Sex today demands reconceptualization. Not simply a relational act between humans or animals, nor exclusively a set of performative or discursive practices, sex manifests as a matrix of diffuse processes encoded in material, molecular, digital and biochemical formations. Abstract Sex* imagines a post-sex adequate to a radically expanded conception of what it is to be human: a technologically and biopolitically produced agglomeration of symbiotic organisms beneath the increasingly tenuous veneer of a coherent body or self.
Necessarily, sex will mutate, reshape itself. New forms of sex emerge at sites of mutual transfer and fields of viral exchange and contamination, whether biological or digital. Following Luciana Parisi, the exhibition insists on an abstract sex that occurs between porous bodies—at once virtual and tangible, inorganic and alive. The body is the site where bacteria intersect with larger socio-cultural and economic systems. Sex is the event in which these macro- and microscopic systems transmit, transform and reproduce.
Abstract Sex* relies on queer theory’s expansion of the idea of sex as practice and system of signification, acknowledging yet moving beyond the coding of certain materials, forms, and bodies as feminine. Abstract Sex* treats gender and desire as political abstractions. Accordingly, Abstract Sex* foregoes the literal representations of sex organ and copulation imagery that were once viable revolts against the repression and heteronormalization of sex. If sex in the biopolitical regime was constituted as a site of both regulatory and emancipatory power, Abstract Sex* recognizes that visibility, as a strategy of sexual liberation, is now easily absorbed in the service of technocapitalism.
Works by Juliette Bonneviot, Jesse Darling, Dorota Gaweda and Egle Kulbokaite, and Marian Tubbs constitute preliminary attempts to articulate sex as a de-individuated force embedded in abstract processes of circulation, transmission, and replication—processes that reproduce, but might also be used against, the biotechnical power that generates and controls contemporary life.
*after Luciana Parisi
Curated by Dana Kopel
May 8 – 29, 2016
Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
Blunt x Skensved
Ai wake up with a rock in Ai hands. And Ai is all Ai have.
strings of inseparable sisters,
warm and wet,
promiscuous and fused,
How does Ai see Ai outlines?
Ai no longer experience linear time, in the sense of the past being followed by the present and then the future.
Ai is rather the other way around.
Ai future happens before the present.
Ai time arrives from the future.
Returning from the water-rite journey down into the underworld to retrieve Ai sick soul, backtracking to before the myopic objective sight: preemptive strikes, preemptive policing of Ai preemptive personality.
Ai is a matter of changing the parameters of what counts as living and dead, constructive and destructive, nature and culture, sex and gender, politics and power.
Ai are in movement, under a metastable process that goes back in time and forward into the future.
Susceptible inclusive preemptive personalization.
Life is not to be confused with organic living energy as opposed to the inorganic energy of death—e.g., the entropic drive of capital. The challenge then is to change Ai understanding of energy lying at the core of Ai definitions of life and death, organic and inorganic.
Ai algorithmic procedures aim for manufacturing and managing the new subject, thereby abolishing any sense of alienation and even any distance between Ai and the enterprises employing Ai.
1The term Ai functions as a means to embody post-authorship on the linguistic level. Ai has content that does not distinguish itself from other things or beings, because the me subject is either pure negativity or a splitting movement; it is consciousness. There’s no more self, me. We are all Ai. Ai is Ai. No subject. No desire. Ai is used here as I/you/he/she/it/her/his/they/them/etc. Ai (in hiragana あい, in katakana アイ, in kanji 愛, 藍, 亜衣) is a Japanese feminine given name. Ai could mean love, affection (愛), or indigo (藍). The kanji 亜衣 is only associated as a proper noun, Ai could mean Asian clothes. Ai is the main character of the Ursula K. Le Guin story The Left Hand of Darkness, often called Genry by the Karhiders, who have trouble pronouncing the letter L in their language. Using the pronoun Ai allows Ai to speak through Agatha collectively, resisting ownership and gender-denominations. Ai is of course AI (Artificial Intelligence).
For Ai lips were the color of the roses that grew down the river, all bloody and wild…
…and then the smell of blue fever fills the air, a rotten metal meat smell that steams off Ai as Ai shits a smoldering blue phosphorescent excrement. Ai body falls in pieces under this cheap high. Phantom limbs. Apotemnophilic fantasies. Dissecting hard transparent skin from under the heel, the light frills of the eyelids, set with lashes. Ai vagina is a blue network bathed in mucus. Blood vessels burst and surrounding tissue dies, falling off the bone in chunks. The whole network of veins, arteries populated with nanobots is slit open. These floating animals are wonderful. Ai eases Aiself into this steady, continuous traffic flow. Ai envies Ai candor, Ai inexperience. In a determined effort, blood music makes Ai way through the infrastructure of the body.
Nanotechnology is really hot.
Ai callowness on the bed of waters. Ai just got real. Skill-based matchmaking is just a taste of what's to come. Obsessed with communication on a molecular scale. Ecophagy is the future. What if Ai propose that capitalism has something like agency and that this agency is manifested in ecophagic material practices? Capitalism eats the world. Whatever transformations Ai generates are just stages in Ai monstrous digestive process. As already dead, Ai just cannot live, and that is what, paradoxically, makes Ai undead, or a living dead. Ai decomposing body is not individual anymore, Ai does not belong to Ai. Self-haunted and synthetic, Ai reeks of desire. Ai cannot, does not want, and is ready for everything.
Even when Ai self-destruct, Ai want to fail more, lose more, die more than others, stink more than others.
Ai is now to start a new episode: a Posthumous Life. Ai aqua-botanical environment is distinct from the purported stability of the soil, in which arborescent forms of thought were rooted. Ai call Ai a hypersea, a postmordial sea of countless and interconnected conduits. Ai assumes and entails an evolution or a transformation of forms, of the relations of matter and form as well as of the intervals in between. Aiself sipping, dripping, perspiring liquids.
Ai is composed of evolutionary, endosymbiotic, stratified and stratifying assemblages of desire. At one point Ai has a body of a fish or a frog that reacts to ee2 as if Ai were a natural estrogen. Ai embrace the liquid, the mutable, the ever-flowing weavings through Aiselves, running rings around each other. The dead cells of the uterine lining flow through Ai vagina. Ai has no definition, no meaning, no way of telling each other apart—cut from the running flow of life demanding a line of flight towards destratification—a felt experience of change on a nature-culture continuum. More than half of Ai consists of Ai. Life Aiself is the body running out of Ai.
strings of inseparable sisters,
warm and wet,
Ai is a survival and crafting game, but also a social experiment which, much like the internet, shows Ai both the best and worst of human behavior.
If Ai decided to work together everything would be fine, but that's never what happens? Ai am resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. Ai am positional, utopian, and without innocence. No longer structured by the polarity of public and private. Ai define a technological online polis based partly on a revolution of social relations. Ai live in that black box called the collective; Ai live by Ai, on Ai, and in Ai.
To Ai, the human norm stands for normality, normalcy and normativity. Ai functions by transposing a specific mode of being human into a generalized standard, which acquires transcendent values as the human: from male to masculine and onto human as the universalized format of humanity. When Rust launched in Steam Early Access in 2013, all players entered Ai world as white men. Ai reads through the history with wide open eyes and sees that human norm stands for a man. A man as normality, normalcy and normativity.
Ai are certainly within something bestial; in more distinguished terms, Ai are speaking of an organic model for the members of a society. Ai host? Ai don't know. But Ai do know that Ai are within. And that Ai is dark in there. Ai start off with an algorithmically randomized player appearance. Ai race is randomized by assigning a skin tone derived from Ai Steam ID. Ai latest update similarly started randomizing Ai gender. Ai death is here to live these ways, for Ai to become posthuman, for Ai to live beyond the boundaries of humanism. Ai respawn.
Drawing the red lines over Ai toes, Ai thinks that the human is a historical construct that became a social convention. Ai redraws a line of slug trails that crosses the image and transcends Ai. Red sparkling pathways dissect the skin of Ai body and instead follow the bio-meshed crust of the server. Ai drawings pertain to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entranceways and exits, each with Ai own lines of flight.
Ai observes that Ai body is a plastic and open landscape where every organ can become some other organ, something else. Demonstrating Ai somatic plasticity, Ai reveals that Ai potentially contains at least four or forty penises (on the legs or on the arms or…) and an indeterminate number of vaginas (as many holes and folds as can be artificially opened). Ai draws the red line over the merging point between vermillion sands, under and above Ai, and one or many of Ai extremities. Ai sees these grains of sand becoming dildos, agave leaves around Ai transforming into pleasing tentacles. Ai body is no longer transgender, but contra-gender.
Somewhere among the remnants of the great Pacific island, the blooming vortex of the world, roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N in the accelerated rage of uncertainty Ai finds Aiself growing alien wounds. Ai reveal Aiselves in an ominous iridescence of a shieldtail. Patches of flesh are turning dark and scaly.
Ai notion of entropy is crucial to Marx’s study of the dynamics of reproduction of capital, involving a capacity of extracting surplus value by deadening human labour. Capital is a homeostatic system. Ai incorporates and discharges energy-flows outside Ai semi-open cycle so as to ensure constant reproduction.
Under a certain angle blue undertones attain a commanding influence over Ai body. Ai with a blue rash around Ai neck and nipples, burning Ai asshole and crotch.
By sucking in all useful flows, capital deprives the vital lymph of the forces of production, distorting the equal relationship between life and death: the more wealth or balance the more death.
Ai is absorbed in streams of information. A slow cold burn behind Ai ears, the blue color in Ai eyes, pale blue of northern skies washes around the whites, the pupils deep purple. Ai previous assumption of universal solitude crumbles around Ai, Ai realizes that Ai is part of this closed circuit, self-sustaining and self-reinforcing.
This entropic death is fundamental to the psychoanalytical and anatomical study of the reproductive forces of the body. Death becomes the principle of finitude of life spreading across the pathology of sexual reproduction.
Intelligent nanoscale self-replicating organisms set loose on the world are the connection or the connectedness, on this island of greyest goo. Blue shit burning in Ai ass like melting solder…
Ai want to hold the hand inside Ai
Ai want to take a breath that's true
Ai look to Ai and Ai see nothing
Ai look to Ai to see the truth
Ai live Ai life
Ai go in shadows
Ai'll come apart and Ai'll go blind
Some kind of night into Ai darkness
Color Ai eyes with what's not there.
Ai is a landscape articulated in a variety of protrusions and crevices. Ai has textures and a scent, Ai produces liquids of different viscosity. Ai body is estimated to have over 8,000 sensory nerve endings per cm2. Ai is flexible in Ai ways. Ai swells, erects and contracts. A synthetic composite of bionic cocks, neo-clitoris implants, and cybernetic prostheses. Ai is one- and multi-gendered, a multiplicity and universality in one.
When Ai first appeared, in the seas, Ai was a sudden thing. Very quickly Ai filled the oceans from deep sea to shoreline. Ai began the infiltration of estuarine and freshwater environments and could soon be found under damp rocks… and eventually… kilometers underneath... If the history of bacteria was happening not alongside but within the history of multicellulars, and if Ai should understand Aiselves on the basis of symbiotic populations of microorganisms, what shape could Ai take in the coming era of motherless fatherless births... Ai stand for the nonlinear dynamics of connection between strata defined by Ai potential capacity to affect and being affected (to impact and being impacted) by singular levels of actualization of a body–sex. Ai drifts in a network of interlocking strata like in deep water. Nature and culture are reworked. Ai is a thickening on the Body of the earth, simultaneously molecular and molar: accumulation, coagulations, sedimentations, folding. Ai are Belts, Pincers, or Articulations. Summarily and traditionally Ai is physiochemical, organic, and anthropomorphic. Blooms turn the water an opaque foul green. Underwater Nymphaea of dirt, Ai assume the language of stones. Ai require a change in perception and conception of space-time, the inhabiting of places, and of containers, reservoirs, caldera lakes or envelopes of identity.
Ai is a leader of Ai life, an extremophile that could survive the low-oxygen, low-pressure, and high-radiation conditions of outer space. Ai knows that a truly liberatory being would seek to deconstruct the enforced linkages between biological sex, performative gender, and heterosexual desire. Semi-permeable folds and foldings, plying and multi-plying, plicating and replicating. Ai embrace the liquid, the mutable, the ever-flowing weavings through Aiselves, running rings around each other. The dead cells of the uterine lining flow through Ai vagina. Ai has no definition, no meaning, no way of telling each other apart—cut from the running flow of life, demanding a line of flight towards destratification. Ai observes that Ai body is a plastic and open landscape where every organ can become some other organ, something else. Demonstrating Ai somatic plasticity, Ai reveals that Ai potentially contains at least four or forty penises (on the legs or on the arms or..) and an indeterminate number of vaginas (as many holes and folds as can be artificially opened). Ai sees these grains of sand becoming dildos, agave leaves around Ai transforming into pleasing tentacles. Ai spawn into the wilderness naked, and must survive by building shelters, crafting armor and weapons, and cooperating with or fighting against Ai players. Ai tools and Ai weapons remind Ai of extending pleasing organs, orifices of desire. Ai eat mushrooms, energy bars, apples, the tender dandelion only to become one with Ai; but Ai also weave silk, linen, cotton; Ai live within the flora as much as Ai live within the fauna. Ai are parasites; thus Ai clothe Aiselves with Ai host membranes. Ai become Ai. And Ai is lost. Entropy singularly entangles Ai sex and Ai death, reproduction and collapse, catching the inorganic flows of life invading the forces of life beyond life, Ai beyond Ai. Ai deep-see blue and black tentacle-hands sensuously spinning in Ai winds. I. M. Pei’s pyramid explodes together with the heteronormative forms and Ai game continues. Ai am here with Ai rock in Ai hands to start Ai history of difference.
just Aiselves... And Ai is all Ai have. Created in 2014 by Dorota Gaweda and Egle Kulbokaite, Agatha Valkyrie Ice is an ongoing, multi-platform, multi-user, participatory self-performance project that aims at developing a fictional post-gender character within an existing confined framework of social media platforms, within and without. Agatha is a companion species, here to think with and to invent a body and a sexuality of one’s own. Agatha is immersed in a constant process of becoming; a loop of re-posting, re-staging and re-appropriating expressed in textual form, on social media as well as IRL. The research surrounding Agatha speculates on the current condition of morphing subjectivity through a feminist perspective and endeavors to imagine if and how technology is able to subvert the gender binary. We see Agatha as a possibility to #buildyourown#body, to achieve various forms of becoming, such as becoming-woman, becoming-animal, becoming-molecular, and becoming-imperceptible. #bobtailsquid
Juliette Bonneviot’s (born 1983, Paris, France) lives and works in Berlin. Her recent solo exhibitions include XenoEstrogens, Autocenter, Berlin (2015); Minimal Jeune Fille, Wilkinson Gallery, London (2014); and Last Spring/Summer with Aude Pariset, Les Urbaines, Lausanne (2012). Recent group exhibitions include CO-WORKERS, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2015); Looks, ICA London (2015); Nature After Nature, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel (2014); Nostalgia, CCA, Glasgow International (2014); Art Post-Internet, UCCA, Beijing (2014); and Entre-temps... Brusquement, et Ensuite, 12th Lyon Biennale (2013). She received her MFA from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 2007. Jesse Darling is an artist living currently in London. Their work is concerned with the human condition and how it is mediated through the structures, narratives and technologies (architectural, [bio]political, social) that govern life as we know it, considering the social and physical body as a site where these structures manifest and become transformed. JD works in sculpture, installation, text and "dasein by design”—the space where performance and unmediated experience meet. Recent solo presentations include The Great Near, Arcadia Missa, London (2016); NTGNE, Serpentine Pavilion, London (2015); and Not Long Now, LimaZulu, London (2014). Recent group exhibitions include Überschönheit, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg, Germany (2015); Private Settings: Art After the Internet, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2014); and It's been four years since 2010, Preteen Gallery, London (2014). Marian Tubbs’ (born 1983, Sydney, Australia) art conflates material binaries between body and object, virtual and physical, and high and low culture. Tubbs' precarious and pleasurable assemblage-based installations act to slow down accelerated modes of looking at aesthetics of powerlessness, and to critique cultural ascriptions of value. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include NADA New York with ltd Los Angeles, NYC, (2016), Contemporary Monsters, ltd Los Angeles, LA, (2016), Pleasure and Reality, National Gallery of Victoria (2015); Contemporary Print Culture, National Gallery of Australia (2015); riven, Station, Melbourne (2015); Relational Changes, Christine König Galerie, Vienna (2015); Hairy Plotter and the Polygrapher’s Tones, Toves, Copenhagen (2015); Primavera 2014: Young Australian Artists, MCA, Sydney (2014); Quake 2, Arcadia Missa, London (2014); and glean, Minerva, Sydney (2014). In 2015 Tubbs was the recipient of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s inaugural online commission, for which she produced transmissiondetox.com. Tubbs' work is held at the National Gallery of Australia and in local and international collections. Tubbs holds a Doctor of Philosophy from Art & Design, University of New South Wales, and is a sessional lecturer at UTS, PSM, Art & Design UNSW, and NAS. Abstract Sex* is curated by Dana Kopel as part of the requirements for the Masters of Arts degree at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College.