Ccru: Writings 1997–2003 / Time Spiral Press

by Prue Nort


No one knows exactly when or how the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, or Ccru, came about. Even less is understood of who (or what) speaks through it. Its existence has been denied more than once, and despite repeated attempts to excise all record of its strange intellectual and aesthetic experiments from institutional histories, it always seems to return, each strain more virulent than the last. The fateful story of the Ccru’s exile from academia in the late 1990s is well known, and frankly unsurprising, as the increasingly exploratory nature of the Unit’s research took it out of officially sanctioned spaces of academic investigation and into a weird underworld contoured by cyberpunk, systems theory, occultism, electronic music, vodou and mathematics. Its members’ status as pariahs of the university system — an ironic effect of their reckless fidelity to the Deleuzian maxim that it is the problem that determines the trajectory of thought (not the other way around) and that such investigations cannot be simply broken off when one pleases — grew in equal ratio to their notoriety in the philosophical, artistic and sonic underground of late twentieth-century Britain. As with any good subterranean microculture, rumors of strange activities abound. Intense drug use, shamanic rituals, disconcerting diagrams etched into nightclub walls, demonic possession, poetic odysseys of xenoglossic click-drift, snake-becomings, time travel, psychological collapse, schizophrenia — the kind of thing that happens when your research takes you somewhere “you” weren’t prepared to go.

Time Spiral Press’s publication of the Ccru’s collected writings marks an important juncture in this game of inoculation and recontamination. Up until now, only hearsay, grim speculation and several bizarre artifacts of uncertain authorship, dredged incautiously from the darkest depths of the Net, have served to give any real insight into the true nature of the collective’s unusual research program. “Unusual” is an understatement. What these documents unmask is nothing less than the fundamental dubiousness of phenomenal reality itself, with the master code of chronological time forming the backbone of a highly sophisticated control system.


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Deleuze & Guattari On the Empire of Capital: The Dog that wants to Die

by Steven Craig Hickman

oedipus (1)

There comes a point in Anti-Oedipus when Deleuzeguattari will ask “Why is it that linguists are constantly rediscovering the truths of the despotic age?” In specific they’ll remind us of Nietzsche’s prophetic premonition that the State is the “dog that wants to die. (p. 215)”.1 This happens in a discussion on ressenti*: The eternal ressentiment of the subjects answers to the eternal vengeance of the despots (p. 215). This immanent cycle of vengeance – ressentiment – counter-vengeance becomes in our hypercapitalist mode the circular modes of crises and its reduplication. As they will have it: “Here again, death will have to be felt from within, but it will have come from without. (p. 215)”. This sense that financial or hypercapitalism is imperialism without the Master Signifier, or that the master signifier of capital is Money itself – this immaterial despot at the heart of the Capitalist system of despotic control is an aspect to be considered. They don’t speak of this directly in this section, but the implication is there. What they add is the dynamics of crisis and depression based on ressentiment, which brings with it the movement from primitive to despotic to sovereign to democratic cycles of emergence and reduplication of this dynamic of ressentiment in which “bad conscience”, this ugly growth – i.e., Oedipus – took root and began to grow: this movement of Oedipus in the “cellular, ovular migration in the system of imperial representation: from being the displaced represented of desire, it becomes the repressing representation itself” (p. 215). Money is the internalization of Oedipus in the capitalist system cycle of ressentiment.

In this sense Capitalism is “the story of desire and its sexual history (there being none other)” (p. 216). “Desire institutes a libidinal investment of a State machine that overcodes the territorial machine and, with an additional turn of the screw, represses the desiring-machine.” (p. 216) – This is the cycle of capital itself as well. One could say that capitalism is the outcome of this imperial-machine, its perfection in doing away with the visible tyrant or despot and replacing it with the internal mechanisms of Money as the despotic Master Signifier who is none other than the Death drive of Freud-Lacan. As Deleuzeguattari will suggest: “All sexuality functions in terms of the conjoined operations of machines, their internecine struggle, their superposition, their interlocking arrangements” (p. 216). It is in this sense that Nietzsche and then Freud-Lacan will see in this Oedipal conflict the “evolution of infinite debt” (p. 216). Capitalism is none other than the internalization of the Oedipal cycle of debt as infinite terror:

The debt must not only become an infinite debt, it will have to be internalized and spiritualized as an infinite debt. … The apparatuses of social repression-psychic repressions will have to undergo complete reorganization. Hence desire, having completed its migration, will have to experience this extreme affliction of being turned against itself: the turning back against itself, bad conscience, the guilt that attaches it to the most decoded of social fields as well as to the sickest interiority, the trap for desire, its ugly growth. (p. 217)


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The Imperialism of Oedipus


Oedipus restrained is the figure of the daddy-mommy-me triangle, the familial constellation in person. But when psychoanalysis makes of Oedipus its dogma, it is not unaware of the existence of relations said to be pre-oedipal in the child, exo-oedipal in the psychotic, para-oedipal in others. The function of Oedipus as dogma, or as the “nuclear complex,” is inseparable from a forcing by which the psychoanalyst as theoretician elevates himself to the conception of a generalized Oedipus. On the one hand, for each subject of either sex, he takes into consideration an intensive series of instincts, affects, and relations that link the normal and positive form of the complex to its inverse or negative form: a standard model Oedipus, such as Freud presents in The Ego and the Id, which makes it possible to connect the pre-Oedipal phases with the negative complex when this seems called for. On the ​other hand, he takes into consideration the coexistence in extension of the subjects themselves and their multiple interactions: a group Oedipus that brings together relatives, descendants, and ascendants. (It is in this manner that the schizophrenic’s visible resistance to oedipalization, the obvious absence of the Oedipal link, can be obscured in a grandparental constellation, either because an accumulation of three generations is deemed necessary in order to produce a psychotic, or because an even more direct mechanism of intervention by the grandparents in the psychosis is discovered, and Oedipuses of Oedipus are constituted, to the second power: neurosis, that’s father-mother, but grandma, that’s psychosis.) Finally, the distinction between the Imaginary* and the Symbolic* permits the emergence of an Oedipal structure as a system of positions and functions that do not conform to the variable figure of those who come to occupy them in a given social or pathological formation: a structural Oedipus (3 + 1) that does not conform to a triangle, but performs all the possible triangulations by distributing in a given domain desire, its object, and the law.
It is certain that the two preceding modes of generalization attain their full scope only in structural interpretation. Structural interpretation makes Oedipus into a kind of universal Catholic symbol, beyond all the imaginary modalities. It makes Oedipus into a referential axis not only for the pre-oedipal phases, but also for the para-oedipal varieties, and the exo-oedipal phenomena. The notion of “foreclosure,” for example, seems to indicate a specifically structural deficiency, by means of which the schizophrenic is of course repositioned on the Oedipal axis, set back into the Oedipal orbit in the perspective, for example, of the three generations, where the mother was not able to posit her desire toward her own father, nor the son, consequently, toward the mother. One of Lacan’s disciples writes: we are going to consider “the means by which the Oedipal organization plays a role in psychoses; next, what the forms of psychotic pregenitality are and how they are able to maintain the Oedipal reference.” Our preceding criticism of Oedipus therefore risks being judged totally superficial and petty, as if it applied solely to an imaginary Oedipus and aimed at the role of parental figures, without at all penetrating the structure and its order of symbolic positions and functions.
For us, however, the problem is one of knowing if, indeed, that is where the difference enters in. Wouldn’t the real difference be between Oedipus, structural as well as imaginary, and something else that all the Oedipuses  crush and repress: desiring-production—the machines of ​desire that no longer allow themselves to be reduced to the structure any more than to persons, and that constitute the Real in itself, beyond or beneath the Symbolic as well as the Imaginary? We in no way claim to be taking up an endeavor such as Malinowski’s, showing that the figures vary according to the social form under consideration. We even believe what we are told when Oedipus is presented as a kind of invariant. But the question is altogether different: is there an equivalence between the productions of the unconscious and this invariant—between the desiring-machines and the Oedipal structure? Or rather, does not the invariant merely express the history of a long mistake, throughout all its variations and modalities; the strain of an endless repression? What we are calling into question is the frantic Oedipalization to which psychoanalysis devotes itself, practically and theoretically, with the combined resources of image and structure. And despite some fine books by certain disciples of Lacan, we wonder if Lacan’s thought really goes in this direction. Is it merely a matter of oedipalizing even the schizo? Or is it a question of something else, and even the contrary?* Wouldn’t it be better to schizophrenize—to schizophrenize the domain of the unconscious as well as the sociohistorical domain, so as to shatter the iron collar of Oedipus and rediscover everywhere the force of desiring-production; to renew, on the level of the Real, the tie between the analytic machine, desire, and production? For the unconscious itself is no more structural than personal, it does not symbolize any more than it imagines or represents; it engineers, it is machinic. Neither imaginary nor symbolic, it is the Real in itself, the “impossible real” and its production.

Towards the Summit

by J.G. Ballard


Soon after two o’clock in the afternoon four days later, Richard Wilder returned from his television station and drove into the parking-lot beside the high-rise. Reducing speed so that he could relish to the full this moment of arrival, he sat back comfortably behind the wheel and looked up with a confident eye at the face of the apartment building. Around him the long ranks of parked cars were covered with a thickening layer of dirt and cement dust, blown across the open plazas of the development project from the road junction under construction behind the medical centre. Few cars now left the parking-lot, and there were almost no free spaces, but Wilder drove up and down the access lanes, stopping at the end of each file and reversing back to his starting point.
Wilder fingered the freshly healed scar on his unshaven chin, relic of a vigorous corridor battle the previous night. Deliberately he reopened the wound, and glanced with satisfaction at the point of blood on his finger. He had driven from the television station at speed, as if trying to emerge from an angry dream, shouting and sounding the horn at other drivers in his way, cutting up one-way streets. Now he felt calm and relaxed. The first sight of the line of five apartment buildings soothed him as usual, providing a context of reality absent from the studios.


godard 1

Godard’s commitment to a political cinema was signalled in one of his very earliest articles, ‘Towards a Political Cinema’ (Godard on Godard, pp.16-17). Of all the early enigmatic articles it is this one which has proved the most opaque; the English translator commented ‘while most of Godard’s early article; are fairly cryptic, this one is almost impenetrably so’ (Godard on Godard, p.24). In fact, however, certain clear terms emerge from Godard’s discussion. Talking of a shot from Gerasimov’s The Young Guard which he claims sums up the whole Soviet cinema, he writes:

. . . a young girl in from of her door, in Interminable silence, tries to suppress the tears which finally burst violently forth, a sudden apparition of life. Here the idea of a shot (doubtless not unconnected with the Soviet economic plans) lakes on its real function of a sign, indicating something in whose place it appears. 

Godard’s insistence that politics in the cinema is a question of signification, the affirmation that the aesthetics the political are intimately linked, an affirmation aided by the linguistic coincidence, lost in translation, that French has the same word for shot and plan, the emphasis on a moment of emotion as the articulation of the political and the personal — all these can be understood as providing some of the crucial terms for Godard’s film-making.

It is not usual to consider A bout de souffle a political movie; the conventional wisdom is that Godard does  not reflect on politics until le Petit Soldat, and yet the terms of the problems of politics are already assembled in the first film. While Michel and Patricia talk and play in Patricia’s room, the radio brings them news of the visit that Eisenhower is paying to Paris and to the recently installed Général de Gaulle. The lovers’ international affair thus finds a political analogue. And yet the analogy is formal and empty; the distance from the personal to the political is understood as infinite. Later in the film, Michel and Patricia separately descend the Champs Elysees, Michel reading yet another edition of France Soir and Patricia trying to evade the policemen who are following her. Their descent is impeded by crowds of people and the policemen controlling them and as the camera pans across from the pavement to the road we see that the politicians’ motorcade is ascending the Champs Elysèes. In fact, we never see the politicians’ faces: ​the motorcade and the police are enough to signal their presence. In the movement of the pan Godard demonstrates the distance between the personal and the political, which is also the distance between the form of the thriller and the form of the documentary. The form of the thriller reduces politics to a momentary lure in the narrative: our only interest in the motorcade is that it explains the presence of so many policemen in terms other than the hunt for Michel. In parallel fashion, any newsreel in which the motorcade figures as a central meaning would see Michel and Patricia only as part of the public gathered to observe the two national leaders.


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If you want to write a book about me then there is one thing you must put in: money. The cinema is all money but the money figures twice: first yon spend all your time running to get the money to make the film but then in the film the money comes back again, in the image.

Godard in conversation

Diana and Frenkie

Before starling work ou Sauve « jui pent., Godard had spent over six months trying to persuade Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton to star in The Story. Difficulties in the negotiation s finally decided him to .start work first on Sauve qui pout but by then he had already written an extensive script of the projected American film. This script is itself a remarkable document, as Godard illustrates the development of the narrative with a montage of photographs, mainly pulled from previous Keaton and De Niro films. The story’ of the title refers to Godard’s film itself, to the fictional blind child that Keaton and De Niro have in the film, who is, in some sense, the story of their broken relationship, and, finally, to a film Bugsy that a mutual acquaintance of theirs. Frankie is making. It is their work on Frankie’s film thaï brings Keaton, as a researcher. and de Niro, as a cameraman, together again in Las Vegas after years of separation. The film concentrates on the historical links between organised crime and Hollywood but Bugsy will never be made because Frankie dies in a road accident arranged by the Mafia. But we learn a great deal about the projected film and about the character Bugsy Siegel, a legendary Mafia figure who was a friend of Hollywood stars and was engaged in the various film-union rackets before being shot to death. At the beginning of Godard’s film, Frankie comes to the airport to meet Diane and as they drive into town he talks of his film. He says that

‘It’d be a good idea to start the story in a documentary style, at the very moment that the evening lights go up like the desire in people’s eyes.  People have been working all day long for the industry of the day, in factories and offices. Now they’re going to work for the industry’ of the night: the money earned during the day will be spent on the night of sex, of gambling and of dreams.

‘Coil Manifesto’ read by John Balance

coil-manifesto (1)

COIL is a hidden universal. A code. A key for which the WHOLE does not exist. Is NONEXISTENT, in silence and secrecy. A spell.A spiral. A serpents SHt round a female cycle. A whirlwind. A double helix. DNA. Electricity and elementals. Atonal noise, and brutal poetry.

COIL is amorphous. Luminous and constant change. Inbuilt obSOLescence. Inbuilt Disobedience. A vehicle for obsessions. Dreamcycles in perpetual motion. We are cutthroats. Infantile. Immaculately Conceived. Dis-eased. The Virus is Khaos. The cure is Delirium.

COIL are Archangels of KHAOS. The price we pay for existence is eternal Warfare. There is a hidden coil of strength, dormant beneath the sediment of convention. Dreams lead us under the surface, over the edge, to the Delirium state. UNCHAINED. Past impositions and false universals. Reassembling into OUR order.

COIL. Who has the nerve to dream, create and kill, while the whole moves every part stands still. Our rationale is the irrationAL. Hallucination is the truth our graves are dug with. COIL is compulsion. URGE and construction. Dead letters fall from our shedding skins. Kabbala and KHAOS. Thanatos and Thelema. Archangels and Antichrists. Open and Close. Truth and Deliberation. Traps and Disorientation.

Coil exist between Here and Here. We are Janus Headed. Plural. Out of time. Out of place. Out of Spite. An antidote for when people become poisons.

COIL know how to destroy Angels. How to paralyse. Imagine the world in a bottle. We take the bottle, smash it, and open your throat with it. I warn you we are Murderous. We massacre the logical revolts. We know everything! We know one thing only. We know nothing. Absolute existence, absolute motion, absolute direction, absolute Truth. NOW, HERE, US.

“Not Knowing What Is And Is Not
Knowing, I Knew Not”
—Hassan i Sabbah

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