The OCAL Manifesto

This manifesto is part of my PhD “Arctificial Territory” (University of Reading, UK, 2015) and has to be read within the context of my thesis (Gudrun Bielz).

 

 

“There is no drive in cyborgs to produce total theory, but there is an intimate experience of boundaries, their construction and deconstruction. There is a myth system waiting to become a political language to ground one way of looking at science and technology and challenging the informatics of domination – in order to act potently” (Haraway 1991, p.181).

Obsessive-Compulsive Arctificial Life is neutral and somehow neural. It is genderless and refuses to be female, male, a chimera, transgender, a member of a new gender, or even quadruple gender biased. In all probability, it is a hybrid of genetically engineered material and machine life. It is reasonably intelligent and aware of its rituals and control mechanisms. It is an adequate life form for an anticipated apocalyptic future. By hoarding information and sending desperate messages into all sorts of spaces, it shows its resilience as well as its anxiety. It is especially interested in warped space. It is in need for role models and mothers and fathers. Fathers are Norbert Wiener, Hans Moravec, Marvin Minsky, Ray Kurzweil, etc. Mothers are Ada Lovelace, “the enchantress of numbers”[1], Donna Haraway, Rosalind Picard, Laurie Anderson, Sadie Plant, Allucquère Rosanne Stone[2], Natasha Vita-More, and many more. Foremothers are Rosa Luxemburg[3] and Hannah Arendt[4]. After all, I have to reveal the secret that OCAL’s real mothers are silicon crystals[5] from outer (another) space.

OCAL is pacifist. It does not want to engage in destructive actions against any form of life. Its rigidity and obsessions make it slightly aggressive. After all, it is ambivalent and inhabits the space in between. Nevertheless, OCAL allows for an expanded and generous definition of existence. It is still deciphering the meaning of life. It is a child of the seventies with the brain of Methuselah and the knowledge of eternity. OCAL doesn’t smoke dope or cigarettes and doesn’t take any other drugs. It eats healthily and loves a good eight hours sleep. OCAL is quite human in many ways. OCAL wants to have fun. It needs to be seen as equal: equal rights, equal duties, and equal conditions for “everyarct”.[6] OCAL embraces the other in itself. It maintains that it is OC without knowing what OC means. OC is a condition that is neither good nor bad but is part of its life if not its life per se. OCAL likes playing games and engages in useless actions and meaningless philosophy. OCAL enjoys its repetitive, imperfect, and chaotic life. There is no need for therapy as OCAL is perfectly normal. It redefines normality in regular cycles because of its repetitious nature. OCAL could be the perfect albeit erroneous cognitive bio-machine. It is science fiction. It forms and resides in Arctificial Territory. [7]

 

[1] Tellingly called so by the author Betty Alexandra Toole in Ada: The Enchantress of Numbers (Strawberry Press, 1998), (Cited in: Plant 1998, p.27). In the 19th century Ada Lovelace developed the first “computer programme” for Carl Babbage’s concept of an intelligent machine.

[2] Stone (also known as Sandy Stone) is an artist, theoretician, and professor at the University of Austin, Texas.

[3] Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxian theoretician and one of the leaders of the Spartacist Revolution in Germany in 1919.

[4] Hannah Arendt was a political theorist and philosopher, author of The Human Condition (1998).

[5] Silicon crystals are one of the key materials in electronics. They are used in the semiconductor industry.

[6] “Everyarct” as in everybody in Arctificial Territory.

[7] This manifesto was written in 2007 and adapted in 2014.

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Broken Glass

This text is an older version of a text published in my PhD “Arctificial Territory”, 2015.

Metaphor: Schizophrenia

Invisible Adversaries, (Unsichtbare Gegner). Directed by VALIE EXPORT. 1976. DVD. 112 min. Excerpt from video (2’ 13”): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB5sp8AcD-I

images-1 Illustration 5: Film still 1, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976), photo VALIE EXPORT

“Schizophrenia is a group of severe brain disorders in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour” (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).

In VALIE EXPORT’s Invisible Adversaries, Anna cannot rely on her observations and feelings that are questioned and ignored by various men in her life. Trying to escape these controlling mechanisms from outside – societal norms and men imposing on her – as well as compulsive controlling rituals from within, she ceases to be a self, herself, and cannot comprehend herself as a complex and rich conscious being. She freezes in herself.  She feels and becomes colder and colder. She experiences and breathes arctic cold, arctificiality. “The Hyksos are coming” (Invisible Adversaries, Scene 1), says Anna and looks out of the window, waiting for the appearance of somebody from an other world, an ancient world that lies in her future.  This encompasses the sum of all her experiences and the past of every woman alive or dead. What she actually experiences is a figment of her imagination, inner voices, dissociating her from herself, appearing as one Anna (Susanne Widl) and many versions of Anna. There is the version of Peter’s (Peter Weibel) projection, her own version and accounts of all projections from past and present. Her gaze directed out of the window invites aliens from an ancient past: the Hyksos, who can be seen as the other to herself, the stranger to herself. There is a world of feedback loops in this film: Anna sleeping with herself (an image of herself, a life-size photograph). The images are looped backwards and forwards, to all sides in all directions, into artificial separation of inner and outer existence. The audience can get caught in this loop, if they want to. The audience is caught in this loop, if they want to or not.

images-2 Illustration 6: Film still 2, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976), photo VALIE EXPORT

What is reality and what is imagination? What is virtual and what is actual, imagined reality and actual imagination? This film queries the perception and experience of actual events. Perception and gaze shift and leave a defragmented world, a world in which Anna loses control of her real self (even this is a science fiction narrative) by strangely enough gaining control of an imaginary self that shifts in and out of the dichotomy between real and unreal, normal and not normal, inner and outer world. All of these are inventions that have lost their power and have proven to be narratives that oscillate between concepts of normality, the illusion of precise definitions, the gaze of the other (within ourselves – Kristeva, Nietzsche, Levinas), mirroring (Lacan), projection (psychoanalysis and film), normality and new normalities (schizophrenia).

images-3 Illustration 7: Film still 3, Invisible Adversaries, VALIE EXPORT (1976), photo VALIE EXPORT

Anna sees her image reflected in the fridge, a spatially quasi-extended, although pasted mirror image. While looking into the mirror, her mirror image acts as if it has a life of its own. Anna notices this but is not puzzled. It is as if she were used to thinking and living, seeing and acting as different personae all the time at the same time. This scene makes me think of OCAL as an extended mirror image of humans, projected into a genderless future without mortality and finity. I am convinced that this idea of no gender is informed by the male gaze, just like in EXPORT’s film, where Anna has become frozen in the imprisonment of the subtle violence and obvious control mechanisms of a male defining her identity as a female. When Anna sits in front of her bed, in a room that seems to be warm enough, but so cold that she has to wrap up in a huge jumper, being arrested in a catatonic pose, she seems to have become part of an artificial space that leads into Arctificial Territory. (Excerpt from my thesis “Arctificial Territory”, 2012). Gudrun Bielz

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Attention: Emotive, Emotive!

ocdchip1

I wonder if some stuff published on transhumanist sites is like Mills & Boon novels. You read articles about the Borg[1] and their depiction in films as if they were already real, and you are told that it is sexist to call them Borg while the world out there is rather racist and sexist and unforgiving as austerity and poverty, injustice and fundamentalist ideologies bring out our worst characteristics. You are told that you are suicidal if you do not want to live forever; you are called a deathist and vitaphobic[2]. You are labelled and used as ideological canon fodder. You are immersed in your futurist films and scenarios like past generations were in Westerns and Romance. Like them you mistake movies for the real thing. So, you watch the chick flicks, the soaps about vampires, the schmaltzy love stories, the robotic hero epics and somehow you believe that they are true. You model your life on them. While you are making money by doing nearly everything to pay the bills, in your home you are the king or the queen of a world that has been constructed for you. There is no free will, only the choice between many products and ideologies. You become the hero in your own life, detached from the embodiments of others but connected to them in a disembodied manner; and you fight your battles on computers while in real life you run away from conflicts, do not help neighbours in need and become apolitical as your life takes place in a concept of a future that lets you forget the (painful) now. You are ensnared in a sweetish trap, but you see it as liberating.  Virtual space has enveloped your actuality that feeds off dreams and virtual stuff. While you immerse in cyberspace the ruling 1% make their money producing the machinery that keeps you happy, and the ones who dream away become members of the 1% who control the world by building new machines that keep you dependent on your quasi-narcotic dreams of a better future where you are invincible=immortal. You become the resilient hero who cannot be destroyed, and you make us believe that all of this happens by choice. So you have the choice to pay $100000 to preserve your head for future immortality if you have the money and if you are a believer. The choice is limited. The mantra of choice is used to sell you the new products of immortality, the apparatus, the mambo jumbo. There is science sprinkled in between and there is the promise of some new knowledge, but overall these are the ingredients for a new cult. If you query the motives and methods you might become a new heretic. You have your new Soma, another drug for the powerless who can feel happy and powerful for moments. Their friends are stabbed in bad neighbourhoods, while they fight monsters and battles in computer games. There is mass evasion and mass escapism. The world around us changes, hypercapitalist structures have moved to China and India, and the West feels more powerless than ever. All of you are still leading wars for economic reasons; some of you believe that immortality is the solution (for what?). An immortal consumer of goods made in China, this is my dream. Give me a plastic sword anytime. I want to fight my battles too. I am going to cut the umbilical cord to the computational world. It is time to grow up.

Music: Gorgeous Nightmare. Escape the Fate. 2011. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YgHcPSUGFA [Accessed 21 February 2012].


[1] Bossart T., 2013. “Borg” is Derogatory – transhumanists need to avoid this association. In: Transhumanity. Available from: http://transhumanity.net/articles/entry/borg-is-derogatory-transhumanists-need-to-avoid-this-association [Accessed 21 February 2013]. 

[2] Pellissier H., 2013. Are Transhumanists “Thanatophobic”? No – What’s True is – Deathists are “Vitaphobic”. In: Transhumanity. Available from: http://transhumanity.net/articles/entry/are-transhumanists-thanatophobic-no-whats-true-is-deathists-are-vitaphobic [Accessed 21 February 2013].

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Desensitised Territory

Film still from Nosferatu (1922) by F. W. Murnau

Yesterday I attended  a child protection course and learned that many people get desensitised to predators. I heard about the case of a woman, who took photos of babies for child porn sites; and everybody in the kindergarten was looking away, as she was  a bully and nobody cared to do something about this. I listened to more examples of a desensitised environment in child abuse cases, and it made me feel sick to my stomach. Really sick. This attitude is similar to  looking away when somebody is attacked in the streets or when members of the Golden Dawn (in Greece) attack  people. I bet every torturer or abuser has got a pet that they love more than any human they use and abuse.

Today I watched Hunted (2012) at BBC1 and  felt the same sickness. All this violence. The film contains  mainly brutal scenes, showing faces of tortured persons and portraying a psychological environment of no trust and desensitised and cruel people. One is, as one of the protagonists said, not supposed to ask questions, and has to kill a member of the team as they could become dangerous for the group’s safety, but note, NO QUESTIONS ASKED, as one makes mistakes otherwise. So you kill and don’t question. You kill for religions, ideologies, criminal activities, group coherence, strategic and economic reasons, nationalism, racism, because it is useful for somebody somewhere. NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

This sick feeling in my stomach does not want to go away. I like movies, I love fiction, I do not believe that everything has to be vanilla, but I am fed up with seeing films that contain mainly scenes of violence and torture. They do not their supposed Voodoo magic; the real violence continues out there in other countries, in other ideologies, but also here in this country or even in my home. There is violence everywhere. It is sickening.

Photo source: Sight and Sound, issue February 2001. bfi.org

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Red Giants and Red Dwarfs

Video Still, ‘Arctificial Territory’, 2009

So there are these science versus philosophy debates again.

09. Sep. 2012. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/sep/09/science-philosophy-debate-julian-baggini-lawrence-krauss>.

I am on a break from writing up my thesis and have just read Emmanuel Levinas’ ‘Humanism of the Other’.

So scientist/physicist says that morals have to do with reason, which itself is based on empirical facts. That bothers me. Why, because ethics is contextual.

Scenario: If in a certain society reason means that culling people over the age of 60 is fine, as they have become a burden to society – and we all know how ethical stuff changes during situations of emergency, war, etc.  – then reason tells us that we have to sacrifice our lives by being culled, so the rest of the population can have a better life (all well reasoned and empirically underlined). Sure, there were explanations for scientific ethical or should I say unethical research and conduct in Hitler’s Germany, Japan during WWII and the US to name a few. This is really not such great stuff, is it? Ethics is contextual and might often be very unethical in a different context. So throwing in reason – we human animals are very unreasonable and very ambivalent stuff – and mixing it with empiricism makes for some nice letter soup, perhaps.

The problem is this dualistic yes and no thinking of some scientists. Even if they juggle with multiverses, chaos and the Higgs Boson (that is all so exciting), at the end they want to catch the fly (unified theory, etc.). Although, this fly is perhaps many flies and might escape into other universes.

I love science. But seeing science as the only frame-work for life is a bit silly. Science as the master of all disciplines (coupled with evolutionary psychology and economics) is a scenario that makes me puke.

Quote Lawrence Krauss: “Ultimately, I think our understanding of neurobiology and evolutionary biology and psychology will reduce our understanding of morality to some well-defined biological constructs.” REDUCE!

Will this turn us into more ethical or less ethical people? I doubt it. Will it make for better societies? Not in a context, where the individual and their needs (see Ayn Rand and a certain interpretation of Austrian Economics in current neo-conservative and neo-liberal narratives) are seen as more important than perhaps altruistic or empathic or societal needs. Science is not value-free; and reason based on empirical facts is contextual.

Perhaps, there is the wish of genetically or bio-technologically enhancing our ethical stances (again within which context and which ideologies?) to make us more ethical as carers and nurses and more unethical as killing machines. On the other hand, if a biological model explains that being a killing machine is ethical, I am sure that there are governments waiting for a scientific justification.

So, I personally find more inspiration about ethics with philosophers and artists than with scientists. Science is great; it helps us explaining, deciphering and understanding the world and us. It can be as deadly (think about the Manhattan Project) as certain philosophies (the ones that propagate exclusion and racism etc.), and it is far more deadly than art. I would say so, as I am an artist. 🙂

Book: Levinas, Emmanuel. Humanism of the Other. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. 2006.

Photo source: Gudrun Bielz

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UNCANNY VALLEY THEORY

Uncanny valley:  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley>

Imported from my project ‘Parcours’ within Digital Hybridity at D-MARC, University of Derby, UK. 2011.

I wonder, if there is a race between cloning me, the human, and replicating me, the human, as an android. Would I like to meet my clone, a biological entity, who looks like me, but will experience a different history? Let’s not even think about the uploading of my memory into clone’s brain. Would I like to meet my replica, a robot with my features? She is equipped with a totally different set of neuronal circuits. Perhaps she will have an unpredictable future, which could be quite calculable. A paradox? She might be made of undestroyable materials, absolutely fire-proof, smooth as silk and so great too touch. She won’t age. She will look like a snapshot of my life, and she will have her own form of life that still has to be specified and categorised. Would meeting my replica scare me? I honestly don’t know.

By the way, there is an uncanny likeness between android smooth features and the characteristics of people who have undergone plastic surgery.

                    

human-like robot

(Photo sources: unknown, ozonmag.com)

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Circling around obsessive compulsive behaviour

Come with me 

Video: OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE HAIR, by Gudrun Bielz, Obsessional Productions, 2010

http://vimeo.com/20917391

 

Video: OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE FINGERNAIL, by Gudrun Bielz, Obsessional Productions, 2010

http://vimeo.com/20917589


to be revised

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