[-empyre-] the inadequate, the involuntary, the alternate...

Reggie Woolery reginald.woolery at ucr.edu
Sat May 16 04:21:02 EST 2009

Hey there. I¹m enjoying the twists and turns of the conversation and add
these three random and partial notes, which hopefully aren¹t too random:
 ³There are two things I miss since losing my sight, soccer and driving.²
   Gerardo Nigenda, photographer, Mexico
(www.artsblock.ucr.edu <http://www.artsblock.ucr.edu> ) currently at UC
Riverside California Museum of Photography artists who are blind have
developed a critical practice of image capture that requires the mediation
of prosthetic devices to amplify, extend, augment the deficient bodily sense
which is now slowed down. Not only do they employ technics to move and
navigate space, but also in the making of work. They learn to master lenses,
cameras, and scanners of various sizes and strengths as well as diverse
light sources: candles, lighters, flashlights, lasers, even black powder to
interpret and re-present what is.  Moreover, artists such as Pete Eckert
suggest that blindness is an advantage (compared to the daily bombardment
upon sight that the average person is submitted, thus rendering them blind)
does not get in the way of his seeing. Some of the artists in the show were
born blind, others loss their sight upon the advancement of AIDS, as well as
natural bodily aging and decay.
My own work looks at the acoustic (bodily sense), digital (technics as
extensions), and virtual (faith or speculative devices and interfaces) as
discrete forms of narrative consciousness, that recombine and morph to
create and inflict upon us new ways of being and desiring.
James Baldwin in Go Tell It on the Mountain suggests that we all, borrowing
from a Biblical parable, are just ³lambs to slaughter,² part of an eventual
and involuntary movement toward a brutal death that is immune to our
personal will, desire, or intent.
In the introduction to The Price of the Ticket, Baldwin talks about the
³mob² as a body that does another¹s bidding.  ³A mob is not autonomous: it
executes the real will of the people who rule the State. The slaughter in
Birmingham, Alabama, for example, was not merely, the action of a mob. That
blood is on the hands of the state of Alabama: which sent those mobs into
the streets to execute the will of the State.²

Reginald Cortez Woolery
Artist, Director of Digital Studio
& Education Outreach
EMAIL: reginald.woolery at ucr.edu
MAIL: 3824 Main Street, Riverside, CA 92501
VOICE: 951.827.4796 | FAX: 951.827.4797
BLOG: www.i215radio.blogspot.com
UCR/California Museum of Photography
Sweeney Art Gallery

On 5/15/09 8:37 AM, "Ashley Ferro-Murray" <aferromurray at gmail.com> wrote:

> Tim and Stelarc,
> Thank you for your critical motion thoughts. I would be curious to
> meditate on the "state of the body as a prosthetic
> motion-captured-being-in-the-world." I too am particularly interested
> in Stelarc's notion of the body as augmented, involuntary and
> fragmented. We have seen in various works by Stelarc how machines,
> sensors and digital networks can enhance these qualities of the body
> and encourage their performance. I am curious how performing with the
> body alone, a machine in itself, can reach similar states of
> prosthesis. Can we reach an augmented, involuntary and fragmented
> performance without an added prosthesis? Or, perhaps this is precisely
> the point. We are added prosthesis. We inherently exhibit the
> qualities of prosthetic intervention as we are and have always been
> infinitely dependent on prosthetic presence whatever that may be.
> Nevertheless, it seems that there are more effective ways than others
> to encourage augmentation, involuntary movement and fragmentation. I
> would like to consider which qualities we rehearse or focus on to
> perpetuate and focus on these types of performance, the performance of
> the "state of the body as prosthetic
> motion-captured-being-in-the-world."
> Ashley
> On Fri, May 15, 2009 at 7:46 AM, Timothy Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu> wrote:
>>> Hey, Stelarc,
>> Thanks so much for your fascinating post (sorry
>> that -empyre- has no funds for subvention for
>> guests staying in hotels with pricey internet
>> connections!).
>> I'm fascinated by your emphasis on the body as
>> "something other-  the experience of the body as
>> inadequate,   involuntary and augmented. A body
>> immersed in uncertainty, anxiety and
>> ambivalence."  This does indeed suggest that
>> there's something exceptionally 'critical' in
>> your motion practice that engages  with what you
>> call "an age of circulating  flesh, fractal flesh
>> and phantom flesh."
>> Particularly critical, it seems to me, is your
>> performative intervention in networked (as
>> opposed to 'bare') life.  To revert to Ashley's
>> phrase, what does it mean when motion practice is
>> inscribed in the in-between, when it consists of,
>> reflects on the technological interfaces the
>> interfaces, the tracks, the pings that enable us
>> daily?
>> Also interesting is your suggestion that, within
>> the scope of the network, which encompasses both
>> the daily activities of -empyre- and the
>> technological interfaces of choreography,  "the
>> body becomes both a possessed and  performing
>> body, simultaneously actuated and improvising.
>> The body not as a single, intentional agency, but
>> as a host for an artificial entity."  This would
>> certainly entail what you call an "indifference,"
>> and, here, indifference would envelope
>> traditional attitudes of performance and
>> theatrical perspective that are organized around
>> the centrality of "the subject" as organizing
>> principle, not merely as interactive host.
>> I might have mentioned on -empyre- once before
>> that Jean-François Lyotard used to tell me that
>> indifference is the most effective form of
>> terrorism.  Here terror could involve a
>> choreographic intervention that foregrounds the
>> prominence of the unsettling prosthesis in an age
>> of otherwise willed alignment.
>> Perhaps what once served as the engine of
>> transubstantial transcendence or spiritual
>> alignment, "the host," now works as a provocative
>> trope of the state of the body as a prosthetic
>> motion-captured-being-in-the-world.
>> Thanks so much for joining in.
>> Tim
>>> Hi Norah (Stomatia, Ashley, Christina, Alan, Sally Jane,  Erin,
>>> Johannes, Tim and Renato)-
>>> Just to say that this posting will not be in sync with the most recent
>>> exchanges. I am staying in a hotel with very expensive internet access
>>> which I can't afford. And during the day I'm busy programming. Anyway,
>>> this was done last night and being sent morning, Sydney time!
>>> I'm delighted to read the articulate and astute observations made by
>>> all of the participants about critical motion practice which have
>>> accumulated but remained unanswered in my In-box.
>>> As a counterpoint to the ideas that have unfolded in these exchanges,
>>> perhaps the most appropriate contribution I can make is to suggest
>>> something other-  the experience of the body as  inadequate,
>>> involuntary and augmented. A body immersed in uncertainty, anxiety and
>>> ambivalence. A body that is absent from itself, empty in itself and
>>> exhausted by itself. This has generated ambivalence, uncertainty and
>>> anxiety. The body might be enabled and accelerated, but this only
>>> exposes and amplifies its obsolescence.
>>> In an age of excess, the body needs to cope with mixed realities,
>>> telematic embrace and its chimeric other. It is an age of circulating
>>> flesh, fractal flesh and phantom flesh. It is also a time of
>>> multiplying and outmoded metaphysical assumptions still affirming the
>>> biological status-quo of the body or perpetuating disconcerting
>>> desires of out-of-body experiences. We still speak as if these bodies
>>> possess inner selves. As if speech is an outering from something inner.
>>> Performances such as Fractal Flesh and Ping Body explored remote
>>> actuation of the body wired to a computer sequenced muscle stimulation
>>> system. In Fractal Flesh people in other places prompt the body to
>>> move. In Ping Body mapping the reverberating ping signal, measured in
>>> milliseconds is mapped to the body's musculature. The body moves as a
>>> crude barometer of internet activity. The body is seen as a split
>>> body. Voltage-in, to jerk the left arm and leg up and down and voltage-
>>> out, to actuate a mechanical third hand. The body moves, but not
>>> through space. Its task envelope is defined by its limb motion but the
>>> internet constructs it as an alternate and extended operational system.
>>> Movatar was an inverse motion-capture system where an avatar, imbued
>>> with genetic algorithms, whose behavior varies during the performance,
>>> actuated the two arms using a pneumatically powered upper body
>>> exoskeleton. The body becomes  a prosthesis enabling the motion of an
>>> avatar in the real world. The body becomes both a possessed and
>>> performing body, simultaneously actuated and improvising. The body not
>>> as a single agency, but also a host for an artificial entity.
>>> The performances were done in a posture of indifference. Indifference
>>> as opposed to expectation. Actions without anticipation. Moments
>>> without memory. Indifference to allow an unfolding of the performance
>>> in its own time, with its own rhythm. Ashley's space for the in-
>>> between not only connects but opens up. It's also a pause that allows
>>> for reflexion,  infection and interpretation. Perhaps this is a fatal
>>> moment and a moment of collapse.  Its what happens when there is a
>>> slippage between the intention and the action. A singularity in
>>> programming a robot occurs at a moment when, because of multiple
>>> possibilities, the robot can't choose which one to execute. What
>>> happens when a dancer stops but then can't start?
>>> Best wishes-
>>> Stelarc
>>> Performance Artist
>>> Chair in Performance Art
>>> School of Arts
>>> Brunel University West London
>>> Senior Research Fellow & Artist in Residence
>>> MARCS Laboratories
>>> University of Western Sydney
>>> www.stelarc.va.com.au
>>> Mobile: +61-408-437-517
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
>> --
>> Timothy Murray
>> Director, Society for the Humanities
>> http://www.arts.cornell.edu/sochum/
>> Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell Library
>> http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu
>> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
>> A. D. White House
>> Cornell University
>> Ithaca, New York 14853
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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