On Vanishing Land – To materialise

Hyperdub sub-label Flatlines to release Fisher and Barton’s Audio essay / sonic fiction

Mark Fisher & Justin Barton - On Vanishing Land
To be released on the 26th July

I’ve mentioned On Vanishing Land a few times, not least recently in the piece that began with Will Abberley’s BBC Radio 3 documentary about the eerie, which features excerpts from the 45 minute sound work.

Originally staged as an exhibition at the Showroom gallery in Edgeware, London in early 2013, Justin Barton and Mark Fisher arranged the sound work to be followed by silence during which a thirty minute slide show projection (co-produced with Andy Sharp) of images of Sussex and (in tandem with its section that takes in Picnic at Hanging Rock) Australia, these landscapes through which the piece weaves its deep and pulsing tale.

In reviewing the original work for ArtForum magazine, T.J. Demos said that it ‘hollowed out reality.’ I’m aware that for that review, Demos had two researchers, who spoke with and interviewed both the principles, and that he also listened to the pair’s earlier long-form sonic piece londonunderlondon, originally commissioned for Resonance FM a few years earlier. londonunderlondon probed the intensive worlds of that city’s formation, through its pasts, and their mutantly dreamed incursions to the present (Michael Moorcock’s passage on troglodytes still beneath the city springs to mind) through its present imagined excursions to the form of an intensive future at a warehouse party that lasts for days and becomes the transformed locus of the possibilities of reality for those present – following the freedom and flight which the party, with its music and dancing and outer edge habitants becomes. For Demos, it was an “archaeopsychic investigation of an imagined dreamscape.”

Demos’ review

But with On Vanishing Land, Justin and Mark followed a different strategy, the Otolith Collective (Kodwo Eshun and Anjalica Sagar) would co-commission, creating different events to launch and contextualise. While the piece itself was also different, this time instead of using mostly samples from pre-existing songs and albums, they recruited music by collaborative commission from musicians and producers whom they knew. The only proviso being that the piece would not have beats. At the same time, artist’s were given a kind of precis piece of writing, which ran through what some of the main co-ordinates would be, the way in which Sussex is a powerful, semi-wild landscape, populated with esoteric spirit junctions (MR James) eerie ambient forms (Eno) punctuated as a landscape with the untimely emptiness of pill boxes and the stories of its secret history as a womb for the creation of Radar.

Although I was involved in providing some music for the piece – a process not without tension when the contribution I had submitted early on was rejected near the end of editing as not quite fitting. I was fortunately able to provide two new pieces which I knew were among the best things I had been working on at the time.

The Track ‘Eva’ was one of those used in OVL

However, when the exhibition came I retained a kind of hesitancy. Although I had arranged to see it with two friends a couple of weeks before it was due to finish, I had not really spoken about it. While I hadn’t heard the finished piece and I had a genuine sense of excitement, there was also some low level trepidation, I think coming from the concern that it might not be as good as I hoped.

When I actually went in the room with the experience of listening, I became aware that it was both that it had a different kind of impact than listening I was habitually used to, but that also (especially with its picture show-silent element), in a quiet but persistent manner, it formed directions of thought and immanece that threaded deep terrains of the imagination and the visitation of the land. Some covert, some mysterious and re-found, others touching the air with quiet and impeccable timing as if for the first time together. Thoughts both of precise and subtle location, expressions of stories simply and explicitly potent. Woven in its own dream-like story of readings and soundings.

Justin and Mark had also produced some visual items for a companion display upstairs at the Showroom, including an annotated map of the locations that had given them their through these spaces. If any of those are around as images, i will try and post them.

After I’d been to see it, I encouraged as many people to go as possible, because I felt it had in some subtle way, changed me, opened something.

A dreamed path, here in the daylight of now.


I recall afterward there was talk for a while that it might come out on John Foxx’s label, although this didn’t materialise. Mark had said in a supporting interview which he and Justin had given to Robin MacKay of Urbanomic (in a piece called Outsights) that there was nothing intentional about it being an art exhibit, it was simply the route it had taken and for which, things could be configured where it would work in that context. It was also the case that the provision of music by commission in this instance cleared out any copyright issues, which had precluded that londonunderlondon might be easily releasable and meant that OVL could be relocated as a format and as a collection in its own terms.

As such, when I became aware that Hyperdub would release it following their one night re-exhibiting of it at an event in Elephant and Castle – it felt like a natural tie up and a chance for more people to come into contact with the kind of intensive material that Mark was always advocating and supporting, something that gives a different perspective on the preconceptions of our perceptual habits, both socio-structurally and that builds a plane of consistency around different forms of engaging with and creating new understandings in the cavities of the unreal.

If you can, give it support, let it see you and hear your silence.


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Press Release :

Hyperdub launch new sub-label Flatlines for the release of On Vanishing Land, an audio-essay by Justin Barton and the late Mark Fisher. On Vanishing Land evokes a walk along the Suffolk coastline in 2006, from Felixstowe container port (“a nerve ganglion of capitalism”) to the Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Sutton Hoo.

A walk under immense skies, through zones of deep time, and within sunlit, liminal terrains, into the eerie. Everywhere there are charged atmospheres, shadowy incursions, enigmatic departures. A derelict radar base, coastal heathland, drifting thistledown, towers of overgrown shipping containers – music haunted by wider levels of reality, narrations about rarely visited zones and potentials, voices of dreams and stories.

This music includes newly-composed tracks by John Foxx, Gazelle Twin, Baron Mordant, Raime, Pete Wiseman, Farmers of Vega, Skjolbrot, Eerie Anglia, Ekoplekz and Dolly Dolly. Alongside these are glimpsed views toward M.R.James’s ‘Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad’ (1904), Joan Lindsay’s ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ (1967), and Brian Eno’s ‘On Land’ (1982). Beyond the surface of the day something becomes visible, a way forward, an escape-path from capitalist reality.

On Vanishing Land is about following the lines of terrains and dreams. It is about a micropolitics of escape, of disappearance. A micropolitics of waking the faculties. On Vanishing Land was initially part of an exhibition commissioned by The Otolith Collective and The Showroom in London, and after ‘londonunderlondon’ (2005) it was the second audio-work collaboration by Justin Barton and Mark Fisher.

The LP cover features photos taken by Mark Fisher, and a short essay by Justin Barton. Pressed on 180g vinyl, in deluxe rigid board sleeve, with free mp3 download code.