Friday, April 21, 2006

Technology, sex and bugs, Or, Blessed be the religious scholars

Trevor - Do you think I have any chance of scoring a position in a divinity school or religious studies department? Then I could work with people like you and Jeremy Biles on virtuality and fetishism in new technologies...

I mean, check out "I, Insect, or Bataille and the Crush Freaks" (pdf)

It's a brilliant look at bug-crushing* as part atrocity exhibition and part technophilia:

"It is not difficult to see why insects make such apt metaphors for technology. Their highly organized labor, machine-like movements, and apparently imputrescible exoskeletons all liken them to machines. Moreover, the virtual indistinguishability to the human eye of, say, one ant from another in a colony perfectly describes the anxiety-provoking typicality associated with the increasing intimacy of humans and machines. This living metaphor has thus become a metaphor for vital declivity; the insect, a symbol of the machine, is also the machinic harbinger of death. The movement from organic to mechanical is literalized in the many recent occasions of technology mimicking insects, as in the mounting production of entomorphic robots. If the insect is a metaphor for machinery, it is now also its literal embodiment–both a model of technology, and a model for technology ...

This fetish operates on the literalization of the bug-machine analogy, and allows the crush freak to master the anxieties produced by machine culture through an indulgence in the ecstasies of technology ... Serial violence, spectacularly executed and compulsively reproduced, not only reenacts the violent penetration of the body or psyche by external forces; at the same time it grants what it had first sought to suture up: open interiors, visible insides–thus an evacuation of innards that would otherwise remain vacuous, meaningless ...

In my discussion of Bataille, I pointed out that sacrificial killing and perverse sexuality elicit a bursting of the boundaries that define the self, and that in masochistically identifying with the victim or the other, the sacrificer/lover participates in a form of non-productive expenditure, an explosive depletion of the self. Following these same lines, Vilencia’s perverse rites, combining sexual pleasure and death, at once assume and transgress normal, or normative, sexual behavior, predicated on reproduction. Indeed, it is in recording his insect sacrifices that Vilencia is able to reconfigure sexual reproduction as mechanical reproduction; thus 'Squish Productions' treats copulation as commerce–a sterile productivity at once profitable and perverse."

* Some crush freaks prefer frogs or cute rodents and I think that's cruel. Not that I think it's okay to kill bugs, but it is less offensive to me.

(hunted down after reading this post at textually)

From the archives:
What socio-technology can learn from theology (Jan 04)
Prayer is taking place, or, Becoming together (Apr 06)

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