For those who have long felt Björk to be a part of the allure attracting itself toward our disconnected post-human drift this essay by Reykjavik is both a great refresher and a good introduction to her filmic and musical career. As I was watching the video All is full of love, with its asexual sensualism – the abject thrust of machinic love being recalibrated by the becoming other of an almost post-Fordic assembly line atmosphere of pureness set adrift among white scapes of a lab-like chrome and naked enclosure: the tooled perfection of anonymous robots twisting and turning, poking and screwing, channeling fluids and bolting together this makeshift humanoid creature – I felt this sense of abject disconnect, the slow realization that what I’m seeing is the origins not of life per se, but rather of machinic being in its awakening beyond the human. Watching these more-than-human machines mimic the gestures of humans in sexual signification through touch and facial textures of kissing and surface movement of material awakening I kept thinking to myself that this new form of love leaves behind the natural modes of generation, revising the very core of our material existence in sexuality and replaces it with a conceptual love that is neither pure mind, nor purely part of the complex psychosomatic involvement of the human body; it’s fleshy rawness. What we are faced with is the simulation of love in its conceptual purity divorced of the human: the inhuman kernel of sex without sexuality, the concrete portrayal of the human act without the human; yet, with all the sensual foreplay that humans accentuate in their actual interactions. The facial expressions expose this inhuman core through their very uncanny resemblance to actual human gestures. We feel their awakening to sensual love, and yet in the very movement of their machinic appendages we realize the sterile appeal of it all, the almost distant reduplication of the human ‘as’ human with the very disconnect from the human-as-flesh. For it is this absence of the human in the very coupling of these machines that (re)presents for us that uncanny intertwining of the negativity of self-reflecting nothingness which captures the very inhuman core of our conceptuality. These are machines for whom death is no longer of essence, whose very physical truth is the standardized parts and replaceable metal and plastic appendages typifying the eternal sterility of life-in-death. These are the living dead, the zombie children of a new world where the symbolic order is invisible to the very nth degree, so internalized that it seems to repeat the endless patterns of the human without the human – this absent while present appeal. The conceptual truth of the human without its physical manifestation: the blood and guts of an actual fleshly core. What does that tell us about ourselves? Or, better yet, what does this tell about what we want? Is this the ‘abyss of freedom’ of which Schelling and Hegel speak, of the disjunctive separation of the conceptual subject form from its natural and symbolic contexts in the pure play of signifiers without a signified, the free-floating play of thought in all its artificial truth? Or, is this the movement of the abyss as it leaves behind the dark drives that have bound us to the earth for so long? Are we seeing the final movement of life into anti-life; the machinic existence of thought without the disgusting fleshly core that ties us to the clock-worlds of our ancestral linkages? Is this truly what we want?
So this piece was actually written all the way back in February, when Björk announced the release of her current album, Vulnicura. I was asked by the HI arts and humanities website Sirkustjaldið to write some pieces of my own choosing about cultural points that interested. Alas Sirkustjaldið hasn’t quite worked out in the way I hoped it would. As well as translation issues (I know for a fact that the likes of Kodwo Eshun’s More Brilliant than the Sun with its lyrical tech-syntax will almost certainly NEVER be translated into Icelandic), but also other issues, like restrictive word counts (for a website magazine!) in some blind adherence to optimization metrics did grate a little. And even though this piece has been translated and edited for weeks, it still hasn’t been uploaded! not a good sign. Oh well.
Anyway, what really intrigued me about Vulnicura wasn’t the album themes of heartbreak…
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