Split bodies and fluid gender: the cutting edge of information technology--
(between scientific and artistic visions)________________________Claudia Reiche
'REPORT IMPOSSIBLE' would be the correct label for the following, for this session did only hold in some moments - from time to time - what its title suggested: to open up a constellation between artistic and scientific visions. With all considerations of representability these instantaneous constellations are NOT 'reportable', i.e. they can't be resumed. Nevertheless the single presentations had their specific and remarkable qualities and can be described - as discourses and as arguments. A detailed dis-cussion, necessary to work out the questions and refereneces of the contributions, did not take place.
'Instead' an anecdote can be told now, telling 'how' Claudia Reiche had chosen the title for her session. She said:" The title of this session is inspired by an advertisment of Northrop Grum-mann Corporation, showing a razors blade, corroded and notched on its right side, sharp and brilliant at its left. The question was posed to the potential consumers of this war factory:' Are your information technology solutions that were cutting edge yesterday outdated today?' But this advertisment illustrates the "cutting edge" of information technology in quite an outdated way with a steel blade - eternally gliding to the right, in the western manner of reading 'progress'. This 'cutting edge' must be a fugitive of its past, prisoner of the presence - self split and thus splitting the body of the future. A paradoxal presence cuts into its own rusty flesh penetrating into the next nanosecond of what will have been its future and already has become its past.
I think the same question on your 'information technology solution' should be posed to every cultural worker as we are. I imagine a woman out of breath to cope with the pace of 'Information Age', transforming every subject, she is trying to focus for a thorough analysis into a pile of data or a fetish of the past. She - blinded and blinding - will be able to know by her own experience, that the real'cutting ege' cuts into sight and knowledge itself, as did the razors blade in the 'chien andalou' into the eyes of millions of spectators as in the eye of a dead cow or a beautiful woman. The 'solutions' presented today may be called dis-solutions, 'information technology dissolutions', dissolving the steel of the corroded razor's blade into mere differences between data, into a fluidity of virtual times, spaces, bodies, images. Into different theoretic and artistic approaches of women towards the hype, the threat and the potential of "information technology' cutting into the roots of cultural tradition."
Bio(r)Evolution ®. On the Contemporary Military-Medical Complex
|a - discourse
The presentation of Claudia Reiche on the 'Bio(r)Evolution ® - On the Contemporary Military-Medical Complex' reported on three high-tech medical conferences the author attended since the last year. You can imagine the style of this presentation at its livliest, if you think of a scandalized high brow media theorist, having been spying locations where slogans like: "The future of medicine is bits and bytes, not blood and guts." are dominating the intellectual style - where real business meets real military interests and meets the leaders in the field of Virtual Reality de-velopments. (to be followed-up in the next generation of media-art). The result was a partially convincing strategy of combining detailed close-up perceptions of the concrete projects and their presentation with an economic analysis of the overlapping of military and high-tech industries in California. The complex multi-disciplinary approach emphazised the role of the new VR-image-worlds as promotional as well as new epistemological tools and dealt 'directly' with its visual examples. The paper did only allow in the concluding paragraphs a high-precision ana-lysis of exemplary discoursive (visual and verbal) micro-structures, sharpening deferredly the elements of this 'report' into the potential of a critical weapon.
b - argument
The 'Military-Medical Complex' is to be found in the specific community of interests, of the downsized military in California and the fund-searching academia and companies for Virtual Reality-, and Biotechnology- applications. The reduced federal funding for research in the US is intended to be countered by accelerating technology transfer, especially from the Defense Industry to the Commercial Industry. One result of the re-inforced military and civilian medical high-tech partnerships and "dual use" is a modeling of the civilian medical future as a digitized, wired, controlled data-stream production and manag-ment. "Healing with information" can signify in this envisioned future for instance telepresence surgery or medical surveillance of persons via wearable computers. With the exemple of the Visible Human Project of the National Library of Medicine (US) a scientific novelty and popular project to promote this infor-mational future of medicine is found. As a data acquisition of "a complete normal adult, male and female" photographed cros-sections of frozen cadavers are giving the "Image of your future" according to Richard M. Satava. For sooner or later your personalized hologram, based on the work with the Visible Human-data will be loaded on a credit-card type of an electronic medical record and examined by your telemedicine-doctor. As repugnant in the presentation of Satava appeared the recurring identifications and confusions of the living and the 'infor-mational' human, both conceived as a sort of interactive, 'living picture'. Concerning the question of gender in this data-world, a significant difference can be noticed: predominant is the male anatomy, especially in the countless scenarios of wounded vir-tual soldiers on the 'battlefields of the future'. Even if female bodies appear (rarely), they and the question of a different representation are more effectively eliminated as a pure difference of data.
The Cyberflaneuse - Create or Kill?
|a - discourse
The presentation had the enormous advantage and gift to present a real question of the author. It was a question of strategy: Maren Hartmann considered whether the invention of a "Cyberflaneuse" as a theoretical metaphor for a desirable rapport and treatment with the new media-world would be a worthwhile undertaking. The double-strategy of on the one hand searching for historic 19th century models of the flaneuse and on the other hand constructing a contemporary transfer to a possible "cyberflaneuse-concept" for the cyberspace was driven to its produktive paradoxes and analyzed in the following discussion. An answer was not found, but sceptical voices questioned the underlying presupposition of the cyberspace as a sort of urban space.
Others pointed out, that a solution could be found in strenghthening the idea of a creation/ construction of the in any cvase artificial, not historical 'Cyberflaneuse'. This way of 'flanerie' in media theories and politics themselves could be a way to find out which qualities will have been inspiring the idea that a modified flaneur could be a critical and feminine online-metaphor.
But what about the "flaneuse" in the 19th century? Women do not seem to have been good flaneurs, though there are traces to be found that some of the very cool parisian flaneurs might have been disguised women. That's another case. But female strollers in the 19th century streets did the full job of prostitution or may have been in the luckier circumstances of at least a minimal distance to their potential male customers in the streets: as so called 'grisettes', contracting with a man for a certain period of time. A female historical model for a 'cyberflaneuse' seems to be very limited. So: how to create a new model of a cyberflaneuse to work out the cultural space of cyberspace for women?
Helene von Oldenburg
SpiderBug, Browsing the brain
|a - discourse
On the operational field this presentation was a real shocker. Textual and pictural tools used by Helene von Oldenburg - a confidence inspiring, 'neutral' performer - seemed to have been borrowed from the worst case scenario of a totalitarian futuristic science. Placing herself in the center of unquestioned knowledge she told her audience of an ongoing and omnipresent process, the activities of SpiderBug in each and every brain, secret ruler of the world. "SpiderBug is not a biological virus. And it is not a computer bug. But it is partly biological, partly image. Spider-Bug is a Cy-mage." As Spiderbug is characterized in these words, those have been the principles of the presentation: partly image, partly biologically inspired tricky reasoning. In the sur-prised discussion and conversational questioning of the pre-sentation the need was felt to ask for a cyberfeminist attitude towards this all embracing, inevitable SpiderBug. The sardonic answer was the rise of an eye-brow and the question: " Why do you think there is an attitude possible towards SpiderBug?"
b - argument
One does not know how a SpiderBug, the 'Cy-mage', looks like. 3 different forms could be isolated and maybe they are parts of the Cy-mage. The isolation of the SpiderBug has to take place in the intact brain not in a petri dish, for SpiderBug dissolves outside lively brain activity. One of the isolated parts is related to the right and one to the left side of our brain. Up to now the third part we don't know to place. We don't know if it is located in the cerebellum. The symbol for SpiderBug is /xx/. /xx/ is also the chinese sign for web and net. This hint forms the link (or should
one already say, the knot?) to even a more complex embedding conspiracy theory. It's about an arachnoidic spiecies , related to contemporary spiders, determining our future. Signs of their activity can be perceived in almost every human activity, which has to do with networking, threads, electronic webs, clothing, hunting strategies, etc. Finding its most popular realisation today in the WWW. "Cyberfeminism is the update of feminism. It defines a new stage of feminism with a markedly higher arachnoidic potential. For the first time, feminism openly embraces its net-dependency and outs itself as an arachnoidic movement. The gradual takeover of cultural dominance through arachnoidics is supported by biological, technical and psychical dispositions and constellations that often bear a female context. As a transition into a net-conscious existence, cyberfeminism offers a site and a practice."
Pixel by Image: A fantastic voyage to 'Dandy Dust'
(Film by Hans Scheirl, 1998)
|a - discourse
Intended to form a strain constellation with the image-politics of the "Military-Medical Complex", the film "Dandy Dust" was presented as an "adaequate answer" on the cultural plane. Implicit in this assertion is the insinuation that in the context of the session 'Split bodies and fluid gender: the cutting edge of information technology" the contributions on the Cyberflaneuse or the SpiderBug can be read as such answers as well. A visual comparison between a short propaganda film by the Department of Defense on telepresence surgery on the battlefield and the introduduction sequence of "Dandy Dust" outlined the striking parallels of the pictorial subjects and the complete contrast in visual orientation and intention. To introduce "Dandy Dust" as a film that crossbreeds a multitude of filmic discourses, quotes and distorts cinematographic history, the principle of visual comparisons was pertained, furthermore with the sequences of the films "Fantastic Voyage' and 'Johnny Mnemonic'.
An experimental film-reading was launched with the far reaching interpretation of some key-sequences of "Dandy Dust" - as visualization of the transition of the old cultural forms to the unifying format and new possibilities of the digital medium. The idea was that Scheirl uses the filmstrip technically and essentially as a strange sort of 'cyberspace'.That is the medial, unifying platform of a space situated as inside as outside: overturned like a used glove or a tunnel-simulation penetrating into the depth of the virtual at the border of a crt-screen. 'Dandy Dust' was claimed by Reiche as an eloquent filmic incorporation of the imaginary shifts of what identity, body, gender or even a narrative could be in 'information age'. Quite a typical description would have been:"Time, space, gender, person (alive or dead) - these are not easy ...to distinguish, as soon as one dives into the riskily swarming and flitting image-stacks of 'Dandy Dust'. How should one: as a shrill green sign-post named 'cyberspace' shows imagination the way - pushing it into the chanels of what will have been its own particular unimaginable 'novelty'. Yet the means are certainly experienced and exquisitely cinematographic ones: "The Special Effect is the Cyborg's true Nature!" as we are told by the 'director's notes'. Good. Cut. Splash. Flow. Go. Out. Touch. Screen!"
Dandy Dust, (Screening of the film)
Dandy Dust, UK/Austria 1998, 94 minutes, 16mm, coour, optical sound, written, directed and edited by Hans Scheirl
Cast and crew:
Hans Scheirl(Dandy Dust)
Suzie Krueger (Cyniborg)
Leonora Rogers-Wright (The Twins Mao & Lisa)
Svar Simpson (Spidercuntboy)
Del LaGrace Volcano
Special Guest Star: Angela de Castro (Theodora)
Jana Cipriani: Director of cinematography, Digital animations
Nigel Reed: Miniature-model, F/X cinematography, lighting
Amory Peart (Production, Costume design)
Jewels Barker (Sound design)
Yossarian, Emma EJ Doubell, Bent (Music)
from Hans Scheirl's synopsis (short and long):
"S Y N O P S I S : A SPLIT-PERSONALITY CYBORG OF FLUID GENDER ZOOMS THROUGH TIME TO COLLECT H-SELVES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST A GENEALOGI-CALLY OBSESSED FAMILY.
Dust crashlands on the cybernetic planet of 3075. H- Memory Disc is taken out by the scientists: the twins, who have grown the planet through parthenogenetic conception. Dust becomes a natural member of 3075's chemo-sexual structure. Strange Creatures start to haunt -h-: Dandy, a former self, inhabitant of the planet of blood & swelling; supermother cyniborg, obsessed with reproducing a corroded clan inside the flying family-crypt the Mothership; father SIr Sidore, a repressed 18th century aristrocrat, a dusty mummy & the mysterious twins. In order to ward off the zombie family, Dust is forced to re-member: go back in time to collect -h- lost selves which are stuck in different time-spaces. But the effort to become one (Dandy Dust!!) bears dangers........OF MEGALOMANIAC MULTITUDE!!!"
"Cruel wars are raging through the centuries on the Planet of White Dust. Supermother Cyniborg lands with her space-ship the Mothership onto the corpse-strewn planet: she is searching for missing relatives and suitable body-parts. The Twins are on her side doing the dirty work."
"A winged coffin forces itself through the urinary system of 3075 into the bladder. A dusty bandaged figure steps out: the Mummy.S/HIT claims to be Dust's better half: only their unification would bring back the lost memories Dust needs to fight the crazed family. This sounds to Dust like old fashioned love-crap. In a violent argument Dust destroys the Mummy who turns out to be a hollow shell of bandages filled with special-effect bags: tears, blood, piss, sweat. Dust throws the left-overs onto exposed cables which ignite a flame that rises above the planet: The Flame is born!" "The Mothership explodes, DandyDust is madder than ever and the Twins have been HAPPILY DANCING on 3075 ever since!!"