‘You only have a lifetime to escape…’ Barton and Fisher in online exhibition – Infinite Distance

The release by Huperdub imprint Flat Lines of On Vanishing Land in 2019 marked a moment when the basic material of this extraordinary journey through sonic geo-connective intensities in sound and tale became routinely available. Giving the opportunity for the invaluable work in compositional re-attunement which Fisher and Barton had undertaken to disseminate that much further.

It is also significant because OVL is the opportunity to create a real space, an environment with an enlivened virtuality present, that summons the spaces of east Anglia and beyond to the ramparts of its storified trajectories as the birth place of radar, or the meeting place of the entities of M R James, or the dreamed sonic intersections of Brian Eno. These trajectories – connected intimately as they are with the land and specificity (including the sunlit-eerie of Picnic at Hanging Rock) are what is at stake with the work which Barton has now taken up in an online exhibition – from the original lines of thought and production that he and Fisher followed and assembled.

The online exhibition, originally intended to be site based at the Toronto Media Arts Centre (TMAC) in conjunction with the 2020 edition of the Images Festival, features a significant number of artists, but the continuation of Barton/Fisher here is what most propels, not least that it takes upon one of the most powerful aspects of OVL’s thread, the disappearance-in-story of four characters in Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (based on the Joan Lindsey novel) and extrapolates through a series of the most anomalous ‘disappearances’ and excursory-unkowns in literature. This has the feeling of something that assuredly needed to be with us, and here Barton has realised a thread of understanding through these most tantalising and profound ontological ‘outages’ in the continuum of story. It takes the form of a short book written for this exhibition ‘Outsights: Disappearances of Literature’.

Screen Cap

The exhibition features a re-tooled version of OVL which has experimental captions and sound description and plays for a limited window two days a week (details below). There is a trove of written work here, encompassing not just Outsights: Disappearances in Literature, but also a new translation by Barton of the exceptional short story by Pierrette Fleutiaux ‘The Story of the abyss and the Telescope’ (featured previously as part of ‘1874: Three Novellas, or “What Happened?” in Deleuze-Guattari’s ‘A Thousand Plateaus‘).

The degree to which work of Fisher’s is directly included in some of these pieces is difficult to say and yet what remains apparent is that this was a combinatory production alliance between the two men, whose friendship and intellectual journey had remained strong and subject to co-refinement and development. This work is in this respect being presented as a development from those conceptual roots laid out in the thinking of OVL. As with Fisher’s chapter-ending alighting upon Barton’s conceptualisation of ‘dreamings and stories’ in The Weird and the Eerie (the ‘Eerie Thanatos’ section of his last book) – the coordination of the direction of the pieces feel utterly like they are in sync with the work established through On Vanishing Land. In fact, one of the available works included is the text and overview of their earlier audio essay collaboration, (with original script directions) londonunderlondon.

There is also a short story by Barton called ‘Erdinet’ which presents a uniquely compelling take on a traditional Mongolian tale of nomadic life (Barton has travelled in Mongolia previously).

In fact, their partnership and elements of the story of making OVL itself inevitably appear here, as with ‘Strange Becomings’ a written piece that illicits an ontological question of transformation through the imagination while ‘Sunlit, overgrown, derelict: paths of escape, dreams of deterritorialisation’ takes the leaping-off point of their walks in East Anglia and an earlier iteration of the project as a fiction-space (which became a written project of Barton’s) while sharing with what OVL would become as a sonic-expository of the depth of real and fictional (virtual-real) terrains and anomalous tales of an augmentive engagement with these terrains emergent from the crafting of a ‘lens mythos’ — a mythos whose primary aim is to allow people to see the world more clearly.

You come to be in a mortifying structure that precedes you. You only have a lifetime to escape...’ was written by Fisher in this post from his K-Punk blog.


The collection of works in offering to the exhibition from Barton/Fisher are :

On Vanishing Land, 2013/2019/2021 Audio essay with experimental captions and sound description 45:00; available Saturdays from 1pm-5pm and 8pm-midnight; 2 min excerpt otherwise.

Outsights: Disappearances of Literature, 2021 Series of interlinked essays and related additional texts.

From Inifinite Distance:


Justin Barton (LONDON, UK) is a philosopher, writer and sound artist. He has published philosophical articles and is the author of Hidden Valleys: Haunted by the Future (2015). With Mark Fisher he made the audio-essays londonunderlondon (2005) and On Vanishing Land (2013).

Mark Fisher (1968-2017) was a writer, cultural theorist and philosopher. He achieved acclaim for his blogging as k-punk, and his books include Capitalist Realism (2009), Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (2014) and The Weird and the Eerie (2016).

Infinite Distance

Is an online exhibition presented in conjunction with the November release for Almanac for Refusal, the digital platform of transmediale festival 2021-22

Curator: Shani K Parsons, Primary Funder; Ontario Arts Council