A review from Arse Elektronika (by Ann Antidote)
(complete text to be found in the Krake 2012)
Arse Elektronika is a compilation of texts and presentations from the conference with the same name, organized by Vienna-based collective Monochrom. “We may not forget that mankind is a sexual and tool-using species. And that’s why Monochrom’s conference Arse Elektronika deals with sex, technology and the future. As bio-hacking, sexually enhanced bodies, genetic utopias and plethora of gender have long been the focus of literature, science fiction and, increasingly, pornography, this anthology sees us explore the possibilities that fictional and authentic bodies have to offer. ” reads the manifest.
One grey day in November I found an envelope containing this book with both “the Krake” and my name on it, due to an avalanche of chances. Browsing this book in a hurry I recognized electronic diagrams and lines of code, quite familiar from my previous life as an engineer, I caught words like sex, gender, hacking, control theory, feminist pornography, kink, body extensions. I had immediate flashbacks of one of my favorite books, “The Cities of the Red Night” by William Burroughs, and it was not before long that I found, selbstverständlich, his name, his imaginary and even his writing style quite present all over this book. “Ok, I just have to write about it”, I thought.
At a first glimpse, Arse Elektronika appears to be a book that demands you are an engineer or a geek in order to understand it. It isn't, it is a book that asks more or less politely from you that you believe that you don't have to be engineer to understand its main topic - the interconnections between technology, humanism and therefore our sexual boundaries, our identity boundaries, their reflection in social matrix, and possibilities to extend those - or be inspired by it, to be challenged by it.
If I had to explain in a nutshell what is inside this book, I would start by listing examples on how technology, not only recently, has changed our bodies, our sexuality and therefore our society. There are people out there living with artificial limbs, with more or less neuronal control; people who modify their body to accommodate it to their gender identity via surgery and/or hormonal intake; saying tender words to our absent loved ones - like we do now on the telephone or on skype - would be unthinkable some centuries ago. In these almost every day life examples, we see how technology was used to solve a problem or fill a hole, and how our bodies, emotions and society integrated it. Now, if we use this as a starting point, what if we all sit together and try to think what other possibilities are out there, and what could they do to our life, our sexuality, and our concept of humanity? Would you like to have an embedded LCD display on your arm showing you -real time- your lover´s heart, beating? Would you build a DIY set for having remote, intercontinental, sex with one of your lovers, transmitting most of seeing, sensing, hearing sensations? What about computer controlled electrical sexual titillation? And most of us used the internet to find polyamorous like-minded peers, right? Would you like to add an extra pair of arms to your torso? What about Krake-like tentacles? And how would society accommodate this? Would it be more variety-friendly? Would this press hetero-sexism out of the picture? Would it still be regarded as human? Ethical?
Arse Elektronika is an exploratory book which will leave questions unanswered, for the interested reader to look further for the answers. It will eventually inspire you and show you the principles on how to build the mentioned DIY remote sex set or the so-called pussy pad, but it is not a “how to” manual. The manual, the actual set, and the identities and societies you will be living in with it will have to be constructed by you.