library's research department, the construct cunt inserted a
sub-programme into that part of the video network.The sub-programme
altered certain core custodial commands so that she could retrieve
the code. The code said: GET RID OF MEANING. YOUR MIND IS A
NIGHTMARE THAT HAS BEEN EATING YOU: NOW EAT YOUR MIND.
- Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless (1990)
Cybernetic sex and all that it entails is about as protected and
controlled as the virtual war of which it is already a manifest
consequence. Cybersex heralds the disappearance of the human-machine
interface, a merging which throws the one-time individual into
a pulsing network of switches which is neither climatic, clean,
nor secure. Any belief that computer screens melt down to produce
a safe environment rapidly disintegrates
all there was, just the wires," Travis said. "Connecting
them directly to each other. Wires, and blood, and piss, and shit.
Just the way the hotel maid found them"" (Cadigan, 1991,
in Nature is melting. We imagine we see objects, but our eyes
are only measured and partial. Nature is thriving and declining
in extended inflated respirations, rising and falling in oceanic
wave-motions. A mind that opens itself completely to Nature without
sentimental preconceptions would be inundated by Nature's cruel
materialism, its inexorable superfluidity. Eliminate the rosy-filter
of Humanism from the gaze and look again. Visualize Nature sickening
and spraying, its frenetic, spermatic energy continually scorching
and devastating in an inhuman sequence of waste, disintegration
and carnage. Nature is a festering hornet's nest of aggression
and overkill. This is the Chthonian black magic with which we
are infected as sexual beings; this is the Daemonic identity that
Christianity so unsatisfactorily describes as original sin and
imagines it can cleanse us of.
Figure 1. Image
from the film, Blade Runner (1982)
exposes an organism cross-cut by inorganic life - bacterial communication,
viral infection, and entire ecologies of replicating patterns
which destabilize and challenge even the most perverse notions
of what it is to be "having sex". Reproduction liquefies
into replication and loses its control of the Pleasuredrome.
Even in the
absence of complete simulated-stimulation, technical cybersex
is well advanced: the hardware is fetishized,
the software is porn, and extensive proportions of the telecommunications
system are consumed by erotica. However, these are simply the
most evident - and perhaps least interesting - examples of a widespread
degeneration of "natural" sex. As hard and wetwares
breakdown onto soft, fresh mutations are manifested across the
sexual scene. The simulation of sex coalesces with the deregulation
of the whole sexual economy, the corrosion of its relations with
reproduction, and the collapse of its specificity: sex dissolves
into drugs, trance, and dance possession; androgyny, hermaphroditism,
and transexualism become increasingly visible; paraphilia, body
engineering, queer sex, and what Foucault calls "the slow
motions of pleasure and pain" of SM - already "high-technology
sex" (Califia, 1993, p.175) - multiply.
itself across the plane and the peak experience becomes a plateau.
The future of sex never comes all at once. Now it is feeding back
into a past which sex itself was supposed to reproduce. Relations
were already circuits in disguise; immersion was always leading
reproduction on. Sex was never uncommercialized, and pleasure
was only ever one part of an equation with pain which finds its
solution with intensity.
in a world whose constancy is reliant upon its capacity to restrict
communication to terms of individuated organisms' patrilineal
transmission. Laws and genes share a one-way line, the unilateral
ROM by which Judeo-Christian tradition hands itself down through
the generations. This is the one-parent family of man, for which
even Mother Nature was conceived by God, the high fashion supermodel,
perfectly formed, without whom events would be out-of-control.
Humanism is the ultimate rear-view mirrorism, and the mirror still
reflects the image of God. The project - to specularize and to
speculate - to supervise and oversee. God and man converse on
a closed circuit of sources and ends, one and the same, man culture
takes its cue to man. Creation and procreation. The go forth and
multiply from which patriarchal culture takes its cue.
conception of the world has always been subject to the doubts
which lie beneath all paternity claims. But it is only now, as
material intelligence begins to break through the smooth and formal
screens of this trip, that the patriarchal confidence trick is
destabilized. He never will know whether or not they were fakes,
neither her orgasms nor his paternity. All that is new about his
anxiety is that it now begins to be felt. How does God know he's
the father? Matter doesn't bother asking: as self-organizing processes
strike from within, it's no longer a question, but a strategic
matter, a tactile takeover, a material event.
materialize in a chopped up, channel-hopping, schizophrenic culture
crashing with parallel processes and distributed systems, buzzing
with the chatter of invisible voices and receptive to thousands
of remote controls, a telecommunicating, cybernetic culture with
its own anonymous hands and fugitive effects, checks, balances,
and exceptional fluctuations. A fusion culture of short-term memories
and absent records, conflicting histories and discontinuous samples,
threads of the narrative drawn out of time. A volatile, highly
strung, and sensitive system, vulnerable to opportunities, infections
and imperceptible mutations, spontaneous emergences and sudden
Figure 2. Man
with Virtual Reality gear
and power are deeply tangled; we cannot get one without the others.
of cyberotic spaces excluded from what is structurally possible
flits by. Such spaces are recognisable only as images which flash
by in an instant; fleeting gaps that defy words, leftovers from
some unacknowledged sacrificial meal. These uncanny spaces involve
the ghostly reappearance of what's been made to disappear; seeing
what's been rendered as invisible; hearing what's been silenced;
tasting what's forbidden; touched by the smell of rotting fruit.
spaces of a contradictory erotic possibility does not mean to
recognize the totality of all physical relations at a given point
of time. It means, instead, to attend to the form of a particular
fantasy as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Cyberotics wishes
to reflex upon that image of space which unexpectedly appears
in a terrain fraught with bodily and/or psychic danger. The contradictory
pleasures of having fantasized sex with pixelated images have
engendered spaces not fully integrated into the disciplined patriarchal
circuitry of post-human contemporary techno-capital. Within the
narrative of the physics of the moment, these perverse spaces
- although susceptible to further colonization - make visible
contradictions that might, otherwise remain disguised.
spaces that maybe described as that of cyberotics/pornography,
provocatively mirror and excessively articulate the sickening
impossibilities of enacting free and generous forms of erotic
exchange in a society governed by self-serving economic contracts.
By "de-sexualizing" love and at the same time sexualizing
the complete history of humanity the engagement in these spaces
crosses biological desire(s) with the parasitic, economic exigencies
generates ambivalent spaces of erotic fantasy in excess of the
dominant discourses of contemporary culture. Like submissive protagonists
in erotic dramas, present humanity may have ritually absorbed,
rather than identified with techno-capital's most virulent economic
restrictions. This is not to suggest that perverse spaces of erotic
resistance are ever free of the violence of techno-capital. Nor
are they timeless. For instance the masochistic spaces delineated
in texts such as "Venus in furs" plays host to a treacherous
and highly flexible form of capital. But even here the enclosures
are not fully sealed. Unlike the demonstrative negations of law
embodied in de Sade's criminal irony, masochistic writings float
suspended in dense and imaginative layers of aestheticized disavowal.
than frontal in their artful plays of resistance, and more seductive
than declarative in their deployment of signs, cyberoticism -
like the hyper-conformity of the "masses" - threaten
to disappear into the cool enclosures of an imaginary that is
void of interpretive reference. This poses a challenging dilemma
to the culture of capital. How might the secrets informing such
popular and literary practices be recuperatively mastered? How,
in other words, might such perverse bodies of writing/images be
made to work for a system that demands their incorporation? Certainly
not by force alone. Virtually nobody is forcing anybody to watch
television, and yet masses of people keep their eyes/ "I"s
on the screen. Why? Is it because somebodies are manipulating
everybody else? Or, do the masochistic pleasures of watching life
fade to screens of pre-modelled information give magical access
to spaces of erotic uncertainty, repressed by the sadistic demands
Is this what
makes masochism today so attractive - its promise of pleasurable
spaces in excess of discipline? This is hinted in the theories
of Deleuze and Guattari. But so is the danger that, in response
to such ritual perversions of discipline, capital will arm itself
with new technologies of image management, supplementing the rigidities
of normalization with the more flexible seduction of consent.
This is a danger of the contemporary space: the threat that masochism,
like MTV, may become a magical instrument of authority.
resists the believability of a given symbolic order. To simulate
is to pretend to posses what one doesn't possess - imaginary control
over a world where things appear as naturally given. But things
are never naturally given without other (possible) things being
taken away. This, simulators recognize, if secretly. The pretense
of simulation feeds off the fetishized reality of representational
power. Representational power, on the other hand, is rooted in
dissimulation, or the promise that signs might ever equal the
things they signify. But they never will. Signifiers never equal
what they reference. Words never equal the things they order.
Money never equals the body. Simulators know all this but act
as if they don't. This is simulation's challenge to an existing
social order. Simulation threatens to deconstruct the hegemonic
character of all binding representations, of all hierarchy. This
is its magic - a strategic prize for all players in any game of
technologically advanced sectors of capital, corporate power has
time after time parasited previously resistive spaces of simulation.
This allows access to cultural spaces that once belonged only
to rebels, "the insane", and ghosts. In this the corporate
state travels free of the technological encumbrances of it's own
murderous shadows. No matter that such actions demand that those
in power exchange their own bodies for fantastic models of being
beyond the body. The aestheticized transcendence of bodily relations
is exactly what conjures fascism into existence.
between fascist and techno-capital redoubles present-time male
masochism, re-channelling the masses it charms. Here fascism,
capitalism and masochism come on-line together as constitutive
features of ultramodern social power. At the core of each lie
ritual technologies of mass perceptual fascination, a perversely
erotic simulation of seemingly open social spaces for profit.
This is social cybernetics. It appears to clean up all the messy
gaps between things that are modern, turning everything into bits
and pieces of information. Digital ecstasy: now one (who is not
One) can be here and not here at the same time. In addition, within
this fantastic cultural masochism of contemporary capital there
appears nowhere else to be.
power reverses social forms that earlier modes of simulation had
traditionally defended. "The only good defence is a good
offence!" says one techno-fascist to another. This is simulation,
but no longer of the resistive kind. Traditional forms of simulation
reflexively reverse the self-evidency of meaningful cultural hierarchies,
opening erotic spaces of play at the borders of culture. Cybernetic
simulations jam the channels, overloading the meaning of otherwise
arbitrary references and, thus, reversing even the playful reversals
of previous simulations. This unlocks, without undercutting, sadistic
forms of modern power, as the bodies pile up without notice. Here,
like the imagining of women in pornography, everything appears
to float free, suspended of reference. What was once feared as
lurking on the outside of the modern social order - nature, vengeful
women, and a host of dark monstrous others - is brought into the
centre. At the same time, the centre is technologically dispersed,
without threatening the expanse of its power. Here, things remain
on the outside, but appear closer than ever. Repulsive yet attractive:
this is the New World Order of technological erotics and the price
for contesting this order is high. Indeed, it is virtually impossible
to imagine a form of cyberotics that is not at least partially
complicit with such ultramodern simulations. But what about simulation
raised - or lowered - to yet another level? Isn't it still possible
to double back upon the fascinating remodelings of ultramodernity
and vomit their poison? Waves of laughter break across the audience.
Figure 3. Graphical
depiction of subjects in cyberspace
In this century,
masochistic technologies of enormous fascination have so re-channelled
the resistance of those of us most enslaved by capital that it
becomes increasingly difficult to recall spaces other than those
in which we float coldly, adrift of memory. Ritualised simulations
which (in other social times and spaces) have aided us in giving
dramatic notice to the most sickening forces of hierarchy, today
come pre-packaged and emptied of transgressive potential. Even
the most perversely erotic? Contemporary simulations are breathlessly
put into oscillation with dissimulations.
New and improved
models appear everywhere. These promise white magical futures
that unfold as if out of nowhere. It seems to matter little that
such promises may never be realized because, among the pain and
squalor, violence and poverty, it's no longer actuality that counts,
but only the seductive virtuality of futures forever deferred.
Like the rush of crack-cocaine or the thrills of data flows, in
the space of pre-modelled simulation time appears to stand still.
This is the direct opposite of the experience of time conjured
by reflexive forms of simulation. In the rituals governing such
transgressive forms, time is made erotically to disappear, only
to be playfully reborn in each passing instant.
This is the
tragic drama of traditional reciprocally bound forms of simulation
- an ecstatic dispelling of the farcical violence of cultural
authority. All the doubles implode. In this lies the healing potential
of black magic. However with the cybernetic simulations even this
critical distinction is in danger. In cybernetic culture there
appears to be no outside. Interior experience appears sent into
orbit around itself, ecstatic not in the generosity of self-loss,
but in the over-saturated communicative pleasures of a self without
end. This makes orphans of the oppressed, cutting off those subordinated
by power from effective ritual access to counter-memories and
the counter-structural possibilities such memories may allow.
This is how techno-simulations feed off traditional strategies
of simulation. This fascistic situation encourages the oppressed
to forget hatred and the spirit of sacrifice, because both are
nurtured by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of
liberated mutant grandchildren.
of historical progress cannot be sundered from the concept of
its progression through a homogeneous empty time. This concept
of history is countered by the power-reflexive dance of cyberotics.
Allying itself with the simulations of the oppressed, historically
material physics attempts a deconstruction that partially escapes
words. It displaces - without either dialectically negating or
masochistically suspending the operation of power. What does this
is in a process towards a structuring practice whose site is not
homogeneous, empty, or transparent space, but heterogeneous spaces
charged by the simulation of contradictory ritual forces. The
relationship between cyberotics and simulation is typically understood
as a strategy of power. This is however an unfortunate mis-reading
of simulation. It is more appropriate to think of simulation as
a contradictory strategy of counter-memory. Rather than simply
reproducing power, simulation allows people to disappear from
the sickening webs of hierarchy that mostly contain them. To simulate
is to pretend to possess what one can never possess - and remain
oneself - one's own shadows or what is left over, excreted, or
repulsed to the margins of identity. In simulation one is given
access to secrets that can never be fully described or put into
words. This is simulation's charm - its grace and poetic seduction.
Like the "call and response" rituals "figured forth"
in the force-fields of Voodoo, simulation conjures a scene, not
of memory per se, but of memory's surrounds - the often violent
spin of attractions and repulsions by which somebody becomes possessed
of a given identity to the exclusion of others. To be within the
transgressive field of simulation is to be ecstatically open to
the possibilities of new and previously unimagined communal spaces.
At the same time, the simulator mat experience a vituperative
melancholia for what one - who now knows that he or she is not
One at all - has always already been missing.
secret of such of ritual simulations lies in the "magical
articulation" of two complementary but typically separated
symbolic realms of experience - the acknowledged and the excluded;
the normal and the pathological. Normal thought continuously seeks
the meaning of things which refuse to reveal their significance
while so-called pathological thought overflows, in order to supplement
an otherwise deficient reality. In shamanistic simulations, the
spatial boundaries separating these two worlds are ritually undone,
allowing each provisionally to mingle with the other. In contrast
to the one-way abstractions of western scientific explanation.
Unlike strategies of healing based upon simulation, those grounded
in dissimulation - modern forms of medicine - appear intent upon
reducing the gap between what exists in the world and its scientific
representation. Ritual simulation playfully reverses this gap,
fascinating each side with images normally excluded by the other.
This is simulation's seductive black magic. Modern science is
more singular. It compulsively opposes one side of the gap to
the others, endlessly extending this binary space of ritualised
discontinuity. This is white magic - the power of perpetual dissimulation.
cyberotics does not remain suspended in fascinating space. The
transgressive implosion of one's separation - from the world -
is but a recurrent first and second movement in cyberotics dance
between doubling. Implosion followed by explosion; deconstruction
followed by reconstruction; seduction followed by production;
transgression followed by provisional orderings, partial truths,
laughable dissimulations, and the reverse.
suspense of both masochism and art offer relief from the sadistic
violence of capital. Each offers the contradictory pleasures of
partially escaping disciplinary demands for ceaseless objectification.
At least in imaginary realms. By incorporating artifice, rather
than repressing its shadow play, masochism and film may appear
as perversely more real than real. However, the communicative
ecstasy offered by these social forms are not to be equated with
the burning sensations that characterize archaic simulation. This
differentiates the magic of masochism from that of conjurers,
witches, shamans, and hysterics. Archaic simulation vocations
a recurrent return to chaotic spaces of difference.
is based on constructivist principles. It involves not only the
flow of thoughts but their provisional arrest as well. Where thinking
congeals in a configuration pregnant with tensions, it engenders
shock waves that undermine the suspended physics of cybernetic
power, while announcing the emergence of new structural possibilities.
This is not to lessen the importance of history but to open up
and recompose the territory of the historical imagination through
a critical re-spatialization of the dance of humans in time. What
it opposes is that tendency in both historicism and cybernetics
which, by subordinating space to time, obscures physical interpretation
of the changeability of the social world. Given contemporary capital's
masochistic absorption of bodily difference into the cool telematics
of self-sustaining codes, this oppositional move may be more important
recognizes that "the space in which we live, which draws
us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives, our time
and our history occurs.is also, itself, a heterogeneous space"
(Foucault, 1986, p.23). To reclaim this heterogeneity is to contest
the current crystallization of power that works upon and within
our bodies, fascinating us with the seemingly transparent possibilities
of being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Whereas cybernetic
culture bombards us with the cold and circular seductions of experiencing
space as nothing but the suspended exchange of value-added information
for energy, and the reverse; the play of cyberotics reminds us
of what and who is being sacrificed to program such special effects.
The world today is littered with orphans.
Figure 4. Selarc's cybernetic"Ping Body"
societies, individual organisms, cells: At these and every other
scale of organization, the stability of any system depends on
its ability to regulate the speeds at which it runs, ensuring
that nothing stops too soon, goes too slow, runs too fast, goes
too far. And there is always something hunting, trying to break
the speed limits necessary to its organized form, tipping over
a horizon at which point, even though another, long-term stability
may emerge on the other side, it can no longer be said that the
system survives. Nothing can guarantee a system's immunity to
these runaway effects. Invulnerability would be homeostasis, an
absolute and fatal stability. This is what it has to seek, but
also something it attains only at the price of its own demise.
Any system-environment relationship that goes outside the homeostatic
plateau results in the destruction of the system - unless, that
is, it can adapt by changing structure in order to survive. Which
may well equal the same thing.
It is becoming
not just a matter of looking ahead instead of to the rear: looking
itself is in question now. Even at its most visual, and in the
middle of the omnipresent screens of what should be a new spectacle,
multi-media does more than enhance, expand, or reproduce the sense
of sight which has performed such a crucial systematizing part
in the Western world. The digital - zeroes and ones are absolutely
indiscriminate, valuing none of the normal borders between passages
and channels of communication, and spilling out into the emergence
of an entirely new sensory environment in which it begins to be
evident that touch is not skin but the interplay of the senses,
and keeping in touch or getting in touch is a question of a productive
meeting of multiple senses.
is not a disengagement from the body, but an intimate authentication.
The body is not simply a container for the magnificent intellect.
Contra Socrates and his heirs, the body is not the impediment
that divides thought from itself, that which it has to overcome
to arrive at thinking. It is on the contrary that which it plunges
into or must plunge into, in order to arrive at the un-thought,
that is life. This body is not the organism, organized precisely
around a mind which sets its sights on a spirit or a soul, still
less a penile point. It is an entity so plugged-in that it is
indistinguishable from its environment, challenging any notion
of bodily identity that is intertwined with a sense of self. It
is a body which has little to do with the image of boundaries
or limits and perhaps more to do with an ecology of fluctuating
intensities or environments of interdependent entities.
involves a certain dis-quieting or troubling of the body-image,
even while functioning in conformity with it. Rather than resolving
itself, gratifying its urges as quickly and simply as possible,
erotic craving seeks to prolong and extend itself beyond physiological
need, to intensify and protract itself, to revel in "pleasurable
torment" (Lingis, 1985, p.55). It no longer functions according
to an intentional arc, according to the structures of signification,
meaning, pattern, or purpose; voluptuous desire fragments and
dissolves the unity and utility of the organic body and the stabilized
body-image. The limbs, erogenous zones, orifices of the other,
provoke and entice, lure and beckon, breaking up the teleological,
future-directed actions and plans.
cannot be recorded or stored, cannot be the site for the production
of information or knowledge. Desire's turbulent restlessness defies
coding into signs, significations, meanings; it remains visceral,
affective. Libido is not however, irrational, illogical, or even
non-rational; rather it exhibits a logic of its own governed by
modes of intensification. It breaches the innermost regions, secret
parts, of the body, but does not learn anything except that it
cannot hold onto, cannot keep itself in its state of excitation.
Lust cannot know itself, it does not know what it is or what it
seeks. It does not discover, but immerses itself, insisting on
a certain formlessness, indeterminacy, the very excess of materiality
that makes any creature resist reduction to its functions alone.
It insists on an open responsiveness that can be viewed as a passivity
or susceptibility to the appeals and resistances of the other.
Lust throws one into the vagaries of the other's libidinal intensities.
body cannot be identified with the organic body, but is more an
interference in and displacement of the body of "nature."
This is not the intervention of a supervising consciousness, but
the reorganization or the rebinding of bodily energies, passing
along the body's surface. Adopting a model established by Lyotard
in "Libidinal Economy" (1993), where the subject is
viewed in terms of the twisting, contortions, and self-rotations
of the Moebius strip, Lingis refigures sexual desire in terms
of the lateral/horizontal contamination of one erotogenic zone
or bodily surface by another. The intensification of one bodily
region or zone induces an increase in the excitation of those
contiguous with it.
and interaction of a surface with another, its disengagement from
the circuit of organic functioning - where it operates within
an hierarchical and systematic whole - so that it realigns itself
in different networks and linkages performs the intensification
of libidinal circulation that Lingis seeks. In this way, the subject's
body ceases to be "a" body, to become the site of provocations
and reactions, the site of intensive disruptions. The subject
ceases to be a subject, giving way to pulsations, gyrations, flux,
secretions, swellings, processes over which it can exert no control
and to which it only wants to succumb. Its borders blur, seep,
so that, for a while at least, it is no longer clear where one
organ, body, or subject stops and another begins.
of intensity are amplified and excited, not simply by pleasure,
through caresses, but also through the force and energy of pain.
Pain, as Nietzsche well recognized, is as capable, perhaps more
so, of inscribing bodily surfaces, as pleasure. This may help
to explain the appeal of sadism and masochism. Sadism and masochism
intensify particular bodily regions, not using pain as a displacement
of or disguise for the pleasure principle, but where pain serves
as a mode of corporeal intensification. It is not possible to
differentiate the processes by which pleasurable intensities are
engendered from those by which painful intensity is produced.
One craves repetition of these practices because the intensity
is ephemeral, has no life span - it exists only in the moments
of its occurrence, in the present.the evanescence of pure difference,
the momentary shimmering and dazzling of a zone or orifice: it
is the trace, the making of a pathway. This repetition produces
the intensity of affect, pleasure or pain, but can never repeat
its initial occurrence. Each repetition engenders a version of
the same without any presumption of identity.
zones do not de-segment the fully functional organic body, for
this body is itself a product of the organizational and hierarchization
of localized and particular libidinal zones: the organic, unified
body is the provisional end-result of the alignments and coagulations
of libidinal zones. These regions, moreover, continually intervene
in the functioning of the organic body and its attendant body
image(s). As opposed to the psychoanalytic model - seeing the
multiplicity of libidinal sites in terms of nostalgic reminiscence/infantile
regression - these libidinal zones are continually in the process
of being produced, renewed, transformed, through experimentation,
practices, innovations, the accidents or contingencies of life,
the coming together of surfaces, incisive practices, inscriptions.
Indeed to be effective, to function as sites of orgasmic intensity
these sites must continually be invested through activity.
libidinal impulses are fundamentally decomposing, desolidifying,
liquefying the coherent organization of the body, unhinging a
certain intentionality, they are as a consequence more dependent
on the sphere of influence of otherness, on an-other which, incidentally,
need not be human or even animate, but which is active and desiring.
The other solicits, beckons, implores, provokes and demands. The
other lures, oscillates, presenting everything it has to offer.
The other erupts into the subject and interrupts all the subject's
aims and goals. The approach of the other is a dismemberment of
the natural body, fragmentation of the phenomenal field a derangement
of the physical order.
desire, the carnal caress, desire as corporeal intensification,
then, is being thrown into an interchange with an-other whose
surface intersects one's own. One is opened up, in spite of oneself,
to the other, not as a passive respondent but as a co-animated
partner. It is in this sense that we make love to worlds: the
universe of an-other is that which opens us up to and produces
our own intensities. We are placed in a force field of intensities
that we can only abandon with libidinal loss and in which we are
enervated to become active and willing agent/agencies. The point
is that both a world and a body are opened up for redistribution,
dis-organization, transformation; each is metamorphosed in the
encounter, both become something other, something incapable of
being determined in advance, and maybe even in retrospect, but
which nonetheless have perceptibly shifted and realigned.
your body. Our caressing hands were not gathering information
or uncovering secrets, they were tentacles of mindless invertebrates;
our bellies and flanks and thighs were listing in a contact that
apprehends and holds onto nothing. What our bodies did no one
did" (Lingis, 1994, p.61). Dismemberment: Counter-memory.
Don't focus on the orgasm, the agency by which sex remains enslaved
to teleology and its reproduction: "make of one's body a
place for the production of extraordinary polymorphic pleasures,
while simultaneously detaching it from a valorization of the genetalia
and principally of the male genitalia" (Foucault/Miller,
1993, p.269). Foucault positively had no doubt that particular
drugs equalled the "intense pleasures" of sexual experimentation.
If orgasm concentrates and localizes them, things like pills or
cocaine allow one to explode and diffuse it throughout the body;
the body becomes the absolute site of an all-encompassing pleasure.
The plane on which it forgets itself, omits to be one.
with decompositions of the body, dismantling of the organism,
technical experiments with bondage and release, power and resistance
in an S&M matter of a multiplication and burgeoning of bodies and a creation
of anarchy within the body, where its hierarchies, its localizations
and designations, its organicity, is in the process of disintegrating.
Masochism is not always a reaction to sadistic control. The masochist
is not simply the victim enslaved by mastery, this is the misapprehension
of a discourse which admits nothing beyond subjection, a perspective
which cannot accept any other relation - or rather can accept
nothing but relations. Masochism exceeds such relations with the
master; indeed it goes beyond all relations, no matter how far
from the paternal they seem. It is not a question of recognition,
but a matter of feeling: not a craving to be crushed, but an intensive
desire for communication, for contact, access, to be in touch.
The masochist "uses suffering as a way of constituting a
body without organs and bringing forth a plane of consistency
of desire" (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988, p.155).
confusing servitude with dependence" writes Jean-Francois
Lyotard. The "question of "passivity" is not the
question of slavery, the question of dependency not the plea to
be dominated" (Lyotard, 1993, p.260). Otherwise the circuits
and connections will be brought back into relations of superiority
and inferiority, subject and object, domination and submission,
activity and passivity, and these will become the frozen poles
of an opposition which captures the loops and re-couples their
contact, the possibility of communication. "What interests
the practitioners of S&M is that the relationship is at the
same time regulated and open," writes Foucault: It is a "mixture
of rules and openness." Ceaseless extension: the body hunting
its own exit. Becoming "that which is not one" (Foucault,
1978, p.174): Is this what it is to get out of the meat? Not simply
to leave the body, but to go furthur than the orgasm; to access
the exultation of a kind of autonomy of its smallest parts, of
the smallest possibilities of a part of the body.
image of Pris, the "pleausure model" replicant from Blade Runner
me," writes Lyotard, "let me be your surface and your
tissues, you may be my orifices and my palms and my membranes,
we could lose ourselves, leave the power and the squalid justification
of the dialectic of redemption, we will be dead. And not: let
me die by your hand, as Masoch said" (Lyotard, 1993, p.65).
This is the prostitute's
bond which ends up making you suffer "something" for your
clients. This something has no name. It is beyond love and hate,
beyond feelings, a savage joy, mixed with shame, the joy of submitting
to and withstanding the blow, of belonging to someone, and feeling
oneself freed from liberty. This must exist in all women, in all
couples, to a lesser degree or unconsciously. I wouldn't really
know how to explain it. It is a drug, it's like having the impression
that one is living one's life several times at once, with an incredible
intensity. The pimps themselves, inflicting these punishments, experience
this "something" I am sure of it. (Lyotard, 1993, p.63)
It is Foucault's
"something unnameable" outside of all the programs of
desire. It is the body made totally plastic by pleasure: something
that opens itself, that tightens, that throbs, that beats. "I
stripped the will and the person from you like collars and chains"
(Lingis, 1994, p.413). What remains is machinic, inhuman, beyond
emotion, beyond subjection: "the illusion of having no choice,
the thrill of being taken" (Califia, 1993i, p.172).
Consumption. To be used, to be used up completely. To be absorbed
into her eyes, her mouth, her sex, to become part of her substance"
(Califia, 1993ii, p.108).
S&M as the invention of new possibilities of pleasure, a kind
of creation, a creative enterprise, which has as one of its main
features the de-sexualization of pleasure. It becomes a matter
of a multiplication and increasing of bodies, a creation of anarchy
within the body, where its hierarchies, its localizations and
designations, its organicity, is in the process of disintegration.
"Not even suffering on the one hand, pleasure on the other:
this dichotomy belongs to the order of the organic body, of the
supposed unified instance" (Lyotard, 1993, p.23).
We don't yet
know what a body can do, and so we have to cancel out sexuality,
leave the body to its own devices, strip it away from its prescribed
controls, immobilize its mechanisms of self-protection and security
which connect intensity to pleasure and production.
are also other ways, other procedures in addition to masochism,
and certainly better ones, is beside the point, it is enough that
for some this procedure is suitable for them. Whatever it takes
to access the plane, necessity trashes prohibition.
This is only
the beginning of a process which abandons the model of a unified
and centralized organism, the organic body, organized with survival
as its purpose, in favour of a diagram of fluid sex. Flows of
intensity, their fluids, their fibres, their continuums and conjunctions
of affects, the wind, fine segmentation, microperceptions, have
replaced the world of the subject. Now there are acentered systems,
finite networks of automata in which communication runs from any
entity to any other and we are flows of matter and energy.
not volumes but coastlines; irresolvable but undelimitable penetrabilities,
opportunities for the real decomposition of space. How many orifices
has the human body? An osmotic transfusion of saline chemicals
from a drop of alien perspiration impacts upon a cluster of epidermal
cells as an annihilating copulation.
tendencies in philosophy are complicit with ordinary language
in their suppression of unilateral differences, and their insistence
upon bilateral or reciprocal relations. Because separation is
normally thought of as mutual discontinuity, the world is interpreted
as an aggregate of isolated beings, which are extrinsically amalgamated
into structures, systems, and societies. Such thinking precludes
in principle all possibility of base contact or communion.
unilateral difference, the human animal is a hybrid of sentience
and pathology; or of differentiated consistency with matter. Knowing
that its community with nature sucks it into psychosis and death
humankind valorizes its autonomy, whilst cursing the tidal desires
that tug it down towards fusional dissolution. Morality is thus
the distilled imperative to autonomous integrity, which brands
as evil the impulse to skinless contact and the merging of bodies.
is a thought and the orgasm an act of imagination.
Open the body
and spread out all its surfaces, not only the skin but continue
through every organized zone of a body which begins to flatten
out into an immense membrane, a great ephemeral skin, in touch
not only with itself but the most heterogeneous textures, bones,
epithelium, sheets, charged atmospheres, peoples, grasses, canvases
to pain. All these zones are joined end to end in a band which
has no back to it, a Moebius band.
Once it loses
the reproductive point, sex explodes beyond the human and its
constrained desires. Human bodies also contain a multiplicity
of molecular combinations bringing into play not only the man
in the woman and the woman in the man, but the relation of each
to the animal, the plant. A thousand tiny sexes. Every unified
body conceals a swarm, inside every individual living creature
is an assemblage of non-creature things. Even the most unified
of identities is intimately bound up with networks which take
it past its own borderlines, seething with vast populations of
inorganic life whose replications disrupt even the most perverse
anthropocentric notions of what it is to have either a sex or
The body may
appear to be well organized, but it is both multiple and mutable,
not merely many, but shifting as well. To explore what bodies
such as this can do is no longer a question of liberating sex,
of sexual freedom, or authenticity. It is not a matter of remembering
but instead of dis-membering the one sex which has kept everything
in line, a matter of making bits of bodies, its parts or particular
surfaces throb and intensify, for their own sake and not for the
benefit of the entity or organism as a whole.
or perhaps even because of the impersonality of the screen, the
digital world facilitates unprecedented levels of spontaneous
affection, intimacy and informality, exposing the extent to which
older media, especially what continues to be called "real
life" come complete with numerous inhibitions, barriers and
obstacles side-stepped by the immaterial systems of the Net.
of perception may well be imposing but they are far from fixed.
The History of technology is also a process of micro-engineering,
which continually changes perception itself. In addition to dreams
of cyber-immortality, the machines of the digital-revolution have
initiated extensive engagement with notions of cyborgs, replicants,
and theories of posthuman, inhuman and superhuman entities which
are confusing and complicating orthodox Western conceptions of
what it is to be a human-being. Intelligent life can no longer
be monopolized. In conjunction with ideas of immateriality the
body is obscuring, replicating and escaping its formal organizations
- the ordered being that modernity has taken for normality. This
new malleability is everywhere.
Figure 5. Image
from the film, Ghost in the Shell (1995)
notion that technologies are protheses, expanding existing organs
and fulfilling desires, continues to legitimize vast swathes of
technical development, the digital machines of the early twenty-first
century are not add-on parts, which serve to augment an existing
human form. Quite beyond their own perception and control, bodies
are continually engineered by processes in which they are engaged.
Television screens are windows onto what Marshall McLuhan called
"the extreme and pervasive tactility of the new electric
environment," an emergent network of televisual communications
which plunges us into "a mesh of pervasive energy that penetrates
our nervous system incessantly" (McLuhan, 1962, p.159).
On the computer
screen, any alteration to the image is also an alteration to the
program, any alteration to the programming brings another image
to the screen. Digital fabrications can be endlessly copied without
fading into inferiority, patterns can be copied and repeated,
replicated, unfolded across a screen. These new softwares have
no essence, no authenticity.
VR corrodes both objectivity and personality, singularizing perspective
at the same time it is anonymized. As the access point to an impossible
zone - and the navigator within it - "you" are an avatar
(cyberspace nomad): a non-specific involvement site, interlocking
intelligence with content. You ( - (( ))) index a box, such as
William Gibson's Case - a place to be inside the system. "I
had learned something (already) in the dead city. You are wherever
you are" (Acker, 1988, p.211).
into virtual sex - the cyberspace scene. It would be he considers,
"marvellous to have the power, at any hour of day or night,
to enter a place equipped with all the comforts and all the possibilities
that one might imagine, and to meet there a body at once tangible
and fugitive." Not simply because as William Burroughs enthuses,
"you can lay Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Isis, Madame Pompadour,
or Aphrodite. You can get fucked by Pan, Jesus Christ, Apollo
or the Devil himself. Anything you like, likes you when you press
the buttons." (Burroughs, 1985, p.86). You make the connections,
access the zone. Whatever avatar you select for your scene, you
cannot resist becoming cyborg as well. Some human locks on, but
replicant awakens. You will be posthuman, whatever it is. Suddenly,
it always was. You always were.
is not enlightening, but the indelicate philosophical instrument
of "presence" has atrophied our eyes to such an extent
that the dense materiality of light scarcely impinges on our intelligence.
Even Plato acknowledges that the impact of light is firstly -
pain, because of "the dazzle and glitter of the light"
(Plato, 1982, p.748). Phenomenology has systematically erased
even this concession. Yet it is far from obvious why an absence-presence
opposition should be thought the most appropriate grid for registering
the impact of intense radiation. It is as if we were still ancient
Hellenes, interpreting vision as an outward movement of perception,
rather than as a subtilized retinal wounding, inflicted by exogenous
and desire, then, are not fantasies, wishes, hopes, aspirations
- although no doubt these are some of its components - but are
energies excitations, impulses, actions, movements, practices,
moments, pulses of feeling. The sites most intensely invested
in desire always occur at a conjunction, an interruption, a point
of machinic connection, always surface effects, between one thing
and another - between a hand and a breast, a tongue and a cunt,
a mouth and food, a nose and a rose. In order to understand this
notion, we have to abandon our habitual understanding of entities
as the integrated totality, and instead focus on the elements,
the parts, outside of their integration or organization, to look
beyond the organism to the organs that comprise it. In looking
at the interlocking of two such parts - fingers and velvet, toes
and sand - there is no predesignated erotogenic zone, a site always
ready and able to function as erotic: rather, the coming together
of two surfaces produces a tracing that imbues eros or libido
to both of them, making bits of bodies, its parts or particular
surfaces throb, intensify, for their own sake and not for the
benefit of the entity or organism as a whole. They come to have
a life of their own, functioning according to their own rhythms,
intensities, pulsations, movements. Their value is always provisional
and temporary, ephemeral and fleeting: they may fire the organism,
infiltrate other zones and surfaces with their intensity but are
relations are not anonymous, quick encounters, but rather are
a relation to a singularity or particularity, always specific,
never generalizable. Neither anonymous nor yet entirely personal,
they are still an intimacy of encounter, a pleasure/unpleasure
always of and for themselves. Encounters, interfaces between one
part and another of bodies or body-things produce the erotogenic
surface, inscribe it as a surface, linger on and around it for
their evanescent effects. Sexual encounters inscribe the body's
surface, and in doing so produce an intensity that is in no way
innate or pre-given.
excitations do not invest a pregiven surface; they extend a libidinal
surface. This surface is not the surface of a depth, the contour
enclosing an interior. The excitations do not function as signals,
as sensations. Their free mobility is horizontal and continually
annexes whatever is tangent to the libidinal body. On this surface
exterior and interior are continuous; its spatiality that of a
Moebius strip. The excitations extend a continuity of convexities
and concavities, probing fingers, facial contours, and orifices,
swelling thighs and mouths, everywhere glands surfacing, and what
was protuberance and tumescence on the last contact can now be
fold, cavity squeezed breasts, soles of feet of this Moebius strip
one finds oneself on the inner face - all surface still and not
inwardness. (Lingis, 1985, p.76)
through someone, to something else; or to relate, through something,
to someone; not to relate to someone and only that person, without
mediation. To use the machinic connections a body-part forms with
another, whether it be organic or inorganic, to form an intensity,
an investment of libido is to see desire, sexuality as productive.
Productive, though in no way reproductive, for this pleasure can
serve no other purpose, have no other function, than its own augmentation
and proliferation. A production, then, that makes, but that reproduces
nothing. A truly nomad desire unfettered by anything external,
for anything can form part of its circuit, can be absorbed into
on intensities and surfaces rather than latencies and depth, then
it is not the relation between an impulse and its absent other
- its fantasies, wishes, hoped-for objects - that is of interest;
rather, it is the spread or distribution, the quality of intensities
relative to each other, their patterns, their contiguities that
are most significant. Their effects rather than any intentions,
for what they make and do rather than what they mean or represent.
They transform themselves, undergo metamorphoses, become something
else, never retain an identity or purpose. Others, human subjects,
women, are not simply the privileged objects of desire: through
women's bodies, to relate to other things, to make connections.
transmutes into another, becomes something else through its connections
with something or someone outside. Fingers becoming flowers, becoming
silver, becoming torture-instruments. This is exactly what the
Deleuzian notion of "becoming" entails, entry into an
arrangement, an assemblage of other fragments, other things, becoming
bound up in some other production, forming part of a machine,
a component in a series of flows and breaks, of varying speeds
and intensities. To "becoming-animal" and "becoming-woman"
does not involve imitating, reproducing or tracing the animal/woman,
becoming like it: rather, it involves entering into relations
with a third term, and, with it, to form a machine that enters
into relations with a machine composed of "animal"/"woman"
components: becomings then are not a broad general trajectory
of development, but always concrete and specific, becoming-something,
something momentary, provisional, something inherently unstable
and changing. It is not a question of being (-animal -woman),
of attaining a definite status as a thing, a permanent fixture,
nor of clinging to, having an identity, but of moving, changing,
being swept beyond one singular position into a multiplicity of
flows, or what Deleuze and Guattari have described as "a
thousand tiny sexes": to liberate the myriad of flows, to
proliferate connections, to intensify.
is not simply a desire for recognition, the constitution of a
message, an act of communication or exchange between subjects,
a set of techniques for the transmission of intimacy; it is a
mode of surface contact with things and substances, with a world,
that engenders and induces transformations, intensifications,
a becoming something other. Not simply a rise and fall, but movement,
processes, transmutations. That is what constitutes the appeal
and power of desire, its capacity to shake up, rearrange, reorganize
the body's forms and sensations, to make the subject and body
as such dissolve into something else, something other than what
they are habitually. To produce sensations never felt, alignments
never thought, energies never tapped, regions never known.
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