[-empyre-] R: swarms, task envelopes, trajectories and displacements...

stamatia portanova stamatiaportanova at yahoo.it
Tue May 19 11:21:08 EST 2009

I also  find the concept of 'indifference' very stimulating and challenging, from many points of view... In particular, I find it interesting from a very literal physiological points of view: thinking of the body as the 'inert' surface animated by a flow of electrical energy. As human bodies in perception and motion, our fluid and broken experiences are always galvanized by electricity. The meta-stable equilibrium of this kinetic system consists of a normal release of electrons, and their ordered transmission through a network of nerve connections separated by tiny gaps (the synapses). 'Ordinary' movement depends on a smooth energetic transmission of electricity across the nerves: in
Freud’s thermodynamic description, “the dominating tendency of mental life, and
perhaps of nervous life in general, is the effort to reduce, to keep constant
or to remove internal tension due to stimuli …”. Different
kinetic pathologies derive from the alteration and disruption of this electrical transmission, provoking an over-stimulation of the nervous system and an autonomous hyper-activation of different bodily areas. An example of
this excessive kinetic condition is represented by the sudden jerks and spasms of the hysterical body: being literally flooded by a flow of uncontrollable
electrical energy, the nervous body becomes a 'schizophrenic' kinetic system
whose spasms result from the
abnormal working of its neural cells. In this sense, hysterical conditions seem to already reveal, without any recurrence to digital or analog technologies of any kind, an inadequate, involuntary and augmented condition of the indifferent body, a physical powerlessness that opens it to a more abstract potential. My question is if, and how, the technological connections exemplified by practices of technological augmentation show something more, and different, from the hysterical body, of if they are redundant to it. Perhaps the key to understand these practices is to consider not only the basic ontological condition of the indifferent body, but also the way in which it is inscribed by precise aesthetic and technical parameters of artistic intervention (the organization, or coding, Laura was also talking about)?
The indifferent body is beyond its phenomenological subjectivity, beyond memory and anticipation, opening moments for a reflexions that, for once, does not depart by the needs of the ever-present 'I'. I very much like the idea of a dance that 'ends', giving time to re-think (always non-subjectively). I think it is fundamental for dance to be critical, first of all of itself. For this reason, I agree with Laura about the non contradiction and the possibility of having indifference and desire working together. What perhaps I don't clearly understand is the relation between this very much 'deleuzian' idea, and a political practice of movement strongly connected to the cultural memory of a 'cultural subjectivity' (such as in Shadowing the City). Indifference is not only a sort of 'neutrality' towards the categorizations of life. It is also a 'superficiality' with respect to the profundities of memory and expectation. Another word for it is oblivion.

--- Dom 17/5/09, Stelarc <stelarc at va.com.au> ha scritto:

Da: Stelarc <stelarc at va.com.au>
Oggetto: [-empyre-]  swarms, task envelopes, trajectories and displacements...
A: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Data: Domenica 17 maggio 2009, 02:52

Hi Tim and Ashley-

Thanks for suggesting alternate ideas, constructing additional  
meanings and relevance to what was written and prompting a further  

Much of what we do affirms and perpetuates outmoded assumptions and  
perceptions about the body. I just wanted to problematize it and try  
to re-think, if not re-figure what it means to be a body- in both form  
and function. (The "I" in these references  simply means "this" body.  
It is a huge metaphysical leap to assert anything inner, anything  

We should neither affirm the biological status quo of the body nor  
should we be mimicking machines. What is more interesting is to see  
the body now as an extended operational system of mixed realities in  
both proximal and remote spaces.

To augment and extend the body is not so much about enhancement but  
rather being able to perform with alternate capabilities and  
unexpected outcomes.

Indifference allows not mere entanglement of bodies and machines but  
their assemblage. These assemblages of body, machines and virtual  
systems are constantly changing with the trajectories,  intensities,  
rhythms and duration of operation. Indifference is necessary for an  
erasure of agency at the critical moment that allows a coupling. This  
coupling can result in Chimeric Flesh.

We are fascinated by the diverse locomotion of living things, of the  
flocking behavior of birds and the swarming behavior of insects. Of  
their complexity and seeming emergent behavior.  Aliveness is now  
enriched by the seductive, smooth and speedy motion of machines. Not  
only do living things move, but things now move too. Some relevant  
ideas that come to mind include   technology as the external organs of  
the body (McLuhan), the displacement of human capabilities into  
machines (Baudrillard) and the unexpected occurrences and accidents  
that occur with new technologies (Virilio). Accidents though seen in a  
more positive way,  as unscripted moments of possibilities and  

With Circulating Flesh, not only do bodies move but now bits of bodies  
are displaced from one body to another. Blood circulating in my body  
may tomorrow circulate in your body. Ova that have been stored are  
fertilized with sperm that has been unfrozen. The face of a cadaver  
becomes a third face on a recipient. Organs are extracted from one  
body and implanted into other bodies.  Organs in circulation. Organs  
in excess.  Organs awaiting bodies. Organs without bodies.

When I talk about Fractal Flesh I mean bodies and bits of bodies  
spatially separated but electronically connected, generating recurring  
patterns of interactivity at varying scales.

The proliferation of haptic devices on the internet will mean being  
able to generate potent physical presences of remote bodies and  
machines. To interact with force-feedback. Tele-presence becomes tele- 
existence when there are adequate feedback loops between a body and a  
robot. That is what's meant by Phantom Flesh.

Unexpected  kinds of bodily trajectories have been generated. Bodies  
coupled with machines, bodies contained in machines, machines inserted  
into bodies. The body once only seamlessly moved in space with a  
continuity of time. Now bodies are  violently launched, accelerated  
and propelled across time-zones. This is increasingly experienced as  
displacement. We are not going anywhere now but rather we are  
sometimes here, some times there. We are all differently enabled  
bodies on varying prosthetic trajectories extending our task envelopes  
beyond the proximal (beyond the boundaries of the skin and beyond the  
local space we inhabit) and becoming remote sensors and end-effectors  
for other bodies and surrogate machines in other places.

A prosthesis is not necessarily a sign of lack, but rather a symptom  
of excess. The HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) EMG controlled exoskeleton  
for example both prosthetically supports and actuates a disabled body  
or strengthens the musculature of normally functioning body.

Perhaps we need more singularities. More moments of implosion. More  
anxieties generated by indecision. Unable to choose, the body stops,  
the body can't move. The dance ends. Time to re-think.


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