Flesh Machine (2002)

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This site documents a lecture and performance by CAE on biotechnology. The audience takes genetic tests and gives cell samples for DNA analysis.

Full Description

When it comes to technology, the focus and the hype is on new information and communication technologies. From a marketer's perspective, this only makes sense, because these new technologies seem to offer the public a new utopian frontier; however, those who work with new complex technology on an everyday basis know that its primary function is to increase the velocity of market place dynamics, which in turn increases the intensity of labor. The organic systems--the humans--in the technocracy can no longer maintain themselves at such speeds: physiological and psychological pathologies abound in the new techno-environment. Unfortunately, it's too late to slow the economic engines of technoculture, and so the problem of collapsing organic platforms can only be solved by drastic flesh reconfigurations.

This new social tendency has arrived at the right time. One of the leading eugenicists of the 1930s, Frederick Osborn, believed that in the future eugenics would be a part of everyday life consciousness (as opposed to being a policy imposed on populations). According to Osborn, in the time that we now know as the period of the economy of desire/surplus and the nuclear family, people would not only volunteer to engage in eugenics practices, but would pay to do so. Because market competition would reach such an intense state in late capital, and wealth and prestige would be the only measure of quality of life in death-of-god society (death of the nonrational), people would be forced by circumstance to acquire whatever would help to make them more fit for success in the marketplace. That future is now the present, and the first experiments in developing voluntary eugenic consciousness and in developing eugenic practices are underway in clinics for reproductive services. However, unlike its technological sibling, telecommunications, reproductive technology remains largely outside of everyday life. It's not something that we experience as mundane technology (like the telephone or TV) nor as a potential social problem (like industrial pollution); it is something we only hear about after it has been filtered through the legitimating signs of science and medicine. Consequently, the eugenic practices that occur on a daily basis in the labs and the clinics have no reality for those outside certain scientific and medical specializations. Such practices are silent subversions of everyday life that will not reveal themselves until they are fully deployed and the damage has already been done.

Some artists and activists (particularly in Europe) understand the nature of this secret technological revolution, and have tried to inject critical information into public discourse about this hidden development in an attempt to raise critical awareness about unacceptable medical and scientific practices; however, no political front or real public debate has emerged that includes a radical perspective (such as there is in the critique of information and communications technology). CAE suspects that the continued lack of concern on the part of the public is partly because the tactics used to increase public awareness are too tame for such a well-guarded situation. While CAE does not think the older and proven methods of representational resistance should be jettisoned, in regard to reproductive technologies, more extreme experimentation is called for. Hence, we offer Flesh Machine.

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