Re:Diane Ludin talks with Prema Murthy

Posted by nicholas economos | Wed Jan 15th 2003 1 a.m.

>Here's Diane Ludin's interview from
Mythic Hybrid
Diane Ludin talks with Prema Murthy about her
latest project for Turbulence
by Diane Ludin - 01/14/2003

"A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of
machine and organism, a creature of social
reality as well as a creature of fiction.
Social reality is lived social relations, our
most important political construction, a
world-changing fiction. The international
women's movements have constructed "women's
experience," as well as uncovered or discovered
this crucial collective object. This experience
is a fiction and fact of the most crucial,
political kind. Liberation rests on the
construction of the consciousness, the
imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so
of possibility."

Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto:
Science, Technology, and
Socialist-Feminism in the Late
Twentieth Century"

Diane Ludin: The title of your latest work,
Mythic Hybrid, can be considered a resonant
term to summarize the promise of technology as
relates to the internet. Does this title refer
to the technology that you are using to
broadcast your content or is it focused on the
subject matter alone?

Prema Murthy: I'm interested in exploring
concepts through various technological "lenses"
or "filters," so the medium for me is not
separated from the subject matter. It becomes
part of the content as it also gives it its
form. I am as interested in examining the
formal boundaries of digital media as I am in
exploring various social or cultural contexts
out of which specific media are constructed.
For this project, I wanted to reinvoke the
words "mythic hybrid," a term coined by Donna
Haraway over ten years ago, to call to mind a
second reading of some of the ideas proposed in
her "Cyborg Manifesto." My project, as the term
implies, is meant to examine collective
narrative as fiction as well as complicate the
word "hybrid," which by now has become a cliche
when talking about the products of
human/machine couplings.

Q: When we look at this piece, are we looking
at real-time returns from the internet, framed
within your filtering structure, or rather at a
select record of search results?

A: The entire project has been constructed of
pieces I collected while on a search to find
out about the lives of a group of women working
in micro-electronics factories in India who
were reported to have had collective
hallucinations. The project mimics the form of
a search engine. It is not meant to present one
"truthful" viewpoint in any way, but rather
multiple perspectives brought together to form
a story.

Q: What do you think of the notion that the
internet is a medium for tracing the social
unconscious, as implied by the Google

A: The Internet has an emptiness about it in
the way I think the unconscious does. It is
like a shell in which information is stored,
deleted, retrieved, transfigured -- like
memories, obsessions, dreams, fears. It is also
the product of a racist, male-dominated,
military-entertainment-industrial complex,
which has undoubtedly left its mark on the
medium as well.

Q: You've been drawing on concepts from Donna
Haraway's work for some time now. How has your
approach to her work evolved over time? Could
you summarize some of your favorite themes from
her work? Has creating this work changed your
understanding of Haraway's concept of the
mythic hybrid?

A: When I first read "The Cyborg Manifesto," I
was excited by the way it challenged dualistic
modes of categorization and called for an
integration of mind and body, nature and
culture, organism and machine, imagination and
material reality. It urged women to embrace new
technologies to disrupt the established order
and acknowledged the role of third world women
as integral to (cyber)feminism and the global
economy. It seemed quite radical at the time,
as a starting point. Since then, it seems some
of its initial radicality has been forgotten
and it has become absorbed more into the
mainstream of fashion and proto-hippy culture.
In retrospect, the concept of the mythic hybrid
seems to lack a realistic consideration of the
difficulties involved with hybridization and
takes a very "optimistic" approach to
contestation through creativity and the

Q: What were some of the hopes you initially
had for cyberfeminism that haven't been

A: The cyberfeminist movement seems to have
carried over a lack of concern for issues of
race, for which the second wave of US American
feminism was critiqued. There are online forums
for discussion, like the Undercurrents listserv
that has been explicit in its mission to
discuss these issues, but outside of that I
find that it is a fragmented movement. It has
made me rethink the importance of resistance
and transformation on many levels, through
political movements and organization, as well
as through micropolitics, pockets of disruption
specific to certain regions, invisible warfare,

Q: What relationships do you now draw between
the labor that builds computers -- which we
rarely consider -- and the hallucinatory
experiences that originally interested you in
the factory realities of the workers we watch
in the Quicktime movies?

A: The myth of a group of factory workers
driven mad by their working conditions, social
environments and an over-sensitivity to all
things supernatural was shattered upon meeting
women who were struggling, yes, but in quite
sane, rational, strong-minded, yet still
creative ways.
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