[-empyre-] October topic: This Mess We're In

Barendregt, Laura (Stud. FASoS) l.barendregt at student.maastrichtuniversity.nl
Tue Oct 2 14:23:35 AEST 2018

Thanks for the introduction Tarsh and for inviting me and all the artists to contribute to the discussion this month. My involvement with This Mess We're In started two months ago when arrived to complete a student placement at SymbioticA. I was quickly taken in by Tarsh to help pull together the exhibition and learn, through and with her, what is required to make such a show a reality. 

I first encountered Frankenstein and Mary Shelley in my final year of high school. We studied it in a unit called "Text and Context - Text and Time". We were required to read the novel, learn about it's context, piece together how it was a product of it's time, place and author, and then compare this with the film Bladerunner, a contemporary telling of the same tale. While we were taught there are multiple ways to read a text (I recall one or two lessons on post-modern theory that baffled me at the time), being high school, we were told which readings were important for our purposes, and what quotes to memories for our final exam. Re-reading the same copy I studied a mere seven years ago, I see those lines I was told to underline, and remember how we removed them from their neighbouring text to make one sheet to memorise. Like Victor, we sliced the segments we deemed necessary for our purposes, and discarded the rest. Shelley's text was reduced to twenty or so, three to seven word lines that we held these up as representing it as a whole.

My experience today, re-reading the text and learning about all the works in this exhibition, has been quite different. As I have worked my way through the story, new ideas and readings jump out at me, many of which are being taken up and extended upon by the artists in TMWI. One obvious one is the binary relationship between the masculine and feminine (something that was also highlighted to us in school). This time around I am struck by just how head-strong, self-absorbed and arrogant Victor is, and so really appreciate how Mike Bianco's work has played with the hyper-masculine energy Victor embodies. Over the weekend Tarsh and I were discussing Katie West's piece, how it explores what counts as technology and asks the viewer to consider themselves, specifically their hands, as a technological instrument. Currently completing a Masters heavy in Science and Technology Studies (STS) theory, I found the idea that our bodies are the origin point of everything that we have created, and we are simply expanding on ourselves, really refreshing. Although I also see the other side of this sword and how this line of argumentation could lead down the path of transhumanism and the discarding of the body as an outdated artefact, like a iPhone 8. If Victor's tale tells us anything, I think it is that some things are better left to the body, and to be wary when we begin to usurp or expand upon it. 

I'll leave it here for now, and look forward to reading what everyone contributes this month.



Laura Barendregt
Student Research Masters Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology, Maastricht University
Research Intern, SymbioticA, University of Western Australia

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