A Hauntological Literature

December 11th, 2012 | thinking

I was re-reading a bunch of James Bridle over the last couple of days – his brain works very differently to mine, and much better, which makes his stuff a good lever to prise me off old tracks – and I tripped over this, which I bookmarked last year:

What would a hauntological literature look like? I’m not sure, and that makes me suspicious.

And, a few paragraphs further up, related:

While I understand the distinction between nostalgia and hauntology, I am unconvinced by their separation in the application of the latter to music. The two most frequently cited sonic hauntologists are Burial and Ghost Box records, and while I’m a huge fan of both, I also see them as being steeped in nostalgia.

Bridle, as you may know, coined the term New Aesthetic, which can be defined as the observation of the eruption of the digital world into the physical world.  And it occurred to me that there is already an artifact of hauntological literature that does not require or involve nostalgia.  It is, in fact, one of the historical artifacts that was such a touchstone for modern hauntology.

THE CHANGES.  A BBC TV series from 1975.  The first episode of which I recall vividly, because it was (if you were seven years old) so unsettling.  And the subject of this series was simply this:

The eruption of the historical into the present.

Which is, essentially, what Burial was doing, in the moments when he wasn’t (as in “Raver”) specifically summoning up past times through nostalgia or yearning.  The moments where the past can be heard leaking through the walls (in my head, there’s a weird linkage between Burial and Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting In A Room”).

I think my problem with hauntology is that it deals with the problem of the future by going back to the past. And that is fine: but it will not save us.

In a hauntological literature, the future isn’t the problem.  It’s that the past never stops coming to get us.  Hence the frequent Ballardian framing of hauntology: we’re so exhausted by our blind headlong run into the future that we now wander around in a confused haze, and Time (SAPPHIRE AND STEEL!) oozes in like oil all around us.  Dragging us downstream.

Georteyphobia.  Fear of history.