[-empyre-] Virtual Embodiment

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Tue Aug 5 01:50:41 EST 2014

dear all:

it may well be that out time/images on virtual embodiment is up, thus I wish to thank the moderators for inviting me to participate, and to all the others who posted here, a thank you for a very inspiring month of conversations..

And Simon Taylor's last post may still hover.

Jacky, you mentioned the important critical filmmaker Harun Farocki on Thursday, and sadly, Farocki, aged 70, passed away this week.
In a tribute to the filmmaker's work, on the occasion of a retrospective in 2010, Benedict Seymour wrote (http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/eliminating-labour-aesthetic-economy-harun-farocki):

The range and continuity of Farocki's concerns across different media and over several decades became apparent in the matrix of inter-related ‘themes': the symbiotic relationship of (image) technologies across military, consumer and productive spheres, the centrality of technological and pedagogical simulation in an increasingly performance-based capitalism, a rigorous and self-scrutinising investigation of the language of cinema and television. But beyond this there was an unexpected, and timely, re-encounter with some fundamental questions concerning (image) technology that have, by and large, been overlooked or marginalised in film studies.........>

I remember seeing some of his scathing installations in the 1990s, dealing with the devalorisation of labor, including his treatment of Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik [Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades, 2006].  "Devalorisation" means 'loss of value from productive assets arising through the technological displacement of labour, the depreciation of existing capital by more efficient technologies, and the failure to realise products' value on the market. Devalorisation can also be used to denote the technological-social-economic process of production/destruction whereby capital deals with its contradictions at the expense of people and things. From restructuring to crisis to war, devalorisation is both the result of and response to the contradictions of advanced capitalism."

Reflecting on this, and what Jacky had told us about her camera work with/on embodiment, I began to wonder whether the emphatic discourse on "embodiment" (and on our systems, and on "our" corporations, such as Google now, as Netbehavior list reports, acting as as surveillance institution, as well as a kind sponsor  a n d  curator of digital art exhibits ["Digital Revolution:  An Immersive Exhibition of Art, Design, Film, Music and Video Games", Barbican Centre, 3 July - 14 Sept. 2014]) goes hand in hand with an encroaching sense of devalorsisation and depreciation of bodies, pace "transhumanism" and its manifestos, and the spurious inclusivist (abled, disabled, prosthetic bodies) political ideology that suffered a big confusion in the german sports world this week after handicapped athlete Markus Rehm won the national long jump competition with a prosthetic leg but was subsequently eliminated from further participating in european competitions (after officials deemed his prosthetic leg advantageous and giving the disabled athlete an advantage), aggrieving the transhumanists who thought that technologized bodies  a r e  the norm.

So, then, technological embodiment within our systems, more embodied, less embodied, unfairly prosthetically embodied, childlike and serious, playfully second languaged, and in face of the "beyond" and the pervasively artifactured which Simon wrote about -  Simon how exactly are you "stepping out or escaping in the time-images [you]  are making"?

As you mentioned a Finnish theatre artist, Esa Kirkkopelto, i went looking and found this:

"the body constitutes the only verifiable place and moment in the sensory fields surrounding us, where the words we use find their momentary and precarious meaning and state of rest, where the language that always risks to evade us – its signifiers, letters, signs, symbols and gestures – gets reconnected, instituted in the sensible and, hence, made aesthetic. Here, syntax returns to rhythm. From this perspective, the human  body is clearly a medium of instituting, i.e. an instance. It is only one possible instance among others, or does it somehow engage all of our understanding concerning both the mediality and instituting?  I leave this question open for your consideration."

But then he remembers Deleuze & Guattari and adds:
"An institution is built on what flees it, as a way to slow that something down enough for us so that we can reflect upon it, to study it, to dwell in it, to use it, to exploit it, to enjoy it, to desire it, to appropriate it or to share it. Artistic research consists of a critique of its concrete conditions and its modes of effectuation that are, neither  at the outset not in the end, truly its own; that are defined by institutions at the outset and that in the end flee our reach altogether."

Not being able to find an ending, I just wondered about the necessary idealism of theatre  & dance practitioners, a belief in the body (that Sue Hawksley and Jacky also share), and the "institution,"  and the former's various ghostly devalorisations under (as Simon implied) the particular notion of mediation through technology which is/was the coinage of this discussion.

Johannes Birringer


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