In Conversation with Candlelyte.C

Trying to remember the first time I met Chloe only gives me blurs of the many social occasions we have been at in the past year I have known her. Chloe is an up-and-coming trans model and DJ, with an honest Instagram tagline – ‘not your natural redhead’. I initially was not able to pinpoint the level of magnetism I had towards her until she replied “I was lucky enough to come into my current position fully self-realised”, and adds a side note “as much as you can be”, in response to my question regarding day-to-day professional and social experiences. Being queer is embodying damage and through ‘addressing power and affect’ will we ‘arrive at a way of rendering love knowable that will make us mindful of its critical value in building a fuller account of gender and sexual relations on the continent of inequalities’ (Bhana 2013, p. 4). Chloe speaks about her initial openness as a child that was then policed into the “pigeonhole of gay” as the “best possible coping mechanism” to be deemed with some acceptability before moving out to have the “slow and agonising” space to process her experiences and emotions of gender transgressions in “almost trial and error”. A wounding narrative of being brave is given to us who are gender non-conforming by the same society that enacts those forms of violence and hate, which emphasises the additional survival need to educate ourselves and be in constant self-reflection. Gender roles are socially constructed and the dysphoria transgender individuals face demonstrates that they can be ‘transgressed, combined or even ignored’ (Melendez & Pinto 2007, p. 235).

When Alok Vaid-Menon recites in his poem Reincarnation,there’s this thing that happens when you call someone a father he ceases to be a person, instead becomes the punch line for everything that you hate about yourself, they allude to the deep-rooted patriarchal, white, colonial belief system that has entrapped all of us (2016). In speaking about the common mainstream narrative used to understand trans bodies as being trapped in the wrong body, Chloe feels this understanding is “harmful and misguided” as it suggests self-hate and the need to pass as what society believes as female and male when “very little in trans discourse … is one size fits all”. This reinforces Tonkinwise’s idea that we ‘neglect cultural difference’ by being under the ‘assumption … that we are all at one singular point in time, the apex of the cones from which all possible futures narrowly extend’ (2014, p. 6).

In Sean’s post, he suggests the need of human empathy and the practical side of love tends to be forgotten, as we all want to believe in an intuitive nature when we are also very much procedural and where love can be knowledge and a skill to be learned. For the better wellbeing of the gender non-conforming spectrum, Chloe sees “discussing gender openly” within the education system “we would see so much change … generation by generation”. Systemic vulnerability ‘associated with discrimination, marginalisation and disenfranchisement’ is due to a ‘lack of resources and increased risk’ (Grossman & D’Augelli 2006, p. 113). As Cher sings in her anthem Believe, “do you believe in life after love”, I do believe and trust in life outside of romantic love.

 

Bhana, D. 2013, ‘Introducing love: gender, sexuality and power’, Agenda, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 3-11

Grossman, A. H. & D’Augelli, A. R. 2006, ‘Transgender Youth’, Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 51, No. 1, pp. 111-128

Melendez, R. M. & Pinto, P. 2007, ‘’It’s really a hard life’: Love, gender and HIV risk among male‐to‐female transgender persons’, Culture, Health & Sexuality, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 233-245

The Laura Flanders Show 2016, Reincarnation: Alok Vaid-Menon, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 28 October 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc0i77e8nJs>

Tonkinwise, C. 2014, How We Future: Review of Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, Carnegie Mellon University, USA

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Too Social

Nosedive, the first episode to the just released third season of Black Mirror, is your post-high school Mean Girls amplified by your Instagram attached with a ratings system. The scenario proposed by the episode uses a ‘deconstructive methodology’ to ‘undercut’ existing yet ‘unexamined foundations of thought’ about how we embrace the same social hierarchy we enforce and are entrapped by (Fry 2009, p. 154). We are introduced to a dark narrative as the protagonist, Lacie, practices her laughter in front of her bathroom mirror while her eyes implanted with microchips display her 4.2 rating, we start to self-reflect on our social interactions and the façade we have built for ourselves that is both our weapon and defence. A future of pristine suburban homes and white picket fences places domesticity and familial values at a high influence of social currency that we later see epitomised by the idea of luxurious limited edition domestic living tied to memberships and discounts based on ratings.

Dunne & Raby reinforce the idea of darkness as the ‘cautionary tale’ to ‘naïve techno-utopianism’ where we tend to in design ‘view people as obedient and predictable users and consumers’ (2013, p. 38). Through elevating the intensity of current social media to a scale of idealising those with higher ratings who also have a more influential quality when rating creates a numbers game that measures and polices sociability. Our innocent intentions of photo uploads become a forceful element in order to promote one’s status and eating becomes distinctly linked to aesthetics for social broadcasting where personal, physical enjoyment is determined by others’ approval. This injects a nurturing of behaviour to project, predict and plan your own future through socialisation, which is embodied by the “Reputelligent” institution in the episode that provides services to graph popularity arcs, inner circles and outer peripherals, and stranger interactions, and then personalises strategy based on rating goals. A question to be asked is whether in any way could forced sociability be beneficial in human interaction?

The motion picture, Her, further expands to the dark spaces of intimacy and with the use of AI, comments on how do we assess our behaviour and make the distinctions between the human to technology ratio especially when technology are the product of us as humans. Esther Perel in Helen Fisher’s Ted talk suggests ‘a vocabulary creates a new reality’ in the sense that a change in the nature of approach forms new values and she invites conversation about ‘when the context changes does the nature of love change’ (2016). Portraying intertwined social and economic ladders, and traditional gender elements through colour and wedding idealisation, Nosedive begs of us to re-examine how we comprehend love in terms of appreciation, value and meaning, most of all ‘does love require belief that the beloved is good’ (John 2013, p. 286). Furthermore, the emphasis on socialisation provides a lens to investigate personal and social value in the tactile sensitivity, mentioned in Jade’s post, of physical interactions. In sci-fi scenarios, the relationship between humanity and technology tend are inherently problematic to highlight the potential tensions and present ‘technology as a powerful force that both controls and liberates people’ (Campbell 2016, p. 3).

 

Campbell, H. A. 2016 ‘Problematizing the Human-Technology Relationship through Techno-Spiritual Myths Presented in The Machine, Transcendence and Her’, Journal of Religion & Film, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 1-28

Dunne, A. & Raby, F. 2013, ‘Design as Critique,’ in Speculate Everything, MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 33-46.

Fisher, F. 2016, Technology hasn’t changed love. Here’s why, Ted, viewed on 27 October 2016, <https://www.ted.com/talks/helen_fisher_technology_hasn_t_changed_love_here_s_why#t-1133264>

Fry, T. 2009, ‘Methods of Change 2: Designing in Time’, Design futuring : sustainability, ethics and new practice, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, NSW, pp. 145-155.

Her 2014, motion picture, Warner Bros. Pictures, USA

John, E. 2013, ‘Love and the need for comprehension’, Philosophical Explorations, Vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 285-297

Nosedive 2016, television program, Black Mirror, Netflix, USA, 21 October

Art and the Posthuman

‘Posthuman theory asks in various ways what it means to be human in a time where philosophy has become suspicious of claims about human subjectivity. Those subjects who were historically considered aberrant and our future lives becoming increasingly hybrid show we have always been and are continuously transforming into posthumans’. (Patricia MacCormack 2012, Pg.8).

During August I experienced the New Romance: Art And The Posthuman exhibition held at the MCA. The display culminated the work of artists from Australia and Korea which prompted it’s audience to scrutinise what it is to be human, visualising ideas of the future and the disembodiment of humanity as we decimate the equilibrium of natural and artificial – the ‘Posthuman’.

Curated within the collection was a short duel-screen film by artists Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho ‘El Fin Del Mundo’ (The End Of The World) projecting a post-apocalyptic future in which most of the world is submerged in water and majority of human civilisation is extinct. Divided into two screens, the film recounts a male artist pre-tense and a descendent hybrid-woman post-apocalypse, in a way which probes the societal function and duty of contemporary art now and within the future.

Harboured from the issue of climate change, both artists existentially question the purpose of making art in a world that could be destroyed by climate change.

Situated late in the 21st century, this possible seemingly nihilistic future spawns a societal alternative where a handful of corporations gather survivors together, screen them for “citizenship” and bestow upon them the benefits of cultivation for the price of labour. Conflict erupts amongst the companies over the acquisition of hegemonic jurisdiction of the posthuman world as all societal values and order were abandoned with modern humanity above the water.

In one screen, the male protagonist is poetically depicted ignoring the apocalyptic catastrophe through the practice of his sculptural oeuvre, trinketing with materials sentimental to the modern human. Beside him, the austere visual follows the narrative of a posthuman woman, dressed in a hybrid of technology and clothing, colliding with the relics of the man that transcended both time and space. As the film progresses, the woman becomes sensitised to the aesthetic materiality of seemingly superfluous objects, as she attempts rationalise the art of the decedent.

Aided with conceptual, supposedly clinical futuristic technology, the hybrid-descendant lacks a sense of human empathy, evident in her ignorance and sheer rationality when analysing the found objects. The cultural values and duties of the modern human were extinguished as a result of the apocalypse, eradicating an objects sentimental ability to emulate such morals.

‘Art’s capacity for fabulation and expression impossible in and not identically transferable to the real world is why we love art. Art should represent what is unrepresentable, bearing witness to the unspeakable that is in excess of language’. (Patricia MacCormack, 2012, pg. 46)

The future proposed by both artists forced me to question the defining qualities of humanity and post-humanity, comprehending that it is what we value that defines us as human.

Stills from the short film:

References:

Kyungwon, M. Joonho, J. 2012, El Fin Del Mundo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.

MacCormack, P 2012, Posthuman Ethics : Embodiment and Cultural Theory, Routledge, Abingdon, GB. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [26 October 2016].

Davis, A. 2016, ‘Curator Anna Davis on Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho’, Museum Of Contemporary Art Australia, viewed 26/10/2016 < https://www.mca.com.au/discover-new-romance/moon-kyungwon-jeon-joonho/&gt;

Image Reference:

Kyungwon, M. Joonho, J. 2012, El Fin Del Mundo, Museum of Contemporary Art, viewed 26/10/2016 <https://www.mca.com.au/discover-new-romance/moon-kyungwon-jeon-joonho/&gt;

Kyungwon, M. Joonho, J. 2012, El Fin Del Mundo, Universes in Universe, viewed 26/10/2016 <http://u-in-u.com/documenta/2012/photo-tour/documenta-halle/09-moon-jeon/&gt;

Interview: Love at a Distance

Touch plays a crucial role in generating and enhancing love – it is the first sense to develop and unlike the other senses it implies an interaction with another person (Field 2014, pg. 19). It brings a sense of belonging, communication, affection, intimacy and arousal. Even the briefest touch from another can elicit strong emotional experiences. So what happens when that touch is removed? This is reality for a friend of mine, Will Brooke[1] a graphic designer living in London who is in a long distance relationship (LDR). Will has been in this relationship for over a year, only to have 6 months physical contact (made up of two separate meet ups) with his partner living in another country. I asked Will how important physical contact meant to his relationship, he responded:

“Very important to continue the relationship on a certain level…some relationships can be formed around physical relationships more than emotional one, I’d doubt these are as strong long term”

It has been said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. But how does it do so? Closeness has always been an element in determining emotional intensity and much of how we express our love is through tactile behaviours such as kissing and hugging. Love incorporates a profoundly positive evaluation of another person, including the desire to become as close a possible to that person (Ben-Ze’ev 2004, pg. 51).

“Forces you to judge and consider what you want…being more critical you appreciate their strengths then that brings you towards growing fonder…”

“Obviously there is a limit to the level of intimacy for month when you’re apart but hopefully it makes you appreciate it more when you spend time together”

Studies have shown long distance dating is more intimidate, positive and less contentious, with couples reporting more intimate talk and activities. Open and honest communication contributes to the relationship stability and satisfaction. Commitment and trust have a greater significance, as there are more opportunities that may threaten it. (Ben-Ze’ev 2014)

“You have to try and ensure you’re still engaged in each other’s lives…you have to try to communicate more…”

“You have to be more open with your emotions and feelings, as you cant always pick up how each other is feeling over text, you can’t always gauge the situation as easily”

With communication at the core, technology plays an important role in maintaining that constant connection and ultimately the relationship. Without that physical contact and tactile sensitivity, LDR couples must find that ‘touch’ through other ways.

“ (Technology) has made it possible to continue, without it and having no contact for months would prove impossible. With every picture/FaceTime/phone call you’re transported across any distance and space even if its only for a second, a minute or hour of FaceTime or whatever, it all adds to the sense that you’re still living your life with the other person”

With new and emerging technologies, there are devices that attempt to substitute or imitate that sensory ‘touch’ and presence. From the Apple watch (which sends your heart beat to another) and Hug Shirt (wearable touch, detects strength and warmth of hug) to Roly Poly (emotive interactive devices which enable two people who are apart to ‘sense’ the presence of each other) and even sex toys such as ‘Lovense’ (His and her devices are in sync, controlling each others movements).

Despite these innovative, mobile, digital experiences it can never fully emulate the true form of physical touch. Online emotional experiences take a lot of mental energy and can often have its downfalls:

“It only works on a singular level you don’t get the depth or more rounded level of contact and connection you would have normally, you don’t experience anything together, you cant go for a meal or visit somewhere, it can be a superficial experience”

Advanced technological developments in things like virtual reality and possibly in the future, surrogate sex experiences e.g. the 2013 film ‘Her’, adds another dimension to the human experience, bringing that ‘touch’ we desire closer to reality.

“I make the other’s absence responsible for my worldliness” – Roland Barthes

[1] Pseudonym for privacy purposes

References:

Barthes, R, 1977. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments . 2nd ed. London, United Kingdom: Vintage Publishing .

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2014) Distance is the new closeness. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-name-love/201401/distance-is-the-new-closeness (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

Ben-Ze’ev, A. Love Online : Emotions on the Internet. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2004. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 27 October 2016.

Field, T. Touch (2). Cambridge, US: A Bradford Book, 2014. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 27 October 2016.

 

Future scenario analysis

When we began the futuring process for a possible future in 2050, we as a group performed an analysis of four quadrants of a double-variant.  Using the two variables of free vs dehumanised; and personal vs communal, we could postulate on four future societies in the context of love and compassion found in the prison system.

We all found the prison system a very interesting space.  The documentary Solitary Nation [1] sparked our interests in the prison system through looking at the treatment of inmates who find themselves in solitary confinement and experience the extreme degradation of mental health in these conditions.  Further research into prison reform led us to a series of interviews with Reina Gossett and David Spade [2] that centred around prison reform within the structures of violence.

Lengthy research of crime statistics [3] allowed us to backcast our futures and thus project our four potential futures, thrusting each scenario along the vectors of probability and possibility.

As a group, we decided to take a more positive direction in contrast to a dystopian future.  The idea of a rehabilitation community as opposed to an isolated and dehumanising correctional facility sat well with our free and communal criteria.  The community explores the autonomy of the human condition through architecture and the abstraction of space and its interaction with the senses.  Kenneth’s exploration of line and shape in our scenario presentation drew a visual link to this autonomy we sought after in our future scenario.  The free movement of line establishes a self-determination and regaining responsibility of our actions and emotions.

kens_

Artwork by Kenneth Pan

The path one takes in life is not a clear-cut linear path.  Rather, there are decisions and forks in the road that allows us to find our own answers.  In a similar way, the rehabilitation community lets those within seek their own progression by allowing them to understand their emotions and actions in a sanctuary away from the rigours of life.  By engaging with the water therapy treatment as we proposed for our artefact in our future, the user will be able to self remedy and heighten their own awareness of their sense of self, fostering a rehabilitation culture and a life of autonomy to pave one’s own way in life.

It is through this method of self-help that we in 3D envisage a positive future, with the abolition of the prison system as we see in 2016.

References:

[1] Solitary Nation 2014, television program, Frontline, PBS, US, 22 April.

[2] Gossett, R. Spade, D. Dector, H. 2014, ‘Reina Gossett and Dean Spade (Part 1,2,3,4): Prison Abolition, videorecording, Vimeo, viewed 20/09/2016, < https://vimeo.com/83529142https://vimeo.com/83529275,https://vimeo.com/83529569https://vimeo.com/83529755>

[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2016, ‘Summary Findings’, Corrective Services, Australia, June Quarter 2016, no. 4512.0, viewed 29 September 2016, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4512.0&gt;

Fuck with ourselves.

When Banks vocally contorts in the chorus of Fuck With Myself, “cause I fuck with myself more than anybody else”, I wholeheartedly believe Nick Keys when he suggests musicians to be our contemporary love theorists in a very digestible form. This sense of self-awareness in Banks’ song recognises we entrap ourselves and are our own psychological bullies, which resonates in our smitten relationship with contemporary technology as our proxy. The charged yet unspoken familiar feelings around loneliness and intimacy is central to changing our psyche where being alone is somehow a problem that needs solving. We use ‘confessions in the digital world’ as a ‘means for people to understand themselves and others, for constructing gender identity, the practices of men and women and emotional relationships’ (Yang 2014, p. 101). There is an irony to the title of Banks’ latest album, The Altar, associating the notion of love to one that is idealised, sacrificial and pure, however, breaking down these culturally given ideas with each song is her confession.

Our interactions with technology have left us with a degree of inability, what Sherry Turkle in her Ted talk regards as ‘cultivating the capacity for solitude’, where we turn to other people to feel less anxious and to feel alive (2012). This leads us to create our own illusion that subconsciously uses people as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self instead of recognising the vulnerability in our flaws. Banks in Gemini Feed vocalises “and to think you would get me to the altar … if you would’ve let me grow, you could’ve kept my love”, tackling our yearning for genuine love rather than the emotionally manipulative relationship we tend to find ourselves in as we constantly negotiate the terms of companionship. She continues to reiterate in Weaker Girl – “tell ’em you were mad about the way I grew strong … I think you need a weaker girl” –  the heteronormative ‘operations of gender power’ in an intimate relationship and by disclosing it in her music maintains an ‘individual subjectivity’ to break the dominant mould (Yang 2014, p. 97).

We tend to experience ‘pretend empathy’ as social technology takes on a role of ‘automatic listening’ by providing the feeling of being understood so we come to expect more from technology than each other, we are given ‘comfortable control’ where we put attention where we want it expecting to always be heard and never have to be alone (Turkle 2012). The concept of technology has ‘always related to humans’, an equation that displays ‘non-neutral transformational possibilities’ in every way we make use of it and contemporarily have we seen greater amplification and magnification (Ihde 1993, p. 53).Writing Mother Earth after coming out of depression and her sister gives birth to a baby girl, Banks echoes the power of confession in our digital age where speaking our struggles as a wounded healer is powerful. Salvatore in his post reaffirms music to be the principle discourse of love that triggers discussion and is our therapy, seeing as we all have such a high metabolism for it.

Banks 2016, The Altar, album, Harvest Records, California, USA.

Ihde, D. 1993, ‘Technology’, Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction, New York: Paragon House, pp.47-64

Turkle, S. 2012, Connected, but alone?, Ted, viewed on 27 October 2016, <https://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together?language=en&gt;

Yang, H. 2014, ‘Young People’s Friendship and Love Relationships and Technology: New Practices of Intimacy and Rethinking Feminism’, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, vol .20, no. 1, pp. 93-124