Nick Land: A hypernihilist for an age of apathetic ghouls

“Ever since it became theoretically evident that our precious personal identities were just brand-tags for trading crumbs of labour-power on the libidinoeconomic junk circuit, the vestiges of authorial theatricality have been wearing thinner.”
– Nick Land

Nick Land is the comic poet of our philosophical despair, a troubadour for the nihil, a lover caressing the abyss that flows just below our fleshly feet and into the slime of time’s kitchen sink. Like a black metal musician Land cleaves to the night, the stars, and the blank emptiness of the void, where the black vitality of dead suns sinks in the depths beyond our luminous gaze. Dragon born he drinks the blood of history like a latter day Anaximander seeking out the apeiron of an infinite thought. Shifting through the philosophical bric-a-brac of  this gaudy age of decadence and political malaise he tramples all those delicate academics who would hide within their hedgehog towers like victims of some catastrophic meteor strike. He stands there in this cosmic disaster and welcomes the darkest possibilities as if they were old friends who’d just stepped away from a cannibalistic feast:

“An extraordinary lucidity, frosty and crisp in the blackness, but paralysed; lodged in some recess of the universe that clutches it like a snare. A wave of nausea is accompanied by a peculiarly insinuating headache, as if thought itself were copulating unreservedly with suffering. A damp coldness, close to fog, creeps through the open window. I laugh, delighted at the fate that has turned me into a reptile. The metallic hardness of intellect seems like a cutting instrument in my hand; the detached fragment from a machine tool, or an abattoir, seeking out the terminal sense it was always refused.” (TA: 10). [1]

His fascination with George Bataille “stems from the fact that nobody has done more than he to obstruct the passage of violent blanks into a pacified oblivion, and thus to awaken the monster in the basement of reason” (TA: 10). Bataille, the man who founded his own secret society,  Acéphale, the symbol of which was a decapitated man. A necrophiliac materialist weaving the base binary structures of an impossible thought, destabilizing all oppositions of high and low and obliterating all forms of philosophical foundationalism. Bataille is not so much a figure of thought within Land’s mind as he is “an ennui, gesticulating at the void; the symptom of an absent tragic community” (TA: 11). Laughing like a broken god Bataille incessantly returns to the dog’s vomit of three scarred bones: laughter, excrement, and death (AT: 12).  “Such ‘themes’ are suspended only momentarily at the lip of philosophical intelligibility, and then released into a euphoric immolation upon the burn-core of literature, disintegrating into a senseless heterogeneous mass. His texts obsessively reiterate that the decomposed body is excremental, and that the only sufficient response to death is laughter” (TA: 12).

Speaking of Bataille’s poem ‘Rire’ he tells us that it is “a contribution to the theory of mourning. Laughter is a communion with the dead, since death is not the object of laughter: it is death itself that finds a voice when we laugh. Laughter is that which is lost to discourse, the haemorrhaging of pragmatics into excitation and filth” (AT: 12). At the center of our universal decay is a voidic energy, a force that finds its dissipation in a suicidal waste without recourse to any human thought: “Cowering in the shadow of its gods, humanity is the project of a definitive abrogation of expenditure, and is thus an impossibility. The humanizing project has the form of an unsustainable law” (AT: 13).

The only real death is the one that happened long ago: the death of God. “The heart of literature is the death of God, the violent absence of the good, and thus of everything that protects, consolidates, or guarantees the interests of the individual personality. The death of God is the ultimate transgression, the release of humanity from itself, back into the blind infernal extravagance of the sun” (TA: 14). With it comes the death of the human, not of humans, but the black bile of humanistic anthropomorphic piss that has spread its yellow pus across the earth for too, too long. The dehumanization of nature, the facticity of a ruthless fatalism, the bereft bare world voided of all moralism, and the return of the alien, the beast, the philosopher of a new thought. (TA: 14).

Libidinal materialism he calls it: thematically ‘psychoanalytic’, methodologically “genealogical, diagnostic, and enthusiastic for the accentuation of intensity that will carry it through insurrection into anegoic delirium. Stylistically it is aggressive, only a little sub hyperbolic, and—above all—massively irresponsible…” (TA: 14). A voyager in dissolution, a decadent hyperpilot of a psychedelic finitude, a scientist of strange days he tells us that no “one could ever ‘be’ a libidinal materialist. This is a ‘doctrine’ that can only be suffered as an abomination, a jangling of the nerves, a combustion of articulate reason, and a nauseating rage of thought. It is a hyperlepsy of the central nervous-system, ruining the body’s adaptive regimes, and consuming its reserves in rhythmic convulsions that are not only futile, but devastating” (TA: 14).

A psychonaut, a pioneer in zombie thought, the first among his kind to have passed over into death fully alive he brings back to us knowledge of those blood zones in the darkest abysses where all light seems like pain and blackness covers the soul like a warm blanket. But there is no soul to be comforted in these deadly zones, only the harsh truth of a cosmic laughter without mercy or reprieve. “When I stare into the eyes of Bataille’s photographic image I connect with his inexistence in a community of the kiln. I smile. … Since I have floated in death the world has desisted from all effort to seduce me into seriousness. I rest in life as a tramp rests in a hedge, mumbling these words…” (TA: 15).

1. The Thirst for Annihilation: Georges Bataille and virulent nihilism (an essay in atheistic religion) (Routledge 1992)

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