MachineMachine /stream - tagged with materiality en-us LifePress <![CDATA[Collecting in the Age of Digital Reproduction - Casey REAS - Medium]]>

In the art market, almost everything sold is an object such as a drawing, a painting, a sculpture, an installation, or a photograph, but there are some exceptions. These deviations may include a contract, a set of instructions, a digital video file, or a software file.

Wed, 11 Sep 2019 04:28:29 -0700
<![CDATA[Singularities panel, Transmediale 2017]]>

With Luiza Prado & Pedro Oliveira (A parede), Rasheedah Phillips, Dorothy R. Santos Moderated by Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke

A singularity is a point in space-time of such unfathomable density that the very nature of reality is brought into question. Associated with elusive black holes and the alien particles that bubble up from quantum foam at their event horizon, the term ‘singularity’ has also been co-opted by cultural theorists and techno-utopianists to describe moments of profound social, ontological, or material transformation—the coming-into-being of new worlds that redefine their own origins. Panelists contend with the idea of singularities and ruptures, tackling transformative promises of populist narratives, and ideological discrepancies that are deeply embedded in art and design practices. By reflecting on Afrofuturism and digital colonialism, they will also question narcissistic singularities of 'I,' 'here,' and 'now', counter the rhetoric of technological utopias, and confound principles of human universality.

Wed, 01 Mar 2017 06:10:50 -0800
<![CDATA[On the Far Side of the Marchlands (exhibition)]]>

On the Far Side of the Marchlands, Berlin (Feb 1st - March 26th)Exhibition opening Wednesday, February 1st (opening from 6pm) - March 26thErnst Schering Foundation> Facebook Event Page>

More info:

with works by Morehshin Allahyari, Cathrine Disney, Keeley Haftner, Brittany Ransom and Daniel Rourke

A ‘marchland’ is a medieval term for a space between two or more realms; a zone betwixt the control of states, in which alternate rules of law and conduct might apply. On the Far Side of the Marchlands explores the potential of radically new topographies – “intertwined histories and overlapping territories” – composed of hybrid realms of experience, culture and materiality.

On the Far Side of the Marchlands - an exhibition and collaboration between Morehshin Allahyari, Cathrine Disney, Keeley Haftner, Brittany Ransom, and Daniel Rourke - speaks to the contemporary desire for transformation. The exhibition features a zoo of hybrid figures: from stupid/intelligent insects to short-sighted/forward-thinking posthumans; from chimera materials that ooze, respire and transmute, to murky politics impossible to clarify as either positive or negative. On the Far Side of the Marchlands expands on the material and conceptual hybridity expressed in The 3D Additivist Cookbook: a compendium of provocative projects by over one hundred artists, activists, and theorists concerned with ‘Additivist’ practices. The exhibition and Cookbook invite visitors to look beyond boundaries, speaking to a growing need for radical forms of transformation.The 3D Additivist Cookbook, conceived and edited by Daniel Rourke & Morehshin Allahyari, is also presented in the exhibition alien matter (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 2 February – 5 March 2017), curated by Inke Arns. On the Far Side of the Marchlands is a partner exhibition to the special exhibition alien matter, co-financed by Berlin LOTTO Foundation within the scope of ever elusive – thirty years of transmediale, supported by the British Council.

Sat, 28 Jan 2017 11:33:53 -0800
<![CDATA[On Material Entanglements: an Interview with Morehshin Allahyari]]>

On Material Entanglements: an Interview with Morehshin Allahyari Although we both live in the bay area, I got to Morehshin Allahyari’s work through an internet rabbit hole. Some months ago I picked up ‘Cyclonopedia’ by Reza Negarestani and got pretty engrossed by the book’s mix of fact and fiction. The story suggests that petrol functions as a lubricant necessary to spread an ancient evil throughout the world eventually leading into what he calls a desertification of the earth. a place where all will be flattened and ready for some sort of re-boot.

Sat, 17 Dec 2016 00:52:10 -0800
<![CDATA[The Materiality of Research: ‘On the Materiality of Writing in Academia or Remembering Where I Put My Thoughts’ by Ninna Meier | LSE Review of Books]]>

In this feature essay, Ninna Meier reflects on the materiality of the writing – and re-writing – process in academic research.

Mon, 09 May 2016 01:16:32 -0700
<![CDATA[The Dialogical Avatar: a presentation with Donna Haraway&&& Journal]]>

as the central speaker and facilitator. Aside from the Cyborg Manifesto, it constitutes one of Haraway’s most extended engagements with science fiction, and with a specific work of science fiction cinema in particular, as a central topic.

Thu, 14 Jan 2016 05:42:43 -0800
<![CDATA[How Google is Destroying the Act of Reading – Tablet Magazine]]>

I have come to my favorite café (which has very fast Wi-Fi) and ordered a coffee.

Sat, 11 Oct 2014 07:40:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Manifesto for a Post-Digital Interface Criticism | The New Everyday]]>

We are living in an interface culture: wherever we are, we find touch screens, microphones, sensors, cameras; and we are constantly reminded of interfaces through their sounds.

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:44:52 -0700
<![CDATA[Glitches in Things and the “Friendly Medium”]]>

This talk was original delivered at GLI.TC/H 2112, on Saturday 8th December 2012. The talk expands on ideas I have been carting around for a few of years now. Updated with Object Oriented insights I hope it acts as a mental toolkit for artists looking to dance with objects, in all their glitchy splendour. As usual, I completely ignored my notes whilst talking, for this reason it’s worth listening to the question and answer bit afterwards. See here for more: Infinite thanks must go to Rosa Menkman, Jon Satrom and Nick Briz – the GLI.TC/H Bots at the heart of the fest. Thank you for inviting me to participate.

Wed, 15 Jan 2014 03:29:49 -0800
<![CDATA[An Ontology of Everything on the Face of the Earth]]>

This essay was originally published as part of a special issue of Alluvium Journal on Digital Metaphors, edited by Zara Dinnen and featuring contributions from Rob Gallagher and Sophie Jones. John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, is a claustrophobic sci-fi thriller, exhibiting many hallmarks of the horror genre. The film depicts a sinister turn for matter, where the chaos of the replicating, cancerous cell is expanded to the human scale and beyond. In The Thing we watch as an alien force terrorises an isolated Antarctic outpost. The creature exhibits an awesome ability to imitate, devouring any creature it comes across before giving birth to an exact copy in a burst of blood and protoplasm. The Thing copies cell by cell and its process is so perfect – at every level of replication – that the resultant simulacrum speaks, acts and even thinks like the original. The Thing is so relentless, its copies so perfect, that the outpost’s Doctor, Blair, is sent mad at the implications: Blair: If a cell gets out it could imitate everything on the face of the Earth… and it’s not gonna stop!!! Based on John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella, Who Goes There?, Carpenter’s film revisits a gothic trope, as numerous in its incarnations as are the forms it is capable of taking. In Campbell’s original novella, the biologically impure is co-inhabited by a different type of infection: an infection of the Antarctic inhabitants’ inner lives. Plucked from an icy grave, The Thing sits, frozen solid, in a dark corner of the outpost, drip dripping towards re-animation. Before its cells begin their interstitial jump from alien to earthly biology, it is the dreams of the men that become infected: ‘So far the only thing you have said this thing gave off that was catching was dreams. I’ll go so far as to admit that.’ An impish, slightly malignant grin crossed the little man’s seamed face. ‘I had some, too. So. It’s dream-infectious. No doubt an exceedingly dangerous malady.’ (Campbell)

The Thing’s voracious drive to consume and imitate living beings calls to mind Freud’s uncanny: the dreadful creeping horror that dwells between homely and unhomely. According to Ernst Jentsch, whose work Freud references in his study, the uncanny is kindled, ‘when there is intellectual uncertainty whether an object is alive or not, and when an inanimate object becomes too much like an animate one’ (Grenville 233). A body in the act of becoming: John W. Campbell’s novella depicts The Thing as a monstrous body that “swallows the world and is itself swallowed by the world”

In the original novella, The Thing is condensed as much from the minds of the men, as from its own horrific, defrosting bulk. A slowly surfacing nightmare that acts to transform alien matter into earthly biology also has the effect of transferring the inner, mental lives of the men, into the resultant condensation. John W. Campbell had no doubts that The Thing could become viscous, mortal human flesh, but in order to truly imitate its prey, the creature must infect and steal inner life too, pulling ghosts, kicking and screaming, out of their biological machines. As a gothic figure, Campbell’s Thing disrupts the stable and integral vision of human being, of self-same bodies housing ‘unitary and securely bounded’ (Hurley 3) subjectivities, identical and extensive through time. John W. Campbell’s characters confront their anguish at being embodied: their nightmares are literally made flesh. As Kelly Hurley reminds us in her study on The Gothic Body, Mikhail Bakhtin noted: The grotesque body… is a body in the act of becoming. It is never finished, never completed; it is continually built, created, and builds and creates another body. Moreover, the body swallows the world and is itself swallowed by the world (Hurley 28). Each clone’s otherness is an uncanny exposure of the abject relationship we endure with ourselves as vicarious, fragmented, entropic forms. In the 44 years between the novella and John Carpenter’s 1982 film, there were many poor clones of The Thing depicted in cinema. Films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and, It Came from Outer Space (1953) are replete with alien dopplegangers, abject human forms, cast away very much as in gothic tradition. Howard Hawk’s film, The Thing from Another World (1951), the first to explicitly translate Who Goes There?, completely disfigures Campbell’s story. The resultant monster is nothing more than, what one character calls, ‘an intellectual carrot’, grown from alien cells in a laboratory. The film is worth considering though for its Cold War undertones. Recast in an Arctic military base, Hawk’s Thing is an isolated monster set against a small, well organised army of cooperative men. Faced with disaster the men group together, fighting for a greater good than each of them alone represents.

Cinematic clones of The Thing: 1950s American Science Fiction films like It Came From Outer Space and Invasion of the Body Snatchers are replete with alien doppelgangers and abject human forms [Images used under fair dealings provisions] The metaphor of discrete cells coordinating into autopoeitic organisms, does not extend to the inhabitants of the isolated Antarctic outpost in the original short story, nor in the 1982 version. Rather than unite against their foe, they begin to turn on each other, never knowing who might be The Thing. In a series of enactments of game-theory, the characters do piece together a collective comprehension: that if The Thing is to eventually imitate ‘everything on the face of the Earth’ it must not show itself now, lest the remaining humans group together and destroy it. The Thing’s alien biology calls to mind the original design of the internet, intended, according to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri: …to withstand military attack. Since it has no center and almost any portion can operate as an autonomous whole, the network can continue to function even when part of it has been destroyed. The same design element that ensures survival, the decentralisation, is also what makes control of the network so difficult (Hardt and Negri 299). The novella Who Goes There? and the film, The Thing, sit either side of a pivotal era in the advancement of information technology. How a life form or a biological computer work is immaterial to the behaviours they present to an observer. John Carpenter’s The Thing explores the fulfilment of Alan Turing’s ‘Imitation Game.’ Moving away from Campbell’s original appeal to telepathy and a mind/body split, the materialist vision of Carpenter’s film confronts us with a more fundamental horror. That every part of us is reducible to every other. In her book Refiguring Life, Evelyn Fox Keller argues that: As a consequence of the technological and conceptual transformations we have witnessed in the last three decades, the body itself has been irrevocably transformed… The body of modern biology, like the DNA molecule – and also like the modern corporate or political body – has become just another part of an informational network, now machine, now message, always ready for exchange, each for the other (Keller 117–118). Meanwhile, eschewing Martin Heidegger’s definition of a thing (in which objects are brought out of the background of existence through human use), Bill Brown marks the emergence of things through the encounter: As they circulate through our lives… we look through objects because there are codes by which our interpretive attention makes them meaningful, because there is a discourse of objectivity that allows us to use them as facts. A thing, in contrast, can hardly function as a window. We begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us… (Brown 4).

A thing or an object? Bill Brown argues that we look through objects but are confronted by things [Image by Marc PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE under a CC BY-NC-ND license] In his infamous 1950 paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, Alan Turing introduced the notion that a computer is nothing more than a machine that functions by pretending to be other machines. (Turing) Asking the question ‘can machines think?’ Turing replaced the ambiguity of ‘thought’ and ‘intelligence’ with imitation, proposing a test that avoided the need to know what was going on inside a machine, in favour of merely experiencing its affects. In a lecture entitled ‘Can Digital Computers Think?’, Turing expounds his point: It is not difficult to design machines whose behaviour appears quite random to anyone who does not know the details of their construction. Naturally enough the inclusion of this random element, whichever technique is used, does not solve our main problem, how to programme a machine to imitate a brain, or as we might say more briefly, if less accurately, to think. But it gives us some indication of what the process will be like. We must not always expect to know what the computer is going to do. We should be pleased when the machine surprises us, in rather the same way as one is pleased when a pupil does something which he had not been explicitly taught to do (Shieber 114–115). The mutability of Earthly life, its ability to err, to stumble upon novel strategies through random, blind chance, represents its most innate capacity. Biological life changes by mutation, passing those mutations on to the next generation, ad infinitum. The Thing, in opposition to this, can only become its other absolutely. There is no room for error, for mutation, for change or evolution: instead, The Thingly cadaver of Norris must protect its otherness in the only way it knows how: by transforming itself into a defensive form previously programmed and stored in its protoplasm. In terms of creativity it cannot escape its programming. Turing’s lecture hints at a further unsettling conclusion we can make: that even though novel behaviour may be consistent with error, from appearances alone it is impossible to distinguish something ontologically novel, with a behaviour which has been programmed to appear as such. The Thing is a Universal Turing Machine, a post-digital plasma, encoded with the biological ticker-tape of a thousand alien worlds. Put more simply, in the words of protagonist John MacReady: MacReady: Somebody in this camp ain’t what he appears to be. [my emphasis]

The “Gothicity” of matter? The digital metaphor of the Thing reveals that through imitation computers confer humanity upon us [Image by 

Mon, 09 Dec 2013 10:34:38 -0800
<![CDATA[The Phantom Zone]]>

The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.

Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto (1991) [1]

This is no fantasy... no careless product of wild imagination. No, my good friends.

The opening lines of Richard Donner's Superman (1978) [2] In a 1950 film serial entitled Atom Man vs Superman [3] television executive and evil genius Lex Luthor sends Superman into a ghostly limbo he calls "The Empty Doom." Trapped in this phantom void, Superman's infinite powers are rendered useless, for although he can still see and hear the "real" world his ability to interact with it has all but disappeared. Over the following decades this paraspace [4]—to use Samuel Delany's term for a fictional space, accessed via technology, that is neither within nor entirely separate from the 'real' world—would reappear in the Superman mythos in various forms, beginning in 1961. Eventually dubbed "The Phantom Zone," its back story was reworked substantially, until by the mid 60s it had become a parallel dimension discovered by Superman's father, Jor El. Once used to incarcerate Krypton's most unsavory characters, The Phantom Zone had outlasted its doomed home world and eventually burst at the seams, sending legions of super-evil denizens raining down onto Earth. Beginning its life as an empty doom, The Phantom Zone was soon filled with terrors prolific enough to make even The Man of Steel fear its existence.

Overseen by story editor Mortimer Weisinger, and the unfortunately named artist Wayne Boring, the late 50s and early 60s were a strange time in the Superman universe. The comics suddenly became filled with mutated variants of kryptonite that gave Superman the head of an ant or the ability to read thoughts; with miniature Supermen arriving seconds before their namesake to save the day and steal his thunder; with vast universes of time caught fast in single comic book panels. It was an era of narrative excess wrapped by a tighter, more meticulous and, many would say, repressed aesthetic:

Centuries of epic time could pass in a single caption. Synasties fell between balloons, and the sun could grow old and die on the turn of a page. It was a toy world, too, observed through the wrong end of a telescope. Boring made eternity tiny, capable of being held in two small hands. He reduced the infinite to fit in a cameo... [5]

The Phantom Zone is one of the least bizarre narrative concepts from what is now known as the Silver Age of D.C. Comics (following on from the more widely celebrated Golden Age). It could be readily understood on a narrative level, and it had a metaphorical dimension as well, one that made conceivable the depths contained in Superman's vast, but ultimately manipulable universe. The Phantom Zone was usually portrayed on a television screen kept safe in one of the many rooms of the League of Justice headquarters. It could also be used as a weapon and fired from a portable projection device—the cold, harsh infinity of the Empty Doom blazing into Superman's world long enough to ensnare any character foolish enough to stand in its rays. Whether glimpsed on screen or via projection, then, The Phantom Zone could be interpreted as a metaphor for the moving image. 

In comic books, as in the moving image, the frame is the constituent element of narrative. Each page of a comic book is a frame which itself frames a series of frames, so that by altering each panel's size, bleed or aesthetic variety, time and space can be made elastic. Weisinger and Boring's Phantom Zone took this mechanism further, behaving like a weaponized frame free to roam within the comic book world. Rather than manipulating three-dimensional space or the fourth dimension of time, as the comic book frame does, The Phantom Zone opened out onto the existence of other dimensions. It was a comic book device that bled beyond the edge of the page, out into a world in which comic book narratives were experienced not in isolation, but in parallel with the onscreen narratives of the cinema and the television. As such, the device heralded televisual modes of attention.

For his 1978 big-budget movie version of Superman, [6] director Richard Donner cunningly translated The Phantom Zone into something resembling the cinema screen itself. In the film's opening sequence, a crystal surface swoops down from the immense backdrop of space, rendering the despicable General Zod and his cronies two-dimensional as it imprisons them. In the documentary The Magic Behind the Cape, [7] bundled with the DVD release of Superman in 2001, we are given an insight into the technical prowess behind Donner's The Phantom Zone. The actors are made to simulate existential terror against the black void of the studio, pressed up against translucent, flesh-like membranes and physically rotated out of sync with the gaze of the camera. Rendering the faux two-dimensional surface of Donner's Phantom Zone believable required all manner of human dimensions to be framed out of the final production. The actors react to causes generated beyond the studio space, the director's commands, or the camera's gaze. They twist and recoil from transformations still to occur in post-production. In a sense, the actors behave as bodies that are already images. With its reliance on post-produced visual effects, the Phantom Zone sequence represents an intermediary stage in the gradual removal of sets, locations, and any 'actual' spatial depths from the film production process. Today, actors must address their humanity to green voids post-produced with CGI, and the indexical relationship between the film image and the events unfolding in front of the lens have been almost entirely shattered. In this Phantom cinema produced after the event, ever-deeper layers of special effects seal actors into a cinematic paraspace. Just as The Phantom Zone of the comic book heralded televisual modes of attention, The Phantom Zone of the 1970s marked a perceptual regime in which the cinematic image was increasingly sealed off from reality by synthetic visual effects.

   For Walter Benjamin, writing during cinema's first “Golden Era,", the ability of the cinema screen to frame discontinuous times and spaces represented its most profound "truth." Delivered by cinema, Benjamin argued, mechanically disseminated images were actually fracturing the limits of our perceptions, training "human beings in the apperceptions and reactions needed to deal with a vast apparatus whose role in their lives is expanding almost daily." [8]  The cinema screen offered audiences who were confined to finite bodies that had never before experienced such juxtapositions an apparently shared experience of illuminated consciousness. Far from inventing this new mode of perception through the "shock-character" of montage, Benjamin believed that cinema spoke of the 'truths' which awaited us beneath the mirage of proletarian experience. Truths which would guide us—with utopian fervor—towards an awareness, and eventual control, of what Benjamin called the "new nature":

Not just industrial technology, but the entire world of matter (including human beings) as it has been transformed by that technology. [9]

In short, cinema was less a technology than a new and evolving mode of machinic thought, both generated by and generating the post-industrial subject. Observing the relation between representation and visibility, Jens Andermann notes:

Truth, the truth of representation, crucially depends on the clear-cut separation between the visible and the invisible, the non-objectness of the latter. Truth is the effect of what we could call the catachretic nature of visuality, the way in which the world of visual objects can point to the invisible domain of pure being only by obsessively pointing to itself. [10]

As from the Greek root aisthanesthai – "to perceive"—the aesthetic conditions through which The Phantom Zone have been translated frame far more than a supposed fictional void. Called upon to indicate an absolute outside — the unfathomable infinity of another, ghostly, parallel universe — The Phantom Zone instead reiterates the medium of its delivery, whether comic book, television, or cinema, with mirror-like insistency. Such is the power of new technical modes of thought, that very often, they cause us to rethink the outmoded media that we are so used to as to be unaware. The Phantom Zone hides the cinematographic image in plain view. Its reappearance and reimagining over the last 60 odd years, in ever newer forms and aesthetic modes, can be read paradigmatically, that is, as a figure that stands in place of, and points towards, shifts, mutations and absolute overturnings in our perceptual apparatus. Its most recent iteration is in the 2013 Superman reboot, Man of Steel, [11] and in particular in a 'viral' trailer distributed on YouTube a few weeks before the film was released. [12] Coming towards us soars a new mode of machinic thought; a Phantom Zone of unparalleled depth and aesthetic complexity that opens onto a new new - digital - nature.

The General Zod trailer for Man of Steel begins with a static rift that breaks into a visual and audial disarrangement of the phrase, “You are not alone". General Zod's masked face materializes, blended with the digital miasma: a painterly 3D effect that highlights the inherent ‘otherness' of where his message originates. The aesthetic is unsettling in as much as it is recognizable. We have no doubt as viewers of this 'viral' dispatch as to the narrative meaning of what we are witnessing, namely, a datastream compressed and distributed from a paraspace by an entity very much unlike us. The uncanny significance of the trailer stems more from how very normal the digital miasma feels; from how apprehensible this barrage of noise is to us. Indeed, it is ‘other', but its otherness is also somehow routine, foreseeable. The pathogen here is not Zod's message, it is digital technology itself. The glitched aesthetic of the trailer has become so habitual as to herald the passing of digital materiality into the background of awareness. Its mode of dissemination, via the Trojan Horse of YouTube, just as unvisible to us during the regular shifts we make between online/offline modes of communication. The surface of this Phantom Zone very much interfaces with our material world, even if the message it impresses upon us aches to be composed of an alien substance.   Digital video does the work of representation via a series of very clever algorithms called codecs that compress the amount of information needed to produce a moving image. Rather than the individual frames of film, each as visually rich and total as the last, in a codec only the difference between frames need be encoded, making each frame “more like a set of movement instructions than an image." [13] The painterly technique used in the General Zod trailer is normally derived from a collapse between key (image) and reference (difference) frames at the status of encoding. The process is called ‘datamoshing', and has its origins in glitch art, a form of media manipulation predicated on those minute moments when the surface of an image or sound cracks open to reveal some aspect of the process that produced it. By a method of cutting, repeating or glitching of key and reference frames visual representations are made to blend into one another, space becomes difference and time becomes image. The General Zod trailer homages/copies/steals the datamoshing technique, marking digital video's final move from convenient means of dissemination, to palpable aesthetic and cultural influence.  In the actual movie, Man of Steel (2013), Zod's video message is transposed in its entirety to the fictional Planet Earth. The viral component of its movement around the web is entirely absent: its apparent digitality, therefore, remains somewhat intact, but only as a mere surface appearance. This time around the message shattering through The Phantom Zone is completely devoid of affective power: it frames nothing but its existence as a narrative device. The filmmakers rely on a series of “taking over the world" tropes to set the stage for General Zod's Earth-shaking proclamation. TV sets in stereotypical, exotic, locales flicker into life, all broadcasting the same thing. Electronic billboards light up, loudspeakers blare, mobile phones rumble in pockets, indeed, all imaging technologies suddenly take on the role of prostheses for a single, datamoshed, stream. In one—particularly sincere—moment of the montage a faceless character clutches a Nokia brand smartphone in the centre of shot and exclaims, “It's coming through the RSS feeds!" This surface, this Phantom Zone, frames an apparatus far vaster than a datamoshed image codec: an apparatus apparently impossible to represent through the medium of cinema. The surface appearance of the original viral trailer is only a small component of what constitutes the image it conveys, and thus, of the image it frames of our time. Digital materiality shows itself via poorly compressed video clips arriving through streams of overburdened bandwidth. Our understanding of what constitutes a digital image must then, according to Mark Hansen, “be extended to encompass the entire process by which information is made perceivable." [14]

In its cinematic and comic book guises, The Phantom Zone was depicted as “a kind of membrane dividing yet connecting two worlds that are alien to and also dependent upon each other".[15] The success of the datamoshed trailer comes from the way it broke through that interface, its visual surface bubbling with a new kind of viral, digital, potential that encompasses and exposes the material engaged in its delivery. As cinematographic subjects we have an integral understanding of the materiality of film. Although we know that the frames of cinema are separate we crave the illusion of movement, and the image of time, they create. The ‘viral' datamoshed message corrupts this separation between image and movement, the viewer and the viewed. Not only does General Zod seem to push out, from inside the numerical image, it is as if we, the viewing subject enraptured by the digital event, have been consumed by its flow. The datamoshed Phantom Zone trailer takes the one last, brave, step beyond the apparatus of image production. Not only is the studio, the actor, and even the slick appeal of CGI framed out of its mode of delivery, arriving through a network that holds us complicit, this Phantom Zone frames the 'real' world in its entirety, making even the fictional world it appeals to devoid of affective impact. To take liberty with the words of Jean Baudrillard:

[Jorge Luis] Borges wrote: they are slaves to resemblance and representation; a day will come when they will try to stop resembling. They will go to the other side of the mirror and destroy the empire. But here, you cannot come back from the other side. The empire is on both sides. [16]

Once again, The Phantom Zone highlights the material mode of its delivery with uncanny exactness. We are now surrounded by images that supersede mere visual appearance: they generate and are generated by everything the digital touches, including we, the most important component of General Zod's 'viral' diffusion. The digital Phantom Zone extends to both sides of the flickering screen.   References

[1] Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women : The Reinvention of Nature. (London: Free Association Books Ltd, 1991), 149–181.

[2] Richard Donner, Superman, Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, 1978.

[3] Spencer Gordon Bennet, Atom Man Vs. Superman, Sci-Fi, 1950.

[4] Scott Bukatman, Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Postmodern Science Fiction (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 164.

[5] Grant Morrison, Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero (London: Vintage Books, 2012), 62.

[6] Donner, Superman.

[7] Michael Thau, The Magic Behind the Cape, Documentary, Short, 2001. See :

[8] Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," in The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media (Cambridge  Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 26.

[9] Susan Buck-Morss, The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (MIT Press, 1991), 70.

[10] Jens Andermann, The Optic of the State: Visuality and Power in Argentina and Brazil (University of Pittsburgh Pre, 2007), 5.

[11] Zack Snyder, Man of Steel, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, 2013.

[12] Man of Steel Viral - General Zod's Warning (2013) Superman Movie HD, 2013,

[13] BackStarCreativeMedia, “Datamoshing—the Beauty of Glitch," April 9, 2009,

[14] Mark B. Hansen, “Cinema Beyond Cybernetics, or How to Frame the Digital Image," Configurations 10, no. 1 (2002): 54, doi:10.1353/con.2003.0005.

[15] Mark Poster, The Second Media Age (Wiley, 1995), 20.

[16] Jean Baudrillard, “The Murder of the Sign," in Consumption in an Age of Information, ed. Sande Cohen and R. L. Rutsky (Berg, 2005), 11.  

Tue, 10 Sep 2013 08:00:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Shakespeare’s Sonnets and MLK’s Speech Stored in DNA Speck – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science]]>

Using DNA would finally divorce the thing that stores information from the things that read it. Time and again, our storage formats become obsolete because we stop making the machines that read them-think about video tapes, cassettes, or floppy disks. That's a faff-it means that archivists have to co

Mon, 11 Feb 2013 02:53:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Roger Scruton – A culture of fake originality]]>

A high culture is the self-consciousness of a society. It contains the works of art, literature, scholarship and philosophy that establish a shared frame of reference among educated people. High culture is a precarious achievement, and endures only if it is underpinned by a sense of tradition, and by

Tue, 22 Jan 2013 05:16:00 -0800
<![CDATA[An Object Oriented Glitch Ontology?]]>

I took a trip to Chicago for GLI.TC/H 2112! – A conference/festival/carnival/movement in honour (and despite) of hardware/software/wetware errors, databends and feedback blackholes. I took a ton of photographs, you can view them on Flickr (better quality) or Facebook (dotted with comments, insights and exultations from the GLI.TC/H community). I intend to write more about the event, but for now I will post my talk here, which I gave on Saturday 8th December. It’s title is Glitches in Things and the “Friendly Medium”, a talk expanding on an idea I have been carting around for a couple of years now. Updated with Object Oriented insights I hope it acts as a mental toolkit for artists looking to dance with objects, in all their glitchy splendour. As usual, I completely ignored my notes whilst talking, for this reason it’s worth listening to the question and answer bit afterwards. Infinite thanks must go to Rosa Menkman, Jon Satrom and Nick Briz – the GLI.TC/H Bots at the heart of the fest. Thank you for inviting me to participate. More on OOO, glitches, kipple and Things to come reeeeal soon… (the talky bit starts a few minutes in)

Mon, 10 Dec 2012 15:22:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Why we want to build Charles Babbage's Victorian computer]]>

To understand why it's worth building an almost 200-year-old mechanical computer, it's necessary to first understand what a computer is. Although Babbage's analytical engine is entirely mechanical, it has the same essence as a modern computer. That computer essence is one of the important consequences of another British computing pioneer's work, a century after Babbage. Exactly 99 years after Babbage invented the computer, Alan Turing wrote his now famous paper describing the universal Turing machine. An important mathematical idea arising from Turing's paper and another by American mathematician Alonzo Church is that all computers have the same capabilities, no matter how they are constructed. Because of the Church-Turing thesis, as it is called, we know that Babbage's analytical engine (with its levers and cogs), Turing's theoretical machine and the latest tablet all have the same fundamental limits. Of course, Babbage's machine would by modern standards have been painfully slow.

Wed, 24 Oct 2012 03:35:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Conference Panel: How to Survive in a Post-Zombie Digital Landscape]]>‘Figuring-Genre-in-Contemporary-Culture-How-to-Survive-in-a-Post-Zombie-Digital-Landscape’

ASAP/4: Genres of the Present Conference, Royal College of Art, ‘Abject Materialities (an Ontology of Every Thing on the Face of the Earth)’ as part of panel, ‘Figuring Genre in Contemporary Culture: How to Survive in a Post-Zombie Digital Landscape’, with Zara Dinnen, Rob Gallagher and Simon Clark, October 4th-6th 2012

Thu, 04 Oct 2012 08:26:41 -0700‘Figuring-Genre-in-Contemporary-Culture-How-to-Survive-in-a-Post-Zombie-Digital-Landscape’
<![CDATA[Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture]]>

These past years have seen a revival of sorts of cyberpunk, that early-80s buzzword once excitingly epitomised by such concrete-and-neon spectacles as Blade Runner and The Terminator and the literary musings of William Gibson.

The Matrix notwithstanding, the West generally regards cyberpunk as a strictly 1980s phenomenon. With Shinya Tsukamoto’s return to his epoch-making saga with Tetsuo: The Bullet Man, Mamoru Oshii’s ongoing exploration of humanity’s outer reaches in both live and animated form, the biomechanical goriness unleashed by some of the talents currently united under the Sushi Typhoon banner, and a neverending deluge of sci-fi anime, it is safe to say that in Japan the genre never went away.

This is the immediate realisation at which one arrives when flicking through Steven T. Brown’s Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture, a long-overdue study of a genre that, as human interaction becomes progressively virtual and the virtual becomes progressively mundane, also seems to become increasingly relevant.

Brown cites a passage from David Cronenberg’s DVD audio commentary to one of cyberpunk’s Ur-texts, Videodrome, to not only illustrate how effortlessly cybernetic our lives have become but also to define the concept of “the limits of the human“ that underscores the author’s approach to the subject in this book: “Technology isn’t really effective, it doesn’t really expose its true meaning, I feel, until it has been incorporated into the human body. And most of it does, in some way or another. Electronics. People wear glasses. They wear hearing aides that are really little computers. They wear pacemakers. They have their intestines modified. It’s really quite incredible what we’ve been able to do to the human body and really take it some place that evolution on its own could not take it. Technology has really taken over evolution. We’ve seized control of evolution ourselves without really quite being conscious of it. It’s no longer the environment that affects change in the human body, it’s our minds, it’s our concepts, our technology that are doing that.“

Sat, 08 Sep 2012 06:06:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Synthetic Biology: Designing a “Metaphysical” Chicken]]>

The ultimate design material is one that understands what it is to become. By way of an example, I’d like to think about how we might design a chicken. Think of the creativity of Nature – which, in very real terms can: • Transform an acorn into a giant oak tree • Change the colour of a chameleon • Ev

Wed, 05 Sep 2012 01:20:00 -0700
<![CDATA[Synthetic Biology: Designing a “Metaphysical” Chicken]]>

The ultimate design material is one that understands what it is to become. By way of an example, I’d like to think about how we might design a chicken. Think of the creativity of Nature – which, in very real terms can: • Transform an acorn into a giant oak tree • Change the colour of a chameleon • Ev

Wed, 05 Sep 2012 01:20:00 -0700
<![CDATA[A Matter of Feeling (exploring interzone materials between “inert” and “alive”)]]>

The cosmos is composed of many different species of stardust and despite our advanced, secular knowledge we imagine these primordial substances give rise to a universe, fashioned in our own image. Meta.Morf is a reflection on a new kind of image, which is evolving in a diverse set of arts practices a

Mon, 03 Sep 2012 02:36:00 -0700