[-empyre-] becoming symborg - two decades later

melinda rackham melrack at icloud.com
Tue Nov 28 23:27:23 AEDT 2017

Hello again –empyre-  and all our other guests

I want to say something about flour and dough and weeds and mushrooms and the folly of Onkalo but first Bishnu, Andrea and Rahul I am very interested in the work you have been doing in terms of living as multispecies. In thinking about how a state of purity never existed I’d like to revisit “carrier” a web work I created two decades ago in 1997 -  http://www.subtle.net/creative_carrier.html

The work originated from my own bodily experience of living with the chronic viral illness Hepatitis C. In the spirit of the experimental first wave of net art my research encompassed gender, queer theory, alife, the fabulous work of Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, immunosemiotics and Niels Jerne's Nobel Prize winning Network Theory of Immunity. I consumed popular media on Ebola and computer virus outbreaks (Melissa was the celebrity virus at the time) and read scholarly texts on tantric sex.

It’s a love story really - a romance between and virus and the receptive human host. carrier eroticises the contagion via intertwining of genetic codes and repositions viral infection/species contamination as positive biological merging - between intelligent beings, rather than the defensive medical response which sites the virus an invader and the body as a detached battleground.

It also integrated the dynamic of interrelating pure codes, whether they be within the immune system or the computer operating system eg software viruses utilise breaches in systems, so they help software to evolve in almost an organic way in response to them, just as biological viruses shape the evolution of biological creatures.

I saw carrier as a model of becoming symborg at the turn of the new millennium, a way to think about ourselves in symbiosis as distinct from cyborgian assemblages, as the concepts of natural/artificial/species boundaries were dissolving, or so I thought in the heady 1990’s. Here’s an excerpt from an interview I did with Eugene Thacker for CTheory in 2001: http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=28

“My infectious agents.. invite an erotic embrace, a warm wet viral merging. And they are your best friends, your closest confidant, your perfect lover, spliced together forever at the cellular level.

But Viruses.. mimic others protoplasmic signatures to slip into places where the immune system would rather they not go — with the resulting viral cross-species merging being sex in its rawest form — the virus inserts its genetic material inside our cells, using our proteins to make an offspring, an almost perfect copy of itself. “

The language needs a little updating but the idea is the same.  My intent with carrier was to explore the textures of melding rather than contrasts of oppositions, and included intimate real life experiences of living with chronic viral illness, which were contributed anonymously from the internet.

One of the very interesting things I about this work is it is diminished now - almost none of it works.  Evolution of software and Operating Systems have breed it out of existence over 20 years . Java script and Java don’t always work, Shockwaves don’t function; the VRML pluggins are not available; the pop up windows that looked to be contaminating your screen with viral strains are mostly blocked.  

Here is some very dodgy documentation of a later version of carrier. https://www.dropbox.com/s/qdbyk4dtrndygjk/VTS_01_1.VOB?dl=0

till tomorrow (if I have electricity and a network -its rainy season here)

More information about the empyre mailing list