This series of essays originated in my doctoral research, undertaken at Goldsmiths College, London (2000-6).
Each essay has a different emphasis but together they shape a reading of the contemporary body as performing the self through series of narcissistic gestures, both blissfully consumptive and desperately anxious.
The shift from a mechanised, analogue world into a digitised, virtual one is both profound and traumatic. To understand and meet the challenges we face going forward into this brave new immaterial realm, it is I contest, essential to know the path that brought us here. It is also necessary to be aware of the impact that virtuality has on our processes of self-identification. Virtuality changes things. It fundamentally changes our relation to the world. That is not to say that it is all bad but it is to say that awareness of our past and present allows us to actively shape our futures.
Losing oneself in the contemplation of our own image, whether you are Kim Kardashian or Narcissus, can be dangerous. Losing touch with corporeality even more so. However, by drawing popular culture and looking at the pleasures we obtain in frequently extreme manifestations of our drives, in art, literature and cinema, it is possible to navigate a course through these technologically infested waters and create a new and expanded understanding of our millennial selves.
Finally, sovereignty means being in control of the ‘Off’ switch. If we want to shape our futures and understand who we are in the face of ‘artificial intelligence’ then knowing when to press it will be crucial.
Moving Pictures & Roving Eyes
Norma Desmond is a monstrous narcissist. I explore my own obsession with the film Sunset Boulevard and discuss how narcissism, madness and consumption are revealed through the various acts of looking.
Looking to a constant favourite in the serial killer chart, Hannibal Lecter, I discuss his metaphorical importance as emblematic of our incorporative drives. Identifying with Hannibal and other extreme forms of behaviour exposes, I contend, some of our deeper and darker realities.
Here, I explore excess, incorporation & cannibalism through the lens of George Bataille, to tease out an understanding of sovereignty.
Public Bodies, Private Spaces
I discuss the anxiety that is generated by over exposure to the world through digital technology. Notions of privacy and the relationship of the flesh and blood body to the virtual spaces it encounters are weighed up, with the help of Marshall McLuhan.
Me, Myself, I
This essay takes a psychoanalytic emphasis and explains the role of Narcissus in ideas of self and body. I look at the work of French artist Orlan in her various performances of self.
This essay explores the relationship of the flesh and blood body to the machine, the morph and the replicant. I explore how these tropes speak clearly of the human fear of mortality. Through mimesis we find pleasure but also dread.
An Act of Memory
An homage to artist Monica Ross, who died in 2013.