Claudia Reiche on Mon, 5 Apr 1999 13:39:10 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Next Cyberfeminist International report

>From the faces mailing-list

Dear Faces,

So, this is late but perhaps there is still an interest in a "report" I
tried to write on one session of the Next Cyberfeminist International,
March 8-11, 1999 in Rotterdam. 
The frame for this description (of just one day of our conference) is the
Old Boys Network-website (  where a collection of
reports covering the whole conference will soon be published. 
So this is one preliminary fragment of the ongoing 'reporting' - process.
The 115. antithesis of: what 'cyberfeminismus is not' should be:
Cyberfeminismus is not a report. Don't forget ... 
;) Best 

'REPORT' on the session 
"Split bodies and fluid gender: the cutting edge of information technology
--(between scientific and artistic visions) 
Wednesday, march 10th, Rotterdam, Goethe-Institut

'REPORT IMPOSSIBLE' would be the correct label for the following, for this
session did only hold in some moments  - from time to time -  what its
title suggested: to open up a constellation between artistic and scientific
visions. With all considerations of representability these instantaneous
constellations are NOT 'reportable', i.e. they can't be resumed.
Nevertheless the single presentations had their specific and remarkable
qualities and can be described - as discourses and as arguments. A detailed
discussion, necessary to work out the questions and refereneces of the
contributions, did not take place. 
'Instead' an anecdote can be told now, telling 'how' Claudia Reiche had
chosen the title for her session. She said:" The title of this session is
inspired by an advertisment of Northrop Grummann Corporation, showing a
razors blade, corroded and notched on its right side, sharp and brilliant
at its left. The question was posed to the potential consumers of this war
factory:' Are your information technology solutions that were cutting edge
yesterday outdated today?' But this advertisment illustrates the "cutting
edge" of information technology in quite an outdated way with a steel blade
- eternally gliding to the right, in the western manner of reading
'progress'. This 'cutting edge' must be a fugitive of its past, prisoner of
the presence - self split and thus splitting the body of the future. A
paradoxal presence cuts into its own rusty flesh penetrating into the next
nanosecond of what will have been its future and already  has become its
I think the same question on your 'information technology solution' should
be posed to every cultural worker as we are. I imagine a woman out of
breath to cope with the pace of 'Informtion Age', transforming every
subject, she is trying to focus for a thorough analysis into a pile of data
or a fetish of the past. She - blinded and blinding - will be able to know
by her own experience, that the real'cutting ege' cuts into sight and
knowledge itself, as did the razors blade in the 'chien andalou' into the
eyes of millions of spectators as in the eye of a dead cow or a beautiful
woman. The 'solutions' presented today may be called dissolutions,
'information technology dissolutions', dissolving the steel of the corroded
razor's blade into mere differences between data, into a fluidity of
virtual times, spaces, bodies, images. Into different theoretic and
artistic approaches of women towards the hype, the threat and the potential
of "information technology' cutting into the roots of cultural tradition." 

Claudia Reiche
Bio(r)Evolution . On the Contemporary Military-Medical Complex

a - discourse
The presentation of Claudia Reiche on the 'Bio(r)Evolution  - On the
Contemporary Military-Medical Complex' reported on three high-tech medical
conferences the author attended since the last year. You can imagine the
style of this presentation at its livliest, if you think of a scandalized
high brow media theorist, having been spying locations where slogans like:
"The future of medicine is bits and bytes, not blood and guts." are
dominating the intellectual style - where real business meets real military
interests and  meets the leaders in the field of Virtual Reality
developments. (to be followed-up in the next generation of media-art). 
The result was a partially convincing strategy of combining detailed
close-up perceptions of the concrete projects and their presentation with
an economic analysis of the overlapping of military and high-tech
industries in California. The complex multi-disciplinary approach
emphazised the role of the new VR-image-worlds as promotional as well as
new epistemological tools and dealt 'directly' with its visual examples.
The  paper did only allow in the concluding paragraphs a high-precision
analysis of exemplary discoursive (visual and verbal) micro-structures,
sharpening deferredly the elements of this 'report' into the potential of a
critical weapon.

b - argument
The 'Military-Medical Complex' is to be found in the specific community of
interests, of the downsized military in California and the fund-searching
academia and companies for Virtual Reality-, and Biotechnology-
applications. The reduced federal funding for research in the US is
intended to be countered by accelerating technology transfer, especially
from the Defense Industry to the Commercial Industry. One result of the
reinforced military and civilian medical high-tech partnerships and "dual
use" is a modeling of the civilian medical future as a digitized, wired,
controlled data-stream production and managment. "Healing with information"
can signify in this envisioned future for instance telepresence surgery or
medical surveillance of persons via wearable computers. With the exemple of
the Visible Human Project of the National Library of Medicine (US) a
scientific novelty and popular project to promote this informational future
of medicine is found. As a data acquisition of "a complete normal adult,
male and female" photographed crossections of frozen cadavers are giving
the "Image of your future" according to Richard M. Satava. 
For sooner or later your personalized hologram, based on the work with the
Visible Human-data will be loaded on a credit-card type of an electronic
medical record and examined by your telemedicine-doctor. As repugnant in
the presentation of Satava appeared the recurring identifications and
confusions of the living and the 'informational' human, both conceived as a
sort of interactive, 'living picture'. Concerning the question of gender in
this data-world,  a significant difference can be noticed: predominant is
the male anatomy, especially in the countless scenarios of wounded virtual
soldiers on the 'battlefields of the future'. Even if female bodies appear
(rarely), they and the question of a different representation are more
effectively eliminated  as a pure difference of data.

Maren Hartmann "The Cyberflaneuse - Create or Kill?" 

a - discourse
The presentation had the enormous advantage and gift to present a real
question of the author. It was a question of strategy: Maren Hartmann
considered whether the invention of a "Cyberflaneuse" as a theoretical
metaphor for a desirable rapport and treatment with the new media-world 
would be a worthwhile undertaking.
The double-strategy of on the one hand searching for historic 19th century
models of the flaneuse and on the other hand constructing a contemporary
transfer to a possible "cyberflaneuse-concept" for the cyberspace was
driven to its produktive paradoxes and analyzed in the following
discussion. An answer was not found, but sceptical voices questioned the
underlying presupposition of the cyberspace as a sort of urban space.
Others pointed out, that a solution could be found in strenghthening the
idea of a creation/ construction of the in any cvase artificial, not
historical 'Cyberflaneuse'. This way of 'flanerie' in media theories and
politics themselves could be a way to find out which qualities will have
been inspiring the idea that a modified flaneur could be a critical and
feminine online-metaphor.

b - argument 
The cyberflaneur is a recent re-invention of THE cultural figure of
modernity, the flaneur, as Walter Benjamin developped especially in his
unfinished 'Arcades Project'.This flaneur can be thought of as an idealized
embodiment of how to approach not only the city, but modernity itself.
Driven by his gaze, but with no engagement to what he has seen, the flaneur
never becomes part of the mass. This detachment and distance to the world
pays: it opens up the ability to reflect. The idea of a 'cyberflaneur' as
proposed  by William Mitchell(as a 'netflaneur') or by Sandy Stone aims
towards a character who is a stroller of virtual spaces, i.e. an expression
of supposed freedom and being-in-control amidst chaos. 
But what about the "flaneuse" in the 19th cantury? Women do not seem to
have been good flaneurs, though there are traces to be found that some of
the very cool parisian flaneurs might have been disguised women. That's
another case. But female strollers in the 19th century streets did the full
job of prostitution or may have been in the luckier circumstances of at
least a minimal distance to their potential male customers in the streets:
as so called 'grisettes', contracting with a man for a certain period of
A female historical model for a 'cyberflaneuse' seems to be very limited.
So: how to create a new model of a cyberflaneuse to work out the cultural
space of cyberspace for women?

Helene von Oldenburg
SpiderBug, Browsing the brain

a - discourse
On the operational field this presentation was a real shocker.Textual and
pictural tools used by Helene von Oldenburg - a confidence inspiring,
'neutral'  performer -  seemed to have been borrowed from the worst case
scenario of a totalitarian futuristic science. Placing herself in the
center of unquestioned knowledge she told her audience of an ongoing and
omnipresent process, the activities of  SpiderBug in each and every brain,
secret ruler of the world. "SpiderBug is not a biological virus. And it is
not a computer bug. But it is partly biological, partly image. SpiderBug is
a a Cy-mage." As Spiderbug is characterized in these words, those have been
the principles of the presentation: partly image, partly biologically
inspired tricky reasoning. In the surprised discussion and conversational
questioning of the presentation the need was felt to ask for a
cyberfeminist attitude towards this all embracing, inevitable SpiderBug.
The sardonic answer was the rise of an eye-brow and the question: " Why do
you think there is an attitude possible towards SpiderBug?"

b - argument
One does not know how a SpiderBug, the 'Cy-mage', looks like. 3 different
forms could be isolated and maybe they are parts of the Cy-mage. The
isolation of the SpiderBug has to take place in the intact brain not in a
petri dish, for SpiderBug dissolves outside lively brain activity. One of
the isolated parts is related to the right and one to the left side of our
brain. Up to now the third part we don't know to place. We don't know if it
is located in the cerebellum. The symbol for SpiderBug is /xx/. /xx/ is
also the chinese sign for web and net. This hint forms the link (or should
one already say, the knot?) to even a more complex embedding conspiracy
theory. It's about an arachnoidic spiecies , related to contemporary
spiders, determining our future. Signs of their activity can  be perceived
in almost every human activity, which has to do with networking, threads,
electronic webs, clothing, hunting strategies, etc. Finding its most
popular realisation  today in the WWW. "Cyberfeminism is the update of
feminism. It defines a new stage of feminism with a markedly higher
arachnoidic potential. For the first time, feminism openly embraces its
net-dependency and outs itself as an arachnoidic movement. The gradual
takeover of cultural dominance through arachnoidics is supported by
biological, technical and psychical dispositions and constellations that
often bear a female context. As a transition into a net-conscious
existence, cyberfeminism offers a site and a practice."

Claudia Reiche
Pixel by Image: A fantastic voyage to 'Dandy Dust' (Film by Hans Scheirl,

a - discourse
Intended to form a  strain constellation with the image-politics of the
"Military-Medical Complex", the film "Dandy Dust" was presented as an
"adaequate answer" on the cultural plane. Implicit in this assertion is the
insinuation that in the context of the session 'Split bodies and fluid
gender: the cutting edge of information technology" the contributions on
the Cyberflaneuse or the SpiderBug can be read as such answers as well. A
visual comparison between a short propaganda film by the Department of
Defense on telepresence surgery on the battlefield and the introduduction
sequence of "Dandy Dust" outlined the striking parallels of the pictorial
subjects and the complete contrast in visual orientation and intention. To
introduce "Dandy Dust" as a film that crossbreeds a multitude of filmic
discourses, quotes and distorts cinematographic history, the principle of
visual comparisons was pertained, furthermore with the sequences of the
films "Fantastic Voyage' and 'Johnny Mnemonic'. 

b- argument
An experimental film-reading was launched with the far reaching
interpretation of some key-sequences of "Dandy Dust" - as visualization of
the transition of the old cultural forms to the unifying format and new
possibilities of the digital medium. The idea was that Scheirl uses the
filmstrip technically and essentially as a strange sort of
'cyberspace'.That is the medial, unifying platform of a space situated as
inside as outside: overturned like a used glove or a tunnel-simulation
penetrating into the depth of the virtual at the border of a crt-screen.
'Dandy Dust' was claimed by Reiche as an eloquent filmic incorporation of
the imaginary shifts of what identity, body, gender or even a narrative
could be in 'information age'. Quite a typical description would have
been:"Time, space, gender, person (alive or dead) - these are not easy distinguish, as soon as one dives into the riskily swarming and
flitting image-stacks of 'Dandy Dust'. How should one: as a shrill green
sign-post named 'cyberspace' shows imagination the  way - pushing it into
the chanels of what will have been its own particular unimaginable
'novelty'. Yet the means are certainly experienced and exquisitely
cinematographic ones: "The Special Effect is the Cyborg's true Nature!" as
we are told by the 'director's notes'. Good. Cut. Splash. Flow. Go. Out.
Touch. Screen!"

Dandy Dust, (Screening of the film)

Dandy Dust, UK/Austria 1998, 94 minutes, 16mm, coour, optical sound
written, directed and edited by Hans Scheirl

Cast and crew:
Hans Scheirl(Dandy Dust)
Suzie Krueger (Cyniborg)
Leonora Rogers-Wright (The Twins Mao & Lisa)
Svar Simpson (Spidercuntboy)
Del LaGrace Volcano
Sarah Schulman
Special Guest Star: Angela de Castro (Theodora)

Jana Cipriani: Director of cinematography, Digital animations
Nigel Reed: Miniature-model, F/X cinematography, lighting
Amory Peart (Production, Costume design)
Jewels Barker (Sound design)
Yossarian, Emma EJ Doubell, Bent (Music)

from Hans Scheirl's synopsis (short and long):

Dust crashlands on the cybernetic planet of 3075. H- Memory Disc is taken
out by the scientists: the twins, who have grown the planet through
parthenogenetic conception. Dust becomes a natural member of 3075's
chemo-sexual structure. Strange Creatures start to haunt -h-: Dandy, a
former self, inhabitant of the planet of blood & swelling; supermother
cyniborg, obsessed with reproducing a corroded clan inside the flying
family-crypt the Mothership; father SIr Sidore, a repressed 18th century
aristrocrat, a dusty mummy & the mysterious twins. In order to ward off the
zombie family, Dust is forced to re-member: go back in time to collect -h-
lost selves which are stuck in different time-spaces. But the effort to
become one (Dandy Dust!!) bears dangers........OF MEGALOMANIAC

"Cruel wars are raging through the centuries on the Planet of White Dust.
Supermother Cyniborg lands with her space-ship the Mothership onto the
corpse-strewn planet: she is searching for missing relatives and suitable
body-parts. The Twins are on her side doing the dirty work."
"A winged coffin forces itself through the urinary system of 3075 into the
bladder. A dusty bandaged figure steps out: the Mummy.S/HIT claims to be
Dust's better half: only their unification would bring back the lost
memories Dust needs to fight the crazed family. This sounds to Dust like
old fashioned love-crap. In a violent argument Dust destroys the Mummy who
turns out to be a hollow shell of bandages filled with special-effect bags:
tears, blood, piss, sweat. Dust throws the left-overs onto exposed cables
which ignite a flame that rises above the planet: The Flame is born!"
"The Mothership explodes, DandyDust is madder than ever and the Twins have
been HAPPILY DANCING on 3075 ever since!!"

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