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  • Director, Centre for Critical & Cultural Theory, UALK
  • Philosophy Faculty, Charles University

HOLY MOTORS (dir. Leos Carax, 2012)

  • From the self-animated spirit to the “god machine”: actor, alienation, obsolescence
  • 1. Theatre of experience
  • 2. Theatre of alienation
  • 3. Theatre of auto-obsolescence

RE-EVOLUTION (2001: A Space Odyssey, dir. Standley Kubrik, 1968)

Heuristic ALgorithmic

  • In Arthur C. Clark and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), HAL—a highly advanced “artificial intelligence”—murders the human crew of a spaceship on a mission to Jupiter, a mission somehow linked to the discovery, on the Earth’s moon, of a form of cosmic (and only nominally artificial) intelligence—advanced beyond human understanding—in the shape of a black monolith heralding a form of a “cosmic” evolutionary event.
  • In 2010: The Odyssey Continues, humanity is restricted to bearing witness to the emergence of a higher form of intelligence in its very midst; an intelligence that pre-comprehends humanity’s future.
  • In 2001 computer scientists like Marvin Minsky & Murray Campbell argued that the technology of constructing a HAL 9000 computer remained “science fiction” due to the lack of understanding of what constitutes general intelligence.” This is increasingly no longer the case.


  • Wintermute
  • AI self-evolution = informational critical mass & complexity spontaneously giving rise to autonomous actions
  • (Neuromancer, 1984)
  • AI Evolution = Human De-evolution
  • (Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 2015)


  • 1997: IBM's super computer Deep Blue defeated reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov
  • The “human challenge”:
  • Technology (prosthesis / substitute)
  • Extension of drive / Negation of drive
  • From utility (techne) to excess (poiesis):
  • from “thinking” machines to “creative” machines: the ends of humanism
  • from “decentred” to “delegated” ego:
  • consciousness, language, technology, art, politics (of “representation”)
  • from the extension of capability to the replacement of capability

Pharmakon / Prosthesis at the Origin

  • Plato, Phaedrus: writing as mnemotechnic (prosthesis of memory), a cure for forgetfulness… vs. writing as instrument of forgetfulness, as well as untruth, non-knowledge, etc., in contrast to speech…
  • The autonomy of writing vs speech: the prosthesis of consciousness that threatens to “do away with us.”
  • Phaedrus = Genesis redux:
  • from logos (living speech, the “word-spirit”) to graphe (writing as errent trait or “automaton”): the birth of alienation, the symbolic order, interpassivity…

The Optical Unconscious Analytic Machine Aesthetics

  • Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, 1911.
  • Eliot Elisofon, Marcel Duchamp Descends Staircase, 1952.


  • Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen on 8 November 1895, produced & detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range known as X-rays
  • Samuel Morse, Telegraph (1832)


  • Chicago meat cannery 1878
  • Childworker, replacing bobbins in a textile mill
  • Muybridge, Descending a Staircase 1884
  • Etienne Marey, Motion Study 2, 1878


  • Frank & Lillian Gilbreth, Motion Studies, 1890s

From “Mirror Stage” to “Materialist definition of consciousness” (Jacques Lacan, 1949; 1954)

  • “What gives consciousness its seeming primordial character?”
  • “If there is consciousness of something it cannot be, we are told, that this consciousness does not, itself, grasp itself as such. Nothing can be experienced without the subject being able to be aware of himself within this experience in a kind of immediate reflection”
  • “I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think.”
  • “the symbolic world is the world of the machine”
  • “in as much as he is committed to a play of symbols, to a symbolic world … man is a decentred subject”

Ego in the Mirror

  • “Once again we’re dealing with a mirror.
  • “What is left in the mirror? The rays which return to the mirror make us locate in an imaginary space the object which moreover is somewhere in reality. The real object isn’t the object that you see in the mirror. So here there’s a phenomenon of consciousness as such. That at any rate is what I would like you to accept, so that I can tell you a little apologue to aid your reflection.
  • “Suppose all men have disappeared from the world. I say men on account of the high value which you attribute to consciousness. That is already enough to raise the question—What is left in the mirror? But let us take it to the point of supposing that all living beings have disappeared. There are only waterfalls and springs left—lightning and thunder too. The image in the mirror, the image in the lake—do they still exist?”
  • Camera as prosthesis of “reflection” (cogitare me cogitare): the “gaze” of the other, of the symbolic operation of consciousness vis-à-vis the “mirror stage” … *Like the old Soviet joke, “mirror sees you.”

“Computing Machinery & Intelligence” (Alan Turing, 1950)

  • “What would it mean if machines could think?” (Turing)
  • “If a lion could speak we would not understand it” (Wittgenstein)
  • In a well-known article entitled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (1950), Turing considered the question of what it would mean for a machine to be intelligent in terms of the human-machine problem.
  • “I propose,” wrote Turing, “to consider the question ‘Can machines think?’” But this reconsideration, Turing explained, “should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms ‘machine’ and ‘think.’”

Imitation Game

  • In order to arrive at such definitions, Turing proposed what he termed “the imitation game,” otherwise known as the Turing test, which sets out criteria for determining if a computer programme may be perceived as having “intelligence.”
  • If a computer, on the basis of its written replies to questions, could not be distinguished from a human respondent, then ‘fair play’ would oblige one to say that it must be thinking.”
  • In other words, according to Turing’s proposition, a computer-respondent is “intelligent” if the human subject is able to be convinced that its respondent is, like the interrogator, also a human being, and not a machine.
  • “The original question, ‘Can machines think?’ I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.”

“Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?” (Turing)

  • “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?” (Turing)
  • Are there humans who would not do well at the imitation game? What is the relationship between the “performance of intelligence,” “empathy,” and “affect”? Where lie the limits of simulation?

Voigt-Kampf Test (Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott, 1982)

Deckard: You’re reading a magazine. You come across a full-page nude photo of a girl…

  • Deckard: You’re reading a magazine. You come across a full-page nude photo of a girl…
  • Rachel: Is this to test whether I’m a Replicant or a lesbian, Mr Deckard?

Electronic Brains

  • The field of “artificial intelligence” (AI), founded at the Dartmouth conference in 1956 by Claude Shannon, Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy and others, derives from the hypothesis of “machine intelligence” conceived of by Turing as a type of binary calculator in the 1930s and whose design logic underlay the prototype of one of the first “actual” computers — the ACE, or Automatic Computing Engine (Turing’s “electronic brain”) — built at the National Physics Laboratory in London shortly after World War Two.
  • The “ACE”
  • The Bletchley Park COLLOSUS, 1944

From “agency” to “obsolescence”: defining “Interpassivity

  • Slavoj Žižek, “Cyberspace, or, How to Traverse the Fantasy in the Age of the Retreat of the Big Other” (1998)
  • Interpassivity as prosthesis of experience
  • = the uncanny situation in which one is “active” while transposing onto the Other the unbearable passivity of one’s Being.
  • The active state of the dreamer (the dreamer “dreams,” but responsibility for the dream, its direction etc., belongs elsewhere: it appears to be the work of an Other who has constructed it for us and understands its meaning)
  • Interpassivity therefore masks the reality that it is only ever the other who experiences (there is no act of delegation);
  • just as the “subject” is in reality a prosthesis of the Other (of the “Other’s desire”)

Experience as fundamental fantasy

  • from “the Other does it for me, instead of me, in my place” to “I myself am doing it through the Other”
  • “There is in fact no active free agent without this fantastic support, without this Other Scene in which he or she is totally manipulated by the Other.”
  • It is therefore not the REAL but rather the fundamental FANTASY that represents the inaccessible domain of experience…
  • The subject as “subjection to the signifier” is therefore an expression of the Other’s “discourse”: the assumption of agency corresponds to the assumption of a signifier (which is to say, of differing-deferral around a generalised locus of “signification”)
  • “I can BELIEVE through the Other, but I cannot KNOW through the Other”
  • (the analogical dilemma?)


  • The word television comes from Ancient Greek τῆλε (tèle), meaning "far", and Latin visio, meaning "sight"
  • Pope Pius XII designated mid-13th century St Clare patron saint of television in 1958 (on the basis that once when she was too ill to attend Mass, she reportedly saw & heard it on the wall of her room)
  • John Logie Baird January 26th, 1926, demonstrates a viable television system

In 1927, Baird transmitted a signal over 438 miles (705 km) of telephone line between London and Glasgow.

  • In 1927, Baird transmitted a signal over 438 miles (705 km) of telephone line between London and Glasgow.
  • In 1928, Baird's company (Baird Television Development Company/Cinema Television) broadcast the first transatlantic television signal, between London and New York, and the first shore-to-ship transmission.

Brainstorm (1984)


  • Virtual Reality (VR), sometimes referred to as immersive multimedia, is a computer-simulated environment that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds. Virtual reality can recreate sensory experiences, which include virtual taste, sight, smell, sound, and touch.
  • Brainstorm, 1981
  • The uses of mental prostheses:
  • Sex, Power, Knowledge, Perversion


  • In his 1981 essay, ‘Simulacra and Simulations,’ Jean Baudrillard outlines the following successive phases of the “image”:
  • 1. it is the reflection of a basic reality
  • 2. it masks and perverts a basic reality
  • 3. it masks the absence of a basic reality
  • 4. it bears no relation to any basic reality whatsoever:
  • it is its own pure simulacrum.
  • This is what Baudrillard terms the ‘hyperreal.’ In a media-saturated age, the ‘media event’ constitutes its own reality, which is all-pervasive. There is no escape from this ‘desert of the real.’

Society of the Spectacle Guy Debord (1967)

  • The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation. (§1)
  • The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images. (§4)
  • The spectacle cannot be understood as an abuse of the world of vision, as a product of the techniques of mass dissemination of images. It is, rather, a Weltanschauung which has become actual, materially translated. It is a world vision which has become objectified. (§5)
  • The spectacle presents itself as something enormously positive, indisputable and inaccessible. It says nothing more than “that which appears is good, that which is good appears.” The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly of appearance. (§12)
  • Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behaviour… (§18)
  • The spectacle is the existing order’s uninterrupted discourse about itself, its laudatory monologue. It is the self-portrait of power in the epoch of its totalitarian management of the conditions of existence… (§24)


  • Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle… The modern spectacle… expresses what society can do, but in this expression the permitted is absolutely opposed to the possible. (§24)
  • The economic system founded on isolation is a circular production of isolation. The technology is based on isolation, and the technical process isolates in turn. From the automobile to television, all the goods selected by the spectacular system are also its weapons for a constant reinforcement of the conditions of isolation of “lonely crowds.” The spectacle constantly rediscovers its own assumptions more concretely. (§28)
  • The worker does not produce himself; he produces an independent power. The success of this production, its abundance, returns to the producer as an abundance of dispossession. All the time and space of his world become foreign to him with the accumulation of his alienated products. The spectacle is the map of this new world, a map which exactly covers its territory. The very powers which escaped us show themselves to us in all their force. (§31)
  • The spectacle within society corresponds to a concrete manufacture of alienation. (§32)
  • Separated from his product, man himself produces all the details of his world with ever increasing power, and thus finds himself ever more separated from his world. The more his life is now his product, the more he is separated from his life. (§33)
  • The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image. (§34)


  • “mass consensual hallucination”
  • “a graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”
  • William Gibson, NEUROMANCER [1984]


  • One of the key concepts introduced in Neuromancer is the microsoft, a small piece of electronics inserted into a socket connected to the brain.
  • “Her destination was one of the dubious software rental complexes that lined Memory Lane... The clientele were young, few of them out of their teens. They all seemed to have carbon sockets planted behind the left ear, but she didn't focus on them. The counters that fronted the booths displayed hundreds of slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon mounted under oblong transparent bubbles on squares of white cardboard ... Behind [one] counter a boy with a shaven head stared vacantly into space, a dozen spikes of microsoft protruding from the socket behind his ear.”
  • BrainGate is a brain implant system built by Cyberkinetics, designed to help those who have lost control of their limbs, or other bodily functions, from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or spinal cord injury.


  • A time-space machine
  • The architecture of an idea
  • A weightless paradigm
  • An ideological apparatus
  • A GOD machine


An architectural figure that "incorporates a tower central to an annular building that is divided into cells, each cell extending the entire thickness of the building to allow inner and outer windows. The occupants of the cells . . . are thus backlit, isolated from one another by walls, and subject to scrutiny both collectively and individually by an observer in the tower who remains unseen."

  • An architectural figure that "incorporates a tower central to an annular building that is divided into cells, each cell extending the entire thickness of the building to allow inner and outer windows. The occupants of the cells . . . are thus backlit, isolated from one another by walls, and subject to scrutiny both collectively and individually by an observer in the tower who remains unseen."
  • Foucault, Discipline & Punish


  • According to Foucault, the new visibility or surveillance afforded by the Panopticon was of two types: The synoptic and the analytic. The Panopticon, in other words, was designed to ensure a “surveillance which would be both global and individualizing” – just as it represented a system of power that is everywhere visible but nowhere verifiable.


  • The PANOPTICON was not so much envisaged as a kind of building, but as a machine – a conceptual machine – capable of manufacturing “consciousness” – a prototypical ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
  • Anticipating DARWIN’s (and later FREUD’s) homeostatic notions of environmental “self-regulation,” Bentham’s PANOTICON points to a strictly “materialist” idea of “consciousness” & behaviour.


  • The PANOPTICON operates on the basis of an “asymmetry of seeing-without-being-seen.” It’s architecture is designed in such a way as to constitute the supervising awareness of this operation. It is nothing short of a kind of SUPER-EGO whose role is to implant itself in its subject and thus both modify & produce the subject’s “own” consciousness.


  • Architectures for a mechanistic universe: Etienne Boullee, Project for a Cenotaph for Newton, 1784


  • Between 1933 and 1936 the most extensive television complex in Europe was located beneath the main concourse at the Crystal Palace in London, instigated by Baird, incl. high definition television broadcast transmitters, receivers, cathode ray tubes, microwave relay systems, photocells, magnetrons and telecine equipment

Paxton, 1851

  • The Crystal Palace was a cast-iron & plate-glass building originally erected in Hyde Park, London, England, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the Palace's 990,000 square feet (92,000 m2) of exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution.
  • Designed by Joseph Paxton, it was 1,851 feet (564 m) long, with an interior height of 128 feet (39 m). Because of the recent invention of the cast plate glass method in 1848, which allowed for large sheets of cheap but strong glass, it was at the time the largest amount of glass ever seen in a building & astonished visitors with its clear walls & ceilings that did not require interior lights, thus a "Crystal Palace".

Galerie des machines (1889-1910)

  • A pavilion built for the Exposition Universelle in Paris, designed by Victor Contamin; made of iron, steel & glass, it was by far the largest vaulted building to have yet been built.
  • The Galerie des machines formed a huge glass and metal hall with an area of 115 by 420 metres (377 by 1,378 ft) and a height of 48.324 metres (158.54 ft). There were no internal supports.
  • Its most extensive exhibit was that of Thomas Edison's 493 inventions.

Weightless Architecture

  • Comprising enormous
  • steel arches whose supports seemed hardly to be fixed to the ground at all, the Galerie
  • des Machines bore greater resemblance to an enormous engine room than to a traditional
  • building, and was referred to at the time as a “disconcerting industrial cathedral.”

Eiffel Tower

  • In the 1890s “the most spectacular thing about the Eiffel Tower, was
  • not the view of the Tower from the ground. It was seeing the ground from the Tower.”
  • Robert Hughes


  • When the tower opened in 1899 thousands rode the 300m up in the elevators to take in the panoramic, aerial view, in which the “once invisible roofs & now clear labyrinths of alleys & streets” became suddenly available to the eyes of these new observers, and Paris became, as Robert Hughes says, “a map of itself, a new type of landscape [...] based on frontality & pattern, rather than on perspective recession & depth.”


  • Along with the experience of locomotive travel, telecommunications and mass media, the new revolutionary architecture of the sky had a major impact upon the way people perceived the world. Not only the objects in the world, but the very manner in which the world was experienced: “whose basic element is simultaneity and whose nature consists in the spatialising of the temporal element” (Arnold Hauser).
  • For writers like Apollinaire & Blaise Cendrars, simultaneisme applied to the experience of modern life generally.
  • Blaise Cendrars, La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France (1913) with Sonia Delauney


  • Unité d’habitation, 1960s



  • From MICRROCOSM (“unité”) to MACROCOSM (the “radiant city”)

The “geometry of thought” Geodesics / Synergetics / Dymaxionism (Buckminster Fuller)


  • From MICROCOSM to MACROCOSM, the abstraction of the universal in the individual & the ECOLOGICAL view.
  •  Gregory Bateson, “ecology of mind”
  • Reason  Abstraction  Discipline  Organisation  Production  Efficiency

Cybernetics (The Human Use of Human Machines, Norbert Wiener, 1950)

  • Systems of communication and control…
  • Materiality. Pattern recognition. Information. Symbolic machines.
  • Dynamic systems. Organisation. Programmatics.
  • Technicity: the technological condition of all dynamic systems

Gutenberg Galaxy (1454/1962)

  • The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) by Marshall McLuhan analyzes the effects of mass media on human consciousness.
  • Apropos of his axiom, "The medium is the message," McLuhan argues that print technologies are the means by which people are re-invented. The invention of movable type was the decisive in the change from a culture in which all the senses partook of a common interplay to a tyranny of the visual. He argued that the printing press led to the creation of nationalism, rationalism, automatisation, and standardisation.
  • Movable type, with its ability to reproduce texts accurately & swiftly, extended the drive toward homogeneity and repeatability. The Gutenberg Press was thus the prototypical AUTOMATED PRODUCTION LINE.


  • Evolution of time and motion study into a technique for improving work methods & systems.
  • The challenge of reconciling “open-ended” industrial progress with humanism.
  • Final integration of “man” and “machine”

Integrated Assembly Line

  • The Ford Model T was produced by Henry Ford's Ford Motor Company from October 1, 1908, to May 26, 1927.
  • It was the first automobile mass-produced on moving assembly lines with completely interchangeable parts, marketed to the middle class.
  • “I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual ... It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces.” Henry Ford


  • Ravensbruck
  • Auschwitz
  • Buckenwald


  • The Analytical Engine was a proposed mechanical general-purpose computer designed by Charles Babbage. It was first described in 1837 and was a direct antecedent of Turing’s ‘Universal Machine.’
  • The input (programs & data) was provided via punched cards, a method used at the time to direct mechanical looms such as the Jacquard loom. For output, the machine had a printer, a curve plotter and a bell. The machine was able to punch numbers onto cards to be read in later, as a possible feedback mechanism using methods of “branching” & “looping.”
  • “The Analytic Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do
  • whatever we know how to order it to perform.” Ada Byron


  • Desiring Machines: the integration of the “organic” & “technical” through self-propagation…
  • The term AUTOPOIESIS was introduced in 1972 by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela to define the self-maintaining chemistry of living cells. Since then the concept has been also applied to the fields of systems theory and sociology.
  • “An autopoietic machine is a machine organized … as a network of processes of production … of components which: (i) through their interactions & transformations continuously regenerate & realize the network of processes … that produced them; & (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network.”

From Automation to Automaton

  • The centrifugal governor, which dates to the last quarter of the 18th century, was used to adjust the gap between millstones. The centrifugal governor was also used in the automatic flour mill developed by Oliver Evans in 1785, making it the first completely automated industrial process. The governor was adopted by James Watt for use on a steam engine in 1788 after Watt’s partner Boulton saw one at a flour mill Boulton & Watt were building

The governor received relatively little scientific attention until James Clerk Maxwell published a paper that established the theoretical basis for control theory. Development of the electronic amplifier during the 1920s, which was important for long distance telephony, required a higher signal to noise ratio, which was solved by negative feedback noise cancellation. This and other telephony applications contributed to control theory. The word "automation" itself was coined in the 1940s by General Electric.

  • The governor received relatively little scientific attention until James Clerk Maxwell published a paper that established the theoretical basis for control theory. Development of the electronic amplifier during the 1920s, which was important for long distance telephony, required a higher signal to noise ratio, which was solved by negative feedback noise cancellation. This and other telephony applications contributed to control theory. The word "automation" itself was coined in the 1940s by General Electric.


  • Hugo Ball, Cabaret Voltaire, 1916
  • Karel Čapek, R.U.R. (Rosum’s Universal Robot’s; 1920); in which the term 'robot' was first used to denote fictional automata.

FETISH MACHINE Metropolis dir Fritz Lang (1927)


  • Many ancient mythologies include artificial people, such as the mechanical servants built by the Greek god Hephaestus. Leonardo da Vinci sketched plans for a humanoid robot around 1495. In France, between 1738 and 1739, Jacques de Vaucanson exhibited several life-sized automata: a flute player, a pipe player & a duck.
  • In 1939, the humanoid robot known as Elektro debuted at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Seven feet tall (2.1 m) & weighing 265 pounds (120.2 kg), it could walk by voice command, speak about 700 words (using a 78-rpm record player), smoke cigarettes, blow up balloons, & move its head & arms. The body consisted of a steel gear, cam & motor skeleton covered by an aluminum skin.
  • Elektro the Moto-Man & his Little Dog Sparko


  • In Jewish folklore, a golem (meaning “unshaped form”) is an animated anthropomorphic being, magically created entirely from inanimate matter. The most famous golem was supposedly created by Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late-16th-century rabbi of Prague, as a general servant & defender of the ghetto.
  • Ken Russell, Lisztomania (1975)

FEMBOTS 1976 episode of The Bionic Woman called Kill Oscar, featuring the Fembots, robot killer-spies


  • “Early in the 21st Century, the tyrell corporation advanced Robot evolution into the nexus phase – a being virtually identical to a human – known as a Replicant.
  • The nexus 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the genetic engineers who created them.
  • Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets.”
  • BLADE RUNNER, dir. Ridley Scott (1982).

“Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.”

  • “Replicants are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.”


  • The story is usually told from the perspective of a hero who gradually makes the horrifying discovery that all the people around him are not really human beings but some kind of automatons, robots, who only look and act like real human beings; the final point of these stories is of course the hero’s discovery that he himself is also such an automaton and not a real human being.
  • Slavoj Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989)


  • “The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family… The cyborg would not recognise the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust.”
  • Donna Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’


Integrated Body

  • STELARC, “Ping Body” 1996
  • "During the Ping Body performances, what is being considered is a body moving not to the promptings of another body in another place, but rather to Internet activity itself - the body's proprioception & musculature stimulated not by its internal nervous system but by the external ebb and flow of data. By random pinging (or measuring the echo times) to Internet domains it is possible to map spatial distance & transmission time to body motion.”

Totemic Operator

  • The Totemic Operator represents a “conceptual apparatus which filters unity through multiplicity, multiplicity through unity; diversity through identity, identity through diversity.”
  • (Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind)




  • Stelarc: "The body is an evolutionary architecture that operates and becomes aware in the world. To alter it's architecture is to adjust it's awareness.
  • The body has always been a prosthetic body, one augmented by its instruments and machines. Issues of identity and alternate, intimate and involuntary experiences of the body, as well as the telematic scaling of experience, are explored in recent performances…
  • What becomes important is not merely the body's identity, but its connectivity - not its mobility or location, but its interface.

BLENDER (Stelarc & Nina Sellars, 2005)

  • 1.6 metres high and “anthropormorphic” in scale and structure. Every few minutes Blender automatically circulated or “blended” these bio-materials via a system of compressed air pumps and a pneumatic actuator. The mixture included 4.6 litres of subcutaneous fat taken from Stelarc’s torso and Nina Sellars’ limbs, zylocain (local anaesthetic), adrenalin, O+ blood, sodium bicarbonate, peripheral nerves, saline solutions and connective tissue.


  • DNA was first isolated by Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher in 1869.
  • The idea of recombinant DNA was first proposed by Peter Lobban in the Biochemistry Department at Stanford. The first successful production and intracellular replication of recombinant DNA occurred in 1972.
  • Recombinant DNA (rDNA) are DNA molecules formed by laboratory methods of genetic recombination (such as cloning) to bring together genetic material from multiple sources, creating sequences that would not otherwise be found in biological organisms. Recombinant DNA is possible because DNA molecules from all organisms share the same chemical structure. They differ only in the nucleotide sequence within that identical overall structure.


  • The artist invited 30 women to “donate” parts of their bodies, which were scanned to create both visual & auditory analogues. From these, conglomerate “bodies” were assembled, animated and made interactive, becoming part of an ongoing morphological process.

Videodrome (dir. David Cronenberg, 1983)

  • “Death to the Real! Long live the New Flesh!”
  • Videodrome was described by Andy Warhol as “A Clockwork Orange of the ’80s.”
  • It is an investigation into the ideological coding of reality and of individual behaviour mediated by the omniprescence of TV and video culture, in which image is inextricable from signal or command (medium and message).
  • In Cronenberg’s film, “Videodrome” is a metaphor for the evolved “materialisation” of the virtual: what William Gibson called “the Matrix” and what Jeremy Bentham called “the Panopticon.”
  • Viktor Tausk, 1912
  • “In his quite original work with psychotic patients, Tausk was the first to formulate the important concept of ‘ego boundaries’; and he was also the first to introduce the term ‘identity’ into psychoanalytic literature, in his paper on the ‘influencing machine’ in schizophrenia.”
  • Paul Roazen, ‘A Curious Triangle: Freud, Lou Andreas-Salomé, & Victor Tausk,’ Encounter XXIII.4 (October 1969): 3-8.
  • “Fantasy is a basic scenario filling out the empty space of a fundamental impossibility, a screen masking a void.”
  • “Fantasy conceals the fact that the Other, the symbolic order, is structured… around something which cannot be symbolised.” (Žižek)

eXistenZ (dir. David Cronenberg, 1999)

  • A reprise of Videodrome, where interactive gaming has taken the place of video. The plot involves two competing games consol manufacturers – Antenna Research and Cortical Systematics – and an anti-gaming movement of “realists,” opposed to the “deforming” of reality. The viewer is left suspended in uncertainty as to what constitutes the “game” and what constitutes “reality,” or whether the real itself is an extension of the game; that there is, in effect, no escape.
  • The film obscures any clear distinction between the organic and technology, the real and the artificial. Gamers jack into their consoles through bio ports, by which the game “pod” is connected by an “UmbyCord” directly with the player’s nervous system. (What Gibson called “biosoft.”) The “pod” operates as a type of prosthetic consciousness; an externalized representation of subjective “agency” or Ego. Players’ actions are dictated by the characters they play and the situations in which they find themselves rather than being autonomous agents. The game itself is a type of desiring machine, producing a complex of symptoms in which the competing fantasy systems and the ‘real’ are coded, distorted, concealed, displaced.
  • As a result, the only ‘basic reality’ open to experience is that of the paranoiac.


  • “Ever get the feeling you’re playing some vast and useless game whose goal you don’t know and whose rules you can’t remember? Ever get the fierce desire to quit, to resign, to forfeit, only to discover there’s no umpire, no referee, no regulator to whom you can announce your capitulation? Ever get the vague dread that while you have no choice but to play the game, you can’t win it, can’t know the score, or who keeps it? Ever suspect that you don’t even know who your real opponent might be? … Welcome to gamespace.” (McKenzie Wark, Gamer Theory, 2007)

Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilised Society (José Delgado, 1971)

  • “We need a programme of psychosurgery for political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated.
  • “The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective.
  • “Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electrically control the brain. Someday, armies and generals will be controlled by electric stimulation of the brain.”
  • José Delgado, Congressional Record 118.26 (1974): 4475.

Two girls who were suffering from epileptic seizures and behavioural disturbances requiring implantation of electrodes in the brain for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Under the cap, each patient wears a “stimoceiver,” used to stimulate the brain by radio and to send electrical signals of brain activity by telemetry while the patients are completely free within the hospital ward.

  • Two girls who were suffering from epileptic seizures and behavioural disturbances requiring implantation of electrodes in the brain for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Under the cap, each patient wears a “stimoceiver,” used to stimulate the brain by radio and to send electrical signals of brain activity by telemetry while the patients are completely free within the hospital ward.
  • From José Delgado, Physical Control of the Mind, 1971


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