1969 American Western and one of the first Buddy Films
Surface Value is a work that addresses the relationship between femininity and the exterior. Since the advent of photography, the nature of the object has undergone constant change. In many respects, images now take precedence over objects, experiences and events. These images are pervasive in nature and dictate a new value system in which worth is determined through constant accumulation and revision. This value structure is becoming inscribed on us as individuals wherein we take the perceived value of the images we surround ourselves with as an indicator of our own worth. As a result, our identities are becoming as disposable as these projections. Surface Value uses the archetype of the android as a metaphor to explore this condition. As the piece progresses a roving camera, meticulously explores the central character, a female android. As an object, the android is purely surface. Its interiors are as accessible as its exteriors and both have been crafted with the expectation that they will be closely examined and evaluated. While these surfaces are beautiful, they are also two-dimensional. The android is not more than the sum of its parts as indicated by the fact that we never see all of it at once. Because it is artificial, the android while appearing valuable will inevitably be dismantled and discarded through the scrutiny it is meant to withstand.
In recent work Ahwesh has continued to force serious philosophical questions from unlikely material. The footage that constitutes She Puppet (2001) was recorded directly from Ahwesh’s computer as she played the video game Tomb Raider, famous for its robotically voluptuous animated protagonist Lara Croft. As she seems to push the character to the outer edges of the Tomb Raider world, different female voiceovers read from the work of Sun Ra, Joanna Russ and Fernando Pessoa. As we watch Lara Croft fend off attacking huskies and machine gun wielding commandos, dying again and again, we catch ourselves attributing the content of the voiceover texts to Lara’s subjectivity. She Puppet therefore cunningly demonstrates the improbable persistence of the processes of spectator identification. But more importantly, the film performs this work in the context of posing larger questions about the incredibly abstract, but at the same time all too real and particular, nature of the category of the female in our cultural imaginary. There is nothing real or realistic about the animated image of Lara Croft, and yet, through the repetitive acts of violence and self-destruction, she becomes real and we find ourselves believing in her on the very basis of her being obsessively violated. In many ways She Puppet is the most succinct and powerful essay on the position of women in the field of cinematic vision since Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”.-
The Female Man is a feminist science fiction novel written by Joanna Russ. It was originally written in 1970 and first published in 1975. The book was re-released in 2000. Russ is an avid feminist and challenged sexist views during the 1970s with her novels, short stories, and nonfiction works. These works include We Who Are About To, “When It Changed”, and What Are We Fighting For?: Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism.
The novel follows the lives of four women living in parallel worlds that differ in time and place. When they cross over to each others’ worlds, their different views on gender roles startle each others’ preexisting notions of womanhood. In the end, their encounters influence them to evaluate their lives and shape their ideas of what it means to be a woman.
How We Became Posthuman
Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics
by N. Katherine Hayles
“Like all good magic tricks, the test relies on getting you to accept at an early stage assumptions that will determine how you interpret what you see later. The important intervention comes not when you try to determine which is the man, the woman, or the machine. Rather, the important intervention comes much earlier, when the test puts you into a cybernetic circuit that splices your will, desire, and perception into a distributed cognitive system in which represented bodies are joined with enacted bodies through mutating and flexible machine interfaces. As you gaze at the flickering signifiers scrolling down the computer screens, no matter what identifications you assign to the embodied entities that you cannot see, you have already become posthuman.”
Hayles talk on “How we Became Posthuman”
Excerpt from “How We Became Posthuman”
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991)
In 1985, Haraway published an essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”, in Socialist Review.
In “A Cyborg Manifesto”, Haraway deploys the metaphor of a cyborg to challenge feminists to engage in a politics beyond naturalism and essentialism. She also uses the cyborg metaphor to offer a political strategy for the seemingly disparate interests of socialism and feminism, writing, “We are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs”(p. 150). A cyborg is a:
- cybernetic organism
- hybrid of machine and organism
- Creature of both fiction and lived social reality
Haraway’s cyborg is an attempt to break away from Oedipal narratives and Christian origin myths like Genesis. She writes, “The cyborg does not dream of community on the model of the organic family, this time without the oedipal project. The cyborg would not recognize the Garden of Eden; it is not made of mud and cannot dream of returning to dust.”
As a postmodern feminist, she argues against essentialism, which she defines as “any theory that claims to identify a universal, transhistorical, necessary cause or constitution of gender identity or patriarchy” (“Feminist Epistemology”). Such theories, she argues, either exclude women who don’t conform to the theory and segregate them from “real women” or represent them as inferior.
According to Haraway’s “Manifesto”, “there is nothing about being female that naturally binds women together into a unified category. There is not even such a state as ‘being’ female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices” (p. 155). A cyborg does not require a stable, essentialist identity, argues Haraway, and feminists should consider creating coalitions based on “affinity” instead of identity. To ground her argument, Haraway analyzes the phrase “women of color”, suggesting it as one possible example of affinity politics. Using a term coined by theorist Chela Sandoval, Haraway writes that “oppositional consciousness” is comparable with a cyborg politics, because rather than identity it stresses how affinity comes as a result of “otherness, difference, and specificity” (p. 156).
The idea of the cyborg deconstructs binaries of control and lack of control over the body, object and subject, nature and culture, in ways that are useful in postmodern feminist thought. Haraway uses the metaphor of cyborg identity to expose ways that things considered natural, like human bodies, are not, but are constructed by our ideas about them. This has particular relevance to feminism, since Haraway believes women are often discussed or treated in ways that reduce them to bodies. Balsamo and Haraway’s ideas are also an important component of critiques of essentialist feminism and essentialism, as they subvert the idea of naturalness and of artificiality; the cyborg is a hybrid being.
Charlie Chaplin’s response to industrialization and the Great Depression.
Lawrence Wright is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 was nominated for the National Book Award and won the Lionel Gelber Award for nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Award for History, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.