Jordan Crandall on 14 Mar 2001 17:53:53 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Armor, Amour

Warning: This text will not clear the metal detector.

"We need missile defense!" a nearby passenger breathlessly exclaimed,
with both pleasure and fear, as we placed our tray tables, bodies, and
seats in an upright and locked position in preparation for landing at
National Airport in Washington DC.  One wonders what had ignited this
remark.  Hurling toward the ground at 500 miles per hour inside a shiny
projectile, had she suddenly identified with a ballistic missile?  Had
she, in fear, invoked a shield, or had she, in elatement, fused with a
warhead?  I envisioned her as both a bomb-riding cowgirl of the Dr.
Strangelove variety and as a brake-loving driver of an SUV consumer
tank.  Saddled with the legacy of the Gulf War and its aerial cameras,
which seemed to place us in the pilot's seat, and now subject to a new
sense of American vulnerability registered in the emerging obsession for
missile defense, it's no wonder that she forgot which side of the
projectile she was on.  

The rising figure of a defense shield - a prophylactic for the entire
country - marks a shift in the architecture of combat. As the national
discourse changes its orientation from that of targeting to that of
being targeted, new visual formats arise alongside the antiseptic
videogame images of the recent past:  formats in which our status as
viewers is reversed and our positions imperiled.  Another effect of the
perspectivization that is warfare.  With America's obsession for safety
reaching epidemic levels - fueled by the market's need to provoke
interest in new technologies and the military's need to justify
increased defense spending - a near-religious fervor for "protection"
could well arise, as missiles appear to be potentially falling down on
us from the skies.

Would we then look ~up~, rather than primarily down or across?  To look
up in counterpoint to a potentially intrusive gaze that, when coming
from satellites or surveillance cameras, has largely been perceived as
benign.  To look up no longer in a position of wonderment or
contemplation (as in star-gazing) but with a kind of uneasy
self-awareness as aerial-driven military apparatuses - of which we have
for quite some time seen ourselves at the origin - gradually begin to
locate us as objects.  It is as if the chair at the computer screen or
television were suddenly kicked back (WHAM!), causing us to face upwards
while becoming acutely aware of our own physical vulnerability. 
Combined with a growing awareness of tracking systems that "see back" -
reversing the direction of sight from the unique, personal point of view
so reinforced in Renaissance perspectives - we may begin to internalize
our capacities as targets.  In many ways the site of the personal has
become a kind of vanishing point in and of itself, with "sights" locked
onto it, engaged in a process of primarily being identified before
identifying.  A formation of the self as subject-in-synchronization (the
moving parts aligned in the viewfinder of an other), rather than based
in subject-object relation.  What are the ontological implications for
such a shift?  

A blip on the radar, a database sweep, a streamed numerical sequence: 
the control tower clears an entryway for the pilot.  The aircraft
rapidly descends toward the runway.  Images of clouds parting fill the
cabin's projection screens, compliments of a camera mounted on the
nose-cone, placing us in the eye of the plane-bomb.  I glance over again
at my airline companion.  Her hands gripping the armrest and her head
thrown back, eyes closed and mouth agape, she seems to be suspended
within a fire of pleasurable danger, of the rollercoaster variety.  Is
it the erotic charge of death that surges through the body?  A virtual
obliteration, where one slips into a delirious exchanging of roles and
positions - as when aggressor becomes victim?  The gripping of the
armrest, the position of the head, the trajectory of the plane:  a
triangulation that seems to encircle the surge.  A machine of some kind,
sailing through the sky, plummeting to earth, or shooting up like a
rocket.  An orientation device, in which one sits, immobile and
transfixed.  A sensation of movement, which streams by.  A
representation of movement, causing one to learn how to move.   Backed
by an armament, a little war machine.  Backed by a tool, a little work

And then:  the salvation of the shield. 


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