In contemporary critical theory, the time of correlationist views — “the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other”, has reached its limits when confronted with contemporary phenomena, and is preventing the intellectual advancement of knowledge, being unable to assess and understand recent developments in history. “In the face of the looming ecological catastrophe, and the increasing infiltration of technology into the everyday world (including our own bodies), it is not clear that the anti-realist position is equipped to face up to these developments.” Viewing speculative realism from Deleuze via Delanda gives non-human phenomena agency as phenomena can be regarded as actors within systems that are in a state of virtuality and, as they interact with external agents, becoming. When intensities become individuated, the intensive properties that conditioned the individuation process disappear or are concealed beneath the extensive properties of the finalized individual. Otherwise, they are in a state of flux, and dependent on their inherent potentiality, influence the other actors around them in a dynamic that fluctuates the world around us. From the advent of the technological age, scientists have been modelling our nerves as combinations of electric resistors and capacitors. Symbolic systems have become interlaced with biological systems, and the human nervous system is co-extensive with these information systems. Concurrently, the planet has been modulated into a computational megastructure, theorised as "The Stack", with layers as such; user, interface, address, city, cloud, earth. What this has left society with is a vast living techno-ecosystem with a limitless set of heterogeneous rhythms and patterns. While these infrastructures have been modelled for the creation of a society of control that benefits the vectorialist class ("those who control the vectors along which information circulates, ...they own the means of realising the value of information"), this thesis argues that aspects of resistance can emerge through the morphogenetic relationship between these systems and society. Specifically, through exploring the medium of installation-based video art, the very properties of light, sound and movement produce not only a wavering and questionable sense of time but also, a permeability that allows for an unfolding, malleable multiplicity that can produce an organic, radically alive environment. Additionally, as information systems form the basis for semiotic communication, non-linear causality in the form of feedback loops can be used in a narrative that links the viewer to the emotional resonance of the work, giving possibility to variations in the intensity of life within the work. This abstraction acts as an enabling force when considering the unintelligibility of the representation of memory. Works that are porous in this nature reflect the undetermined systemic interdependence of agents, homologous to relationships found outside of human agency, and as such, allow for reflection on the (in)significance of the human condition -- “To examine the multivalent aesthetics of abstraction in contemporary video art is to study artists’ interpretations of the always, already digital now: the embodiment of systems—the visual representation of ideas”. The following are ideas that will be extended in the subsequent chapters in support of this thesis.
While digital culture has permeated daily life through the imposition of the networked condition, a dialogue that questions this state, while utilising the same methods of transmission, is critical to maintaining an intensity of complexity and richness in visual culture as a counterpoint to the deluge of capital-oriented imagery. This novel relationship with technology and imagery is of key importance. The agency of these images, where the medium of consumption formulates the new condition of participatory labour, changes the conditioned response to imagery in the viewer. The action of scrolling has been equated to labour in contemporary theory and art, but in fact, this relationship requires analysis beyond the Marxist paradigm, as there is a simultaneity of interaction occurring -- the user is engaged in both the generation of wealth for the corporation but is receiving a product at the same time, and throughout this interaction is prey to the metered emotional response systems akin to addiction that are actively programmed into the system to maximise the efficiency of profit generation. There is a new relationship in the mediation of technology and the individual, as they have become part of the spatial metaphor discussed above in 'The Stack'. This has lead to a dramatic restructuring of our sense of spatial and temporal orientation, which coincides with the absence of linearity in both perspective and time. As we walk the ground guided by satellites 36 000 km away from us, a strange familiarity of vertical surveillance has become common. Even geopolitical power itself has become theorised into vertical sovereignty, eschewing the former dominance of the planar map. This perspective from places the observer in a floating non-space. "This establishes a new visual normality—a new subjectivity safely folded into surveillance technology and screen-based distraction". While the conceptual development of this idea can be linked to both the collapse of linear perspective in artwork as well as the mathematical idea in topology that two parallel lines can indeed converge in an infinite space, this leads to the potentiality of this new perspectival also being superseded, towards "an absence of grounding that embraces a world of forces and matter, which lacks any original stability and sparks the sudden shock of the open, into a liberation that is terrifying, utterly deterritorializing, and unknown." Within the context of this paper, this novel relationship that technology has introduced regarding the mediated image will be examined through particular video works.
Finally, alongside the possibilities opened up with the views of speculative realism, there exists the framework to ideate upon where technology will lead us, a sentiment that co-exists with the intent of my work. Considering the non-human within our ecosystems reveals multiplicities towards extending the definitions of consciousness, and within these extensions, avails what artificial consciousness could entail. Previous investigations in this area focussed on 'intelligence', which leads to the assumption that a brute-force method will eventually end up with a technological answer to the question of what constitutes a conscious mind. However, counter to this argument exists speculation that the processing power of the human mind is folded into a neurological quantum state that defies current understanding of computation. Within the scope this paper, I am interested in what connections exist currently in investigations of artificial consciousness and the aforementioned theories of potentiality afford in the speculation of future histories of experience. The realm of art is currently the only area where these questions are currently being asked, even within the realm of our relationship towards technological development -- which is highly problematic given the rarified access the general public has to these inquiries. Nevertheless, these questions have permeated into popular culture (thankfully) as perhaps a result of the penetration of technology into our daily existence, and of course thanks to some remarkable fiction by certain authors.
My own work exists within these paradigms of questioning what it means to be part of an ecology, where external vectors constantly influence your state of being. The trend of philosophical thought up until quite recently has postulated that being human afforded some exclusivity towards this phenomenon by placing our existence only within the realm of what we perceive, but the current trend evidents that we are but a mere cog in all the mutable machines of existence. In what seems to be the time we have left as a species, I am interested in examining the specific aspects that quantify the different variations of being alive and how to intensify the presence of things, to look at how things change, are transformed, or metabolize.
Notes The Spreadability of Video, Christine Ross Deleuze and the open-ended becoming of the world, Manual DeLanda The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective, Hito Steyerl
BIN OF REJECTION Topic
I am interested in researching the dislocative nature of technology. There are multiple nodes interlacing symbolic systems with biological systems as the human nervous system is being superimposed by information systems. These relationships are fundamentally altering how we interact with the external world, and changing our perception of reality. This thesis will trace this development from the advent of modernity to present day, and present speculation towards the future. I will also concurrently write about methods of resistance, hope, and positive societal ramifications of this phenomenon.
I intend to investigate this topic through a mixture of critical theory, key historical reference points, examples from art/music/film/design, and an analysis of my own work. I am particularly interested in the links in cultural discourse that were instrumental in fomenting the public conceptual framework.
The final document will be a visual essay, where both fictional and academic-ish texts will be accompanied by imagery created and appropriated by me.
Spiritual Cyborg / Alchemical Fire
To establish the parameters in which we currently relate to the body, I will develop a lineage of this phenomenon. This will include an analysis of the early relationship between culture and technology, how tech developments are born of a lineage of mythology, rites, rituals and how they related to a collectivity of consciousness. [give egs] In times of technological paradigm shifts, cultures turn to mythology in order to explain things they don't understand. From here, I will reconstruct a lineage of the bio-political references that have dictated this relationship through statecraft. The construction of gender normativity is key to this argument. I surmise that this disruptive force acted as the impetus that cultured society into today's networked state of being. Texts - Erik Davis-Techgnosis, Juan Downey-Radical Software, Paul Preciado-The Pharmo-Porno Body Politic
Metabolic Rift in Ecology
This section will investigate the relationship to ecology that encompass social, technological, and biological systems through the scope of subjective physical perception. The permeability of ecological systems allow for feedback loops to compensate for instability in a given system, and this rhizomatic structure allows for change to the system itself, it is also inclusionary. In contrast, network logic is rigid, hard-coded and inflexible and is dictatorial towards inclusion, exclusion and access. The contrast in these ontologies is central to the dislocation that occurs as a result of attempting to interact with these systems simultaneously. Texts - TJ Demos-Decolonizing Nature, Timothy Morton-Hyperobjects
Mediating the Networked Self
Extensions of the body as networked beings, how telepresence alters the perception of the body and emphasizes a non-linear multiplicity of self. Through telepresence, our bodies become superfluous, our consciousness seems to expand to all corners of the universe. When our interaction with the world is reduced to mediated signals, how can we know to place the significance of reality on them? As Descartes claimed, our access to reality is already indirectly mediated through our senses. As technology is making perception increasingly indirect, it dictates that we take for granted the reality of what we perceive. "...the networked subject occupies a cartesian place where only the self can be taken for granted, and every other aspect of networked reality is a world of mediated shadows whose reality we can only infer". case study: drone warfare, actor-network theory texts - Robot in the Garden, Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet-Ken Goldberg, Hamlet on the Holodeck-Janet Murray
Tangible Resistance / Future Forms
Are there any possible forms of resistance to the totalising nature of the networked self? What are the speculative possibilities of dislocation, can this give agency towards defeating the technological hegemony? Do technologies of liberation exist? Through some of the readings I have been doing, there is a notion that whatever can be called "noise" is filtered out of communication models, and as such is the place of alterity, othering, resistance. Additionally, I will touch on the phenomenon of artificial intelligence through the lens of a speculative inquiry. In relation to my thesis topic, I will investigate aspects of the human emotional experience and its relation to future networked non-humans, looking into how dislocation from a human body will augment this. Also the ramifications of creating these intelligences that will operate beyond the realms of human knowledge. texts - Zach Blas, Michel Serres-ParaSite, Off the network-Ulises Ali Mejias, Cecil B Evans, Amy Ireland-Noise as an ontology for the Avant-Garde
In the last year, my work was centred around the investigation of a non-human entity on a quest to define key emotional aspects of the human experience. Additionally, through another project I investigated how technology is changing the role of the soldier through the drone use. In my last project, I investigated the manner in which technological affect can redefine the relationship an individual has with their body, though the manner in which dislocation changes perception.
Tracing the methods of societal control in a lineage from pre-modernity to biopolitics, the totalising logic of the network has colonised our collective power to imagine alternatives. I am interested in researching methods of resistance to this. I deem there are methods in the voids outside of control where unassailable aspects of the human condition can offer a viable platform for the future. Communication theory dictates two nodes interfacing in the presence of noise, and the internet has perfected the elimination of noise -- but noise communicates difference. Only in the outside spaces of the network, beyond the nodes, to we have enough clarity to hear alternative subjectivities.
In the critical encounter of what defines being today, commodified technology has placed a hegemonic form of social reality within the confines of nodes, dots and lines that define the network stack. I am interested in investigating forms of resistance against this phenomenon, primarily in the space beyond the topological limits of the distributed network diagram.
• Dislocation of identity from physicality ==> biometrics as self
• constructed physical world = perception of the body ==> virtual world perception of consciousness ==> boundaries of these spaces = noise/unconscious
• If existence is a means of control, then non-existence is a form of evading control. How can we non-exist towards the machines?
• Modulating perceptions of time that technological developments have on the individual
magic seems like reality since nothing else makes sense anyways
I am interested in researching the thresholds between the real and the virtual, with respect to the perception of the human body and physical spaces, and then consequently the virtual spaces that are being defined today, and their effect on our consciousness. There exists multiple relationships between these spaces, but they are centrally connected through performativity of the human, and its interaction with the non-human. These spaces have blurry boundaries and definitions, and become solid generally when they are commodified. At any moment in time, an individual can be spread across multiple locations, both real and virtual. Information exchanges transplant a portion of the mind to another place, apart from the physical body. I would like to investigate narrative spaces that tangibly manifest dislocation in a hallucinatory and dreamlike environment. Can architectural forms, light and sound ultimately question our perception of reality? The human psyche is constantly being threatened by a denial of service attack from the systems of information control, with the intent of creating the spectre of individual freedom. Individual’s consciousness are being spread across a vast virtual domain, this material forms a sort of de facto primordial soup for the ascent of artificial intelligences. Coupled with this, the physical spaces that contain our corporal being are irreversibly changing. Plastics and radioactive debris are becoming imbued into aspects of the planet that give us life. This has both a mutagenic and endocrinal disruptive effect on the body. These factors sum to the notion of what I would like to address within the concept of becoming posthuman.
The thesis territory I am interested in researching can be viewed on a coordinate plane, with the real and the virtual forming one axis, and the human and non-human (or post human?) forming the other. Within this system, I am interested in investigating the interactions of these polarities within human consciousness. The constructed physical world influences the perception of the body. The virtual world(s?) reflect the conscious desires of a space broken free of these tangible boundaries. In between is the unconsciousness and noise, and at the boundaries of these spaces are the transitory zones where the mind/body constructions dissolve into thought. In the physical world, I think this is where the constructions of modernity that are falling apart have this effect on the human psyche. Mass pollution, poverty, unending asymmetrical war, etc... are phenomena that break down the assumptions that formulate the psyche. Glaring discrepancies exist within the promises of technology and capital. This creates a cognitive dissonance where the unreal seems just as plausible as alleged reality.
(Some general related quotes)
"Cybernetic technology operating in synchrony with our nervous systems is the alternative life for a disoriented humanity Electronics inevitably stretching the human nervous system reshapes the manner in which we occupy environment . By expanding our perception, electronic circuits strengthen the man-space relationship, rendering apparent its dependency upon time " Juan Downey
“In the face of a politics that prefers to work in the speculative tense, what is called for is something like a creative sabotage of the future; a pragmatics of pre-emptive resistance capable of actualising the future outside of the policeable boundaries of property right. This is an abstract formula for resistance that applies to such diverse questions as the capitalisation of health and old age insurance, biological patents of all kinds, and the commercialisation of the elements, from privatised water to traceable pollution rights and environmental catastrophe bonds”. To sabotage this future that totalises the image as nothing more than representation, and submits to the oppressive reign of the informational present, how can my work fight against this? Finding a way to relate subjective experience to the political, to propose questions not as assertions or affirmations, but as ideas. "
“I am writing you all this from another world, a world of appearances. In a way, the two worlds communicate with each other. Memory is to one what history is to the other. An impossibility. Legends are born out the need to decipher the indecipherable. Memories must make due with their delirium, with their drift. A moment stopped would burn like a frame of film blocked before the furnace of the projector. Madness protects, as fever does. To play with the signs of memory. To pin them down and decorate them like insects that would have flown beyond time where you can contemplate them from a point outside of time — the only eternity left. I look at these machines, I think of a world where each memory could create its own legend…. Here is a story of one who has lost the ability to forget, who, through some peculiarity of his nature, instead of drawing pride from the fact and scorning humankind of the past and its shadows, turned to it first with curiosity and then with compassion. In the world they come from, to call forth a vision, to be moved and tremble at a portrait or the sound of music can only be signs of a long and painful prehistory. ”
A long time between suns - the otolith group
Suspiria - Stan Douglas
Alien Agency, Experimental Encounters with the art of making - Chris Salter
Sans Soleil - Chris Marker
Hyperobjects - Timothy Morton