[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

<eyebeam><blast> posthuman?

A few thoughts on re-embodiment

Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote a lovely little book called Eye and Mind,
against the reduction of thought to abstract, atemporal representations
like the perspective system or projective geometry, and to the machines
that develop and implement such representations. These he considered a
poor metaphor of the self (as Simon Biggs might say). For Merleau-Ponty,
thought is inseparable from perception, which in turn is inseparable
from the particularisms of one's body in time: the right side is not the
left, seeing out of two eyes is not the same as seeing with one, youth
is not old age, and so on. His book was an invitation to develop a
certain kind of attention to the connection between self and world
through the bodily senses, such that in the end, even the various
technological amplifications of perception no longer seem to annihilate
the possibility of relations between specifically embodied bearers of
consciousness. "All techniques," he says, "are techniques of the body."

That attitude can apply to the extremely supple technology of the net,
and I certainly sense, from time to time, the presence of bodies through
their electro-poetic traces on my screen - traces which remain
material-energetic and finite, despite the immense scope of their
reproduction through the net. But I think Merleau-Ponty's invitation to
a certain kind of practice (praxis, they said at the time) has to be
renewed in our day. The dissociation between what I send out over the
net and its effects can be so great as to encourage me to forget other
bodies (or what Levinas calls the face of others). The example of
American jet-pilots bombing Irakis seen through a VR helmet is a case in
point; the current workings of the finance economy are, I'd say, a
parallel writ large. And despite the self-teaching capacities built into
their feedback loops, cybernetic information processing machines do not
yet seem to me to offer a very good metaphor of the way to make
decisions about birth, death, and what to do in between those potent

But the net can convey a fabulous invitation to embodiment, when it's
used to provoke encounters and develop collaborations over time. The
experiments of "Deep Europe" spoken about in the Translocality post by
Tapio Makela point in that direction. Pedro Meyer of ZoneZero made some
encouraging observations as well.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday evening, Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger
emerged from her ghostly net existence to participate in our Paris
seminar, and give me a little book with pictures of her work. The book
contains these thoughts from Levinas about the meanings of maintenant,
the French word for "now":

"Main-tenant: hand-holding. The present corresponds to the hand: it is
what one can work, take, apprehend, understand (com-prendre)."

Thanks, Bracha.

Brian Holmes
a critical forum for artistic practice in the network
texts are the property of individual authors
to unsubscribe, send email to eyebeam@list.thing.net
with the following single line in the message body:
unsubscribe eyebeam-list
information and archive at <a href="http://www.eyebeam.org" target="_top">http://www.eyebeam.org</a>
Eyebeam Atelier/X Art Foundation <a href="http://www.blast.org" target="_top">http://www.blast.org</a>