Energised by the 'hyperstitional' mutations of a postrave culture, fascinated by what he defined as the 'hauntological' role older British popular culture played in the modern mindset yet also buffetted and unnerved like so many of us by a narrowminded neoliberal turn in the socio political culture in the UK as elsewhere, Mark's contribution to a deep and critical analysis of contempoary culture, in every area from UK garage to the crisis in mental healthcare, had no equals. As many have said, for a while a new K-punk post was the critical equivalent of a hot new musical release - you read it and reread it, came to revere it but also crucially to engage with it, repurpose it as a departure point for one's own investigations. As others have suggested, that was what Mark wanted - we were building open networks of resistance, networks of possibility, here. He had his critics for some of his ideas but where that critique was more than mere spiteful trolling, he welcomed it.
I'd seen his articles first on Hyperdub but it was the K-punk blog-vehicle for his 'abstract dynamics' that was my main introduction to his fierce but friendly oeuvre. Soon, the blog could not contain him. He built forums with comrades, did audio projects with others, was in high demand from every half decent magazine or website publisher wanting the golddust of his provocative ideas. The books followed, initially from an imprint in which he was the driving force. Academically, he was sought after for courses and conferences. This was not a time for idle talk of revolution but to diagnose sickness at the heart of capitalist realism and look for alternatives away from its stranglehold.
A song for Mark https://t.co/vKetsnk2BV— Simon Reynolds (@SimonRetromania) February 12, 2017
Did this make excessive demands of him? Almost certainly, but his generosity of spirit rarely dimmed. In the circle I'd found myself in I'd got to meet several Warwick alumni and soon I met Mark. In this mid-noughties period I'd see him at NoiseTheoryNoise afterparties in Tottenham or parties he hosted in that gothic Brockley flat. Other times I'd be round there visiting Bruce, and he'd be assessing the works of William Basinski while watching the Technorati pings indicating more bloggers had linked or referred to his latest post. The open season that would come with social media was still not fully with us.
What Mark and others - but mainly Mark - afforded during this period I will always hold dear. I and a few others had been doing our Cull zine, proffering our so-called rabid commentaries and cognitive dissonance. He helped intensify our focus, lift our energies, flipped our fashionable apathy to look at more systemic pathologies. It was the first period I felt connected to a world of ideas, a milieu where it wasnt seen as indulgent to talk about formative experiences of hardcore and jungle raves. What Mark and other brilliant minds offered was an academic's weight of learning with a willingness to engage beyond the institution. It was new and intoxicating to me. I had not direct contact with him for years, the last time being emails around his Minus the Shooting euros blog in 2012, but his influence was always there.
Everybody's contributions in the service, from Mark Stewart's eulogy to Robin Mackay's painful evocation of his own depression then despair upon the realisation that the spectre of future communion with Mark was taken from him, to Jeremy Gilbert's tantalising talk of the acid communism project, were at times uneasy but always enlightening. And of course the words from his wife Zoe and his father (especially on the debilitating spectacle of state violence against the working class as witnessed at Hillsborough) were harrowing, everybody welling up, lumps in the throat, tears streaming unchecked.
As many suggested we are distraught to realise we can no longer engage with Mark. But we all - and legions more after us - can still always connect with his ideas, the body of work, his art-i-facts. RIP, komrade.
Some memorable bits of Mark's work, not the most iconic pieces necessarily, but selected for range of format and type of product more than anything else:
Billie Jean and Jacksonism: "Shopping malls, VHS videos, charity records and TV commercials became interchangable aspects of the same commodity-media landscape: consensual sentimentality as videodrome. Well, it was new then, all that, but it's very old now, and scarcely visible to us any more now that we have grown habituated to living inside it". But we still had Billie Jean, one of the century's finest artworks.
Mark and Justin's londonunderlondon exploration - as Deeptime, who has reposted it, says, a CD version was available to Dissensus members (i lost one CD; the other one is still lying around).
Memorex for the Krakens - his glorious trinity on the Fall. Parts I, II and III (And to assess Mark E Smith's psychosis with Ian's neurosis, have his piece on the existential authenticity of Joy Division as well).
Mark in conversation with Green Gartside at Whitstable’s Off the Page festival in 2011. Nice the way Mark directs Green onto fertile areas in illness, politics, managerialism, music.
The crackle of dissent / Autonomy in the UK: the Wire piece on the student led/Occupy protests in 2010-11 (pdf). Unfortunately our 'No Future' did not come to an end that year, or any since....