A conversation with Alex Hartz – Radio co-host, musician, and online citizen.

The art of conversation is a tool, sharpened and nurtured by an individual through experiences and emotions throughout the course of one’s lifetime.  Conversation is the two-way street where two individuals exchange ideas, opinions, information, based on the last exchanged idea in an immediate sense; as well as the conversation being shaped and expressed by the space and world which the conversation is taking place.

Conversation as a research method yields a raw yet casual result of data collection.  This may contrast to a formal interview with all questions pre-planned; words scripted and rehearsed in front of a mirror (or in the shower).  The conversation instead lies at the other end of the human interaction spectrum, being a free-form of analysis; catering for the natural path selection process by the unique ability to adapt or add new areas of discussion to the conversation.

Silence in a conversation is never good, really.  It says that you’ve hit a dead end in the current topic, and a U-turn is imminent.  Just like silence (or dead air) over the radio waves is never preferable.

“We never let that (dead air) happen.  If it happens, one of us will make a funny noise or something and laugh at our stupidity, and the show keeps going.”

Alex “Hartzy” Hartz is a co-host on the radio show Indie Rock Café on the Central Coast radio station Coast FM 96.3, and a good friend of mine from way back high school days.  When he’s not on the airwaves, you’ll find the wild Hartzy ripping it up on the drum kit in the band Petrodollars, or “‘scaping” it up on Runescape, a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) where many online friends interact in and out of the game, and across various other social media outlets.

“Not many people know this, but I’m actually in the same clan as Zez (Peter Zezima, a famous Runescape player).  He’s a really cool guy. Absolutely insane, but.”

“It’s (Runescape) literally where I’ve met everyone … where I first met Alicia…”

We then turn the conversation towards Alicia – a gamer from Sweden a year Alex’s junior.  Alex and Alicia have been online friends for five years now, a substantial amount of time where they each have seen not only their in-game characters develop and level up; but also, been in almost constant contact with each other through Runescape, as well as through Skype and Facebook.

“If she’s not online for more than a day I’ll probably start to worry.  She’s always on (Runescape, Skype, connected to the internet), so it makes me be irrational and worry about her.  Stupid feelings. Although she’s most likely sleeping.”

Then there’s also the time-zone thing.  For Alex in Australia UTC+11 to talk to his Swedish friend living in UTC+2, there are some compromises to be made. One of them is his sleep cycle.

“Yeah, it’s (Alex’s sleep patterns) been f***ed lately. 

He continues to tell me about his routine of waiting for Alicia to wake up at around midday Stockholm time, equating to 9pm Sydney time.  This makes for an overall tiresome ordeal that Alex has learnt to live with, like so many others in trans-continental relationships.

“If we (the band) tour Europe, we definitely need to stop in Sweden.  Thing is, I don’t know if I’ll come back.”

Now this was the game-changer.

So far we were talking about Alicia as an online presence; she would only exist on a computer screen or as her online avatar.  Her physical location in the world only mattered because of time-zone difference.  Now Alicia is a very real person.  Her presence in Alex’s life means the willpower to travel vast distances to affirm their companionship in the flesh.  It is as though no matter the distance or circumstances we find ourselves with love, that there will be no replacement for the physical confirmation of love with true face to face contact.

 

 

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Single Parasite: Japan’s Sex-less Society

Japan is at a crisis – a sex crisis – one that is becoming a national concern.

Millenials and young adults are becoming more disinterested in sex and pursuing traditional relationships that are well below global averages. Ken Shimizu, an adult film actor, tweeted there were more Bengal tigers (endangered species) alive than male porn actors. Employment rates, economic uncertainty and rising housing costs have been linked to the cause of this, birthing the term the ‘single parasite’ (Masahiro Yamada of Tokyo Gakugei University).

A single parasite is person in their late 20s or early 30s who lives with their parents in order to enjoy a comfortable and carefree life. As one of the oldest populations, it has a shrinking birth rate with Japanese women married on average at age 24 and men 27 in 2002 increasing to 27.4 years and 29 years respectively. ‘The Japan Times’ have reported that around 70% of men and 60% of women between the ages of 18-24 years old are not in relationships, and around 42% of men and 44.2% of women are virgins (Tharoor and Post, 2016). Futoshi Ishii from Department of Population Dynamics Research explains this attitude among young people as: ‘they want to tie the knot eventually. But then to put it off as they have gaps between ideals and the reality…that’s why people marry later or stay single for life contributing to the nations low birth rate”.

Analysing these statistical trends and taking into account the rapidly ageing population, researches at the Tohoku University have even devised a countdown clock that claims by the 16th August in the year 3776, Japan will only have one remaining child in its population (i.e. under the age of 15 years), at which nations will people would slowly die out.

Looking back at Japan’s economic history, unemployment rates increased in the 1990s among middle age and young people who do not work full time known as ‘freeters’. The Japanese employment system has been unable to deal with the new age, companies lack flexibility to adjust, which has manifested to the reduction of job opportunities for young people, who have no option but to become economically dependent on their parents. Socioeconomic-driven views, collapse of the economy and inability of the country’s system to react have caused the rise of the single parasite.

The single parasite is a ridiculed symbol of weakening sense of self-reliance among the youth and growing dependence on their parents. Spending income on luxury items, travelling and entertainment are more desirable, with a loss of 2/3 of their income if the were living independently. With heavy media coverage to the declining birth rate, current Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe aims to raise the nations fertility rate from 1.4 to 1.8 by 2025, offering tax incentives for married couples and providing support and services for all stages of individual lives, from pregnancy, delivery and child-rearing (japan times).

Businesses such as match making services, retail stores and even sports teams are profiting, trying to fill the romantic void in society. Known as the ‘konkatsu’ boom, meaning ‘marriage hunting’ services such as match-making parties such as ‘konkatsu seats’ (Speed dating at a Hokkaido Nippon Fighters Japanese baseball game, where men and women sit next to each other during the game, where the seats rotate between innings) and prayer services (Imando Shrine in Tokyo hold prayer services for single men and women seeking good luck in marriage) are of abundance.

Left: Toyota Motor ‘Kirobo Mini‘, 2016  Right: Triumph International ‘Konkatsu Bra‘ 2009

Even products such as the ‘Konkatsu bra’ (designed by Triumph International Japan, which has an in built clock under the bra cups that counts marriage deadline. By inserting the engagement ring into a heart shaped box between the cups, it stops ticking and congratulatory wedding march begins to play) are being developed. Toyota has even released a robot called ‘Kirobo Mini’ designed to be a companion for the growing number of women left childless by the aging population (Inada, 2009).

Marriage and children are becoming luxury indulgences, Japanese society have been rattled by the economic collapse in the past decade completely changing the attitude and behaviours of an entire generation. Will Japan survive this drought in love, sex and marriage? Will it be a child-less future?

References:

Tharoor, I. and Post, W. (2016) Sexless society: Japan has a worrying number of virgins, government finds. Available at: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/sexless-society-japan-has-a-worrying-number-of-virgins-government-finds (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

Inada, M. (2009) Japan has a new name for the mating game: Konkatsu. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB124623617832566695 (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

tisho (2015) Nearly 40% of single Japanese not interested in romance: Survey | the Japan times. Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/22/national/social-issues/nearly-40-of-single-japanese-not-interested-in-romance-survey/#.WBCCqBJ95E5 (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

Today, J. and Co, Gp. (2016) 8 years into ‘konkatsu’ boom, lifelong single population continues to grow. Available at: https://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/8-years-into-konkatsu-boom-lifelong-single-population-continues-to-grow (Accessed: 27 October 2016).

Interview: Alex Carr – Artist and Educator

As a form of Primary research, I decided to interview an artist and educator and above all a dear friend, Alex Carr. Her creative oeuvre impartially responds to the homogenisation of pornography, the female figure and human sexuality – a fitting context for a conversation between the future and love.

When asked the reasoning behind her choice of media, Carr responded by telling me she was concerned with the issue that like most things that become capitalised, pornography was homogenised – it was predominately all white, heterosexual and young. Her artistic expression becomes an armature by which the standard of what is desirable, that polarises and ostracises people, can be abolished.

To begin, and to coalesce these ideas of love, sex, imagery, ethics and the future, I asked Carr what her relationship between pornography and love was:

People use pornography as a tool within their intimate, sexual lives. Porn, in a sense, removes ideas of love from sex.

Pornography is a vehicle of sensory release.

I still think there is a lot of pressure on people to have sacrificial, committed love. People put pressure on sex to be that perfect moment. Saturation of sacrificial sex and moreover love, has lost its validity – it is so perpetuated, the heteronormative doesn’t cut it anymore.

I don’t believe that porn, or sex for that matter must be performed through love.

Theres something exceedingly powerful about sex – this exchange of energy and tension.”

This idea of pornography as a vehicle of sensory release which removes ideas of love from sex is progressively evocative, projecting a future parallel to that suggested by Berlin-Based homoerotic photographer Matt Lambert within his zine ‘Vitium’. Vitium unapologetically revolts from the heteronormative overhaul of society, depicting men in moments of lust and love, which is viewed not as pornography but rather, like the work of Carr, as an armature by which the standard of what is conventionally desirable in terms of intimacy can be abolished.

It is this future free from heteronormative prejudice that both artists propose within their work that Carr believes to be probable and possible. When asked where she sees herself and her work in 50 years, her response was – “It is with great confidence and very slight optimism that I say the ideals I work within will be completely invalid. Race/gender/sexuality the hierarchy is already collapsing. This heteronormative, predominately white and young based spectacle will be totally within the past. We will all be having sex with each other and everyone’s equal.”

When asked: “What are your opinions of the future of love, pornography and sexual exploration? There is this pressing notion that humans will sexually interact with artificial intelligence.”

Carr’s response was:

“Seems so strange, because it is so far away. Though that being said, people have been having sex with dildos and vibrators for so long, and realistically, that was the beginning of sex and AI. I don’t know if its positive or negative, but its a probable thing.

Think about the instant gratification that comes with the interaction of humans and technology – and therefore wouldn’t be surprised it if happens.

Its potentially slightly sad.”

For Carr, this concept of human sexual interaction with artificial intelligence is partly preposterous, however, as proven by her statement above, it has already been occurring, and thus seems probable.

Casting aside the probable, possible and preposterous, love and the exploration of sexuality is and will continue to be intrinsically human, and as put so eloquently by Carr – “Its hard to talk about love as it’s a thing thats become a Hallmark card, people become cynical about it. However, I truly believe that it is important, in terms of people being good people, that its good to love.”

References:

Lambert, M & Birsner, J. 2016, Vitium, 1st edn, Bruno Gmunder GmbH, Berlin.

Firth, L. 2016, ‘Matt Lamberts Hardcore, Sex-infused “fuck you” to the establishment’, i-D, 16th March, viewed 26/10/2016 < https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/matt-lamberts-hardcore-sex-infused-fuck-you-to-the-establishment>

Image References:

Carr, A. 2016, ‘Study for the female figure’, private collection, Sydney, Australia.

Carr, A. 2016 ‘Falling for you Print’, own collection, Sydney, Australia.

Carr, A. 2015, ‘Fan Girls’, private collection, Sydney, Australia.

Is Sex Still Considered ‘Making Love’?

I was completely captivated by the Week 7 lecture presented by Nick Keys addressing the future of love through the retrospect of pop culture and music.

During the lecture, Nick proposed the idea of a post-romantic reality, that “see’s love as mostly an affair between the brain and the genitals”. Expanding on this hedonistic and sexually decadent future, Nick introduced the concept of commoditised sex, deeming Rihanna, among others, as a libidinal economist, exploiting and “weaponising emotions for power”.

With this sensually dissolute future in mind, or as Nick described it “messy complexity”, I couldn’t help but scrutinise this commoditised eroticism as separating the act of loving and the act of sex. It seems to me that the age-old decree of sex intrinsically bound to love, established by Western society and religion is becoming actively abolished as a shift in cultural acceptance has forged a bisexual explosion upon the heterosexual norm.

A new open structure of sexuality and eroticism is conceived within this “messy complexity”, autonomous from love, but rather derived from desire.

Lust, longing, lechery and lewdness are all “L” words that would suggest the act of making love, but are no more than aspects of desire which advocate a post-romantic form of love, or perhaps just sex – “a weird place between freedom and commitment” as phrased by Nick.

It is within this “weird place between freedom and commitment” that sex is divorced from love, and in a primitive sense, transitions into a fundamental characteristic of life, like eating, sleeping, or love for that matter.

I would like to clarify that I’m not implying that sex was never a fundamental aspect of human nature, but rather that western society has established a union between sex and love and hence amounted an ostracising demand on people to obtain the two, but not one distant from the other.

In this context, technology has the potential to completely commoditise sex and become the eventual libidinal economist. Futurist Eric Garland believes ‘sex in the 2020’s and beyond will offer an astonishing array of choices, facilitated by more-sophisticated communications and sensory technologies and less influence from organised religion’. (2004, page 41)

Supporting this statement is philosopher Blay Whitby of the University of Sussex, who believes not even human sexual intercourse is immune from potential technological obsolescence. “In some ways, a robotic lover may come to be viewed no differently from other service-oriented robots, such as caregivers for the elderly or playmates for children”. (2012, page 40)

This proposition of a service-oriented robotic lover suggests a future coherent in the commoditised erotic desires of humans, however love, by human standards could not be emulated on the behalf of the artificial intelligence. It is therefore that this materialised form of human sexuality is a direct response to the hedonistic desires of society, implying that sex can and will continue to exist without an establishment of love. Ideally this insinuates that sex in the future will no longer be considered as ‘making love’, but rather a fundamental human expression, detached from love.

References:

Garland, E. 2004, “Reinventing Sex: New Technologies and Changing Attitudes”, The Futurist, vol. 38, no. 6, pp. 41-46.

Empel, E. & Wagner, C.G. 2012, “The Future of the Commercial Sex Industry”, The Futurist, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 36-40.

Week 7 Lecture – Nick Keys.