. Conspiracy theory is here similar to the paranoiac-
critical experiments of Surrealism as a spontaneous method of
irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic
objectifications of delirious associations and interpretations. It may
not be an immediately helpful conceit to visualize the complexities
of the world as a conspiratorial pattern, but there is a speculative
hostility engendered in such a pessimistic way of thinking that can be
useful to a rational accelerationist practice that wants to harness the
alienated potency in ways of navigating and conceptualizing an
experience of the contemporary moment. An experience of being
trapped in hell with the mind in turmoil, and the weight of the
Tentacular Novum breaching the molecular structure of subjectivity
(Aldous Huxley (2004: 88) also reminds one that accounts of Hell
include punishments of pressure and constriction) fosters a world-
breaking delirium. Architectural theorist, Rem Koolhaas (1998:
241) writes that

Paranoid-Critical activity is the fabrication of


evidence for unprovable speculations and the
subsequent grafting of this evidence on the
world, so that a false fact takes its unlawful place
among the real facts. These false facts relate to
the real world as spies to a given society: the more
conventional and unnoted their existence, the

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better they can devote themselves to that societys


destruction.

Koolhaas illustrates here the necessity of the Weird subjects


articulations, their negative lexicon as the instantiation of the
Tentacular Novums structural and occulted hostility, weaponized
as the form and content of hyperstitional sabotage (CCRU, 2014).
Den Hertogs film supplies a sophisticated apparatus for the
assemblage of a negative constructivism. It acts as a lightning rod for
the negative and libidinal excesses of the everyday and banal post-
internet culture. And it is with these very excesses, the accursed
share and noise of the network, that a practice of fictioning
intervenes with and re-populates the future, through a mining of and
deployment of cultural negativity as a speculative resource. Much like
Vaporwave, Protein Shake (Episode 1) promises that, through
conceptual recycling, the worn, consumed contents of the world can
be recharged, (Koolhaas, 1998: 237-8) with their immanent
delirious and ecstatic hostility.

One can now see how such drone-units are constructed for
deployment, and what kind of subjectivity or disposition they
embody. Perhaps though, subjectivity is the wrong term, given the
not-quite-human register and make-up of these avatars. Eva
Papamargaritis 2014 film No Boredom, No Pain, No Routine
epitomizes the existential angst of discarded virtual beings without a
purpose, fabulated by accident from rendered tentacles, guns,
chassis, life-models Similarly, Benjamin Nuels film Hotel (2013)
also shares a narrative comprised of an anonymous cast of computer
game henchmen inhabiting a virtual limbo falling apart, wondering
what their role in the world is and could be. To account for the
human-like intonations of a machinic vision or form of
consciousness belonging to the emergent and disoriented drone,
these subjects might well be considered in terms of a medievally-
inclined ontology that posits not only a porosity, but perhaps even
an indistinction, between person and object. This can be noted in
the activity of artists who treat their self as an object of
experimentation and fabulation for the deployment of artificial
narratives, such as rappers Mykki Blanco and Nikki Minaj:

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Knowing yourself by yourself means poisoning


yourself by yourself, risking self-mutiliation.
(Preciado, 2013: 361)

At first gender had been the vehicle for soul study


but I had learned those lessons and sacrificed
normalcy for the wonders of the world. I had
begun to confuse my personality with my being
and I wasnt going to wear Mykki Blanco like a
costume, no there is still so much to uncover and
articulate about this nebulous world we live in and
Id find the words eventually, this was a new game,
and the rules werent how to appear interesting
but how to achieve authenticity. (Blanco, non-
pag.)

Mykki Blancos music has been of an increasingly Weird bent,


culminating in the recent oddity-mixtape: Gay Dog Food. This short
release is a masterful appropriation of inconsistency and the porosity
of stable generic form, articulating the kind of ecstatic and
exaggerated alienhood that only an avatar like Mykki Blanco would
know, as an explorer of the alienated and nested plot-holes that bind
the world. Mykki Blancos diaristic Facebook post quoted above, as
well as his recent posing of the idea that Mykki Blanco quit music
and become and investigative journalist, suggests an idea related to
that of the intervening author-drone: that of the autonomous avatar
or drone as anthropologist, or perhaps as misanthropologist. Gay
Dog Food then, in its slippery insterstitiality and queerness (for
lack of a term that does not aim to pigeon-hole Mykki Blanco as
queer hip hop as if this were a genre) acts in a similar way as
Vaporwave, as a specular technology that reflects and warps the
image of the world, mirroring its opacity and distributing its own
Weirdness. While Mykki Blanco asserts and re-articulates the Weird,
an artist like Nikki Minaj adopts the role of a drone-object,
embodying a contemporary relic-hood as an object of enchantment.
Constantly reducible to big titties, big butt, too and explicitly
playing with modalities of, and embodiments of attention, desire,
enchantment, authenticity, and commodification, she slips
constantly in and out of roles, characters, disguises and voices. The
cumulative role of this polyvocal swarm and deeply Weird
multiplicities, this contemporary demonic Legion, is that of a relic-
like person-object, to be gazed upon and enact a towing of collective
intelligence towards the aforementioned nested zones of alienation
within popular culture (MacKendrick, 2010: 110).

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This conglomeration of multi-vocalities as a distributive quasi-object


is key to positing some kind of drone-authorship, as it would
necessarily be a kind of swarm-authorhship, condoning an
appropriately miasmatic intervention suited to exploiting the
nebulous architectonics of Mivilles Tentacular Novum, and an un-
disciplinary openness to incoherence and disorientation as
orientation (Joy, 2013: 30). Vitalistically depressive units jerry-
rigged from trash-heaps of extelligence, the group of drone-authors
and their diverse practices which have only been hinted at here
represent a burgeoning undercommons, the drone-denizens of the
Tentacular Novum and feral chimeric delusions (Negarestani,
2013) that this essay has collectively termed Vaporents. The term is
borrowed from the suffix of the URL for the Reddit sub-forum
dedicated to discussing cannabis vapor and vaporizers. While ents
is derived from the books of J. R. R. Tolkein as a name for a race of
fictional creatures, vapor, as discussed, attests to the vaporous,
dank, psychotropic haze as a contemporary mytheme, or point of
orientation. Opening the opportunities nascent within the category
of drone fiction depends upon interrogating the avatars of the
contemporary post-internet age those anonymous carriers and
non-human agents capable of traversing the virtual plains. Although
the ignition of these avatars pertains to the human world, there is a
discrete and inhuman potency that drives their efficacy, breeding
both new practices, responses and commentaries capable of
navigating the world and the dreadful fog of the Tentacular Novum:
autonomously and contingently emplotting future narratives.

Their viral and miasmatic infection of the world with their noise-
fiction-speculation depends, lastly, to begin again to answer Amanda
Beechs concerns voiced at the beginning of this text, upon what Ben
Woodard has termed slime dynamics, or a dark vitalism, towards
the symbiogenetic appropriation of a slime cognition through the
inhuman life of the avatar. Slime mold, or physarum polycephalum,
perfectly embodies this living instantiation of the mindless
functioning of life, an inhuman intelligence comparable to both the
extra-cognitive decision making capabilities of the autonomous
avatar-drone and the polycephalus swarm-authorship materialized
variously in the anonymous collectivity of Vaporwave and in Minajs
weird multiplicities. Avatars, in their drone-capacities,
autonomously work in and on the world, reading it and writing it
through a practice of world-production. But this is not a purely
haphazard contingency, nor a sober engineering, but instead a
darker Prometheanism attuned to the Weird contingencies,
inconsistencies, and nested cracks or plot-holes in contemporary

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SUTHERLAND VAPORENTS CM 16 2015

global-narratives as fecund heuristics motivating a practical


transversal xenopoetics.

Notes

1. Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek (2015) juxtapose the brainless


speed of dromological accelerationism, with the navigational
mastery of universal accelerationism.

2. [W]hat I mean by the machinic visual subject is not something


that possesses humanlike or human-level perceptual and aesthetic
capacities, but rather something that is uncanny and interesting
because it does not possess those things and yet can see us,
recognize us and know us regardless. Thats weird and interesting
enough. (Bratton, 2015).

3. The phrase fugitive planning has been borrowed from Black


Studies professor, Fred Moten, who uses it to describe the
speculative essence of a Black subjectivity. The possibility of a
collective fugitive-planning is made possible by the traversal of and
improvisation with an immediate set of resources afforded amongst
the oppressed, the undercommons.

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