Visual Cultures tribute to Mark Fisher


Mark Fisher

For Mark from Visual Cultures

We are devastated by the loss of our dear friend, colleague and comrade Mark Fisher. He was intelligent, sensitive, funny, and, above all, generous and kind. With Mark the personal and theoretical were entwined and it is partly this – alongside his acute sense of the politics of everyday life – that marked him out as singular at Goldsmiths. His time in Visual Cultures was characterised by passion and commitment, especially to his students – and the way he would take on with a fierce energy what he perceived as injustices and inequities. Things mattered to him – everything had an urgency – and this communicated itself to those around him and, indeed, galvanised them.

Mark could see things with more clarity than most of us, see things further off but also see clearly where we are now. This was due to a sharp and penetrating intellect, but also because he felt things so deeply and was able to express things, again, with such clarity. He was also not scared of showing vulnerability. His first book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? contained his precise and caustic diagnosis of contemporary neoliberalism and, indeed, of the conditions he found himself in. Published in 2009, it has gone on to sell in excess of 10,000 copies. Indeed, it was Mark’s ability to communicate sometimes complex ideas with such apparent ease and with purchase on our contemporary moment, that gave him a readership well beyond the Academy. Ghosts of my Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, published in 2014, exhibits another characteristic of Mark’s work: a unique feel for contemporary art and culture and especially music. He was not a distant commentator, but wrote as a fan and as thoroughly immersed in the popular culture that excited him. His latest book, The Weird and the Eerie was published just two weeks ago.

This merely scratches the surface of Mark’s output and impact. From his involvement in the influential Cybernetic Culture Research Unit at Warwick University in the 1990s, to his highly influential blogging as K-Punk and, more recently, articles for publications such as Frieze and the Wire, Mark was both a public intellectual and a key cultural commentator. He was also a maker and collaborated with Justin Barton on various creative projects including the ‘sound-essay’ On Vanishing Land

In much of his work Mark was deeply committed to foregrounding the social and institutional causes of mental illness and, especially, in taking any diagnosis away from individual pathology. This is something we need to think about – and act on – as a Department and a College. 

But, of course, it is Mark as a friend, teacher and colleague that we will miss him most. It is a different Department without him and the loss is very difficult to bear. But he also made a very deep and lasting impression on all of us in Visual Cultures and the work we do here and, in that respect, he remains very much a presence. We feel privileged to have known him.

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Mark’s family, friends and all the many people he worked with and the many many more he affected so deeply. 

Simon O’Sullivan
Head of Department
Visual Cultures