Technology and the body, especially its demise and breakdown, are always inextricably linked: technology is more than a question of logic (that which distinguishes one part from another), or a more efficient way to complete a task. 1 It is also shaped and defined by the way in which it is put to use, in the marriage of technology to the action of a human operator. Technology needs to be applied and is shaped from the application of an action. To put it bluntly, a computer is just a hunk of metal and plastic until I press the ‘on’ button.
Even so, when I switch on my computer I enter an interobjective relationship with the machine and its components and once I engage with its system that relationship is transformed. The introduction of the system provokes, in me, a sense of interrelation as well. The machine responds and seems to think for itself so I, in turn, respond to it. This is not quite the same thing as interaction that requires two or more sentient beings, despite the frequent application of the term to indicate human/computer use.2 However, the computer seems to operate like another being even though its limitations become clear quite quickly. As cinema & media theorist Vivian Sobchack points out, the algorithmic limitations of digitality do not preclude diversity or heterogeneity.
‘What is historically and technologically novel about digitization is precisely its unique capacity to translate all other media representations into a homogenous algorithmic mode of expression; nonetheless, we have come to recognize that digital representations are extraordinarily heterogeneous in form, diverse in function, and specific in practice.’ [Sobchack, 2000, xiv]
The action of digitality breaks the conventional indexical link of representations to their ‘original’. There is no longer any direct contact, no matter how faint, with digital representation and its subject. Even a first generation image is immediately coded and interpolated. The lenses of conventional cameras do not significantly differ from those used in digital cameras, but the subsequent process of storing the image works very differently. Every image generated through digitality is broken down into pixels – tiny squares of information laid out in a grid, framed by the lens. Each pixel contains a code and each pixel relates to the other pixels by means of an instruction. This instruction is an algorithm, a mathematical equation that says what happens. It is the code for transformation and change and as such it is possible to read the algorithm as a performative principle of digital technology – all computer operating systems and languages (HTML etc.) are based around it. Indeed every action taken digitally is ‘scripted’ through the algorithm.
‘Algorithm’ is a term originating in the 17th century and is the Arabic notation of numbers, a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations. It is the basis for computer programming and languages in that it is the code for any process or task executed by a computer and takes the form of a sequence of operations. An algorithm is basically a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, but is the algorithm, as a code for an action, defined through a strictly binary logic? .3 Although technology may, in one sense, be governed by binary logic this understanding is a limited one. Technology does not sit apart from human experience but is a symptom of it and enables elaborate prostheses of or for the human body.4 Philosopher and cultural theorist Sadie Plant, in her book Zeros and Ones , underlines the relation of body to machine. As we know, computer code comprises of zeros and ones, but all the same:
‘These bits of code are themselves derived from two different sources and terms: the binary and the digital, or the symbols of a logical identity which does indeed put everything on the one hand or the other, and the digits of mathematics full of intensive potential, which are not counted by hand but on the fingers and, sure enough, arrange themselves in pieces of eight, rather than binary pairs. The techno and the digital are never perceived to run free of the co-ordinating eyes and hands of logic and its binary codes. But logic is nothing without their virtual plane.’ [Plant, 1998, 50]
She is pointing here to our illusion – it is erroneous to understand the logic of digitality as being bound to binary logic – even binary systems are not based on binary logic. Logic itself is the illusion. The computer ‘byte’ comprises eight ‘bits’ of information. This fundamental building block of digital technology may well be arranged for the machine in ones and zeros but it reflects at its very core the way human beings learn to count, with four fingers on each hand. Hands, fingers and eyes remain at the core of digitality – the hardware and software of machines operates only in relation to the wetware that is the human body.5 Furthermore, we are not, as speaking, perceiving subjects, separate from the things we speak or perceive. We are implicated in them, observing them from the ‘inside’, as it were. How then can we understand the incorporation of technological artefacts and systems by the body?
Feedback is the action facilitated by the algorithm and this action is marked through contingency (from one to another/s). Norbert Wiener’s pioneering work on cybernetics (from the 1950’s) points to feedback as the defining principle of the relation between human being and machine. 6 He posits the concept that;
‘the physical functioning of the living individual and the operation of some of the newer communication machines are precisely parallel in their analogous attempts to control entropy through feedback...In both of them, their performed action on the outer world, and not merely their intended action, is reported back to the central regulatory apparatus.’ [Weiner, 2000, 54]
By responding to the physical parameters of the world, through communication and then action, the differences in the systems of the organism and of the machine are, as Sadie Plant puts it ‘merely a matter of degree’. [Plant, 1998, 50] For Wiener the principle governing cybernetics is to ‘hold back nature’s tendency toward disorder by adjusting its parts to purposive ends.’ [Weiner, 2000, 54] While it is not my intention here to explore the nuances of cybernetics or even the cyborg, Wiener’s thesis suggests that the motivation for our obsessive creation of technological systems is to deny mortality. This denial of mortality is a resistance to entropy and to reiterate my earlier point, it arises from the idea that a code does not degrade. Furthermore, it suggests that the hardware of a machine is superior to the ‘wetware’ of the human body, in terms of strength, durability and infinitely replaceable spare parts.
The promise of the cybernetic enterprise is not so much to prolong life, but to transcend the flesh completely. It implies also that the flesh can be supplanted by hardware, becoming infinitely replaceable and permanent instead of vulnerable and finite. Subsequently this feeds (or is fed by) a logic that presumes that consciousness is able to go on ‘being’ forever, that it can be freed from the body, or in other words, it can transcend the body and enter the machine. Although the body is implicated within technology, all technologies, it cannot transcend them. Transcendence is the outcome of an illusory logic, ultimately it is a logic that seeks to comfort and reassure. This logic seeks to define things firmly on the one hand and on the other, to fix the world in a series of finite, fixed and distinct categories, to name things either 1 or 0. It reveals itself through and becomes undone by its Gnostic ambitions – it is a utopian logic and can be seen as the motivational factor that drives us to seek machine/human symbiosis.7
However, feedback is what breathes life into computer systems and feedback is the most fundamental way in which we shape our identities, the way we learn from the world who we are in the world. Feedback is another way to speak of exchange. In the cybernetic enterprise it is an intersubjective and interobjective exchange between subject and machine. In the phenomenological enterprise, feedback is the exchange of flesh, between subjects and objects and, in the field of performance, when we speak of reciprocity and contingency, we are speaking of intersubjective and interobjective feedback, with optional interaction. The principle of feedback is exchange and this principle is at the core of performative and phenomenological discourses.
The response of the machine to our demands/actions simulates the response of one human to another and the action of feedback between machine and user gives a powerful sense of an exchange of consciousness. Belief in the potential of the machine to offer an answer to, or way out of mortality is not difficult to foster in such circumstances. I see it this way: technology exemplifies human desire – the desire for exchange with others, the desire to defeat mortality and the vagaries of the flesh, the desire to deny God and (paradoxically) the desire to find God in the machine. Finally it exemplifies the desire to be free from desire although the desire to be free from desire is maintained technologically.8 Roy Ascott, an early pioneer of artwork created for cyberspace illustrates this position:
‘The telematic process, like the technology that embodies it is the product of a profound human desire for transcendence: to be out of body, out of mind, beyond language. Virtual space and dataspace constitute the domain, previously provided by myth and religion, where imagination, desire and will can reengage the forces of space, time and matter in the battle for a new reality.’ [Ascott, 2000, 315] 9
The piquant premise of digitality is that the second and subsequent version of a thing (an image, sound, or text) is not a copy but a clone. In this way, digitality differs from but expands upon filmic reproduction. It reproduces itself rather than producing a representation. Subsequent versions are not (or should not be, in theory) diluted or diminished. 10 Each version will theoretically be exactly the same, there is no longer an original, no longer any copies, but many of the one. Potentially, degradation of the material is no longer the issue in digitality. The claim made for it is that, so long as the code remains, the thing (image etc.) can be reconstituted exactly, in its original form, endlessly and forever. But this claim is specious. The hardware that facilitates our encounter with digitality is subject to break down, material degradation, to power surges, to infection from the outside in the form of viruses, glitches, anomalies and most significantly to the vicissitudes of human action. Moreover, software compresses (or edits) the material recorded. Mistakes and accidents see to it that permanence is never really assured with the digital. Nor is perfection assured in the initial capture of information – a digital camera for example cannot see movement as well as the film or video camera. It always interpolates; it fills in the gaps. The image, as it is captured, is doubly mediated firstly by the camera lens and secondly through interpolation. By the first time we see the image in playback it has already ‘deteriorated’ and been modified. Even with digital technology, entropy is inevitable and although a code does not degrade as such, it can be lost or forgotten, both by machines and by humans.
All the same we maintain a strong incorporative urge to merge with or become subsumed by technology and it does offer us new possibilities for experiencing exchange and feedback.11 Shifts in our perception of how subjectivity and objectivity are shaped mean that we can explore the desire to merge body with technology without necessarily taking onboard utopian overtures. Our bodies experience the world kinaesthetically and technology emphasises this – our relation to the computer for example is initiated through touch. Using one of the most sensitive parts of the body, the tips of our fingers, we engage with other personae, concepts and space. This engagement is thus embodied even if our represented presence is virtual.
Furthermore, the gaze or the look has a tactile quality. Merleau Ponty describes it as a caress, a stroke of flesh on flesh. For Michael Taussig, writing in ‘Mimesis and Alterity’, it is the affect of the physical impact of light on the vitreous fluid of the eye. Similarly, the action of hearing is understood in physical terms – sounds jangle the tiny hairs in our ears that we then conceptualise as sounds. Sounds and images enter the body and are incorporated. Even in works that seem to be at some distance from physicality a tactile response is demanded – for works or events that are accessed via a computer such as webcasts or vlogs, touch as well as sight and sound are pre-requisite. Our fingertips on the keyboard, our bodies close to the machine, we press keys to make things happen – we look, we listen, we touch. If our relationship with technology is a tactile one and we accept the idea of varying levels of presence, then we can read the relationship between the viewer and the technologised work of art as both contingent and embodied. Taussig writes of the mimetic faculty through physiology:12
‘To get hold of something by means of its likeness. Here is what is crucial in the resurgence of the mimetic faculty, namely the two-layered notion of mimesis that is involved – a copying or imitation, and a palpable, sensuous, connection between the very body of the perceiver and the perceived...Elementary physics and physiology might instruct that these two features of copy and contact are steps in the same process, that a ray of light, for example moves from the rising sun into the human eye where it makes contact with the retinal rods and cones to form, via the circuits of the central nervous system, a (culturally attuned) copy of the rising sun. On this line of reasoning, contact and copy merge becoming virtually identical, different moments of the one process of sensing; seeing something or hearing something is to be in contact with that something.’ [Taussig, 1993, 21]
The word representation makes a distinction between artistic activity and phenomenal reality. It separates the thing and its likeness and implies the absence of the original. However, it does not preclude a connection with the thing represented, only that ‘it’ exists in another space to the representation. The Greek word for representation is mimesis, specifically meaning to imitate and in everyday terms we use the word ‘represent’ to indicate personification or impersonation. The ‘thing’ that is the representation in this way embodies that which is represented, although it still maintains a separation of the subject (the original) and the object (the representation). Through this reasoning it follows that the only thing that I cannot represent is myself but this is where body/performance art can begin, through a mimetic strategy, to undo concepts of a strict or fixed object/subject divide. If I, in performance, represent myself (in whatever way) I am signifying that, in this performance, there is no distance between the thing represented and the representation.13
The body in performance is broadly speaking mimetic, as it is, on one level at least, representation. When mediated by technology the emphasis shifts away from the body with the focus being the representation itself. When that technology is virtual the emphasis shifts again towards the dynamic or, better, what Roy Ascott termed the ‘interface’ between viewer and work. However, the representational value of the body in performance is never fixed and always shifting and mutating. This complicates the idea of immediate co-presence and the concomitant assumption that immediacy guarantees unequivocal truth or meaning. Our complicity with the mimetic world lulls us into an acceptance of the idea of unmediated experience, whereas everything is actually shaped through mediation in some form or another.
To paraphrase feminist scholar and performance art authority, Peggy Phelan, representation in its familiar form comes ‘unstuck’ in the face of a live performance action. Representation relies on a hierarchical principle (like the metaphor), in that there is always an original thing/person that is being represented. The representation usually replaces the original (stands in for it) implying subordination or replacement. However, in body/performance art the body paradoxically both stands in for something and is itself.
To recall Taussig’s words on the contact/copy, the thing we see is in direct contact with our body, as is the thing we hear. We take it inside the body, it impacts on our physical being, we process the information, decide what it is and declare it. Our existential experience may be unique but, like our bodies, it is not unchanging, discrete or finite.
Constant change is a marker for the human condition even though it occurs almost imperceptibly. We do not notice for example the day to day process of our skin renewing itself. The entire surface of our bodies will be renewed every seven years – we do not see, hear or feel this process but it happens all the same. Abnormally quick mutation or change, made visible by advances in image technologies, has offered us a glimpse of transformation in action and we find it mesmerising. From the image of a splash of milk frozen in time and space, to the liquid metal T1000 morph (from the film Terminator 2), we take great delight in witnessing such (an uncanny?) transformation.
Mimetic and transformative actions exercise a compelling fascination for many of us and this is especially facilitated by technology through virtuality and image manipulation. In ‘Metamorphing. Visual Transformation and the Culture of Quick Change’, Vivian Sobchack suggests that the action of change is one of the distinguishing features of digitality. She is talking about the morph and the fascination it exerts over us:
‘In particular, as a visible figure, the morph confronts us with a representation of Being [via Heidegger] that is intellectually familiar yet experientially uncanny. It calls to the part of us that escapes our perceived sense of our ‘selves’ and partakes in the flux and ceaseless becomings of Being – that is, our bodies at the cellular level ceaselessly forming and reforming and not ‘ourselves’ at all. Thus the morph is not merely a visible representation of quick and easy transformations of matter in time and space: it is always an oxymoron, a paradox, a metaphysical object.’ [Sobchack, 2000, 136]
The morph is a figure that can change its visual representation. It can look exactly like other things or beings and although the concept had its home in comics for a long time, the advent of computer generated imagery means the morph is today a familiar figure, in both cyberspace and in films. One of best known morphs makes his appearance in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgement Day, as the T1000, a cybernetic being made from liquid metal. [Cameron, 1991] The T1000 can change into anything or anyone that it has physical contact and it morphs seamlessly into other beings. While it is fascinating to watch it contains elements of dread. For Sobchack, the morph demonstrates the flow from one to the other, simultaneous to eroding the idea of a separation between them.
‘The morph’s primary mode is to assert not only sameness across difference but also the very sameness of difference. While often representing cultural boundaries at its static end points... the process of the morph attempts to erase this binarism in the homogenous, seamless, and effortless movement of transformation and implied reversibility.’ [Sobchack, 2000, 139]
The change from one to another, the confusion of bodies and the erasure of visual difference would very possibly appal and terrify us if it were to occur ‘before our very eyes’. But we know we are looking at a movie or a computer screen and so we are able to circumvent dread, instead experiencing it as pleasure. We enjoy these illusions in the safe knowledge that they are illusions and we especially enjoy the moments when we are tricked and our expectations are confounded.
An important factor in the fascination exerted by technology is pleasure, according to Steve Dixon, director and co-writer of ‘Net Congestion’ (one of the first ever webcast live performances made in the UK, 1999). Net Congestion utilised video doubling and illusion extensively, predominantly setting up the live body in conjunction with its own video double. The actual live body of the performer could for example, emerge from the projected video image of their own represented body. Below Dixon is discussing a particular clip from the show called ‘Priests’, in which the performer is working live against a pre-recorded sequence showing him in close up. He took on the role of a priest and conversed with himself and the camera in a short pre-recorded sequence.
‘...what we enjoy...is our own sophisticated understanding of media that allows us to differentiate between the live and the recorded. We derive pleasure from it precisely because we are in on the joke, and can share and enjoy the ingenuity and craft with which the actor maintains the illusion of liveness of his virtual doubles within the scene. This piece is not primarily concerned with virtuality and mediatisation. On the contrary, it is about sheer, self conscious ‘theatricality’ – the delight in presenting illusion and fantasy which goes beyond mundane, quotidian materiality.’ [Dixon, 2002, www.mdx.ac.uk] 14
When it appears as if there are two or more of the same being in the one space and time illusion is being utilised to fascinate and to pleasure the audience. It’s a ‘knowing’ bit of trickery, one that the audience and performer are complicit with. According to Dixon, the series of interactions at play in the work seek to synchronise and meld the corporeal body to its digital double.15 This questions the supposition that the virtual body is somehow detached or even independent of the flesh and blood body. This reciprocal awareness seems to make the experience even more uncanny or fascinating. We know that something cannot be yet, in front of our very eyes, it seems to be so, and it holds us mesmerised by its sway. Our delight at being ‘fooled’ is nothing to do with wishing to appear stupid. Illusion, like suspense, is the art of involving the audience. 16
My concern, in tracing the trajectory of presence through a bodily response to digital spaces, has been to unpack how intersubjective and interobjective relations are altered by digital and virtual spaces. The creative use of digitality and of cyberspace amplifies the role, action and importance of incorporation to the processes of experiencing mediatised representations. But in 2016, our dopamine inflected responses to our devices leads me to suggest that currently our brains are fogged. We have been diverted and distracted by the shining splendour of our smartscreens. Just like the Youtube footage of a man so engrossed in his phone that he walks straight into the canal, we need to remember that virtual acts have actual consequences. And as Stephen Hawking has reminded us recently, success in creating Artificial Intelligence may well be the biggest event in human history but it might also be our last, unless we learn how to avoid the enormous risks. This means fostering a better understanding of the technology that surrounds and envelops us in the modern world. It means seeing past the immediate opioid reward for clicking on that Facebook notification and understanding just what it is we are being suckered into. Just as Narcissus forgot his own reality and plunged into his own image, we are destined to disappear into our selfies and online profiles and avatars and tweets – unless we look up once in a while, just to see where we are going.
1 Cyberfeminist writer Donna Haraway says we are all cyborgs now. ‘By the late twentieth century, our time,
a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs.’ From spectacles and walking sticks to pacemakers and plastic hips, humans have constantly augmented themselves – the age of the cyborg began when human beings began to wear shoes. Advances in genetic engineering and plastic surgery offer us the potential of an endless renewal of body parts and the opportunity to extend our physical lifetimes, but the human body retains its in-built obsolescence. The anxiety generated by our inability to overcome this process of decay leads us to consider and desire the extension of consciousness through technologies. Here I am referring in particular to the popular fantasy that consciousness can exist inside a computer, whether initially human or mechanical. For her analysis on machine/subject consciousness see Donna Haraway, ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ [Haraway, 1991]
SEE ALSO The Neurologist who Hacked His Brain – And Almost Lost His Mind by Daniel Engber, Wired, 26.01.2016 www.wired.com.2016/01/Phil-kennedy-mind-control-computer
2 The use of the term ‘interactive’ has been applied to almost anything that requires an action in response to a work or programme and is o en not just incorrect but downright misleading. In his article on cyberspace as venue, Philip Auslander discusses this issue. ‘Writing about television in the late 1970’s, Raymond Williams made the salient point that most systems promising interactivity are really reactive rather than interactive. For Williams, a genuinely interactive system is one in which responses freely chosen by the user can influence the system in substantive ways. Any system that engages the user by offering choices from a menu is reactive, not interactive.’ It seems to me that actual interaction could only result from an artificially intelligent system, able to respond to infinite possibilities, able to learn and formulate an autonomous rejoinder, one that has not been pre-selected and programmed by another individual or machine. It would also need to be self-aware. The idea of interaction here has its basis in infinite openings not determined by finite possibilities. However, the technology for such a system is still in its research stages. [Auslander, 2001]
3 If one thinks of a Rubik’s cube for example – an algorithm in this situation is the string of moves (notation) that does a certain thing to the cube. For example the formula U © ̃ F L ' D B is an algorithm (it represents a series of actions that change the faces of the cube).
4 For example, mechanical devices such as computers or cameras can be understood as prostheses. Marshall Mcluhan argued this idea in 1964. ‘Today, a er more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man – the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media.’ [McLuhan, 1964, 3]
5 Indeed, microchips are manufactured (for the most part) by the small hands of children and women, in third world sweatshops.
6 The term ‘cybernetics’ originates with pioneer Norbert Wiener and is derived from the Greek ‘kybernetes’ meaning steersman (of a ship) or governor. [Weiner, 1954]
7 CF The Neurologist who Hacked His Brain – And Almost Lost His Mind by Daniel Engber, Wired, 26.01.2016 www.wired.com.2016/01/Phil-kennedy-mind-control-computer
8 Internet & smartphone use stimulates the production of dopamine in our brains. Dopamine controls the ‘pleasure’ systems of the brain. Recent research has shown that it works in subtle tandem with another system, the opioid system. Dopamine is associated with causing desire, it gives us the motivation to seek out something, it stimulates curiosity. The opioid system is the reward – it is what makes us feel pleasure. The clue is in the root of the word, linking to opiate. The dopamine system is stronger – it keeps us searching. This is most likely an evolutionary impulse - it is better to be curious, to keep seeking than to sit back satisfied with yourself. Consider the strange allure of texts, Twitter, Facebook and emails. These stimulate dopamine production, especially when it seems unexpected (the sudden arrival of a notification – what can it be? Let’s find out). The pleasure felt when successfully locating a snippet of information on the internet, pales into insignificance when the search itself stimulates yet more dopamine to be produced. The search continues, giving us a clear indication of the chemical stimulus behind our useage of online and smartphone technologies. The reason why we can’t leave the iphone alone is that we get caught in a dopamine loop, with sporadic opioid rewards. Drugs do much the same thing (generally speaking). For more information go to www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/why-we-are-all-addicted and see Kent C. Berridge and Terry E. Robinson ‘What is the Role of Dopamine in Reward: hedonic impact, reward learning, or incentive salience?’ Brain research reviews, 28, 1998 [309-369]
9 In the 1980’s, computer art pioneer Roy Ascott developed a body of artwork based on the idea of ‘telematics’ that prefigures much web-based art of the 1990’s. Telematics ‘involves the technology of interactions among human beings and between the human mind and artificial systems of intelligence and perception’. It is configured through telecommunications, specifically global networking. The telematic artwork positions the artist as facilitator and encourages the viewers creative input, with the interface as a dynamic between the two and the point at which content is created (in contrast to the object status of conventional artworks). [Ascott, 1990]
10 As Lev Manovich (in The Language of New Media, 2001) points out claims for digitality currently refusing degradation of the source are deceptive. Even state of the art digital tools/programmes automatically compress, and thus degrade, the information contained within the code. The difference in image quality between digital footage and film remains vast (at this moment in time at least).
11 Possibly as a result of being dopamine addled?
12 Another factor affecting this issue concerns the site specificity of the work in question. Work devised to be experienced live does not guarantee the formation of an intersubjective relation between work and audience. The live work viewed live does not offer any greater definitive and objective truth to its individual audience members than other methods of experiencing a work of art. For example, I am affected, intrigued and moved by Hannah Wilke’s photographic works. But for this to occur I do not need to have been present at the taking of the photograph. Indeed I do not even need to ‘see’ the original photographs because I can relate to her work just as well through reproduction. On the other hand I know that my experience of her live performance works, would have been quite different to the one I have now if I had attended in person (they have a kind of partial life in my head/consciousness. I imagine them). Different maybe, but no more or less imbued with objectivity (or truth). Physical proximity to another body may potentially intensify one’s experience, but only if one chooses. It is by no means a guarantee of a significant experience. I have been present at countless live performances that hardly touch me at all – I merely register their occurrence. The ones that do ‘touch’ me loiter in my memory and it ultimately seems that it makes very little difference whether I encountered them live or in a form of recording. However, with regards to the post-performance encounter with the documentation, I know that I have missed the opportunity to read it kinaesthetically and this is o en the point of such work. Ideally, I think it comes down to experiencing the work in the form in which it was intended to be seen although encountering the work in another form, such as documentation, does not prevent the formation of the intersubjective relation on some level.
13 This is true also for the ‘selfie’ and other forms of virtual self representation.
14 See Steve Dixon for an extensive online analysis of the Chameleons project www.mdx.ac.uk/www/epai/ presencesite/html/dixchamel.html [date accessed 22.08.05]
15 Steve Dixon says ‘This sequence melds and synchronises the corporeal bodies of the performers to their digital doubles. The composite imagery concerns the coalescence and indivisibility of the two. This process runs very much contrary to dominant assumptions within critical theory which defines the virtual body as different, separate and detached (as discussed in the 'Theory section').’ www.mdx.ac.uk/www/epai/ presencesite/html/dixchamel.html [date accessed 22.08.05]
16 The kind of similitude put into play by the video double and the morph implies reversibility and is distinct from resemblance. Michel Foucault argued that resemblance ‘presumes a primary reference that prescribes and classes' copies according to the rigor of their mimetic relation to the thing itself. (Michel Foucault ‘This is not a Pipe’ 1983, pubs. University of California Press, USA ) It is defined through representation. However with similitude things become almost the same – the privileged status of the original being rendered pointless. In ‘Priests’ the performer sets up an unstable equilibrium between levels of presence (in this case recorded and live).