“Could the only opposition to a culture dominated by what Jameson calls the ‘nostalgia mode’ be a kind of nostalgia for Modernism?” – Mark Fisher
- Having declared an end to History in its avowal to MAKE IT NEW, modernism “imagined itself to be beyond eschatology.” This is the argument Irmgard Emmelheinz puts forward in her essay on “Self-Destruction as Insurrection, or, How to Lift the Earth above All that has Died?” in which the Anthropocene acquires something of the status of a uniquely authentic insurrectional force in the wake of the discrediting of modernity & the institutional avantgarde, in both their political & aesthetic formulations. Emmelheinz’s Anthropocene is presented as an insurrectional force entirely alienated from the idea of the human, like a glitched after-image of Klee’s Angelus Novus as it retraces Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History” in icon, not as a truth that is “recognized &… never seen again,” but one which presents itself constantly without being grasped for what it is. Yet in doing so, this Anthropocene describes not a negation of modernism but its apotheosis. From its very beginnings, what characterizes modernism is a paradoxical nostalgia for the coming utopia of modernism itself: its own reification as the New World, conflated out of the kitsch of authenticity, the absolument moderne. The impulse of socalled postmodernism arises out of the desire to suspend this paradox in a dilated present, in which, as Emmelheinz says, “apocalypse” becomes “central to the neoliberal imaginary.” Such a suspended action is no mere sleight of hand, but a project – by which the dream of eschatology trans/forms itself into necessity by way of a certain Return of the Real. Emmelheinz characterizes this as the displacement of the “possibility of revolution” in its modernist utopian formulation, by the “intolerable” – that which can no longer be made anew in the image of modernity, since it is the very desolation of the image. “In this light,” she argues, “the actual legacy of modernism is not a horizon of worker-led emancipation but a biosphere on the brink of extinction… a world in ruins.” This much we can agree on.