ⓘ Cybernetic Culture Research Unit

                                     

ⓘ Cybernetic Culture Research Unit

The Cybernetic Culture Research Unit existed at Warwick University from 1995 to 1997. It was set up when Sadie Plant took up a role at Warwick, moving from the Cultural Studies department at Birmingham University and bringing several of her postgraduate students with her including Mark Fisher. As well as having a brief official existence within the Warwick philosophy department, it also existed until around 2003 as a student-run interdisciplinary collective associated with the work of Sadie Plant, Nick Land, and Stephen Metcalf.

                                     

1. History

The collectives research was closely tied to the work of Sadie Plant around whom it was founded, Nick Land, Stephen Metcalf, and their colleagues throughout the 1990s, and in particular the emerging cyberfeminist and libidinal-materialist Deleuzian thinking. These connections had already been forming at Warwick and shaped the Virtual Futures conferences organised in 1994-96 by Joan Broadhurst, Dan O’Hara, Otto Imken and Eric Cassidy, postgraduate students under the aegis of the Warwick Centre for Research in Philosophy and Literature.

After only a short time, in 1997, Plant left her academic post and affiliation with the Ccru, and it came under the direction of Land. Under his leadership, the collective became increasingly experimental and unorthodox in its work, with its output crossing post-structuralism, cybernetics, science-fiction, rave culture, and occult studies. Lands unorthodox behaviour and writing at this time led many to consider that he was in the midst of a nervous breakdown and he eventually left his academic post following accusations that he was dealing drugs to students.

After it could no longer use space at or claim affiliation with Warwick University, Ccru continued to operate from a flat in Leamington Spa. Ccru had effectively wound down by the end of 2003.

Ccrus written output was largely self-published in zines such as ***collapse and Abstract Culture. Many of these writings are maintained online on a Ccru website. In 2015, a collection of Ccru pieces entitled Ccru: Writings 1997-2003 was published. None of the work is attributed, but largely appears to be written by Land or under his strong influence. Although it states in the collection that it is a complete collection, this does not appear to be accurate.

The doctoral theses of several Ccru members and associates, submitted at Warwick University in the late 1990s and early 2000s, are available online and provide another perspective on the research of the Ccru. This includes: Touch-sensitive: cybernetic images and replicant bodies in the post-industrial age by Suzanne Livingston, Flatline constructs: Gothic materialism and cybernetic theory-fiction by Mark Fisher, Turbulence: a cartography of postmodern violence by Steve Goodman, Alien theory: the decline of materialism in the name of matter by Ray Brassier, and Capitalisms transcendental time machine by Anna Greenspan.

                                     

2. Members and affiliates

Existing in an official capacity for little over two years - following the departure of Plant, the University of Warwick would deny any relationship to the group - some of the Ccrus members have had an ongoing cultural impact. Those who were affiliated with the Ccru during and after its time as part of the University of Warwick Philosophy department include philosophers Stephen Metcalf, Iain Hamilton Grant, Ray Brassier and Reza Negarestani; cultural theorists Mark Fisher and Kodwo Eshun; publisher and philosopher Robin Mackay; digital media theorists Luciana Parisi and Matthew Fuller; electronic music artist and Hyperdub label head Steve Goodman, a.k.a. Kode9; writer and theorist Anna Greenspan; sound theorist Angus Carlyle; novelist Hari Kunzru; and artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, among others. Land and the Ccru collaborated frequently with the experimental art collective 0s Cyberpositive London: Cabinet, 1995, a schizoid work of cut-and-paste cyberphilosophy.

                                     

3. Influence

The existence of Ccru is not well-known beyond a very narrow intellectual circle but has become heavily mythologised, mostly by its former members. Nonetheless, the role played by Land, Plant, and the Ccru in the development of accelerationism is profound, and its legacy is apparent in contemporary debates concerning the viability of the theory in its various guises. It is important to note that accelerationism as it was deployed by the Ccru should be distinguished from the term more frequently associated with Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics’. Land himself makes this distinction clear in his commentary on the manifesto. Lands current version of accelerationism incorporates explicitly racist views and since late 2016 has been increasingly recognised as an inspiration for the alt right.