Grounded in electronics and informatics, the new technologies must be considered, always in the same light, as material extensions of our capacity to remember . . . taking into account the role played by symbolic language as the supreme ‘condenser’ of the split between matter and mind, at least in its reactive functions, which I call performers.
Jean-François Lyotard 1
At the dawn of a new era of technological artistry, cinema, Antonin Artaud dreamed of extending the mechanical capabilities of performance to enact a violent performance of affect. Fascinated by the ‘virtual force’ and movement of film, he wrote compellingly about the cultural transformations promised by cinema’s ‘new atmosphere of vision.’ 2 To this prophet of contemporary performance, film provided the means for a welcome ‘deformation of the visual apparatus.’ Rather than ground theatrical affect in the development of realism and the narrative of the family drama, he situated performance at the abstract interface of modernist developments in technology. The technological artifice of light and sound provided Artaud with the promised break from the numbing effects of mimetic realism and its attendant social passivity. What remains particularly haunting about Artaud’s assessment of the cinematic transformation, whose cruelty he soon adapted to the extravagance of early multimedia performance, is his characteristically French emphasis on the contribution made by new artistic technology to interiority: ‘The cinema seems to me to have been made to express matters of thought, the interior of consciousness.’
It was around the same moment, when the allure of technology was capturing the imagination of early twentieth-century culture, that Freud too was taken by the affective pull of technology and its metaphors, the big difference being, of course, that Freud was fascinated by the interiority of the unconscious and was drawn more