an annotated archive of digital fragments that question the traditional understanding of the human(?) body. realized with webrecorder
* it brings together imaginary bodies from fictional futures, artistic and scientific works that are challenging the accepted contours of the human(?) body, as well as glimpses to the social responses they generate.
* the resulted archive will be the edited trace of a subjective act of online spectatorship, punctuated with personal notes. rather than some kind of categorization or a linear narrative, it will offer an incomplete, incoherent and, probably, at times, self-contradictory picture of possible bodies shaped beyond the limits that define the human.
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* first scene from the hypertext theatre project “————Here Is the Dividing Line————” by en? (What has happened? How does it come to this?), launched in 2015 (language: chinese).
* through a ramified system of web pages the work deals with themes like loneliness, depression, misunderstanding and melancholy in online environments, starting from an exploration of the posthumous online presence of C.K., a popular figure on chinese social media. profiles with her name and various versions of her online journal remained active and widely followed well after she committed suicide in 2008.
* while navigating the work, the spectator is often led to external resources on social media, video sharing sites, gaming platforms, news platforms and so on, blurring the line between the fictional space of the hypertext theatre play and the reality(?) outside it. two years after the work was first lunched, and accessing it from outside of china, many of these external resources are already unavailable, hinting at the fragility of our online presence, the fragility of the traces that we leave in the virtual space and consequently the decay of the fictional characters that we thus create.
* according to wikipedia and baidu baike articles, C.K.’s suicide was unsuccessful and after years of keeping a low profile she reappeared online in december 2015 (months after “————Here Is the Dividing Line————” was first lunched).
* how does this online character formed at the intersection of discrete and sometimes contradictory fragments, both real and fictional, relate to the human(?) bodies that are shaping it? and, in turn, what kind of body is contoured by the existence of this virtual character?
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* "FuckU-FuckMe(tm) for Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT provides the most complete remote sex solution for the Internet and corporate intranet.", by Alexei Shulgin (1999)
* the sex-related services are a significant part of the internet, however, they still belong to a rarely mentioned and often disapproved of gray area. the theoretical implications of mediated sexual pleasure are hardly ever discussed. i see shulgin's work both as a challenge to this uncomfortable silence surrounding online sex, and as a comment on the commodification of sexual pleasure.
* the internet allows our bodies to extend even further beyond their traditional limits, receiving stimuli (in this case sexual stimuli) and performing actions regardless of the conventional space and time boundaries. is this extended body still human? or was the human body defined by its limits and consequently gradually lost its meaning with the technological transformations of the last century?
* at this point, our bodies are made of interchangeable parts. we do exchange blood, bone marrow, organs and, in a probably not so distant future, the whole body from neck down. it is also already common to use body parts borrowed from other species or artificial ones. in this context, what is an integrant part of my body, and what is not? is a transplanted heart part of the receiver's body? what about the screen of a computer? what about a robotic arm? what about the hardware units of "the basic FuckU-FuckMe(tm) kit"?
* the work can also be read as a metaphor for an act of procreation, pointing to the future hybrid offsprings that will result from the intimate encounter between our bodies and the machines we build.
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* following the links on the first page of google results for "genetic engineering in humans"
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* article about Mike Merrill, in "Wired" (03.2013)
* did we ever really owned our "own" bodies? it seems that the body always was in a huge proportion the property of a community, it's actions conditioned by the will of the society. in a sense, from the first-person point of view, the primal meaning of politics is this ongoing negotiation over the ownership of one's body. the individual might have gained a few extra degrees of freedom lately, but only to the point that her free will is in accord with what the community wants. as members of a social group, it is rather the other's body that we possess and control, and in turn we are possessed by the others. mike merrill's project makes conspicuous this tension between social and individual agency as it appears in a contemporary capitalist economic system.
* is it significant that the price of the shares is in $? this way it is clearly restated that in the last instance the body and its fate are property of the national state, since the very currency that entitle ownership over shares in the body is backed by this kind of political entity. would it be any different if a decentralized crypto currency would have been used instead?... after all, the bodies of the shareholders would still be owned by national states. what about a whole economical system in which we would own each other's bodies outside the reach of national and inter-national political entities? would the individual body still make sense outside the current political ideology, and would it be a desirable choice?
* merrill's project stages a clash between two of our most beloved myths: the free individual and the free market. from a certain point of view, it can surely be read as a funny comment on our attachment to unquestioned incongruent values. our traditional understanding of the human(?) body and the principles of our economical systems, do they fit in the same worldview?
* from another point of view, the decision to sell shares in oneself can be understood as a choice to step away from the myth of individual agency and get fully engulfed by the rules of the capitalist economy. it's a strange contradiction since this very economy and the nation states it relies on are predicated on the idea of individual agency.
* there are probably millions of workers out there that are in the same position as merrill, without really having a choice, their daily actions and their fate dictated by the will of the shareholders. probably in a less direct way, but nonetheless the choice of their daily actions, the rhythm of their hands are, for the most part, not in their power to decide.
* related, zhu fadong's performance work from 1994 this person is for sale. newly arrived in beijing, zhu fadong wanders around the city dressed in blue work clothes with the inscription: "this person is for sale. price negociable". archived here is a page from the online art-store www.hihey.com that sells a photography documenting the performer walking through the tiananmen square, accompanying the picture are two short articles commenting the work. (language: chinese)
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* hypertext fiction by John Russell (2015)
* a post-apocalyptic dystopian future populated with hybrid bodies. the limits between human and animal, natural and artificial, self and other are blurred.
* the narrative is intermingled with animated .gifs, requiring the spectator to constantly shift between reading the text and reading the image. the consequence is a kind of alertness that is persistently required from the reader.
* lengthy footnotes form a kind of dictionary that paints a fragmentary background for the story, giving further information on the premisses of this future world and anchoring its main concepts in the 20 and 21st century politics, philosophy and social habits.
* the links in the "Works cited" section lead to external resources, among which two other cyberpunk narratives, on www.headgallery.org, that also offer unexpected perspectives for understanding the human(?) body and its future: Orbitecture - OPEN UP THIS IS A PUSSY PUSSY - smash the representations of class domination before you bother with re-orienting the heavy metal of material culture and An abrupt Treatise on the discursive harmonization of trade union voting strategies & Conservation Platforms XIII- XVI.