vOluptuary vOluptuary on Fri, 3 May 2002 02:22:02 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] vOluptuary : an algorithic hermaphornology

For Immediate Release

Joseph Nechvatal

vOluptuary : an algorithic hermaphornology

May 22nd  - July 3rd  2002

Opening Reception: Wednesday, May 22nd   (6-8pm)

Universal Concepts Unlimited announces the opening of new media pioneer 
Joseph Nechvatal's exhibition "vOluptuary : an algorithic hermaphornology". 
This exhibition consists of recent computer-robotic assisted paintings on 
canvas and a complimentary custom real-time operative artificial-life viral 
computer application which consumes the file images on which the paintings 
are based. There will be an opening party on Wednesday, May 22nd from 6-8 

Since 1986, Joseph Nechvatal has been making computer-robotic assisted 
paintings which allow the tradition of canvas painting to integrate into our 
present digital times.  In this sense he has been creating an interface 
between the virtual and the actual - what Nechvatal calls the "viractual". 
It is through this exploration of viractuality which has brought Nechvatal 
to the creation of complex numeric viractual images which typically consist 
of a mixture of drawing, digital-photography, painting, written language, 
and externalized computer code - all of which is submitted to computational 
manipulations (including viral attacks). His current work, called 
"vOluptuary: an algorithic hermaphornology" (1) stems from a computer virus 
program developed by the artist in 1991 as a Louis Pasteur 
artist-in-residence in Arbois, France. Nechvatal's featured paintings 
translate intimate body images of both sexes into basic pictorial units 
which he and his computer-virus mutate and metamorphose.

"vOluptuary: an algorithic hermaphornology" makes use of what Gilles Deleuze 
has called 'pornology' (2) for here representations of the intimate body 
associated with sexuality (of both sexes) undergo an intricate 
re-combination and subsequent intermixture with flowers. Of crucial interest 
to "vOluptuary: an algorithic hermaphornology" is the origin of the 
hermaphroditic androgyny image. This hybrid image first appears in Ovid's 
classic text 'Metamorphoses' - and perhaps this emergence is well worth 
recounting here. The hermaphrodite initially occurs in Western culture as a 
son of Hermes and Aphrodite named Hermaphroditus. Hermaphroditus was a 
typical, if exceptionally handsome, young male with whom the water nympth 
Salmacis fell madly in love. When Hermaphroditus rejected her sexual 
advances, Salmacis voyeuristicly observed him from afar while desiring him 
fiercely. Finally, one spring day Hermaphroditus stripped nude and dove into 
the pool of water which was Salmacis's habitat. Salmacis immediately dove in 
after him - embracing him and wrapping her body around his, just as, Ovid 
says, ivy does around a tree. She then prayed to the gods that she would 
never be separated from him  - a prayer that they answered favorably. 
Consequently, Hermaphroditus emerged from the pool both man and woman.

As the tale of Hermaphroditus suggests, "vOluptuary: an algorithic 
hermaphornology" is a show of androgyny eroticism married to flowery 
virtuality (3), incomprehensible transformation and immersive excess. It 
aims to depict an imagined realm of political-spiritual chaosmos where new 
forms of sexual order arise such that any form of order is only temporary 
and provisional. Obviously this sphere is attained through an emergent 
operation, and, indeed, Nechvatal takes abundant pleasure in the forms of 
pan-order that arise within his continuously swelling processes. The point 
is that within the "vOluptuary" all sexual signs are subject to boundless 
semiosis - which is to say that they are translatable into other signs. 
Here, of course, it is possible to find resonances and affinities between 
sexual opposites. Here a chameleon-like sexual attitude is being built from 
the virtual abyss.

Within the realm of the "vOluptuary" no one fathoms whether they are female 
or male. All rest between male and female, between straight and gay, between 
dominant and submissive - nothing but curves and clefts. All is in a matrix 
of possibilities, self-assembled out of a flowery excess of erogenous 

(1) The word  'voluptuary' generally means  'devoted to pleasure'. It comes 
from a Late-Latin variant of the Latin voluptarius  / voluptas.
(2) Pornology is aimed at confronting an idea with its own limits. The idea 
is rendered precise in Deleuze's essay  'Klossowski or Bodies-Language' 
which is found in his book 'The Logic of Sense'. Here Deleuze develops the 
term 'pornology' so as to describe the dynamic of a transcendental 
empiricism in the circuit Klossowski establishes between theology, as a 
divine belief structure, and pornography, as a perverse expression of the 
(3) One here thinks of Alan Turing (the grandfather of computing) and his 
horrid endurance of a quack treatment for his homosexuality where he was 
overdosed with female hormones to the point where he developed breasts.

Joseph Nechvatal has exhibited his work widely in Europe and the United 
States, both in private and public venues. He is in the permanent collection 
of the Los Angeles County Museum, the Moderna Musset in Stockholm and the 
Israel Museum in Jerusalem. His work was included in Document 8. His 
web-site, with full CV, collected writings, and various essays on his work 
can be found at :

For downloadable digital images of the computer-robotic assisted paintings 
in "vOluptuary : an algorithic hermaphornology" and/or to see the artist 
statement concerning this show see:

Universal Concepts Unlimited
507 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

Tel: 212.727.7575
Fax: 212.727.7676
Email: ucu1@rcn.com


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