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FleshFactor: Re: re: prostheses are us

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"

On Thu, 22 May 1997, Carmen Hermosillo wrote:

> It seems to me that there is a place where cspace theory gets really
> stalled, and that place appears to be that people do not seem to be able
> to divorce their thinking from the meatbody thing.  Cspace is not an
> alternate meatbody.  It is not an extension of nature in the sense that we
> have ordinarily been taught to think of nature.  It exists apart from
> nature, eco-feminist ideology notwithstanding. 

That seems indeed to be the both the limit and a central issue in this
discussion.  How, if at all, can we forget the meatbody?  We seem to leap
into metaphors and abstractions in order to -quite intoxicatedly- preach
to ourselves the disappearance of our bodies.  But when we turn around and
attempt to think about who we become in this process we seem forced to
return to the meatbody: as erotic, politic, even historic site.  In a way,
even while we are able to viably sustain a notion of "subjectivity" which
no longer resides -or not exclusively resides- in the body, the idea of
"self" -battered but ready to battle- seeks the meatbody as locus and

At the same time, I am quite dumbstruck by the intensity with which
metaphors acquire their own substance in these discussions (I am thinking
about, for example, the uses of "natural", "nature", "organism", etc. at
the beginning of this thread).  Often it seems to me that we forget that
whatever it is the shape and consistency our flesh is acquiring through
this medium, it is strikingly linguistic in character.  It could be argued
that the technology is still developing and that the enhancement of audio
and image real-time capabilities of the medium will rapidly render that
point moot.  Which in a way is true as digital technologies and the Net
promise to become the total medium.  But it still remains, as a residue in
this process, the fact that we tend, quite strongly it seems to me, to
turn ourselves into language: the keyboard, and not the screen, is the
ultimate interface, the most dominant link in this technological line, at
least thus far. 

>From this perspective, certain things have already been encountered in the
work of pre-digital era people.  Bataille for one, understood the tragic
beauty of the body as the limit for language: that line where words no
longer speak but fall silent.  Foucault on the other hand, wrote
eloquently about literature as "the quickening of language", observing
with penetrant fascination how language became, at some point, an object,
with its own inertia and density.  Often I think that this is but the
ultimate dream of language itself: it has turned upon us to swallow us.
It would also explain the fascination and ease with which a certain
generation of artists and intellectuals regard and relate to cspace: it is
a technologically defined realm in which we are but thought, and thought,
for that matter, in its more conventional incarnation: text. 

Hence, for example, the very pertinent problems of translation raised in
another posting, which are not only a question of comfort but have deep
philosophical and political implications.  To think in English, in my
case, although painless after years of practice, still feels as a betrayal
of something in me and changes the way I understand things in subtle but
important ways.  That it has become a universal language (the imperial
esperanto) and that it allows broader connectivity, while true, should
-political issues aside- at least remind us that we are in fact
mediating/being mediated.  That we are translating, constantly.

But I am straying away... What I began thinking about is that indeed there
may be no way of escaping the meatbody/electricbody/metaphoricalbody
dynamic.  The meatbody remains, sci-fi notwithstanding, as carpal tunnel
syndrome and prosthetic applications of technology stubbornly remind us. 
In the same spirit, the old dream of transcending the flesh (to follow
Hale-Bopp for instance, or as popular myth would have it, to be immortal
through cloning for example) is not something that I personally would want
to embrace.  Call me nostalgic but I dislike the idea that I am to become
but a quantum of information travelling around in a virtual realm.

I understand that it is not necessary to think about all this in terms of
substitution (virtual body for meatbody), that this is a conceptual
simulation and a rhetorical device, but the inertia of the rhetoric and
the discourse scares me at best, bores me most of the time, and leaves me
totally outside at worst.

(Not to imply I am not having a great time reading this symposium)


Guillermo Cifuentes.

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