The Hongkong Anti-Futurist Manifesto
The future of Hong Kong will be a post-financial wasteland. Japan will be the first race to go extinct. We will be the second. Some will form colonies in Norway and some will form colonies in Canada. We will mutate into a race that exist in the cold, a people straddling the Bering Strait. We are a people accustomed to migration, taking refuge in non-places. Our bodies will mutate, like sleet back to snow.
We will dissipate like a race of outdated replicants across the globe. Always on the run.
Hong Kong cannot be recovered by reopening up the question of time, as Yuk Hui proposed, for we never existed as a separate entity. We are a dust mote in time, too inorganic to ever gain the organicity of Culture. We are a people of separation, like anonymous atoms that compose a light stream, mingling in the mirage of scientific illusion. And likewise, those in America, Singapore, others who have mutated away from their land of origin. We are fractured from our ancestral, organic practices, in favor of a schizophrenic hybridity, disorder, and imposed order.
In Hong Kong, when our ordered financial structures and infrastructures are devastated to ruin by the newly-fangled data-centers, nuclear cores of the data economy, we will be free to frolic in a post-anthropocene infested by time, moss, rust, metal parts that decay into the soil and become goldmines for electronic parts years later to come. We will become Wittgenstein’s Mistresses. But instead of that we will be sitting in empty rooms in front of screens, analogue blood music singing across the thin atria wall as you sit in the next heart chamber, streaming bilibili remixes, for the structure of modernity is predicated on the technological unconsciousness of our tertiary retentions, such as monuments, museums, and archives (Hui, 235), built to mediate and replace the rapid loss of our memories, acting as a “consolation for the profound melancholia produced by this process (Ibid.) These illusory devices drives us towards an illusory goal. Modernity only ends, and historicity (albeit in a different sense to Heidegger’s) is only achieved, when the question of memory is rendered transparent, meaning that technological unconsciousness is rendered into a memory—a memory whose significance and impact one must become aware of. (Hui, 236)
So let our abjectness and decay be our temple. Let’s go to the Lofoten Islands, Svalbard, Norway. It is our dreams to own houses, where our objects need no longer be cleansed into digital units and codes; houses of brick, of wood, where dreams and trees grow in cellars; radical Ma Po Po evolving into a self-generating cell farm that bleeds into the soil from which it springs, like overripe pomegranates, a streak of vivid vermillion on the pale lips of a geisha.
Our language disappears into the archives. We are stripped bare but of their ostensible meanings, but maybe one day you will say Wing Biddlebaum, and I will help you roll up your sleeves to show me your wrinkled hands, as gnarled as apples fallen from the dried up tree that we thought had died last fall. Sebald says, It was as if it were now up to me alone, as if by some trifling mental exertion I could reverse the entire course of history, as if—if I desired it only—Grandmother Antonina, who had refused to go with us to England, would still be living in Kantstraße as before; she would not have gone on that journey, of which we had been informed by a Red Cross postcard shortly after the so-called outbreak of War, but would still be concerned about the wellbeing of her goldfish, which she washed under the kitchen tap every day and placed on the window ledge when the weather was fine, for a little fresh air. All that was required was a moment of concentration, piecing together the syllables of the word concealed in the riddle, and everything would again be as it once was…. But I don’t want to remember. It would all be futile. All I can conjure up are atomic sentences and hummingbirds that are seen sub specie aeternitatis; and the good life is the world seen sub specie aeternitatis, which only you and I could know what they mean: Black Carhartt, crocodile fragrance, Polish shoes, compositing volumes of kant into waste paper barrels, vergennes laundry, a james dean poster, the time the librarian said “forgive me” when the library was about to close, the mongolian deathworm, the sleet on the highway in the dark, “how do you know that the world is not going to explode tomorrow, how do you know you know your friend is not going to betray you, how do you know you will not become a beetle tomorrow?”. Truest love/ Void on fire/ You have haunted my desire/ Always real, always right/ Always alright, have you forgotten? (live) red bulls and whiskey, pocari sweat and asahi dry. Sour watermelon patches, american spirit blues, I haven’t told you what hummingbird was yet but I hope you’ll never read this because you’ll break my technological unconscious with me. So I shall bury the seeds of these words away so that they become spinach, and inherit your universe by coding the contents of your brain into mine by reading and watching everything that you have watched. Your sensory interfaces shall become mine.
The Circularity of Melancholia
According to Freud, mourning is a “reaction to the loss of a loved person, or to the loss of some abstraction which has taken the place of one, such as fatherland, liberty an ideal and so on” In mourning, the mourner breaks his libidinal ties to his lost objects and move on to new ones, while the melancholic suffers an inability to mourn and break these ties. Failing to mourn, he cannot “abandon a libido-position, not even when a substitute is already beckoning to him.” For Freud, the melancholic is aware “of the loss giving rise to the melancholia , but not what it has lost in them. This would suggest that melancholia is in some way related to an unconscious loss of a love-object, in contradistinction to mourning, in which there is nothing unconscious about the loss.” While melancholics use creativity to mediate their loss, their creativity does not compensate for mourning, because in engaging in acts of creativity, they are not re-attaching their libidinal ties to new objects, but rather imprisoning oneself in one’s own newly created world or world of thoughts.Adorno identifies the creative melancholic as trapped in the self-concealed imprisonment of creative subjectivity, like “an armored animal in its layers of carapace it vainly tries to shake loose.” Losing a memory is traumatic, for a piece of memory deeply impressioned on the mind is personal and evident to oneself only. When the external evidence is destroyed, only the structure of emotions remains, serving to articulate order in discrete memory fragments.
Writing of his lost childhood in Berlin after taking a walk in a city which he had left behind for a long time in 1947, Michael Hamburger mourns the fact that he can no longer remember the Berlin of his childhood:
Whenever a shift in our spiritual life occurs and fragments such as this surface, we believe we can remember. But in reality, of course, memory fails us. Too many buildings have fallen down, too much rubble has been heaped up, the moraines and deposits are insuperable. If I now look back to Berlin, writes Michael, all I see is a darkened background with a grey smudge in it, a slate pencil drawing, some unclear numbers and letters in a gothic script, blurred and half wiped away with a damp rag.
Describing the “rubble” of his home, Hamburger realizes that the material basis for his memories has fallen, causing memory to be irretrievable. Because the basis of his spiritual life, which arises from the material, is destroyed, “a shift in [their] spiritual life” occurs. He becomes a melancholic, unable to know what he has forgotten. Without material cues for him to remember his past, memories of the intact building of his home “appeared to me like pictures in a rebus that I simply had to puzzle out correctly.” As the external referent for his memories have been lost, he could only recall the pictures of the past with “mental exertion”: “It was as if it were now up to me alone, as if by some trifling mental exertion I could reverse the entire course of history…All that was required was a moment of concentration, piecing together the syllables of the word concealed in the riddle, and everything would again be as it once was….
As shown with the apparent effort with which he attempts to retrieve his memory – he could not, for memory is not internal, but external. It is not something that can be stored in the mind. When memory is not actively in use, its nature could change. As, David Stern quotes Wittgenstein in a study on memory: “Memory can be compared with a storehouse only so far as it fulfills the same purpose. Where it doesn’t, we couldn’t say whether the things stored up may not constantly change their nature and so couldn’t be stored at all.” Memory is evoked by what we see or repeatedly practice, for the function of memory is to help us act in daily life without constantly referring to a dictionary or a directory. It arises through noticing patterns, such that recognitions. Instead of being passively triggered, memory is activity which “aris[es] out of a system of distributed resonances…similarities may emerge as related items interact, reinforcing their common aspects,” as remembering is a process of seeing family resemblances. And thus, having already migrated elsewhere, Hamburger’s memories have become defunct. He admits that he could no longer remember his old house, despite the effort,“But I could neither make out the word nor bring myself to mount the stairs and ring the bell of our old flat. Instead I left the building with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and walked and walked, aimlessly and without being able to grasp even the simplest thought…”
While his past memories are no longer available for active use, Hamburger’s memories of the past are vague and not totally wiped away. Aware that his memory is damaged, he compares his memory to “a gramophone repeatedly playing the same sequence of notes, [which] has less to do with damage to the machine itself than with an irreparable defect in its programme.” The loss of memory haunts him, convincing him that there is something in the present happening as a consequence of the past, as he tries to rewind the tunes of his past again and again without avail. Having lost his memory, he becomes convinced that he is seeing “double visions”. When Sebald, the narrator, visits Hamburger in his home in Suffolk, Michael talks about his relationship with Hölderlin, who he feels an unexplained affinity towards, because his birthday falls two days after his, and because he has an unexplained and irrational urge to imitate Hölderlin, signing his poems and letters off as ‘”your humble servant Scardanelli”, and to keep unwelcome guests who come to stare at one at arm’s length by addressing them as Your Excellency or Majesty.’” It is because he heard that a water pump in his garden bore the date of 1770, in which Hölderlin was born, that he chose to live in the present house. Just after making plans to live on Patmos island did he discover that Hölderlin dedicated the Patmos hymn to the Landgrave of Homburg, and Homburg was also the maiden name of his mother. Michael wonders whether he and Hölderlin could have perceived each other, “How is it that one perceives oneself in another human being, or, if not oneself, then one’s own precursor? Across what distances in time do the elective affinities and correspondences connect?” Haunted by past memories and unable to establish relationships with others in the present, he yearns for companionship sought by traversing time and space through “elective affinities” – unexplained coincidences. In these unexplained coincidences, Michael hopes to discover traces of his past, which must have somehow changed the course of his life without him having known it.
Obsessively harking back to the past, Michael’s melancholy takes on a circular structure, as he feels that without knowing his past, he cannot go forward without understanding why he is venturing forth into the future on his particular path. Thus, his path forward in time is also to go back. His melancholy is circular because the “double visions” that he encounters will always be an encounter with his past, that he has forgotten.
Breaking through the Circularity
Let The Stack not be a geological structure of governance, but also the core and mantle of our memories, where mine and yours intertwine. Let the processors of our sensory surfaces be linked intimately together, where my body becomes synchronized to your sensory data as well and that we will be forever in each other’s presence.