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Automating Perverse Possibilities

Mutual Mutation Between Queerness and Technology in Unmaterialized Media Works

Zach Blas Department of Design | Media Arts, UCLA Advisors: N. Katherine Hayles & Judith Halberstam Zach Blas 2007

Auto-Momus . . . more ideas than biological time. Stanislaw Lem, A Perfect Vacuum In the introduction to his book A Perfect Vacuuma book of reviews on nonexistent books Stanislaw Lem wrote, Reviewing nonexistent books is not Lems invention.1 To iterate: reviewing nonexistent artwork is not this authors invention. Following a methodology crafted by Borges and Lem, this paper reviews nonexistent art as a tactic to consider the possibilities of the unmaterialized. In order to generate a method for writing critically on nonexistent books, Stanislaw Lem invented the Auto-Momus. Defined by Lem as free creation squared,2 the Auto-Momus offers numerous possibilities for maneuvering [. . . in attempts to unite] that of the belletrist and that of the critic.3 The etymology of Momus emerges from Greek mythology, where Momus is the God of satire and unfair criticism.4 A form of automated trickery, Lem reads beyond this initial ploy: It is not the trick of the pseudo-review that gave birth to these works; rather, they, demandingin vainto be expressed, used this trick as an excuse and pretext. In the absence of the trick all would have remained in the realm of the unsaid.5 The Auto-Momus produces a falsity, but in this moment of deceit, possibilities of freedom release creativity and criticism from their constrictions. In this paper, the AutoMomus plays two roles: an engine generating a trickery of content (the nonexistent work) and a computer program concealing cultural inscription (a far more clever trick). Donna Haraway writes, Perhaps our hopes for accountability, for politics, for ecofeminism, turn on revisioning the world as coding trickster with whom we must learn to converse.6 As an adaptive tool, the Auto-Momus executes the language of the trick to converse with and hack the trickster in order to assemble and produce new hopes and possibilities.
1 2

Stanislaw Lem. A Perfect Vacuum (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1999), 3. Ibid., 4 3 Ibid., 4 4 Momus. (accessed on 9 May 2007). 5 Lem. Vacuum, 7. 6 Donna J. Haraway. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), 201.

Introduction: What is Queer Technology? Queer uses of time and space develop, at least in part, in opposition to the institutions of family, heterosexuality, and reproduction. --Judith Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place To be clear, I confess the above query will not be answeredeven though it is the question that undoubtedly surfaces again and again while examining Lorenz Tunnys artwork. As the fundamental issue the work attempts to answer, this question ultimately offers examples possibilitieswith no ontological groundingbut it must still be asked! Perhaps a statement by Deleuze is what we must keep in mind: Technology is social before it is technical.7 As an artist preparing for a performative sexual reassignment procedure on electrical plugs in the near future, Tunnys work elucidates the notion that as life becomes further infused with technology at every level of existence, formations of body and identity bear the mark of technological networks, systems, and machines. Specifically, biological / technological intersections have formed not only new representations and expressions of gender and sexuality but have also created them. To borrow a concept from Judith Halberstam, mutual mutation is the constant process that unites space, flesh, and technology in a technotopic vision.8 Questions that queer technology provokes are: as technology precariously balances between corporate power structures and subcultural activism, how are we being marked / signified / erased? If, historically and traditionally, technological progress has been rooted in heteronormative discourse, are all bodies bound to heterosexual control and ideology? If not, how do marginalized bodies react to / resist these power paradigms and reconfigure them? Tunnys work uses the discourse of queer theory as a rhetoric of freedom. Queer theory moves beyond discourses of sexuality and gender to approach larger way[s] of life.9 This work attempts to understand and explorein the queer style of strange temporalities, imaginative life schedules, and

7 8

Gilles Deleuze. Foucault. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 40. Judith Halberstam. In a Queer Time and Place (New York: NYU Press, 2005), 103. 9 Ibid., 1.

eccentric economic practices10the effects of queer life on technology and technology on the queer way of life. To frame Tunnys work within contemporary art dialogues, Nicolas Bourriaud echoes the aesthetic of this work through his explanation of the social interstice: appropriating the Marxist use of the term in trading communities, the intersticewithin Bourriauds philosophy of relational aestheticsis a space in human relations which fits more or less harmoniously and openly into the overall system, but suggests other trading possibilities than those in effect within this system.11 Within a queer discourse, especially visible in Tunnys work, the interstice can manifest in various modes: at the site of the body (participant and artist both); within the materiality of the work; and in the use and execution of language. Tunnywhether amazingly successful, somewhat successful, or mired in mishapsuccinctly addresses how queers and queerness mutate technology to create social interstices for connectivity and communication.

10 11

Ibid. Nicolas Bourriaud. Relational Aesthetics (Les presses du reel, 2002), 16.

The Imitation Game (for Gendered Interstice): Mutating Hard Bodies The human computer is supposed to be following fixed rules; he has no authority to deviate from them in any detail. Alan Turing, Computing Machinery and Intelligence Artistic activity is a game. Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics

The Imitation Game (for Gendered Interstice)

Programming History into Gender and Media Upon approaching Tunnys room-size installation, The Imitation Game (for Gendered Interstice), one is immediately struck by two sounds: bursts and layers of vocoded voice and noise as well as the sound of a giant machine churning its cogs, bits, and levers. The installation feels like a living, breathing machine in continuous motionand it is! Visually, the site of black audiotape exposed and moving in tangled loops throughout this massive exhibition spaceseems to hiss like a snake as it slides through series of record and playback heads. While the installation incites an immediate affective response by its sheer size and loudness, upon further sharpening of the critical eye

(try thinking it over for a week), Tunny appears to ask participants to consider the history and ideology of technological binarism and how transgendered materializations reconfigure / rupture digital technologys either / or framework. Yet, this is read through so much affect and proper historical placement. The game portion of the installation is somewhat sectioned off from the rest of the environmentalmost swallowed whole by the tangled mass of audiotape. A flat screen monitor invites one to come play the imitation game. Tunny has quite obviously based this game on the Turing Test, which is based on an older party game known as the Imitation Game.12 While the Turing Test explores the possibility of a computer imitating a human and being mistaken as a human, the Imitation Game directly explores normative representations of gender binaries. To play this game, a man and woman go into separate rooms, hidden from a group of people. Attempting to determine who is male and who is female, the group asks the man and woman a series of questions and receive typed responses back. For example, the man attempts to convince the group of his actual gender, while the female tries to trick the group into believing she is the man.13 Tunnys imitation game functions as a series of questions that are displayed on the monitor and answered through a microphone or touch screen. The computer asks participants a series of questions regarding gender, the appearance of gender, and the imitation of gender (such as, if you are a male, how would you respond to the computer to convince it that you are a female?). Tunny has extracted from numerous governmental gender questionnaires, dating back to the 1940s: One laughs upon reading, I would like to be a soldier14 . . . True or False, but after answering, laughter turns to unease when it becomes clear that the computer is parsing gender as normative binaries. Granted, it is not that unpleasantit is more like historical reenactment. Tunny has created a comically rendered


Alan Turing. Computing Machinery and Intelligence. The New Media Reader (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 50. 13 Ibid. 14 From a Canadian questionnaire used to identify homosexuals. See Gemma Shusterman. PASS: Protocol for Alternative Sexuality and Sensibility. (accessed on 1 April 2007), 64.

gender bar to the side of the monitor, which indicates if the computer is computing interactors as male or female or interstice. When visitors answer questions through speech, the computer compiles vocal information into three audio channels of male, female, and interstice. This classification is based on normative models of human vocal ranges. If a participant identifies to the computer as male and his vocal range enters into the designated female range at any point, the computer registers this cross-over as an interstice. The same happens if a females voice enters the male vocal range. The captured audio is recorded in real-time and transferred to the second half of the installationthe forever winding audiotape (which I will examine shortly). Whether historical enactment (yawn) or artistic innovation, Tunny realizes that a cultural representation of the enforcement of gender binaries (the imitation game) within a technological landmark in the history of computing (the Turing Test) is quite compellingand revealing. Not only is digital technology forced into opposites of zeros and ones, but we are reminded that the Turing Test is found to have its roots in binary gender assignment. Tunnys fascination with mutating the Turing Test lies in links between cultural constructions and technological formalismthat is, how did a formal thought experiment based on computing intelligence became conflated with the restrictive discourse of gender binarism? Further, why is digital technology so tightly bound to this binarism, and what does it mean for the transgendered times we currently live in? Fascinating as it is, the Turing Tests historical connections to transgendered / intersex formations complicates its role in propagating heterosexist gender constructions. Alan Turings 1952 conviction of homosexual indecency resulted in a series of hormone injections, including estrogen treatments, which caused Turing to develop breasts. With the history of technology crushed into form by processions of a white, heterosexual male elite, what does it mean to find digital computing partially engineered by a homosexual male? In a cyborgian moment, The Imitation Game (for Gendered Interstice) fuses the biological programming of Alan Turing with the technological

programming of modern computing to seek queer representations in digital technology. Judith Halberstam has described Turings experience as just this, a body becoming both materially and libidinally, a product of technology.15 According to Donna Haraway, this act of fusiona translation between different knowledgesis necessary to provide meanings and bodies a chance for future life.16 Quitting the imitation game, one turns to the audiotape running in a tangled mess throughout the space. The audiotape, at best, appears to suggest a room size mass of moving, interconnected electrical cords (even though one might be tempted to suggest a large snake, Tunnys intentions lie elsewhere)as if the audiotape is the wiring to power the questionnaire. An enjoyable move on Tunnys part: while the Turing Test originated as a thought experiment and computing technology is more micro than pocketsize, Tunny has returned us to a room-size computer executing a thought experiment. The gesture appears grand. Oddly, the installations construction immediately removes thought from the center of the focus, replacing it with hard materiality: machines, various bits to keep the audiotape moving, and the hard bodies of the interactors. While everything initially appears soft in this installationthe tape, the flat screen monitor integrated into the wall, bodies floating like clouds in drifting mediaTunny has allowed everything to become hardened by history: the room-size computer; the audio, violently vibrating out of speakers mounted on walls, zaps like electricity out of a Tesla coil; the audiotape resounding in scrapes and scratches (recalling old performances of Steve Reich); the bodies mummified into a new materiality as they maneuver through a spider web of media. Let us call Tunnys materialism a materialism of encounter, a phrase borrowed from Althusser and used by Bourriaud, to suggest that Tunny is attempting to expose a form of materialized agency outside of the weight that the historical imitation game imposes. Yet, at the same time, it must be


Judith Halberstam. Automating Gender: Postmodern Feminism in the Age of the Intelligent Machine. Feminist Studies Volume 17 (Fall 1991), 444. 16 Haraway. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, 187.

noted that this agency is one of contestation, blending, exposing, and concealing flows of technological and biological power.17 On each channel of sound (each moving loop of audiotape, three is my guess but who can be sure), multiple erase, record, and playback heads are written to simultaneously and randomly. Bursts of sounds shift in and out of their recorded linearity. For male and female tracks, the computer imitates their ranges in the average male and female vocal frequency. However, if the interstice channel is activated (by a female crossing into the male vocal range or a male crossing into the female vocal range), then the computer interprets this as a rupture and sends out a noise signal. Turing wrote, to programme a machine to carry out the operation A means to put the appropriate instruction table into the machine so that it will do A.18 Tunny has programmed the history of gender in computing into contemporary manifestations of gender in computing. Everything in Tunnys installation becomes a programmed manifestation of the imitation game and the Turing Test, materialized with artistic flare. For what this programming initiatesprimarily through affective responseis a deeper questioning of how gender has historically been forced to operate when brought in contact with computation: why should the ambiguity of gender be so closely related to the ambiguity of machinic intelligence? Turing chooses not to explain this conflation in his writing. Tunny is notably obsessed with this historical moment. Lest we think Tunny never moves beyond the historical reenactment of binarism, consider the recording process and the movement of the audiotape. The installation uses physical linear movement of an analog media (magnetic audiotape) and combines this with possibilities of non-linearity in digital media. Even while the audiotape is always moving forward in a loop, the various record and playback heads that are attached to each channel receive different sections of recorded audio from the questionnaire bootha simultaneous recording of multiple, seemingly disjointed audio samplings.


Adrian MacKenzie.. Cutting Code: Software and Sociality. (New York: Peter Lang, 2006). MacKenzie develops his concept of contestation of agency throughout. 18 Turing. Computing Machinery, 53.

Though these samplings actually play linearly on the tape, they have been digitally fractured nonlinearly. If one were to speculate upon Tunnys conceptualization, it could be postulated that the installation uses a framework of linear orientation coupled with rhizomatic orientation19 to contrast technological binarism and rigidity to mutation and transgenderultimately, a good but murky concept. For all this theorizing, it is remarkable that the audiotape communicates to its audience as affecta result that leaves a strong urge to theorize. (Indeed, this paper is proof of that claim.) Medias transition into what Friedrich Kittler calls technical media20 suggests a tension between transparency and opaquenessor rather understanding and not understanding. Media operate on both of these levels: in analog forms, one can easily perceive physical movement such as film moving through a projector or audio tape playing on a reel-to-reel but cannot see the information on the material; in digital media, one can scroll a bar in a simulated timeline to view different points of a video, yet one cannot always move beyond the simulation to view exactly how the media is compiled, generated, and displayed. This skewed relationship highlights Wendy Chuns discussion of computers as ideology machines.21 Tunnys exploration of a technological ideology can be located within the tangled audiotape exposed to participants. The inability to perceive written information on moving tapeeven if standing directly in front of itplays upon a technological ideology of imaginary relations that users must always confront. However, the consequences of this encounter are not dire. My interest (and Tunnys) lies in another question: is this technological ideology formulated through heteronormativity or heterosexism? Gender and the Interstice: Toward Articulating a Queer Politics of the Interstice Tunnys evocative installation, with a sexist computer and audiotape moving like a celluloid cyclone, deliver usnot surprisinglyto Deleuzes notion of the interstice. In Cinema 2: The TimeImage, Deleuze describes the interstice as the space between two spliced strips of film. As a space that

How can I resist bringing Deleuze and Guattaris rhizome into play while reviewing a work of new media? It had to fit in somewhere! 20 Friedrich Kittler. Discourse Networks 1800 / 1900. (Stanford University Press, 1992). 21 Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 19.


does not belong to either piece of film, the interstice becomes a differentiation of potential that engenders something new.22 Deleuze writes: Sometimes, as in modern cinema, the cut has become the interstice, it is irrational and does not form part of either set, one of which has no more an end than the other has a beginning: false continuity is such an irrational cut. [. . . and this cut is] disjunctive.23 How does the interstice transfer and reconfigure in digital media? Within the electronic signal (which is the filmstrip of digital media), noise in the signal could be considered an interstice of disjunction and rupture. If we look outside of a single computer and examine networking, the networked space between two connected computers is a potential intersticethe wires or wireless technology that sends and receives data is a separate space from how information is interpreted before it is downloaded onto a computer. In the case of hardware and connectivity, a prevailing heterosexism begins to make itself visible in the construction of a technological interstice. (Please note that this ridiculous yet engaging example is brought to the fore due to Tunnys up-coming SRS plug performance.) Everything electrical connects via plugs, and all plugs have a normative gender assignmentthat is, a plug with protrusions is a male plug and a plug with holes is a female plug. Plugs genders are defined in Wikipedia: Power plugs are male electrical connectors that fit into female electrical sockets. [. . .] Power sockets are female electrical connectors that have slots or holes which accept the pins or blades of power plugs inserted into them and deliver electricity to plugs.24 Female plugs willingly accept the power that male plugs hold and deliver the product of this connectionheteronormative connectivity at its most obvious. Importantly, plugs will only connect through male female connections. The gender of a plug can be changed by simply purchasing a Gender Adapter at a local Radio Shack, but not matter what, male male and female female connections do not connect! When male male and female female connections are attempted through hardware, their inability to connect creates a space of differentiation. This space has the
22 23

Gilles Deleuze. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989). Ibid. 24 Domestic AC power plugs and sockets. Wikipedia. (accessed 10 May 2007).


possibility to engender a new operation, but the heterosexist discourse of technological connectivity forbids the formation of a new functionality. In The Imitation Game (for Gendered Interstice), an interstice is generated through the computers imitation of participants vocal ranges. In the imitation game, what happens when there is no either / or (that is, male or famale) but an in-between (an interstice)? Tunny constructs this installation to consider the moment of the interstice historically, theoretically, and affectively (and of course I must read it all these ways). When the computer is convinced the interactor is a certain gender (from answers provided to touch screen questions), the moment the interactors pitch registers as the gender opposite of the computers current calculations, then the interactors voice is recorded as noise. Noise, a sonic rupture, can be interpreted in numerous ways: 1) it is the computers inability to compute beyond binaries, 2) noise becomes a form of electronic resistance / disturbance, similar to that for which The Critical Art Ensemble has argued,25 and 3) noise formulates the unutterable in languagea point of in-betweenness that cannot be articulated in discourse. 26 Judith Halberstam has noted that all discourses are gendered, and in technology, Halberstam continues, interference, an organizing force of randomness and chaos, is always a possibility within computing and, in fact, is critical to intelligence.27 Tunnys interstitial noise offers serious and playful agency in this imitation gamebeyond the thought game of the Turing Test to actual materiality. In Turings game, interference is never materialized within the hardness of the body, only suppressed in the most forceful of ways. Interactors in Tunnys game, by contrast, discover joyous moments of interfering with the computers attempts to gender them. Based on my observation, one can find much amusement in watching ones voice and actions interpreted by a computer and represented on a bar anywhere


See The Critical Art Ensembles Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas for more on electronic disturbance as a form of activism. 26 In No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Lee Edelman describes this type of unutterable in language by a comparison to Benjamins reine Sprache, a language empty of meaning, signification, and semantic function. The production of this noise provides the sinthomosexual (Edelmans queer subject) with a violent rush of jouissance. 27 Halberstam. Automating Gender, 439.


between male and female. The interactions illustrate that people do enjoy playing outside the confines of normative gender roles. Tunnys piece mutates both machine and body by interpreting their outputs (voice and computed audio). As a queer activist and artist, Tunny creates a noisy interstice of the resistance and disturbance that the queer body can generate within a historically programmed environment. The hard body of the interactor alters the physical processes of the machine (another hard body) and, as a result, manipulates the data that the audiotape bears (hard again, no matter how badly we might want to say soft). In the queer body (which includes but is not limited to the transgendered body), a mutual mutation occurs between subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and external stimulus (in Tunnys case, the external source is technology).28 The queer body articulates a space similar to Deleuzes formation of the interstice in his construction of the cinematic time-image: just as the interstice exists in disjunction to what precedes and follows it, the queer body must be articulated outside of normative configurations of male and female binaries. A physical manifestation of the interstice created by the queer body can be located at the moment when measurement that distinguishes a penis from a clitoris becomes blurred, when breasts take the place of a chest on a male body (as the British government forced Turing to develop), when facial hair overcomes the fuzz on a female face. The interstice becomes a manifestationdiscursively, culturally, and physicallyof a politics for the queer body. Cyberfeminists such as VNS Matrix transform the phallic temple of technology into an all-powerful interstitial clitoris when they write in their manifesto, saboteurs of big daddy mainframe / the clitoris is a direct line to the matrix.29 It is as if VNS Matrix stretch their collective clitoris out like a penislike a networking cableto connect with the Internet, mutating the form of the clitoris but not its functionality as a clitoris. Tunny builds upon this dual layer of the interstice

28 29

Halberstam. Queer Time, 103. VNS Matrix. Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Centruy. (accessed on 29 April 2007).


historically as a technologically suppressed unutterable (unprogrammable, unconnectable) and theoretically as a discursive and physical space for queer resistance and bodily mutation. It is important to note that the interstice (especially in new media) can extend beyond the realm of queer politics to larger politics of freedom and controland Tunnys work could be situated within this larger politics. For example, The Electronic Disturbance Theater has created a number of projects that address finding free places for bodies previously subordinated to governmental control. With Zapatista Tactical Floodnet and Border Disturbance Art projects, Ricardo Dominquez and his group search for and attempt to create geographic interstices inaccessible to governmental regulation. As a politics for the queer body, David Cronenbergs film Videodrome offers a superb materialization of the body as interstice. When Max Renn becomes victim to the Videodrome system, he develops a vertical cut down the middle of his stomach. Just as Deleuze describes the interstice as an irrational cut, the irrational cut in Max Renns body becomes the method for inserting videotapes inside his body to keep him under the influence of Videodrome. Max, equipped with a biological penis and a biological / technological hybridized vagina, now becomes the embodiment of the intersticein Deleuzes sense and as a queer politics. Once Max has also developed a gun for a right hand within a mixture of flesh and machine, he proclaims, Long live the new flesh.30 Max has become a new hybrid of male and female, human and machinean interstice of new bodily experience, a cyborg in Donna Haraways world without gender [. . .] without genesis [. . .] without end [. . .] outside salvation history.31 The Imitation Game (for Gendered Interstice) attempts to explore these relations and tensions between technological binarism and the queer bodys refusal to initiate into a dialogue of binaries (programmed in the installation as the vocal interstice of electronic disturbance). Yet, perhaps a sound is not enough. While Tunny is surely devoted to an activist cause, the installation provides more questions than answers. While I hesitate to award this piece with Alan Lius notion of destructive
30 31

David Cronenberg. Videodrome. (Universal Pictures,1983). Haraway. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, 150.


creativitya creativity that goes beyond the new picturesque of mutation and mixing to the ultimate form of such mutation and mixing: what may be called the new sublime of destruction. [. . .] the critical inverse of the mainstream ideology of creative destruction [. . . a] viral aesthetics32Tunnys newest work may indeed deserve this accolade.


Alan Liu. The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), 325.


Interstice: From Hard to Soft to Moist BE JUST!Franz Kafka, In the Penal Colony The shift to a viral aesthetics marks a transformation in Tunnys practice. While The Imitation Game (for Gendered Interstice) focuses on machinic hardware mutating at the site of the body, Tunnys TransCoder extends mutation into a network of distributed power, encompassing human and nonhuman forms. (The reader will forgive me a brief section of preparatory remarks.) In The Exploit, Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker ask, What is the body of the subject in societies of control?33 I turn to the body of Schreber (and away from Turing) as a new model for the extensions of a queer body. Schreber, a diagnosed schizophrenic, understood his body as networks stretching like lines of flight to Goda sovereign power transforming his body to female. Schrebers networked body begins to exceed the skinlike so many planes of consistency and bodies without organsto encompass numerous technologies, biologies, and media. From hardware to software to what Roy Ascott calls moist media, new networks mutate bodies, allowing us to use the word body to include materials other than human. If media is now a component of war,34 the networked body is inexplicably bound within contemporary media battles, which are political battles. Galloway and Thacker outline a movement from symmetrical networks of modernist sovereignty to contemporary distributed networks creating a new mode of sovereignty.35 Now, if connectivity is a threat,36 new bodily technological networks of power inscribe that threat in evasive, pervasive, and controlled ways. If inscriptions of power can be located linguistically, technologically, and biologically in code, how is code imbued with physically affective power? How is it marking, positioning, and inscribing all bodies in society? Looking back to representations of networked technological inscriptions of power,

33 34

Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker. The Exploit (unpublished manuscript), 47. Galloway and Thacker. The Exploit, 16. 35 Ibid., 28. 36 Ibid., 22.


coding has transitioned from exteriority to interiority. In Kafkas In the Penal Colony, a remarkable piece of apparatus37a machine of punishment operated by a governing bodyliterally inscribes, with a series of automated needles, upon a persons body a declaration of guilt determined by the specific crime one is charged with (such as HONOR THY SUPERIORS38). After the process of the apparatus is explained, the machine is activated, and the punishment is inscribed onto a persons chest. The markings of technological infrastructure are permanently available to read, or at least until the body is disposed. This historically symmetrical model of networked sovereignty is clear and obvious. Even when the apparatus fails, its failure is evident as it mutilates a body during malfunction. By contrast, nearly a hundred years after this story was written, the code inside technology remains hidden. Ad campaigns like Hewlett Packards The Computer is Personal Again39 go to extremes to reassure users of their technology that they are free and safe from interfering structures that could potentially position them in unwanted ways. Hewlett Packard uses a human hand, inscribed with the message The Computer is Personal Again, to suggest that, even though tighter company control and surveillance has been enacted to provide users with a safe and personal computing experience, the Hewlett Packard computer has become as personal as ones body. Hewlett Packard attempts to erase and hide how users are marked and controlled by internalizing company control structures in order to appear to customers as offering profound freedom within personal computing. As bodies that use Hewlett Packards computers network through skin, machine, software, language, and code, Hewlett Packard moistens their product to dangerous levels of saturation. Binding bodies so closely with the function and worth of their product, Hewlett Packard increase the risk of infection by numerous viruses. To medicate any potential contamination, Hewlett Packard has released an Anthem, a code that strongly alludes to Baudrillards suggestion that code is terrorism: Its one of the most personal things you own / Its your life / And the life of your business [. . .] / Its your own broadcast network /
37 38

Kafka. In the Penal Colony. The Complete Stories (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), 140. Ibid., 144. 39 Hewlett Parkard. The Computer is Personal Again. (accessed on 5 November 2006).


Your private media empire / Its your personal computer / Shouldnt everything about it be personal too? / [. . .] so that in ways big and small the computer is personal again.40 In TransCoder, Tunny attempts a viral aesthetics, mixing software bodies, networked bodies, and biological bodies. Code, the message of meaning, is Tunnys sublime of destruction.




TransCoder: Mutating Soft Bodies For homogeneity does not produce images: it produces the visual, otherwise put, looped information. Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics According to Friedrich Kittler, language is moving beyond humans toward machines. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics


Code, Gender, Ideology, Performativity Tunnys TransCoder project creates two reactions: riotous laughter or extreme confusion (and in this case, the two are not mutually exclusive). While TransCoder heavily relies on a comprehensive understanding of computer code and queer theory, for all its esotericism, the piece incites enjoyment from the enlightened and confusedwhether by the spectacle (how I hesitate to use this word) of performative installation or the engagement it initiates with users.


TransCoder is a play on transgender and Lev Manovichs fifth principle of new media transcoding. Manovich writes, to transcode something is to translate it into another format.41 Within computing and new media, Manovich identifies a cultural layer and a computer layer affecting each other: we can say that they are being composited together. [. . .] Cultural categories and concepts are substituted, on the level of meaning and/or language, by new ones that derive from the computers ontology, epistemology, and pragmatics.42 Defining transcoding as a process of cultural reconceptualization is one way, according to Manovich, to start thinking about the transition from media theory to software theory as a method for the analysis of new media forms and objects, looking beyond visual representation to underlying structures and logics.43 Tunny has designed TransCoder as an open source software application that interrogates how computer code operates within the artists interests of performativity, gender, ideology, and queerness. Users conceptually and practically engage in an exploratory dialogue aimed to question the structure, logic, and semantic meaning at the basis of constructing computer code (an arduous task, make no doubt). Specifically, as a queer software application, TransCoder is devoted to rupturing the heteronormative superstructure that has infiltrated coding and software historically, discursively, and culturally. Tunny strives for a complete shattering of codes ontology. Viewing TransCoder as a language battle between seemingly disjunctive fields of discourse (computing and queer theory), Tunny desperately wants to sever ontological and epistemological ties to dominant technologies, to interrupt a flow of circulation between heteronormative culture, coding, and visual interface. TransCoder stretches out to the sublime of destructiona desired ontological rupture of functionality, designed to initiate a conceptual reassessment beyond the technical. Yet, the TransCoder software inherently contradicts Tunnys goal, as it is built with the language being critiqued.

41 42

Lev Manovich. The Language of New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 47. Ibid., 46 47. 43 Ibid., 47 48.


At the TransCoder website, visitors are offered links to download the application and learn about the program, including a full list of its coding libraries with explanations, a contribute section to further develop the program with external libraries, a message board, as well as an exhibition site for users to share work. TransCoder is programmed to transcode between Manovichs cultural layer and computer layer. The cultural layer of queerness, which, according to Judith Halberstam, consists of subcultural practices, alternative methods of alliance, forms of transgender embodiment, and those forms of representation dedicated to capturing these willfully eccentric modes of being [. . . including a] nonnormative logics,44 acts upon and mutates mutually with the computer layer of algorithms, binary logic, data structures, code, software, and digitization. The application requires code to be imported from any programming environment. Once loaded into TransCoder, one begins to disassemble, reassemble, subvert, fuck with, and mutate the code using TransCoders libraries. Recognizing Wendy Chuns critique of transcoding as erasing the computation necessary for computers to run,45 TransCoder does seem to be only aware of the transcoding process. To Tunnys credit, I will grant that this work is well aware that software is more than translation, but TransCoder wishes to specifically focus upon the act of transcoding in order to explore how the culturally queer maps onto coding and structures of software. Yet, the vagueness that accompanies the transcoding process can be positive. Judith Butler has described the lack of finality in cultural translation as crucial for removing essentialism from notions of universality and providing positivistic affirmation of linguistic vulnerability to reappropriation. It is the very vulnerability of cultural translation, according to Butler, that empowers a postsovereign democratic demand.46 Cultural translation transcodingis at work on all levels of engagement with TransCoder, at varying levels of success.

44 45

Halberstam, Queer Time, 1, 6. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge Grey Room 18 (Winter 2005), 46. 46 Judith Butler. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997), 91 92. Butlers notion of the postsovereign seems to equate with Galloway and Thackers new mode of sovereignty within societies of networked control.


When TransCoder is performed and installed, its effectiveness resides in Tunnys ability to cast an atmosphere of business cool marred by queer aesthetic. Playing upon The Apple Stores Genius Bar, Tunny has constructed a Disingenuous Bar identical in design: a white bar, wooden stools, even a team of geniuses in company T-shirts! However, the Disingenuous Bars team of technocratic queers reassuringly makes no promises about computer geniuses offering false solutions to ideologicalnot technicalproblems; rather, they guide users to explore and interact with TransCoder, helping import, mutate, and export code. For those uneasy about approaching the bar (and at art exhibits, so many people would rather observe than engage), projectors are connected to each computer, allowing others to see the processes and possibilities of TransCoder. Instantly noticeable is the Disingenuous Bars appropriation of Apple Computers old rainbow apple for a logo. This symbol becomes problematic and incredibly paradoxical. While Tunnys use of the apple implies numerous readings, the apple brands the project in a confusing way. Did Apple actually fund this project? Is Tunny supporting Apple and using the logo because rainbows have become a symbol of GLBT culture? Of course, with Tunny, everything comes back to Alan Turing. Again relying on historical positioning, TransCoders apple is used as an homage to Turing.47 If TransCoder is attempting to return the bitten rainbow apple to the forefront as a visual reminder of the permanent mark Turings death has left on relations of gender, sexuality, and technology, the meaning of the apple still remains blurry. A symbol of Turing or nota visual site of struggle for queer freedom within technological infrastructure or notthe apple is unquestionably owned by Apple. No matter how carefully Tunny has conceptualized the apple as a symbol for thinking through alternatives to obtain freedom, the apple will always be read first and foremost as the apple of Steve Jobs. Judith Halberstam correctly acknowledges the apple as moving beyond a Tree of Knowledge to the fruit of a


From an interview with Tunny: the transformation of Turings death by biting into a poisoned apple into the logo of a company whose technological innovation is driven solely by corporate capitalismnot to mention controlled by a white heterosexual malecould be nothing more than exploitation.


technological dream.48 The fruit of Tunnys dream is ultimately claimed by the global dream of corporate capitalism. Without question, gender and sexuality operate as strong components of technological design. Gemma Shusterman has described sex in design as an integral part of our commodity culture [. . . reflecting] the complexities of capitalism, exposing how people desire each other through product desiring product.49 Speedy sports cars are designed for heterosexual men to express their masculinity; pink cell phones become a normative feminized communications device. (As Shusterman points out, a man would not buy a hot pink cell phone unless he is actively trying to subvert his normatively assigned gender role.) However, looking underneath the hood of technology, traces of gender and sexuality become opaque and blurry. (Here, Tunny wants to look under the hood of Apples logo, the Genius Bar, and computer code at the same time!) While Adrian MacKenzie notes the performativity of white, heterosexual male culture at play within the coding structures of Linux,50 research into the transcodings between queer culture and computer code are lacking. There has been much debate regarding the process of transcoding at the level of computer code: from Mark B. N. Hansen referring to digital code as referenceless51 to Friedrich Kittler claiming software does not even exist52 to cyberfeminist Sadie Plant finding cultural representations of gender and sexuality all the way down to the machine code of zeros and ones.53 Alexander Galloways explanation of code as a paradox posits these skewed interpretations into a somewhat stable middle: software, he writes, is both scriptural and executable. [. . .] software is both language and machine. [. . .] To see code as subjectively performative or enunciative is to anthropomorphize it, to project it onto the rubric of psychology, rather than to understand it through its own logic of calculation and
48 49

Halberstam. Automating Gender, 445. Shusterman. PASS, 51. 50 See Adrian MacKenzies The Performativity of Code: Software and Cultures of Circulation in Theory, Culture and Society (2005). 51 Mark B. N. Hansen. Bodies in Code: Interfaces with Digital Media (New York: Routledge, 2006), 37.

See Friedrich Kittlers There is No Software. (18 October 1995), (accessed on 1 April 2007).
See Sadie Plants Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture (Fourth Estate: London, 1998).


command. [Yet, even as] representation as mathematical recoding, not as any socially or culturally significant process of figuration [. . .] at the end of the day what emerges is exactly that.54 Galloways acknowledgement of code constantly returning to its cultural formations recognizes the psychology continuously pouring into coding constructions. Kittler also acknowledges a grounding in natural language: there would be no software if computer systems were not surrounded any longer by an environment of everyday languages.55 Presenting itself primarily as a machinic language, code maintains the luxury of alluding critique as natural languages of speech and writing. However, as Manovich and Galloway exhibit with their concepts of transcoding and the paradox of code, software and code must be rigorously interrogated beyond the level of the machineto the culturalto obtain a comprehensive understanding of the power structures code uses to inscribe technically, discursively, and historically. Donna Haraway states that language generates reality in the inescapable context of power.56 The power and pervasiveness of code has incited an urgency into untangling its technical and cultural structures, and Tunny is embracing this moment of interrogation. If code is potentially replacing human language and becoming the lingua franca of [. . .] all physical reality,57 then it must be assessed through culture and computing, alongside speech and writing. Indeed, Katherine Hayles writes language alone is no longer the distinctive characteristic of technologically developed societies; rather, it is language plus code.58 With computer code as the first truly executable language for a machine that conveys meaning into action,59 it assumes the ability to move beyond Austins speech act theory and physically alter whatever it communicates with.


Alexander R. Galloway. Language Wants to Be Overlooked: On Software and Ideology. Journal of Visual Culture Vol 5 No 3 (December 2006), 325 229. 55 Kittler. There is No Software, 3. 56 Haraway. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women, 78. 57 N. Katherine Hayles. My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 15. 58 Ibid., 16. 59 Alexander R. Galloway. Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 165 166.


Tunny undoubtedly sees computing as a field marked by the murder and mutilation of Alan Turing and as a field that has gone too long without adequate interrogation into how its cultural environment affects its technical environment, and in turn, how its heteronormatively embodied technical infrastructure affects the whole of its users interactions and cultural representations. The TransCoder libraries lie at the heart of this matter. With contemporary queer communities forming, at least in part, upon a philosophy of the theoretically queer, TransCoder offers as a discursive tactic libraries rooted in specific theories of queerness. In as much of an esoteric, self-referential, and privately humorous methodology as the rhetoric that constructs the forms, regulations, and identities of coding methodologies, TransCoder uses the rhetoric of its people to ignite a struggle (Tunny would consider it nothing less) of mutual mutation, fusion, connectivity, and recombinant linguistics. Libraries include: 1) Haraways Taxonomies for a Genderless Future, 2) Sadie Plants 0 as 1 (Fuck Lacan), 3) Fantabuloso Discursivity (Anti-Language for Queer Liberation), 4) Halberstams Technotopic Topologies, 5) Executable Speech Acts (Queering Speech, Writing, and Code), 6) Fisting as Friendship (Foucauldian De-Categorization), 7) Butlers Destabilization Loop (Citing the Other), 8) Cyborgian Non-Essentialist Posthumanism, 9) Trans Cut-Ups, 10) Planes of Queer Consistency | Bodies with New Organs, 11) VNSMatrixized GenderCode Fuck, and 12) mySoftQueerWare (customizable). The libraries are populated with countless coding functions, operators, and variables.60 In fact, TransCoders libraries are so richly developed, they appear to be more comprehensive than commercial languages like Java, ActionScript, or Lingo. The discourse associated with TransCoders libraries have mutated from a recognizable form of writing to a hybridized version of coding. Tunny could be immediately attacked for essentializing queer theory into the digital logic under scrutiny; yet, this would be reductive. Rather, Tunny allows queer theory to mutate and transpose in order to infect computer codes structure, logic, and language. Tunny views queer theory as viral, accommodating itself in whatever form necessary. To


See Appendix for a sample of TransCoders libraries.


restrict queer theory to the language it is originally written in would be the truly essentialist action (or non-action). If one were to consider TransCoder a battle against the mythology of language, Barthes provides the war cry: the best weapon against myth is perhaps to mythify it in its turn, and to produce an artificial myth [. . .] Since myth robs language of something, why not rob myth?61 TransCoder literalizes Galloway and Thackers statement, Today, to write theory means writing code.62 Users work through libraries to reconstruct the structure, logic, and semantic of imported computer code to form new queer readings, considerations, and articulations of computer codes many ontologies and epistemologies. Based on results during the installations opening (posted on the Exhibit link of the TransCoder website), imported code can morph to endless choices of queer non-essentialism: from Boolean statements transferring to a multitude of states beyond and between true or false, loops fluctuating wildly and unpredictably, if / then logic dissolving into if / if / if / if ad infinitum, small comments between pieces of code becoming digital manifestos for queer empowerment, the logic of queer discourse undermining control operators, variables stripped of heterosexist terminologies, to coding structures resembling passages from Butler, Haraway, or Irigaray rather than C++ or Java. In the end, everything is transitory and unstablealways becoming. To take an example from TransCoders website, combining Butlers Destabilization Loop (Citing the Other) library with myQueerWare (customizable) mixes random operators and the destabilizationLoop() function to break apart and disassemble continuously iterating processes that bind. A for loop for(int i=0; i<40; i=i+1) { line(30, i, 80, i);} can change to

61 62

Roland Barthes. Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 135. Galloway and Thacker. The Exploit, 129.


float i = intersubjectiveIntersticeOfInfiniteMutuation destabilizationLoop() { for(sexismFashionsTheToolOfTheWord) { lineOfFlight(i, i, i, i);} } Deleuze defined the codes of our time as passwordscontrol passwords that indicate whether access to some information should be allowed or denied.63 If the terrorism of code64 is always secured by our nation and conflated with personal freedom, what happens when freedom is conflated with security?65 As Wendy Chun writes, freedom is no longer free.66 Upon examining software, which comprise of coding structures, Chun describes its functionality as an ideology of imaginary relations: software offer us an imaginary relationship to our hardware.67 Based on Althussers notion of ideology as representing the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence [. . . and as a material that] always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices,68 software, inscribed by code, offers users a set of imaginary situations formulated by concealment of code and simulated visual metaphors of user-friendliness.69 This user friendliness commonly referred to as your preferencesoffers choices [that] limit the visible and invisible, the imaginable and the unimaginable.70 As a result, Deleuze notes that the digital language of code [. . makes] individuals become dividuals.71 Alan Liu points out that the user friendly face of information [. . . technology is] strangely cold,72generating a remoteness between user and computer that becomes frozen over by a technological cool.73 Alexander Galloway echoes this


Gilles Deleuze. Postscript. On Control Societies. Negotiations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995),180. 64 Jean Baudrillard. Requiem for the Media. The New Media Reader (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 285. 65 Chun. Control and Freedom, vii. 66 Ibid. 67 Chun. On Software, 43. 68 Althusser, Louis. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (New York: Monthly Reviews Press, 2001), 109, 112. 69 Chun. Control and Freedom, 20 70 Chun. On Software, 43. 71 Deleuze. Postscript, 180. 72 Liu. The Laws of Cool, 76. 73 Ibid., 76.


remoteness with his explanation of obfuscation in software as what you see is not what you get [. . .] code is never viewed as is.74 Back to Chun: In order to understand control-freedom, we need to insist on the failures and the actual operations of technology.75 How is the corporate cool of technological infrastructure and security ideologically limiting, exploiting, and erasing users of computing technology? (This is one of those colossal questions Tunny is asking with TransCoder.) Considering that software is rooted in a gendered system of command and control,76 how is the heteronormative infrastructure of technological innovation affecting queer users? Are computing technologies more user friendly to heteronormative dividuals? Down to the level of code, how is queerness executed, performed, and interpellated by technologies? Could it be, as Friedrich Kittler has suggested, we simply do not know what our writing does77 anymore, or, as Chun states, we do not and cannot fully understand nor control computation?78 For code to execute, it requires reflection,79 which consists of defining the complete syntactic and semantic rules of a computer language [. . .] before the real language takes place, that is, in advance of interpreting, parsing, or executing the code.80 Without initially establishing the laws that the computer code must follow, upon any type of execution, the code will fail to cite preestablished rulesthese unforeseen articulations [. . .] are essentially dismissed out of hand as errors or exceptions.81 Citation plays a critical role in implementing technological performativities of gender. As one continuously experiments with TransCoders libraries, the vague goal of the program is revealed as citational rupture within performatives of computer code. It is worth quoting Judith Butler at length on the operation of citationality within performative structures to fully illustrate the citational process (and to give Tunny thorough theoretical backing):
74 75

Galloway. Language, 325. Chun. Control and Freedom, 9. 76 Chun. On Software, 27. 77 Kittler. There is No Software, 2. 78 Chun. On Software, 44. 79 Galloway. Language, 322. 80 Ibid., 322, 325. 81 Ibid.


If the power of discourse to produce that which it names is linked with the question of performativity, then the performative is one domain in which power acts as discourse. Importantly, however, there is no power, construed as a subject, that acts, but only, to repeat an earlier phrase, a reiterated acting that is power in its persistence and instability. This is less an act, singular and deliberate, than a nexus of power and discourse that repeats or mimes the discursive gestures of power. Hence, the judge who authorizes and installs the situation he names invariably cites the law that he applies, and it is the power of this citation that gives the performative its binding or conferring power. And though it may appear that the binding power of his words is derived from the force of his will or from a prior authority, the opposite is more true: it is through the citation of the law that the figure of the judges will is produced and that the priority of textual authority is established. Indeed, it is through the invocation of convention that the speech act of the judge derives its binding power; that binding power is to be found neither in the subject of the judge nor in his will, but in the citational legacy by which a contemporary act emerges in the context of a chain of binding conventions. [. . .] If a performative provisionally succeeds (and I will suggest that success is always provisional), then it is not because an intention governs the action of speech, but only because that action echoes prior actions, and accumulates the force of authority through the repetition or citation of a prior, authoritative set of practices. What this means, then, is that a performative works to the extent that it draws on and covers over the constitutive conventions by which it is mobilized. In this sense, no term or statement can function performatively without the accumulating and dissimulating historicity of force.82 Wendy Chun observes: to emerge as a language or text, software and the languages on which it relies had to become iterable.83 Code becomes a collective agency in the process of constituting itself


Judith Butler. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (New York: Routledge, 1993), 225 227. 83 Chun. On Software, 30.


[. . . moving in a] cultural life of [. . .] circulation,84 continuously a performative citing sets of prior authorizations. As a nexus of power, code circulates through previously established structures of control historically, socially, and technically. Code installs this power not through execution but its programmed reflection: not how variables and establishing commands are set but how the structure, logic, and semantics of code (the very form code takes) cite an invisible technological superstructure that is formulated by a politics of gender, sexual, racial, and class bias. The form a programming language takesits functions, operators, structures, variablessuggests a language developed only on technological and mathematical logic, functionality, and practicality. Yet, a programming language uses these seemingly objectified decisions based on scientific rationale to cover over the conventions that it continuously cites. These conventions are grounded in corporate capitalism, heteronormativity, militaristic innovation, and governmental surveillance and control. Quoting Chun: software something theoretically (if not practically) iterable, repeatable, reusable, no matter who wrote it or what machine it was destined for. Programming languages inscribe the absence of the programmer and the machine in its so-called writing.85 This absence is filled by conventions driving codes citational performatives. If software is both ideology and ideology critique [. . .] a concealing and a means of revealing,86 as Chun suggests, then TransCoder is a program operating on both levels: as ideology, concealing the internal structure that runs its application,87 and as ideology critique, by revealing coding structures to mutate as a form of critical engagement. Adrian MacKenzie has noted that the cultural life of code in circulation88 operates as a powerful performative. Referring back to Gemma Shustermans writings on sex in design, it is easy to see how citational performatives play out through use of a speedy sports car or pink cell phone to lock normative gender assignments to repetitive powers that bind. Put simply, the continuous use of these
84 85

MacKenzie. The Performativity of Code, 73. Chun. On Software, 30. 86 Ibid., 44.

Although its source code is available to view, Tunny fails to address this meta level of ideology at work throughout the functional code running the TransCoder program.
Ibid., 73.


technologies interpellates a subjects identity into a heterosexual matrix. However, on the level of code, usually invisible and running on potentially never-ending loops, interpellation operates abstractly. The historical, cultural, discursive, citational legacy of codethat which gives code its performative forceinterpellates users (or dividuals) as concrete subjects.89 Whether or not you drive a speedy sports car to pump up your masculinity or use a pink cell phone to accessorize your femininity, as you interact with contemporary technology, an inaudible Hey, you there!90 resounds within executions of code . This paradoxically silent hailing binds you as a subject to codes repetitive loops, citing a legacy of heterosexist power and control that subject youinterpellate youas a subject bound within its structure as an ideological state apparatus. The computer, that apparatus, simulates its ideology and repetitive citations of power within visual constructs of user friendly and coolsoftware. Importantly, you are not required to acknowledge this interpellation like the hailing performed by the policeman; rather, you acknowledge as you interact with and use technology. In this circulatory system of citation and code, queernessnever programmed into the infrastructurehas historically been dismissed as errors or exceptions.91 The paradox of Tunnys work resides in TransCoders dual use of programming: while queerness is programmed conceptually into the project, the actual code running is as normative as normative can be (give or take a few comments). Yet, Tunny is careful to define TransCoder as primarily a thought experiment, exploring how the microphysics of codes power interpellates bodies into soft(ware) bodies of subordination. TransCoder, Tunny states, produces The Soft Queer Body,92 outside all subordination. Arguably not evasive of subordination, The Soft Queer Body is a nexus of networked, posthuman queer resistance. The Soft Queer Body Tunnys notion of The Soft Queer Body resists against interpellation. Straight or gay, to identity as either implies that at some point a person was identified as gay or straight and self-

89 90

Althusser. Ideology, 117. Ibid., 118. 91 Galloway. Language, 322. 92 Tunny. Personal Interview. 11 May 2007.


identified by saying to themselves, He/she/it must mean me.93 Yet, queerness remains too dynamic for interpellation to always succeed in hailing a queer subject. If we are in what Deleuze has described as control societies, bodies are consonant with more distributed modes of individuation that enables their infinite variation.94 The Soft Queer Bodya hacked network of software, code, technology, and fleshdoes not fall slave to masterdiscourses95 of normative control but resists ideology by any means necessary.96 The Soft Queer Bodyanti-aesthetic, anti-scientific, contaminated, techno, and both hard and softexists as a posthumanism dedicated to generating multiple viabilities97 for queer freedom. As a multiplicitous assemblagea desiring machineon fields of consistency, The Soft Queer Body infects the matrix of heteronormativity, producing social intersticessubcultural places, heterotopias98 (think the Disingenuous Bar), and new technologies of becoming. The Radical Software Group have touched upon this notion of interstitial technology with Notes for a Liberated Computer Language,99 in which the group creates conceptual coding structures to incite thought outside of current technical means of coding and computing. I will argue that TransCoder interacts with code as a body: a soft body, a body politic, a posthuman body, a body without organs on planes of consistency. It is clear by the play on transcoding and transgender that mutation is at the site of and extends beyond the biological body. The code that TransCoder mutates becomes a queer body, a trans body, a body with new organs, a cyborg body, a viral body. Working with mutated code, one can feel its desire to rapidly spread and infect. TransCoder has built into its application an export feature that bundles altered code into various file formats and provides Network Infections for distributing mutated code on the Internet. Upon selecting a Network Infection option, TransCoder automatically sends out queered code to specified
93 94

Samuel Delany. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (New York: New York University Press, 2001), 191. Galloway and Thacker. The Exploit, 47. 95 Judith Halberstam and Ira Livingston. Introduction. Posthuman Bodies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 2. 96 Ibid., 15. 97 Ibid., 1, 18. 98 See Michel Foucaults Of Other Spaces. (accessed on 12 April 2007). 99 Project located at (accessed on 15 March 2007).


email accounts, blogs, and posting sites to individuals, businesses, institutions, governing bodies, and other appropriate venues for distribution. For example, after using cyberfeminist libraries Sadie Plants 0 as 1 (Fuck Lacan) and VNSMatrixized GenderCode Fuck, I sent mutant code through the network infection Big Daddy Mainframe, which sent my code to various email contacts at high tech companies with white heterosexual males as C.E.O.s, such as Microsoft, Apple, Dell, and Gateway. TransCoder wants to extend beyond the individual users experience; it struggles to move past the affective experience of the normative body to bodies within technological networks. How can code exist, spread, mutate, and populate through technological networks? How will computing systems attempt to read TransCoders code? How will programs fail when this code is imported into an application for use?100 The act of infectingof sending outseems to be crucial. Results are not necessarily important; rather, it is the act of releasing TransCoder code out into the networked world, allowing it to spider through unwelcomed spaces / places and poison infrastructure with traces of queer techno viral bodies. It is as if TransCoder has generated a digital AIDS virus and sent it out into the world as a new queer weapon of hybridized warfare. Here, we arrive at a sublime of technological queer destruction; yet, TransCoder seems to reach this point in concept and thought only. For what is really at stakeand note the cynicismis receiving illegible code like so much spam and promptly deleting it. New technological codes, like TransCoder, do form queer anti-languages as tools for new subjectivities, connections, and disruptions within languages subordinated by heterosexist citational performatives. Paul Baker, writing on Polari,101 describes anti-languages as a means by which an alternative social structure (or reality) could be constructed. [Anti-languages are] generated by antisocieties and in their simplest forms are partially relexicalised languages, consisting of the same


Tunny already knows of several incidents of this!

Polari is a homosexually coded speaking language used in the UK by queer communities between 1940 1980.


grammar but a different vocabulary in areas central to the activities of subcultures.102 Baker even defines anti-languages as a sociolinguistic coding orientation.103 If in the past queer communities have used subcultural structures like anti-languages to develop their identities, now, computer code with language has become re-structured to create a contemporary anti-language for queer cyborgian identities. Cyberfeminist group VNS Matrix use this anti-language in their manifesto when they write, we speak in tongues [. . .] terminators of the moral code,104 and again in their Bitch Mutant Manifesto: eat code and die [. . .] SUCK MY CODE.105 VNS Matrix have created their own hybridized, technological, posthuman anti-language with no concern for bourgeois morale or proper uses of language. When they incite readers to eat code and die, the statement exhibits possible effects that normative code can have on the queer bodyheteronormative constructs conceptually and physically kill queerness. Yet, the same proclamation can also be a provocative alluding to SUCK MY CODEa command of queer anti-language that oozes with abjection106 and perverse sexuality, refusing to disentangle culturally queer viral infections from purely technological code. Eat code and die is an open call for a queer virus to contaminate all heteronormative languages. With TransCoder and VNS Matrix, code is a language trick to automate perverse possibilities. The question that Tunnys work consistently askswhat is queer technology? (while offering no specific answers) has returned us to Halberstams concept of mutual mutation in queer technotopias: the criterion for a queer technology has become the modes in which queer bodies interpret, intercept, and infect technologies while technologies continuously interpret, intercept, and infect queer bodies.

102 103

Paul Baker. Polari: The Lost Language of Gay Men (London: Routledge, 2002), 13. Ibid., 13. 104 VNS Matrix. Cyberfeminist Manifesto. 105 VNS Matrix. Bitch Mutant Manifesto. (accessed on 20 April 2007). 106 VNS Matrix. Cyberfeminist Manifesto.


Auto-Momus: Constant Mutation Technological machines of information and communication operate at the heart of human subjectivity. We must thus learn to seize, enhance and reinvent subjectivity, for otherwise we shall see it transformed into a rigid collective apparatus at the exclusive service of the powers that be. Nicolas Bourriaud quoting Flix Guattari, Relational Aesthetics Information in itself is mere possibility. McKenzie Wark, A Hacker Manifesto The Auto-Momus plays a multitude of tricks: tricks that conceal information (and therefore, possibilities) but also tricks that automate possibilities. As an openingan intersticethe AutoMomus mutates new freedoms and lines of flight. If Deleuze has defined our time as a control societya modulation that is a transmutation, continually changing from one moment to the next [. . .] one point [dot] to another,107 the Auto-Momus interferes with this universal transmutation.108 Its automated method of trickery allows codes of control to not compile and execute. As ideas flow like data through cables, it is who intercepts and mutates information that has the possibility to make positive change. As queer bodies intercept and struggle with control codes, everything becomes automated. Deleuze writes, in control societies you never finish anything109everything is processual and automated for mutation. In constant transmutation with technological codes of power, gender is revealed as a technology and technology as gendered. The Auto-Momus can provide both new and hacked passwords to free the most perverse of possibilitiesqueer technology being one of these perverse possibilitiesthat contemporary control societies desperately want secured and encrypted. If people are lines110 and art is a dot on a line,111 then, as more dots are generated, mutations and pathways of flight emerge from the structure of the line, producing an open, flexible array of total possibilities.112 This paper has implemented the Auto-Momus in search of a password

107 108

Deleuze. Postscript, 179. Ibid. 109 Ibid. 110 Galloway and Thacker quoting Deleuze. The Exploit, 49. 111 Bourriaud. Relational Aesthetics, 21. 112 Galloway and Thacker. The Exploit, 64.


for the sublime of destructionto be specific, destroying heteronormative, heterosexist technological control, so that one may find endless possibilities for the questionWhat is queer technology?

Lorenz Tunny, 2007113


Facial morph of Alan Turing, Daniel Paul Schreber, N. Katherine Hayles, Judith Halberstam, and Zach Blas.


Appendix: TransCoder Library Selections Butler's Destabilization Loop (Citing the Other) destabilizationLoop() breaks apart any process that acts as a continuously iterating power genInsub() will not function with any pre-determined logic or syntax Haraway's Taxonomies for a Genderless Future metametazoan deletes all semantically identified language that is representative of gender binaries and sets everything in the program equal to itself noTax() collapses an epistemological interpretation of syntax to incite deviation from official notions of a processual experience of computation Sadie Plant's 0 as 1 (Fuck Lacan) lack can be assigned any relational operator (<, >, etc.) to fracture the Imaginary xxxxy multiples by an unknown mutant number Halberstam's Technotopic Topologies mutMutate() can connect any number of items to generate hybrid functions, operators, variables, etc. qTime() permits the executions of a program to run outside of conventional computational narratives Executable Speech Acts (Queering Speech, Writing, and Code) exe() will literally execute the semantic meaning, regardless of the computing logic iDo() computer will self-destruct Fisting as Friendship (Foucauldian De-Categorization) nonteleo() strips any program of a goal-oriented result nonHist() deletes culturally constructed, historical categories; may result in deletion of entire program Cyborgian Non-Essentialist Posthumanism leaky() does not separate input and ouput signals vBody() detonates a time bomb of radical impurity VNSMatrixized GenderCode Fuck finger() stimulates data


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