’89 domande a Maya B. Kronic – Urbanomic & CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Unit)

Name? Maya B. Kronic (@mayabkronic).

How did you choose your new name? Does it have any special meaning? During the arduous process of translating Éric Alliez and Jean-Claude Bonne’s book Duchamp Seen (From the Other Side) , Éric mentioned to me that he had a small supplementary note dealing with how Duchamp’s use of slippages in the oral dimension of language, collapsing language onto the tongue and the ear, in tandem with the invention of his femme alter-ego Rrose Sélavy, blows a hole in psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s (extremely binary) ‘symbolic order’. In a protracted fit of delirium, this short addition grew in size to equal the book it was meant to supplement. Since the artist and the psychoanalyst share a common love of spoonerisms, puns, and wordplay, I had to write a great many footnotes overexplaining bad French jokes.

Caught up in the madness, and on the way to escaping from the binary myself, I decided to invent an alter ego (or id) so that the mammoth double-volume would have a double translator. Once the anagrammatic Maya B. Kronic was hatched, I began using it to track my gender transition on social media, and friends started earnestly asking me whether they should call me Maya. I accepted my fate: ‘Names have powers and destinies.’

Did this change cause you any problems of any kind? Ultimately, names and pronouns are a secondary affair. The process of gender transition for me was about contacting my body, enjoying the tactility of dressing the way I wanted, and overcoming a lifetime’s discomfort and anxiety that came from my inability to play a certain social gender role. I choose the ‘they’ pronoun purely because it is clearly the option most confusing and provocative to the complacent and conservative.

A change of name indexes shifts that have already occurred below the surface of language, but also propagates them into the social field, which reinforces the commitment to become oneself. As Duchamp says of Rrose: ‘I decided that it was not enough to be one individual with a masculine name, I wanted to change my name to change […] to make another personality for myself’. So, the only potential problems would be fear of a change with unforeseeable consequences, and the forfeit of whatever social or intellectual credit had accrued to the old name—and both of those are just minor aspects of getting over myself.

Does it bother you if someone refers to you as Robin Mackay? It’s fine, he’s on a slow fade-out. I feel sympathy and a duty of care. After all, for decades I watched, from a place where he couldn’t hear me, all of the discomfort he endured, and I know the courage he had to muster up to find me. Raven, a trans friend of mine, refers to themselves in the plural as ‘we’ out of recognition and respect for their former self, so as to include them in their current existence. As good a way as any of twisting grammar into a shape capable of reflecting the topological conundrum of identity that these kinds of transition reveal. For me, although it was apparently accidental, the anagram turned out to be an apt way of encrypting the old name and scrambling the egg. I talked a lot about these questions with the digital artist Rhea Myers for her book Proof of Work which we published last year—her work deals with crypto and secrecy in various ways.

How old are you? As old as I feel. According to those I allow to feel me, younger than I am.

Whats your job? Head of R&D at the UK publisher and cultural producer Urbanomic, which I founded in 2007 and which I now run with Amy Ireland. I spend most of my time editing and translating, as well as taking care of all the other aspects of running a small business and trying to keep abreast of what’s going on.

Going into publishing is not a good business decision, and it’s a kind of miracle that it’s lasted this long. As I like to say, In the process I haven’t earned any money but I have earned the right, or rather the necessary accumulated force, to not give a fuck.

I like to think that there is still some future prospect of my being a writer and philosopher, and sometimes I manage to find time to write, but it generally gets buried under the day-to-day of keeping Urbanomic going. At the moment my writing projects include a book on geopoetics and subjectivity, one on Gilles Deleuze and mathematics, one on gender euphoria, and one on the ethics of intensity with Amy. We’ve just published a book on cute accelerationism. On writing projects I work slowly. Day to day, I do hundreds of little media projects, sound, image and video.

Buy here

What did you study? I accidentally discovered philosophy as a teenager because of a timetable clash at my college, and I immediately knew it was what I wanted to do, or had already been doing without knowing that it existed. I went on to do a degree and a masters in philosophy at Warwick University, at the time one of the few Universities that taught Continental philosophy.

In the preface of the Italian edition of Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, you are mentioned as a member of the CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Unit) an underground research group started at the University of Warwick, can you tell us something about that? Ccru was a small group of people, headed up by Sadie Plant, who set up an unofficial research programme in Warwick to deal with the question of what happens to culture in a cybernetic age, and whether you can understand culture itself as a cybernetic system. It never had any official existence within the university. I was involved at the beginning, when I designed and published the Ccru zine Abstract Culture. Later on the Ccru became a different creature, and produced a whole cosmological mythos and occult system of divination combined with a set of weird theory-fictions. [long interview on this here: http://readthis.wtf/writing/towards-a-transcendental-deduction-of-jungle-interview-part-1/]

Since Urbanomic reprinted the Ccru Writings in 2017, Ccru has taken on retrospective significance as a cultural episode, and Ccru ideas and cryptic devices such as the Numogram have become widespread memes. But at the time it didn’t fit into any existing cultural or intellectual narrative, and for decades afterward it was totally forgotten. Ccru’s foresight has become apparent in an era when it seems self-evident that we have to think about cybernetic feedback loops together with media magick, addiction and demonology, technology and schizophrenia, and that things only make sense backward, from the future to the past.

Whats the weirdest thing happened during those years? I remember a shared sense of mission, a profound compulsion, that is difficult to explain, in which any practical ambition or strategic goal was absent. Undeniably, there were some cult-ish aspects to it. But on the other hand, it was just some people sitting in a room smoking, listening to jungle, talking about weird shit, and scribbling stuff down on paper, assembling cut-up texts, or making mixtapes and video collages.

One thing I take from Ccru is the importance of assembling microcultures and producing systems to disrupt reality. When a group of people agrees to talk about everything in terms of certain entities—a set of time-demons, for instance—if it ‘works’, those entities become real and the world appears in a different light, new connections are revealed, and a common culture emerges that has a consistent reality of its own. At certain points uncanny coincidences piled onto one another, like a confirmation from the universe that we were doing something ‘right’.

One other thing I learned was the importance of being truly experimental in your engagement with reality, to the point where you might well appear insane. Getting beyond pedestrian social control devices such as embarrassment, responsibility, and dignity. In this respect a particularly important episode was Nick Land’s performance of Katasonix when he lay in snake posture on the floor declaiming in his ‘demon voice’. [ http://readthis.wtf/writing/nick-land-an-experiment-in-inhumanism ]

If you were a character of a movie which one would you be? I experience films as a sensory assemblage that either produces a resonance within parts of me that are hard to reach, or doesn’t. I find it hard to think about them in terms of plot, or to ‘identify’ with characters. Maybe one of the female characters in Éric Rohmer’s films who are always in Hamletian suspension, writhing in the grip of some existential predicament.

What is the meaning of life for you as a human being? To follow what J.G. Ballard calls ‘deep assignments’—or as Joseph Conrad wrote, to ‘be loyal to the nightmare of my choice’. To tune into and yield to impulses whose nature is not yet clear and whose object does not yet exist—to commit myself to projects which I then can’t escape from—to invite in demons—to discover a problem, a field of tension and uncertainty, and pour energy into it to see how it might unfold—to allow something to produce itself through me.

Your favorite classic movie? My mind goes blank when I’m asked to pick just one, and I’m not sure what counts as ‘classic’ now. Terminator 2?

If the films of the past were made again in the present, would these be better or worse in your opinion? Undoubtedly worse. I’m actually in agreement with Martin Scorcese that, in a significant sense, a lot of the movies that are being made now simply aren’t cinema anymore. I’m open to the idea that maybe they are something else that I’m not yet able to appreciate. Whenever I encounter something that makes me feel too old, I make a concerted effort to immerse myself in it to try and engage. I’m sure even Avengers films have some cultural valence that is simply missed when you try to address them in the same register as Citizen Kane or Vertigo. That doesn’t stop me feeling sad about it, because there is so much power and so much to love in the art of cinema.

A part of this, I think, is that today films are not so specific to the cinema experience: they have to function on many different sizes and formats of screens. Watch two very different films, Tati’s Playtime and McTiernan’s Predator, and see how they both make use of a screen whose dimensions dwarf the human frame, and which the eye doesn’t take in all in one go, but can move across it and search it, and at times be overwhelmed.

Do you think that in human perception it is easier to kill some life forms than others, for example, an ant versus an elephant? If yes what do you think might be the motivation? A lot of it is based on the way that animals play into perceptual triggers such as faciality, cuteness, and so on, none of which can be trusted as if they provide a reliable moral compass. It’s also weirdly anthropocentric when people decide what to eat or not depending on their judgment of its intelligence: chicken but not pork, or pork but not octopus….Why is intelligence, which we impute to ourselves, the criterion?

On one hand, I think we need to develop, or rediscover, a tragic sensibility and acknowledge how absurd it is to develop fine moral distinctions on such things in the midst of the continuing holocaust of planetary devastation that is human civilization. On the other hand, I appreciate efficiency and innovation and I’m all for lab-grown meat, insect burgers, and freeing up all the space and energy taken up on the planet by cattle and using it for something more interesting.

What you cannot stand on people? Complacency. Insistence on a fixed identity. Compromise with power. Professionals who are being paid to think and write who are incapable of even formulating a sentence clearly.And Crocs.

Whats the thing that makes lose your patience the most? Academics, art people, small talk, compromise, and dinner parties. Often together.

Do you think Hegel was right to put music as art at a higher level, or do you think the figurative arts, especially at an emotional level, are on the same level? Is this based on the notion that music is somehow purer, less constrained, more concrete and non-representational? The idea that sound is somehow more mysterious, less cognitive and more immersive, both more immaterial but more immediate than other media, is still quite pervasive. Interestingly, with recent computer modelling trends driven by music comparison and delivery systems, we are becoming more and more able to speak about aspects of music that we would previously have regarded as ineffable. This trend converges with everyday critical discourse on social media about endless subgenres and their ‘vibe’, which produces a collective proliferation of new categories. In some of my projects with electroacoustic composer Florian Hecker we have explored these trends, in particular through the concept of ‘timbre’. For me the most exciting thing is that, because of their cultural blindness, AI-driven ‘synthetic listeners’ can identify musical qualities that we may recognise but for which we don’t yet have words. Take this negatively or positively, but the same goes for music as for anything else: we’ll probably learn about it and produce new forms of it in the same way that PornHub allows us to learn about and produce new forms of sexual desire: collective libidinal enthusiasm plus technological modelling, responsive delivery, and recommendation slippage.

So it’s maybe not a question of music being inherently superior, but a question of the availability of analytical tools, and the uneven development of our language and ability to articulate sonic phenomena because of the predominance of the visual in our cultures.

Can you give us a definition of art? To follow what J.G. Ballard calls ‘deep assignments’—or as Joseph Conrad wrote, to ‘be loyal to the nightmare of my choice’. To tune into and yield to impulses whose nature is not yet clear and whose object does not yet exist—to commit myself to projects which I then can’t escape from—to invite in demons—to discover a problem, a field of tension and uncertainty, and pour energy into it to see how it might unfold—to allow something to produce itself through me.

[nb. the repetition is intentional (art=life)]

Your favorite style icons? I am more of a believer in partial objects or what the Japanese call moé. I fixate on tiny details of geometry, colour, curve, attitude, or movement that are detachable from any one individual, and try to construct new patterns from them. My sense of style consists of a vaguely perceived diagram of abstract calibrations. Often, I notice a certain feature, garment, or colour combination on someone, and it enables me to give concrete expression to a part of that abstract diagram, so I steal it and add it to my inventory.

If you could speak in world vision for 15 minutes what would you say? ‘We’re doomed, let’s at least enjoy it,’ then play jungle tunes for 14 minutes and 10 seconds.

Do you think exist an objective aesthetic value or you think aesthetic value is just subjective? Generally speaking, subjects are not as idiosyncratic or individual as they think in their aesthetic ‘choices’, which are determined by broader cultural trends, historical precedents, and then by evolutionary cues, and so on. In a sense, there are objective aesthetic defaults that none of us, however ‘refined’, can evade. But they are the most boring and generic ones.

On the other hand, it takes time, energy, labour to become yourself, to drag out of yourself the attitudes that are genuinely singular to you. There are things which, objectively, no one else but you, as a subject, will feel or express in quite the same way. When someone is successful at being themselves, their aesthetic takes on the aspect of given fact—it just could not be otherwise—in the same way that a good pop song can seem to have descended from the very nature of things with utter inevitability.

If you could have a super power what would you choose? Not needing to sleep?

When, in your opinion, can you define a person as an artist? Networkers are not artists. A lot of art, and artists, are disappointing, because it’s obvious that very little is at stake. I fall in love with artists who are risking something, and who calmly and cheerfully labour away in the service of some unutterable compulsion.

Do you think that the relationship between art and drugs is just a cliché? As someone who has spent a lot of my life suffering from anxiety and depression, when I was young, drugs always felt threatening to my mental state rather than liberating, and so they never became an important part of my life. In cultural history there is undoubtedly a consistent correlation between the two, but that obviously doesn’t mean that taking drugs makes you interesting. I have been an unwilling participant in a great many conversations that prove this. Also, as all true philosophers know, you don’t need chemicals to get stoned.

Do you have any political orientation? Accelerationist. Which is really the opposite of politics. 

Who is in your opinion the best philosopher in history? The collective hive mind of twenty-first-century social media.

Who do you think is the best right now? There is no ‘right now’ in philosophy, because there is no superceding of the past in philosophy. At Urbanomic we try to not take an ‘editorial line’ or champion particular people, but instead publish a range of philosophical voices whose positions sketch out a map of the important tensions that run through the contemporary landscape.

And the most overrated? Too many to mention.

The most underestimated? Me, of course. Just you wait.

Do you think that believing in God and not believing in God start from the same presumption about something that in itself we have no possibility of knowing, thus reducing even atheism to an act of faith toward the unknown? I am very wary of the present resurgence of religion, Catholicism in particular, and I insist on the idea that atheism, and nihilism, are extraordinarily productive and exciting tasks that still lie ahead of us. That one would want to abandon the adventure at this point, to infer that the death of god makes no difference, or to say that every possible stance is ultimately religious, is anathema to me. I have seen, and I resist very strongly, the subtilisation that leads people from taking religion philosophically seriously, which is fine, to actually ending up sitting in church taking comfort in priestly authority and tradition. I persist in living, I convene with human and nonhuman entities, and I love, all without the need for faith or belief in a supreme being, and I believe, I experience, that atheism is possible, even though it is not easy.

If you could do a crime, or an action in general, without anyone ever knowing about it, what would you do? I have written about how, as a child, I was exposed to a lot of leftist anti-nuclear propaganda which always invoked the three-minute warning that would herald the arrival of the bomb and subsequent nuclear winter. I always got excited thinking about what you could do in those three minutes when nothing mattered any more. That was my introduction to nihilism, later compounded by my discovery of Nietzsche, the first philosopher I read seriously.

Today I try to cultivate desublimation, openness, and shamelessness to the extent that I do what I want and I don’t care who knows about it. When every three minutes is the last three minutes, you think less about secrets and more about joy. I commit all my crimes out in the open, that’s how I become invincible.

What work would you have wanted to do if you were not in your profession? My earliest ambitions were to make comics, to be a video game designer, and to be a graffiti artist. I finally fulfilled at least one of those, with the graphic novel Chronosis, [https://www.urbanomic.com/book/chronosis/] where some of my sketches were turned into beautiful pages by the artist Keith Tilford. I also often think I could have made a lot of money and retired by now if I’d gone into marketing. I spent quite a few years as a programmer, too, and although I wouldn’t like to do it professionally, to me coding is a very calming and satisfying activity.

In your opinion is there such a thing as unnatural? In the case in point, if you consider man as part of nature, is everything that emanates from it to be considered natural? If not, why do you not consider man as part of nature? This is probably one of the most vexed philosophical questions of all time, but I believe it’s conceptually sound to speak about the works of the human race as a deviation from the strictly causal material realm of nature. At the same time, as Nietzsche pointed out, it would be remarkable hubris to believe that all of these remarkable works could not be entirely reabsorbed, leaving no trace. It’s a question of the scale you see things on. I believe we live in the midst of a glorious unnatural efflorescence of supernormal extravagance, and I love it and relish every new synthesis ‘against nature’ (to quote J.-K. Huysmans). At the same time, I don’t think it’s easy to locate the exact point where intelligence untethers itself from natural causation.

If you could go back in time and kill a few whom would it be? Realistically, the effects would be unforeseeable, wouldn’t they, so any motive you might have for doing this would probably not work out. I’m just gonna say my grandfather, for the Terminator vibe.

Do you think man’s life has meaning? You have to make the meaning: follow ‘deep assignments’, etc. etc.

Can you tell us the most interesting anecdote concerning your eventual drug experience? The kind of geeky experiences a philosopher might report. On one occasion whole blocks of time passed without being perceived, and then I experienced those time periods being reconstructed and ordered so as to repair the continuity of my experience. Very Kantian. Another time, at a festival in Paris with Hecker and Aphex, I experienced my capacity for reflexivity slowly break down until there were just two pixels, then one, at which point I narrowly avoided plunging off a balcony.

The time you did drugs the most what did you take and in what doses? Nothing impressive. These days I’m into small amounts of mushrooms, it does wonders for anxiety and concentration. 

What do you think people say about you? I have no idea at all and I would rather not worry about it. I have generally been a very withdrawn person and preferred not to be perceived at all. People think a book is written and then it appears as a book, and nothing happens in-between. Unfortunately the publishing industry is in fact getting more like a sausage factory, but at Urbanomic the editorial input is substantial, and every book is thought about in relation to the whole, a bit like a record label. But editorial work tends to be invisible. In a sense it’s a classically female form of unseen labour. Ironically, Maya is far happier with being visible, but even less concerned with what people think.

Have you ever been in a fight? Only with ex-spouses, and I didn’t fight back.

Has anyone ever offered you sexual favors to work with you? If yes, can you tell us how it went? Not yet 🙁

Can you tell us when you think a person is cool and when is not? A person is cool when they put enthusiasm for projects with uncertain outcomes above what’s known. When a part of them is in contact with the knowledge that ultimately absolutely nothing has any meaning, but they are also full of cheer. When the barriers are down.

If you had to tell a person to fuck off, who would you choose? And why? I prefer to be hopeful and trust that people will eventually deal with their own inadequacies and stupidity, confronting them doesn’t help.

What is the night you spent the most money to have fun? I’ve never had money, and I don’t like going out.

Whats your favorite artist? I love the cerebral, the sensory, the minimal and the maximal, the subtle and the lairy, the intelligent and the stupid, so it changes depending on mood.

What is the best work you have ever done? I don’t think it’s for me to say. 

The one you are most proud of? Everything I’ve done both with Urbanomic and outside it forms a kind of ecosystem. It’s hard to tell where one thing begins and another ends. A lot of that involves making things happen for others, and I’m particularly proud of the books that I know probably wouldn’t have been published if it weren’t for my persistent pursuit of the authors. In general, I love the things that no one else would ever have made, and which came out of both a nonsensical compulsion and a dense stratal deposit of concepts, like the collaborative AGI Lego Box set I made with Reza Negarestani [https://www.urbanomic.com/event/unboxing-the-machines/], or the Hydroplutonic Kernow fault-map [https://www.urbanomic.com/event/hydroplutonic-kernow-fault-map/]. I’m also quite proud of the Numogram T-shirt. Right now my best project is Maya: the agent, patient, and product of ongoing research project on gender hyperstition and cute accelerationism. After all, if you like having a project but don’t like yourself, why not make yourself into a project, and project yourself somewhere you like?

The one that is most appreciated? I’m not sure ‘appreciated’ is the right word, but I brought the work of Nick Land into cultural circulation with the publication of the collection Fanged Noumena in 2011, and then revived the fortunes of Ccru with Writings in 2017. Both might have remained in total obscurity to this day otherwise, and they are consistently the most widely circulated Urbanomic publications.

Can you tell us a work someone else has done that you wish you could do too? That seems a really strange thing to think about, I can’t imagine!

Who is your best friend in the academic world? I’m not friends with the academic world, and if I have friends there, they are friends in spite of their being academics.

Is there anyone you don’t get along with? Not really, for the simple reason that I don’t spend time with a lot of people. I’m not very good at feigning interest, and I have some quite severe heuristics for judging people, but I feel like I’ve done quite well at not making enemies. I can only think of one person who has decided to make an enemy of me, and it’s not someone I need to engage with.

What is the thing you love the most about Venice? I did a project Our Sun with the Swiss artist Pamela Rosencranz in the Swiss Institute in Venice many years ago and she gave me a whole new way of seeing it in terms of its material elements. My vision of Venice since then has always been in terms of a sort of selection of readymade ‘artists materials’: light, water, reflection, skin. A kind of abstract material moodboard beneath which any reality has long ago disappeared.

And about Italy in general? I haven’t spent enough time in Italy to say anything much! We were in Rome last year with Editions Nero at CSOA Forte Prenestino which was an amazing environment. I had a good time vintage shopping at Humana. Rome seems like a somewhat sad place hemmed in by its past.

If you could choose what would you like to change about the UK? To reverse Brexit. Never mind any cultural or political questions of keeping a link with the EU. There have simply been no benefits to anyone, a huge waste of time, and a great deal of onerous problems for anyone running a small business and trying to mail anything to Europe.

Like many of its natives, I have an ambivalent relationship to the UK. I fully acknowledge it is a decaying remnant of a dead civilization, and a particularly drab, depressive one at that. And yet I retain a fierce kind of love for this country, and feel that it is far from irrelevant to the contemporary moment. It is instructive to live in the mess of an old country that has, since the nineteenth century, given itself over without compunction to the depredations of liberal, then neoliberal capital. The English have always known how to yield to capital, throw all tradition and dignity to the dogs, and accelerate with gleeful abandon. Sometimes it’s ugly, but it can be breathtakingly beautiful too. The inexhaustible energy of the UK music scene in particular is testament to that.

Where have you been on vacation when you were young? My father spoke Esperanto and we often went to visit fellow Esperantists in Europe, but some of my fondest memories are from the east coast of England. My audio essay By the North Sea is about the disappeared seaport of Dunwich, a weird place where Mark Fisher and I both holidayed as children, and to which we returned in 2001 to make a film project that was never completed. After Mark’s death in 2017 I went back to the project and remade it as an audio essay, which is going to be released as a CD on Hyperdub’s Flatlines label this year.

Where are you going on vacation now? I don’t remember the last time I went on vacation, too much work to do.

Do you think it would be correct to create a place where a man can live in the state of nature, making him free from a choice of social belonging that is instead taken for granted? Philosophy, particularly political philosophy, is full of thought experiments to do with starting from zero or returning to it. I have worked a lot on the question of the desert island narrative and the question of what happens to subjecthood when one is deprived of social contact.

One of the books we recently published is Gilles Grelet’s Theory of the Solitary Sailor. Gilles left Paris to go and live on his boat Théorème full time. He is almost always alone and hardly spends any time on land. I am full of admiration for this genuine philosophical life experiment, and of all living philosophers, I think he has the most insight into the question of whether the subject can be removed from the social world, and what it means to do so.

Favorite movies? Very random, I don’t have sophisticated tastes and have no sort of systematic education in cinema; I fall in love with films, forget them, then rediscover them all the time. I love all of Éric Rohmer’s and Jacques Tati’s work. And then Picnic at Hanging RockApocalypse Now, David Lean’s Great Expectations, Barry Lyndon, Desperately Seeking Susan, Terminator II, Heat, The Wicker Man…. And recently, Barbie (over Oppenheimer, by far).

Whats the topic you are most expert in? I’m not expert in anything, I’m a serial amateur enthusiast dilettante, which sometimes causes me pain and regret that I didn’t knuckle down, pay my dues, and specialise. But hopefully I have something different from ‘expertise’ to offer, something that specialists don’t have.

Have you ever been in love? I am very susceptible to crushes of various types, I’m always ready for overenthusiasm. But I’m in love right now in the complete and cosmic sense, in a way that I had previously not thought was possible. An irresistible demonic possession came from somewhere outside; its inevitability propagated itself backward in time. Both utterly contingent and eternally fated, unequivocally absolute but premised upon the precarity that time lends all things. Even if it ended tomorrow it will have been forever.

Where do you live? In Plymouth, in the southwest of the UK, by the sea.

Other cities where youve been living and how long? I spent many years in London, and it will always feel like one of my homes, but I’ve lived in the southwest of the UK for a couple of decades now and it suits me as a decompressed environment where I don’t feel under surveillance, get left alone, and don’t have too much to distract me from work.

Which languages do you speak? English, French but mostly only philosophical French. I keep trying to learn Japanese. And I can probably remember a bit of Esperanto. 

Favorite songs? Hannah Diamond’s.

The quality you would like to have and don’t have? Being able to sleep when I need to. Being able to resist buying clothes. Being capable of any concentrated scholarly work without getting distracted and sidetracked immediately. And I wish I’d started questioning my gender much earlier in my life and realised that it was possible to have joy in myself.

Have you ever been offered something in exchange for sex? Not yet 🙁

If you had the possibility to remove social networks from the world, would you delete them? Not at all. We need to be able to acknowledge that like all technology, they are both positive and negative. Personally, I can measure phases of my development in terms of social media networks I belonged to and what they allowed me to explore, reveal, and discover about myself. For me as I suspect for many, gender transition would have been unthinkable without social media as a way to communicate, to tentatively show myself, to share the joy. In that context, it acts as a reflective medium, and as a mechanism to cement commitment and to propagate into the social realm something that starts out deeply private, personal and vulnerable. When you’re tired of social media, you’re tired of life. We all get tired sometimes. But don’t act as if you can deny or counteract the most significant social phenomenon of the century. Take some time, relax, come back, post, and sparkle.

And what about globalization? One of the books we recently published, Japanese philosopher Hiroki Azuma’s Philosophy of the Tourist, suggests that the much-maligned figure of the tourist is an appropriate device to think about political philosophy today. We seem to be trapped between nineteenth-century imaginaries of the nation-state, national pride, belonging and particularity, which can give rise to new fascisms, and the abstraction and blandness of globalization, which is an irrevocable fact but which many thinkers address as if it’s a threat. We can learn from the tourist, Azuma suggests, how to move smoothly and without neurosis between the global and the local.

The craziest experience you’ve ever had? Ccru. Everyone who was there doesn’t know what happened, or if anything happened, or if they were even there.

What do you think about influencers? It’s a job, and I respect them when they do their job well, creatively and with good humour.   

Can you define yourself with an adjective? Soft.

Favorite TV series? I watch a lot of TV in the background while doing other things, and I’ll watch anything. Particularly crime drama—I watched a lot of CSI back in its heyday, it was an important ingredient in thinking about the concepts of site and plot. I’ve watched all of Seinfeld multiple times. And then obscure British archive stuff like Children of the Stones.

If you were an animal which one would you like to be? A lemur, for obvious reasons.

Approximately how many partners have you had in your life? Double figures but not impressive.

Your favorite position for sex? Bottom, F2F, and in love.

What time do you usually go to sleep? I have always suffered from insomnia, and, like everything in my life, no matter how much I try I can never quite manage to install any consistent system. It’s a curse.

Your favorite dish? Big Mac meal. Or Haribo.

Favorite fashion brand? I mix and match whatever I happen to find, and I love discovering new brands and trying new things. My most treasured items are one-off productions by the artist Hutamaki Wab.

How important is it for you to be rich from 1 to 10? I used to be sceptical about the somewhat romantic figure of the creative who cares more about their work than about making a survivable amount of money. Slowly I came to realise that that’s me. I don’t always enjoy it, but I try to affirm it. So 1, de facto.

And fame? I’m definitely not famous, and I really just want to be left alone, to get the work done, not be recognised or celebrated for it.

How important are fame and money to impress a partner? Important to some people I guess.

And what about beauty? Important, but 99% of beauty is simply when someone is really alive and takes joy in their existence.

And intelligence? Depends what you mean by intelligence. Some of the supposedly smartest people are totally insufferable to be around. It’s not what impresses me. If intelligent means creative, funny and surprising then yes.

Do you know someone being a real racist? I know a ‘hyperracist’…

What are the clothes you cant stand to see on a man and on a woman? Clothes have no gender. What’s important is to discover what works for you.

Whats the item of clothing you spent the most money on? Most of my clothes come from thrift stores and cheap places.

Can you tell us a number from 1 to 89? 3.

Do you think that if there were no hypothetical partners to impress, human beings would pursue success so spasmodically? I honestly don’t think any of my life choices have been dictated by reproductive strategies, but what do I know of my secret innermost drives?

What do you think about the cancel culture? I lived through times when Urbanomic was targeted by a small number of shrill voices that, seemingly, wanted to ‘cancel’ us or our authors. But I will never accept the implication that, as a publisher, I am somehow meant to be responsible for society’s wellbeing, and I refuse to respond to this kind of pressure. It was pretty stressful at the time, and I sensed the danger: a very small number of people can have undue influence, because risk-averse institutions will play safe by excluding figures who have had some vague reputation for being incorrect in some undefined way.

It now seems like it’s in the past, to be honest. I feel like that need to demonise and embody evil in a single figure and ‘disappear’ them is not so prominent now. In the end, the worst thing for me has been seeing certain people so enamoured with being cancelled that they have made it their identity, and now think they’re dangerous outlaws by repeating reactionary talking points. For those who still invoke it, ‘cancel culture’ is little more than a weak alibi for conservativism, conjuring up the spectre of an oppressive woke majority dictatorship and issuing dire warnings against it in the name of some kind of last-ditch compact to save ‘civilisation’. As far as I’m concerned, fuck civilisation and fuck responsibility, ‘Love, honor, and serve degeneracy wherever it surfaces’ (William Burroughs).

 If you could choose a person you know to read this interview, who would it be? I’m not sure—I don’t know why you asked me or why I enthusiastically answered so many of your questions. I suppose, In the best case, someone who will get in touch with me and become a friend, but whom I don’t know yet. Hi!