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FleshFactor: RE: 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 Fri, 30 May 1997, Pat Churchland wrote:

(about my statement of "flesh" being rather "linguistic" in cspace)

> Golly, I don't quite see that.  At least, it seems to me highly
> exaggerated, to put it mildly, to say this.  In what sense is my stomach
> linguistic?  Or my tendons?  Or my cortex?  That I have names for them
> does not MAKE them linguistic -- does not make them a part of language in
> any obvious sense.  I realize that I am taking you very literally here,
> but if you do not mean it literally, (and surely it is false if taken
> literally) what DO you mean?

Precisely my point. As Carmen Hermosillo pointed out in her response, the
search for the meatbody behind language is a primary impulse and part of
the motor that drives us humans. Which is what Bataille knew: that when we
reach, in the categories of language, the limit of the body and we
transgress it (erotically in his case), language reverses, empties itself,
falls apart. The flesh cannot be contained in the word flesh.

But what I was thinking about is how we have thought so much about the
empire of the visual (to put it somehow) and we forget that language
remains, in my opinion, the primary form of mediation with which we choose
to manifest ourselves.

If the dream of the technology is one of disembodiment, I was just trying
to suggest that we might have to think about our embodiment in language as
a way of understanding it. I am a video artist myself and as such I too
tend to privilege the visual as a primary form of mediated or
representational "reality" in our culture. When confronted with the net
and cspace however (and I am comparatively new in this, I'll admit) it has
from the beginning struck me really hard how it is words and not images or
sounds which dominate the scenery. More than being blind, already tragic
enough, the greatest handicap at the end of the millennium might be to be
illiterate (in the oldest sense of the word: "an-alphabet"). 

I just read an interview with Susan Buck-Morss in the CAA Art Journal
where she describes the "philosophical experience" of encountering the
word "I" in a tri-dimensional interactive setting. "I" becomes an almost
tangible entity to be circled around and even climbed, which throws our
notions of the relative referentiality and subservience of language into
question. And it is this, further, what I believe to be one of the most
radical transformations brought about by digital tech. "Text" has acquired
a vitality and elasticity, a density and objectuality that is quite
exciting. What has been going on with visuals and other manifestations is
rather pale in comparison to analog media, in my modest opinion.
Obviously I was speaking metaphorically, which in turn was also part of
the point: through and with this medium metaphorical thought becomes more
objectual than we ever imagined language could be. And that is something
that has been largely thought about and explored by predigital thinkers
and authors. 

So re-formulating, my statement could read like this: if we are to assume
-as I believe- that this discussion is in part about how self and
subjectivity take a new form (how "flesh" becomes another "flesh") then we
should probably bear in mind how this process is effected in language as a
possible starting point. Yet in other words, if there is a virtual me in
virtual space this virtual me is rather appallingly linguistic (or textual
if you will, I am not too bent on extreme rigor in these postings). 

In this regard, initially two things seemed to me to be crucial to

1) Language is not neutral (ever), which seemingly many contributors in
this forum don't want to think about (like when there is talk about some
sort of liberated, free-floating subjectivity, or when "identity" is

2) (and here is where we agree) however versatile, lush, fleshy and juicy
language is in cspace, it still amounts to a form of mediation and cannot,
however hard we dream of it, finally, absolutely, irretrievably, efface
the meatbody (subject to decay, but also, nostalgic me, capable of its own
irreplaceable glories)

Finally, and I realize this does not belong in this particular context but
I can't resist the temptation to answer, as far as names and naming go,
did we have a "cortex" before we isolated it as a discrete part and gave
it a name?  Naming is also a process of construction (of the real, in this
case, the body) as the history of anatomy itself vertiginously

Guillermo Cifuentes


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