Quimera Rosa [ES/FR/AR] is a multidisciplinary lab interested in producing, what they call, “non-natural cyborg identities” in the context of post-feminist and post-identity discourses. Their work can be contextualized within the history and theorization of the human-machine, the collapse of the organic body into the virtual, and finally, the bodily performance of queer identities.
Following the development of cybernetics in military technologies in the middle of the twentieth century, the creation of electromechanical feedback systems such as antiaircraft predictors, guided missiles, target-sensing torpedoes, and radar trackers meant that machines quickly took the place of human problem-solving activity. Put simply, the computer became a thinking machine. As Marshall McLuhan proclaimed, media had become an extension of humankind’s “nervous system.” In the following decades, however, theorists such as Jean Baudrillard pushed McLuhan’s claim in order to hail the total collapse of the human body into the digital or virtual simulation. In a hyperreal world, Baudrillard argues, the physical body and its boundaries become redundant: “This body, our body, often appears simply superfluous, basically useless in its extension, in the multiplicity and complexity of its organs, its tissues and functions.” Rather, the body becomes a screen.
Importantly, at the site of the collapse of the biological organism into the virtual one, as artist Jackson 2Bears has argued, technology becomes “hauntological.” Hauntology is interested in the specter or ghost as a way to re-envision the past as a living “thing” that occupies, inhabits, and haunts the present. Hauntology, therefore, allows for spectral modes of being. By extending the concept of hauntology to the occult nature of witchcraft, Quimera Rosa argues that it is possible to become-witch: “Witches’ covens (akelarres) become sites for the manipulation of symbols, bodies, objects, signs, and environments—for the modification of the world… The akelarre is the very process of becoming-witch.” Echoing these sentiments, Jackson 2Bears has noted that,Becomings are not fixed states of existence, but instead are fluid transformations that imply something less differentiated. Moreover, the kinds of becomings… do not exclusively occur between organic types (becoming-wolf, becoming-crab, becoming-horse) but also… occur between the biological and the non-biological (becoming-machine, becoming-sonorous, becoming-territorial). Here, becomings are about the formation of an assemblage with machines… We might here propose the possibility of interconnected ontologies with non-living entities (becoming-ghost, becoming-phantom, becoming-undead), which entails the becoming-spectral of technology under the sign of virtual phantomality.
Thus, by tracing the historical theorization of the cybernetic thinking machine (that is, the cyborg) to the body that collapses fully within the machine, it is possible to see that Quimera Rosa and Transnoise [ES/GE/GR] are interested in presenting a new conceptualization of the body that has become collapsed within the witch—an interconnected ontology with a supernatural entity. The collapse, they argue, will allow the akelarre cyborg to “escape an infinite list of dichotomies such as natural/artificial, machine/human, man/woman, homo/hetero, art/life, science/pre-technology.” Technology that is hauntological, therefore, is the space where the body-as-virtual-witch resides. In this way, Akelarre Cyborg 2.0 serves as a springboard for discussion on alternative modes of being and the possibilities afforded by the virtual and supernatural body.
Akelarre Cyborg 2.0 will be performed on 23 May 2014 at the École des medias at UQÀM; and a two-day workshop on The Body as Post-Gendered Sound Instrument will be on 24 and 25 May will be at the Eastern Bloc Lab.
- 2Bears, Jackson. “A Conversation with Spirits Inside the Simulation of a Coast Salish Longhouse.” Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker, eds. Code Drift: Essays in Critical Digital Studies (April 2010). http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=640. Accessed April 10, 2014.
- Baudrillard, Jean. “The Ecstasy of Communication,” 126-134. The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. Port Townsend: Bay Press, 1983.
- Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International. New York: Routledge, 1994.
- Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
- Edwards, Paul N. The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1997.
- Galison, Peter. “The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision.” Critical Inquiry 21.1 (Autumn 1994): 228-266.
- Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991.
- McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.