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New Frontiers of Commercialization

commerce

When we stopped leaving the house without our cell phones something significant changed. Was that the moment when disembodied communication trumped the here and now? People always stopped whatever they were doing to answer a telephone, so perhaps the phenomenon isn’t really new, but magnified and accelerated. (See Avital Ronell, The Telephone Book for an examination of this phenomenon in the context of technology as a channel for the voice of authoritarian power; http://www.amazon.com/The-Telephone-Book-Technology-Schizophrenia/dp/0803289383) Artists and theorists anticipated this beforehand but could anyone really prepare us for the reality?

The shift from physical to virtual is just the first of a cascade of changes that will transform the way we experience our bodies. Robotics diminish the value of human labor, genetic engineering will transform the body into a design product and bionics will eliminate the distinction between virtual and physical worlds, merging them into mash-ups that are unique to each person.

These trends seem inevitable but nonetheless they’re driven by profit. And it makes total sense: As we shift our focus from material to virtual objects it follows that the bodies and minds become the site of commercialization.

Genetic engineering technologies can replace discrete segments of DNA and the results are inheritable. Implanted technologies can enhance our sensory and motor capabilities. Once commercialized, these technologies will give people who can afford them tremendous advantages over those who cannot, potentially resulting in a splitting of the species.

So, it’s no surprise that arts institutions are beginning to eliminate painting as a practice. Artists adopt a “post-studio” practice and it’s not just a reaction to the high cost of studio space. In fact, the value of art has nothing to do with the object and everything to do with the metadata about it.

A guitarist I once knew held up an old guitar that he had stopped playing and replaced with a new one. He held it upside down, shook it and said, “See? No more music in here.”

We judge artificial intelligence by how much it behaves like us. But if it is a separate life form, then we may need, just as we do with any other species, to take it on its own terms. Our experience with technology so far indicates we are more likely to adapt our own behavior to accommodate artificial life than demand that artificial life adapt to us.

Making absolute distinctions between animate and inanimate objects isn’t universal, anyway. We like to think that life is precious (human life, at least) and (we say) that human life is more important than inanimate objects, but look no further than violent crime to see how this breaks down.

The Tao, well before the discovery of the atom, recognized a life force in everything, including rocks and water. This underlying belief is still apparent today in differing views toward robots in Eastern culture.

Painting has been described as being “full of life”, “energetic”, etc. (not to be confused with “life-like”). The idea of shapes and brush strokes being infused with spirit or life is not a new idea. Some of this may be simply an instance where the way the paint was handled was full of life (splash!) and the art object recorded that energy, just like the way sound recordings capture the energy of a performance.

CRSPR_full
Interesting review by Joseph Nechvatal on the The Posthuman by Rosi Braidotti. It’s a little densely written but that seems to be a reflection of the book itself that attempts to unite a number of themes that were originally covered by DEleauve & Guttari in the 90’s and now updated with the economic and social changes wrought by genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and global capitalism.  Covers off on many of the themes I’ve been focusing on for the essay/aphorisms on subjectivity and art making.
Illustration: CRISPR genetic modification process
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