- Adrian Gargett (bio)


Inside the 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

"That's 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, p.275).

Everything 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)

Cybernetics 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.

Climax distributes 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.

This happens 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.

This immaculate 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.

Multiple personalities 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 new lives.

Figure 2. Man with Virtual Reality gear

Sex, knowledge, and power are deeply tangled; we cannot get one without the others.

The images 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.

To articulate 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.

The controversial 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 of techno-capitalism.

Cyberotics 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.

More allusive 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 of techno-capitalism.

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.

Simulation 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 power.

Within most 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.

This interface 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.

Ultramodern 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.

The concept 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 mean?

Cyberotics 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.

The indescribable 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.

Unlike masochism, 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.

The ambivalent 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.

Cyberotics 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 than ever.

Cyberotics 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 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.

click for larger image

Figure 4. Selarc's cybernetic"Ping Body"

Economies, 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.

Virtual Reality 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.

Erotic desire 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.

Sexual craving 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.

The orgasmic 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.

The interruption 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.

These sites 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.

Erotogenic 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.

If, then, 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.

Libidinal 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.

"I dismembered 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.

Foucault experiments 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).

"Stop 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 lines.

Immense tactility, 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.

Figure 4.Videogame image of Pris, the "pleausure model" replicant from Blade Runner

"Use 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

sado-masochistic 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).

"He wanted.everything. 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).

Foucault describes 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.

That there 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.

Bodies are 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.

The dominant 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.

Spawned by 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.

An erection 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 sex itself.

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.

In spite, 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.

The limitations 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)

While the 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.

Even primitive 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).

Foucault jacks 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.

Incandescence 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 energies.

Sexuality 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 unsustainable.

These bodily 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.

The libidinal 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)

To relate, 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 its operations.

Concentrating 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.

One "thing" 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.

Erotic desire 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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