Back in the 1970s there seemed to be such a myriad of ideas about potential shared futures, exploring all aspects of the political, social, and cultural. The aim of neoliberal capitalism of the 1980s onwards was, and still is, to close down all these possibilities - as someone (Fredric Jameson? Slavoj Žižek?) once said, now
it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism. And this is what Mark Fisher called Capitalist Realism. I’ve written about all this before so I won’t repeat myself here.
One of the main aims of my Acid Renaissance series is to help to re-birth that myriad of possible futures, unrestricted by the constraints of Capitalist Realism. It may be easier to imagine the end of the world - frighteningly easy - but I’d rather try to imagine the end of capitalism and the birth of a new world.
These reborn potential futures grow from the ideas of the 1970s as I absorbed them through the children’s pop culture of the time, where hallucinatory hippy ideas mixed freely with social commentary and radical politics, and were then packaged up by idealistic tripped-out writers and artists, and somehow — with a carefreeness that would turn the Daily Mail’s eternal stream of hate & fear up to eleven — merrily handed over to the nation’s children to enjoy on our big, boxy, rented TV sets before teatime, or borrowed in piles from the shelves of Coventry’s old Gulson Central Library, or bought with pocket money as comics from the local newsagent.
But these potential futures have also, inevitably, been filtered through the years I’ve lived through since then.
They have been touched by the Hand of Goth in the 1980s - not the Hammer House goth of the 1990s onwards, but instead that earlier, curious and compelling accommodation between the fiercely opposed rivals of the 1970s — punks and hippies — where leather jackets, tight jeans, bullet belts, and anger merged, somehow easily, with patchouli oil, paisley shirts, long hair, and poetry.
They have also been re-examined and re-aligned through the lenses of climate emergency, emerging political thought, and the radical left-wing politics of England’s past.
But it is so much easier to imagine the end of the world than an end of the eternal capitalist present we are trapped in. Even if you know the misdirections that the conjuror is using, the illusion itself is so polished and compelling. So in turn I need to trick myself in order to allow myself a glance at these potential futures out of the corner of my eye, heavily clothe them in metaphor to avoid detection, let them emerge from the spaces between seemingly dissonant parts.
This is no hippy utopia nor some nihilistic punk wasteground, but instead an attempt to grasp at something that points the way to possible futures that are far better than the consumptive consumer present. This is not hauntology, which looks back at the ghosts of our lost futures preserved in amber. This is instead something that aims to bring about a rebirth, a renaissance of those potentials and drag them forward, beyond what they were, into new forms, an Acid Renaissance that can erupt into wondrous colours, but can also burn and corrode skin and metal.