<< preface

this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today.

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2008-07-18

>> Stelarc

go and visit his site: http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/arcx.html

absent body

We mostly operate as Absent Bodies. THAT'S BECAUSE A BODY IS DESIGNED TO INTERFACE WITH ITS ENVIRONMENT - its sensors are open-to-the-world (compared to its inadequate internal surveillance system). The body's mobility and navigation in the world require this outward orientation. Its absence is augmented by the fact that the body functions habitually and automatically. AWARENESS IS OFTEN THAT WHICH OCCURS WHEN THE BODY MALFUNCTIONS.

Reinforced by Cartesian convention, personal convenience and neurolo gical design, people operate merely as minds, immersed in metaphysical fogs. The sociologist P.L. Berger made the distinction between "having a body" and "being a body". AS SUPPOSED FREE AGENTS, THE CAPABILITIES OF BEING A BODY ARE CONSTRAINED BY HAVING A BODY.

Our actions and ideas are essentially determined by our physiology. We are at the limits of philosophy, not only because we are at the limits of language. Philosophy is fundamentally grounded in our physiology . . .


obsolete body

It is time to question whether a bipedal, breathing body with binocular vision and a 1400cc brain is an adequate biological form. It cannot cope with the quantity, complexity and quality of information it has accumulated; it is intimidated by the precision, speed and power of technology and it is biologically ill-equipped to cope with its new extraterrestrial environment.

The body is neither a very efficient nor very durable structure. It malfunctions often and fatigues quickly; its performance is determined by its age. It is susceptible to disease and is doomed to a certain and early death. Its survival parameters are very slim - it can survive only weeks without food, days without water and minutes without oxygen.

The body's LACK OF MODULAR DESIGN and its overactive immunological system make it difficult to replace malfunctioning organs. It might be the height of technological folly to consider the body obsolete in form and function, yet it might be the height of human realisations. For it is only when the body becomes aware of its present position that it can map its post-evolutionary strategies.

It is no longer a matter of perpetuating the human species by REPRODUCTION, but of enhancing male-female intercourse by human-machine interface. THE BODY IS OBSOLETE. We are at the end of philosophy and human physiology. Human thought recedes into the human past.



redesigning the body

It is no longer meaningful to see the body as a site for the psyche or the social, but rather as a structure to be monitored and modified - the body not as a subject but as an object - NOT AN OBJECT OF DESIRE BUT AS AN OBJECT FOR DESIGNING.

The psycho-social period was characterised by the body circling itself, orbiting itself, illuminating and inspecting itself by physical prodding and metaphysical contemplation.

But having confronted its image of obsolescence, the body is traumatised to split from the realm of subjectivity and consider the necessity of re-examining and possibly redesigning its very structure. ALTERING THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE BODY RESULTS IN ADJUSTING AND EXTENDING ITS AWARENESS OF THE WORLD.

As an object, the body can be amplified and accelerated, attaining planetary escape velocity. It becomes a post-evolutionary projectile, departing and diversifying in form and function.


the hum of the hybrid

Technology transforms the nature of human existence, equalising the physical potential of bodies and standardising human sexuality. With fertilisation now occuring outside the womb and the possibility of nurturing the foetus in an artificial support system, THERE WILL TECHNICALLY BE NO BIRTH. And if the body can be redesigned in a modular fashion to facilitate the replacement of malfunctioning parts, then TECHNICALLY THERE WOULD BE NO REASON FOR DEATH - given the accessibility of replacements.

Death does not authenticate existence. It is an out-moded evolutionary strategy. The body need no longer be repaired, but could simply have parts replaced. Extending life no longer means "existing" but rather "being operational". Bodies need not age or deteriorate; they would not run down nor even fatigue; they would stall then start - possessing both the potential for renewal and reactivation.

In the extended space-time of extraterrestrial environments, THE BODY MUST BECOME IMMORTAL TO ADAPT. Utopian dreams become post-evolutionary imperatives. THIS IS NO MERE FAUSTIAN OPTION NOR SHOULD THERE BE ANY FRANKENSTEINIAN FEAR IN TAMPERING WITH THE BODY.


the anaesthesised body

The importance of technology is not simply in the pure power it generates but in the realm of abstraction it produces through its operational speed and its development of extended sense systems.

Technology pacifies the body and the world, and disconnects the body from many of its functions. DISTRAUGHT AND DISCONNECTED, THE BODY CAN ONLY RESORT TO INTERFACE AND SYMBIOSIS.

The body may not yet surrender its autonomy but certainly its mobility. The body plugged into a machine network needs to be pacified. In fact, to function in the future and to truly achieve a hybrid symbiosis the body will need to be increasingly anaesthetised.


the shedding of the skin

Off the Earth, the body's complexity, softness and wetness would be difficult to sustain. The strategy should be to HOLLOW, HARDEN and DEHYDRATE the body to make it more durable and less vulnerable.

The present organ-isation of the body is unnecessary. The solution to modifying the body is not to be found in its internal structure, but lies simply on its surface. THE SOLUTION IS NO MORE THAN SKIN DEEP.

The significant event in our evolutionary history was a change in the mode of locomotion. Future developments will occur with a change of skin. If we could engineer a SYNTHETIC SKIN which could absorb oxygen directly through its pores and could efficiently convert light into chemical nutrients, we could radically redesign the body, eliminating many of its redundant systems and malfunctioning organs - minimising toxin build-up in its chemistry.

THE HOLLOW BODY WOULD BE A BETTER HOST FOR TECHNOLOGICAL COMPONENTS.


high fidelity illusion

With teleoperation systems, it is possible to project human presence and perform physical actions in remote and extraterrestrial locations. A single operator could direct a colony of robots in different locations simultaneously, or scattered human experts might collectively control a particular surrogate robot.

Teleoperation systems would have to be more than hand-eye mechanisms. They would have to create kinesthetic feel, providing the sense of orientation, motion and body tension. Robots would have to be semi-autonomous, capable of "intelligent disobedience". With Teleautomation (Conway/Voz/Walker), forward simulation - with time and precision clutches - assists in overcoming the problem of real time-delays, allowing prediction to improve performance.

The experience of Telepresence (Minsky) becomes the high-fidelity illusion of Tele-existence (Tachi). ELECTRONIC SPACE BECOMES A MEDIUM OF ACTION RATHER THAN INFORMATION. It meshes the body with its machines in ever-increasing complexity and interactiveness. The body's form is enhanced and its functions are extended. ITS PERFORMANCE PARAMETERS ARE NEITHER LIMITED BY ITS PHYSIOLOGY NOR BY THE LOCAL SPACE IT OCCUPIES.

Electronic space restructures the body's architecture and multiplies its operational possibilities. The body performs by coupling the kinesthetic action of muscles and machine with the kinematic pure motion of the images it generates.


phantom body

Technologies are becoming better life-support systems for our images than for our bodies. IMAGES ARE IMMORTAL, BODIES ARE EPHEMERAL.

The body finds it increasingly difficult to match the expectations of its images. In the realm of multiplying and morphing images, the physical body's impotence is apparent. THE BODY NOW PERFORMS BEST AS ITS IMAGE.

Virtual Reality technology allows a transgression of boundaries between male/female, human/machine, time/space. The self becomes situated beyond the skin.

This is not a disconnecting or a splitting, but an EXTRUDING OF AWARENESS. What it means to be human is no longer the state of being immersed in genetic memory but rather in being reconfigured in the electromagnetic field of the circuit - IN THE REALM OF THE IMAGE.





fractal flesh

The self-similarity found throughout nature - the small-scale infinitely reflecting the large-scale - could be absorbed into the human/machine symbiosis, in terms of both form and function. Granted the evolutionary importance of the human hand, for example, a post-evolutionary strategy might see each of the fingers having its own hand, vastly amplifying and fine-tuning human dexterity.

Alternatively, PYRAMID-PERSONAGES, able to operate simultaneously through macro to micro scales, could experience space/time realms and relations perceptually veiled from our present physiological perspective. THE RECURSIVE BEING WOULD MORE EFFECTIVELY EXTRUDE ITS EXISTENCE THROUGH A TELEMATIC SCALING OF THE SENSES.

Consider

  • a body that is directly wired into the Net - a body that stirs and is startled by the whispers and twitches of REMOTE AGENTS - other physical bodies in other places. AGENTS NOT AS VIRAL CODES BUT AS DISPLACED PRESENCES

  • a body whose authenticity is grounded not in its individuality, but rather in the MULTIPLICITY of of remote agents that it hosts

  • a body whose PHYSICALITY IS SPLIT - voltage-in to induce involuntary movements (from its net-connected computer muscle stimulation system) and voltage-out to actuate peripheral devices and to respond to remote transmissions

  • a body whose pathology is not having a split personality, but whose advantage is having a split physiology (from psycho-social to cyber-systemic) . . a body that can collaborate and perform tasks REMOTELY INITIATED AND LOCALLY COMPLETED - at the same time, in the one physiology . . or a body whose left side is remotely guided and whose right side intuitively improvises

  • a body that must perform in a technological realm where intention and action collapse, with no time to ponder - A BODY ACTING WITHOUT EXPECTATION, producing MOVEMENTS WITHOUT MEMORY. Can a body act with neither recall nor desire ? Can a body act without emotion ?

  • a body of FRACTAL FLESH, whose agency can be electronically extruded on the Net - from one body to another body elsewhere. Not as a kind of remote-control cyber-Voodoo, but as the DISPLACING OF MOTIONS from one Net-connected physical body to another. Such a body's awareness would be neither "all-here" nor "all-there". Awareness and action would slide and shift between bodies. Agency could be shared in the one body or in a multiplicity of bodies in an ELECTRONIC SPACE OF DISTRIBUTED INTELLIGENCE

  • a body with TELEMATIC SCALING OF THE SENSES, perceiving and operating beyond its biology and the local space and human scale it now occupies. Its VIRTUAL VISION augmenting and intensifying it retinal flicker

  • a body remapped and reconfigured - not in genetic memory but rather in electronic circuitry. A body needing to function not with the affirmation of its historical and cultural recall but in a ZONE OF ERASURE - a body no longer merely an individual but a body that needs to act beyond its human metabolism and circadian rhythms

  • a body directly wired into the Net, that moves not because of its internal stimulation, not because of its being remotely guided by another body (or a cluster of remote agents), BUT A BODY THAT QUIVERS AND OSCILLATES TO THE EBB AND FLOW OF NET ACTIVITY. A body that manifests the statistical and collective data flow, as a socio-neural compression algorithm. A body whose proprioception responds not to its internal nervous system but to the external stimulation of globally connected computer networks

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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.