[…] guess with all the sociopolitical chaos that’s been going on and the role social-media plays in it1 ,it’s easy to forget that at one point, the Internet used to be more than a perversely efficient delivery system for horror news and people putting each other through the emotional turmoil of shitstorms.
For a brief moment in the early 90s, cyberfeminists conceptualized the web as a sphere of unpolicable flows of desire: where identities could be performed as assemblage, leaving behind your analoguely racialized and gendered meatspace body in favor of avatars and endless re-mixes. Fucking with categories and uleashing free-surfing signifiers, to pulverize the ideas that some old white, predominantly French, men had dreamed up various decades ago into digital dust.
we are the modern cunt
positive anti reason
unbounded unleashed unforgiving
we see art with our cunt we make art with our cunt
we believe in jouissance madness holiness and poetry
we are the virus of the new world disorder
rupturing the symbolic from within
saboteurs of big daddy mainframe
the clitoris is a direct line to the matrix
terminators of the moral code
mercenaries of slime
go down on the altar of abjection
probing the visceral temple we speak in tongues
infiltrating disrupting disseminating
corrupting the discourse
we are the future cunt2
Rosi Braidotti and other researchers at the intersection of art, technology, and feminism have noted, that once the technological means reached a certain plateau allowing for bandwidth fast enough to transfer more data faster, the web mutated from a mostly text-based space of poetic signifiers to the image-based, highly visual interface we know of today. With the appearance of photographic imagery came the old regimes of representation. While of course you can still claim to be anybody and anything on the internet, at some point other users started to demand: pics or it didn’t happen!
The fact that these highly futuristic endeavors happened more than 25 years ago, they can feel like a weird temporal brain zap. The whole ›The slow cancellation of the future‹ thing, I guess. For a while now, the 90s3 have been in high demand to fulfill cravings absentee futures tend to cause: as somebody born in the second half of the 1980s, the ambitious low-res graphics of early net art projects look to me like artificial childhood memories and create the accordingly warm and b/f-uzzy feelings somewhere in my intellectual tummy. But, like they said back then: Nostalgia is a weapon (to sanitize disruptive ideas)4.
But for the purpose of this text and in a general effort to keep my head above water, maybe let’s try to look at the whole thing from a specific angle. While the internet with its hyperlinked horizontality and permanent scrambling of context seems like the ultimate embodiment of posthistoire, it has its own historicity. Over the years there have been different eras, usages, vibes and interfaces. From the early military days to mailing-list anarchisms, AOL and ›You’ve got Mail‹, Chatrooms, ICQ, WareZ, Napster, Kazaa, Rotten.com, MySpace5… and at some point in that history, utopian hopes of liberation were a central component of the internet, just like porn and cat videos.
And I feel like… well hope maybe, that there could be some strategic usefulness to occasionally invoke this utopian tradition6. This strategy might be more psychological than political, informing the way we interpret and look at things, and which aspects we zoom in on. Deliberately trying to dig through the mess and locate the utopian traces instead of being overwhelmed by the constant and all-caps reminders how everything is utterly and irreversibly F.U.B.A.R.7
Like, say… if art – in whatever form – streamed via Snapchat into the homes of the fellow shy people, the obsessive worriers, the chronically overwhelmed, the anhedonic shut-ins and the brutally hopeless would be able to create a sense of belonging: brief glimpses into the sensibilities of another subjectivity, a specific phrasing, a certain tone or timbre, the way images collide, a texture, a grain… something that somehow resonates with the way your own mind is structured, recognizing a distant relative to the oddly ineffable totality, comprised of a billion tiny fragments, that is insufficiently described as ›you‹: if a video, a sound, an artifact streamed into your room could create a scenario in which – if only for a brief moment – you would feel less alone in that room?
I really think that would be so so much.
1 Which ever may be.
2 VNS Matrix – The Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century (1991). See: https://vnsmatrix.net/the-cyberfeminist-manifesto-for-the-21st-century/
3 Say: Eurodance, polygon graphics, Ketamine, chokers…
4 It’s part of the super catchy yet slightly jaded slogans in Douglas Coupland’s ›Generation X‹ (1991). I made the second part up, because I feel it’s not the time for hip ambiguity.
5 This is pretty much a from-the-top-of-my-head free-form time line. I’ve heard that people do legitimate research around this now. If I were one oft hem, I’d try to postulate that where are in the middle of a transition from the ›Era Of Lolcatz‹ to the ›Go Fucking Kill Yourself-Age‹.
6 Somehow in my mind, all of this resonates with the history of Socialism. Like… what if the People… or, not to blame the citizens, but you know, well: somebody had stubbornly insisted on the utopian communist origins, while the various States were drifting into totalitarian bureaucratic chaos? I’m somehow failing to pull off that analogy. Maybe you can.
7 I’ll spare you my specifics. I’m sure you have your own set of panic-introducing topoi in place. If not: good for you! (This is not supposed to sound ironic.)