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John Russell's SQRRL

SQRRL by John Russell is on view through Thursday on the front page of rhizome.org

"Since 2085
Rodent and reptilian
Body structure,
Musculature and skeleton
Have been identified
As the ideal anatomical-model
For extra-terrestial operations.
The sophistication
Of contemporary
Brain miniturisation
And transplant surgery

Means that
Human relocation
Into smaller species
Is now routine."

SQRRL is a dynamic hypertext fiction speculating on a future in which medical advances such as “wasp-parasite technology” allow humans to inhabit the bodies of one or more animals as a way to save or prolong their lives.

SQRRL begins with a sparkling array of softly glowing pastel fauna and flora. Animated .gifs and text frame a squirrel in cyborg headdress. This is the protagonist, CarLEe.

Scrolling downward, the user encounters collaged illustrations of nature, the city, and a gently smiling man with pink antennae. It is revealed that CarLEe the squirrel was once human-bodied, living in the city with Mom and Poppo (who died shortly after an electric kettle water Baptism, despite early success with wasp-parasite technology to keep him alive).

Russell’s description of this post-human future grows yet darker as the user learns CarLEe has lived through starvation wars and extreme capitalist extraction, and currently resides in a controlled habitat that includes “non-combo species” (woodchucks and birds) fitted with “passification-tech.” Playful, lo-fi images illustrate the text, giving the grim vision of the future an air of absurdity.

Russell structures SQRRL along two trajectories, allowing the user to toggle between a narrative poem and a series of footnotes which include meditations on specific terms, along with links to a diverse selection of citations ranging from introductory Christian FAQs to the Cyborg Manifesto, and banal reporting on grocery store masturbation, as well as an in-depth discussion of the theoretical work of Luce Irigiray and its legacy. Moving fluidly between contemporary theory and futuristic narrative, the reader of Russell's text finds that this cynical and beautiful vision of a future society, in which a person's consciousness may be distributed among seven lizards, has strong echoes of the present.

John Russell's solo show, "SQRRL," is on view at Bridget Donahue Gallery, 99 Bowery, New York, November 14, 2015 - January 11, 2016.

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