esc_2022_mein_koerper_meine_machine

MY BODY : MY MACHINE

MY BODY: MY MACHINE insinuates a genealogy into the term machine that leads beyond the state of things: If machines are always artefacts of man, then man is also an artefact. At least, according to some omens, he is, under which the observations in the everyday world stand as well as the variations on extensions of the body through machines in the meaning of metaphors (e.g. in Deleuze and Guattari the "organless body" - oK, from which "desiring machines spring") as well as the mode in which McLuhan described them: Body expansions through media in a mediatised, digitalised environment.

 

The title suggests a symbiotic relationship, even a fusion, but also allows the reading of a division, a mere enumeration: (here) my body, (there) my machine; sewing machine, smartphone, car et cetera pp. This reading focuses on the body, as whose extensions machines have come to be called, separated also from the metaphorics of its connections, for these have been relativised no less recently by the experience of the body as the seat of loneliness, of illness, of bodily needs, for which the basically minor restrictions in two years of a pandemic were enough. What has come to the fore - and is discussed (often as if it were an equally surprising and painful realisation, a mortification) - is the experience of the human being as a social being. One is reminded of Vilem Flusser's often given reference that we realise ourselves in the other (the individual in his counterpart), with the difference to Flusser's often techno-optimistic ideas that for this we need real, physical closeness more than just the "social media"; what goes viral also experiences a shift in meaning.

 

What used to loom over the horizon in terms of possibilities and, from a distance, was often speculative in nature, has gradually moved closer, has meanwhile proven to be untenable or has been realised in one form or another (e.g. digitalisation, artificial intelligence, connectivity, prosthetics, etc.) - in politics or social life as well as in economic activity and in our daily lives as individuals.

 

Everyday reality has - at least it seems so at the moment - more than ever the characteristics of a corrective. Unlike in the past, this reality already contains as a real what for a long time was primarily the object of (philosophical, sociological) extrapolation, of fictions. With its concrete products, biomedical engineering science brings into the light dispositives of cultural theory that for a long time owed their existence to the darkness of the merely possible: To the extent that the cyborg is realised, in which medical technology becomes reality through voice, arm and leg prostheses, insulin pumps and heart pacemakers, etc., in which biomedical engineering, with its concrete products, brings to light dispositives that have long owed their existence to the darkness of the merely possible. [Its significance as a metaphor diminishes. The technology itself is increasingly reminiscent of "art", for example in the case of a hearing prosthesis that stimulates the nerve cells of the cochlea with light and thus enables a far finer auditory image than with electrical impulses; one hears light - the technology of synaesthesia, so to speak. A pacemaker powered by the heart itself, this concept by Chinese researchers has the poetry of a kinetic sculpture and a perpetual motion machine (even if it does comply with the law of conservation of energy in that only 10 of the 190 microwatts of energy released by the heart are needed for the current impulses to keep the heart in time).

 

The cyborg is realised in variations prosthetically in the field of medicine as well as in social playing fields of robotics (such as care for the elderly), in the transhumanist fantasies of human improvement by means of technological processes and the transformation of the followers of the current Quantified Self movement into an interface between computer and the extended reality of the data-processing industries - body data become data bodies. This is probably not how Donna Haraway had imagined her cyborg. According to her imagination, "the cyborg (...) is a staunch believer in partiality, irony, intimacy and perversity. She is oppositional, utopian and without innocence."

And while the notion of the human brain as a supercomputer has gained popularity in recent years, thus replacing outdated ideas à la H.P. Moravec (Mind Children, 1990) (linking brains directly to the internet; creating a new kind of human with enhanced cognitive and/or physical abilities; downloading consciousness to a computer), a notion of consciousness in which bodily influences on our psyche - from chemicals in the blood to bacteria in the gut - play an increasing role is gaining ground in neuroscience, of all fields. Thus, post- and transhumanist fantasies collide with findings of cognitive research on information loops between body and brain, through which a body interacting with its environment cognitively co-determines a person's behaviour and self-image, i.e. that the body proves to be a constituting part of consciousness.

 

Self-optimisation mania, prosthetics and transhumanist ideas are conceivable in one line of development. At the same time, their real forms contain the potential to lead ad absurdum what blossoms in their context. Could it be that far more than the Nietzschean Übermensch, about which joy is rather divided even in philosophy, an ordinary boom, hype, trend to overcome one's inner swine proves to be the motor for the futuristic endeavour to overcome man?

 

All this is not only a question of technology assessment, sociology, psychology or philosophy, but also a question of art, i.e. its language in which it speaks, a question of its formalisations in which it also formulates (about) itself, reflects on itself.

With her cyborg, Donna Haraway has inscribed in the socio-political reality of her time (1985!; "the politics of socialist feminism included") a metaphorical body that acts blasphemously. "Blasphemy," Haraway writes in her manifesto, "has always depended on taking things very seriously. (...) Blasphemy protects us from the moral majority in our own ranks without giving away the need for solidarity." Perhaps, transferred to art and the backgrounds from which it derives its forms of appearance and organisation, this is the approach to aesthetic strategies that find exemplary entry in the 2022 annual programme - art as a blasphemous body. Both within its own operating systems and in socio-political and techno-political realities.

 

Concepts of bodies, modes of perception and myths of the body and thus not least ideas of self and society are subject to social and historical cultural change. How is this change reflected? What images, ideas, conventions, fantasies does it form? How is the human body reflected in the gaze of the machine; how binding are such reflections?