Gary J. Shipley: Theoretical Animals


Gary J. Shipley is not for everyone, yet those of us – aficionados of the grotesque and macabre, who come upon his work realize right off the bat this is the real deal. Few can travel into these perilous waters without getting burned, much less scorched by the forces below the threshold. Shipley makes it seem simple, as if he were born of this dark carnival, complicit in its revealing and its apocalypse. Thing is about Shipley he’s been mutating ahead of us for a while now, going where most of us only envision nightmares never realizing the truth of our waking lives was staring us in the face all the time. Gary strips us of our filters, strips us of our protective Human Security Systems, lays bare the world around us that for the most part we would rather lock away. A world that is both vital and full of forces unregistered in the hinterlands of our psyche.

Gary inhabits this interstitial zone for us, brings us to the limit, to the brink and opens our eyes to the monstrous beauty of the earth we for the most part are blind too. Gary lives there, a modern day shaman whose travels in transit, voyage into an infernal paradise by way of an updated mapping of the old Tibetan Bardol. Given his temperament and tendencies toward a completed nihilism, one may need to short list his discoveries, catalogue the secret ruins he’s uncovering to understand the itinerary of his travelogue journals.

Take a recent adventure, Theoretical Animals. Set in a near future graveyard of our world, a London in post-Apocalyptic demise. Here he wanders the shadowlands of its extreme collapse forging from secretive and forgotten knowledge the collective memories we can only hint at: those compositions and decompositions of a collapsing thought world, the detritus of a thousand lives spent forgetting time and history only to be resurrected in a realm this side of reality – a place some philosopher’s used to term the Real. Shipley conceives this fantastic zone within a conceptual framework of visionary materialism that rewires the very nerves to adapt the wary intruder into a world no longer human, or much rather – in excess of humanity, a world at once disconnected from our very past, yet barely composed within the meta-instability of its darker catastrophes. Here what remains of the human lives out its meager existence in a woven semblance of a locked-in prison house of decaying security systems, inhuman algorithms, manufactured relays between rhizomatic labyrinths – cold, cruel, icy worlds of pure vitality.

In this realm a mother and son seem to drift upon future Thames in a post-Apocalyptic London like children of warped time-world. Within the mother’s gaze “floated a boat of matted blood, with no London appliance beyond a rope”.1 This is a haptic sensuality of an exposed realm of death in extremity, the visceral meshing of bodies in vibrant ecstasy on the edge of an impossible future. Her son appears to speak, to be telling a tale that he himself almost disbelieves: “I’m wearing the look of the covered, to a short time with things off your face”. Language is spliced, it dances among ruins of verbs and nouns, the structure of language like the ruins through which they seem to wander has been corrupted and is corrupting. The son’s only friends appear as “the faces of dead sailors, their water-logged torsos bobbing, plaintive jewels in rotten marrow-bled riverways.”

Each paragraph is set off typographically with bold typeset, set adrift on the blank sea of the page like a prose poem stretched across an abyss, each word lost among its distempered fragments like members of a lost tribe seeking a key to open the imprisoning cell they’ve been tossed into. This is prose at the breaking point of intelligibility, a carefully crafted enactment where words inhabit the thing they reveal, live the life of the blackness they perform. Hyperstitional habitations of linguistic models from a future that is already collapsing within our brains, revealing the threads of a supernal world of rich and lavish pain where the sacred violence of our secular wastelands gives way once again to the dark gods of old. An atheistic paradise where the constructions of material excess reveal the darkness to be alive, a welcoming to the horrors and terrors we’ve all been seeking under the cover of reason. Children of the Enlightenment we’ve come a long way to die at the hands of our own progeny, become victims of our own complicity in creation – a creation that is at once catastrophe and apocalypse.

In the distance unseen “mothers wail from the shore, the robbed stares of their loss hidden, aural guests coiling hair-brushed poison to our table”. One imagines Dante’s Inferno, but that would be to spare the reality for a fantasy which Shipley will not let you do. No. You will be entreated to no longer turn your head away, assume it is all a matter of tropes, allegories of some future punishment; instead you are living through the truth of your own future, a future that is full of terror and beauty, of death and decay. A place that fascinates and repels at once.

This is a place where even a “sentence of diluted intensity and common violence” washes up and washes out among the dark contours of your mind like presentiments of world that surrounds you already in the shadows of each step you take. A world that peers back at you in the innocent gesture of a young girl reaching out to you for a dime or nickel, or from the alleyway where you see an old man digging through the trash bins for bottles or who-knows-what. Yes, this is the world we are all constructing together, the ruins of our civilization at last revealing what lay there in the tumbling stones all along. A world where “numb voyeurs adorned and physical / crumpled memories stored for cold future” lay there silently in the dustbins of the future like broken toys gathering dust in a forlorn attic.

Shipley reveals nothing more nor nothing less than our own world seen askew, to one side of us; a realm where the actual traverses the fantasy, the schizflows wander through sidereal time bringing us the revelations of civilization’s final chapters, the swan songs of an eclipsed humanity giving way to a monstrous progeny. A place where the “Green ghosts of little girls dance free of the fire”. Where lonely “things hiding behind withered nostalgia passed slowly through the cries, and time cornered into days, and time…” This is the place where things neither rest nor end. A place where there “are no new shows, and no new stages on which to perform them. There are only museums and freshly branded fools making marks in the dust.”

Welcome to Shipley’s world. A dark place where the “dank ruin of the world’s immortal toys” discover the wreck of the impossible, where memorized “silence details the transfer of everything,” and the “[n]egation of action is the most courageous of mutations”. A final warning is given:

“Wait! Heed this at least: underlying this threat are the infected books of a cagy group of deranged dreamers.”

You have been warned!!!

Enter the labyrinthine wonderlands of Gary J. Shipley. Visit Gary at his blogspot:

  1. Shipley, Gary J. . Theoretical Animals (Kindle Locations 59-60). BlazeVOX [books]. Kindle Edition.

On Slavoj Žižek: The Stranger in our Midst

The true question is not “are immigrants a real threat to Europe?”, but “what does this obsession with the immigrant threat tell us about the weakness of Europe?”
– Slavoj Žižek: What our fear of refugees says about Europe

First is their such a unity as ‘Europe’ anymore? And, to describe it as having a ‘weakness’ concerning an “obsession with the immigrant threat” tells us what exactly? Zizek, as usual, sets up a straw dog, a fictional entity against which he can begin an argument not about the economic entity known as the EU, nor of any of its member nations and their present immigration policies and politics, but rather he will draw a Lacanian comparison of psychopathology telling us this problem is like that of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy whose anti-Semitism will serve Zizek as a notation form current anti-Islamic ideology throughout many countries of the European nations.

This so to speak ideology is based on two dimensions he’ll tell us: fear “against the Islamization of Europe…”; and,  the other dimension is the humanitarian idealization of refugees. And, like the liberal democrat socialist that he’s become of late he’ll tell us of these various nations of Europe that there “is no place for negotiated compromise here; no point at which the two sides may agree”. As if this was just a matter of bringing people to the table for a nice chat, a friendly talk over the fine points of sociopathy and psychopathological inhumanity; as if we could just reason together and come up with a universal solution viable for all, etc. In fact, as he’ll suggest the task before us is none other than “to talk openly about all the unpleasant issues without a compromise with racism”. Listen to that sentence carefully “all the unpleasant issues” without “compromise with racism”, as if we should admit to ourselves openly there are unpleasant issues that must be brought out into the open without pulling us back into the old fascisms of scapegoating and exclusion that have dominated European politics for millennia; with the hint of WWII and the Nazi holocaust shadowing over all of this table talk.

Instead we should put the shoe on the other foot, why not bring the one’s in question to the table for a talk in this manner too? Zizek never even mentions such a breach in the political etiquette of negotiations, instead he mentions that arch conservative Catholic G.K. Chesterton who will remonstrate humans as the alienated animal, the animal that is not at home on earth, not at home in their body, but rather a “stranger” and alien in the midst of those nonhuman creatures we share this planet with. Then he’ll  bring it down to this notion of one’s culture, one’s “way of life” – custom, habit, law, ethics, etc., all those things that form and shape our lives in a life-world. What Lacan would call our Symbolic Order within which we move and breath like automatons of some vast network of power and knowledge (Foucault). Finally he admonishes that the “point is thus not to recognise ourselves in strangers, but to recognise a stranger in ourselves – therein resides the innermost dimension of European modernity. The recognition that we are all, each in our own way, weird lunatics, provides the only hope for a tolerable co-existence of different ways of life.”

So is this it? Is this the wisdom of Zizek? We should honor the lunacy of our stance, that seeing the stranger in ourselves is allowing the lunatic out into the light of day? As if admitting we are all raving lunatics we’ll suddenly learn to tolerate those strangers in our midst and their way of life. What wisdom is this? Has Zizek turned preacher, a sort of soap-box speaker dreaming of peace and kumbaya? We should all dance and sing around the lunatic table of our strangerhood and become brothers, sisters, children of the greater light of toleration and co-existence because of our acknowledgement of lunacy and strangerhood?

Maybe I’m a little more realistic… lunacy usually leads to dire and dark places, more violent and atrocity ridden than Zizek on his good days might imagine. I remember reading from his book, Violence another truth that is more likely to remain and cause further division:

The fundamental divide is one between those included in the sphere of (relative) economic prosperity and those excluded from it.1

That’s the real divide in all European nations, the divide between those who have and those who do not, the prosperous and the excluded poor, migrant, refugee, worker, proletariat, precarious citizen, etc. Do you think they might actually come together over that? Or, even better let all those excluded in their midst have the ability to speak for themselves at this table of economic and social negotiation? Offer all those excluded strangers in their midst, both citizen or refugee, a way to gain a real life worth living rather than just a tolerable co-existence in the midst of degradation and corruption? Maybe they should just wipe the entire debt system, start fresh, open those hidden books of the corrupt bankers in their midst, all those rich plutocrats and oligarchs, politicians and statesman, etc. who have imposed generations of austerity on the poor and excluded.


  1. Zizek, Slavoj (2008-07-22). Violence (BIG IDEAS//small books) (p. 102). Picador. Kindle Edition.

Georges Bataille as Parodist of Our Monstrous Life


…he does not write masterpieces, he writes against them…”
…….– Georges Bataille

from Bataille’s essay The Human Face:

It was only until the first years of the nineteenth century that the extravagance of involuntary contradiction and of senile paradox had free rein; since then white men and women have, as we know, tenaciously persisted in their efforts to regain, at last, a human face. Those wasp-waisted corsets scattered throughout provincial attics are now the prey of moths and flies, the hunting grounds of spiders. As to the tiny cushions which long served to emphasize those forms of extreme plumpness, they now haunt only the ghastly brains of those greybeards, expiring daily beneath their weird grey bowlers, who still dream of flabby torsos strangled in the obsessive play of lace and whalebone. And within the image of the earth’s globe seen trampled underfoot by a dazzling American film star in a bathing suit, we may catch the sound, muffled but heady nonetheless, of a cock’s crow. And why blush at that sudden fascination? Why not admit that our few remaining heady dreams are traced by the swift bodies of young American girls? Thus if anything can still draw sobs for all that has just vanished, it is no longer a great singer’s beauty, but mere perversity, sordid and deluded. To us, so many strange, merely half-monstrous individuals seem to persist in empty animation, like the jingle of the music box, in innocent vice, libidinous heat, lyrical fumes. So that despite all antithetical obsession, there is absolutely no thought of dispensing with this hateful ugliness, and we will yet catch ourselves some day, eyes suddenly dimmed and brimming with inadmissible tears, running absurdly towards some provincial haunted house, nastier than flies, more vicious, more rank than a hairdresser’s shop.