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“Can an ‘I’ cloned from my genes be considered a human being?” “Is another man with the same appearance as me, me?” “Can a cyborg have human spirituality?” “If so, how do we see the human body?” The artist Wang Zi Won’s work stems from these questions. Raising these questions, Wang sees the existence and meaning of future humans from a perspective different from the anxiety and fears of dystopian films and art.
The artist predicts that in the future humans will evolve and adapt themselves to enhanced science and technology just as men and animals in the past evolved to adapt themselves to their natural circumstances. He sees this future as our destiny, not as a negative, gloomy dystopia. His work is thus based on neither utopia nor dystopia. Wang represents the relations between man, technology and science through the bodies of cyborgs.
“From an unknown location, I break into IKEA’s
computer server. In this nerve centre, the CAD files for
every IKEA product are stored and are downloaded
worldwide. By infecting the CAD files with the
‘Elephantiasis virus’ I have just designed, I can hack the
entire range of products. The virus causes random
deformities, like lumps, cracks and humps, which only
show up when the customer prints his product at home
with his 3D printer.”
The MERRICK originated during a fantasy about the
development described above. The MERRICK is a digital
file infected with the human ‘Elephantiasis virus’ and then converted into tangible products using a 3D printer. Every lamp that is printed will therefore be different.
During the Enlightenment the state of the human being was critically re-examined, and compared to its imagined origin, in a ’natural state’ (ie. pre The Fall). Of particular note here is Rousseau and his Theory of the Natural Human; consider these words from its entry in the GreatWiki (emphasis mine):
Society corrupts men only insofar as the Social Contract has not de facto succeeded, as we see in contemporary society as described in the Discourse on Inequality (1754).
In this essay, which elaborates on the ideas introduced in the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, Rousseau traces man’s social evolution from a primitive state of nature to modern society. The earliest solitary humans possessed a basic drive for self preservation and a natural disposition to compassion or pity. They differed from animals, however, in their capacity for free will and their potential perfectibility. As they began to live in groups and form clans they also began to experience family love, which Rousseau saw as the source of the greatest happiness known to humanity. As long as differences in wealth and status among families were minimal, the first coming together in groups was accompanied by a fleeting golden age of human flourishing. The development of agriculture, metallurgy, private property, and the division of labour and resulting dependency on one another, however, led to economic inequality and conflict. As population pressures forced them to associate more and more closely, they underwent a psychological transformation: They began to see themselves through the eyes of others and came to value the good opinion of others as essential to their self esteem. Rousseau posits that the original, deeply flawed Social Contract (i.e., that of Hobbes), which led to the modern state, was made at the suggestion of the rich and powerful, who tricked the general population into surrendering their liberties to them and instituted inequality as a fundamental feature of human society. Rousseau’s own conception of the Social Contract can be understood as an alternative to this fraudulent form of association. At the end of the Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau explains how the desire to have value in the eyes of others comes to undermine personal integrity and authenticity in a society marked by interdependence, and hierarchy. In the last chapter of the Social Contract, Rousseau would ask “What is to be done?” He answers that now all men can do is to cultivate virtue in themselves and submit to their lawful rulers. To his readers, however, the inescapable conclusion was that a new and more equitable Social Contract was needed.
Where Nietzsche speaks of his transcendant Übermensch being Beyond Good & Evil, as a counterpoint we have Rousseau’s “Natural Human” being Before Good & Evil. This is what Terence McKenna speaks of as the Fall into History.
But the situation in this new Anthropocene Era leaves us with no ‘natural state’ left to return to. This is the subject of Bruce Sterling’s Art+Enviroment conference keynote, finally extending upon the seed of an idea he left dangling in DISTRACTION (aka “the book that predicts Occupy Wall Street”):
via THINKPROGRESS, which has some handy bonus quotes.
Which leads us where?
Lovely bit of culture-jamming from the streets and ATMs of San Fran by the Rainforest Action Network:
The stickers also encourage BoA customers to “Stop doing business with Bank of America until they start behaving responsibly” and have the URL to our new blog, which we’ve just launched along with The New Bottom Line:BankruptingAmerica.tumblr.com.
We’re using that blog to track all the ways BoA is bankrupting America, hence the name. We’ve received so many submissions it’s clear to us that this website was badly needed. There are lots of grievances to be aired with regard to how Bank of America is conducting its business these days, as it turns out. (Not that that’s terribly surprising.)
via Mission Mission
If it takes a Great Collapse to green Dubai, that’s fine by me:
by Jenovah Art
Paul Mutant, 2010.
Via BoingBoing we have this piece on one of ABC’s programs, a “Look at the Freaks” story on the ‘sudden rising trend of Elf Ears‘, the new body-mod “fad.”‘ Blamed for this are Lord of the Rings and Avatar (and we’ll leave aside for now the separate issue of the rise of Na’vi as a hyper-real faith & freedom of religion). The story begins, as such fine pieces of journalism usually do, with a lighthearted quip:
Why would anybody want to do this?
So sayeth the gym-broadened, bottle-blonde’d, make-up wearing, probable result of plastic surgery, carefully constructed media personage. Oh, you meant why would they do stuff that isn’t socially accepted within the enforced/repeated framing of the Mainstream Media?
There’s an old quote I always like to bust out in situations like these, that I once read in a cartoon in a tattoo magazine:
Q. What’s the difference between a person with tattoos and a person without tattoos?
A. The person with tattoos doesn’t care if you don’t have any.
We’ve featured the work of Steve Haworth before, and the best thing about this story was that I immediately sought out a body-mod artist that visits my own shores on occasion, for friends seeking just such enhancements.
Now our old friend Ötzi the Iceman has tattoos, making this a most timeless, Human act. So what is the deal here? Are we in a new Victorian Age of Prudes?
Well, before I go any further, let me wedge in the recent contribution on this issue made by Lady Gaga: “‘I think promoting insecurity in the form of plastic surgery is infinitely more harmful than an artistic expression related to body modification”, continuing “I am an artist, and I have the ability and the free will to choose the way the world will envision me.” Speaking after appearing on the Jay Leno show thusly:
Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed that these Facial Horns are only cosmetic.. that she didn’t go all the way. Maybe she will soon? Maybe she won’t? Maybe it’s perfectly cool for her to play around with her own Identity?!
Indulge me while I wax lyrical for a bit, because there are some Things that need to be Said:
We are The Strange Children of Change.. the Wild, Beautiful Freaks that half frighten, half excite. . It falls on us to lead the way across these waves of radical change, calling back the way forward.
We come from all the cultures across the world and all ages. From many subcultures too; from SF Fandom, Science, Goth, Steampunk, Otherkin, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, Biohackers, etc
Radical Inclusiveness & Revolutionary Optimism are the Tools of our Trade.
We are friends to all. But remember, good friends call you on your bullshit and help you grow. They encourage you to realize your full potential and be a better (post)human.
Those within the Hierarchy see everything with binary vision: us/them, friend/foe, good/bad.. immediately judging for Fitness within it’s internal categories of Correctness.
We natives of the Network see with multiplicitous eyes. Not judging, but listening.. finding all the common ways we connect, sharing our stories, offering advice, hard won wisdom and invitations to explore new things based on our own past experience and knowledge.
The only thing we don’t tolerate is intolerance.
Where our fellow travelers are mocked. Where courageous explorers like Lepht Anonym are criticized and called “un-transhumanist” by the likes of Natasha Vita-Moore & other elements of the H+ society, we are saddened. This is the Transhumanism of the Hierarchy. Remember, it is the forces of Control that started this whole mess.
The answer isn’t to appear “more palatable to the mainstream” (the defense with which they mark such decrees), it’s to shatter the whole fiction of a Mainstream to begin with!
So much of Transhumanist literature and discussion reeks of body hatred, of a desire to leave the meat behind and live forever in electric dreams, in their idealized, distant Future. Maintaining their current existence purely through virtual avatars. Grinders challenge and extend their limits in the here-and-now, taking everything they can find from the realms of Diet, Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy, Computer Science, Neuroscience, Engineering, Physical Fitness, Architecture, Industrial and Fashion Design, etc etc, to enhance, explore & express themselves however they choose.
Freedom to modify one’s body, and it’s cousin, cognitive liberties… are they harder to fight for when the previous victories of Freedom of Speech, Religion, Association and so on seem to be under threat at present by so many forces. I say no! We support them all. We demand the right of a person to live and act however they choose – so long as they don’t physically harm anyone or restrict anyone else from equally doing so.
These Cultural Norms we struggle against are forced on to us by the weight of history and the continued existence of a Society where Citizens still need permission to make choices. Where they are not trusted and must be nannied by the State. Where everything appears to exist purely to reinforce the Normal (a term who’s only true meaning is in Statistics); that Impossible Individual representing the complete average of the group. This impossibility makes everyone a Square Peg in a Round Hole.. forever trying to Fit In.
Which brings us to the First Corollary of There Is No They: There Is No Normal.
If necessary, think of it this way, from a purely economic rationalist, productive point of view: if everyone is free to express themselves however they choose, they’ll be happier, more motivated (and frankly, less likely to kill themselves), instead of spending so much energy squashing down their True Self. A richer Society could exist!
We need to Defend these Freedoms. All of them. To stand firmly and say these things are Correct. Let us evolve!
In the Industrial Age everything seemed to be measured with the Bell Curve, but now we are in the territory of Exponential Graphs, Asymmetry and Radical Multiplicity.
For now, let us look Forward! to a more rich, varied world. Let multi-humanism be the new multi-culturalism! Because it’s all hands on deck time, people.
(And that’s why I think Elf Ears and Facial Horns are cool.)
Via Co. Design we are introduced to the art of Gerry Judah, who “throws building models onto canvas, then smashes them to smithereens, creating stark little cityscapes that look like a preview of the apocalypse.” They have a nice slideshow there for the viewing, but it’s this video that works best for me; a guided, first-hand tour of his works and, most importantly, the method with which they are created:http://www.vimeo.com/14340323
This may look like an ordinary Petunia, but it’s just a little bit more than that. This photo is taken from WIRED UK’s image gallery of the works on display at Dublin’s Science Gallery’s Human+ exhibition, and the flower has been created by Biological artist Eduardo Kac combining his DNA with the flower’s, using genetic engineering.
It’s best explained on the artist’s website:
The central work in the “Natural History of the Enigma” series is a plantimal, a new life form Kac created and that he calls “Edunia”, a genetically-engineered flower that is a hybrid of Kac and Petunia. The Edunia expresses Kac’s DNA exclusively the red veins of the flower. The gene Kac selected is responsible for the identification of foreign bodies. In this work, it is precisely that which identifies and rejects the other that the artist integrates into the other, thus creating a new kind of self that is partially flower and partially human.
Art today, tomorrow yet another ‘perfect gift for the person that has everything’. In fact, I don’t think it’s too morbid to suggest this could also be a way to honour the passing of a loved one, letting a piece of them live on in a family garden.
In these seemingly dire times, optimism can be a revolutionary act.
Today’s mega-dose of optimism is a veritable Proton Energy Pill of zeitgeist-channeling, Future Present reflecting art. (Side note: how freaking weird is it for those of us who grew up watching Roger Ramjet to re-view from today’s perspective? Just me. Cool)
It’s the full-length film of TV on the Radio‘s Nine Types of Light; a 60min epic that features all of their film clips, each in a unique style by a different director, bound together by interviews with various New Yorkers.
You may have already seen the video for Will Do. That’s just a taste. This is the full dose, which I strongly encourage you to view in the maximum possible resolution:
(Warning: contains occasional traces of melancholia, some swear words, occasional nudity and zombies)
Photographs and written words, The Italian Machine Project is Salgood Sams’ homage to his father, Lionel Douglas.
Back in 1979 Lionel Douglas crashed a motorcycle he was testing. Unlike many others he trashed he didn’t walk away that time.
In his short life, aside from being my father he also did his best to live up to his name and sign [leo]. There’s been past efforts to publish his work, but they remain obscure. Always felt it was down to me to do it now. I’ve had his papers for some time, and a trunk full of negatives. Been meaning to do something with them – it’s taken time, opportunity, and ultimately my own brushes with mortality to get my ass in gear.
On the site you’ll find his words as well, but at this stage it’s dominated by his photos. Here’s a few highlights. The shots link through to sets of photos they come from. I’m going through them more or less in chronological order, so these are all taken around 1969
New pictures will be uploaded, so check back to the Italian Machine Project often.
French street artist JR presents the evolution of his art projects here in this recording of his TED Prize wish:
There’s a serious amount of ThereIsNoThey‘ness to his work and I hope his new insideoutproject is even more successful in achieving these goals.
The exhibit features ~EvidencE~, besides several other talented photographers. If you find yourself in Toronto (or are lucky enough to live there), the exhibit opens the 20th of March and runs through to July.
This project explores the invisible terrain of WiFi networks in urban spaces by light painting signal strength in long-exposure photographs.
A four-metre long measuring rod with 80 points of light reveals cross-sections through WiFi networks using a photographic technique called light-painting.
The LIFT 11 conference just concluded in Geneva, Switzerland. I’ve picked the two most interesting talks to post here, but there’s many others of course, and please feel free to post your favourites in the comments.
Hasan will tell us his incredible story: he was suspected of terrorism by the FBI by mistake, and ended up living totally in public to protect himself from surveillance. His talk will show how forfeiting your privacy can in fact become a new form of protection of your identity.
Hasan concludes his talk by saying that if we all did what he does the intelligence community would be overwhelmed with information. Wrong; the NSA and others like it already do this. How? Algorithms running on incredibly powerful computer systems. Arguably a new lifeform, perhaps evolving to become the dominant one, if we believe the Singularitarians. Or is that already the case and we just haven’t realised it yet?
Digital technologies and on-line platforms are essential to the way we work and live. Interestingly, they are defined by algorithms which are not neutral. Kevin will discuss how they define new social norms and how our culture is affected by the possibilities embedded in the software we use.