What was it? Something in the way she moved,
A glance, a gesture? Why did I suddenly desire
To kiss her, to touch her hand, cheek? Was she real?
Nothing behind the eyes revealed intelligence;
Yet, in the movements of her machinic mind
I felt a resemblance, an old darkness come to life.
(Do we have a right to our perversities, our little madness’s?)
Then she sang with the voice of my old love. I died.
– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.
Notes: Am reading Steven T. Brown’s Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture. In Ghost in the Shell 2, Oshii’s basic theme is of a population of gynoids, erotic androids have run amok and are killing their lovers, etc. What is interesting in this is that the gynoids are synthetic constructs, that are inhabited by young women who have been kidnapped and their minds merged (“ghost dubbing”) with the cyberbrain. Brown talks of this relationship in Japanese culture to dolls and the uncanny line between life and death. He speaks of the influence of Hans Ballmer and his dolls on Oshii the film director as well. Victoria Nelson’s The Secret Life of Puppets, and Kenneth Gross’s Puppet: An Uncanny Life, as well as authors of horror fables such as Thomas Ligotti have all dealt with such themes. I wonder why we have such a fascination with this liminal zone between the artificial and human. We see it even in certain films for children: I was thinking of the Tom Hanks Christmas movie a few years back of the train to the north pole, etc., of how lifelike the characters were becoming in the CGI based graphics of the cartoon picture show. All uncanny and disturbing, yet fascinating at the same time. Strange.
I sometimes think that we are through art already preparing ourselves for that eventual transition to machinic life, as if we are through exploration of these artistic images being lured toward that merger and transformation into the alien or inhuman core that has always been our secret dream of metamorphosis. Or maybe the truth is much simpler: the android or gynoid is a becoming-void, an emptiness that suggests something beyond itself, an excess; that it is the voiding of the human, an emptying out of its subjectivity, its sense of self and intentional awareness. And, of course what is it Oshii’s gynoids have: at the center of this void, a cyberbrain onto which the sense of self of certain sacrificed young women have been wedded and assembled, constructed. It is this disembodied self or personality, enmeshed or embodied in the synthetic armature of an android body that suddenly turns on its makers and lovers, seeking destruction and revenge. What does this tell us?