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B(larneyOr(l)anAct
B(l)arneyOr(l)anAct:PosthumanIdentityinArt
MariaRobinsonCseke
Ilayonmyback,myheadandtorsohungprecariouslyovertheedge,myhandsgrippedtwometalbarsfixed
tothesideofthecastle,andkissed.Theexperiencewasthatofanamusedtourist,accompaniedbythefear
thatcomeswithhangingoverthesideofahighbuildinganddisgustwithkissingthesamestonethatmillions
beforemehadkissed.Butasanarteducator,IwasatBlarneyCastleinIreland,absorbingthearchitecture
andart,andrealizingthatmyglimpseintohistorywasbeingparalleledbyadvancementintothePosthuman
future.MystudentsandInowliveinawesternculturethatisbecomingvisuallysaturatedandtechnologically
supreme.Weexistinthenewmediaera,playingvideogames,cellularandvirtualchattingandconsuming
hugequantitiesofvisualinformationthroughtheTV,film,andtheInternet.Awornstonefrommedieval
historyseemsquaintbutcompletelyalientowhereweareheaded.Similarmixedfeelingsofexcitementand
fearaccompanyoursocietysmoveintothePosthumanfuture.
KissingthelegendaryBlarneyStoneisbelievedtobringthegiftofgab.Theskillofpersuasionand
eloquencemightbeconsideredanassettoanyeducator,butitisvisuallanguagethatisofparticularinterest
tothearteducator.Thestridesmadebyartistsareoftenvisionaryandprecedescientificadvancements.One
onlyhastolookattheideasintheoriginalStarTrekseries,likemotioncensoreddoors,wireless
communicators,andwallmountedvideoscreens,toseehowcreativenonsensehasbecomefuturereality.
ThisfuturecanbeconsideredaPosthumanfuture,wherehumanscandevelopnewcapacitiestorealize
whathasbeenpreviouslyincomprehensible.Artistsarethecreativethinkersthatcontemplateunchartered
possibilities.OneperspectiveofPosthumanismortranshumanismistheviewthatthebiologicalhumancan
beenhancedwithtechnologytobecomeamoreadvancedbeing.However,technologyhasbeenaround
sincehumansfirstinventedtools.Posthumanismchallengesanthropocentrism,challengestheclassical
nature/culturedivide,andendorsesasenseofcommunitybasedonempathy,accountability,andrecognition
withnonhumanagents(Braidotti,2006:Haraway,1992).IampositioningthePosthumanastheconstructby
whichhumansnegotiatebetweenanimalandmachine.Posthumanismdoesnothavetodoawaywiththe
human,butratherdecentersit.Posthumanscanfindabalancebetweenbiologyandtechnologyanidentity
negotiationthatisnotaneasytask.Onewaytounderstandthisbetteristolookathowidentityissuesare
tackledbyartistsduringposthumantimes.Inthispaper,Itakeacriticallookattheartworkoftwo
contemporaryartists,OrlanandMatthewBarney,tosupportmyclaimthatPosthumanidentitynegotiationcan
lieintheactofartmaking.Threemainquestionsaddressmythesis.
HowcanidentitybeaPosthumancondition?
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18/4/2014 Spaces - A Journal For Unique Arts and Humanities Research
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Cananartactbecomerevolutionary?
HowdoesthePosthumanconditionimpactartandarteducation?
Figure1:Orlanduringsurgery
Challenging
Standards.
Figure2:Barney,Cremaster1filmstill
GroundedintheEnlightenmentperiodoftheRenaissance,thetraditionalbeliefofwhatitmeanstobe
humanisabeliefinthesuperiorityofrationality,logic,scientificmethod,unification,freewill,andautonomy.
Humanismisthesearchfortruthandmoralitywithouttheologicalintervention.Whilehumanistsmayormay
notbelieveinadeity,theygenerallyrejecttheideathathumanaffairscanbesolvedthroughsupernatural
intervention.Humanismisanoptimistic,progressiveapproachthatplacesthehumanbeinginthepositionof
greatestimportancewithintheworld.Itisgroundedinfindingfulfillmentof/fortheself(Haraway,1991).Itisa
familiarandcommonapproachtoviewingtheworld,andfindsasupportivehomeineducation.Educational
humanismisatrendthatseesgreatimportanceandhumanityinhumanintellect.Thistypeofhumanismsees
thepossibilityofasuperioreducationsystemwherethereisanoptimumcurriculumandpedagogythatwill
workforallchildren.
Inarteducation,fulfillmentoftheselfthroughselfexpressionhasbeenthepremiseoftheTeacherasArtist
Model,wherecreativityandpersonalitydevelopmentwithminimallinkagetoartviewingandsocietalissues
arethemaingoals.TheDisciplineBasedArtEducation(D.B.A.E.)modelremainshumanistinitsprescribed
stepsinartcriticism,itspreferenceforWesternArtCanon,anditscontinuedfocusonselfexpression.
Althoughthesemodernistmodesofartpedagogyarestillemployedbythemajorityofpracticingartteachers,
currenteducationalpracticesaremovingawayfromasolelyhumanistapproach.Thepostmodernart
educationmodelhasdevelopedalongsideglobalizationanddemonstratesincreasedethicalconcernsthat
haverisenaccordingly.Throughvisualliteracyandcriticaltheory,thisformofpedagogyveersfromthe
humanistGrandNarrative,andadvocatestheacceptanceofmultipleperspectives.Forarteducation,Visual
StudiesismovinginthedirectionofthePosthumanbecauseitembracestechnologythroughnewmedia.It
alsopromotesmultipleperspectivesthroughemphasisonsocialjustice,powerrelations,andbothethical
andpoliticalresistance.
Oneposthumanistbeliefisthatourbrainsandbodiesrestrictourpotentialandprogresstowardnew
capacities.Thisdoesindicateselfmotivationforchangethroughtheincentivetobebetter.Itisprudentto
noteherethatthisdoesrevealsomeblurredborders,sinceitpositsPosthumanismasanendeavorin
instrumentalrational,whichisconsideredhumanist.Ourcreativitystruggleswithintheboundariesof
humanintelligence,imagination,andconcentration(More,1994,p.3).Freefromcorporealrestrictions,the
Posthumanisthesymbiosisofthebiologicalhumanandartificialintelligencethroughtechnical
enhancement(Hayles,1999).Inthisdescription,thePosthumanisdefinedasbeingthatisnolonger
human,astechnologyremoveslimitsofthespatialandtemporalrestraintsofthebody(Asma,2001).There
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arecreativeindividualswhoplaywiththeideaoftechnicalenhancement.TheAustralianperformanceartist,
Stelarc,fuseshisbodywithmedical,robotic,andcomputersystemstoextendhumancapabilities.Heturns
hisbodyintoahostforart:likecreatingfootagebycontrollingamovingvideocamerainhisstomach,or
enablingviewerstomanipulatehisfacialmusclesviamusclestimulationcontactsaccessedthrougha
computerterminal.KevinWarwick,aprofessorofcybernetics,hasimplantedamicrochipinhisarmthat
communicateswithcomputersinhisenvironment,whichrespondbyturningonlightsandopeningdoorsas
heapproaches.Warwickbelievesthathumanexistenceisseenmoreasanaccidentratherthanan
inevitability(2000).ThelistofartistsworkingwithinaPosthumanframeworkisgrowing.Twoartistsof
particularinterestandfocusforthispaperareOrlanandMatthewBarney.
OrlanisaFrenchperformanceartistwhohasfusedbiologyandtechnology.Shehasmanagedthisthrougha
seriesofninewidelypublicizedanddirectedplasticsurgeries/performancesbeginningintheearly1990s,
calledTheReincarnationofSaintOrlan.Participantsinthesurgicalperformanceswerefrequentlydressedin
designercostumesandpropslikefruit(figure1),plasticpitchforks,andskullswereplacedintheoperating
room.Shewouldreadpassagesfromselectedtextsontopicslikepsychoanalysisandfeminismunderlocal
anesthetic,andcreatedrawingsoutofherbloodduringtheprocedure.Shewouldconversewithviewers
duringsurgery,answeringquestionsreceivedthroughphoneoremail.Shebegantotransformherfaceby
adoptingfacialfeaturesofidealbeautydictatedbyartcanon.Shehadhermouthchangedtothatof
BouchersEuropa,herchinlikeBotticellisVenus,andherforeheadlikeanexaggeratedLeonardosMona
Lisa.Theforeheadimplantsweredeliberatelyenlargedandsomewhatresembledemonichorns(figure7).
Oneofhermessages,amongothers,hasbeenthattechnicalandmedicaladvancementcanbe
advantageous,buttheprocessishorrific.Idealbeautyisunattainableandbecomesacommercial
commodity.Herartisticintenthasbeenbothfeministandpsychoanalyticalandhasresultedinapostmodern
selfportraitviaherbodyasareadymade(Asma,2001Faber,2002Orlan,2007).Orlansartextends
beyondtheperformance,withblooddrawings,photographs,andsurgicalremainspreservedinjars,
exhibited,andsoldafterward.Herlaterworkconsistsofdigitalmanipulationsofherownfacewithvarious
culturalbeautyidealslikepreColumbian,NorthAmericanaboriginal,andAfrican(figure4).Orlandefines
herCarnalArtasanticonformistselfportraiturethatisexploredthroughthetechnologyofthetime(Orlan,
2007).
ThesecondartistthatItakeupisMatthewBarney.Initially,hisplacewithinthisdiscussionabout
Posthumanismmayseemlessobvious.HedoesnotusetechnologywithinhisownbodythewayOrlanor
Stelarcmight.Heusestechnologyinthemultimediaprocessoffilmmaking,inthermoplasticset/character
building,andinelaboratecostumemaking.BarneyisaperformanceartistwhotakesupWarwicksideathat
thehumanisanaccidentandalwaysevolving.BarneyslargestbodyofworkistheCremasterSeries.Thisis
aseriesoffive,featurelength,elaborate,experimentalfilms,producedoutofsequence.Althoughthe
sequenceofthefilmsandmuchoftheircontenthasbeenplannedbyBarney,thefactthattheyareoutof
ordersuggeststheideaofunpredictable,nonlinear,accidentalcreation.Barneyworksbetweendesire,
discipline,andproductivity.Heforegroundssportsanditseroticundercurrents(Keller&Ward,2006
Yablonski,2006).Withhisattractiontowetness(Rosenberg,2006),Barneyexploresthebodyandsexuality
throughthefrequentuseofpetroleumjellyinmanyscenes,directingparticularemphasistowardthe
meditationofsexualdifference.Throughmultipleroleplaying,Barneyexploressexualdifferenceby
transforming,oftenhisownbody,fromonegenderintoanother.Thetermcremasterreferstothemusclein
themalethatsuspendsanddrawsupthetesticles.Thismusclecontrolsthemetaphoricalambiguitybetween
maleandfemale.
InastillimagefromCremaster1(figure2)themaincharactersitswithherlegsapart,whileblockingviewof
hergenitaliawithherhands.Thespectatorisnotprivytowhetherthecremastermuscleisatworkhere.
CherriesoutlineBarneysfieldemblemforrestraint,anovalbisectedwithahorizontalbar.Thecherryhas
beenknowntosymbolizethefemalehymen.Thisrepresentationofvirginityisfurtherdevelopedbythe
womanswhitedress:justasthewesternbridetraditionallywearswhiteasasignofpurity.Theemblemitself
mighteasilyrepresentnotsomuchtheintercourse,buttheinterfaceofthefemaleandthemale.This
technologicaltermcanopposetheideaofvirginityasastatewhereonecantakefromtheother.Instead,the
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interfaceisasurfaceregardedasthecommonboundariesoftwobodies.
Anyboundarycrossingisanunexpectedchancehappeningratherthananexpectedcontinuityofsomething
predecided.Posthumanartusestechnologyorarrestingimagestopromotediscontinuity,andaccordingto
RobertPepperell(2005),goodartcontainsanelementofdiscontinuity.MatthewBarneydiscontinuesthe
expectedthroughgrandioseperformances.Theygrowoutoftheunexpectedresistanceofnolonger
subscribingtothenormsofmoretraditionalartisticstyles.
Figure3:Barney,makeupforCremaster4
Imperfecting
Identity.
Figure4:OrlanTricphale
Identityhasbeendefinedastheconditionofbeing,wheretheselfisaforcethatmattersintheworld
(Bracher,2006).WhileitmightbeeasiertoimagineaPosthumanconditionofbeingthatistechnologically
enhanced,likeavirtualavatarpersona,aPosthumanidentitycanbevieweddifferently.Consciousquestions
ofpersonalidentityareunderstandablyveryhumanisticandselfcentered.Theefforttomaintainones
identityisthemotivatingforcethatistherootofbehavior.However,moreoftenidentityperceptionand
maintenanceisaPosthumancircumstancethatworksattheunconsciouslevel.Personalawarenessis
minimalcomparedtothepartsofourselvesofwhichweareunaware.Evenbelowthesubconscious,the
unconsciousisofgreaterimportanceandistheseatofidentityformationandnegotiation.Byaccepting
identitynegotiationasalargelyunconsciousphenomenonasitdelvesbelowhumanconsciousness,then
identitycanbeseenasaPosthumancondition.
Psychoanalysisisawaytoinvestigatetherelationoftheconsciousandunconsciouspsychological
processes.WhileFreudandJungtreatedtheunconsciousasthesiteofprimaldrivestobetamedthrough
thepsychoanalytictreatmentofpsychicconflict,JacquesLacanviewedtheunconsciousasstructuredby
language.Thetraumatictruthspeaksoutintheunconscious.Lacanspsychoanalyticpracticeandtheory
forcesapersontofacethemostradicaldimensionsoftheirsocialandlibidinalpredicamentoftheirhuman
existence(iek,2006).
OrlanclearlydemonstratestheimportanceofLacanianpsychoanalysistoherartbyreadingtextsonthe
topic,underlocalanesthetic,duringsomeofherperformancesurgeries.Speakingofherwitnesstoherown
surgeries,OrlanmakesdirectreferencetoLacansmirrorstageinherCarnalArtManifesto.Iseemyselfall
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thewaydowntomyviscera(entrails),anewmirrorstage(Orlan,2007).LacansMirrorStageisastageof
earlyhumandevelopmentwhentheyoungchildseesher/hisimageforthefirsttimeaswhole.Thechild
knowss/heisseeingareflectionofwhos/hebelievesher/himselftobe,soisawarethattheimageisnota
truerepresentationofself.However,thechildwantsmorethananythingtobewhole,soadoptsthis
Imaginaryperceptionoftheself.WiththisImaginaryimageintact,theindividualcontinuallyreinforcesthis
identity.OrlanspeaksoftheprivilegeofseeingherselfdifferentlythanheroriginalMirrorStageprovided.
NotunlikeOrlansTricphaleimage(figure4),Lacanexplainsonehumanpsycheashavingthreeformsor
registers(Lacan,2002).Maintaininganidentityisnegotiatingabalanceinthesethreeregisters.The
previouslymentionedImaginaryregister,oftheMirrorStage,isthepartoftheselfdefinedbyvisual
representation.Itishowwebelieveweare.ThesecondistheSymbolicregister.Itistheconsciouspartof
theselfthatisdefinedbythelanguageofsociety.Itiswhoweknowweshouldbe,basedoncultural
boundariesandsocietalrules.ThethirdistheReal.TheRealregisteristheremainingpartoftheself,
definedbyaffectandgutresponse.Itiscompletelyunconsciousandwearegenerallyunawareofits
presence.Itrevealsitselfperiodically,briefly,andbeyondourcontrol.TheRealisthemostallusiveofthe
threeLacanianregisters,andistherootofourhumandesiresandtrauma.Orlanrecognizesthehuman
desiretotransformthebody,fedbySymbolicsocietalidealsofbeauty.Shehaschosentobecomeaparody
ofthisunrestraineddesireinherperformances(Faber,2002).Oncetherecognitionismade,thebodyparts
andthestillimagesoftheoncevisceralopenedbody,nowinagalleryandsoldascommodity,redefinethe
Imaginaryandanewselfimageiscreated.TheRealofthetraumaofsurgeryrecedesbackthroughafissure
intheidentitystructure.
MatthewBarneyssplitimage(figure3)helpstoillustratethespilt,orlackofwholeness,inasubjectsidentity.
Theattractive,realistichalfisreminiscentofBarneysmodelingdays.Itcontrastswiththedisturbing,
constructed,paintedsatirehalf.However,thissecondenhancedhalfisperhapsmoreReal.Itis
unexplainable,offputting,andevokesanaffectivegutresponsefromtheviewer.Itpresentsacreature
whosedesiresarelargelyunknown.ThepremiseoftheentireCremasterseries(Barney,2007)isasearch
formasculineidentity,whiledigestingrolemodels,fatherfigures,sexualdifferentiation,and
heteronormativity.TheseriesembracestheSymbolic,butallthewhilenegotiatingtheRealbyseemingto
postulate,savemefrommyself(Keller&Ward,2007,p.12).BarneysembraceofHollywoodand
characterizationissomethingmorelikeanamoroushalfnelson(Keller&Ward,2006,p.7).Itiscomparable
totheexperienceatBlarneyCastle.TheSymbolicastourismandeducationisfractured,justforamoment,
bythefearoffalling:theReal.TheRealistheunconsciousandtheuncontrollable:theposthuman.Within
thisPosthumancondition,theboundariesofselfhoodchangewhenconsciousnessnolongerguarantees
selfexistence(Hayles,1999).HaylesdefinesthePosthumanaspostconscious(1999,p.280)whenthereisa
shiftinthesiteofidentityfrombraintocell,orfromrationalthoughttoanimalinstinct.Theefforttomaintain
identityismanifestedintheFreudiandrivesoflibidoandaggression(Bracher,2006)bothprevalenttopicsin
Barneyswork.
Acting
in
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Figure5:Giant,Cremaster5,filmstill
Context.
Figure6:St.Orlan/St.Teresa
Inchallengingstandardsandnegotiatingidentity,resistancemusttakeplacetoinducechange.InA
ThousandPlateaus(1987),DeleuzeandGuattarirefertosmallcellularchangesasmolecularlinesofflightin
relationtoassemblage.Theyusethetermbecoming,whichwasoriginatedinHeideggersideafora
constantprogressioninatechnologicalrationaldrivensociety(Heidegger,1993),todescribethischange.
Forthem,becomingisnotaresemblance,imitation,oridentification.Becomingisconcernedwithanalliance,
butproducesnothingotherthanitself.Becomingisnotanevolution,butinstead,aninvolution.Becomingis
involutionary,involutioniscreative(Deleuze&Guattari,1987,p.238).Here,involutionisaninstanceof
complicatedinvolvementthatisbothproductiveandoriginalchange.Whileinstrumentalproductivechange
istypicallyassumedtobehumanist,originalchangethatstemsfromtheRealcanbeconsidered
posthumanist.iekbelievesanactofabsolutefreedomiscentraltochange,andatruesenseofbecoming.
HemaintainsthattheactistheonlyeventcapableofreconfiguringtheSymbolic(Grigg,2001iek,1992).
AnactofabsolutefreedommustdisturbtheSymbolicorderandrupturetheReal,bybeingradically
disruptive,transgressive,andevenunethical(Dean,2006).Theactdoesnotonlytransformthesubject,but
mustalsobeunintentional,undemocratic,risky,andviolent.Artmakingcanbeapolitical,absoluteactifitis
radicallydisruptiveandunplanned.Artneedstoberevolutionaryifitistocreatechange.
BothOrlansandBarneysworkdisrupt.Orlanbelievesthatartmustdisturbboththeartistandtheviewer,
forcingustoquestionitsdevianceandsocialproject(Orlan,2007).TheglutinouspetroleumjellyinBarneys
workissoevocativeofbodilyfluidthatitstransgressiveandtactilepresencearreststheviewer.WhenOrlan
beganherperformancesurgeries,shewasapioneer.Viewingopensurgeryiscertainlydisturbingandthe
violencetowhichshesubjectsherselfforcesavisceralunderstandingontotheviewer(Faber,2002).
Whethertheartactslackethicsandplanningaremoredebatable.Whilethesurgeriesarenotdefinedas
medicallyunethical,therearequestionableareaslike,beneficence,nonmaleficence,anddignity.Any
surgery,aswellassetandcostumedesign,requireplanning.ThesurpriseisinOrlansownbodilyreactions
totheprocedure,andintheimmediateaudienceparticipation.OrlanandBarneyarebothgutsy,attempting
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toaccesstheReal.Theyareabletotransgressthroughtheirowncourage,andthroughthemediumofthe
body.Barneysownfatheradmitted,(Matthew)doesntseemtohavesomeofthefearstherestofusdo.He
seemstogostraightatitandfindawaytodoit(Shaffer,2003).TheviewerconsumesCremaster,withits
elaboratecostumes,candycoloredsets,andexcessiveproduction(figure5)whileCremaster
simultaneouslyconsumestheviewer.Barneycontrolstheconsumptionoftheviewerbyusingcharactersthat
existinourmemoriesthroughmyth,film,andfairytale.Throughlayeringsuggestion,heprevents
stereotyping,notallowingtheviewertosettleinonemeaning(Freedman,2003,p.60).Bothartistsareableto
questiontherestrictionsandlimitationsoftheSymbolic.OrlanquestionspatriarchalidealbeautyandBarney
questionsconsumption.
Identityisdeterminedthroughlanguage,andinformationpatternsforidentityexistintermsofcontextthrough
inclusionandexclusion.Fullidentificationmakesthelinkbetweenthephysicalpersonandtheinformational
pattern.Artemergesoutofasearchforpattern.FromaPosthumanperspective,informationalpatternis
privilegedovermaterialevidenceorembodiedenaction.However,Haylesstressesthatembodimentisthe
essentialenablinggroundforhumanexistence(2000,p.51).(E)mbodimentmakesclearthatthoughtisa
muchbroadercognitivefunctiondependingforitsspecificitiesontheembodiedformenactingit(Hayles,
1999).Contextdetermineswhatspecificitiesareincludedorexcluded,sodirectlyaffectsidentity.Orlanand
Barneycreateasetofcircumstancesinwhichtheirartoccurs.Thecharactersembodiedintheirartwork
determineacontextfortheirartmessage.InCremaster5,oneofBarneyscharactersistheQueensGiant
(figure5).Inaclimacticmoment,withribbonsattachedtohisscrotum,thecremastermuscledescendsthe
testiclesandtheGiantemergesasafullydifferentiatedstate(Barney,2007).Inthiscontext,Barneyuses
patternsofidentificationtocreateacharacterthatexhibitstheprocessofsexualdifferentiation.Thisprocess
oractspeakstoBarneysnegotiationwithhisidentitystructuresregardinggender.Likewise,inaphotograph,
St.Orlan(figure6),dressedinsculpturaldrapery,contrastswithBerninissculptureofSt.TeresainEcstasy.
ThoughappearingtoembodySt.Teresa,Orlanscontextquestionsthehypocrisyofthefemaleimagein
patriarchalcanon.Withonebreastexposed,acomparisoncanbemadebetweenthenursingMadonnaand
thesinglebreastedAmazonwarriorstothepinupandprostitute.
BarneyandOrlanmanipulatethecontextofartifactsfromtheirproductions/performancesthroughexhibition
andcapitalism.Theactofchangingcontextisanactofmanipulatingmeaningandnegotiatingidentity.
Barneycelebratescommoditybyproducingproprelicsthatareostentatiousbutareremodeled,becoming
uselessintheiroriginalpurpose,likethestilettoshoeinCremaster1,withaspoutatthetoe(figure2).Butin
thiscelebrationiscritique.Barneyusesblockbusterfilmscaleandcost,buthasonlyshownhisfilmsin
gallerysettingsratherthanmultiplextheaters.Cremaster3wasfilmedintheGuggenheimmuseuminNew
York.Inthiscase,themuseumbecomesbotharelicandreliquaryforitself.Orlanexhibitsandsells
reliquariesbitsofherbodytissueinjars.Thecontextofthistissuechangesasitmovesfrompartofawhole
topiecesondisplay.OrlannegotiatesherownidentityfromanimaginedwholetoanexposureoftheReal
resultinginthebodyinpieces.Tosuccumbtocapitalismbysellingpiecesoftheselfistoblatantly
demonstrateourattachmenttotheSymbolic,andthepartitplaysinthedividedsubject.
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Figure7:Orlanasmonster
Emerging
Ontology
Figure8:BarneyasApprenticeinCremaster3,
filmstill
Makingitisnotthesameascontrollingit.Thiscanbesaidfortechnology,art,andeducation.Likethefateof
theEnteredApprenticeinCremaster3,gettinghisteethbashedin(figure8),hubriscouldresultindisastrous
consequences.Withthefearofourownarrogance,comesthedistopicfearthatwewillbecontrolledby
technology.BothBarneyandOrlanareadvocatesforrelinquishingatleastsomecontrol.Orlanrecognizes
societiesfearsWethinkthattheskywillfallonourheadsifwetouchthebody(2007).AsOrlanssurgery
performancesprogressed,shefacedthisfearandbegantocreateamutantbody.Throughcomputer
generatedimagesshecombinedherownbodymachinewithvirtualmanipulations.InFigure7,Orlan
embodiesthebrideofFrankensteinthroughadisembodiedhead.Themutantbodyevolvesintotheheadof
amonster.Sheisbecomingmonster.ThelinedrawingssimultaneouslyresembleFrankensteinsmonsteras
wellascomputercircuitryontheface.Orlanparallelsbecomingmonsterwithbecomingmachine.Artisa
constantinbecoming.Sotooaretechnologyandhumanity.DiamondandMullen(1999)wroteapoemabout
artasinquiry,ending:
Arttakesitsfirstawkwardstepsasinquiry
Grasping,lurchingforth,stretchingnewfoundlimbs,
Apatchquiltofillfittingparts.
Head,heart,fingers,andtail
Allcastoutfromdyingzone(s).
ThePosthumanconditionisaphaseinartsinvolutionofbecoming.Iadvocatethatartispartofourontology.
Itisanactivecomponentinthesystemforhowweexist.Asiekproposed,anactthatisrevolutionary,that
istochangetheSymbolicinhumanidentity,isoutofcontrol.LikeFrankensteinsmonster,revolutionaryart
mustbeoutofcontrol.Onlythenwillitchangehumanidentity.Ifartisusedasresistance,inquiry,and
education,thenalackofcontrolisaproponentforall.Itseemstheacademicworldexperiencesthemost
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difficultywithartasresearchbecauseofthislackofscientificcontrol.Likewise,theeducationalinstitutionis
builtoncontrol.Itseffortstostandardizetests,enforceadherencetowrittencurriculum,evenpedagogical
practiceslikeclassroomseatingandascheduleboundtotheclock,allspeaktotheimportanceofcontrol.I
ambynomeanssuggestingthatthesepracticesarealldetrimentaltostudents,andtheycertainlymake
teachingeasier,butIamproposingthatonlywitharelinquishingofsomecontrol,canchangetakeplace.
Changeisarequirementfornature,improvement,andtheunfoldingofthePosthuman.Whenanew
Posthumanperspectiveopensuptoeducators,wecanentertainthepossibilityoflookingatouridentity,our
role,andourinfluencewithgreaterbreadthandlessegocentrism.Atleastwemightgainabetter
understandingofourownImaginaries.
ThePosthumanviewsthebodyastheoriginalprosthesisadevicethatsubstitutesorsupplementsadefect.
Theprostheticprocessstrivesforimprovementsasitcontinuesandextendsbeyondwhatexistsbefore.In
BarneysstillimageoftheApprentice(figure8),asatinclothextendsfromhismouth.Likeaprosthetic,the
healthy,peachcoloredcloth,replaceshisinjuredgumsandteeth.Theartistsvirtualprosthetics,likevideo
andcomputergraphics,replacesthepaintbrush.TheeducatorsPosthumanprosthetics,likeonlineteaching
andsmartboards,replacedittocopiesandactuallibraryvisits.Arteducators,bytakingupVisualStudiescan
beopentoourchangingsocietyandchangingidentitiesasindividualsandhumans.Throughanawareness
ofLacanianpsychoanalysis,wecanincreaseourunderstandingofidentityformationinourstudents,society,
andourselves.InRadicalPedagogy:Identity,Generativity,andSocialTransformation(2006),MarkBracher
suggestsspecificmethodsforteacherstoaccomplishthis.Heunveilsidentityunderminingpedagogies,and
thendefinesculturallyinclusiveidentitystructuresthatcouldsuccessfullybetakenupbyteachers.Teachers
canprovidebridgingexperiencessothatcurrentstudentidentitiescanincrementallyenactandtransformto
becomemorecomplexandinclusive(Bracher,2006).Arteducators,inparticular,canintroducestudentsto
artistsworkthat,asaformofinquiry,investigatesthePosthumancondition.Wecanbroadenourdefinitions
ofarttoincludenotjustaesthetics,butmodesofsocialchange.Inturnwecanencourageourstudentsto
makeartthatisnotcompletelycontrolled.Wecanallowroomforinventionandthepossibilitiesofchance
thatmayleadtochange.Onlyradicalartmakingcanberevolutionary.Therestismediocre.Thedebateasto
whetherlifeimitatesartorartimitateslifeisnottakenuphere.Rather,itisthatPosthumanartandlifeimpact
oneanother,andeducationgrowsoutofboth.Alldisruptthesysteminhowweexistasartists,teachers,
students,andembodiedhumans.Ifeducationisahumanendeavor,thenwebecomemorehumaneby
"steppingaway"alittlebitfromwhatitmeanstobehuman.Inthisway,educationbecomesaPosthuman
endeavor.EducationintheartsandhumanitiesthatexploresthePosthumanwithstudents,stepsoutsideof
theboxandlooksathumanityandidentityfromanewperspective.
OrlanandMatthewBarneycreaterevolutionaryartworktonegotiatetheiridentitiestowardaPosthuman
existence.Revolutionaryartinducesbecomingsomethingnewthroughchangechangeinsociety,and
changeinhumanidentity.Thisinvolutionofbecomingisbroughtaboutbyanactofabsolutefreedom.
BarneyandOrlanillustratethatthisactcanbeaccomplishedthroughartthatdisruptsboundariessetupby
theSymbolic.Thisartrupturesorjoltsthroughaffectiveemotion,theLacanianReal,muchlikethefearof
danglingfromBlarneyCastle.AnditisattheRealthatthehumanbecomespost.Itisatthelevelofthebody,
thecell,thattheselfmustbalancebetweenbeingauthenticandbeingartificial.Itisanegotiationbetween
beinganimalandbeingmachine.Itisamolecularbecomingofsomethingnew,apartofsomethingmore
inclusivethanourownselfimportance.TheSymbolicisthenreconfiguredthroughpattern,embodiment,
context,andcontrol.TheeraofPosthumanismisliketheLacanianunconscioustruth,itmaybean
unbearabletruth,butwehavetolearntolivewithit(iek,2006).Infact,theskyhasnotfallenonourheads.
Insteaditisfullofpossibilitiesofwhowewillbecome.Challengingstandardsandstrivingforimprovement
throughtechnologyandeducationisonlythebeginning.Forarteducation,emphasisbecomeslessonself
expressionandartforartsake,andmoreonculturalawarenessandacontributiontoacollaborativehistory
ofart.Asartists,educators,andscholars,wewoulddowelltocontinueourPosthumaninvolvementby
embracingourfuture,lurchingforth,andrunningwithit.
Images:
Figure1:Orlan,surgeryimage.RetrievedonAugust31,2008,from
18/4/2014 Spaces - A Journal For Unique Arts and Humanities Research
http://www.tc.columbia.edu/spaces/fall08/robinson-ceske-blarney.html 10/11
http://www.burrac.com/ah/45/Orlan,%20Mouth%20for%20Grapes,%201990.jpg
Figure2:BarneyCremaster1image.RetrievedonAugust31,2008,from
http://www.acmi.net.au/global/images/lib/c1_cremaster.jpg
Figure3:Barney,makeupforCremaster4image.RetrievedonAugust31,2008,from
http://www.govindagallery.com/pages/exhibitions/seliger_05/seliger_gallery/images/matthew_barney.jpg
Figure4:OrlanTricphaleimage.RetrievedonAugust31,2008,from
http://www.artpool.hu/harmas/oszi/nevek/orlan.html
Figure5:BarneyasGiantinCremaster5image.RetrievedonAugust31,2008,from
http://www.bloggers.it/Aurelogia/itcommenti/mb.jpg
Figure6:St.Orlan/St.Teresaimage.RetrievedonAugust31,2008,from
http://www.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ecook/courses/eng114em/saintorlan.JPG
Figure7:Orlanasmonsterimage.RetrievedonAugust31,2008,from
http://oldsite.vislab.usyd.edu.au/education/schools/guests/sharon/orlan_welcome.jpg
Figure8:BarneyCremaster3image.RetrievedonAugust31,2008,from
http://siteimages.guggenheim.org/gpc_work_large_60.jpg
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