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Against Individuals: Interview With Mycelium

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This month on the Ark Review, taking inspiration from Mark Grief’s recent book “Against Everything”, we are going to try and write against everything. Collectively though, and one subject at a time. So really more like Against ________. As in, fill in the ________. 

Today’s piece started life a few weeks back when, in a pub, Macon Holt mistook an intricate network of Mycelium for a group of people. They got to talking and, as it turned out, this heterogeneous network had been operating as an anonymous, militantly anti-individualist writers collective in Denmark for the last year or so. Macon sat down with Mycelium, ahead of their next public performance, Heksekreds, on June 22nd to find out how this fungus can help us move beyond the individual.

What is Mycelium?

Mycelium is a root network of mushrooms. It consists of spores, which form a communicative web with neither spider nor commander. Displaying sensibility and the ability to interpret environmental circumstances, it seeks to expand: eventually forming a disc. It then cannibalizes its own center as to distribute excess energy. In further attempts to expand, it forms a circle of mushrooms above ground. The fairy rings of folklore: a meeting place for witches, a place for sacred activities: ritual, symposia, sabbath. Communion, transgression. Mycelium itself is sexless, however, the coven is abundant. Its spores cannot be considered closed individual beings, they are explorers, seekers, cannon fodder. Copulating, communicating. However, mycelium doesn’t form a singular organism, it is legion. Mycelium is an open-ended and indeterminate dynamic structure, where the totality exceeds the number of beings. Birds in motion: black sun.                                    

What is so perverse about Mycelium?

Traditionally the pervert is someone who diverts her eyes from the truth. That is God. The Eye in the sky, the metaphysical sun. Perversion corrupts being. According to Freud the pervert confuses truth and what is false. Perversion becomes a diagnosis of humanity, but a sickness nonetheless. Today, perversion is accepted as private fantasies, which are legitimized via informed consent and is overall a part of our self-exploration and self-realization. In that respect, perversion is stripped of its subversive potential. Thus, traditionally, the pervert is someone who actively averts her gaze from the singular truth and its institutions, the constituted homogenic order and bourgeois morality, which are based on ressentiment. The “object” of perversion (when taken to its subversive limit and not just your private “legitimized” fantasies) is always that which disrupts the homogenic order.

The subject, however, is nothing. Not a representation. Not a part of the limitless. It is but a point of reference. A figment of our imagination. A fiction. A diffuse and ever-shifting vanishing point. Thus, to celebrate the ego, the subject, is to celebrate nothingness. Nihilism!

Thehomogenic order is the world that we have taken into possession and made orderly. It’s the world we have rationalized, machined, organized. According to Nietzsche, it is a possessed world, taken into possession by rationality through fictions and conceptual constructions; it is the world of work, utility and production. Mycelium disrupts the homogenic order, by its mere opposition to it. Mycelium does not have a center of truth entailed in it, nor does it have a center of self, nor does it abide by a generalized economy of benefit to one at the cost of another, but disrupts and undoes itself continuously, in order to become (an)other, while never in itself identical. It embarrasses the established order. Today’s truths are those of self-realization, egoism, capitalism, neoliberalism, utilitarianism, rising nationalism and necessity. Such logoi produce their own witches [and] naked life. The perverted won’t accept these power-manifestations. The perverted averts her gaze to glance other truths and raises her fist. Seeks subversion and revolt.

Why write collectively? What limitation do you escape once you leave the individual identity of an author behind?

We should begin with some notions on what the ego and what an individual is. According to Schopenhauer our individuality is constituted by the double experience, that we are both will and representation. This double experience is what ties the subject precisely to us. The world is representation, through and through. We perceive everything as representation, as an object to our subject, including our own body. However, what separates our body from every other form of representation is that we also have an intimate experience of our body, which isn’t (and cannot be) exhausted by the representation. A so-called inner experience (to use Bataille’s phrase) or non-knowledge. The inner experience of the body (and thus the world) is qualitas occulta, which is something different from the world as representations. The world as representation is a world of divisions, distance and limits. Limits we draw. The inner world is limitless. Thus our individuality is constituted by this double mode of existence. Our paradoxical way of being. We exist, we exit, we step out. Out of the limitless. Into a world of objects, purpose, utility, duties, morality. Thus, our individuality is not indivisible. It bears within the participation in everything. The individual is by definition an opening, wounded. Both distance and embrace. Both limited and limitless.

Immortal mortals, mortal immortals, living the other’s death, dying the other’s life(Heraclitus)

This paradox also reveals the openness in every other object individuated by us. An inner world not transparent to the castrated eye. Everything is wounded, a passage, a threshold. We engage in the limitless via eroticism, ecstasy, joy, love, music, art, dance, laughter. The Sabbath celebrates exactly this. However, fear, custom, laziness, habit, angst, motivates us to grab hold of the constituted world, the homogenic order. To hold on to ourselves.

Now, as already noted, this double knowledge is what ties the subject to us, which constitutes our individuality. The subject, however, is nothing. Not a representation. Not a part of the limitless. It is but a point of reference. A figment of our imagination. A fiction. A diffuse and ever-shifting vanishing point. Thus, to celebrate the ego, the subject, is to celebrate nothingness. Nihilism! It is an integral part of capitalism, neoliberalism, egoism and also many forms of individualism, since it celebrates the self-realization and uniqueness of the closed individual. But you are not unique. Your uniqueness is nothingness. An individualism that doesn’t embrace community is borderline nihilism, and a communism that doesn’t embrace the wounded individual is totalitarianism and/or fascism. This is beautifully summed up in the erotic prose of Henry Miller:

We must die as egos and be born again in the swarm, not separate and self-hypnotized, but individual and related.”

Or as Alain Daniélou writes in his essay The Shaivite Revival from the Third to the Tenth Centuries C.E.:

“The conception of monotheism, along with its aggressiveness and the audacity with which such a simplistic doctrine could be presented as progress, impressed the philosophers, who sought to adapt it, interpret it, and incorporate it. It was a phenomenon like Marxism, which clandestinely penetrated all religious thought, no one daring to point out the countertruths and the unrealistic nature of its assumptions. […] The prestige of the metaphysical absurdity that monotheism represented for traditional doctrine was to affect philosophical thought in India down to our times. The Western world was hardly interested in anything but philosophies infected by this germ. In vain, the Tantras continued to proclaim “ekashabdatmika maya: the number “one” is the soul of error.” For the Samkhya, the number “one” is collective, referring to a group or fragment, and does not exist as an absolute, since nothing exists except in relation to something else.”

So, to answer your question. We seek to undermine the ego, the idea of a privileged vantage point, even though it, like God, hides in the grammar, and we seek to embrace the open-ended, wounded and naked individual in the swarm, in community. So in a sense we are undermining the very subject/object structure of language.

God is dead

The author is dead

I am dead

The swarm rises like a black sun

[or maybe it should rather be: God is death, The author is death, I am death.]

We would rather write enchantments, cast spells, make incantations, but in order to do so, we must also do some theoretical and philosophical footwork. Some awareness is needed. We seek to promote this awareness, so that we and others and we as others can manifest these sacred places.

Therefore we seek to create collectively, to think collectively, to resist the temptations of ego-formation. We do this by writing together. Make collages. Make room for associations (as in Mycelium #2 – Mycelium).

Obviously to get lost in the swarm is potential madness. Divine madness. Dangerous madness. Evil madness?

What is the relationship between perversion and evil?

Historically speaking the pervert is evil. Lacking truth. Lacking being. Lacking god. Evil is a metaphysical concept unlike bad or unhealthy. Horrendous deeds often seems to seek legitimization in notions of justice, the good or necessity. As Hannah Arendt noticed, there is a certain kind of banality of evil. We do dreadful things when we think we are in the right. It was both necessary and good to burn witches, since they were evil. So it seems that often evil is a judgement made from the perspective of self-righteousness, of good. Most horrendous deeds are indeed justified from perspectives of utility and purpose. The black witch at our door right now, gives us purpose, (national) identity and moral highground. So viewed from the outside the coven must be considered evil, however, within the dance, the joyous violent frenzy of the Sabbath, we are beyond good and evil.

What makes the mycelium a political endeavour or collective is that it seeks to establish a collective outside the established or dominant orders through the symbolism of that which has historically been rejected as evil or dangerous, such as the witch and witchcraft. We see that position as having political as well as aesthetic potential.

Morality must draw its power and appeal from the sovereign aspects of life, the value of life beyond utility, therefore it must be determined by a lack of the selfsame sovereignty. Sovereignty emanates and morality feeds off this source. Sovereignty, however, transgresses judgement and is beyond good and evil. It shows no concern for anything else but the rapture or sometimes the tranquillity of being, where all is given in the instant, the trembling of being, the hesitation to disappear, sunlight upon the forest’s edge. Intense communication implies a complicity in evil. From a moral point of view, which gazes towards the future, judgement and action, sovereignty is at least complicit in evil, negating and embarrassing the call for purpose and project, while also, almost as an act of defiance and joyous taunt, making it apparent that morality must draw its power from the luminous emanating sovereign source of love.

What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil” – Nietzsche

This time your performance will focus on witches and the exclusion/burning of them, what perspective does Mycelium add to this concept/reality that other critics do not?

Obviously, the tradition [Sankt Hans] to celebrate the genocide of thousands of men and women is absurd, as many critics point out. With regards to cleanliness, we should stop this atrocious practice. However, we are not clean. We grow from the soil. Rather, we would like to burn with the witches signaling through the flames. Let the sod fall like black snow on our pale white faces.

“If there is still one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.” – Antonin Artaud.

We do not embrace the witch to promote self-realization, individualistic empowerment, you-go-girl-ism. We are in a sense too privileged. The real witches of today are burning in the Mediterranean. Naked life. Legitimate pray. We are burning witches every day. The inquisition=our moral highground.

Could you talk about the politics of your practice? Is there a politics of fungi or a politics of witchcraft? Should we engage in a politics of evil? If so, how?

What makes the mycelium a political endeavour or collective is that it seeks to establish a collective outside the established or dominant orders through the symbolism of that which has historically been rejected as evil or dangerous, such as the witch and witchcraft. We see that position as having political as well as aesthetic potential. It stands as an outsider, an alternative order, that through its distance from the dominant and established, provides another-way-of-knowing the world, and how we might organize it. This other, that which is considered evil, therefore also contains a critical potential. The critique is not brought about with the ambition of seeking acceptance or inclusion; rather, it constantly is in the process of seeking the outsiderness or occulta excluded, of moving away from acceptance. Acceptance in a way becomes the death of a witch, symbolically at least.

A politics of fungi or mycelia should mimic the open ended dynamic and communicative structure of mycelium; form dynamic communities that resists the temptation to become a centralized organization. The mycelium is “a heterogenous army of hyphal troops, variously equipped for different roles and in varying degrees of communication with one another. Without a commander, other than the dictates of their environmental circumstances, these troops organize themselves into a beautifully open-ended or indeterminate dynamic structure that can continually respond to changing demands”. Since it is open-ended and dynamic, it must disregard appeal to the politics of necessity, history and utility, and formulate political poetics. If it stiffens, it dies. To uphold these grimaces of death is decadence. And they must therefore be transformed, eaten, delivered. A politics of mycelia must embrace this dynamic hunger. This includes a politics of cannibalism. The mycelium cannibalizes its own center in order to be able to manifest the fairy/witches rings. These manifestations are sacred realms, thresholds, passages from one place to another. The transgression of limits into the intimate swarm of the limitless.

Through loss man can regain the free movement of the universe, he can dance and swirl in the full rapture of those great swarms of stars. But he must, in the violent expenditure of self, perceive that he breathes in the power of death.” – Bataille

As the dancers are cannibals

As the generous are cannibals

As the lovers are cannibals

We are cannibals

Creative and political lessons to be drawn from the mycelium:

  1. Form a heterogenous communicative open-ended structure.
  2. Cannibalize your center – eat your ego.
  3. Distribute excess energy to wherever the spores seek to expand.
  4. Manifest a sacred circle, love.

Mycelium will be performing at Heksekreds at Københavns Hovedbibliotek on June 22nd. You can find out more about Mycelium here.

 

Macon has spent the last four years trying to shoehorn Infinite Jest into a PhD about popular music and capitalism. He managed to do this by making it about something called sonic fiction. He is one half of the podcasting team and the reason why the critical theory section is an odd mix of Adorno and Deleuze & Guattari. For many months he was mistaken for a ghost that had decided to haunt the store, but it was just him editing his thesis and/or the podcast. Here he writes about things which might be true or are entirely made up.

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