S E A R C H ( wut r u lookng fr)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Kurtz-Gradient: Do Long Inpatient Hospital

"Look what it did to Kurtz, a special forces ultra-capital meat-machine hacked and cored-out by K-virus, touched by  a dark future, recycled through hell." 

- Cyberspace Anarchitecture

"Kurtz cauterizes his compassion, burns it out, argonizingly meticulous, becoming ever more methodical, efficient and relentless (on a cyberpositive slide). He explores hell." 

- Meat


As Robin Mackay and Ray Brassier point out in their introduction of Fanged Noumena, the 'Kurtz-Gradient' - a reference to Kurtz of Heart of Darkness / Apocalypse Now - is an important Landian concept, one that makes an appearance in the CCRU writings, and Land essays such as CybergothicNo FutureKataconix, etc. 

Kurtz-Gradient manifests in the most wild, haunted areas. From deep jungled Africa, to swamped-out Cambodia, to the sterile inpatient hospital. 


I've written on institutional mental health before - this current post will integrate previous posts with Kurtz.

In my DRM_ARCHATXTR.exe (Dream Architecture) blog  - a title that shares unintentional resonances with Land's Cyberspace Anarchitecture - I wrote about the surreal nature of the panopticonesque structure of the inpatient unit I sometimes visit for my day job; my point was that the architectural layout of the inpatient unit is already dream like, so when i dreamt of it one night, it was not distorted or exaggerated by the representation models of the dream process. That is, the inpatient unit is a certain kind of hellish nightmare.

In my Notes on Land's Notion of Capitalist Efficiency and the Process blog, I outlined how COVID19 accelerated mental health professional 'burnout' - a term for when when caretakers become physically and emotionally exhausted, lose patience with the populations they are supposed to care for, and begin to act out coldly or cruelly - which thereby leads to thoughts such as "Program would run better, smoother, more efficient, if it simply didn't have patients." In other words, a hospital could get more work done if it didn't have any patients to take care of. Paradoxically (which is how complex time or 'templexicity' works), the institutions designed to aid the repair of the human ultimately aids in the cold, zero-trending obsolescence of the human.


Similarly, as illustrated above via the pull-quotes, Kurtz gets more and more "burnt out," "cold," and "efficient" as he traverses a surreal architecture, a hellish geography; as he flaots down the river (Hades).

This has all been on my mind as of late because I've recently been tasked by my bosses with  visiting the inpatient unit more frequently (as opposed to the half-way house type environment I spend most of my time in) in order to 'supervise' and 'train' the staff on how to better help the patients (the staff has slipped into doing the bare minimum to help the patients). 

When I arrived at the inpatient and began asking about protocols, methods, chains of commands - how things really tend to go 'on shift' - I felt like Capt. Willard of Apocalypse Now.  As Willard follows the river further down, descends into the jungle of chaos, deeper and deeper into the warzone, he learns more and more how the chain of command has broken down, how authority has collapsed; no more generals, captains, colonels, whatevers, etc., giving orders, only a free for all of uncoordinated soldiers taking the war into their own hands. 

Willard: "Who's the command officer here"

Gunner: "Ain't you?"

Willard: "Hey soldier - do you know who's in command here?

Grenadier: "Yeah..."

Yes, in the inpatient I got a glimpse of how bad things had gotten, how chaos had overtaken order. The patients had intimated the staff to an extent that the staff no longer felt comfortable maintaining any kind of healthy boundary. As the adage goes, the lunatics were running the asylum. 

Mirroring the above scene, when I asked the staff who was in command, no one could tell me.


As many have pointed out, for Land, the Kurtz-Gradient is one of many materializations of schizophrenic collapse. Oedipal order - daddy and the family tree, commander the dog soliders who follow, etc. - fragmented into a collective free-for-all. The incest taboo broken. Do Long bridge.

To this effect, in the appropriately named Meat (Or How to Kill Oedipus in Cyberspace), Land writes

"With each telling of the story Kurtz becomes colder, darker, more inevitable, fatally anticipating K-virus catastrophe, as if a tendril of tomorrow were burrowing back. Whe he found among these African or Cambodian aboriginals...reports of military bestiality, butchery, carnage, head hunting, collecting ears, severing the vaccinated arms from children. The Kurtz-process masks itself in wolf-pelts of regression, as if returning to the repressed, discovering a lost truth, excavating the fossils of monsters" 

Africa jungle, Cambodia river - how about inpatient hospital? Reports of bestiality, butchery - how about taking off all clothes and flailing on the ground because someone asked you kindly not to throw food at other patients? 

Each time the Kurtz story is told it is compressed and microsized to fit the dimensions of your television screen. Now its squeezed inside the walls of an inpatient hospital.

5 / Postscript:

As I began writing this, I put on a film on Shudder "Adrenochrome" that, unbeknownst to me, is centered on drug induced psychotic collapse of rival soldiers in California. Right as I finish writing it I encounter a scene that references Colonel Kurtz. Sometimes things resonate oddly.