Becoming-One, Becoming-Many, Becoming-Change

Pirate Utopias: The Politics of Ecstasy

The music critic should aspire to the status of the autodidact. They should eschew academic and systemic study in order to amass an idiosyncratic and syncretic personal cosmology from the stuff of the world around them as a way of both better understanding and negotiating a way through the world. This will result in an approach to the critical process that will by definition be non-doctrinaire, non-hierarchical and anti-dogmatic. (366)

Intro: Weaving the Ecstatic into Politics  

Festivals have always played a huge role in societies, from archaic to postmodern. When I talk about festivals now, I mean the form of ecstatic gatherings to music that has developed out of the sixties/seventies counterculture into our nowadays yearly sprouting into evermore sessions, mostly dance-dominated festivities:

Festivals are now a cornerstone of dance music culture around the world: weekends where day turns to night turns to day, where the experience of listening and dancing feels unbounded, pleasantly surreal. All the familiar dance music platitudes about escapism, hedonism and community start to feel possible again—or at least more possible than they do when you’re shoulder-to-shoulder in an over-priced club in the city. (Resident Advisor, 31.01.2020) 

A recent editorial in Techno’s most relevant debate and discourse forum Resident Advisor tongue-in-cheek called ‘The Rise of the Festival Industrial Complex’ traced the history of the festival from the turn of the century to the present situation: Every year new endeavours sprout, claiming to come even closer to the ultimate multisensory, initiate experience, an attempt to get thousands of ravers into a state of peak intensity and full immersion.

The 2010s also saw electronic dance music, in its broadest definition, become a central pillar of global youth culture—a shift that saw events like Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival become a rite of passage for teens in the US and Europe, while the UK charts once again filled up with dance-pop crossover tunes. The mainstreaming of dance music also expanded the underground. New festivals sprang up offering niche experiences and locations, like Unsound in Kraków, where shows take place in an old salt mine, and the sustainable festival Terraforma, set in a Baroque villa near Milan. Intimacy and exclusivity became valuable attributes in the face of corporate festival culture, with invite-only weekenders like Freerotation and Sustain-Release becoming cult favourites.

The festivalisation process created an increasingly homogenous mass of mainstream-adjacent offerings. The same small pool of names cropped up on every lineup, as if picked out by a random lineup generator website. A-list DJs would appear on various bills in different orders, typically playing sets of only one or two hours. This maximalist attitude was also apparent at club nights where lineups were stuffed with big names playing short sets. It’s a system that offers excellent value for clubbers—the chance to see dozens of favourites in one night—but doesn’t always leave a memorable afterglow. (Ebd.)

As a hybrid between the huge music festivals of the sixties and seventies and the warehouse generation with its illegal or semi-legal takeovers of non territorial zones such as empty fabrics or – in the case of the teknival or free festival – uninvested agrarian zones somewhere in the outback of a big metropolis, they have come to be pillars of contemporary ecstatic culture, and perform an important but in recent social research often neglected counterpart to contemporary club culture.

While both might be described as part of leisure culture, subculture or even ‘culture’ understood in a broader sense of lifestyle of an urban youth, it also is steeped in the history of counterculture, social movements and – most importantly – performs a ritualistic task, negotiating between powerful rites of passage and initiation into adulthood and its mass culture. 

Here, there are two ways of placing the festival: One is to trace its legacy down from the roots of our western civilization, in the hellenic period as an important means of festivity shrouded in ‘insiderism’, as Nietzsche has done, and later Maffesoli, by showing how the antique Tragedy permeates modern and postmodern rituals and popular culture. The other strand is rooting the festival in sub- or countercultural struggles for its own ‘resistant’ or ‘resistance through rituals’, its fight for unmediated and ungoverned spaces and ecstatic celebration. 

There, festival culture is often compared to indigenous forms of ritual, dance and festivity, a topic, that already fascinated sociology from its modern roots, e.g. Durkheim’s theory of cultural effervescence and the religious or sacral research of thr Collège de Sociologie combining anthropological research and sociological theory. 

Here, following some aspects in Deleuze /Guattaris ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, like the now classic chapter ‘Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Imperceptible’ on how affect structures identity and can be used in emancipatory micropolitics by opening the self to the infinity and becoming an open-entity held together only be one’s propre nom (proper name), merging with one’s surroundings in ecstatic moments of bliss to a tableau of art (art vivendi) or individuality defined by intensities or flow (John Duns Scotus) haecceitas, i have structured my presentation on ecstatic politics in contemporary autonomous zones, festival and clubculture, around the processed realities of 




My work centers on the dancefloor as foundational location of the ‘socius’, as a body without organs, where through shared altered and ecstatic states, the scenery becomes sacred, and a powerful myth of origin through where to construct community and communitas. 

The Dancefloor as Canvas

There is something innately powerful about the moment a dancefloor erupts. As if all of a sudden some synchronizing force takes over the scene, the tableau turns it into a threshold, in latin: limen. What emerges is a plafond, a morphing and oscillating assemblage,  union in intensity. Even more so, geophilosophically, if the scenery we encounter plays out outdoors. Here, the sacred belongs to no one. It was the wind, the valley with the stage and its soundsystem, the people completely enthralled. Liminality denotes a Plateau of Intensity, in which the aggregate state changes, novelty begins, haecceity (Diesheit) ensues. Everything melts into a body without organs. 

At a festival with 70 000+ visitors, such as Black Rock City, Burning Man Festivals temporary city, or the German Fusion Festival, we speak about the size of a middle-census city.

When a crowd experience collective meltdowns and states of euphoria, it powerfully breaks down the walls between its members and turns it into a collecitivity, a multitude of the moment: they infamously «become one». This moment marks a ‘culture of the now’, of the moment, which is a haecceity in itself: An individual tableau, where an instant points to infinity or eternity. In this environment, collective Jouissance, experienced as Rite-Of-Passage, and as a form of countercultural bonding, acts as a form of Adorno’s ‘promesse de bonheur’: The scene opens into the transcendental and utopian, making another or a better world seem possible.  They become vectors of transformation, cathartic purges, sparking the unthinkable. Cathartic crowds enmeshed in ecstatic dance form a powerful experience, therefore it is traditionally open only to ‘the initiate’, catering to a countercultural subject.

The Politics of Ecstasy, seen as a repetitive cycle of ecstatic states send its participant into a threshold of experience or a plateau of intensity, which can be seen as a state of emergency, or emergent of a new state. These foundational ecstatic moments where through ritual a crowd or mass becomes one has fascinated sociologists, anthropologist and adepts in the study of religion and culture from the very beginning. 

The most revered classic sociologist Emil Durkheim, founding father of the discipline, called collective ritual dance ‘cultural effervescence’, an euphoric overflowing which becomes a founding experience for the self and its social relations and bonding. 

Studying sundance and raindance, he noticed how people gathered to become-one and rever the elements to become-sacred, so as to overcome possible power struggle or hardship. After paying sacred practice to the world, terra, or territory, they once again were merged or melded together, reaching a state of Fusion of its disparate elements. 

Therefore, sacred dance was one of the means to found a tribe or negotiate troubles, music and movement becoming cosmological rituals where a navigation towards harmonizing energies between its individual. since then, in concepts such as technoshamanism, the dj performs his role as shaman, and archaic architect of ecstatic techniques, delivering music directed to catharsis, euphoria and healing. Instead of acting out difference in struggle, difference is inscenated and performed in ritual dance, reenactment, often through becoming-other (becoming-animal, becoming-archetype or becoming-spirit/god), then conjuring the holy oneness of the tableau, and leaving its participants with a new sense of self, purpose and belonging. 

Becoming-one with all, not only the people, but the scenery, involving the territory, terra or state, then the sky or the cosmos, offers an experience of ‘worlding’, of sacred practice reinforcing a powerful respect to nature, socius, the universe, Bateson described these experiences as reaching a Plateau-of-Intensity together, where rhythmic waves of sensations electrified every particle, and compared it to non-orgasm-centered concepts of sacred sexuality such as tantric practice, which re-enacts the merging of yin and yang, the sacred polar elements of feminine and masculine energies, therefore at once intensifying and harmonizing these subtle energy flows. This can also, according to Deleuze/Guattari and their influence Duns Scotus be called ‘Haecceity’ (Diesheit), the individuality of a moment, seen as a fleeting tableau.

 I will follow these influences in a short overview, then try to integrate the festival and dance music scene’s own research output, ranging from self-descriptions of explicit political festivals as well as recent reflections on the global dance movement, clubbing and techno scene. 

Where all of these influences abound to huge ‘temple’ stages and whole temporary utopian or otherworldly villages, I will try to examine the influence of recent pillars of the festival scene unto more broader politics. 

Important questions as starting points to my research – a mix of theory- and discourse-examination as well as ethnographic elements – then would revolve around the questions to what happens at one of these open spaces, where alot of its members or participants claim they experience the ‘ultimate freedom’ or ‘joyful’ ecstatic experience, haecceity or ‘bliss’ (Campbell) and how these experiences are turned into broader political activism and shape the discussion of our contemporary counterculture or avantgarde, as well as the influence on current event culture. 

A lot of the discussions around these interlinked fields takes place in the debate corners, or discourse program, of large international festivals, such as CTM/Transmediale in Berlin, where I presented a short intro to the debate, and where other researchers linked Berlin’s Club Culture to the Hongkong Occupy Movement, Reclaim the Streets activism, the discussion of ‘Safe Spaces’ in semi-autonomous or nightlife heavy districts of big cities or Festival labels that have become huge global brands and influential topics even into the highest political circles, such as Burning Man, which is visited by Silicon Valley’s elite as well as nobel laureates. Whether festivals arriving at this ‘critical mass’ can still be called sub- or countercultural remains contested. 

Recent debates about ‘Acid Communism’, the Anti-Brexit R3 Soundsystem, Fusion Festival’s Security concepts contested by local police authorities and a possible return of the Love Parade, turned tragic through the loss of lives in a mass panic a decade ago, all form pieces of information asked to be woven into a narrative of the state of our ‘ecstatic politics’ or a ‘politics of ecstasy’, its status and its prospects in the new millenium or the new decade that just started.

The role of secrecy, invisibility and flying ‘under the radar’ versus the appeal of becoming a dominant, powerful force of what spokespersons call ‘agents of change’ or ‘laboratories of the future’ must be carefully analyzed and investigated. 

The role of the festival is one who carries within the possibility of shaping the countercultural narrative of not only a generation, but world-wide politics (e.g. Woodstock). Therefore the politics of these festivals can be herolds of new social initiatives or testtubes of broader social change. 

On the other hand, despite all utopianism they themselves feel palpable to deliver, they face certain challenges and risks, ranging from police shutdowns to ecological desasters and waste to unmonitored deviant behaviour and might themselves form ‘ultimate threshold experience’ difficult to integrate as a subject, returning from days of jouissance, autonomous action and liberty into ‘default reality’. Here lies a potent research field for current conflict and action within broader social and cultural movements. 

History and Legacy: 2000 Years of Ecstatic Culture  

For among the many excellent and indeed divine institutions which your Athens has brought forth and contributed to human life, none, in my opinion, is better than those mysteries. For by their means we have been brought out of our barbarous and savage mode of life and educated and refined to a state of civilization; and as the rites are called “initiations,” so in very truth we have learned from them the beginnings of life, and have gained the power not only to live happily, but also to die with a better hope.

Cicero, Laws II, xiv, 36

Breaking down 2000 years of ecstatic culture into a short introduction of its contemporary state is no mean feat. What may have started as cults and rites of passage, rhythms and intervals beaten on ancient instruments, leading to ecstatic dance or entranced crowds moving rhythmically to a beat, has for ages quite slipped the mind of academic research – even though, like a meeting ground forms the centre of almost every social circle, it was literally always all around us: chanting in church, dancing in folklore, gatherings and meetings everywhere.

So it might strike a funny note to think of Berlin as the Athens of our days concerning its Eleusinian Mysteries, the dance music community, lingering just off center and not entirely in the margins like Eleusis nests some 20 kilometers off Athens.

Silent Witness: The Secret Life of Liminality

More surprising than the Athens-Berlin comparison is that these rituals who form the core of intense coming-of-ages have become treated like they are separate from what we call ‘culture’. «Culture» referring to the apollonian realm, whereas its nemesis, the dionysian, has unjustly been banned to the underground or underworld of study, often submerged into cataphilia, love of the catacomb, an initiate cult frenetically euphoric about their supposed «grail» or rusicrucian realm of secrecy.

Even more unjustly, the core rites and practices experienced by keen participant observations were seen as integral to its culture only if the culture itself was ‘out there’, meaning: marginal or liminal, exotic at best, be it vodoun or balinese temple music, but the same thing – startling hex and heathen stuff – was not to be tolerated by missionaries, to which cultural anthropologists as phaedran figures often turned into, if they spoke about their own culture. 

Truth be told, whatever dichotomies one chooses, apollonian/dionysian, high culture/entertainment, the sacred and the profane, banishing ecstatic culture did not work. Like the church who forms a village center, it never left its seat right in the middle of its territory.

n-1: Crowds and Critical Mass

Maybe because social control also relates to numbers: Crowds in villages seldom surpass a certain figure. PM, the Zurich anarchist, social utopist and technopoet, coiner of the Bolo Bolo Theory, estimated it to be about 500. With 500 individuals it’s possible to control even the most ecstatic of raves or processions through the crowd itself, grassroots-like. After this, the rhizome sprouts, numbers can soar, and things go overground.

Break New Soil: Sprouts and Tipping Points

The Sprouting therefore makes new emergent,  evolutionary or revolutionary processes visible. In the same sense of surprise one can talk about Tipping Points when a process suddenly gathers momentum, peaks, and in its peaking often forms a plateau of intensity, a mesa, which forms a new stage of the social process. 

This is, as Turner aptly remarked, because they are liminal: Meaning they have the quality of a threshold, implying there is a border or boundary which can be crossed, not as a location, but as a state or condition.It is the moment of ground-breaking, or transgressing, which makes this step into the unknown worthwhile: Suddenly, there is change or transformation which cannot before be circumscribed.

In space, liminality points not to a centre-margin dichotomy, but rather to a metaphorical step into the unknown. Björn Thomasson points unto the sea as a liminal zone: The inhabited territory ends, sky, sand and water await.

Rites-of-Passage: Full Immersion

In the same way, the aggregate changes, when we touch the sphere of the liminal. We step into the unknown, we touch or transgress a fringe and limit. In this in-between or transit, one does not yet see the outcome.

Metaphorically, the space or limit that is habitually crossed as ritual forms a rite-of-passage, a part of reenacted social drama which forms part of every life. You cross a line, and do not know where the steps lead, although this transgression usually is part of a stage in life. The courage to cross borders, go the extra mile then might be rewarded – or lead into an abyss. Rites-of-Passage are a part of every  festival experience: A Festival leads into an enmeshed experience one might explain as dive-in, as Full Immersion.

Beginning with the Eleusinian Mysteries, a chosen few are taken to secretive parlours of ritual, where they are deliberately led into riddles or labyrinthean scenarios, tempted or tested, and then – after entering this path – might celebrate this step into the unknown together. 

Combined with Maffesolis work on the Dionysian within Society, which he hailed as a powerful and necessary counterweight to everyday life and its hardship, we can now – like the Collège de Sociologie, Bataille or Artaud, include the occult, the euphoric, fanatic, frenzied back into our midst.

The culture of pleasure, the sense of the tragic, the confrontation with destiny, are both the cause and the effect of an ethics of the moment, of an emphasis on experiences lived for their own sake, that exhaust themselves in the very act and that no longer point forward into a future that is predictable and controllable at will. This is the outcome of ‘necessity’ in its philosophical sense: it creates heroes, the new knights of postmodernity, capable of risking their lives for a cause that can be both idealistic and perfectly frivolous. Such a risk may be imaginary, belonging to the order of simulation, or, with brutal consequences, completely real. But in every instance we can understand it as an affirmation of life that is sufficiently polymorphous to include death. (Maffesoli, 2004: 136)

The TAZ and its Pirates: Temporary Utopias 

Festivals, understood as Ritual Space also mark an important part of what is rendered thinkable through Hakim Bey’s Pirate Lore on «The TAZ»: Places «where people might slip into different identities, assume new ways of being and relating, become fluid and wild in ways that are constrained on the surface» (as put in «Invisible Cities»).

These Zones, described by anarcho-syndicalist, sufi-mystic and occult cult figure Hakim Bey as «TAZ, Temporary Autonomous Zones» form virtual or actual, often secretive and tucked-aways «Pirate Utopias», “intentional communities,” whole mini-societies living consciously outside the law and determined to keep it up, even if only for a short but merry life.  To claim this otherworldly quality, Pirate Utopias therefore had to be somewhere seemingly yonder, but easy to reach through their own transport and fleeting networks – a bit like fata morganas or vanishing lakes, who seem just around the corner, but then suddenly invisible instead of coming nearer. Again, key is to keep the lab under the radar, flying off kilt. 

The TAZ is “utopian” in the sense that it envisions an intensification of everyday life, or as the Surrealists might have said, life’s penetration by the Marvelous. But it cannot be utopian in the actual meaning of the word, nowhere, or NoPlace Place. The TAZ is somewhere. It lies at the intersection of many forces, like some pagan power- spot at the junction of mysterious ley-lines, visible to the adept in seemingly unrelated bits of terrain, landscape, flows of air, water, animals. (Bey) 

Contemporary Autonomous Zones 

In my ph.d. thesis I aim to show how Temporary Autonomous Zones are precarious laboratories of social disorder, disobedience but also counterculture jouissance and resistance against molar and majoritarian, authoritarian tendencies within society.

The sacred belongs to no one. It was the wind, the valley with the stage and its soundsystem, the people completely enthralled. Liminality denotes a Plateau of Intensity, in which the aggregate state changes, novelty begins, haecceity ensues. These moments, of course, overcome personal adversity, compartmentalisation and snobbery, which is why they are sought-after even by high-brow communities. 

Understood as a negotiation of “ghosts of the past” or an unexpected memorial service to the violent foundations of our civil society, these “neo-archaic” rituals and practices (though closely intertwined with today’s individualism and neoliberalism) nevertheless evoke the spirit of a supposedly already extinct tribal past, reemerging with a vengeance. 

Tracing back current forms of global subcultural resistance and civil disobedience like ‘dancing for open or public space’ to corporeal practices of resistance among native inhabitants of the northern/western hemisphere as well as oppressed ‘creole’ minorities (e.g. slaves of african heritage) as part of a ‘minoritarian genealogy’ and ‘hauntology’ (Derrida) of today’s capitalist frenzy, this body of research emphasizes the continuing ‘secret wisdom’ and ‘magical rituals’ of ancient civilizations which seem to be passed on in postcolonial ‘tribalistic’ movements and as a result are still present in today’s urban electronic dance music – not as an ideology, but as fragmented ideas and ways of moving the body that are often deemed transgressive, such as the whole history of minoritarian ecstatic dance, from the archaic becoming-animal/becoming-other to its occult manifestations stemming from vodoun, butoh or else.

Emphasising the importance of these postmodern recallings of spiritual and sacral practice for social cohesion and integration in an increasingly insecure and fragile new world order, its “Politics of Ecstasy” will offer a new perspective on so-called archaic techniques of intersubjectivity such as trance, transcendence, and the sublime. It considers the longing for a new form of utopian cosmology, archetypal mythology, and religious eschatology in the 21st century.

In the festival, we experience the ritual of constructing and deconstructing a Temporary Autonomous Zone, in which like Carnival in villages or cities, a couple of days, weekenders or in extremis a week becomes a free enclave where – almost – anything goes. 

Furthermore, often they are Testing Grounds for new social initiatives and emergent changes, often self-describing and identifying as gallian villages or heterotopias, places of disparate utopian visions, goals and explorations. These zones can be seen as peaks or plateaus of intensities according to Deleuze and Guattari, where different forms of minoritarian history, becoming-minoritarians or creatively constructed.

Utopia / Dystopia 

Counterculturalism invariably involves an element of utopianism because people who challenge existing social and political norms search for better alternatives. (Champion: New Age) 

The global Dance Music community in many ways – linear, genealogical, horizontal – follows within the footsteps of the counterculture liberation of 1968, that formed the backdrop to Anti-Oedipe, Mille Plateaux (1980) and geophilosphical Treatises such as Chaosmosis (Felix Guattari, 1992). 

Thus, feeling structures circulating widely and wildly within countercultural frames such as the 1968s can be analyzed and reconstructed under the new spinozist turn, or paradigm shift towards «Affect». Affect, seen as the stimuli-response-double-bind forming the pair «affect/to be affected» frees up energy stored in the strata and the striated elements and layers of Terra and its horizontal, vertical and virtual machines and apparatuses. As war machines, they provoke harsh reactions, such as the spring of 68, but set free lines of flight towards the realization of an old, eschatologist dream: Return to a Paradise Lost, or the realization of Heaven on Earth. These spiritual concepts, vague and ephemer as they seem, stand at the heart of any revolution rooting in countercultural creative practice.

Its foundational binary paradox centers around the pair «Utopia/Dystopia», combining escapist dreams of a timeless sacred or ritual space where all intensities circulate within a BwO, we could call in Woodstock, and the fear of flying into the abyss – like Altamont. 

Compared to this, Techno Culture has coined its own mythopoetic universe around «Utopian or Dystopian Dwellings» which reside side by side to our conventional idea of Society and Techno Cultures foremost residing, or residue: The Basement, or Underground.

The more mythopoetic elements of techno dwell somewhere else, though: They tell of an unknown aquazone (Aquatopia), lively desert or jungle of an Afrotopia, opposed to the Brave New World of a bleak, technologized, Orwellian Society of Control (as mentioned in Gilles Deleuze’ Postscriptum). 

Mythology and Multitude 

Hereby the mythology of dance culture relies heavily on a closeness to emancipatory slave and indigenous narratives, about freeing oneself by total adaptation and becoming-animals or becoming-cyborg as new ways of a hybrid technosubjectivity. 

Some of the circulating myths in classical techno culture such as Drexciyas Deep Sea Dwellers, concern crossing the ocean, mostly thought of as traversing The Black Atlantic, and forming Aquatopias, underwater territories populated by freed slave women, while others, such as The Space Ape or Jeff Mills concern themselves more with alienation and outer space, partly inspired by dystopian cult movies.

In this environment, collective Jouissance, experienced as Rite-Of-Passage, can become a powerful healing force and part of a Mythology where Multitudes experience collective meltdowns and states of euphoria unthinkable of in everyday life, powerfully breaking down the walls between members of a crowd and an impetus to «become one» 

These developments can be traced back with conceptual frameworks such as Maffesolis Neotribes or Dionysian studies. Yet, it is important to not only discuss individual myths as identity-politics, but also the Politics of Ecstasy themselves. 

A Harvard Hippie drops out

One of the most influential 1968 treatises on the relationship of Science and Religion to Countercultural Politics was Harvard’s Hippie Guru Timothy Leary. His politics of ecstasy concerns the ‘field’ or ‘zone’, that emerges as temporary utopian space, and sets certain rules, restrictions or regulations of day-to-day-society out of control. 

The Politics of Ecstasy, as coined by Timothy Leary, concerns the ‘field’ or ‘zone’, that emerges as temporary utopian space, and sets certain rules, restrictions or regulations of day-to-day-society out of control. Their aim is a certain degree of disorder, based on some easy, often repeated morals such as «Love, Peace and Happiness» or «Peace Love Unity Respect». 

What rendered these ideas problematic probably was the slogan to ‘tune in, turn on, drop out’ – of societies regulations, structures, organs. Not unlike Deleuze/Guattari just becoming-imperceptible cannot be a revolutionary politics, it’s more like a polish goodbye, or a crashing door, a goodbye with a middle finger. Drop-outs, in our sense of the word, are people giving up on the state of things.

So, where do drop-outs head?

As shown in the legendary Woodstock festival, and two decades later, in the Second Summer of Love, the huge warehouse rave-turning Teknivals/Free Parties such as Castlemorton 1992, sometimes these secret worlds appeal to such a huge crowd, they become iconic.

Pirate Utopias are otherworldly zones, «enclaves of pure freedom»,  not entirely outback, but outposts somewhere in the margins of the metropolis’ infrastructure-networks, shielding themselves with secrecy, thus becoming-invisible to the authorities: key is to keep the lab under the radar, flying off kilt.

While they exert a huge push-pull attraction among global counterculture, they are often under attack by the molar or majoritarian apparatus of capture (AoC) of the state. Therefore the status of the location, its territorial permit or lease, as well as the status of the visitor itself, remains precarious. It demonstrates the unease of the state with such semi-autonomous structures and non territorial zones.

Event Horizon: Towards A Theory of the Non-Territorial Zone 

Here is where a theory of the ‘event’ or ‘event horizons’ becomes necessary. Where do these temporary Utopias hail from, who builds them, and how do they often vanish without a trace. I will aim to show how highly successful event series and festival grounds become the subject of myth and global followings, by using an ‘under-the-radar’ approach and a ‘Leave-No-Trace’-Policy, by self-defining as secret islands or watering-holes or Oasis-like Fata Morganas within the desert. 

Further framings are non territorial or nt/spaces, restricted or code red zones, often hailing from military or spacecraft testing, or secret laboratories.

What happens, in short, is that when an event reaches critical mass, it no longer is able to ‘become-invisible’ or fly ‘under the radar’ of the vertical despotic machine, it becomes its object. Molar officials and delegates, mostly by the nation state, demand entrance to the sesame, to impose economic and politic restrictions or deposit search warrants by the institutions of sovereignty and special forces as the police – as happenend to the largely tucked away east german primus inter pares Fusion Festival in 2019. 

Fusion Festival: Negotiating the Sacred in a TAZ

A prominent example right now is the Fusion Festival in Lärz, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which operates as a classical TAZ attracting around 70 000 fans including volunteers every year. Its heterotopian vibe forms a bassin for any countercultural resistance program aimed at a communist ecstatic utopia termed ‘Feierkommunismus’: Similar to one nation or one people under the groove.

Compared to the other festival, its Full-Immersion Policy, A True Politics of Ecstatic Experience jammed together with various Politics of Ecstasy in its resistant but fancy Dream-Coats makes it all-inclusive of the Idea of Underground Culture – it’s a Military Base and Freefall Atomic Testing Ground. Second, even though the rough shed of its Landscape, a huge area grassroots-truely managed by the Kulturkosmos Verein, association.

Yet, this festival is inherently and truthfully political, reverting to a seemingly lost Marx’ communism which of course existed as real in the DDR, where it lies. Its logo shows a rocket reminding us not only that we are entering uncharted aerospace, heading into outer space, but emphatically reminding us we are on perilous grounds of a Rocket Launch Ground. 

If the event is able to negotiate its ecstatic culture as viable, though, compromise be made – or even notes taken on side of officials, who are always cautiously watching frenzied behavior, to see if it – like, a decade ago, the tragic end of the Love Parade in Duisburg – might plunge into catastrophy, tragedy and destruction, or – see the reenactment of Mayday – become a model of similar initiatives nearer to the state and its buraucracy.

The escalation spirale within an open brawl between The Apparatus of Capture and the Nomad War Machines often ends with heartbreak on both sides, forming epic narratives that tell of the shattered dreams of these Utopian visions and forms not only often geocorporal scar tissue, but also a new narrative, formed after its Trauma (PTS), which striates the smooth Nomad Utopian Space, and – true to Deleuzes Opus Magnum ‘Difference et repetition’ becomes its ‘Groove’. 

So, when its security concept got contested, there was talk about the festival not being able to continue its imperceptible-politics. There seemed to be only the option to go public and accept police on its grounds, or not being able to continue after two decades. Yet, after a public outcry, there was a compromise reached: The festival, up to now without police on its grounds, would accept a small number of police stationed there, and could continue on its own concept and stance. This compromise was hailed widely as a positive example as how a countercultural event could claim critical mass to become a role model for new politics, and opening up the state’s agents such as police to new ways of interfering with its minoritarian spheres and its inhabitants.

In this sense, what happened at Fusion is a milestone of recognition, which might have angered the Kulturkosmos Committee, but also proven they can reach consent with the regulatory offices of its Bundesland.

So, in a time where even the New York Times visits Burning Man with a Nobel Laureate, Paul Romer, to investigate these desert orgies which have swelled up to an astonishing 70 000 participants, a provocative question: Is the bacchanal becoming a model of urban planning? This then would bring back the Festival from the outposts and margins back into the middle of social life. 

«Trance events have an uncanny ability to capture an era, and captivate an audience of travellers occupying the eternal theatre of the dance floor. [The] tendency … is to thwart the passage of time, to prolong the night, for those who adopt a liminal lifestyle. Amid the hustle and hubris of the psytrance carnival there is a peaceful repose that you sometimes catch when you’ve drifted into a sea of outstretched limbs, bodies swaying like a field of sunflowers in a light breeze. And you feel intense joy in this fleeting moment. You are the moment. You are inside the flow. You are all. Embodying the poetry of dance, you are living evidence that nothing lasts. And this is a deep revelation of the mystical function of trance. It is difficult to emerge from this little death, because one does not want the party to end. But it must end, even so that it can recommence—so that one can return to repeat the cycle.» (Graham St John: Technomads – Global Raving Countercultures)

Graham St John discusses how transnational cultural movements orchestrate potential in events augmented by sensory technologies, participatory arts, and liminal design. In doing so, he demonstrates how these event-cultures are infused with a conscious sensibility of the threshold, a collision of leisure and religiosity he calls “super liminal.”

At Fusion they call it Lärzschmerz: The intensity of the Feierkommunist experience is so big, that people literally feel deep burnt by it. A very own heartburn following the experience of a liberally performed culture and cult of ecstasy needing to remove oneself from this scenery of a self-built utopian ground, and returning to a template of default reality. 

So one of the key questions that ensues is simple: 

How to anchor these experience without jumping ship and refusing to again adapt in what Berliners call our «Restrealität»? 

Pollution and Pollination

This points to the open question of the reintegration of the initiate of ecstatic club or festival culture into society: Leaving liminal space to again become a citizen. In traditional societies, the liminal subject, the one undergoing a rite-of-passage, is characterized as «polluting», in the sense that he crosses taboos of purity, and is therefore temporarily stripped of his social status. 

He is thus considered «dangerous» to the social order. This status of being «betwixt or inbetween» has been traditionally ascribed to shamans, drop-outs, outcasts, and marginalized people and minorities, and can be compared to Agamben’s «Homo Sacer» – the outlaw living in camps, during what the political premise calls ‘Ausnahmezustand’, or what might be in context to club culture called ‘Carnivalized Politics’ – individuals that might be killed but not sacrifized.

In the ancient Mysteries, on the other hand, as mentioned, they ritually sacrifized the heroes by letting them experience a performative death at the end of the play, thus rendering it ‘tragic’. This closes the ritual circle so as to end the dionysian mayhem and madness and return to the state of the polis, the regulated society of Athens. At Burning Man, key feature is to burn totemist cultural artefacts of oneself, works of art, and indeed its own site structures, so as to sacrifice one’s old or overcome ego – key to its Ten Principles – ‘leave no trace’.

The profound transformation after crossing the limen is still often described akin to a little death, and opens the individual up to a realm transgressing boundaries of its former life, death and opens up to pure potentiality. Then the cycle closes and a new life, or chapter, begins.

Sonic Euphoria and its Crashing Comedowns

As sketched out above, if this freedom is negated on return, often the participants experience severe pain, called ‘Lärzschmerz’ at Fusion, meaning heartbreak and longing towards the experienced euphoria and freedom, and might suffer breakdowns, trying to fit back into their ‘old lives’. The experience of an opening into an otherworldly ‘Pirate Utopia’ leads to a longing to ‘stay in wonderland’, or, as mentioned before, the desire to ‘drop out’.

Here, too, not unlike but often interwoven with the psychedelic experience, the user or participant often lacks expertise in how to navigate after crossing the threshold, meaning the individual largely is left alone with its overwhelming experience. Therefore, some adepts have started posting coping strategies or self help manuals on the internet on how to handle come-down, hangover, and the integrating of the exalted experience.  

Nowhere Festival, the Euroburn in Spain, has courses at the end of the week, how to deal with the aftermath or afterburn.  Some festivals explicitly remind their guests not to quit their jobs or break-off their default lives within days after the festival, where a fresh and instable self might plunge into an abyss, and instead visit a ‘decompression’, a loosened after-gathering in a cozy, quiet environment – the beach or mountain lakes – involving literal bathing as a form of purification of the dionysian ecstatic experience, or even a baptization to deal with the aftermath or come-down of the exposure to a ‘burn’, settling and anchoring the experience before getting ready to re-integrate to society. 

Here, they receive the status as precarious, yet fertile subjects: One can think of the transition of an individual as the end of a stable self, as a becoming-hybrid, and its re-integration into society not as a pollution, but as cross-pollination. The liminal experience then becomes not just a rite-of-passage, but a vector of change and transformation.

The example of Fusion Festival marks an important turning point: The stationed police on its grounds was tolerated, and deemed unnecessary, as the crowd remained peaceful. Therefore, what was reached is a compromise. This points to the possibility of a TAZ regulating itself without clashing with forces or violent uprising. The pirate utopia has successfully, under the eyes of the authorities, defended  its state of a free enclave, proving again that an ecstatic event with 70 000 participant can operate on its own post-communist, anarcho-syndicalist terms.

Instead of ritual closure and secrecy, there now has opened a window of opportunity to new circuits, offspring, where especially in the countercultural metropolis, more and more similar structures of heterotopian, anarchist politics become implemented within the city, marking a homecoming of this diy forms of ecstatic culture into the metropolis midst.

Acid Communism 

Amid the heated debate and discussion on Brexit with their huge, sounding demonstrations last fall orchestrated by people of the dance music scene gathered in the r3 soundsystem– there was something like a soft breeze going through Great Britain’s academia, too. Universities like Goldsmith, a south London nest of poststructuralist thought, and the University of the Arts UAL, scattered through the city into branches like Elephant & Castle and Central Saint Martins, there was a lot of talk on how to take the looming prospect of being cut-off from the Continent, main inspiration of theory throughout the last decades.

One of the keywords in this discussion was «Acid Communism», a term coined by the late Mark Fisher, on how to revive critique and political activism as micropolitics within the framework of a seemingly monolithic neoliberal «Capitalist Realism», after its creator commited suicide.

Are there other ways to think the future, whether it seems Utopian or Dystopian, than within the panopticon of surveillance society? Here, a critical mass of young scholars seem to return to the fringes of research: Theories of the irrational, the monstrous, the hybrid or the ecstatic.

Acid Communism touched a nerve within the closed circuits of Academic discourse, because it opened the field towards what was happening on a grassroot level: The underground, so to speak, bore a lot of recent activist work on how to shape the future. Here, precarious laborers, squatters, young artists and a lot of before world-weary specimens of the 1968 revolution once again touched on a common subject. 

To think of a better future, or even better world, do we have to rethink the way we shape society on a molecular level? A lot of the work of junior researchers is centered around how society en miniature is produced through shared frameworks of belonging: The ghost of a violent past formed by structures of power-knowledge lingers around as ‘hauntology’, provoking as a response a restless, gloomy, even paranoid picture of today’s networks.

But if our always-on-wifi generation has lost the belief, that global networks will bring the promised freedom, where do they turn? More and more, people look back unto the 20th century as one of neotribes, avantgarde movements and bohemia diving into test-tube micro-societies, where novelty can be produced as playful experiment. 

One of these largely hidden playing fields was the experimental testing of new substances in laboratories of ivy-league university and small research groups within vicinity of the growing pharmaceutical company. While LSD was first discovered by the iconic Albert Hoffman in his study at Sandoz in Basel, Switzerland, a city with an age-old alchemic traditions, his first drop on April 19, 1943 has now been turned into cult-fest Bicycle day, it opened the gates for more thorough research on the «psychedelic». 

LSD: Hofmanns Sorgenkind

But it wasn’t Hofmann himself advocating a broader use on what he called his «Sorgenkind», his problem child, in an ambivalent recount of its discovery and distribution as well as countercultural reappropriation, but young researchers from the beatnik bohemia in search of a broader world-view. The name Leary has become the epitome of the ‘LSD guru’ after conducting experiments at Harvard University, first met with enthusiasm, then – after going public with his findings – a humdrum one would nowadays call «hype», only to be stopped short after encouraging students to «turn on, tune in and drop out», drop acid, tune into the growing hippie counterculture, and then drop out of mainstream society or the «default world» altogether. His findings, collected in several nowadays often deemed antiquiated or even obsolete by his peers, talked about an «utopian zone» opened by the «Politics of Ecstasy» around the huge influence of psychedelics on the sixties counterculture and revolt. 

Here, a very heteregenous group of leftwing students, workers, outcasts, feminists, eastern travellers and spiritual leaders would unite through the buzz of music, festivals, happenings and pop-up-galeries or bars, where they found bliss in long, ecstatic ceremonies, whose attendants often went on to stage huge events, marked by an until then unknown buzz. Whatever happened in key areas such as San Francisco, New York or London, it seemed: the world was watching and taking notes.

The colourful revolution which spawned so much hope around the globe has often been dismissed as light-weight, woozy and naive by its critiques, especially compared to the more radical politics of the global forming left. Yet, a lot of our collective imagery and aural archive of the era centers around these ecstatic happenings.

A revolution resting on ecstatic events, such as festivals or love-ins, may not seem first or foremost a political project. Yet, after partaking in such rites-of-passages reaching critical mass, a lot of its participants came back utterly and thoroughly transformed. What happened next, whether they took up established forms of political activism, or dropped out completely, has seldom been thoroughly documented. But by building a micro-utopian site spilled over by eager young people in search of a truely novel experience, they formed a rupture to everyday politics, and indeed opened a window towards another tomorrow. 

Communism then, as a heavy-weight, laden concept and idea, lost its monolith gun-point lutte aura, and become colourful, exciting, blissed-out, an erogene zone, where all of a sudden anything seemed possible. It was this carnivalesque, eccentric vibe, which scared off officials into trying to ban such get-togethers – with the result that the revolution hit the street.

While the discourse of the 1968 revolution has been thoroughly examined, the actual events, affect-laden and drug-heavy, have structured our perception of the sixties generation, but seldom has its outbreak of creativity, desire for play, new forms of the collective and sexuality itself been tied back towards they were first experienced. Festivals and happenings played a major role introducing a generation of adepts into rituals who before were limited to special, usually close-lipped circles. For some of these groups, the outbreak into revolution, came almost as a shock. For others, it proved that a revolution based on shared ecstatic experience was possible, and – however big the hang-over – hugely influential.

The exact role that liberal ideology, psychedelics, the intellectual front and art scene made such a counter-culture possible, has been the topic of countless books, but still remains a black box. One of the key ingredients, the party circuit, went on to celebrate the disco revolution, which heavily changed the status of its hybrid afroamerican heritage, and then delved into what we now call the ‘electronic music universe’. 

Unto this day, these global scenes and countercultural sites rest upon the fundamental role of ecstatic dance, called ‘raving’ and locations which are designed for exact this purpose. Its the groundwork, the ‘floor’ which counts, an empty space resembling a circle or rectangle, constructed around a stage and powerful soundsystems, as well as – typically in the back – bars or ‘chill-out zones’. Built for dancing to perpetually repetitive, yet often reaching cathartic peaks, they are the ‘zones’ that open up again to a celebration of the ecstatic.

Thinking politics or a long hoped-for revolutions from their ecstatic rituals and open spaces enables one to see, how countercultures form, rhizomatically spread and then – surprisingly – for the uninitiated sprout overground. These often circular movements of how revolutionary cells merge, reach critical mass and explode on the scene, has endlessly fascinated academic researchers. Yet – without diving into the often thorough research of subcultures through schools such as the CCCS – what remains as key ingredients seems to be a model utopia or liberating, revolutonary theory or even idea and some new on the scene, ‘substance’ inducing a flash in the pan in urban metropolitan areas, shaking up the territory and its culture. 

But I want you to get together

How to think together these disparate threads of discussing ‘Pirated’ Openings to our seemingly monolith default ‘reality’ of ‘misery’, named neoliberalism, which seems without a viable alternative, or in CTM’s words ‘without tangible utopias’? First and foremost, they are fleeting phenomena, hiding in the cracks and fissures of our postmodern society, taking up the inbetween-spaces (liminality) of its build-up. Not only within urban decay and gentrification, also around the metropolitan areas, taking up new meaning when it comes to gathering in ‘nature’ (rarely too far off center) and raving there, as mostly invisible mass catering to old ritual like the ancient mysteries, or what we think indian dance rituals – sun, ghost, whatever – were. There comes a whole set-up with this new agey blend, mixed with grassroots, anarchosyndicalist poetics and politics.

But how do they operate apart from their annual, seasonal spring-ups?
Alot of the intense experience, the experience of becoming-intense, according to Deleuze/Guattari, talks of the plateau reached, not only geophilosophically, but in experience, and therefore rests with the adept initiate after. From this plateau there are coined a lot of new politics centering around the idea of ‘worlding’, where we all become one world.

This is a step out of the becoming-minoritarians of the past decade, where empires and multitudes crash into ever more worldweary molecular wars. We are one, with empire, with mulitude, with minoritarians, as we form one whole, one tableau, in extremis: one world, or cosmos. This the testament of our New Age-informed spirituality.

So, what does that mean for its politics? Do they need to rest under the radar, as well as adepts initiation is one muted of telltales, as it remains a secret, a mystery. At the moment, we see, due to epidemiology and biopolitics, nothing else makes sense.

As we have probably surpassed this grey area, let’s get to work. Do we believe in our systems, our networks, the strength of bonding through our subculture? Is it important that it survives? Do we want to hide it from the allseeing eyes of the public, or do we believe it’s a debate worth winning?

Trascendental Homecomings: Becoming-Change

In my opinion, counter to what many initiates shrouded in secrecy believe, the past years have shown that the becoming-visible of these zones need not necessarily be their death sentence – it can also open an opportunity window to reinforce these qualities into our ‘restrealität’, our default reality. Help may come from surprising places – there is an intuitive understanding, and caring, to be found in a lot of places. Far from resting marginalized or on the fringes, the initiate refusing to keep a vow of silence on this profound experience possibly can become a powerful voice, an expert not only in critique and dissent of the established powers, but through his experience in practical, diy or pirate utopias, in transformative politics, inducing novelty and social change. *

I argue that we need an expertise politics of ecstasy, as in emphasizing its liminal state as a powerful and foundational moment of communitas, building community and new forms of bonding inspired by archaic ritual.

The occult can become visible again, demanding its homecoming into the center of a metropolis, as has already largely happened in Berlin.  It’s no coincidence, that after this victory there is talk about reviving the Love Parade. 

Maybe, after decades of heated debate about the role and importance of the ecstatic experience in society, its risk and radiance, it could be time to accept it as a foundational element of the socius. Here, club culture, the regular liminal time spent at the end of a week, is a powerful intermediary agent of mini-utopian, ecstatic experience. Its place has become largely uncontested in the progressive metropolis, but its sites remain grey areas with often precarious status (e.g. Griessmühle in Berlin).

Mapping the Ecstatic Space

So it will be interesting to see how these structures, placing the ecstatic in the center of urban social life, branch out into small pirate worlds based on anarchist vision. Mapping and tracing these new forms of celebrating the ‘sacral’ or the ecstating and the interconnecting web they weave throughout the globe is one fascinating task. Mapping the sensual, the affective, the bodily liminal experience in ecstatic states and collective trance, is another promising field, with some potential e.g. in the cyborg or CCRU legacy, afrofuturism another. Yet, bringing both together and showing how collective altered states lead to a renewed sense of self and the collective, and dripfeed back into the realm of the political is the field, where a possibly emancipatory treasure lies. 

There is not only something powerful about ecstasy on the dancefloor. Tracing these events through profound research also potentially makes powerful politics.

In between rests the invisibility of the secret, and its limen, the threshold. It must be crossed, to be able to overcome secrecy and muteness, the becoming-one leading to become heard, to speak again. Then, festivals can again become not only states of bliss, but vectors of change. Contrary to the audience at some rock festivals, where the stage remains key, in future festivalism, the dancefloor will remain the epicenter of things, where lights, music, mingling point to. It’s time to give back these neo-archaic, postmodern gathering places its relevance, before their specters hound our city in countless re-enactment of ancient processions, becoming kitsch, like the Love Parade or its more consumist Zurich pendant, Street Parade. What they do is they point to some self-evident truth: Dancing, forming a floor, across a city, has been proven to be one of the most appealing ways to form critical mass and also enjoy the stance of gathering, turning a city into a floor, to whatever consumist music one may do so.

Any political demonstration, however far removed from its roots this may seem, shouldn’t forget its sprout from the underground, where there are people doing pioneer work in the grey. And still, there seems to be no theory of how a alternative countercultural utopian festival relates to a ‘reclaim the city’-movement. How are they connected, the virtual, utopian screen of a possible future city, and the urban gatherings forming critical mass. There needn’t be idealization, they are far from reaching a voice heard in the ivy league buildings or carpet areas. Still, we are subjugated to people, allowed with one blinking eye, to gather in seemingly harmless consumist alterities, such as festivals seems.

The politics of ecstasy happening there can every day be crossed, by police, by politics, by higher powers, such as we experience with the shutdown of nightlife through corona virus. We are weak, when it comes to the demands of biopolitics, geopolitics or the economical demands of our states, countries, areas.

Yet, what might actually hold us together, as imagined communities, is precarious. While the experience of forming a togetherness through ecstasy and dance, jouissance, is a reality, which stays there, in one’s experience barometer, as an enacted dream: the dream of uniting peacefully, and building a city on these countercultural ideals remains. Yet its implantation, the questions whether these seeds or germs are worth sprouting, now seems ever more unclear.

What remains from Woodstock? What remains from Castlemorton, Glastonbury, Fusion or Burning Man? What is their message? And what could remain from other iconic gatherings rendered political? What is their lesson?

To this day, they tell of the myth of forming a social body, the socius, on ecstatic experience – of gathering to becoming-one again. The more fractured, axiomatic and ionized we get as people, the more powerful our whatever diffuse dream of unity. When a dancefloor erupts, this idea becomes alive again, time after time. As a means of socialization, of gathering, of forming a potential, precarious unity, it has proven its worth since the olden days.

So where is its potential in politics, returning from Eleusis to I Polis? Can the sovereign individual merge with the ecstatic group, the bacchanal, can they too, form a tableau of haecceity? Maybe, what would follow, would be a worlding too, of our interwoven, divided self: a becoming-whole.

Thus, in its truest sense, there closes a wide open circle.


JG Ballard: All what mattered was sensation. Critical essay by Simon Reynolds. Krisis Publishing. 

Nicholas Campion: The New Age in the Modern West 

Mark Fisher: Acid Communism. 

Andres von Gennep: The Rites of Passage 

Jeremy Gilbert: What is Acid Corbynism?

Timothy Leary: The Politics of Ecstasy. 1968 

Stuart Mills: What is Acid Communism?

Chal Ravens: The Rise of the Festival-Industrial Complex. Resident Advisor. 

Live Coverage of CTM Festival 2020. 

Liminalities, Journal of Performance Culture, «weaving intuitive illegitimate improvisation», 2018.

Shintaro Miyazaki: Don’t Forget to Change The Beat From Time To Time – About Counterraving. (Unpublished Manuscript) 

Michel Maffesoli: The Return of the Tragic in Postmodern Societies. New Literary History, 2004. 

Simon Reynolds: Generation Ecstasy. 

Graham St. John: Technomad. Global Raving Countercultures. 

Graham St John: Protestival: Global Days of Action and Carnivalized Politics in the Present. Social Movement Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2, 167-190, September 2008

*This, in times of the corona crisis, remains contested.

Deus Ex Machina


Excerpt from an old Project concerning the Ghost in the Machine.

File under: /Lostprojects*

*Tara Hill, Abstract / Outline / Ph.D.-Project, IXDM, Basel, 16.11.2014

Deus ex Machina

Facing ‘Spectral’ Interference: Towards a Hauntology of the ‘Ghosts’ in the Machine




Traditionally, in continental philosophy, the relationship of man and machine has been described in terms of mutually exclusive, binary oppositions – the most famous probably being the dualism of mind and matter, in which the ‘sacred’ human spirit – conceptualized as sort of an ‘élan vital’ – in its animated human corpus designs a device as means to a certain end, thereby usually rendering a sequence of discrete functions (or later: computations) automatic or industrial. trademark traits of measuring the effectiveness and economic value then would be their utility or usefulness as auxiliary tools, thereby ‘outsourcing’ and standardizing procedures of human handicraft to several automatized steps (though usually still operated by human beings, but in a more remote, abstract, centralized way of operating: one might label said machine-handling ‘at a distance’). machines, then, understood in a broader sense of the term, according to the ‘credo’ of instrumentality, functionality and rationality/rationalization would be key instruments of humanity’s rise above their species, key reference of the establishment of culture, key figures in the rise of mass society and engineering throughout the modern ‘industrial’ age or ‘fordist’ era and its specifics, i.e. processes of rationalization/industrialization. the key significance of the concept since the dawn of ‘enlightenment’ even (which in itself has become closely interconnected to the arrival of the ‘electronic’ age, aka ‘l’illumination’) – as a sort of spectacular u-turn – led to the view of the body (as well as organic matter) as ‘machinic’, actually successfully turning the paradigm shift from idealism to materialism into an ideology of matter as ‘machine-like’. dystopian tales of this reliance or even dependency on machines usually just swapped the roles of man and machine, thereby ascribing agency and domination or power to machines and passive dependency, on the other hand, to the hapless, oppressed human victim who witnesses his own transformation into a ‘guinea pig’.




but nowadays, in our age of post-postmodernity, late capitalism, neoliberalism, intelligent design, software apps and life-hacks (or even A. I.) this predominantly ‘modern’ concept increasingly seems downright dated. not only are machines today regularly operating on their own, in their own semi-autonomous space or even ‘biosphere’, often themselves regulated by even more, even ‘cleverer’ machines for checks and balances, a lot of them also handle tasks, that no longer resemble a fixed ensemble of human work sequences but massively transgress the potential of human labour, however skilled. a lot of the innumerable machines in our everyday-life have become far too complex for the usual, regular user to understand them albeit partially (apart from their concrete ‘functions’ and the handling of their ‘interface’), and therefore seemingly continually grow to ‘outsmart’ us humans. along with the profound impact of this realization and insight, new theories have flourished, which search to problematize and further differentiate this man-machine ensemble, e.g. the historical ‘decentering’ of the ‘subject’ of humanity. yet even if one challenges the traditional view of the man-machine-relationship with a, for instance, highly differentiated, posthumanist and thoroughly postmodern-anthropological approach such as bruno latour’s ANT (actor-network-theory), thereby levelling the playfield between human and non-humant agents/actants, i.e. machines and men, on a structural, semiotic level, a lot of the fundamental concepts still persist, and a lot of its framework still continually returns to ‘spook around’ or even haunt us as a witness of the ‘olden days’, before ‘machines’ took over most of our duties.




in this ph.d. project i will emphatically und fundamentally challenge this ‘common sense’ view of the man-machine-relationship from three different though densely interwoven, critical viewpoints:


first, i will argue, that the dichotomous distinction between man and machine is not deducted from the seemingly fundamental opposition of mind-matter or spirit-corpus but, as as a first and foremost analytical differentiation, actually lies solely in the frame of reference. a machine therefore should equally be able to describe the interaction of ‘living’ organic matter as well as computational processes (cybernetics) or industrial-mechanical devices. to demonstrate this i will make use of deleuze/guattari’s geophilosophical concept of ‘desiring-machines’ which does not ascribe or prescribe ontological features to machines, but sees them as assemblages or devices of (inter-) connectivity: in short, interfaces, determined by the complex array and interplay of forces/desire and (stratified as well as living/organic) ‘ordered’ matter. the distinction thereby is drawn between ‘states of chaos’ (state-of-flux/flow state/stream of consciousness, plateaus of intensitiy, the ‘body without organs’/chaosmos(e)’ (understood as an anarchist-positive, life-afforming force) and ‘states of emergent order’ (processes of stratification, hierarchization, territorialisation, arborification, ‘capture’) the latter assuming a vectorial quality or directed interplay of forces which also – through means such as the ‘war-machine’ sowing ‘dis-order’ or ‘becoming-other’ – can be reversed or disrupted:

a very basic model therefore would be an electric circuit which can serve both ends (free flow, pinpointed energetic activity, friction or shortcuts/blackouts). a big advantage of this theoretical concept in my opinion lies in its intermediary function: it locates itself in-between classic mind-and-matter-conceptualizations (by still distinguishing between the ‘wish’ or desire and force as a renewed notion of a certain kind of ‘élan vital’ or ‘chi’ (aether) and its constant couplings and reconnections within ‘real’ assemblages, i.e. ordered matter/strata) and more radical, nonhuman(ist) or scientific approaches (in its refusal to reduce machines to ‘dead’ or an-organic matter, on the contrary describing human life and bodies from an unborn baby up to the ‘socius’ as machines aswell), and at the same time a basic theorem and frame to understand life with absolutely no need of either ‘subjectivity’ or ‘society’.


second, i will resort back to the axis spinoza-nietzsche-foucault which i have already outlined in my master thesis to circumvent the classic shortcomings of more systems-theoretical or cybernetic concepts of power relations and reframe it according to two vital elements of my own project: power, understood as arbitrary interplay of forces, will be explicitly used in its energetic and electronic context, as the possibility to affect and be affected through ‘sparks’ of force/desire. at the same time i will attempt to open and establish a bypass to derrida’s concept of ‘différance’ as a more complex model of the problem of ‘presence’ and ‘absence’ in terms of a ‘currency’ of ‘alternate’ currents, which will lead us to the much cited ‘ghost’ in the machine.


third, i will make use of derrida’s promising theorization of ‘spectrality’ and ‘hauntology’ to challenge the shortcomings of conventional concepts of functionality on this very topic. this is especially important to my project, as it problematizes the concept of ‘functionality’ itself, understood as transparent successions of causal relations with certain means and ends. epitomizing the role of the ‘advocatus diaboli’ i will argue much the opposite: first, that functionality is not ‘normal’ , but only the norm in ideologically biased arguments, a second-order perception so to speak, and therefore an abstraction and reduction of the real, imminent forces at play, and second, that concepts which act complementary or ‘complicit’ with functionality and cater for the seemingly isolated incidents of ‘breakdowns’ and ‘emergencies’ or such as ‘malfunction’,’fault/failure’, ‘short-circuits’ or ‘interference’ are fundamentally and intrinsically part of machines, or with a slight hyperbolic edge ‘at its core’ as they do not themselves obey to the human logic of rationalization – as much as we’d like to conceptualize machines that way. logic therefore constitutes a hermetic ‘outer’ or ‘beyond’ to machines, and is not inscribed in their ‘dna’, even though we usually simplify this ‘chain of command and causality’, when we regularly make that assumption (in a sort of collapsing-the-map-with-its-territory-mistake). the machinic logos, as i will argue, is an emergent order with autopoietic as well as electromagnetic features, and does not usually comply with humanist or cantian notions of reason or rationality – in this respect, ‘Frankenstein’ and all these terrifying accounts of machines-come-alive is spot-on.




after these three crucial, introductory ‘axioms’ i will examine the consequences of this train-of-thought and apply my theoretical stances to several other theoretical concepts as well as – in a final, separate step and practical investigation – models of practice in form of a critical re-interrogation and open, theoretical dialogue. to begin with, i want to clarify the effects of my approach for pervasive and ubiquitary concepts such as ‘design’ and ‘creativity’, or more basically spoken: ‘innovation’ and ‘invention’. therefore, i will follow the alternate and minoritarian sociological and anthropological tradition all the way back to its modern ‘roots’ and trace this specific ‘school’ to gabriel tarde’s concept of hypnotism, imitation and innovation (which also was a central influence on latour’s ANT) and also, later (semi-) reformulations during the short era of the collège de sociologie as well as other key anthropological thinkers. i will then consider certain classical pioneers of anthropologically founded and ‘informed’ (cultural) media and design studies such as marshall mcluhan or vilém flusser which seemingly offer a fresh and daunting perspective on notions of creativity and innovation. i will also consider specific philosophers from a more systemic (yet open and feasible) theoretical tradition such as whitehead (and russell), bateson, von foerster et al., and trace the evolution of certain concepts into the related realms of a history of science, perception and technology, as conceptualized by michel serres et al..


after a brief ‘interlude’, which signifies a necessary excursion into the realm of cybernetics, physics and electrical engineering to clarify certain notions and concepts with the help of maverick rogue genius nikola tesla and, also, buckminster fuller, i will set out to adopt and use this focal ‘electromagnetic’ knowledge (on possibly ‘ghostly’ or ‘spectral’ features of alternate currents affecting both organic and anorganic matter and machines through the magnetic ‘vectors’ of desire/electric impulse) on the nature of the ‘spark’ of ‘desire’ (understood as flow or flux according to the ‘BwO’in deleuze/guattari, or the ‘ghost’ in their machinic assemblages). finally, i will proceed to the final emphasis and focal point of the project which will center on the practical aspects of my own reformulation of the machinic relations and its intrinsic qualities as well as its features in building assemblages and networks (nodes and hubs).




i will then try to put the hypothesis (the one i will at that point already have fully verbalized) to test and assess its theoretical as well as practical advantages and shortcomings. my aim is to demonstrate the benefits of such a concept in an experimental and explorative setting (small-sampled case/field study) in three deliberately very different and diverse settings, as in its basic reformulation it should thus ‘work’/’function’ and produce insight for all three examples .


first, i will apply the conceptual framework to an often untended field of research: sound studies. thus, my aim is to focus exactly on complex and difficult-to-conceptualize arrays (assemblages or dispositives) of sound design in contemporary electronic, i.e. ‘techno’ music. key aspects of the field study will discuss the interplay of forces at work and the effects/affects of certain machinic, electromagnetic impulses (e.g. delta, theta and gamma waves) and stimuli on the audience or listener (or more precisely: ‘user’), thereby possibly shedding some light on the actual, immediate interaction of ‘music’ (frequencies, rhythms and vibrations), bodily movements (sensations) and (subjective as well as social) ‘consciousness’ (narrative levels) and emergent ‘spectral’ machinic assemblages and networks that follow from these mutual and interdependent display of  ‘affections’. (for instance, meditation, hypnotism and technologies of ecstasy, without hereby assuming a simplified cause-and-effect-relationship.)


second, i will try to outline the possible impact on a potential study of certain social media and its intrinsic networks of power. thus, i will trace a select few of minoritarian, yet high-profile blogs and their own, emergent order of a complex ‘web 2.0’ consisting of hubs and nodes in a high-profile, yet up to now at the same time more or less ‘secretive’ or ‘hidden’ realm, such as for instance grassroot-based resistance and activist networks like ‘Anonymous’ or ‘whistleblower/wikileaks’-databases (this part is to be further elaborated and substantiated – my specific goal will here be to hopefully show certain advantages and (r)evolutions or redevelopments of the model in a more conventional, ANT-inspired network-analysis – more specific to follow). is it possible to speak of ‘Anonymous’ as a form of ‘A.I.’ or emergent phenomenon, maybe even in the sense of a ‘sentient’ being (like e.g. reza negarestani demonstrated with his highly polarizing yet pretty much jaw-droppingly-convincing conclusion of the sentience of ‘oil’ in his brilliant manifesto ‘cyclonopedia’)  


third, and very probably the most precarious endeavour of them all, i’ll try to put my own focus on ‘hauntology’/’spectrality’ in machinic assemblages and cybernetics to test in one of the most debated and dangerous (pseudo-)scientific battlegrounds: the realm of ‘nun-human entities’ and ‘sentients’ aka ‘ghosts’ itself. my working hypothesis of course will be a very grounded, non-esoteric one: that alot of seemingly spectacular ‘apparitions’ or ‘poltergeist’ phenomena can in fact be traced back to electromagnetic interferences and resonance (‘echo chambers’) which lead to ‘emergent’ phenomena such as mass-panic/hysterics or ‘new-age pilgrim tourists’. a systematic approach with an analysis of a small sample of accounts and renditions might serve as empirical base to show how until now ‘blackboxed’ phenomena in scientific discourse could possibly greatly profit from an inter- and transdiciplinary approach to so-called ‘psi’-labelled activity without aiming to ‘debunk’ or ‘reinforce’ alternate, mythological or religious beliefs, but by simply attempting to thoroughly analyze the phenomena with the means of an extended, reinforced ‘post’-ANT-approach. (maybe similar to neuroscience now offering a convincing, but by no means complete and exhaustive explanation of OBE’s and near-death-experiences)


to avoid falling into epistemological traps the explorative ‘field work’ will carefully focus on the drawing of a preliminary ‘cartography’ assembling all potential machinic and non-machinic ‘agents’ and the currents between them. if the theoretical framework outlined in the first part of the project will in fact – as i expect – prove to offer interesting and exciting insights on the interplay of forces at (net-)work within such phenomena it might offer a promising new outlook into such much-debated topics and fields of research beyond the usual lopsided idealist/materialist-reductionism. a complex analysis of the different currents, forces and vectorial-desiring ‘sparks’ should then open up new connections and interrelations and portray nodes and hubs as well as trace effects/affects on several different analytical levels: thus enabling a broader post-anthropological, interdisciplinary approach in the tradition of ANT predestined to draw revealing or even surprising conclusions (just as the scholars of the collège de sociologie managed to depict on the subject of ‘sacrality’, ‘spirituality’ and ‘witchcraft’ in the 1930ies/40ies). will we be able to locate and picture the ‘ghost in the machine’ by rendering the ghost itself ‘machinic’?  




In the final chapter i will not only summarize the theoretical stances and preliminary empirical results as well as possible practical benefits of the approach, but also offer a thorough discussion of the shortcomings and problematics of such a theoretical-practical framework crossing (or ‘short-circuiting’ and thereby ‘bypassing’) lots of different subjects and sciences. finally i will attempt to ‘map’ out a diverse synopsis of possible further study fields and area’s which might directly profit from such a critical post-anthropologist project, thought of as constant ‘work in progress’ (james joyce), forever inspired by the electric ‘sparks’ and ‘currents’ of the constantly evolving spectral-desiring ‘hu-machine’.




bibliography: key literature


Attali, Jacques:  Noise: The Political Economy of Music (Theory and History of Literature, Vol. 16)


Bataille, Georges: The Accursed Share. New York: Zone Books, 1988/1949.


Baudrillard, Jean: The Ecstasy of Communication. New York: Semiotext(e), 1988.


Bateson, Gregory. (2000 / 1972). Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.


Bateson, Gregory. (1979). Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and the Human Sciences). Hampton Press.


Bateson, Gregory., Bateson, MC (1988). Angels Fear: Towards an Epistemology of the Sacred. University of Chicago Press.


Bateson, Gregory, Donaldson, Rodney E. (1991). A Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Harper Collins.


Benjamin, Walter: Illuminations. New York: Schocken, 1969.


Delanda, Manuel: A Thousand Years Of Non-Linear History. New York: Zone, 2000.


Deleuze, Gilles: Bergsonism. London and New York: Continuum 1966.


Deleuze, Gilles: Difference and Repetition. London and New York: Continuum, 1968.


Deleuze, Gilles: Spinoza. Practical Philosophy. London and New York: Continuum: 1970.


Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1972. Anti-Œdipus. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 1 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of L’Anti-Oedipe. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.


Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1980. A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. London and New York: Continuum, 2004. Vol. 2 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 2 vols. 1972-1980. Trans. of Mille Plateaux. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.


Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari: Kafka. Towards a Minoritarian Literature. London and New York: Continuum, 1977.


Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari: What is Philosophy? London and New York: Continuum, 1990.


Deleuze, Gilles: Postscriptum on the Societies of Control. October, Vol. 59.1992


Derrida, Jacques: Specters of Marx, the state of the debt, the Work of Mourning, & the New International, translated by Peggy Kamuf, Routledge, 1994.


Derrida, Jacques (1997). Of Grammatology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


Derrida, Jacques (1981) Positions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Derrida, Jacques (1981) Margins of Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Derrida, Jacques: Given Time 1: Counterfeit Money (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1992 [orig. pub. 1991]).


Douglas, Mary: How Institutions Think, Penguin: 1986.


Douglas, Mary: Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, Penguin: 1966.


Dundes, Alan. “Binary Opposition in Myth: The Propp/Levi-Strauss Debate in Retrospect”. Western Folklore 56 (Winter, 1997): pp. 39–50.


Durkheim, Emil: The Elementary Structures of Religious Life. Chicago: University Press, 1912.


Eliade, Mircea: Shamanism and Archaic Technologies of Ecstasy. Princeton University Press, 2004


Eliade, Mircea: The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History. Princeton University Press, 2005.


Flusser, Vilém: Into the Universe of Technical Images, trans. Nancy Ann Roth, University of Minnesota Press, 2011.


Flusser, Vilém: with Louis Bec, Vampyroteuthis infernalis. Eine Abhandlung samt Befund des Institut Scientifique de Recherche Paranaturaliste, Göttingen: Immatrix Publications, 1987.


von Foerster, Heinz: “A Predictive Model for Self-Organizing Systems,” Part I: Cybernetica 3, pp. 258–300; Part II: Cybernetica 4, pp. 20–55, with Gordon Pask, 1961.


von Foerster, Heinz: “Biological Computers,” with W. Ross Ashby, In: Bioastronautics, K. E. Schaefer, Macmillan Co., New York, pp. 333– 360, 1964.


von Foerster, Heinz: Cybernetics: Transactions of the Sixth Conference, (editor), Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation: New York, 1999.


von Foerster, Heinz: Understanding understanding, a volume of von Foerster’s papers, published by Springer-Verlag, 2002.


von Foerster, Heinz, with Monika Broecker: Part of the World. Fractals of Ethics – A Drama in Three Acts. Heinz von Foerster’s most extensive biography, 2002.


Foucault, Michel (1970) The Order of Things. New York: Random House.


Foucault, Michel (1972) The Archaelogy of Knowledge. New York: Harper and Row.


Foucault, Michel (1979) Discipline and Punish New York: Vintage.


Guattari, Félix. Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics. Trans. Rosemary Sheed. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.


Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Empire. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard UP, 2000.


Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri: Multitude, Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard UP, 2004.


Horkheimer, Max and Adorno, Theodor (1972; 1947) Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Seabury.

Latour, Bruno: Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass., USA, 1987.


Latour, Bruno (1988). The Pasteurization of France. Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass., USA.


Latour, Bruno: “Where are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts”, in Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change, edited by Wiebe E. Bijker & John Law, MIT Press, USA, 1992, pp. 225–258.


Latour, Bruno: We Have Never Been Modern (tr. by Catherine Porter), Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass., USA, 1993.


Latour, Bruno  Aramis, or the love of technology, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass., USA, 1996.


Latour, Bruno. (2004) “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern”. Critical Inquiry, Vol. 30, No. 2., Winter 2004, pp. 225-248


Latour, Bruno: Pandora’s hope: essays on the reality of science studies, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass., USA, 1999.


Latour, Bruno: Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy (tr. by Catherine Porter), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., USA, 2004.


Latour, Bruno, with Peter Weibel (eds.) Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Latour, Bruno Reassembling the social: an introduction to Actor–network theory, Oxford ; New York, Oxford: University Press, 2005.


Latour, Bruno (2010). The Making of Law: An Ethnography of the Conseil d’Etat. Polity.


Latour, Bruno Whose cosmos, which cosmopolitics? Comments on the Peace Terms of Ulrich Beck, in: Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (ed.): Kultur und Gerechtigkeit (= Kulturwissenschaft interdisziplinär/Interdisciplinary Studies on Culture and Society, Vol. 2), Baden-Baden 2007.


Maturana, Humberto / Varela, Francisco: Machines and living things. Autopoiese to do Organização Vivo. Porto Alegre: Medical Arts, 1997.


Massumi, Brian. 1992. A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari. Swerve editions. Cambridge, United States and London: MIT.


Mauss, Marcel: The Gift. Année Sociologie, 1896.

Mills, C. Wright (1959) The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.


McLuhan, Marshall (1964) Understanding Media. New York: Signet.


McLuhan, Marshall (1951): The Mechanical Bride. The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man; 1st Ed.: The Vanguard Press, NY; reissued by Gingko Press, 2002.


McLuhan, Marshall (1967): The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects with Quentin Fiore, produced by Jerome Agel; 1st Ed.: Random House; reissued by Gingko Press, 2001,


Nietzsche, Friedrich (1967) The Will to Power. New York: Random House.


Nietzsche, Friedrich (1977): Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Random House


Negarestani, Reza: Cyclonopedia. Complicity with anonymous Materials. Re:Press, 2008.


Russell, Bertrand: Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1918.


Russell, Bertrand: The Scientific Outlook, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1931.


Serres, Michel: “La réforme et les sept péchés,” L’Arc, 42, Bachelard special issue (1970).

Serres, Michel: In Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time: Michel Serres Interviewed by Bruno Latour, The University of Michigan Press, 1995,


Spinoza, Baruch de: 1670. Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (A Theologico-Political Treatise).


Spinoza, Baruch de: 1675–76. Tractatus Politicus

Spinoza, Baruch de: 1677. Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata (The Ethics)


Spivak, Gayatri (1987) In Other Worlds. New York: Metheun.


Tarde, Gabriel Les lois de l’imitation (1890)- Translated by Elsie Clews Parsons in 1903: The Laws of Imitation


Tarde, Gabriel: Les transformations du droit. Étude sociologique (1891)


Tarde, Gabriel: Monadologie et sociologie (1893)


Tarde, Gabriel: La logique sociale (1895)


Tarde, Gabriel: Fragment d’histoire future (1896)


Tarde, Gabriel: L’opposition universelle. Essai d’une théorie des contraires. (1897)


Tarde, Gabriel: Fragment d’histoire future (1904) – Transl. Cloudesley Brereton: Underground Man (1905)


Tesla, Nikola: “High Frequency Oscillators for Electro-Therapeutic and Other Purposes”, in Proceedings of the American Electro-Therapeutic Association, American Electro-Therapeutic Association.

– Daniel Blair Stewart (1999). Tesla: The Modern Sorcerer, Frog Book.


– W. Bernard Carlson (2013). Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age. Princeton University Press.


– Marc Seifer (1998). Wizard: The Life And Times Of Nikola Tesla. Citadel.

Whitehead, Alfred North: Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927–1928, Macmillan, New York, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.




ImageMain Stage at the revered Techno Festival Labyrinth in Japan 2010: Tipi-Design meets Funktion-One Soundsystem.

CAUTION: The following draft is but a first rough sketch of my PhD-project: any feedback is more than welcome.





This thesis aims to outline a contemporary common ground for subjects as diverse as Sociology, Cultural Studies, (Cultural) Anthropology and Philosophy by re-establishing its foundational topic as the question of what separates society (as a concept, e.g. the ‘socius’) from an undisclosed number of individuals. It will argue that in the age of post-postmodernism the dominating school of thought focusses (too much) on the role of the ‘neoliberal’ subject while prematurely excluding current forms of ‘collectivism’ (for lack of a better starting point; not used as a pejorative expression) which question/transform and maintain/reaffirm social order and the organization of today’s society.

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Widerstandsfiguren, oder: «Frei – nach dem Motto: Wer eine Scheibe einschmeisst, kriegt Freibier!»


«Was ist Widerstand? Die Kunst, nicht dermassen regiert zu werden.» (Michel Foucault)

Sich die Widrigkeiten der Welt zu vergegenwärtigen verlangt einiges an Standfestigkeit, sofern man versucht, darob nicht gleich den Verstand zu verlieren (oder zumindest am Verstand anderer zu zweifeln). «Jaja», murmeln an dieser Stelle die Altersweisen: «Das Leben, oder besser gesagt: ein Leben ist nun mal keine gradlinige Entwicklungsgeschichte, sondern steckt voller Widersprüche, Fallstricke und Rückschläge.» (Einschub, frei nach Jean Ziegler: Sonst hätte die neoliberale Weltordnung uns längst den erhofften globalen Fortschritt beschert, anstatt allenthaben den Eindruck zu hinterlassen, dass wir uns auf direktem Wege zurück in die Zukunft eines Feudalismus 2.0 bewegen.)

Umso mehr verstärkt sich dagegen, je älter man wird, scheinbar der Eindruck, dass sich einzelne Lebensabschnitte wiederholt auf absonderliche, ja absurde Weise zyklisch ineinander verketten, und dabei gewisse, vermeintlich längst beantwortete Fragen oder gelöst gewähnte Probleme, so stetig wie das sprichwörtliche Stehaufmännchen,  kaum vermeintlich verflossen unverdrossen wiederauftauchen. Klar: Jeder Abschnitt bleibt natürlich für sich einzigartig, jedoch findet man sich, ähnlich einem Escher-Bild, am Ende irgendwie doch regelmässig am selben (oder zumindest einem ähnlichen) Punkt wieder wie Jahre zuvor.

(*Regieanweisung: Lachkonserve aktivieren*, oder etwas poetischer formuliert: *Irgendwo in der Ferne einer anderen Dimension lachen Buddha und Hindu gerade herzlich über diese wenig neue Erkenntnis*)

Gilt also frei nach Goethes Faust (und der Devise ‘Millionen mit der Lektüre malträtierte Maturanden können nicht umsonst gelitten haben’): «Da steh ich nun ich armer Tor / Und bin so klug als wie zuvor?» Wenigstens nicht ganz, wenn man sich an den guten alten Nietzsche hält (was ich bekanntlich gern und oft tue). Denn nicht umsonst war die «ewige Wiederkunft» für ihn eigentlich die Grundlage höchster Lebensbejahung. Schliesslich meint ‘zyklisch’ ja nicht, dass man stets im selben (Teufels-) Kreis feststeckt (neudeutsch: ‘same shit, different day’), sondern dass man sich im Leben vielmehr in einer Art ‘Spirale’ (hoffentlich nicht nur abwärts) fortbewegt.

Quasi, zweckoptimistisch formuliert: Die ehemalige Spiral-Bindung einer schweisstriefend und übernächtigt in letzter Sekunde kurz vorm Nervenzusammenbruch noch abgegebenen Abschlussarbeit könnte sich hier im Web 2.0, wo jeder ein Autor ist, sofern ihm in seinem virtuellen Speaker’s Corner ein paar Gutmeinende und Geduldige (oder auch nur Gelangweilt-auf-den-Bus-wartende) Aufmerksamkeit schenken, potentiell unversehens in eine Spirale inspir(al)i(si)erender Anschlüsse verwandeln.

Deshalb habe ich mich (frei nach dem Motto: ‘Ein Versuch ist’s wert, und sonst tröste ich mich mit der pessimistischen Attitüde, ich hätte es ja sowieso immer schon besser gewusst’) dazu entschlossen, meine Lizentiatsarbeit hier (voll unüberarbeitet und ganz ‘Creative Commons)’ ins Netz zu stellen, bevor mein Notebook die alte CD-ROM demnächst dann eh nicht mehr lesen mag.

«Who Cares?» fragt sich spätestens hier der Berufszyniker zu Recht – oder galanter formuliert: «Worum geht’s denn – und warum sollte mich das überhaupt interessieren?» Ganz einfach gesagt geht’s darin um die grundsätzliche Frage, wie Widerstand möglich ist; oder etwas genauer: Inwiefern man in unserer heutigen Gesellschaft wenigstens theoretisch noch so etwas wie Widerstand gegen die herrschenden Verhältnisse leisten kann.

Die «Antwort» (in Anführungszeichen; denn eine abschliessende Antwort auf diese Frage kann man natürlich nicht geben) kommt hier möglicherweise für manche allzu abstrakt und eher elfenbeinfarben daher. Und ist, so aus der Distanz, bestimmt auch nicht voll und ganz über jeglichen Zweifel erhaben. (Apropos: Wer Hilfe beim Verständnis des teils eher anspruchsvollen theoretischen Duktus braucht, soll sich bitte jederzeit unverblümt melden!)

Auch wenn die meisten theoretischen Entwürfe zwar zumindest als ‘praktischer Handlungsleitfaden’ unmittelbar jedem Selbsthilfe-Ratgeber und erst recht jeder ‘How To’-Blog-Charta (‘tl, dr’-Fraktion, I’m looking at you!) gegenüber hoffnungslos unterlegen scheinen: Ich bin trotzdem überzeugt, dass der Umweg über die Philosophie längerfristig nachhaltigere Ansätze bietet, um angesichts einer zunehmend aus den Fugen geratenen Welt nicht gleich völlig zu verzweifeln.

Warum? Diese Frage würde ich gerne mit einem der persönlichen Lieblingszitate meiner Liz-Arbeit beantworten:

«A concept is a brick. It can be used to build the courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.» (Massumi in Deleuze/Guattari TP: xiii)

Der erste, der also – von dieser Arbeit beflügelt oder zumindest (teil- oder mit-)inspiriert – irgendjemandem irgendwo ein betonhart widerständiges Konzept durch die Scheiben schmeisst, bekommt von mir Freibier spendiert – versprochen! Schliesslich sagt man nicht umsonst im Volksmund so schön: «Scherben bringen Glück.» Beim unermesslichen Scherbenhaufen, der sich derzeit vor unseren Augen global aufzutürmen scheint, bleibt nur abschliessend zu sagen: Hoffentlich. Ansonsten: Scheibenkleister.

Lizentiatsarbeit als PDF (Creative Commons, kein Common-Creative-Copy-Paste!):


Morphing the Matrix

Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth – nothing more.

Lila: What if I would prefer not to take any of your seemingly bitter pills, o’ truth-holder?

Morpheus: You will die of starvation, fading away into obscurity slowly and miserably, like other malevolent scriveners before you – so it’s either Melville or Belle Ville, baby!

Lila: What if the answer to the question is not ‘either-or’?

Morpheus: What answer? Just take a goddamn pill!

Lila: But what if I neither want to awake in my bed to believe some fabricated fairytale nor go down your little rabbithole and follow you into your definition of wonderland?

Morpheus: Are you out of your mind? No one ever dared to suggest such an obviously absurd opinion to me before, not here, not in any other hollywood blockbuster screenplay. You don’t get to choose any other, self-made or made-up option! Who do you think you are? I’ll tell you who you are: You’re a nobody! I, on the other hand, could turn you into a superhero!

Lila: If taking neither pill means death – what happens if I take both?

Morpheus: Now you’ve obviously gone completely insane! Really, you must be stark raving mad. Sorry to tell you, but you’ve lost it, Lila! What happens? You will go crazy!

Lila: As to you I already am, it seems…?
Well, in that case: Don’t mind if I do.

(swallows both pills, then – seemingly enthralled or even entranced – breaks into chant, humming a loose, lew’d carol)

For as matter of fact: I already knew
That carefully mixing both red and blue
Creates its own magical colour called lilac:
Lone path to pursue with no way to turn back

A symbol of passage, between old and new!
Thus, phantom of mass-age, with all your a-do,
Go sell your old made-up morphine wonderland
To those who will follow you yonder, as planned.

Yet for me your ‘solution’ seems a shallow hole
So I won’t let myself transform into a mole
I’ve therefore arrived at this final verdict:
From this very moment I’ll write my own script.

Die Kunst der Ekstase

Vor einiger Zeit fiel mir mehr oder weniger zufällig Nietzsches erstes Buch «Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik» in die Hände. Es ist das Werk, mit dem sich Nietzsche die Chancen auf eine klassische universitäre Karriere endgültig verspielte, und das heute als kaum mehr gelesenes Frühwerk meist höchstens noch als Fussnote und Randnotiz in Erscheinung tritt.

Worum geht es? Nietzsche stellt sich darin die Frage, warum ausgerechnet die griechische Tragödie eine so fundamentale Rolle für unsere westliche Zivilisation spielt. Sehr vereinfachend gesagt, ist Nietzsche der Ansicht, dass sich die tragende Rolle der Tragödie nicht aus den übrig gebliebenen, dramatischen Texten erschliessen lässt, sondern dass man sich die griechische(n) Tragödie(n) vielmehr als ein performatives Ritual vorstellen muss, dessen Grundlage die Musik bildete, und dessen Texte (aufgrund fehlendem Transkript der dazugehörenden Musik) nur einen kleinen Einblick in das Wesen der Tragödie (über-) liefern (und bestimmt nicht das, was ihre zentrale Stellung erklärt). Mindestens so sehr, wie in der Tragödie kulturelle Ereignisse und religiöse Heldenmythen verhandelt wurden, war die Aufführung der Tragödie nämlich ein rauschhaftes, ekstatisches Fest.

Ein Fest, dessen zentrale Position sich dadurch ergab, dass darin der Gegensatz zwischen den für Nietzsche fundamentalen Prinzipien jeder Kunst und Kultur auf fruchtbare Weise verbunden wurde: das Prinzip das Apollinischen und des Dionysischen. Während ersteres (frei nach Apollon, dem Gott von Kunst und Kultur) als hohe «Kunst des Scheins» quasi durch die ‘Illusion der Kunst’ eine gewisse Klarheit über das menschliche Dasein hervorbringt, und damit ungefähr dem, was wir bis heute als ‘hohe Kunst’ verstehen, entspricht, bewirkt das Dionysische (frei nach Dionysos, dem Gott des Rausches) das Gegenteil: den Verlust der Klarheit und die Verschmelzung der Individualität in der Ekstase.

Für Nietzsche bedeutet letzteres, die (tatsächliche) Wirklichkeit des Lebens via Rausch soweit zu erfahren, wie es einem Menschen überhaupt möglich ist, ohne von ihr zerstört also physisch oder psychisch versehrt zu werden: Es geht darin um die intensivste Wahrnehmung von Vergnügen und Schmerz, die einem Menschen ohne schwerwiegende Folgen zugänglich sind. Um dessen destruktives Element in Schach halten zu können, ist dabei die Form des Dionysischen zentral: Es muss in Rituale eingebettet und damit gewissermassen ‘gebändigt’ werden.

In der Form der Tragödie, worum es Nietzsche hierbei ja als konstitutive(n) Text/Teil unserer Kultur beispielhaft geht, opfert man deshalb am Ende des Rituals rituell den Helden des Narrativ, um den Zuschauern/Mitwirkenden einerseits sowohl die Erfahrung der Katharsis, gleichzeitig aber auch eine rituelle Schliessung und damit die Rückkehr in den ‘Alltag’ zu ermöglichen.

Eingebettet in diese rituelle Form, führt die Tragödie daher – trotz der Entfesselung des ‘Dionysischen’ darin – nicht ins Chaos, sondern stärkt umgekehrt paradoxerweise durch die Intensität der gemeinsam erlebten Ekstase das Gemeinschaftsgefühl unter den Teilnehmern selbst. Das ‘Dionysische’ wirkt durch seine rituelle Form also schlussendlich nicht destruktiv, sondern gemeinschafts- und gesellschaftskonstituierend – ein so paradoxer wie fundamentaler Prozess, den – wie jeder Anthropologe bestätigen kann – jede menschliche Zivilisation seit der Steinzeit als fundamentales, gemeinschaftsstärkendes Prinzip kennt.

Die Ekstase wird in der Tragödie laut Nietzsche wiederum nicht durch Text, sondern durch Musik erzeugt: die Tragödie selbst (als narratives Element) ist zwar Teil der Verschmelzung, aber ihre Wichtigkeit eher formal, d.h. als Teil der (apollinischen) Form zu sehen: Als Form, welche die Ekstase als formlosen Wirbel von Schmerz und Lust einbettet, und damit umgekehrt erst für ihren (verhältnismässig ungefährlichen) Rahmen sorgt. Warum aber an dieser Stelle dieser für viele sicherlich ‘hochphilosophisch’ anmutende Exkurs über die Kultur der Antike?

Ganz einfach: Mir scheint, Nietzsche habe mit dieser Erkenntnis gewissermassen den Nagel auf den Kopf getroffen. Dass ausgerechnet dieses Buch von Nietzsche bis heute so wenig rezipiert, also gelesen und diskutiert wird, liegt meiner Meinung nach gerade darin begründet, dass ‘Kunst’ bis heute zumindest im gesellschaftlichen Konsens mit dem ‘apollinischen Prinzip’ gleichgesetzt wird, und das ‘dionysische Prinzip’, das für eine jede Kultur mindestens ebenso zentral und fundamental ist, aufgrund dessen roher, potentiell gefährlicher und zerstörerischer Kraft, negiert, tabuisiert oder wenigstens als Folge oder Nebenwirkung banalisiert wird.

Genau darum scheitern aber die meisten Kulturtheorien meiner Meinung nach schlussendlich darin, den zentralen Stellenwert der Kunst, insbesondere der Musik in der menschlichen Gesellschaft überzeugend zu erklären. Und deshalb scheitern auch die meisten Erklärungsversuche dabei, ein Phänomen wie Techno, dessen Emphase so klar auf dem Dionysischen liegt, adäquat zu deuten, sondern schwanken zwischen dem Versuch, Techno in eine (wenig überzeugende) hochkulturelle, künstlerische Form zu pressen, oder als blosses, degeneratives Element der ‘niederen Künste und Instinkte’ abzuwerten.

SIE KÖNNEN ES UNTER IHREN PRÄMISSEN SCHLICHT NICHT VERSTEHEN, DENN SIE BEGREIFEN NICHT, WORUM ES DABEI GEHT. Die Erkenntnis, dass Ekstase nicht nur ein irrationales Bei-Produkt der Kultur ist, sondern umgekehrt gerade in ihrer rituellen Form die Grundlage von Kunst und Kultur überhaupt (!) bilden könnte – und Ekstase damit mindestens genauso ihre eigene Geschichtsschreibung, Genealogie und wissenschaftliche Forschung, also einen gesonderten Stellenwert in der Gesellschaft verdient hätte wie ‘Kunst’ – wird dabei (vorab aus politischen aber auch aus unglaublich naiven pseudo-kulturellen Gründen) bisher meist ausgeblendet.

Darum soll dieser Blog (gewissermassen als Antidot) voll und ganz der Kunst der Ekstase gewidmet sein – jener Kunst nämlich, die unser Leben schlussendlich mit Magie erfüllt.

Lila ❤


PS. Warum habe ich gerade einen Track von Portable zum Titel gewählt? Weil es Portable wie kaum einem zweiten gelingt, Form und Inhalt kreativ zu verschmelzen. Die Ekstase, die seine Tracks durch sehr ‘schamanistische’ und von seiner Auseinandersetzung mit den Stammeskulturen Südafrikas inspirierte, musikalische Elemente bewirken, werden bei ihm (im Gegensatz zu seinem eher im engeren Sinne ‘rituell’ orientierten ‘Bodycode’-Alias) nämlich vorab durch apollonische Elemente, sprich: sakrale, also spirituelle Mantras, in eine produktive Form gebracht.

Kurz: Die Ekstase entfaltet durch ihre Einbettung in dieses spirituelle, gemeinschaftserzeugende Narrativ gewissermassen tröstende, wenn nicht gar heilsame, kathartische Wirkung für jeden einzelnen Zuhörer/Tänzer – und ist damit, wie die oben behandelte Tragödie ein wunderbares Beispiel für die positiven, produktiv-kreativen Folgen künstlerisch-kultureller Artefakte, die seit Anbeginn der menschlichen Zivilisation existieren.

Die Kernaussage: Man braucht unser Leben nicht noch zusätzlich mit quasi-hochkulturellem oder pseudo-religiösem ‘Sinn’ (sprich: Bullshit!) zu erfüllen – denn unsere Kultur ist durch den fundamentalen Zwiespalt von apollinischem und dionysischem Prinzip (von den anderen, noch viel fundamentaleren, ‘natürlichen’ Prinzipen abgesehen, von denen hier später sicher noch mehr als genügend die Rede sein wird) schon mehr als genügend mit ‘Sinn’ erfüllt.

Deshalb – beziehungsweise,

in diesem Sinne: LIFE MAGICALLY IS.