Slow, Happy Accidents

[I had every intention of finishing by midnight last night, but I needed a short nap, and that then turned into a long night of sleep. I guess my body knew what my mind needed.]

I return now to the lecture at the Hirshhorn. I mentioned the woman who gave the talk spoke of finding her own "Orozco-like" images, and taking "Would Be Orozco's" photographs just as she happened upon them. Since encountering Orozco's work I have been seeing more circles in my day. Here is one I saw on the ground floor of the Hirshhorn, just outside the Ring Auditorium where the lecture took place:

Pool Collecting Leak in Roof, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
T610 mobile phone digital photograph

As I discussed the hegemonic speed of linear movement, it seems that adopting a position of SLOWNESS is a necessary counterpoint to achieve balance in the "question of the path," (Virillio 24). If our daily chorography of movements will be increasingly dictated by machinic movements of networked systems, an increased AWARENESS of our TRAJECTIVITY is perhaps the start of this move to SLOWNESS.

With the use of mobile camera phones on the rise, more and more individuals can "frame in a shoebox" moments from their day to day movements, recording their interactions with the material environment and making their own strange loops of experience. The distribution of photo-making equipment and its apparently seamlessness in [Western] daily life confirms Susan Sontag's observation, "photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire," (Sontag 4). Whereas in previous decades, access to image-making equipment by the masses was limited - only those with power in the Communications Ideological State Apparatus (Althusser) could PRODUCE images. Today, the activities of producing and consuming images with mass-technologies (like camera phones) has further blurred the boundary between the "art" space and the "rest of reality."

Imagination versus Institution is contested here, and is the subject of a recent exhibition of mobile phone photography called SENT. Both an online and gallery-located exhibition, it features the photography of both "established" artists and "amateur" photographers.

[Despite the philosophical attempt with this exhibition, you can clearly observe the Imagination vs. Institution struggle in the language that is used to frame the show - "professional artists" vs. "amateurs."]

::A Different World Picture::

"It is possible to conceive of the world of postmodern knowledge as goverened by a game of perfect information, in the sense that the data is in principle accessible to any expert: there is no scientific secret. Given equal competence (no longer in the acquisition of knowledge, but in its production), what extra performativity depends on in the final analysis is 'imagination,' which allows one either to make a new move or change the rules of the game," (Lyotard 52).

Perhaps the MOBILE aspect of Mobile Phone Photography will be what completes the destruction of the LINES that create and maintain such categorical, grid-like Cartesian borders. Or, as writer Guy Brett suggests when speaking about Orozco's work, that the way to get out of such nagging contradictions is to make the consumer also a producer. "This would be another aspect of thinking in relationships and reciprocates rather than either/or categories, and admitting that every person is multifaceted," (Brett 104).

Circle Next to Line, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
T610 mobile phone digital photograph

To photograph, you have to slow down, take out the camera or the phone, and pause for a moment in your left-right-left-right forward motion; "this is the reality we live, the multifaceted simultaneity of our social being in which we continue to insist on our unique individuality," (Brett 106).

My Neck, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
T610 mobile phone digital photograph

"I want to relish the rhythm of his steps: the farther he goes, the slower they are. In that slowness, I seem to recognize a sign of happiness," (Kundera 155). Let the sign be the openness of a circle that never loses sight of its symbiotic relationship to the line.


"Last night a DJ saved my life"

[Lyrics from Indeep.]

In this blogsite, I have attempted to come from the direction of complexity theory that Taylor discusses and is demonstrative of the socio-communicative practices of online and offline networks.

"According to complexity theorists, all significant change takes place between too much and too little order. When there is too much order, systems are frozen and cannot change, and when there is too little order, systems distintegrate and can no longer function," (Taylor 14).

::for fun::

8 Track
Vinyl Record
Cassette Tape
Compact Disc
mp3 ?
mp3 ?

"Fragmentary writing is, ultimately, democratic writing. Each fragment enjoys an equal distinction. The most banal one finds its exceptional reader. Each, in its turn, has its hour of glory. Of course, each fragment could become a book. But the point is that it will not do so, for the ellipse is superior to the straight line." - From Baudrillard's Fragments: Cool Memories, 1990-1995

By mixing images and video, links and quotations, vernacular and academic registers, online and offline writing, words and code, I have attempted to DJ::SCRATCH my way into both representing and embodying that which has been the object of this exploration: experience of the LINE and of the CIRCLE.


DJs sample without marking the quotation; no brackets or punctuation define the space of the sound, making it free to travel its invisible trajectory without riot. A reference to a prior text is not made for authoritative legitimation or the (re)creation of power relations through citation. Excerpts are embedded for simply the pleasure of intertextual experience, the vibe of the listener/reader.

It’s all been dubbed before. Imagination is in the manipulation of the sampled sounds, the reworking into new rhythms, laying down of rhymes over drum and bass that dubs no bass with my head(trip) man. I write beats as I type into the keys –pound and pulsate—fingers type with a clackety-clack finger nail tap tap tap, as they scratch another written record of thoughts captured, a composition escaped from the confines of its own history, laying down memories like dropping beats. A letter is a note ripped from vinyl – your pupils move left to right as you read the rhythm, dancing with the prose like a partner in in-step with your own feet.


To make this MOVE, I've LINKED in lyrics like a DJ mixing beats, to achieve the best performance. As Lyotard asserts, "the best performativity...comes from arranging the data in a new way...achieved by connecting together series of data that were previously held to be independent," (Lyotard 51-52).

This "move" is an activity of articulating what used to be separate, a demonstration of IMAGINATION, of which SPEED is one of its properities (Lyotard 52).

Drive #2, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
T610 mobile phone digital photograph

As such, my conclusion will circle back to the photograph, the flash of the camera that captures the MOBILITY of experience: "with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store," (Sontag 3).

Strange Loops, Open Circles

In Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas Hofstadter discusses the concept of STRANGE LOOPS. These are self-reflexive circuits that appear to be CIRCULAR, yet remain paradoxically open. In such loops, signification or meaning becomes "undecidable" and hence, OPEN. He discussses this point using the painting of Magritte.

The Two Mysteries, 1966
Rene Magritte
oil on canvas

By weaving words and image together in a painting (a representational form), Magritte creates a self-reflexive loop where words form an image that in turn, represents the referent of the words. Hofstadter uses his characters to describe this process as a "spiraling corridor" of representation, nested copies within copies or Baudrillard's simulacra.

Mark Taylor relates spiraling corridor to the notion of fractals that appear to be set in motion when looking at them. The dynamics that emerge in the moving patterns open up a temporal gap, wherein "patterns appear to organize themselves spontaneously," (Taylor 78). He sees these pulsations of fractal movement as a display of "the rhythms of network culture." Such strange loops of information and networks create complex self-organizaing systems that have a structure that goes against traditional thought of the past three centuries. (Ibid.)

---These notions of strange loops, open circles, and fracals describe the experience/effect of creating/reading this blogsite/paper. ---

The Circular Poetic of Stains

"I dreamed of a circle I dreamed of a circle round..."

[isolating myself in the biology department lecture hall, thinking some linear pedagogical room structure will help expedite the closing of this paper.]

"and in that circle I had made, were all the worlds unformed and unborn yet..." Lyrics from a 10,000 Maniacs song, called Circle Dream. Beautifully, completely, fully, it closes as it begins. A circular form.

“Vision is no longer the possibility of seeing, but the impossibility of not seeing,” (Virillio 90).

Virillio discusses ESCAPE VELOCITY as the SPEED AT WHICH WE SEE THINGS (Open Sky 31). To see things is, in essence, to record the experience in your mind, to etch it into your memory. We use the flash of the camera to capture the instant of an experience we want to SLOW to the point of FREEZING it, an attempt to possess the moment. “As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure,” (Sontag 9). Perhaps this insecurity translates to Kundera’s notion of a “fear of the future.” We rely on speed to escape because inevitably our subjectivities have been captured and written into the code of Virillio’s Vision Machine; we no longer have the freedom of NOT being recorded, of NOT being made into an image. The “events” of our daily lives are captured by technologies from security cameras to website movement tracking devices - none of our MOVEMENT escapes the eye of technological recording.

“Picture-taking is an event in itself…Time consists of interesting events, events worth photographing,” (Sontag 11). A little outdated now, there is no longer a scale of value associated with the “naming” of an event as “interesting” or “worth” photographing. The anxiety of this awareness again relates to Kundera’s question of the future and fear; we fear that the image captured in the past will be revealed in the future and serve a purpose against us.

At the core of this state is an Althusserian perspective on how these technologies are being used and deployed by institutional forces. “It is still ideology (in the broadest sense) that determines what constitutes an event. There can be no evidence, photographic or otherwise, of an event until the event itself has been named and characterized,” (Sontag 19). However, given the mass distribution and access to image-making technologies, one would expect that a strictly institutional. ISA-type control of images is challenged today. I will discuss this at more length in regards to mobile phone cameras.

Extension of Reflection, 1992
Gabriel Orozco

Compare with...

Relation in Movement, 1977
Marina Abramovic and Ulay
performance still

Commenting in Open Sky on the “end of photography” from a Fine Art perspective, Virillio suggests that the “art of seeing” is now “merely a freeze frame…images frozen or arrested are now only ‘stops’ along the way of unfolding visual sequences,” (Virillio 89). We are traveling through our lives in linear trajectories dictated by the efficiency and speed of network systems, with our perception of EXPERIENCE as a series of visual images.

Gabriel Orozco’s artistic practice embraces the position of a traveler through the networked world, while at the same time embracing the SLOWNESS of his experiences. His photographs are documentation of his experiences in the world, like riding a bicycle through two puddles as in Extension of Reflection. Circles emerge frequently in his work, observations and interventions.

Curator Francesco Bonami describes Gabriel Orozco's constant observation and recording of circular patterns as "the poetic of stains." This is Orozco's own customized language of accidents or "stains"; images that are bumped into during the day without expectation. "These accidents change our perception of the space and time in which we are moving," (Bonami 19). Orozco doesn't consider himself a photographer, but he uses the medium to take note of such stains, using simple AWARENESS as a material to work with. "Shaping awareness means putting an otherwise ARTIFICIALLY LINEAR perception of things into a different perspective," (Ibid.).

Perception of time and movement is a game of subjectivity and physicality. Orozco also explores this in his sculptures, such as in Horses Running Endlessly, wherein the MOVES of the chess pieces are implied by our own implication of knowing the game through its (re)production in the memory of the social body ("this is how we play").

Horses Running Endlessly, 1995
Gabriel Orozco

Through simple recordings, photographic pauses, the circles of Orozco's artwork give a point of reflection without a push for that point to directly connect to another; the linearity of experience is less interesting to Orozco's art practice.

There are cues to be taken from his work to "find the circles" in our daily experiences, a simple form to focus on so that the ESCAPE VELOCITY slows to a pleasurable pace.

Movement in the Slowness of Illness and Death

"As opposed to a motorcyclist, the runner is always present in his body, forever required to think about his blisters, his exhaustion; when he runs he feels his weight, his age, more conscious than ever of himself and of his time of life. This all changes when man delegates the faculty of speed to a machine: from then on, his own body is outside the process, and he gives over to a speed that is noncorporeal, nonmaterial, pure speed, speed itself, ecstasy speed. A curious alliance: the cold impersonality of technology with the flames of ecstasy,” (Kundera 2).

When we place our body “outside of the process” we are attempting to achieve a virtual displacement or escape velocity (ECSTASY SPEED); an attempt to flee the marking of MEMORY. Yet significantly the corporeal body returns, despite escape velocity, through two conditions that are perhaps the body’s loudest voice against the faculty of the mind: SICKNESS and DEATH.

Kundera mentions that the Runner is required to think about his blisters, the feeling of his own weight, the pain of his exhaustion. Physical Pain, exhaustion, fights with the mind during the act of running. There are so many vernacular phrases (especially in the culture of long distance running) that relate this condition: "No pain, no gain." "The last miles of the marathon are all mental." "Run through the pain."

We condition our mind to THINK through the PHYSICAL REALITY of pain, to ESCAPE through mental displacement or VIRTUALIZATION of experience; removing oneself from the present condition of the ACTUAL BODY.

The image of the runner’s internal struggle with the body and pain is but a starting point for a much more serious discussion of sickness and death. Some of the physical horrors of warfare technology cannot be ignored in such discussions [Virillo, Zizek]. Despite the larger discussion this merits [which is out of the scope of this paper], I do wish to briefly comment on a few related items.

“Movement is the essence of the body...
By moving, the body makes its reality.”
(Pronger 80)

Brian Pronger states this in relation to “being there” as an event, “Being happens. Movement is implicit in the happening of an event,” (Ibid.). I go for a run, aware of my movement in time as both a move away from the past and a move into the future. But what if the body is incapable of such movement, either through illness or death? Does the REALITY of the EVENT occur?

I think instantly of the idea of "going online" – the physical body doesn’t go anywhere; I am still sitting in my chair as I post this to the blogsite. Yet, my typing and submitting online produces an effect, a VIRTUAL MOVE. The event of this has occurred, with just my fingers moving to type. There is no inherent difference in the MOVEMENT of the Runner and the movement of the online websurfer in the REALITY of the effect produced.

"Movement is the primordial logos of the real for us who are embodied," (Ibid.).

Thus, if the body stops its movement [death], or is restricted in its movement [illness], its REALITY disappears. Though the physical reality ends, the SOCIAL BODY can keep the memory of the body eliciting an effect, or maintaining a place in the social construction of reality. This is the role of the physical monument and gravestone as sites to ground the social body’s experience of a body no longer physically moving. There are also online spaces that offer the same site-specific experience of creating, engaging and maintaining the social body of the dead body [example: http://forevernetwork.com; owner of the site, Tyler Cassity, claims 'a high proportion of the people here have content-rich afterlives.']


Living with illness is an experience that inevitably SLOWS the speed of the body's MOVEMENT event. The mind has more difficulty MOVING itself away and through the pain of AWARENESS of its own physicality, its own mortality. Despite the speed of movement of the networked body – both physically and socially – the inevitable final exhaustion of the body has yet to be technologically transcended; the physical body cannot animate after death, however it can MOVE in the social body.

Perhaps the ultimate demonstration of the SOCIAL BODY at work in maintaining the discourse of EMBODIMENT is a performance that artist Bob Flanagan proposed. Suffering from cystic fibrous his whole life, he wrote and did performances that explored the human body's relationship to pain by externalizing it and projecting it onto his viewers. Near to his death, Flanagan wanted to install a closed-circuit TV camera inside his casket, thus enabling spectators to witness his final performance: the decay of his mortal remains. Though never actualized, the intention was to keep the video camera running in a gallery that would be behind a curtain – if visitors wanted to view the video, to make an EVENT with Flanagan's material-turned-strictly-social-body occur, it was literally in the hands of the observer. The reality of Flanagan's existence would be made through its social engagement.

Here, the EMBODIED subject is necessarily particularized and engaged in the social in relation to other subjects comprising the SOCIAL BODY, and the use of the video camera demonstrates how these changes in subjectivity are taking place through technological transformations and our discourse about them.

Charged Space, 1978
Marina Abramovic and Ulay
click to view video

"Two bodies spin around a vertical axis until centrifugal force throws them apart. Past the state of control, the bodies continue to move in random space. The physical dynamism is sustained by the acoustic rhythm of work chants...'Move...Move...Move...'" (Abramovic 196). In this performance, Marina and Ulay explore the relationship of the physical body to the social body. Commands to which the body is instructed to move are called out, and the impact of these on the physical body is demonstrated by the artists' bodies naturally falling and exhibiting the pain that results.

"The subject is no longer located in a point in absolute time/space, enjoying a physical, fixed vantage point form which rationally to calculate its options. Instead it is multiplied by databases, dispersed by computer messaging and conference, decontextualized and reidentified by TV ads, dissolved and materialized by the electronic transmission of symbols...The body is then no longer an effective limit of the subject’s position...In these circumstances I cannot consider myself centered in my rational, autonomous subjectivity or bordered by a defined ego, but I am disrupted, subverted and dispersed across social space,"(Poster 15-16).

Coupled with the PHYSICAL experience of ILLNESS and the inevitability of DEATH, this dispersion of subjectivity creates almost a loop of MOVEMENT between the PHYSICAL BODY and the SOCIAL BODY. The relation between these two movements is played out in the question of REALITY, and it seems that the socially dispersed subject returns to the physical body to “work out” or reestablish her/his relationship to reality.

Zizek mentions “cutters” as individuals that act in a way that is “strictly parallel to the virtualization of our environment: it represents a desperate strategy to return to the Real of the body,” (Zizek 10). By using razors and their own fingers, cutters bleed to be comforted by self-inflicted PAIN and the site of blood that reaffirms their firm root in reality, “against the unbearable anxiety of perceiving oneself as non-existent,” (Ibid.).

For cutters, and performance artists like Flanagan, there is a use of pain and the body as a MOVE against the hegemonic weight of the social body. As Lea Vergine described of Body-based performance artists, “[in their artistic practice] they are looking for the human being who isn’t castrated by the functionalism of society – the man who lives outside the laws of profit,” (Vergine 9). Or, in other words, these artists use the body and physical pain to test relationships with subjectivity and self-knowledge that are not inscribed by the program of movement and awareness enforced by a capitalism regime. The movement of the body in performance art is an investigation of alternatives to the coercive linearity of everyday life.

"My work focuses on the visceral, where the body is a canvas but I'm not trying to express what I care about in a cognitive sense – all I can do is return to this fragile connection between real life and the experience of living." – Artist Franko B

The language of the "real" and of a concept of living that is EMBODIED inhabits theories of pain, illness and death – alternatives of MOVEMENT – that push at a communication with the self that does not have a conclusion (a fixed trajectory), but is rather a circle of questioning and engagement of human experience rooted in AWARENESS.

Cut me, I bleed like you.

Lyrics from Stagger, by Underworld, who I am listening to right now.

Speed, Escape, Memory and the Body

“’How come they have no fear when they are behind the wheel?’ What could I say? Maybe this: the man hunched over his motorcycle can focus only on the present instant of his flight; he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future; he is wrenched from the continuity of time; he is outside time; in other words, he is in a state of ecstasy; in that state he is unaware of his age, his wife, his children, his worries, and so he has no fear, because the source of fear is in the future, and a person freed of the future has nothing to fear,” (Kundera 1-2).

To ESCAPE is in essence, to feel as if one has departed from REALITY, and is experiencing the VIRTUAL. I say “feel as if” because these categories are socially constructed, nonmaterial concepts often experienced through engagement with the material (like the corporeal body and the motorcyle). “Social systems produce nonmaterial as well as material structures. The processes that sustain a social network are processes of communication,” (Capra 91).

The biker is OUTSIDE OF TIME because TIME is a socializing material. “Our ability to hold mental images and project them into the FUTURE not only allows us to identify goals and purposes and develop strategies and designs, but also enables us to choose among several alternatives and hence to formulate values and social rules of behavior,” (Capra 85). By ESCAPE through an increase in SPEED,
the FEAR of the FUTURE [or TIME], which we cannot control, is lost.

“All of these social phenomena are generate by networks of communication as a consequence of the dual role of human communication. On the one hand, the network continually generates mental images, thoughts, and meaning; on the other hand, it continually coordinates the behavior of its members,” (Capra 86). Through machines of speed, we travel physical networks under the appearance of autonomy and agency, two key structuring elements of communication networks. As
Kantian reason reminds, freedom of thought positively sustains social servitude.

Zizek uses this logic at the start of his, Welcome to the Desert of the Real! , which serves his discussion of the Real in relationship to politics and global capitalism. Though frantically mobile, a more fundamental immobility is concealed, from which a “growing inertial of social being/life” results, (Zizek 8-9). With a similar reversal of the dialectic, he describes Virtual Reality and the Real as an experience wherein “’real reality’ itself [is] a virtual entity,” (11). For me, Zizek’s discussion leads to the collapse of the categories of the Real and the Virtual, and exposes their social construction.

Thus, the notion of MOBILITY is connected to notions of FREEDOM. Kundera's motorcyclist uses the technology of the to feel as if he is in control, as if through the ESCAPE of the BODY in SPEED, he can control TIME and hence his relationship to REALITY, or experience lived and relived via MEMORY.

“There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time. In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting,” (Kundera 39).

The difference between perceiving an experience of VIRTUALITY versus REALITY is in MOVEMENT. SPEED dictates the experience of virtuality as a state of ESCAPE; if it is made through the technology of the motorcycle, for example, the experience of Virtual Disembodiment comes quickly, and if we move slowly, it takes longer to forget the Reality of lived experience. The opposite, to directly record it (as in photography), is an attempt to etch the experience onto one's memory. This will be discussed more in relation to Gabriel Orozco's work.

“A run begins the moment you forget your are running.”

I heard this quote a lot when running track in college. I am interested in how the body inscribes memory as does the mind. “Muscle memory” is the body’s accumulated “knowledge” or experience of physical stress endured over time. This is how the runner increases her/his fitness level, improving the speed at which the runner can complete a distance. If we speed up to forget (in the mind, as in the Kundera quote), we increase the speed of the body’s movement. In so doing, the body is encoded with the memory that such a speed has been run for a certain distance, and this corporeal memory is what informs subsequent running events. Thus, even if we attempt to disembody our subjectivity from experience, inevitably it seems some recording of this is inscribed onto the body.

Performing Efficiency, Performing Speed

"Faster than a ray of light she's flying...Trying to remember where it all began..."

[this morning I'm beginning from home with a Madonna song lyric. got the coffee going, so I can speed up the production of this text...]


“One is always located at a post through which various kinds of messages pass...One’s mobility in relation to these language game effects...is even solicited by regulatory mechanisms, and in particular by the self-adjustments the system undertakes in order to improve its performance. It maybe even be said that the system can and must encourage such movement to the extent that it combats its own entropy; the novelty of an unexpected ‘move,’ with its correlative displacement of a partner or group of partners, can supply the system with that increased performativity it forever demands and consumes,” (15).

Thus we are physically also attuning our bodies to move in a similar fashion as our communication systems --- with the greatest degree of performativity. In running, for example, athletes training to be at the top of the game are coached to regulate each individual movement so that the maximum use of effect is achieved through the most minimal expenditure of energy. Similarly, efficiency of gasoline has become the new rhetoric of car ownership: advertisements for more fuel-efficient models use their opposition to SUVs as their selling point. This program of efficiency is located in the use of technology to increase the rate at which various tasks are performed.

“Speed is the form of ecstasy the technical revolution has bestowed on man,” (Kundera 2).

In the context of complexity, Mark Taylor explores the notion of speed becoming an end in itself, a result of the acceleration of the rate of change. In his introduction to The Moment of Complexity Taylor suggests that there is an increased desire for simplicity as things MOVE from lesser to greater complexity, “in today’s world, however, simplicity has become an idle dream that can no longer be realized,” (Taylor 3). If simplicity cannot be achieved, perhaps the alternative is ESCAPE.

ESCAPE and SPEED are connected experiences. The degree to which the PHYSICAL BODY is engaged in producing the speed (i.e. the amount of technology involved: runner versus cyclist versus car driver) is perhaps what dictates the experience of ESCAPE and hence the pleasure of its ecstasy.

Cycle, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
T610 mobile phone digital photograph

Drive #1, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
T610 mobile phone digital photograph

“I am driving my car too fast with ecstatic music on.”

Lyrics from Bjork, Violently Happy

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Networked

[Tryst kicked me out now, and I'm home with the AC cranked to stay awake...Starting this post with an allusion to Milan Kundera, whom I will use through the rest of this blogsite. For me, the critical stance of his work complements Orozco's artistic process nicely. I see both as engaged through disengagement, quietly aware.]


Baudrillard asserts that we are beyond the society of the spectacle, "We no longer partake of the drama of alienation, but are in the ecstasy of communication," (Baudrillard 22). He sites a "pornography of information and communication, a pornography of circuits and networks," (Ibid.). The world, for Baudrillard, is entirely soluble in information, and communication. Material matter – NATURE – is no longer relevant; it has already been mastered. Similarly, Lyotard comments in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, "data banks are the Encyclopedia of tomorrow. They transcend the capacity of each of their users. They are 'nature' for the postmodern man," (Lyotard 51). We are saturated in information, an endless web of communication through which we are superficial actors passing along data. "Today the scene and the mirror have given way to a screen and a network. There is no longer any transcendence or depth, but only the immanent surface of operations unfolding, the smooth and functional surface of communication." (Baudrillard 12).

Where Baudrillard names the human/body a screen, I perceive humans to be reconfigured as individual points or potential sites to be linked in a communication chain; all interactions – virtual or otherwise – are transmissions of data or communication trajectories that, in this era of hyperproductivity/hyperconsumption, are made under the linear ideology of speed and efficiency of information.

Lyotard sites the breaking up of GRAND NARRATIVES as the "dissolution of the social bond and the disintegration of social aggregates into a mass of individual atoms, thrown into the absurdity of Brownian motion" (Lyotard 15). Breaking up the SOCIAL BOND is essentially snipping the CIRCLE of social relations or aggregates. The disintegration into atoms is like laying out individuals as communication points, potential points to be traveled through on a LINEAR trajectory in service of/to information. This MOTION in pushed by what Lyotard calls the "performativity principle," which I will discuss in terms of SPEED later.
DNA: LINES of sequences that are bundled up into AGGREATES that are maintained within the CIRCULAR membrane of the nucleaus of a cell prior to gene transcription.

Funny how the centrifuge is a tool to disintegrate DNA into its component parts that operates by its spinning in circles at an extremely fast rate; this is the breaking up of the circle into points that can then be mapped and sequenced as social network theory describes.


"A self does not amount to much, but no self is an island; each exists in a fabric of relations that is now more complex and mobile than ever. Young or old, man or woman, a person is always located at 'nodal points' of specific communication circuits, however tiny these may be," (Ibid.).

This Postmodern Condition has been translated into social network theory, which outright describes people as nodes: blank screens [like Okon’s video] that merely serve a pupose of transmission.


Social network theory conceptualizes humans as nodal points on a network that is as large as the earth is populated. As Albert-Laszlo Barabasi has articulated in his book, Linked: The New Science of Networks:

“Each of us is a part of a large cluster, the worldwide social net, from which no one is left out…Likewise, there is a path between any two neurons in our brain, between any two companies in the world, between any two chemicals in our body,” (Barabasi 18). This particular quote illustrates the same somatic language that is used to describe the internet and cybertechnologies; it seems that we always come back to our physical body in language to make sense of the phenomena we experience in everyday life. The significance of this seems to support the idea that we never will truly be entirely disembodied from our LIVING BODIES. Even our decaying, material bodies can live on in the SOCIAL BODY through memorials, online eulogy websites, and other discourse-based manifestations.

I will return to the body – in many senses of the phrase – again, in a later blogsite post/transmission.

Assembly LINE in Production and Consumption

As I have been observing, it seems that consumer behavior is becoming similarly programmed for speed and efficiency. I’ve noticed people ordering food at the restaurant and consuming it in similar ways as I saw at McDonalds. [Perhaps this is why the Slow Food movement is fashionably growing.] Besides obvious concerns for the physical body that result from this, I am more sensitive to how the SOCIAL BODY is impacted.

It seems that there is an increasing lack of eye contact between customer and worker, making the individual worker (and consumer!) nameless, faceless subjects. A video piece by Yoshua Okon, Todos Los Empleados, Todos Los Carl’s Jr, Todo L.A., beautifully articulates this condition.

Todos Los Empleados, Todos Los Carl’s Jr, Todo L.A., 2002
Yoshua Okon
video still
click on image to view video

For the piece, the artist went to every Carl’s Jr restaurant in the Los Angeles area and filmed each employee introducing him/herself behind the counter. He then overlaid each piece of footage, with the cumulative effect creating an erasure of the individual’s identity, a whiteness or blankness; the "talking head" of the employee disappears, and the body becomes eradicated. As the artist noted in the catalog to the exhibition, Blanc, (Fall 2003) at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, DC:

"Film and video are made out of light and the addition of more layers means the addition of more light: the more light the brighter and whiter the image becomes. We end up with an individual on one side of the spectrum and white on the other. White in this case, becomes a metaphor for lack, for the inexistence of the individual in the face of standardization," (Okon 2003).

A highly politically charged work, this video has stuck in my mind and demonstrates the sign of alienation that is the consumer society, the society of the spectacle, in which the presence of the individual is rendered blank, erased. As individuality is erased, the SOCIAL of the SOCIAL BODY becomes taken in an absorbed into the whiteness of being nodes on a communication network, channels through which information and data flows, rather than intersubjective experiences are made.


I was trying to find an image of a Marina Abramovic performance that I want to discuss, but instead came across this interview with Laurie Anderson (also a performance artist).

On Abramovic's performance, The House with the Ocean View...

MA: "People would come like drunks—instead of a shot of vodka they came to have a shot of this connection with the eyes. They came in the morning; at quarter to nine they were there waiting, in business suits. The gallery would open at nine, and they would come in, look at me for 20 minutes and go away. A lot of them told me later that they are not even connected to art. I was thinking that people usually don't look at them in this intimate way, so maybe they just needed to be looked at in that way before going to work."

LA: "It reminds me how much of a defense language is. And how distancing it is—it's called communicating, but often it's not. Sometimes it's just these clever things that we set up, and often they actually get in the way of what we mean."

Here both artists suggest it is the body that needs recognition and contact with other bodies and the environment. Marina's performance created this space of material interaction in the frame of art, just as Orozco's photography and a later post on camera phones, will assert.


Assembly LINE in Production

[at Tryst now...library kicked me out; why it's not open 24 hours in the summer is a mystery]

Ultimately technology is about being productive – it’s expensive to make, to innovate, and maintain. Therefore, the capitalist funds it, causing a number of social, political, and economic impacts [for example, technology and development]. Marx articulated the relationship of the capitalist, the worker and technology in his essay, The machine versus the worker. The following passages note these changing relationships in regard to the industrial revolution:

  • "The object of improved machinery is to diminish manual labor, to provide for the performance of a process or the completion of a link in a manufacture by the aid of an iron instead of the human apparatus,"(Marx 156).
  • "Whenever a process requires peculiar dexterity and steadiness of hand, it is withdrawn, as soon as possible, from the cunning workman, who is prone to irregularities of many kinds," (Ibid.).
  • "Machinery...is constantly on the point of making him superfluous," (Ibid.).

The "self-acting" tool machinery that Marx sites as the characteristic feature of modern mechanical improvements created a blueprint for the later information industry, including patterns for social interaction of workers “within the machine” of industry. The assembly line leaped out of the factory and mapped itself onto the fabric of social relations of domestic life (work time onto leisure time; or production at work to consumption at home). Physically, its form is reinforced by the straight lines and right angles of streets and avenues, as well as modern homes and buildings, that "channel desires in ways that allow controlled moments of release necessary to keep the wheels of industry turning," (Taylor 30). With the utilitarianism of industrialization, rational (the Cartesian grid of universal reason) activity came to be associated with economic benefit. Imagination takes a backseat and time cannot afford to be wasted.


In today's era of late capitalism [Jameson], capitalism has benefited from technological innovation increasing productivity to the extent that consumption has turned into a productive force in its own right; consumption is the key organizing principle of contemporary society. Additionally, the product consumed is increasingly information-based, raising communication perhaps the main (only?) form of interaction/exchange.

One of the most visible ways to notice how the speed and efficiency programs of modernist, productive machineshave influenced our consumption behaviors, and therefore bodily movements, is in the restaurant. Having worked at McDonald’s for a number of years as a teenager, my body learned first-hand what I later read in George Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society. The assembly line production of food became a part of my muscles’ memory, and years later as I am waiting tables again, I am finding myself making the most efficient movements as possible in order to speedily serve the customer.

Mythology Machine/Chain Value, 2004
Kathryn Cornelius
performance still

In the performance art piece, Mythology Machine/Chain Value I explored the assembly line and worker subjectivity in relation to the production of academic discourse. The movements of the physical body in LINEAR production are mapped onto intellectual processes, and then remapped back onto the movements of the physical body; the mind follows the body and vice versa. As we produce in a LINE, we are beginning to consume, and generally move throughout our daily lives, in linear fashion.


[now at home...one more post before I sleep...]

According to the Microsoft Word Dictionary:

VIRTUAL = being something in effect even if not in reality

REAL = having actual physical existence; verifiable as actual fact, for example, legally or scientifically

A deconstructivist, postmodern perspective does not trust the second definition of the Real – "Fact" and science are examples of the definition of Virtual in this case (as ideological constructions). What about the first definition of Real, having actual PHYSICAL existence? This could also be debated, but as I am sitting here typing online with my stomach in pain because I am hungry, I am quickly reminded of my somatic life...

I am skeptical of accounts that describe the virtual as a completely disembodied state; the correspondence between the physical body and the language produced by a social body is what creates virtuality. The virtual shows assumptions about what it is, but it doesn’t actually produce any new language. This corresponds to the notion of attribution [the perceiver projects own qualities onto the object] that is at work in Plato’s allegory of the cave. As Baudrillard observes, objects themselves are communicative (Baudrillard 23). Thus, the discursive quality of both reality and virtuality puts them in similar categories of experience.

REALITY is as much a construction of language as VIRTUALITY, and neither require a material form to be maintained as categories by the SOCIAL BODY. However, to experience one or the other, a site of origin, the CORPOREAL body must be the launch pad. As Katherine Hayles reminds us, “at the end of the twentieth century, it is evidently still necessary to insist on the obvious: we are embodied creatures,” (Hayles 3).


[@ Soho Tea and Coffee - too many smokers here, the tv is showing sports-related bloopers that even those reading their books, or typing like i am, laugh out-loud - now there's some clapping. two girls from GWU are working on papers right next to me - I see the standard blank MS Word page with the heading, and introductory paragraph --a timely example of LINEAR FORM --!]


I promised myself that for this paper I would relax my self-expectations and write with my theories and concepts grounded in an object; I would take an artist or artwork and situate my text around it. Until this past Thursday, I was struggling...It was as if all of the media arts, virtual art, online art, etc. books and websites were just forcing the "virtuality" issue too much for me. I didn't want to take an object that was already situated deliberately in relation to VIRTUALITY; I wanted an object through which you could read an individual artist's embedded response to virtuality, without its direct voicing.

During our course I completed each reading on virtuality with hesitation; I was weary of jumping right on the virtual virtuality bandwagon. Thus, it is appropriate that I have decided to work with the photography and sculpture of Gabriel Orozco.

The Hirshhorn just hosted a talk on his work that is a part of their Directions series of exhibitions, entitled, Gabriel Orozco: Extension of Reflection. Mia Fineman provided a talk, When Poetry Happens---The Photographs of Gabriel Orozco, which fortunately was less saccharine than its title belied. Previously I had experienced Orozco's work at the Tate Modern in the exhibition, Common Wealth, which had his 1998 piece, Ping Pond Table, and:

Oval Billiard Table, 1996.

As I encountered more of Orozco's work, the presence of circles, ovals and spheres consistently throughout his work became evident. Fineman, at the end of her lecture on the photography included in Extension, made the comment that once you see his photography, you start discovering "Would Be Orozco's" in your daily life [this is the "poetry" part of the talk's title]. Having seen the exhibition a few times before the lecture, Fineman's comment reminded me of my own increased sensitivity to picking out the unexpected circles in my everyday experience. Fineman confessed to having taken a few of these "Would be's" herself. **I'll return to this in more detail later...

Why circles for Orozco? He has never come out and directly spoken on this. Instead, various reasons have been inscribed by others onto his work (as I myself will surely be guilty of as well). One curator [Francesco Bonami] has remarked of his practice as "a voyage into illogical consequences, through circular thought patterns, abandoning any linearity that would lead back to local traditions or go forward into the obsolesce of an international, molded style," (Bonami 17). This quote nicely describes the thinking I had been doing regarding movement, speed and virtuality, [ideas that will emerge in this blogsite], and how I would like to discuss these topics in relation to lines and circles.


The contrast of circular paths and linear trajectories began to develop for me as I attempted to visualize the concepts of “real” and “virtual” experience. In my own daily life I am very sensitive to how my body moves through the day, and how other people’s bodies relate to my own. A hypothesis I’ve held for a long while is the basis for the idea of the LINE in this account, and the CIRCLE is the form I’ve selected to serve as a counterpoint or (I am skeptical of this word, but I will use it anyway) “solution” to the increasing problem of linear movement. I believe that as technology paces our lives through its programs of efficiency and speed, the movement of our bodies are following suit, increasingly asked to perform with efficiency and speed that prevents our subjectivities from intersubjective experiences with others, the physical environment, and our own lived bodies.

The shortest distance between point A and point B is favored, and it must be performed at the quickest speed. This is the rhetoric of technology, which is the LINE. If we look at a dog chasing its own tail, we think its circular movement is silly and dumb, just as we only see kid spinning themselves “for no good reason at all,” and we think the CIRCLE they spin in is childish. But there is something happy in that movement, which is quietly experienced only by the individual moving in that fashion; if a straight line is walked, an objective is always reached.

A balance of experiences – both linear and circular – is needed if we are to keep our physical bodies viable enough to carry on our species.

At the core of this discussion is MOVEMENT. REALITY and VIRTUALITY are terms that are understood as nearly synonymous, the result of the same discursive practices. SPEED becomes a part of the discussion when the LIVED BODY moves into VIRTUALITY, the pace of which is facilitated by the choice of technological aid. Various artworks, mainly Orozco’s photographs, will come into play as images that support or demonstrate the points and positions of this discussion. In the end I hope to return to the beginning, circling back a few comments Fineman made during the Orozco lecture, and suggesting some movements to make that will hopefully engage the lived body with more awareness, and pleasurable slowness.


beginning the transmission

This is an attempt to write a paper for Professor Tinkcom's course, Theories of Virtuality (CCTP-785) under the influence of blogging technology. I've chosen this format for a number of reasons:

  • to demonstrate the performative quality of academic paper-writing
  • to inhabit and operate from a intersubjective position, demonstrated by the time/date stamp of each post which calls attention to the physicality of online writing [i will also add location-specific data to further illustrate this]
  • to permit myself the freedom to mix linguistic registers as I construct this text: both the vernacular and the technical jargon inherent to the goal of this site [academia-based] will be utilized, as is "natural" to online forms of speech/writing
  • to encourage post-by-post comments from readers, continuing the construction of this project beyond my own mark

I could have chosen to write a website, however, through much experience in doing so, the time it takes to do so is in direct opposition to the themes of space, movement and corporeal presence that will be textually played out on this blogger.com stage.

I hope you enjoy this text!