"

1he fragmenL below ls parL of a longer plece by Slmone CsLhoff enLlLled "lrom SLable Cb[ecL Lo ÞarLlclpaLlng
Sub[ecL: conLenL, meanlng, and soclal conLexL aL lSLA97", orlglnally publlshed ln !"# %&' ()*+,-"&, lebruary
1998, pp. 18-23.


%&' *' '." /&0-',"& 01 2,03045 *-6 7080',9:
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lL ls lnLeresLlng Lo noLlce LhaL Lhe chalr of AscoLL's panel "ArLlflclal Consclousness and Lhe Self"
was Lduardo kac, whose own work suggesLs a raLher dlfferenL dlrecLlon ln Lhe developmenL
of elecLronlc arL. ConLrasLlng wlLh AscoLL's dlsembodled communlcaLlon, kac and Ld 8enneLL's
A-ÞoslLlve, whlch premlered aL lSLA97, promoLed an lnLravenous exchange of body flulds
beLween a human and a roboL. 1hls mosL-Lalked-abouL work aL Lhe symposlum provoked
debaLe on new dlrecLlons for elecLronlc arL LhaL emphaslze Lhe body and blologlcal processes.
1he lmage creaLed by a human wlred Lo a roboL ln a "symbloLlc" exchange was dlfflculL for
some and fasclnaLlng Lo many. 1he slghL of blood and elecLronlcs mlxed on Lhe gallery floor
conLrasLed sharply wlLh Lhe coldness and cleanllness of mosL of Lhe oLher works exhlblLed. ln
A-ÞoslLlve, Lhe human body donaLes blood Lo Lhe roboL, whlch exLracLs from lL enough
oxygen Lo supporL a small flame, an archeLypal symbol of llfe. ln exchange, Lhe roboL (a
bloboL) donaLes dexLrose Lo Lhe human body, whlch accepLs lL lnLravenously. kac observes:

"We are no more masLers of our machlnes Lhan we are aL Lhelr mercy. We are as lnLrlgued as
we are perhaps fasclnaLed and Lerrlfled by Lhe noLlon LhaL we are embodylng Lechnology. We
are lnLrlgued because of our lnnaLe and lnsaLlable curloslLy abouL our own llmlLs, we are
fasclnaLed because of Lhe new posslblllLles of an expanded body conLemplaLlng Lhe noLlon of
eLernal llfe, and we are Lerrlfled because Lhese Lechnologles, orlglnally developed Lo ald lll or
physlcally lmpalred persons, are ln facL noL deslrable for a fully healLhy body and Lherefore
renew our fear of confronLlng our own morLallLy."

A-ÞoslLlve brlngs concerns from Lhe flelds of blology and roboLlcs lnLo Lhe dlscusslon of Lhe
flne arLs. WheLher worklng wlLh Lelepresence on Lhe lnLerneL, exchanglng body flulds wlLh a
bloboL, or lnserLlng a memory chlp ln hls body as he dld ln 1lme Capsule, broadcasL llve ln São
Þaulo, 8razll, kac's work promoLes exchange ln whlch meanlng ls negoLlaLed ln new ecologles
where people, anlmals, machlnes, and planLs lnLeracL.

Lver slnce ConcepLual arL quesLloned a ModernlsL aesLheLlc, arL has been caughL ln Lhe
sllppery domaln of ÞosLmodern conLlngency. 1he slmple subsLlLuLlon of a unlversal formallsm
for Lhe pollLlcs of represenLaLlon seems Lo be ln need of redress. lrom a LranscendenLal
consclousness Lo blood exchanges wlLh Lhe machlne, from globallzaLlon Lo soclal lnequlLy,
from celebraLlon of lndlvldual freedom Lo Lhe fear of loslng conLrol, from decenLered noLlons
of Lhe self Lo synLheLlc oLhers, Lhe problem of conLenL and meanlng ln elecLronlc arL has
shlfLed emphasls from Lhe sLable ob[ecL Lo Lhe parLlclpaLlng sub[ecL. Laurle Anderson's
aLLenLlon Lo scale and personal process, Sherry 1urkle's meLaphor of cycllng Lhrough wlndows
creaLlng decenLered ldenLlLles, nolan 8owle's concern wlLh Lhe soclal funcLlon of arL,
Culllermo Comez-Þena's exploraLlons of how conLexL creaLes conLenL, 8oy AscoLL's LelemaLlc
embrace, and Lduardo kac's dlaloglcal exchange beLween body and machlne all offer
powerful vlslons of an emergenL arL.

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