Posthumanism in the Wires : Selected Artist Links
Steve Mann : is considered by many to be the inventor of WearComp (wearable computer) and WearCam (eyetap camera and reality mediator). Dr. Mann has been working on his WearComp invention for more than 20 years, dating back to his highschool days in the 1970's.
Stelarc : is an Australian-based performance artist whose work explores and extends the concept of the body and its relationship with technology through human-machine interfaces incorperating medical imaging, prosthetics, robotics, VR systems and the internet.
Arthur Kroker is a Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Theory and the Director of the Pacific Centre for technology and Culture (PACTAC) at the University of Victoria. His most recent book is the Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism.
Future Physical > Biotechnology links : wearable computing, responsive environments, eco-technology, liquid crystalline collagen fibres of the connective tissues, worlds first syborg, biometric control centre, digital bodies, bio-memetic control research centre ... etc.
Eduardo Kac is internationally recognized for his interactive net installations and his bio art. His visionary combination of robotics and networking explores the fluidity of subject positions in the post-digital world.
The Human Genome Project ends in 2003 with the completion of the human genetic sequence. A working draft of the entire human genome sequence was announced in June 200, with analyses published in February 2001.
The Artificial Intellegence Labratory : Our goal is to understand the nature of intelligence and to engineer systems that exhibit intellegence - to understand how the human mind works. We believe that vision, robotics, and language are the keys to understanding intelligence.
The Visible Human Server - at the EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne). the Peripheral Systems Lab (Prof. R.D. hersch and his team) is proud to offer a virtual anatomic construction kit on the web using the Visible Human data set.
Posthumanism in the Wires : Introduction by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker
Posthumanism in the Wires tells the story of what happens to the body in the biotech century, and, more importantly, what is the human response to its sudden, deep immersion in a techno-future that includes cloning, transplants, stem cell therapy, genetic engineering and pharmacology.

The Posthuman Body is Remix
When cyberculture is no longer limited to computer codes, digital animation and data archives, but actually begins to grow a new type of body equipped for speed travel in chip society then we know that we are transitioning between the end of the human species and the beginning of something dramatically new: the culture of posthumanism.

Here, first glimpses are to be had of cyberbodies for posthuman living: prosthetic implants, iPod hearing, digital eyes, genetically improved IQs – clones, transplants, hybrids and transgenics. But also first knowledge of the darker side of cyber-bodies: Mad Cow, SARS, Avian Flu, sterile fields, Norwalk virus, West Nile virus, viral terrorism. Could it be the greater the tech, the more the contagions?

Such at least is the future which is being imposed on us by the accelerated motion of the technological imperative. It is a future in which we are compelled to shed the body, putting on instead the skin of the posthuman body. Dwellling in a cyberculture that blurs the edges, the posthuman body has quickly taken to remix culture as the homepage of its identity. In essence, the posthuman body is remix. But remix what? The seduction of technotopia or tech which crashes and burns the human species?

Crash and Burn? Putting on the Skin of the Posthuman Body
Steve Mann (“The Post-Cyborg Path to Deconism”) and Jason Lubyk (“Lifestyles of the Cloned and (In)Famous”) use wit, satire and theatre to illustrate issues associated with cloning and surveillance. They ask in common: What are the consequences of an unchallenged biotech future? What happens when surveillance systems turn an eye inwards? As Mann states: “We become the specimens of an experiment perpetrated from afar, without our knowledge or consent.”

Indeed, if Paul Virilio can highlight Mann as a hero of the “revolution in transmission,” it is because Mann’s experimental deployment of technology has already migrated his thought beyond the limits of the earth-bound human species, becoming the engineer/artist who has relentlessly explored the spectral dimensions of the post-cyborg body. Famous for his invention of the wearable computer while a graduate student at MIT and for his translation of the myth of the cyborg into practical “how-to” classes at MIT and the University of Toronto on actually becoming a cyborg (complete with plug-ins and AI vision), Mann is a courageous and brilliant explorer of the dark side of network culture, namely the transformation of the utopian dreams of cyberspace into the hyper-1984 reality of the Total Surveillance Society. Perhaps not content with his role as a hero in the “revolution in transmission,” Mann’s artistic work focuses critically on the “revolution in transplants.” Specifically, at an annual Toronto performance art event called Deconism, Mann brings together artists, theoreticians, and leading thinkers of our times to decontexualize, deconstruct, decontaminate, and deconfigure the tendencies to domination inherent in cyber-space. Of course, in a wired culture where futurist theory almost immediately flips into grisly political reality, a recent Deconism event which focused on mass decontamination, was a eerie prelude to the announcement by the Bush Administration that, under the pretext of the never-ending war on terrorism, each American family should prepare for terrorist strikes against the ‘homeland’ of iconic surburbia with plastic sheeting and duct tape for windows in addition to a three day supply of food and water. In Virilio’s scenario of war where the state, first and foremost, declares war on its own population, Mann’s vision of mass decontamination procedures as the inevitable prelude to a society of total domination may be deeply prophetic.

And so it is with the Critical Art Ensemble, a collaborative group of artists, writers and performers who recently learned all too well what happens when you touch the nerve-net of the American state. Their performance art was deemed “bio-terrorism” by an increasingly paranoic state because they dared to tell an alternative story about biogenetics and power. Of course, their real offense was that they challenged the state’s coercive monopoly on the language of symbolic exchange. <www.rtmark.com/CAE>

Learning & Remixing Posthuman
Taking remix culture as their starting-point, Nick Rombes (“Professor DVD”) and Jeff Rice (“What is Cool? Notes on Intellectualism, Popular Culture, and Writing’) present media analysis of life in the digital matrix.

Co-founder of the program in Electronic Critique at the University of Detroit Mercy, Rombes argues in the face of the digital implosion that all mystery is lost with the appearance of the DVD in film studies. Not a nostalgic position, Rombes writes about the transformed quality of film interpretation under the sign of Professor DVD. Here, the traditional guild nature of film education is replaced by DVDs with all the possibilities that entails for directors to deconstruct their own films, and for students to watch different versions of the same film, to view films which film the film, and to “unmask…the generic narrative conventions of the slasher films…”. With “Professor DVD,” we are suddenly in McLuhan’s “university without walls:” digital education that instantly dethrones the authority of the film professor and perhaps the archiving of film theory. As Rombes states: “The first step is to recognize that DVDs are more than a simple technical advancement – that they signal the emergence of a new and more complex sensibility on the part of may viewers. In a strange way, because film studies has triumphed as the dominant discourse, it is now threatened with its own obsolescene. There’s nothing more dangerous than victory.

To the same extent that Rombes explores the impact upon the cool medium of the DVD upon education, Jeff Rice investigates the cultural history of cool itself. Debunking Wired and Rolling Stone’s attempts to enumerate ‘cool sites,’ Rice speaks about cool as a remix medium: To construct cool discourse, sampling must be mixed. Otherwise, the commutative moments remains distinct and isolated; they continue to function as cultural markers with no evident substance…The mixer, the electronic device used to juxtapose disparate sounds, determines production in cool writing by completing the commutation process… ”The mix gets inside us,” Erik Davis writes, “and changes the way the world arises before us.”

Theorizing the Posthuman
Posthumanism in Wires concludes with two theorizations of the digital future: John Armitage’s “Beyond Postmodernism? Paul Virilio’s Hypermodern Cultural Theory” and Arthur Kroker’s “Hyper-Heidegger.” Virilio and Heidegger, then, as double signs of the posthuman future, both representing critical reflections on the “question of technology” and both seeking to understand technology in a language that stretches from antiquity to cyberculture.

Writing from different historical and intellectual standpoints – Heidegger is a German philosopher of the ruins of modernity and Virilio a French theorist of technological dystopia – Virilio and Heidegger have important insights concerning the migration of the body into its posthuman skin. Approaching modernity through the prism of technology, Virilio has developed literally decades of brilliant writings on the dark side of modernity. Fascinated by the logic of technology (consider the titles of his books: Pure War, Speed and Politics, The Aesthetics of Disappearance, The Information Bomb, Polar Inertia, The Politics of the Very Worst, Strategy of Deception) – Virilio’s thought has imprinted itself on the global brain as a dominant code for interpreting posthuman culture. Refusing the nostalgia of modernism and too much a Catholic humanist to ever make his peace with postmodern theory, Virilio’s thought emerges directly from the spectre of posthumanism. In the same way that Heidegger could say that Nietzsche was the “philosopher of completed nihilism,” so too Virilio is the theorist of completed posthumanism. Virilio’s writings represent a critical diagnosis, often years in advance, of the technological future and a desperate attempt to inject a trace of humanism into the cyber-constructs of posthuman culture. Following Hannah Arendt’s injunction to think between past and future, Virilio is one theorist of technological society who insists on recovering the critical insights of traditional humanism as an antidote against the nihilism of the cybernetic future. More than is customary, Virilio’s thought illuminates the radically altered realities of a technoculture where even the grounding referents of space and time have been transformed into “light-time” and “light-space,” and where the human body has literally been “boarded” and “pirated” by its technological prosthetics. For Virilio “we are falling upwards” into an uncertain future of fast bodies metabolized by the crushing weight of the technological dynamo.

It’s the very same with Martin Heidegger. Long fascinated by the story of technology as destiny, all of Heidegger’s thought represents a sustained attempt to think, deeply and ethically, about the question of technology. Dismissing the notion that technology is a specifically contemporary concern, Heidegger argues that western identity has been burnished in the fire of technological willing. For example, reprising in his writings the Greek philosophers of classical antiquity, Heidegger notes that the origins of technology are to be found in the doubled language of craftsmanship (techne) and art (poeisis). In his explorations of the unfolding of the technological dynamo – a “destining” which arcs from Greeks of the classical age to posthumanism – Heidegger offers the brilliant insight that in the present era the twin poles of the story of technology are split apart, at war with one another. In the 21st century, the “question of technology” is dominated by the language of instrumentalism (craftsmanship) and the suppression of poetic reflection. For Heidegger, without art, poetry and thought, the technological dynamo is unleashed to exercize its will upon a human species that is blindsided to the worst effects of uncontrolled technological willing. The result: the disappearance of an ethic of technology by which to consider the impact of biotechnology; and the triumph of a vast technological experiment in remaking human, animal, organic and non-organic nature. In Heidegger’s thought we are only beginning the history of completed nihilism. But, of course, if technology is an “uncanny sign,” this would also mean that where there is danger there exists also a “saving-power.” Only by studying intently the question of technology for what it has to tell us can we learn to live wisely within the drift of events precipitated by technology as posthuman destiny. In ways complex, subtle and interrelated, the contributions of Posthumanism in the Wires can be viewed as responses to Heidegger’s challenge. Not necessarily consciously, but certainly in terms of the cumulative importance of such articles as “The Post-Cyborg Path to Deconism,” “Professor DVD,” “Lifestyles of the Cloned and (In)Famous,” and “What is Cool” in exploring what Heidegger describes as the ‘uncanny sign’ of the question of technology. Could it be that the future of posthumanism will be experienced in the shadow of Heidegger? If this is so, then in the writings of Virilio and Heidegger we are witness to a flash of critical theory tracing a parallel path across the darkening sky. Consequently, this meeting in the pages of Life in the Wires of the ‘hyper-modern’ Virilio and “Hyper-Heidegger” may represent the beginning of an ethics of technology commensurate with the culture of Posthumanism in the Wires.

Uncanny theory as a way of understanding the uncanny history of technology. It is perfectly appropriate that Posthumanism in the Wires concludes with the Myron Krueger interview. As one of the pioneers of virtual reality and interactive art, Krueger’s thought prototypes the future of technoculture. Krueger argues: We should celebrate these new realities, express them and be confident that the worlds that we create are every bit as valid as the one we started in.

Noting further that “The virtual will always be with us. The issue will not be escaping to it, but escaping from it,” Krueger’s thought illuminates the how and why of living in a society where technology is increasingly the “essence of humanity.” Refusing the solitude of the “two cultures” of engineer and artist, Krueger offers a different way of actually being posthuman in the wires: I always believed that it [technology] was already there and that I merely dissolved it. Rebutting C.P. Snow’s idea of the two cultures was one of the sources of the passion that I put into my earlier work. I felt that virtual reality and interactive art could help heal the rift. The spectacular increase in the number of artists now using technology is evidence that this is happening.
Posthumanism in the Wires : Links to Articles On-Line
Extended Body : Interview with Stelarc:
Paolo Atzori and Kirk Woolford
Deprogramming the Body
Adrian Gargett
Disruptive Technology:
Michael Betancourt