Academic journal article Nebula

Rrose Selavy, Barbarella, Madonna: Cybersublimity after the Orgasmotron

Academic journal article Nebula

Rrose Selavy, Barbarella, Madonna: Cybersublimity after the Orgasmotron

Article excerpt

   We do not yet possess the perceptual equipment to match this new
   hyperspace, as I will call it, in part because our perceptual habits
   were formed in that older kind of space I have called the space of
   high modernism. The newer architecture therefore--like many of
   the other cultural products I have evoked in the preceding
   remarks--stands as something like an imperative to grow new
   organs, to expand our sensorium and our body to some new, yet
   unimaginable, perhaps ultimately impossible, dimensions (Fredric
   Jameson, Postmodernism, 38-39).

   So in the late 50s I started an affair with my television which has
   continued to the present, when I play around in my bedroom with
   as many as four at a time. But I didn't get married until 1964
   when I got my first tape recorder. My wife. My tape recorder and
   I have been married for ten years now. When I say "we," I mean
   my tape recorder and me. A lot of people don't understand that
   (Andy Warhol, "Love (Puberty),"THE Philosophy of Andy
   Warhol, 26).

Some Sums

It is no accident that this essay takes as its point of departure a mosaic comprised of Fredric Jameson lost in the hyperspace of Los Angeles' Westin Bonaventure Hotel in his seminal glance at the cultures of late capitalism, Postmodernism, and Andy Warhol wedded to a piece of equipment for capturing, storing and replaying the voices of others in his THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol. Nor is it an accident that Jameson, the unacclimated, unfortunate Modern waiting for his body to sprout a new perceptual apparatus which will allow him to process the newly mutated spatialities surrounding and subsuming his subjectivity, and Warhol, the closest thing to a cyborg the artworld has ever produced, will be dumped in turn. (1) Swerving from Jameson and Warhol, I offer a second mosaic, this one comprised of the now Retro Madonna of "Ray of Light" and two newcomers, cyborgs themselves, women tuned in, turned on and short-circuited by technodesire: the anonymous "dumped dummy," as Jean-Francois Lyotard in Les Transformateurs Duchamp refers to her, of Duchamp's posthumous assemblage Etant donnees: 1 la chute d'eau, 2 le gaz d'eclairage (1966), and the campy space kitten Barbarella from Roger Vadim's film Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy (1968).

Other cyborgs, art-machines or recyclatrons could have been selected to illustrate the connection between trash and transport--for example, Jeff Koons, with his factory-made, Coney Island souvenir-stand aesthetic horrors such as Pink Panther, Popples or Michael Jackson and Bubbles (all 1988), French body-mod performance artist Orlan, with her grotesquely reconstructed body and accompanying videodocumentation of her many surgeries, or the inimitable transsexual performer Amanda Lepore.2 However, I have chosen my three stars, (1) Duchamp's Bride, (2) Jane Fonda's cosmonaut and (3) the "new" (yet of course now "old") cabbala-correct, ethereal, British Madonna, for the relation they bear to what I will, after Barbarella, term the Orgasmotron, or perpetual pleasuring machine, a device which exists only within the cinematic, yet which crystallizes the philosophical complexities of postmodern sublimity, persisting as an operative metaphor at the heart of cyberculture. (3)

As the introductory Warhol quote demonstrates, the sexual pleasure of machines or machine/human interfaces is nothing new. Occurring with gizmos as diverse as television sets (Nam June Paik's installations, for example TV Garden, 1982, or Pyramid II, 1997), telephones (Avital Ronell's The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech), tape recorders (Warhol's Philosophy, a, or Andy Warhol's Party Book) and computers (Donna Haraway's and Sue-Ellen Case's theories of the wired body), this pleasure colonizes physically embodied human-human relationships, replacing them with something akin to the pleasure of too much information, sensory overload, or cybernetic immersion in the infinite. …

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