[-empyre-] Pain, Suffering, and Death in the Virtual

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Thu Oct 18 08:40:43 EST 2012

dear all

I am slowly reading the site/links that were sent to us by Deena. 
Marble Springs:  

I read about Ruth Cole, who lived 1881-1897, so was very young when killed by an accident. 

Middle daughter of Matthew and Rachel Cole. Was struck by Pastor Horner’s wagon1 as she was walking home from Jenson’s barn May 18, 1897. Her legs were severed, and she died a few weeks later.

1. Item 767. Domestic Surgery. When accidents occur, people are too excited to acquireimmediatel a knowledge of what they should do. Many lives have been lost for want of this kowledge. Enquire within upon Everything
>>  [http://marblesprings.wikidot.com/humans:ruth-cole]

I am beginning to work my way through this, and it will take time.

Interestingly, this time (October empyre), and maybe it happens more frequently, i do not know, we are asked to read/view extensively other sites, other texts, artworks, we are sent via links to work.

And I revert to my position yesterday, in response to Alan's reply, i do think my pain or my grief are my private matter, and i have no interest whatsoever to talk about them here,

Does this strike anyone as odd?   

When we are looking at emotions, or expressions of experienced pain, loss, trauma, and death, in work that we publish or in our public lamentations, that is of course 
a matter possible to engage with, and i have engaged with public/political matters. But here, following Monika's work [and i would not call them testimonials  - is "Sustenazo" a testimonial?] and Deena's stories
or the week long ethnographies and reflections Jonathan offered. [<<"Online life was ripe with frictions, joys, pain, struggles with pain, struggles with potentials, and struggles with how to live.......>>]
, I am prepared to address representations of pain or severe pain, and I indicated such last night when i refered to Artaud'f final radio broadcast.   Yes, he was an expert imagining the 'complete sonorous streaming naked realizations,"
and it remained there, on the level of imagination, but the radio broadcast came close. His drawings are also extraordinary, vivid, upsetting, strange, and of course difficult to fathom, we can only speculate what the burns are,
and why they are there, and how we see them (punctum?), these cigarette burns on the skin of the paper? 

And thus, i a sense, I might be quite ready to discuss severe pain in your work, Alan, or Patrick, or anyone''s work here, if that is what is of interest, it depends a little on what inspires one to write, no?  
Or are we not really talking about work, but about our experiences?
or are these meant to be taken as synonymous?

To respond to someone's experience of grief or anxiety of living or depression, on a maillist, I would likely refuse.

Two brief commentaries, going back to earlier discussions
1. Public lament and gardening thread (first week)

      I was amazed at Ana's story about recognizing (today, in an ice cream bar) her torturers from years back during the military dictatorship.  In fact i left me
      feeling quite uneasy and also agitated, i wondered what I would have done in this situation. I also wondered how you could recognize them at all. Then i 
      began to imagine, yes, i would recognize my torturer, even many years later, if I had seen their face close up. would i recognize their breath, their hands? their
      movement?  I don;t know.  Those people i have meet who did research on trauma seem to tell me you can't remember sometimes, and you cannot speak about it,
      repression must work for survival..? no?   then how does one recount, and give testimony?  you may have been to court, and human rights violation trials, and
      testimony was forthcoming, so the body, and the mind, can remember. 

      testimony at trial -- a different category from an artwork, presented in a gallery, do we agree, or does sit matter?  Opera,  yes, Sandy, quite so,  an absurd and excessive genre of music.
      Tragedy in Greek theatre festival, and tragegy as recconceived/written in 17th century,  genres on the theatre stage that did not fare all that well, we tend to aassume , from what scholarship tells
      us, that the times of Tragedy are finished (20th century)

      i am not suggesting there is no catharsis, i was wondering whether you have experienced catharsis in a theatre or gallery.   (Later I will return to Marina Abramovic, and her "The Artist is present" --
     with peculiar puzzling timing, the UK channel 4 last night showed this documentary film, on Abramovic, late in the night, announcing her a the 'mother of performance art." 

2.  I was surprised and elated hearing the post from Diane Gromola on October 9.   Way back, when i became involved in the dance and technology network/community, attending physical and software workshops, we heard
about Diane's research an BANFF and i read about the work in the mid to late 1990s,  i think i was the book:

Moser, Mary Anne, with Douglas MacLeod, eds., Immersed in Technology:  Art and Virtual Environments. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996. 

and that was where i read about Diane's research,  and Yacov Sharir's dancing in VR, inside the scans/projections/3D virtual worlds of Gramola's body -- Dancing with the Virtual Dervish
and sure enough, I would bump into Yacov at the Dance Tedchnologies meetings, and we would become friends and he'd show me his more recent work with digital dancebodies (virtual emanations), cyberdancers.

At the time, i was still (and am still) spending most of my time in the dance studio or lab studio and doing physical work that gradually, more and more or less, inrtegrated media and sensorial technologies and sometimes
remote (telematic) partners. I will tell a story about avatar choreography tomorrow, but it will not be a propos, there was no pain involved, avatars have no pain.
But something struck be about Dancing with the Virtual Dervish,  i felt unease, and i felt one needed to think of this amazing work and critique it, as it seemed not really articulated all that pertinently by Yacov afterwards, addressing some of the complications i now read in Diane's mail, i did not know of her pain experience i had no clue.

Oddly, it took me years to write m critique, feeble as it feels now, and it was published in "Performance, Technology and Science" (2009) well, 13 years after i found about Diane and Yaco'vs experiments in VR.
They were pioneers, as some of you are here in SL and machinima work with avatars. 

[Diane writes]
The virtual environment was derived from 
MRI studies of my body (required by insurance companies as a quixotic quest
to "verify" my chronic pain -- silly, since pain itself lacks biomarkers),
texture-mapped with text that changed according to how immersants navigated.

The "body" then was a literal representation, but when immersants went "into"
smaller organs, they found themselves "flying" in apparently endless abstract forms.
It was possible for them to leave those spaces by locating the heartbeat
(spatialized sounds).

i would be interested in how some  of you feel/think about "entering" such a space or 3D virtual architecture of "Diane Gramola's body".
Is it actually a body or what is it one immerses oneself in?

I ask this also in reference to some of the immersive and sensual VR work that is much known and respected, just like Diane's work, for example: Char Davies's OSMOSE. 

more tomorrow

Johannes Birringer

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