Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto, Socialist Review (US), 1985

This is a short ongoing anthology that helped me understand my cyborg’s nature. There are many texts where I found guidance, and in some cases I left them behind because my identity and subjective awareness feels everything but static, given values. I like to begin with “The Cyborg Manifesto,” first published in 1985, the year I was born. I will slowly add here more recent wordings that suggested me new understandings and shaped my thinking.

Lynn Randolph made this painting in collaboration with Donna Haraway: "So I placed my human-computer/artist/writer/shamans/scientist in the center and on the horizon line of a new canvas. I put the DIPswitches of the computer board on her chest as if it were a part of her dress. A giant keyboard sits in front of her and her hands are poised to play with the cosmos, words, games, images, and unlimited interactions and activities. She can do anything. The computer screen in the night sky offers examples. There are three images that graphically display different aspects of the same galaxy, using new high-technological imaging devices. Another panel exhibits a diagram of a gravity well. The central panel offers mathematical formulas, one from Einstein and the other a calculation found in chaos theory. In the same panel a game of tic-tac-toe has been played using the symbols for male and female and the woman has won. The foreground is a historical desert plain replete with pyramids, implying that the cyborg can roam across histories and civilizations and incorporate them into her life and work. Finally I placed the shamanic headdress of a white tigress spirit on her head and arms. The paws and limbs of the tigress reveal its skeleton. They both look directly at the viewer. The underlying intent was to create a figure that could visually do what Haraway was describing as the potential for re-figuring our consciousness."
Lynn Randolph’s “Cyborg” painting, that became the cover of her new book “Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature.”

The image’s alt-text, is an excerpt form Lynn Randolph’s “Modest Witnesses: A Painter’s Collaboration with Donna Haraway” in which the authors describe the composition of this painting and unpack its iconography. It feels great to find an artist creating another way to access their work, beyond vision.

Link to a digital copy of the essay, available on Internet Archive.

Audiobook version of “A cyborg manifesto.”

Donna Haraway, From Cyborgs to Companion Species: Dogs, People, and Technoculture, September 16, 2003.

Donna Haraway presented her lecture as the 2003-2004 Avenali Chair in the Humanities at the Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley. Haraway is a prominent theorist of the relationships between people and machines, and her work has incited debate in fields as varied as primatology, philosophy, and developmental biology. Haraway’s The Cyborg Manifesto, first published in 1985, is now taught in undergraduate classes at countless universities and has been reprinted or translated in numerous anthologies in North America, Japan, and Europe.

Courage is a muscle

a poster of two women kissing. 
the one on the left is a light skinned woman in a hijab with sunglasses on her head. her eyes are closed and her lips and intertwined with a black woman who is on the right hand side of this poster. the black woman is wearing a fabric around her head also. they are embracing each other and holding each other lovingly. at the top of the poster is one word in two different languages. COURAGE in English and Arabic. In Arabic it is pronounced 'shaja-ah'

I travel allot for work.

In the last week alone I’ve been in Venice, London, Bradford and Sheffield.

Often my ideas don’t just come from working in my studio, but from exploring outside and beyond binding walls.

I was at a talk on Saturday, at the Bradford Literary Festival, with some phenomenal women writers.

The topic was Bell Hooks and her book; all about love and the impacts it has had on so many, us included.

There was a speaker there, Mona Eltahawy who reminded us to write with courage.

To exist in it.

‘Courage is a muscle, and you have to exercise it’

I was reminded of a poster made for the streets of Italy. Why Italy? Why not Italy?!

This poster sits in my studio and in my home.

It is an image I use in workshops to instigate discussions. Discussions which are always fascinating to hear.

I think it’s so beautiful. And I think it’s something that everyone needs to see. You’re welcome.

The artist @doublewhy_y (instagram)

Self-actualisation dogma

‘The California Ideology’ is an essay by media theorists Barbrook and Cameron written in 1995. They argued that the techno-utopic ideals propagated from Silicon Valley enthusiasts such as innovation, connectivity, and so on, was paradoxically driven by a radical sense of individualism, counterculture, and neoliberalism. These tech pioneers believed that wider and instant distribution of knowledge would liberate everyone from political grasps. However, today we realise that hypothesis is not the case.

Watching the two videos of Zuckerberg and Musk, what I find eerie is how they market their commodification of us, the users, as something virtuous and a necessary feat for human ‘advancement’. Musk’s argument for archiving human consciousness on Mars, in case of global humanitarian disaster, is essentially an eloquent phrase for continuing modern human colonisation. At what cost does this come at? It’s not only about personal privacy, but the cost for ‘greatness’ comes at the price of Earth’s resources, degradation of communities and infrastructures, and succumbing to our computer-generated identities, therefore eroding our socio-cultural structures of our material reality. So once the dreams of techno-utopists such as Musk and Zuckerberg are achieved, what is actually left for the community when we are not behind the computer’s gaze. I feel this rhetoric and ideology is highly contradicting and is more trapping than ‘liberating’. I’d go as far to argue that this equation of online = connected communities is a fallacy…

Transcript: Video #1

Interviewer: So on that kind of launch rate, you’re talking about it over two decades you could get your million people to Mars essentially. Who’s city is it? Is it NASA’s city, is it SpaceX’s city?

Musk: It’s the people of Mars’ city The reason for this I mean, obviously like why do this thing, I think this is important for maximizing the probable lifespan of humanity or consciousness. Human civilization could come to an end, for external reasons like a giant meteor or super volcanoes or extreme climate change or world war three, or you know, any number of reasons. The probable lifespan of human civilizational consciousness as we know it, which we should really view as this very delicate thing, is like a small candle in a vast darkness
. That’s what appears to be the case.

Transcript: Video #2

As I look around and as I travel around the world. I’m starting to see people and nations turning inward against this idea of a connected world and global community. I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others. For blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade, and in some cases around the world even cutting access to the internet. It takes courage to choose hope over fear. To say we can build something and make it better than it has ever been before. You have to be optimistic to think that you can change the world. And people will always call you naïve but it’s this hope and this optimism, that is behind every important step forward. Our lives are connected and whether we are welcoming a refugee fleeing war, or an immigrant seeking new opportunity, whether we are coming together to fight global disease like Ebola, order to address climate change, I hope that we have the courage to see the path forward is to bring people together, not push people apart. To connect more, not less. We are one global community.

I recently read the illustration book by artist Manjit Thapp. In it she tells the story of her mental health and state of my mind though-out a year through short poetic sentences and her incredible artwork. I was inspired by her ability to capture the feeling of time passing in still images. I wanted my artwork to reflect the process and time that goes into creating an artwork.

So much of this project was inspired by watching the illustration master Kim Jung Gi live drawing videos, which I become obsessed with. The way he draws without hesitation while keeping so much detail in his work got me wondering if he had the whole artwork mapped out in his mind or if he was improvising. He also talks about drawing perspective and anatomy which is something I always felt was holding me back. Since I’m self taught and never studied art I feel I skipped a lot of the basic fundamental skills of drawing. Which inspired me to explore the balance between skill and creativity within the creating process.

Our modern relationship with death

Funeral rites represent an important part of collective behaviour in human societies.  According to researchers, humans conducted the earliest burials (i.e. bodies deposited in deliberately excavated graves), deriving from caves in Canaan dating to 90 000–110 000 BP (Before Present).

However, with changes in economic and technological development, the free communal labour and services that were traditionally required for funeral ceremonies have diminished. In most parts of the world today, professional services are required to hold one’s ceremony. The free labour of the community typically involves excavation, touching or cleaning the body itself, building material structures, crowd choreography, gathering offerings, and much more. This type of ritual also embodied a collective social agreement of care, responsibility, and sealing the ‘archive’ of one’s body and spirit.

Now, with the commodification of funeral services and convenience of digital access, it seems that funeral rituals have not only become commodified but turned into a spectacle for entertainment. I use the word ‘entertainment’ lightly but it’s more so to signify the desensitisation we have towards death due to frequency that we see it through the computer’s gaze.

One recent memory I have about this was the reaction to Kobe Bryant’s death. The live television broadcasts and online streams of his ceremony seemed surreal because of how someone’s death could be commodified for digital spectatorship and entertainment. On the one hand, you have people grieving the real person, then on the other you have people grieving the persona, all in real time – physically and digitally.

Three figures emotionally speaking at the funeral service for basketballer Kobe Bryant. The NBC news icon is situated in the bottom-left side of the image.
Image description: Michael Jordan, Vanessa Bryant, and Jimmy Kimmel speaking at Kobe Bryant’s funeral service.

From a sociological perspective, this appears as a subtle erasure towards the collective labour and social bonds with the dead due to modernisation. In the online sphere, businesses market the illusions of a community when in actual reality in order for us to participate online and utilise our power to ‘post’ or ‘comment’ it requires a sense of radical individualism and self-actualisation. And so, without these communal hands-on elements involved in traditional funeral rites, and increased accessibility to viewing livestreams of funeral and memorial services, how does this affect our relationship with the dead and our own sense of mortality?

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Poem titled 'All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace' by Richard Brautigan, followed by poem text.
Image Description: Poem titled ‘All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace’ by Richard Brautigan.

Text reads:

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

by Richard Brautigan (1967)

I think this poem is interesting as it resists the dystopian thought of technology. Instead it imagines a techno-utopia: what if all the computers and robots could release humans from capitalistic labour and we could finally live freely with nature? It expresses that if we only imagine a dystopian nightmare, perhaps that is what we will get and simply manifest.

Then again, I don’t think anyone imagined the Internet or technology to get quite dark than it has already. As much as I admire his positive optimism and as much as I want to dream… this is also what I imagine Musk and Zuckerberg would recite to themselves to justify their actions. But I also question myself whether I’ve been encapsulated by this ‘dystopia’ mindset.

The Machine Stops

Image description: Page and highlighted paragraph from ‘The Machine Stops’ by E.M. Forster

Text reads:

The Machine, they exclaimed, ‘feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. The Machine is the friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition: the Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine.’ And before long this allocution was printed on the first page of the Book,
and in subsequent editions the ritual swelled into a complicated system of praise and prayer. The word ‘religion’ was sedulously avoided, and in theory the Machine was still the creation and the implement of man. But in practice all, save a few retrogrades, worshipped it as divine. Nor was it worshipped in unity.

‘The Machine Stops’ by E.M. Forster (1909)

I’ve read this short story a few times and it touches upon a lot of ‘optimistic nihilism’ within the technological dystopia that’s explored. Forster’s story influenced a lot of how I think and frame ‘technological innovation’, and it’s interesting how the idea of ‘worship’ always pops up. We worship objects, people, places, entities, spirits, abstractions, and the dead. These rituals are supposed to show what we care about and value, forming solidarity, however before technology these practices were seen through the ‘human gaze’. Nowadays, a lot of our influences and judgements are through a ‘computer gaze’. Breaking it down like this, I find it surreal how we have adopted a ‘computer gaze’ of death when it’s the most humanistic component of all.

Source code page of my Facebook profile with a lot of numbers, letters, and symbols that are written in coded format.
Image Description: Source code page of my Facebook profile

As you can see from the image, this is the source code for my Facebook profile. I come from a mixed Irish-Chinese cultural background where both cultures require the death of someone to have large ceremonial practices and funerals, as a way to provide offerings, safety, luck, and ‘bon voyages’ to the spirit’s next journey. But looking at how the computer gazes at my soul through this image is pretty bleak.

Hito Steyerl – ‘Being Invisible Can Be Deadly’

Woman holding up her two fingers on both hands with a text in between her arms reading 'I am completely invisible'. The background is composed of different grey shapes.
Image description: Woman holding up her two fingers on both hands with a text in between her arms reading ‘I AM COMPLETELY INVISIBLE’. The background is composed of different grey shapes.

The German artist Hito Steyerl addresses the way digital images are created, shared and archived. Her film ‘How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File’ (2013) takes the form of an instructional video which flips playfully between ‘real world’ footage and digital recreations. Inspired by Monty Python, the work balances critique and humour, showing how ‘not being seen’ has both oppressive and liberating possibilities.

Woman holding up her two fingers on both hands with a text in between her arms reading 'Pretend You Are Not There'. The background is dark grey with white rectangle shapes and numbers.
Image description: Woman holding up her two fingers on both hands with a text in between her arms reading ‘PRETEND YOU ARE NOT THERE’. The background is dark grey with white rectangle shapes and numbers.

Background Context and Digressions

I’m very interested to look at ways in which our mortality and ‘immortality’ are digitally archived on online platforms. With the continuous rise of ‘technological innovation’ as an ideology and figures like Musk who justify Earth’s colonisation of Mars as a means to ‘archive human consciousness’ if the humanity is ever wiped out, this raises important points of discussion as to the lengths ‘innovation’ will go. When looking at past historical events, such as the destruction of The Great Library of Alexandria, which was the largest library of the Ancient World, we will never know what we have gained or lost, yet humanity has always been able to continue despite the ‘loss’ of knowledge we never knew.

Taking a decolonial approach to Western standards of ‘archiving’ which seeks to constantly preserve knowledge past our own death, I propose to look at the archival of our own deaths, particularly on digital platforms. Oxford researchers believe that by the end of this century, Facebook will have 4.9 billion ‘dead users’ on its platform (if it still exists).

For myself, I struggle in thinking whether it’s ‘okay’ for extensions of ourselves to digitally live on while our body, mind, and soul have transcended somewhere else? With the death tech market exponentially growing due to the pandemic, I also fear this will open up a pandora’s box that we aren’t equipped for…

Artist Christine Sun Kim Rewrites Closed Captions

Berlin-based artist Christine Sun Kim thinks about closed captions a lot. And she let us in on a not-so-well-kept secret: they suck. Christine shows us what closed captions could be, in a new story featuring original footage she captured and captioned herself.

Video description and transcript are available.

Further information and full credits are in the description of the original post, published by Pop-Up Magazine on their YouTube channel.

Activating Captions

Curated by artist Christine Sun Kim and ARGOS director Niels Van Tomme, “Activating Captions” is an online platform that critically engages with captioning as a singular artistic form of expression. The process of converting audio and visual material into text through a display system is essential – the curators note – ‘for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, as well as numerous others, such as people who are learning a new language’. There is an online magazine featuring texts from art writers, scholars, and poets that reflect on captioning from personal perspectives and experiences.

A gem that may go unnoticed on the online platform is the Accessibility Resources index. Among the links, there is “Alt-Text As Poetry Workbooks” by Shannon Finnegan and Bojana Coklyat – I will do those exercises again!

Infinite Ear: A Reader

On the occasion of the exhibition WITHIN / Infinite Ear, Bergen Assembly, 2016 Emma McCormick-Goodhart in collaboration with Grégory Castéra selected a series of texts and published a reader that follows these categories:

GESTURE/ASSEMBLY

MECHANISM/APPARATUS

UNSOUND/(IM)PERCEPTION

PROSTHESIS/DEVICE

INTERARTICULATION

ARCHITECTURE/ACOUSTICS

MIND’S EAR

MATTER/NOISE

TACTILITY

PARA-HEARING/IMAGINARY

AUGMENTED REALITY AND DARKROOM PRINTING

I am interested exploring darkroom printing with AR. Furthering on my work from the other week I’ve carried on exploring Anna Atkins cyanotype printed and edited them to create into an AR artwork.

Anna Atkins cyanotype print which has a blue background and white outline of leaves on top.
Anna Atkins cyanotype print which has a blue background and white outline of a plant on top
Anna Atkins cyanotype print which has a blue background and white outline of a leaf on top
Anna Atkins cyanotype print which has a blue background and white outline of a plant on top
Anna Atkins cyanotype print which has a blue background and white outline of 3 fern leaves on top
Anna Atkins cyanotype print which has a blue background and white outline of 9 ferns on top.
“Anna Atkins, Ferns. Specimen of Cyanotype, 1840s, cyanotype, overall: 26.3 x 20.8 cm (10 3/8 x 8 3/16 in.), R. K. Mellon Family Foundation, 2007.15.1”

Vectary

Scan the QR codes to see further AR works.

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One of Anna Atkins leaves created in Adobe Illustrator and Vectary with the Anna Atkins print used as a material. Photograph taken over rhubarb leaves.
One of Anna Atkins leaves created in Adobe Illustrator and Vectary with the Anna Atkins print used as a material. Photo is of the leaf placed over grass with a fence and a dog in the background.
One of Anna Atkins leaves created in Adobe Illustrator and Vectary with the Anna Atkins print used as a material. Photo is of the leaf placed in a bed of dying tulips.
One of Anna Atkins leaves created in Adobe Illustrator and Vectary with the Anna Atkins print used as a material. Photo is of the leaf placed in a bed of little blue flowers.
One of Anna Atkins leaves created in Adobe Illustrator and Vectary with the Anna Atkins print used as a material. Photo is of the leaf placed in a rose bush with one tiny yellow rose that is currently growing.

Adobe Aero

Scan the QR codes to open your Adobe Aero app to see further works.

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A cut out of an Anna Atkins cyanotype that is floating in the air with a garden behind it. If you click on the link it will take you to footage on YouTube of me walking around the work.
Photo of one of the Adobe Illustrator works with a garden behind and a dog in the distance.
Anna Atkins cyanotype that I've edited in Adobe Illustrator is sitting on grass with a garden behind it. If you click on the link it will take you to footage on YouTube where the work in bouncing.
Anna Atkins cyanotype that I've edited in Adobe Illustrator and now in Vectary with the print of the outline of the plant as a material. If you click on the link you should be able to see it in Vectary.

Minecraft – Videotage

As I was unable to visit Foredown Tower for this residency as it is still closed due to covid. I’ve instead recreated Foredown Tower in Minecraft.

Satellite google maps view of Foredown Tower looking down from a birds eye view. There is a field opposite, then the road and then Foredown tower with houses next-door to the right, on the left of Foredown Tower there is another field.
Satellite google maps view of Foredown Tower
Screen shot taken from Minecraft of the land before I started creating.
Screenshot in Minecraft of the poppy field and dirt path I created.
Screenshot taken in Minecraft showing the sign that says 'Foredown Tower closed due to the pandemic'
Screenshot of the Foredown Tower I created in Minecraft a brick square structure with two large portrait windows and a black roof with further windows going around the edge.
Screenshot in Minecraft of the back of my Foredown tower with grass and flowers.
Screenshot of the back of my Foredown tower a brick wall with a door.
Screenshot of the close up of the door in Minecraft
Screenshot of inside Foredown Tower on Minecraft with brick walls, wooden floor and light coming in from the windows.
Screenshot of the poppy field on Minecraft
Screenshot of a close up of Foredown Tower on Minecraft
Screenshot looking up to Foredown Tower on Minecraft.
Screenshot of the roof of Foredown Tower on Minecraft.
Screenshot of a birds eye view of my Foredown Tower on Minecraft

It took me a couple of days to learn how to use Minecraft. I thought my difficulty was due to my dexterity but was mostly due to my mouse not having a right click and you need a red click to place blocks. I oddly also experienced motion sickness and had to take breaks in between creating.

Augmented reality and darkroom printing

I am interested exploring darkroom printing with AR/VR. Today I downloaded an Anna Atkins cyanotype to edit and create into an AR artwork.

Anna Atkins cyanotype of a leaf. A cyanotype is blue with the outline of the image being a lighter white colour.

I used Adobe Illustrator to edit the print.

1. Use the image trace tool to turn your image into a vector

2. Use the 3D & materials tool to inflate the vector into a 3D shape

3. Used the eyedropper tool on the original blue colour on the print and added this as the material

4. Export the shape as an .obj file

5. Uploaded to Abobe Aero

Screenshot of Adobe Illustrator with me editing the print.

If you have the Adobe Aero app you can scan the QR code below to see the work in AR. Sadly the material hasn’t transferred over and so I need to learn how to keep the colour when exporting from Adobe Illustrator.

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Edit…

I used Vectary to add the colour and I also used Vectary to create into AR.

Screenshot of my work in Vectary.

Please find another QR code to see the work in Vectary. You do not need to download an app for this.

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Photo of the work without the material in the Adobe Aero app. It is a white leaf on beige carpet with a small indoor plant behind it.
Photo of the work without the material in the Adobe Aero app.
Photo of work in Vectary with its blue cyanotype material. The blue leaf is in front of a door with a window looking at a garden.
Photo of work in Vectary.
Close up photo of work in Vectary with its blue cyanotype material. The blue leaf is in front of a window looking at a garden.
Photo of work in Vectary.