[-empyre-] Wearables, against choreography

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sat Jun 4 05:57:58 EST 2011

hi all
there was something in the comment on "architectures of interaction" , relating to interior / exterior body spaces, that could be picked up here:

[Michèle schreibt]>>
The text by Guillermo Gomez-Peña is fascinating (and maybe some of us are also familiar with similar experiences), it illustrates nicely our technologies of detection, interrogation and humiliation, our architectures and interactive performative spaces to invetigate the interior body space (and the mind) and make the unseen seen. The story opens up a whole new realm I think and so in way for me, the discussion looses its focus again as we take on other major considerations, expanding out to look at other more extreme bio-political issues etc. And maybe we should be more extreme with our discussions but it almost felt that we barely really gotten started.

and to some extent this goes back to questions at the beginning when we got started

-- What are the relationships between the practical aspects of use and the aesthetic concerns of design? 
-- How do we understand wearable technology in relation to the excesses of commodified culture?

looking at the last item, one could perhaps draw attention again to what Michèle, and Danielle and others, have brought up in their posts, now focusing the lens on the "gestural" I tried to
problematize in my last mails, as I see the interactional wearables, in social space, as primarily functional but also inclusive of psychological/emotional and aesthetic senses/expressions and postures, of course,
sensations that have to do with pleasure or with enjoyment or with need, display and other channels of communication. 

In the MIT dance tech workshop I mentioned, the issue of gestural imitation came up (in reference to teenagers copying "moves" from tv and youtube and popular culture, and wii technology
and mobile phones and joysticks and kinect etc play into these arenas of simulation, to a large extent, even if some think that simulation is also enactment and expression..

A critical reading of "wearing" our body architectures and wearable identities in such manner, in such contexts, could therefore proceed by questioning the entire set of mechanisms with which gestures and the wearing of wearables are overdetermined, and at MIT the Spanish media artist Jaime del Val spoke, to this effect, of the need of "undoing anatomy" in order to resist global choreographies in the capitalism of affects. His theory of "performing sensory anatomies" – in a general sense, not necessarily artistic – , if i can try to paraphrase it, is that underlying our "cultural imaginaries" staged and projected in texts, theater pieces, video, cinema, fashion, social performance,  publicity, etc,  there are certain anatomic constructions of the senses that are the conditions of possibility for those imaginaries.  Such sensory anatomies underlie implicit power mechanisms in late capitalist societies that operate at the level of the production of affect and desire of consumers as well as of the concealment of global violence through which the economic system operates.

Speaking about these overdeterminations, it was then suggested that we look for a framework of analysis of such power operations through the analysis of movement, and thus of the wearing, and the use of wearables (including the functional and the aesthetic, intimate or distributed),  and again at the impact of the globalchoreographies -- the technological devices of global distribution that disseminate discrete, standard choreographies in bodies, thus contributing to
the production and dissemination of standard affects. One of the frameworks brought into play was the camera/interface (Jaime wears them when he does his urban intervention performances, but they are turned around, several small turned surveillance cameras hovering close to his body flesh and his skin and so he walks around generating amorphous and unusual, strangely unfocussed close ups of "organs" or bodies without organs" and (wearing a projector strapped to his chest)_ projects these private images into public building surfaces or streets.....), and here the argument is of course that like mobile phone cameras / recording devices that most everyone now carries on them, they are technologies of representation and and distribution,  as camera-interactions with the world this can be pared down to 3 basic sensing parameters: framing and fixity, distance and exteriority, focus and exposure, of vision. hearing and proprioception.  Within these parameters the experiencer assumes fixed external positions with regard to the world ( and the representations), thus enabling the subject to be capable of operating in terms of patterns of information (in the  information societies).  With all wearable technologies, or all interactive technologies, come specific standardized sensory anatomies that are the conditions of possibility for the imaginaries enacted in those media.  (see also del Val, "Undoing Anatomies," a version of his MIT talk was published in GRAMMA and is available online: http://my.enl.auth.gr/gramma/gramma09/val.pdf).

I think just as some of you here in the discussion pointed out,  a discussion which i found quite helpful even if it seemed low on energy or direction, of course in artistic and in design/craft experimentations, the effort might go towards undoing or retooling the global choreographies, if that is possible on the local and specific levels at which you engage your virtuoso gestures (as Paolo Virno calls them), the poses and posing (or wearing certain shoes and not others, i hope you liked my photos of the pointy Mexican fashion shoes for cowboys I sent yesterday evening?) or express affect or experience the capitalism of affects (marketing strategies aimed directly at the production of affects and desires in consumers), the subjectivizations......fixed and unfixed?  

IN some of the discussions, the spectacular or the spectacle effect was mentioned and criticized.  Again, from theatre we know that the position of the spectator towards spectacle is fixed, and secured in its exteriority. In a world entirely
mediated by communication technologies, by ubiquitous screens and cameras, then there hardly would be  any chance for experience to have a life of its own outside the framings of the spectacular,  i think this is why Jaime del Val uses the camera as his wearable to point to it explicitly and to queer it.  Participatory paradigms of web 2.0, celebrated by some who are engaged in the so-called social networks,  are de facto  disseminating the framings of spectacular action in unprecedented manners, whereby participation is always already framed within mechanisms of certain productions  of subjectivity and power that leave little or no room for emergence amidst the restless impingement of never-ending simulation. Here we could address the role of the airport scanner again, regarding our rights as  “citizens”, but those rights vare tested all the time, in public squares and inside building and public transportation systems and all money transaction systems etc,  a  permanently reenacted set of gestures in  surveillance and control, precisely through re-enacting the conditions of cultural intelligibility of interpretation which has at its basis a precise sensory

When I said queering, i refer to Jaime's performance in the nude with his many surveillance cameras attached to his body that wears them and moves with them, private skin turned public, abjected and/or enjoyed.. . and also arrested on the street, or some streets.  Sensory anatomies account for the formation of the social body and for the enactment of power and violence, Jaime would argue,  it is only through the establishment of an exterior fixed perspective that both the subject and the material objective world are constituted, thus opening the ground for the measuring, fragmentation, territorialization of reality. It is through the establishment of an external fixed perspective that it is possible to recognize patterns and forms. 

As you saw in Guillermo Gómez-Peña's description too, for contemporary mechanisms of violence and power to operate and materialize, it is necessary to reproduce the anatomical frameworks - and the werables made to fit them or fitted to them, that render reality measurable  and "intelligible", and exterior to the performing subject. Normative categories of gender, sexuality, intimacy, race, class, age, bodily form or disability, require the mapping of bodies according to recognizable patterns. Most evident is the case of sexuality and gender, whereby biological sex (substrate for a viable or abject subjectivity) is constructed through arbitrary mapping of the body in genital anatomies and their measurement with regard to functional heterosexual reproduction criteria.   It would be easy now to extrapolate and move into the area of textiles and fashion, whether couture or high street, but also into a wide range of product design areas and
the gadgetry, beloved, that we wear around.

The question that all this posed for me (when i watched Jaime perform, and then when he gave me his camera costume to wear) was whether the wearing is always necessarily connected up with the anatomies, and whether a body without organs or an unintelligible body schema/image is creatable, an immanently diffused and morphosic body wearing and unwearing iitself? I don't know, hmm. don't think so. 

Johannes Birringer

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