Accelerationists for Auto-Creation
Pete Townshend of The Who destroying his guitar during the live performance of My Generation at Monterey Pop Festival 1967
Nina Power’s short theory-fiction piece, Construction With Steel and Technology, introduces a virtual resonance between accelerationism and auto-destructive art both fictionally and non-fictionally. At first glance, this resonance might seem somewhat counterintuitive, given the nomenclatural discord between the terms accelerationism and auto-destructive art. However, Power’s juxtaposition of the fictional art group the Aesthetic Accelerationists, and its counterpart, Nihilists for Auto-Destruction, leads to potential complications with regards to respective relationships with their doubles outside the story. Within the story, the Aesthetic Accelerationists are presented as harboring “[an] image of capitalism and technology [that is] rather shallow”, their members “hovering” around the fictional character of Gustav M, whose persona is inspired by the non-fictional originator of auto-destructive art, Gustav Metzger. The Nihilists for Auto-Destruction are introduced as a counterpoint: a group of violent, unstrategic and overzealous provocateurs willing to engage in kamikaze-like suicide attacks in order to ensure the “speeding up of the destruction” and the “hurrying up of horror”.
Juxtaposed to all of this is what the non-fictional Metzger really “had meant” by auto-destructive art, and, though not directly stated, what acceleration amounts to today. Of course, according to the art historian Catherine Jolivette, “Metzger’s theories drew on Nietzsche’s philosophies, reflecting Deleuze’s commentary on Nietzsche: ‘in auto-destruction the reactive forces themselves are denied and lead to nothingness.” Thus, to understand the virtual resonance of Metzger, Deleuze, and Nietzsche - and potentially, of all three with accelerationism, it must also be understood that, “in the reactive process of turning against oneself, active force becomes reactive.” As a result, and contrary to Power’s fictional character’s ideas, the non-fictional Metzger’s auto-destruction is not about turning against oneself, as the Nihilists for Auto-Destruction do, but instead circumventing the liberal image of the free-floating individual through which one is compelled to participate in late capitalist society.
The non-fictional Metzger, in other words, strives to create an active destruction, one that would “express the becoming-active of forces”, thereby compelling “reactive forces [to] deny and suppress themselves.” In this way, “negation, by making itself the negation of reactive forces themselves, is not only active but… expresses affirmation and becoming-active as the power of affirming.” The point of this is not some simplified “yes of the ass”, as Power’s fictional Aesthetic Accelerationists seem to suggest, but instead, the selective affirmation the Dionysian Yes:
The yes which does not know how to say no (the yes of the ass) is a caricature of affirmation. This is precisely because it says yes to everything which is no, because it puts up with nihilism it continues to serve the power of denying - which is like a demon whose every burden it carries. The Dionysian yes, on the contrary, knows how to say no. It is pure affirmation, it has conquered nihilism and divested negation of all autonomous power. But it has done this because it has placed the negative at the service of the power of affirming. To affirm is to create, not to bear, put up with, or accept.
The non-fictional Metzger, of course, never limited himself to either the discourse of auto-destruction, or the simple yes of the ass, either: instead, he proceeded in Dionysian fashion, by affirming the centrality of auto-creation -. If the fictional Nihilists for Auto-Destruction misunderstood Metzger so tragically then, in what sense might Power’s fictional Aesthetic Accelerationists have also misunderstood uninvoked accelerationist thinkers such as Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, when they asserted that:
Neoliberalism confuses speed with acceleration. We may be moving fast, but only within a strictly defined set of capitalist parameters that themselves never waver. We experience only the increasing speed of a local horizon, a simple brain-dead onrush rather than an acceleration which is also navigational, an experimental process of discovery within a universal space of possibility. It is the latter mode of acceleration which we hold as essential.
Aside from this pressing question, here are a few additionals:
What exactly is it that propels Power to deny non-fictional accelerationism a balanced presence with auto-destructive art in her narrative, even at the expense of the story’s conceptual integrity?
If the point of the story’s description of the fictional Aesthetic Accelerationists is to suggest that non-fictional accelerationism is an inherently destructive idea and will always result in shallow social expressions, what reasons for this claim are provided by Power and are they, in the final analysis, adequate?
Is it really the case that non-fictional accelerationists’ image of communism is reducible to one laden with “flying robots” and “automated machines for everything”? And if so, will technocommunism necessarily mean, as the fictional Metzger is presented as thinking, that “nature would likely perish even faster if these goons ever got any power”?
Jason Adams is an organizer at The New Centre for Research & Practice and holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Hawaii and a PhD in Media & Communication from the European Graduate School.