Nth Mind has been a bit quiet lately, but new posts are coming, I promise. A couple of fresh Comics are Magic entries are percolating nicely and some other stuff is ready to boil over, so stay tuned. In the meantime here are a bunch of things that have been dragging the Scott Jeffery Machine away from Nth Mind and into the meat-world. It’s been busy.
COMEDY! My attempts to win the affection of rooms full of strangers continue at their own pace. I’d say stilted pace, but I’m going to go for Zen pace instead. Shit will happen when it is ready to happen. So while living in the middle of nowhere and not being able to drive sets up certain limitations on my ability to be performing as much as I’d like to (and I’ll be honest guys, being a 37 year old lecturer and father of one really takes the edge off of sofa surfing- don’t get me wrong, I’ll still do it, but I’ll pay for it in the morning) I’m using what tools are available.
So “my” monstrous child of a comedy night, Temporary Autonomous Comedy Zone (TACZ) just had it’s tenth show, and I’m very proud of it. Working from some dumb-ass but personally important mystical-anachist ethics we (me, the acts, the audience, the venue) have somehow managed to keep the thing alive even though it follows few of the rules of a traditional comedy night. 9-10 acts, each doing ten minutes each (there is no headliner, just the person who goes on last). Acts are paid by splitting the door between them. Sound-system provided by TPot Studios. Held at random intervals every few months in a pub in a small Scottish village.
The point being, it shouldn’t work. But somehow it does. And over the last three years some of the best new acts in Scotland (HECKLER: “And some of the worst!”) have been on the bill, many of whom I’m proud to call friends and who have gone on to become much more successful and have actual, paying comedy careers. Naturally I am wracked with envy and plan to murder every one of them. But for now, doing that show also lets me keep my hand in hosting, and it’s just a pleasure and a blast. And at this point it’s got a good enough rep with both acts and audience that it’s almost self-booking and self-selling. next show is July 9th! Long live TACZ!
I also did two shows at the Glasgow Comedy Festival. All Too Human, an hour of stand-up about posthumanism. I say “about posthumanism”, it’s mostly dick-jokes with some posthumanism thrown into the mix. But, as there’s not that many posthumanist dick jokes I’ve probably still got the market covered. I somehow managed to sell all 50 tickets for that show to actual humans I didn’t know, which was amazing (so thankyou, if you happen to be reading this!). I was also delighted to find that it was an hour that actually worked. No lulls, only LOLZ, yeah? Well, except for the bit where I ate a banana to the Rocky theme, lost people for a while there. They liked the jokes better.
TACZ also spread its fetid tentacles to Glasgow by way of Mondo Occulto. A show about magic that was itself a magic spell. Unfortunately, the nature of the sigil is that is all I can really say about, until nothing is left of the show but its memory, and an archived page from the Scottish Comedy Festival website.
BOOK! The book is coming on October 4th! Buy my book! It’s called The Posthuman Body in Superhero Comics: Human, Superhuman, Transhuman, Post/Human and its published under Palgrave’s Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels banner. Here’s the blurb, though if you’re a long-time reader of the blog loads of it will probably be familiar:
This book examines the concepts of Post/Humanism and Transhumanism as depicted in superhero comics. Recent decades have seen mainstream audiences embrace the comic book Superhuman. Meanwhile there has been increasing concern surrounding human enhancement technologies, with the techno-scientific movement of Transhumanism arguing that it is time humans took active control of their evolution. Utilising Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the rhizome as a non-hierarchical system of knowledge to conceptualize the superhero narrative in terms of its political, social and aesthetic relations to the history of human technological enhancement, this book draws upon a diverse range of texts to explore the way in which the posthuman has been represented in superhero comics, while simultaneously highlighting its shared historical development with Post/Humanist critical theory and the material techno-scientific practices of Transhumanism.
Eat that, John Grisham! Anyway, it’s an academic book, clearly, and as such it’s prohibitively expensive, but if you want to encourage your library to order it don’t let me stand in your way! And if you want the short version of it, as a taster, read this post here.
OTHER STUFF! This is the best one, I think. I’ve had a paper accepted to present at the Trans-States: The Art of Crossing Over conference in September. Here’s the blurb from their website:
An unabashed play on words, a trans- state is, among other things, a coincidentia oppositorum. An alchemical wedding that defines the fixed place, where boundaries are actively transgressed. In many ways, this very undertaking is where the role of the magician, mystic and artist collide. Down at the crossroads, where possibilities are collapsed into actualities, by the wondrous act of a conscious decision: there lies the place of suffering and surrender; of realisation and redemption.
This is a transdisciplinary conference that will explore representations in contemporary visual culture of boundary crossing, liminality and queerification with specific reference to occultism, mysticism, shamanism and other esoteric and spiritual practices.
The proceedings will feature academics, independent scholars, practitioners and artists.
Clearly, this is right in my wheelhouse. The talk I’m going to give is on what I’m calling “Tantric Transhumanism”, which is where I want to go next with my research. Here’s the pitch:
This paper proposes a model of Tantric Transhumanism as a counterpoint to the dominant intellectual frameworks underlying much Transhumanist philosophy. Though it is concerned with the proactive enhancement of human bodies and minds with technology many argue that Transhumanism is an ideological descendent of the Enlightenment with its roots in rational humanism. Viewed this way, Transhumanism lends itself easily to both utilitarian and neo-liberal economic visions. While both the European Utilitarian model and the American Libertarian model both present as rational, materialist philosophies (albeit differing along ideological lines) there remain strands of Transhumanist thought that have a more problematic relationship with these very same Enlightenment ideals of rationalism and materialism. Never the less, a second strain of “irrational” Transhumanism which appears to betray a metaphysical or even mystical streak can be discerned.
This strain of Transhumanism runs through the Western occult tradition (indeed, the founder of Theosophy Madame H.P. Blavatsky was writing of the ‘post-Human’ as early as 1888). An alternative history of Transhumanism, which might be dubbed “Tantric Transhumanism” presents itself; one which takes in Crowley and contemporary chaos magick, as well as the transpersonal psychologies of Maslow, Groff and Timothy Leary. Tantric Transhumanism merges modern science and new technologies and archaic spiritualties in a matrix of mutual influences that cultural theorist Erik Davis attempts to capture with the term ‘techgnosis’. Tantric Transhumanism may be said to focus more on the transformation of consciousness rather than the body or linear, ‘rational’, intelligence. As in the Human Potential Movement of the 1960s, which found archetypal expressions in the Esalen Institute, emphasis is placed on transpersonal and spiritual experience. Contemporary ‘trans-spirit’ research including a renewed scientific interest in psychedelics, meditation and the emerging field of neuro-theology all speak of the need to rediscover Transhumanism’s hidden history, with the hope of providing a corrective to the rational-libertarian discourse that currently marks its territory.
Wildly overambitious as usual, but will at least force me to write some new posts as I work out what I’m trying to say about it. Expect some words on Tantric Transhumanism: An Esoteric History of Human Enhancement in the coming weeks!
One more thing about that conference: the key-note speaker is Alan Moore! I am very excited, and a little trepidatious. But that just about sums up this year so far. The Scott Jeffery Machine often thinks of itself as an island, when in fact it is increasingly an archipelago. The comedy shows, the book, the conference, this blog, are all byproducts of me forming assemblages with other beings and things. And while on the one hand that’s terrifying (there’s people at this show? Someone’s going to read my book?! I’m saying hello to Alan fucking Moore??!!!) I’m also learning to how to surf the quantum foam of chaos and the joys of working with co-conspirators. Thanks for surfing with me guys.
I’ll try and be more productive the rest of the year! And I’ll also try and update Nth Mind’s sibling blogs Comedydribble and Filmdribble while I’m at it. If you desperately need to hear my gibberish with alrming regularity you can always follow me on twitter.
Onwards! Upwards! Outwards and inwards!