Despite the focus on Verfremdungseffekts/Alienation-effects/A-Effects, Brecht maintains that this theatre must remain enjoyable, and transcend enjoyment, becoming ‘an instrument of instruction, and to convert certain amusement establishments into organs of mass communication…i.e. to emigrate from the realm of the merely enjoyable.’ Fan-being transcends enjoyment also, not into the realm of instruction, but into one of over-enjoyment, a sublimation that rejects capital’s curtailments that would prefer the labour of the fan to be directed toward more economically fruitful causes.

The strive to incorporate the will of the audience calls forward to Platt’s Quantum Fiction, also in the designation that each scene should operate as a play-within-a-play, similar to platts ‘quanta’, enabling random access. Benjamin likens this structure to the modern cinema in which ‘the audience should be able to ‘come in’ at any point, that complicated plot developments should be avoided and that each part…possess its own episodic value.’[1] As with the hyperfictions produced in Platt’s wake, I would argue that approaches dependent upon audience interactivity can only remain as novelty, where viewer responses invested with conviction are more likely to arise without invitation, as a result of uninterrupted immersive flows of enjoyment.

Brecht follows in the footsteps of Marx, for whom alienation was the force by which workers were separated from the products of their labour, the labour process, their fellow man and their species-being.[2] To Marx, alienation went hand-in-hand with commodity fetishism, with the products of capital akin to relics and idols formed in ‘the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life.’[3] The fan’s object of obsession (the fiction itself, but also the objects and products which it supports) is certainly a fetish, with many works of genre fiction taking on just such a mythical, transcendental dimension to their fans. However what is perhaps unique in the fan’s response to an alienating, transcendental object is their willingness to resist its orthodoxy, and read its alienations as an invitation to immersion.

This is the metric of alienated enjoyment that accelerationist thought seeks to enhance and exacerbate, in which capital does not care about its subjects or their opinion of it, in fact thriving upon the energy of resistant subjects, whose folk-political approaches are simply detournéed by capital into marketing strategies. To the accelerationist, such an inflation of alienation is not carried out that one might ‘turn society upside down’ in response, but that such an alienation might in itself be transformative, speeding passage through to an inevitable post-human future. It is that to which Sadie Plant and Nick Land refer when they state that ‘we are all foreigners now, no longer alienated but alien…If the schizoid children of modernity are alienated, it is not as survivors from a pastoral past, but as explorers of an impending post-humanity.’[4]

Somewhat less dystopian is the ‘politics for alienation’ of Laboria Cuboniks’ (LC) Xenofeminism, which seeks to seize ‘alienation as an impetus to generate new worlds…The construction of freedom involves not less but more alienation; alienation is the labour of freedom’s construction.’[5] Whilst LC distance themselves somewhat from the work of Marx, stating ‘Marx…ignored gender and the types of labour (specifically care and reproductive labour) associated with a binary gender structure to which females have historically been subject,’[6] their conception of alienation has something in common, particularly in the notion of alienation from one’s species-being and fellow humans. It is the relationship to alienation that varies, with LC rejecting an essentialist biological species-being and embracing artificiality and bio-hacking, enacted through the slogan ‘If nature is unjust, change nature!’[7] Where Marx sees alienation as the product of work, LC see freedom as the product of alienation.

Following Marx’s four modalities we can enumerate the ways in which the fan’s alienation from the indifferent franchise does not mitigate their immersion; the fan willingly alienates themself from the product of their labour, which is offered as a gift to the fictional universe, rejecting traditional notions of authorship or the demand for credit. While fan sociality might curtail alienation from one’s fellow man (at least virtually), the social bond comes second to that between the fan and their obsession. The fan might go so far as to feel more alike to the products of imagination than the reality of their human species-being, for example occupying the space of the franchise-object, not the author when they choose to write fan fiction.

In their nested, embedded position the fan can be at once immersed in alienations and alienated by immersion, an action via compulsion that echoes the CCRU’s claim to be ‘Alienated and Loving it.’[8] The intractable complication between multiple shared universe fictions and lived existence can never be fully grasped or mapped – a painfully enjoyable alienation in which the sheer speed and volume of cultural production is experienced as sublimated overload. Rather than the alienation-as-provocation of Brecht, we might try to find the political applications of works of art and culture that seek to accelerate such an overload. If the subject of contemporary techno-capital does not turn the world upside down in response to alienation, but rather seeks to make it the core of their subjectivity, the visual culture of such times must be implicated in a more fatal immersion, must fling the fan-being more fully into the river, enacting a form of cruelty that is pre-linguistic, gestural and utilises the unresolved residues of the surreal.

[1] Benjamin, Understanding Brecht, 6.

[2] Judy Cox, “An Introduction to Marx’s Theory of Alienation”, International Socialism, Issue 79, (July, 1988), accessed at http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/isj79/cox.htm.

[3] Judy Cox, “An Introduction to Marx’s Theory of Alienation.”

[4] Sadie Plant and Nick Land, Cyberpositive, accessed August 9, 2019 at http://www.sterneck.net/cyber/plant-land-cyber/.

[5] Laboria Cuboniks, “Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation,” accessed August 9, 2019 at

[6] Laboria Cuboniks, “Revisiting the future with Laboria Cuboniks | A conversation,” interview by Cornelia Sollfrank and Rachel Baker, Furtherfield, July 27, 2016, http://www.furtherfield.org/revisiting-the-future-with-laboria-cuboniks-a-conversation/.

[7] Laboria Cuboniks, “Xenofeminism.”

[8] CCRU, Swarmachines, accessed August 9, 2019 at https://web.archive.org/web/20130621022804/http://www.ccru.net/swarm1/1_swarm.htm.

Author: danielseankelly

I'm a practicing artist. This blog is for me to channel my ideas into writing, through short form essays.

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