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ThemesCyborg BodiesMythical Bodies I
Mythical Bodies I
Cyborg configurations as formations of (self-)creation in the fantasy space of technological creation (I): Old and new mythologies of ‹artificial humans›
Verena Kuni

Cyborgs are hybrid creatures—not only as crosses between machine and organism, but also as constructs in which individual as well as social perceptions and projections, realities and fictions fuse together. If one looks at the images in which fantasies of cyborgs find concrete expression, at first they appear to fit smoothly into the history of artificial creations. This can be particularly exemplified by their form: Like their precursors in the literature and art of former centuries, it is striking how many cyborg configurations [1] —in the arts as well as in popular culture—are modeled after the human (body) image. But what distinguishes them as creatures of an age marked by rapid developments in the areas of information and biotechnology from the artificial humans of the past? What expression do the «promises of monsters» (D. Haraway), which are associated with these developments, find in the images we have of artificial creations in human form? What can cyborg configurations as formations of (self-)creation in the fantasy space of technological creation tell us about our image of humans? Against the background of these questions, this two-part essay deals with thecontinuities and discontinuities that can be observed when one views current cyborg configurations in the field of tension between old and new phantasms of the creation of ‹artificial humans.› Part I introduces the old and new mythologies of the ‹artificial human› one encounters in historical and contemporary texts and images from literature and the arts, all the way to popular science fiction. Under the headword «Mythical Bodies II,» part II directs its focus on the monstrous promises and posthuman anthropomorphisms of stories of technological creation as reflected in computer-generated visions in contemporary art and our current game culture.

In the beginning there was…

In the beginning there was an idea that had to take shape. Or more accurately: Each and every idea longs to take shape. It is not only this that brings an idea to life, but also what makes it communicable. It is form that lends it reality, which it already potentially has. This is why cyborg fantasies and cyborg configurations are steadfastly linked to one another.

When Donna Haraway writes at the beginning of «A «A Cyborg Manifesto» that «[a] cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction,» [2] then we automatically try to translate this definition into images. How are we to imagine these hybrids? What place do they have in our social reality, in our fictions? If they «are,» that is if they are already both here as well as there, should it not then be possible to recognize and describe them as cyborgs?<p/>

‹Recognizing› of course requires knowledge about what is to be recognized. We will have to ask about characteristics that allow us to recognize—and identify—cyborgs. And then when we have developed ideas about cyborgs and want to communicate them, we will have to give them characteristics that likewise allow others to recognize cyborgs. However, these characteristics do not develop graphicness until they can be linked with vivid ideas. Vivid ideas require contours in order to be able to take off as figures and become perceptible. Still, this says little about the course of the contours and the shape that produces ideas. And yet it says a lot, namely that we give them a body.

The idea of a body that is a hybrid of machine and organism allows us to virtually imagine—and this principal potential should be kept in mind—an almost endless spectrum of possible embodiments. [3]

… the image of humans? Cyborg bodies and their contours

In view of the space of possibilities, it may at first seem strange that a conspicuously large number of the cyborg configurations we encounter in art have more or less human contours. This has historical and mythological reasons, in which on the other hand history and myth are considerably intermixed.

First of all, let us refer back to the birth of the term «cyborg.» «The Cyborg study is the study of man.» This is the powerful first sentence of the final report by the same name that was submitted by a working group to NASA on May 15, 1963. Its subtitle was equally as striking: «Engineering man for space.» [4] When in 1960 Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline gave their idea the name «cyborg,» it was actually a matter of imagining a future human—a human capable of surviving in space. [5] Something decisive would distinguish it from a common «astronaut»: technical apparatuses that equip the human body with supplementary functions and abilities, guaranteeing its ability to survive, were to be integrated into this body and organically fused with it. A small step for the fantasy, but a giant leap for humankind: This is the fundamental philosophy that until this very day has left its mark on cyborg utopias in science and technology as well as in the arts.

However, we can also refer back to the deep rootedness of the cyborg utopias in the fantasy space of artificial creations, in which one idea has always proven to be particularly fertile: That of creating an artificial human. In Western culture, the traditional mirror relation between a human's «godlike qualities» and God's «humanlike qualities» plays a decisive role: Humans understand themselves as the measure of all things—and in their ability to give life and procreate, they know themselves to be near ‹their Creator.› However, what separates them from the latter is—and this is equally as decisive—their finiteness, which also means the finiteness of their creative abilities. To overcome this finiteness—above all mortality, which inChristianity attests to the humanity of the Son of God, while his resurrection to eternal life proves his

divinity—is a desire that has lastingly characterized humans up to this very day. As it were: A fantasy of omnipotence that is nourished by the (self- )realization of human weakness, vulnerability and finiteness. The longing to be able to create artificial life, and in particular artificial humans, has its root in the wish to overcome one's own finiteness. Viewed against this background, it is no wonder that we encounter the embodiments of cyborgs primarily in human form.

In other words: Cyborg configurations may herald the desire to overcome the «human, all too human» (F. Nietzsche) and thus be characteristic of posthuman thought. However, in that they originate in the human imagination and in that they always have to allow themselves to be compared with humans, they are decisively defined from an anthropocentric perspective. This is another reason why while they go beyond what is human, the images we have of cyborgs remain bound to those human contours they at the same time are supposed to breach.

«The Promises of Monsters»

This tension between being bound and overcoming is characteristic for the notions we have of cyborgs, and correspondingly also for the images with which we shape these notions. Donna Haraway stresses: «A cyborg exists when two kinds of boundaries are simultaneously problematic: 1) that between animals (or other organisms) and humans, and 2) that between self-controlled, self-governing machines (automatons) and organisms, especially humans (models of autonomy). The cyborg is the figure born of the interface of automaton and autonomy.» [6]

As long as the boundaries between ‹animal› and ‹human› or ‹technical› and ‹human› remain clearly marked, this has no consequences for humans, who believe to have the controlling power over animals and machines in their hands. However, cyborgs show that these boundaries are becoming permeable. [7] What this firstly means is a threat—above all one of the loss of control, which not lastly is a loss of control over one's own body and over its

contours, which determine a person's identity. At the same time, however, there are a number of promisesthat are bound to one such dissolution of boundaries. Donna Haraway appropriately calls these «the promises of monsters» [8] —which, as will be shown in the following, become vividly apparent in fantasies of cyborg configurations. The paradigm of the ‹technical›—in particular in the age of new technologies—promises the overcoming of weaknesses associated with biological existence, particularly the frailty and mortality of the human body. This is not only a feature of Klines and Clyne's cyborg concept, but also of numerous cyborg fantasies we encounter in science fiction literature and in films—let us look at, for instance, the «Terminator» embodied by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the series of films by the same name. [9] . From certain viewpoints, positive qualities can also be gotten from the «animal-like»—for example where instincts and abilities are more highly developed in animals than in humans. The Borgs from the science fiction series «Star Trek,» [10] who at first glance seem fairly humanoid—and who are admittedly not cyborgs but living beings who have passed through another evolution than humans—are characterized by a collective, interfaced intelligence modeled after species of animals who tend to form swarms and colonies, which makes them strategically superior to humans. And after all, the promise of a potential for liberation can also lie in a ‹loss of control› where the mechanisms of control represent oppression or at least restriction. It is precisely this potential that Donna Haraway highlights in her «A Cyborg Manifesto »: According to Haraway, cyborgs break with the tradition of a creation controlled and dominated by humans, a creation that refers to a genealogy of creators and creatures and in which neither the boundaries between humans and animals or between humans and machines, nor those between subjects and objects are clearly defined. [11] This erodes a number of classic dichotomies upon which the supremacy of the Western, white, male is traditionally based. Those who do not profit from traditional relations of power may find it much more appealing to discover cyborg potentials for themselves.

Interface gender

One of the interfaces at which the wish to breach the boundaries prescribed by the measure of humans andthe effectiveness of bonds with the measure of humans clash in a particularly striking way is gender. This can already be discerned in the two ‹boundaries› whose becoming permeable Haraway identifies as the condition for the emergence of cyborg configurations. [12] The ‹animal› is associated with the bond with sexuality and biological sex, which— as ‹instinctive› and ‹unbridled› is subject to the maxim of the survival of the species—both falls short of and transgresses what is considered to be the condition humana. The loss of the human ethos of a consciously regulated sexuality would at the same time be accompanied by an abandonment of control functions, which can be imagined as ‹liberating.› In contrast, the paradigms of the ‹technological›—and this already applies for automatons as well as machines, all the more for IT systems—seem to imply the promise of overcoming the bonds with body-gender reproduction. However, automatization can also imply a delegation or an abandonment of human functions of consciousness. The notion of a ‹sex machine› is equally compatible with the ‹animal› as well as the ‹technological.› Therefore with regard to the aspect of gender or sexuality, something ambivalent, whose oscillations will be dealt with later, is attached to both figures of transgression.

But for the time being one could ask why cyborgs even have to have gender: Must not one assume that an artificial creation does not require a sexual act of procreation either for its manufacture or for its reproduction? This is a question that with complete justification could be directed towards the precursors to cyborgs—therefore the fantasies of artificial humans we encounter in cultural and art history: From the legendary «golem» from Jewish mythology, [13] Pygmalion's living sculpture, and the uncanny doll Olimpia in E. T. A. Hoffmann's novella «Der Sandmann,» [14] to Frankenstein's monster in Mary Shelley's novel of the same name; [15] and numerous science fiction fantasies, from Villiers de l'Isle Adam's «The Future Eve» [16] and the woman robot Maria in Fritz Lang's «Metropolis» [17] to the replicants in «Blade Runner.» [18]

If one looks at the ‹interface gender› here, certainly the answer turns out quite clearly: The bodies of these creatures—this is demonstrated bothby the stories that tell of them as well as the images that are in circulation about them—are very clearly marked by a gender (and bring about meaning) that is more or less oriented towards traditional concepts of «maleness» and «femaleness.»

Artificial humans or anthropomorphism as imperative

The ‹imperative of anthropomorphism› states: Gender belongs to the successful production of a human. And this means a gender that is one or the other, in any case one which allows unambiguous classification. This is the law with which scientific, juridical and social authorities in our society must equally comply with, as they appear to be at pains to assure its continued existence. They are not only backed up by the cultural history of religious and mythological traditions that relegate dual or mixed gendered figures to the realm of the numinous or the monstrous.

For long stretches this is also reflected by the (art) history of fantasies of ‹artificial humans.› In these tales of creation it is the decided aim to create an ideal-typical embodiment of the ‹natural gender,› a ‹real man› or a ‹future Eve,› by means of art and technology. In other words: What distinguishes or should distinguish these artificial/artistic creations from natural humans is not only their outer perfection, but also their having overcome «human, all too human» weaknesses. This is what they have in common with cyborgs.

However, what identifies these kinds of artificial creatures as perfect humans of a ‹second nature› is not only their human shape, but also their gender—which by the way, as will be shown, is not seldom in a specific relation of tension with that of their creators or their manufacturers, who in turn represent the side of the humans who as a godlike artist or ingenious engineer follow in the footsteps of God the Creator.

The future Eve

The protagonist in the science fiction novel «The Future Eve,» the inventor Edison, proudly prophesies his «future Eve»—an incarnation of the ‹eternally female› created by means of the highest skill and most modern technology: «But this copy will outlive the original and always look young and alive. It is artificialflesh that will never age….» [19] His artificial woman may be modeled after a living woman and is for this reason a ‹copy›—however she is a ‹copy› that in several respects is supposed to be superior to the ‹original.› Above all in that she triumphs over the impermanent nature of human life and human beauty. In addition, Hadaly—this is the name of Edison's «future Eve»—is also highly intelligent and has refined manners, traits that make her all the more desirable. Unlike humans of the same sex, because she for her part has no active desire or other further demands on men, she exhibits a certain emotional coldness that even her admirers find uncanny. At this point the perfection of the artificial woman—quite similar to the animated doll Olimpia in E. T. A. Hoffmanns «Der Sandmann,» [20] reveals itself to be a monstrous trait. For this reason, Edison will ultimately destroy his invention.

Meanwhile, in the age of information and biotechnological producibility, Hadaly appears to embody herself under new circumstances. In the meantime, in the profane reality of postmodern everyday media, the «future Eve» has taken shape in a highly prosaic way. The ‹femmes fatales digitales› who conjures up our Internet connection on the monitor—these are those not always picture-perfect but current cliches of beings who virtually exceed femininity, such as those we otherwise encounter everywhere in the mass media. Appropriately, as early as 1997 the first issue of «Konr@d,» the glossy magazine published in conjunction with ex-hackers, presented Naomi Campbell on its cover as a sexy ‹cyborg›; on the inside of the magazine they had her pose with her knees turned inwards and eyes chastely lowered. [21] In other ways, too, digital technologies and their image carriers or image multiplication equipment prove to be true ‹bachelor machines.› [22] Whether one looks at the concepts for willing ‹avatars› and virtual film divas, such as those

the MIRALab has been creating for several years now, artificial pop starlets such as «Kyoko Date» [23] or computer game figures and heroines such as «Lara Croft» [24] or the ‹new Eve› we encounter in Xavier Roca's »RE-Constructing EVE« (1999): They are all in their own way ‹sisters› of the «future Eve»—idealized ‹surrogate women› who have what ‹real› women do not have or promise to deliver, what ‹real› women in themeantime refuse to. And they are all copies without an original. This even applies to MIRAlab's «virtual Marilyn»: As similar as she may be in her outer contours, her facial expression and gestures to her model, the actress Marilyn Monroe, she is nothing more than the copy of an image consisting of data records—and strictly speaking even an artificial figure in which the image of another artificial figure is brought back to life.

In this sense, «future Eve» reanimates nothing more than an old image: Eva before or after the Fall of humanity. Although the biblical legend maintains that this Eve was the first «natural woman,» we know very well that she is nothing more than a phantasm.

Creators and their creatures

This myth of creation has something to do with art, yet it was the sculptor Pygmalion who first allowed man to emerge as the creator of an animated figure—as an artist, who like a lover worships his statue so enduringly that the gods take pity upon him and endow the image with life. In the «future Eve» this miraculous animation of art to life repeats itself—it is certainly not coincidental that it occurs in mirror correspondence to those cyborg myths that would like to see flesh equipped by the art of technology. However, what distinguishes modern variations of the Pygmalion legend is the fact that the modern creatorartist- engineer is no longer dependent upon the mercy of the gods, but he understands how to endow his artificial woman with life himself.

This connects her with the tales of another thread which also leads to the cyborgs; and although it originally knew no female creators, it did know male creatures. This thread, too, begins in myth and religion: Here we find

«Adam Kadmon,» the primordial man out of clay—and the «golem,» whom Rabbi Low created out of clay after the model of the first man. [25] In her feminist science fiction novel «He, She and It»—one of the texts that inspired Donna Haraway to write her «Cyborg Manifesto»—Marge Piercy interwove the story of the golem with that of a cyborg in order to expose the trail that leads into modernity. [26] Piercy's «golem»—like that in the legend—is created as a dimwitted helper, as a simple-minded fighting machine that does not learn to be a dangerous being until it has learned to be likea human. In this respect he resembles—in contrast by the way to her cyborg «Yod,» whose artificial intelligence is trained by a woman who makes him into a being gifted with both reason and empathy [27] —the main character in one of the most well known tales of artificial humans: The ‹monster› in Mary Shelley's «Frankenstein» is the first creature not to be ‹born› under the sign of art, but under that of modern (natural) science. [28] And it is the first creature that deserves to be called a «cyborg»: Because here, human flesh is revitalized by means of technology; an organism is technologically endowed with life.

Stories of creation, revisited

Against this background it is no wonder the under the sign of cyborg configurations, the old stories of ‹artificial humans› are also celebrating a boom—in the arts as well as in popular culture. [29] But where are the decisive ‹interfaces› of this cultural heritage between the developments in the area of digital technologies on the one hand, and in the sector of genetic or biotechnologies on the other hand, which have so obviously contributed their fair share to this boom? What connects the digital technologies with genetic technology, at least at a metaphorical level, and at the same time constitutes the ‹tertium comparationis› to the phantasms of ‹artificial humans› handed down through cultural history is the suggestive promise to be able to discover and reproduce the formula of ‹life› itself: to create life. [30]

Living images

Genetic technology is associated with the art and cultural historical tales of ‹artificial humans› because it indirectly deals with the artificial manufacture of organic life—while it directly manipulates the genetic ‹code,› i.e. operates at the level of a ‹program,› which in turn allows it to be more easily associated with the digital technologies. The mixing of technological paradigms may be inadmissible—it is nevertheless significant. Thus the short circuit from biological to digital technology and to the simulation of artificial life in a ‹virtual reality› can reveal to us that in the discourses on genetic technology the issue is less one of endowing life with matter than it is of mobilizing images: the issue is the propagation of a particularimage of humans. In this sense, both technologies actually have something in common: Not only in that they appear to reproduce where they actually reproduce something, but also in that they appear to produce where they are reproducing something: Viz. precisely that normative image of the human that with respect to gender concepts also transports traditional norms.

The association of both technologies with the mythological narrations that tell of the artificial or the artistic animation of bodies fits into this context: What Dr. Frankenstein (acting for the legendary scientist) and Pygmalion (acting for the mythological artist) stand for is the creation of artificial life by endowing dead matter with life: in Frankenstein's case out of flesh, in Pygmalion's case out of stone. Strictly speaking, here it can also be said that images are being endowed with life. [31]

As will become clear in the following, in rereading the old stories and in summoning back their moving images, however, it is not solely an issue of the prehistory or early history of reproductive technologies, which compete with the biological (and sexual) reproduction of human life.

Hybrids of art and science

It is also characteristic that the equation since the Renaissance of the ‹divino artista› with the ‹deus artifex› on the one hand, [32] and with the both technically

and artistically well-versed ‹universal genius› on the other hand, is also experiencing a true revival in the age of these new mythologies of creation. However, this is not only being demonstrated by reference to Leonardo da Vinci, who in the theoretical debates over art in the age of new technologies is encountered everywhere as a model for the ‹ingenious› artist-scientistengineer, adorning titles of Herbert W. Franke's polemic on art in the age of the computer [33] and the cover of the German edition of Bruce Sterling's cyberpunk novel «Schismatrix,» [34] and chosen as the name patron for numerous projects, for instance for the «International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (ISAST),» who since 1968 has published the journal «Cyborg Manifesto». And it is by no means only artists such as Eduardo Kac who claim for themselves the roleof scientist. Conversely, a number of scientists also like to behave like artists, or like Craig Venter compare themselves with artists. [35]

In turn, the analogizations of the technologies and their superimposition with the mythical narrations, which lead to new mythologies of art and science (hi)stories, prove to be striking—in particular at the ‹interface gender›: The stories not only glorify the human—or more accurately put—the male effort to track down the ‹secret of life.› The issue above and beyond this is the possibility of ‹improving nature,› which from a perspective handed down by tradition and culture is understood as «birth without a woman.» [36] She is left with—even in current variations of this crucial topic, from the alien clone «Ripley» in «Alien IV» [37] to the cloned sheep «Dolly» [38] —at best with the role of bearer, as the venue for experiments reserved for production artists. In fact, in historical examples and stories the creature is only ostensibly the main character. Rather it is the projection surface for a discourse whose phantasmatic core—and this is revealed by the stories' titles—first and foremostly revolve around the human/male creator, whose ‹true› The artist Sonya Rapoport begins at this interface with her web-based work «Redeeming the Gene, Molding the Golem, Folding the Protein» (2001). With the legend of the «golem» she uses a traditional ‹story of creation› as her point of departure, retelling it under the sign of genetic technology. If one follows this narration along the artificial DNA string, whose protein bases develop into a navigation system adapted from the Tree of Sephiroth in the Cabala, amongst other things one comes across the «artist gene,» the force behind which is Eduardo Kac and his works such as «Genesis» (1999ff.) and «Alba,» as well as the «GFP Bunny» (2000ff.) [41] Rapoport's protagonists Lilith and Eve—primordial female images of male fantasies of creation—set a cabalistic «golem gene» against the hybrid of Kac's self-assertion as an ‹artist-scientist,› who in his works cites the paradigms of genetic technology in a positivist way. With the aid of the «golem gene,» not only is the «artist gene» purified, but Lilith and Eve are the delivered from the curse of demonization, which according to biblical legend weighs heavily on them, and are recreated.

Making monsters

If instead of the charismaticized ‹genetic› or ‹digital engineer› one contemplates ‹the other side› of creation, i.e. the creatures made by the creators, what starting points does the ‹interface gender› provide in particular?

What is characteristic for the artificial creatures of modernity at the intersection of art and science is that they—especially when they satisfy the ‹imperative of anthropomorphism›—sooner or later reveal their monstrosity, which not only demonstrates the failure of the act of creation, but also its inhumaneness.

On the other side there is the throng of female «doll-bodyautomatons, » [42] which—if one goes by their contours—appear to come into the inheritance of Pygmalion's beautiful portrait. But this impression is deceiving: Like Galathea, they may have been endowed with life as objects of desire, their character, however, is more like that of the «future Eve»: As soon as they begin to lead their ‹own life› they develop demonic streaks, so that they immediately have to be put an end to. [43] It is no without reason that the artificial woman in «Metropolis» bears the epithet «the false Maria»—behind her remarkably beautiful exterior, which betrays nothing of her monstrosity, there lies the machine: a construction with nothing human about it. On the side of the male creatures, on the other hand, there is Frankenstein's monster, whose physical dimensions overshadow those of ‹real men.› As a dim-witted dummy, however, he embodies everything else except ‹true maleness›: he treats girls as if they were flowers, and he expresses at best clumsy desire towards the wife of his creator.

These creatures are not ‹natural daughters› or ‹real› men—and this becomes strikingly evident at the ‹interface gender›: A monster may be granted a mechanical or an animal sexuality. However, for its part it is characterized as monstrous, i.e. threatening and pathological. In other words: According to the core narrations, the creator's creatures represent counterpoles to the ‹real/right› human/man embodied by their creators.

And little has changed in recent years. Rather under the sign of digital and genetic (re)productive technologies, continuities and reversions can be identified that in their deviations from exemplarymodels at best mark the intensification of monstrosity—typically when the issue is the ‹threatened› boundary between ‹artificialness› and ‹naturalness,› between ‹femaleness› and ‹maleness.› The role of the monster turns out to be as plain as the transgression of this boundary/these boundaries appears to be a threat: The norm, to which the power relation between creator and creature ultimately belongs, is confirmed and lastingly stabilized by this. Ripley's ‹uncanny› upgrade in «Alien IV,» which—quite in the spirit of the transgression of boundaries Haraway describes as being characteristic for the new technological order—inscribes male and animal qualities onto her female body, was performed «over her dead body.»

As ‹males,› cyborg heroes such as «Robocop» [44] or the «Terminator I» embodied by Schwarzenegger may struggle for the preservation of jeopardized ‹ideals› such as the nuclear family, which no doubt is supposed to allow them to appear to be ‹human.› [45] In the film «Terminator II» for instance, on the side of the good mother the latter battles against a ‹dehumanized› new technology embodied by the genderless «T1000,» and in «Terminator III» he is supposed to ensure that as the ‹last› human couple, her son and his girlfriend survive the end of the world to become the ‹future Adam and Eve.› [46] However, despite their bodies, which are hypertrophically equipped with ‹male traits,› they have no sexual identity of their own. Thus, the doubly connoted phallus always remains in the hands of the engineers: This is the only ‹right place› for it to be.

Nevertheless, the ‹interface gender› can also prove to be the crucial point of potential deviance from the otherwise stereotypically developed narrations. Take, for example, the filmed version of the musical «The Rocky Horror Picture Show» [47] : Frank'n'Furter's creature Rocky—the incarnation, so to speak, of a ‹Mr. Universe›—was actually conceived as a playmate for his transsexual creator. On the other hand, despite the phallic overformation— raised to a caricature—of his fingers to scissor blades, the main character in Tim Burton's variation on the tale of «Frankenstein,» «Edward Scissorhands,» [48] exercises an incomparable erotic attraction on women, whose hair he subserviently cuts, while the men, whose front yard hedges he trims, quite obviously sense acode-of-conduct battle or begin to suffer from fears of castration. In an unexpected turn of the «promises of monsters» (Haraway), [49] in this case the monsters exhibit subversive potential.

«Reinvent yourself!»

The monstrous promises of the new technologies are not, however, only reflected in the retelling or new versions of the old stories of the creation of artificial life. As a ‹figure of the third,› from now on new meaning is given to an old philosophical topos in that it also wants to be taken at its word: Selfcreation finds itself under the sign of the cyborg configuration in the age of its technological realizability. [50] Just as television or popular magazines contain advertisements for more or less unrestricted biomedical technologies for the ‹improvement› or even the ‹correction› of one's appearance, with the aid of new technologies the corresponding models are at the same time being designed, created and supplied. The imperative of these cyborg configurations is: «Reinvent yourself!» [51] And this includes the invention of a new body.

Fewer and fewer limits appear to be being set to the ‹becoming flesh› of such a ‹self-invention,› in which the traditional dichotomy of ‹mind› and ‹body› collapses in an unexpected way—and more and more people of both genders are reacting euphorically to the offer of ‹reinventing themselves.› In this sense, movie and pop stars, who like Liz Taylor attempt to avoid the aging of their body with cosmetic surgery, or like Michael Jackson completely transform themselves into an artificial figure, can be considered to be protagonists of «posthumanism,» whose maxim has become the imperative of ‹cyborgization.› [52] This does not, however, mean that they will lose their monstrous traits, which is the promise associated with this imperative: There continues to be something uncanny attached to the manipulation of the human body. This other side of the coin can no longer be solely viewed in the mirror of a science fiction satire such as «Brazil.» The protagonist in this film dreams himself time and again a fantasy world in which he transforms from a weakly average person into a superhero, while due to unsuccessful cosmetic surgery his aging mother mutates into a monster, who in the end cannot be held together by a human contour. [53] In the meantime,in the eyes of some of his former fans Jackson, whose features are distinctly marked by biomedical operations from pigment bleaching to nose surgery, appears to have become a monster. [54] It is no coincidence that this can be demonstrated by the fact that his outer appearance seems to change between man, woman and child, and that his sexuality is also suspiciously deviant. The ‹interface gender› once more proves to be the focal point of both the phantasmatic as well as the uncanny quality of (self-)creation.

© Media Art Net 2004