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<eyebeam><blast> carnival and lent (self-intro, theory later)

       I love this time of year--carnival into lent--because it works
through extremes, letting the flesh and repressed desires have their
way, then exerting will over the body in self-elected privation. In this
evocative season, I catch a glimpse of myself with my paper dress
(foolish of me) torn to shreds on a similar Monday during Fasching when
I was an exchange student in Berlin in the 1960's. On a similar Tuesday
in the early '90's in New Orleans, a journal editor/new friend and I
were offered breasts for sale from a cart at the edge of the carnival
parade.  She and I tied the plastic breasts over our jackets.  Despite
being decades older and the unreality of our "breasts," (aside from the
bumpy nipples) the effect on the young men in the crowd around us was
sensational. One of them spontaneously pierced his ear in a fit of
enthusiasm. The commotion we created followed in our wake throughout the
night. The incident underlined for me that when it comes to desire,
"breasts" are symbols that are all the more engaging (or outrageous)
when they are so obviously separated from the body, so clearly fetish
and fantasy. Yet, such fantasy has actual effects. Indeed, symbols are
also events.

        Less than a year later, my friend in the New Orleans adventure
notified me by email that she had breast cancer. I wondered if she was
able to avoid superstititious feelings about our transgression (whatever
that was--perhaps our power). I made an intimate health revelation in
exchange. Who knows where our conversation would have led, had not my
next email message been from a net functionary at my university warning
me that my email was not private.

        In my forthcoming book (Indiana UP, April), Virtualities:
Television, Media Art and Cyberculture, among many other things, I
propose the notion of "symbolic events."  That is, my insight is that
distinctions between words, images and symbols and "real life" are often
misguided, especially once machines can say "I" and "you" and we are
immersed visually, aurally and kinetically in symbolic worlds of our own
creation. I offer examples of symbolic events from the Gulf War, the
Romanian uprising/coup and in the experience of various pieces of art. I
consider the internet a vast externalization of a symbolic system that
is also manifest in other degrees of materialization, including the
infrastructure and the protocyberspace of the built environment.  I have
written on the distracted or spaced out experience evoked in freeways
and malls and the deep structure (i.e.chronotope or organization of
space, time and subjectivity) the built environment shares with
television at least in mass market American media.  Similarly, I view
the net and net art as a combination of physical and virtual relations.
The few pieces of net art I know best are not contained in hyermedia
space, but have physical, local components.  (Would some of you be kind
enough to share the address of your favorite web piece?  I have an
impoverished knowledge of this art that I want to expand.)

        Obviously, I share Katherine Hayles views on the body in
cyberculture. I too was inspired by Hans Moravec.  He plays a prominent
role in a section of my "What Do Cyborgs Eat?" (reprinted in my book),
along with all sorts of "oral logic" that I think constructs identity to
a far greater degree in cyberculture than does "identification." 
Moravec's vignette of how to domesticate a household robot also inspired
one section of my "Smarting Flesh: Pain and the Posthuman" that has yet
to (may never?) appear in an anthology on pain from U Minn. Pr.
Sometimes getting mad, being appalled, disgusted, etc.by someone who
voices what so many other people just fantasize can be very productive.

       I am an art junkie, and will overextend myself physically and
financially to experience a piece that could provide me some
(corporeally realized) insight.  I believe in learning with the body and
I have learned as much from experiencing art as I have from the
discrepancies and enigmas of daily life/art.  I have written art
criticism in a number of venues, most recently as principle author of
"Hardware, Software, Artware" (ZKM/Cantz, 1997), in which I engaged 24
different pieces of art. This institutionally located criticism is just
part of a writing praxis that includes cultural criticism of food and
eating, driving, sports and other fields of experience.

       What sticks in my mind from the 200plus pages of posts to eyebeam
are  glimpses into personal experience that is far different than my
own. I find such a revelation illuminating, especially when memory or a
situation is the seed or root of an ongoing artistic obsession and/or
societal engagement.  Of course, a personality comes alive in every
choice of word as well as in the opinions voiced here, whether or not I
get a vision of the space around the sender's computer. To me the
darknet is very bright, since it is at least as effective as the web at
conveying persona and revealing vast areas of life that are almost never
addressed in the media of any other sort.

       In my mind's eye I see a cabin in Alaska and hope its occupant is
still with the conversation. I'd love to know more about his life/art.
So glad, to see a post from Josephine Bosma: I miss her fiery energy and
self-revelation on the FACES list.  I do know more about two ateliers in
Paris than I did before.  I also read how El Nino rains differently in
San Diego and Tiajuana.  Well, El Nino (or as a columnist here calls it
"El Teeno") is raining here today, and the creek next to my house is
scary again. Down the street an immense cedar planted by the original
Spanish land grant holder fell on a car waiting at an intersection for
the light and killed its occupant. I was glad to see bouquets of flowers
on the stump yesterday.

        I was enchanted by Eve Laramee's post on her childhood
observation of ants. What draws me most recently is the notion of
collectivities that ants and the emerging patterns of artificial life
allow us to explore.  In my opinion, our repetoire of concepts for
collectivity is impoverished. The Cold War had something to do with
this, but so does a capitalist ideology of individualism and consumerism
that makes the market the measure of everything. (This is not at all to
say that I don't appreciate the life-saving and enhancing aspects of
modernism or technology.)  The web and its ebbs and flows offers a
vision of art that is not about pages and links but about collective
embodiment and shifting virtual relations.

        There are things I will add later to the threads on locality and
on death and virtuality ( I have published on both these topics.)  There
is more I can say about the basic ideas I wanted to get across in my
book including prosposing that there is another species of fiction at
work largely unbeknowst.  Though virtualities or fictions of presence
are inherent in human relations of every sort, the 1960's was a period
in which awareness of them arose in art, activism and philosophy. In the
meantime, I the voice I have adopted here is not off-putting.  I liked
very much the informational postings on web statistics or a list of
other events and organizations such as Tapio's or the contesting posts
of Pedro Meyer and the critical opening salvo of Olu Oguibe. I liked the
manifesto-like contributions as well.  What I find difficulty engaging
are ungrounded or unsituated, impersonal ideas (though they are a part
of life I accept in print.)

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