Very saddened to hear of the death of the author and Goldsmiths, University of London academic, Mark Fisher, who took his own life on Friday. I was lucky enough to hear Mark talk a couple of times, once at the British Library and then 15 months ago at a great event in Dalston, organised by Andrew Harris. On each occasion he was an incredibly interesting speaker: refreshing, provocative and original. At both events he detailed the impact of evolving political and economic forces on contemporary life over the last 25 years, examining how changes brought about by these forces were played out/expressed/opposed/embedded in popular culture, both in the mainstream and on the margins.
One of his most acclaimed books was ‘Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures’ (Zero Books, 2014). Wide ranging, it includes lengthy reflections on a number of musicians: Japan (hence the first part of the book’s title), Burial, Goldie, Tricky, Joy Division, the Belbury Poly label, Philip Jeck, Junior Boys, John Foxx, James Blake, Kanye West and Drake. The way Mark engages in the book with how music relates to the wider culture is distinctive, with his friend, Simon Reynolds, being the only writer whose approach and interests are vaguely comparable. Equally fascinating are the insights in the book into works by filmmakers Chris Petit and Patrick Keiller and author W.G. Sebald, highlighting how they spoke to the place and time of England in the final decade of the last century, and the first decade of this one. Throughout, Mark convincingly maps out how a cultural malaise emerged in a country increasingly disillusioned with a future that never came and preoccupied with a past that never was.
‘Ghosts of my Life’, like all of Mark’s writing – especially his brilliant musings in the mid-2000s on Burial in his k-punk blog and in The Wire: Adventures In Modern Music – is dense and fascinating. As with all good art, it makes you think about familiar things in ways you hadn’t before and at other times states what perhaps you already suspected but were unable to express with anything like the same clarity. The fact that there will be no more such books is a great shame, but that pales next to the incalculable loss of a much loved husband and father.
RIP Mark Fisher, a great talent gone far too soon.