Iceland: Kukl

1980’s Iceland spawned anarcho post-punk like a monstrous tilberi. Frustrated by the mediocrity of encroaching global commercialism and its erosion of traditional culture, a new generation of starving artists stole out from under the petticoat of coddling conservatism in search of new buttery sustenance (to intentionally milk the tilberi analogy). It was “basically art terrorism, sabotaging what we thought was really snotty.”(Björk) The 1982 documentary Rokk í Reykjavík chronicles some of the fervor of that terrorism, when legend has it, noise band Bruni BB would behead a chicken only after abandoning plans to sacrifice a pig.

“Not to be outdone by casual fascism, performance art collective Bruni BB made use of their spot in Rokk í Reykjavík by guillotining a chicken with a paper cutter as strobe lights blink violently around them (preceded by a segment where a man uses Saran Wrap to secure bal- loons to his naked body and appears to cut off his own penis). Uni- formed authorities quickly descended upon Bruni BB, wading through the crowd as a loudspeaker played a strange combination of barking dogs and a pitch-shifting rendition of “Also sprach Zarathustra”; the cops ultimately liberated a pig Bruni BB had been hiding in a nearby bathroom. Members would not say what their plan was for that animal.” —Greene, Brave Punk World

In 1984, Björk and Einar Örn recorded as Kukl. Kúka, related to kúga in Old Norse, means to “bewitch” or “to be under a spell”. Their first album was The Eye (1984) inspired by Bataille’s infamous pornographic novella Histoire de l’oeil (1928). In Bataille’s novella, the metaphor of the eye transmutes from one smooth, globular object to the next as increasingly transgressive acts in the plot unfold. A saucer of milk, an egg, the gouged eyeball of a priest, a bull’s castrated testicles, the sun. Each trembles at the limit of bursting, an excess of energy precariously bound by permeable surfaces. Fluids exchange as the protagonists violate the boundaries of the other. A trickle of blood, tears of urine, the sky an immense chamber pot flooded with sunlight. The priest’s eye is folded into the body, but the dead eye sees nothing. There is no light or reason in the entrails of the labyrinth. All vision is Orphic, Dogon Egg, Ogdoad.

In ecstatic release, the solar excess that once animated discontinuous subjectivity empties back into the immanent flow of the sacred. Not into completeness, but complete loss, as lethal as it is intoxicating. The grandsons of Búri dismembered the giant Ymir to fashion the earth from its flesh in the yawning void. We are nothing but an orgy of chthonic fluids and cosmic waste impossibly suspended. Iceland, like the earth itself, is impossible; a volcanic island erupting in a vast cold sea. What’s left but to howl and whirl as we melt back into the silent embrace of the dark oceanic.

Let us get rid of the bomb.
We ask those who are versed in alchemy, cosmic orgone, Paraphysics, tesla, pshycotronics, ultra-relativity, twistor-application, G-strain energetics, zothyran physics, fourier trance formation, Psionics, bio-synthesis, fan shih, quantum-physicks, Tanmatra-transmission, para-vidya, eluthery, laelia-aelia, Gur-preparation, enantiodromy, lein-tan, pao-pu-tsu, chin-tan, Chandrakala, urheka and mega-mathematics to assist in the most supreme transmutation:
That of uranium and other radio-active metals into giving, not taking forces.”
— Kukl, Open The Window And Let The Spirit Fly Free

Seiðr (from “to bind” in Proto-Germanic) was the feared feminine aspect of Norse sorcery associated with Freyja, the vǫlva and the realm of the dead. Unlike Galdr, which involved intense linguistic and symbolic study, Seiðr drew on natural forces, intuition and dissolution of the ego through altered states and ritual performance. In an argument that would foreshadow the fate of the gods come Ragnarök, Odin and Loki accused each other of being ergi or argr (feminine or unmasculine) by engaging in the arts of Seiðr.

“But you once practiced Seidh and you beat on the drum as witches do.” —Larrington, The Poetic Edda

Kukl’s black sun aesthetic drew on the violent fringes of Norse myth, Icelandic folklore and European Surrealism. Björk’s otherworldy vocals, and opposite her, Örn’s bestial howls of mumbo jumbo (like a manic Antonin Artaud), soar over a cacophony of natural instrumentation, dissonant guitar and thrashing drums that David Tibet described as “a glacial world of confused emotion and shattered visions.” A sound that partook in Bataille’s scatalogical cosmology of bacchanalian revelry and expenditure, similar to how Mark Fisher (by way of Kodwo Eshun) would describe UK Jungle.

“It was the lure of the dark. [It] liberated the suppressed libido in the dystopian impulse, releasing and amplifying the jouissance that comes from anticipating the annihilation of all current certainties.” — Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life

Writing for Acéphale in 1937, Georges Caillois, inspired by Nietzsche, referred to the contagious, collectivizing and revitalizing forces of underground festival as “Dionysian Virtues”, virtue being that which “binds together.” Individuals forced to engage privately in antisocial activities suppressed by the status quo become further divided. Capitalism fragments and atomizes order to control. Taken the opportunity to celebrate as a collective, however, lay the emotional foundations on which to build those affiliations among the marginalized necessary for revolution and rebirth.

“Through the ugliness of mankind we try to shine. Against stupidity of mankind we try to fight.” —Kukl

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“The naughty nought is the source of all creative energy and is manifested through whirling cyclonic motion from the very shatters of matter to the spiraling galaxies. By contemplating the kinetic aspect of this naughtyality you gain your former potency as the master and creator without mutilating your fellow beings.” —Kukl

As a relatively illegible, avant-garde band with limited success, Kukl only made appearances on special occasions. While on a brief tour of festivals in Europe, they lived out of a van on food handouts. After a brief three-year existence, they disbanded citing financial challenges and diverging interests, including Björk’s pregnancy. For one of their final performances, Björk appeared dressed like a Norse völva with an exposed pregnant belly, provoking a wave of controversy.

During its short-lived existence, Kukl was resolutely anti-commercial, but like those countercultural projects before them, the transformative potential of “naughty negativity” - non-productive expenditure of heterogeneous libidinal energy - was captured by the machinery of capital and reduced to just another commodity for ritual consumption. The anguished joy of Kukl dissolved into the cauldron of capitalist sorcery like a (pardon me) sugar cube. Years later, in Björk’s video for Venus as a Boy (1993), after sensually running an egg over her skin reminiscent of a scene in Histoire de l’oeil, Bataille’s “eye” ends up in the fry pan. A fitting precursor to the coming solar apocalypse.

What Mark Fisher called “Capitalist Realism” was the refusal of a neoliberal individualism designed to suppress the Dionysian Virtues among those collective moments of refusal that envisioned alternative futures to the capitalist death wish of limitless growth and accumulation. In “unforgetting” Kukl’s black sun aesthetic, we enact “a counter-exorcism of the spectre of a world which could be free.”(Fisher, Capitalist Realism) To assist in “the most supreme transmutation”(Kukl) by meditating on the possibility of a world that could, like the sun, generously give without taking.

“Under the present conditions, everything conspires to obscure the basic movement that tends to restore wealth to its function, to gift-giving, to squandering without reciprocation.” — Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share

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