Just started reading Mark Fisher’s new book Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. In the opening sequence he relates both his childhood apprehensions and his adult refractions upon a world where time has stopped. His vivid remembrance of the British television series Sapphire and Steel, which as he states it was ready made to “haunt the adolescent mind” renders the fantastic narrative of two possibly inhuman beings sent to investigate certain break-ins of none other than Time itself into the fabric of everyday reality. One feature of this tv series was its cryptic appeal, the stories in episode after episode “never fully disclosed, still less explained” what was actually happening. Instead there was this wavering between worlds, an oscillation between the fictive and the actual.
“Anachronism, the slippage of discrete time periods into one another, was throughout the series the major symptom of time breaking down.”1 The series itself ended with this sense of the characters suspended in a time of no time, a time where time no longer moved, where time ended in the stasis of a literal vacuum without outlet. A flattening out of temporality, as if instead of time breaking in, time instead had been evacuated. As if time had been subtracted from the void of the present and in its absence the characters were themselves opened up to the café engulfed by the emptiness of space. As Fischer puts it:
In one of the earlier assignments, Steel complains that these temporal anomalies are triggered by human beings’ predilection for the mixing of artefacts from different eras. In this final assignment, the anachronism has led to stasis: time has stopped. The service station is in ‘a pocket, a vacuum’. There’s ‘still traffic, but it’s not going anywhere’: the sound of cars is locked into a looped drone. Silver says, ‘there is no time here, not any more’. It’s as if the whole scenario is a literalisation of the lines in Pinter’s No Man’s Land: ‘No man’s land, which never moves, which never changes, which never grows older, which remains forever icy and silent.’ … Eternally suspended, never to be freed, their plight – and indeed their provenance – never to be fully explained, Sapphire and Steel’s internment in this café from nowhere is prophetic for a general condition: in which life continues, but time has somehow stopped.
The rest of the book will assume the truth of this statement. As Fischer tells us in the prelude:
It is the contention of this book that 21st-century culture is marked by the same anachronism and inertia which afflicted Sapphire and Steel in their final adventure. But this stasis has been buried, interred behind a superficial frenzy of ‘newness’, of perpetual movement. The ‘jumbling up of time’, the montaging of earlier eras, has ceased to be worthy of comment; it is now so prevalent that it is no longer even noticed.
I think I’ll read on…
1. Fisher, Mark (2014-05-30). Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (Kindle Locations 152-153). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle Edition.