Regaining the sovereignty of the body?

In June 2016, an installation work showed Miao Ying’s solo exhibition produced an idyllic image with Photoshop’s “Automatic Content Recognition (ACR)” function, which was printed with the slogan “Reclaiming ownership of your mind, body, and future”. The title of the exhibition, Content Aware, means a tiny computer algorithm that gradually harvests your mind, body, and future in a comfortable hypnotic way. After the time jumped to two years, I submitted the PSA emerging curator’s project with a proposal titled “Hot and Yummy." Before that, my friend had severe rheumatoid dysfunction due to excessive fitness, and all my friends were bothered by their uncontrolled body. On the streets of Shanghai, some of the street-facing gymnasiums show the people’s effort to reclaim the ownership of the body.

The American drama “BoJack Horseman" is depicting a world in which humans and anthropomorphic animals live together. In addition to the appearance, these animals are no different from humans. One episode tells about a chicken farm operated by chicken. In the advertisement of the farm, the chicken boss showed to the audience with a plate of broilers and said: “These animals are different from us." To persuade the audience to consume and eat these broilers. This frame is described as a beginning to the exhibition, but in fact, this issue was not revealed at the time.

Until I found the case in the book How We Became Post-human: Gillian Brown’s research on the relationship between humanism and anorexia. It has shown that the anorexic person can “scrimp/maltreat” the body because the body is treated as an object that can be controlled and mastered, rather than being the inner part of oneself… The anorexia creates an image of the body and its skinny appearance. It is equivalent to tangible proof: the center of the subject of free humanism is not the body but the soul. Anorexia, in fact, in a broad sense, all dieters are engaged in a battle for self-control, escape the enslavement of food; make consciousness independent of the body. In BoJack Horseman, the body with consciousness (chicken boss) can hang the concept of “consciousness" outside the body of the broiler, so that the body of the broiler is simply supplied as material in the production chain (even if it looks exactly same as the subject of consciousness). This cognition originated from Descartes. “there is a vast difference between mind and body, in the respect that body, from its nature, is always divisible, and that mind is entirely indivisible”. In this context, people’s expectation and transformation of the body is always a kind of expectation and transformation of accidents. This also led him to make this statement: “it is certain that I am really distinct from my body,* and can exist without it.”

Since the time of Descartes, people began to more and more believe—our body can be completely under the control of consciousness (as long as our consciousness is strong enough). Lie in a nutshell: “When you can’t even control your weight, how can you control your own life?" The subject of free humanism regulates itself with such words. This also means that the body and mind are placed in a simple dualism. The body in it represents the part (affiliated part) that needs to be controlled. The result of such a distinction may be a completely pure body, a flesh that exists without minds, that is, the broilers in the world of BoJack Horseman. People demand their bodies just as the way they choose meat in the fresh food market: “The fat should be less, the bones should be a little more, the meat should be finer…" Such body also exists in our daily life in a way that is capitalized. Burroughs predicted Fredric Jameson’s assertion that “the information society is the purest form of capitalism." When the body is structured into information, they can not only be bought and sold but also fundamentally adapted according to market pressure. Payne’s “Like Investment – ​​Long-Term Investment Plan” uses capital ambition to completely convert the body into investment products. In this art project, he plans to recruit 20 investors to “feed" an African-American bodybuilder to participate in a bodybuilding competition, and the bonuses won by the competition are the return on investment. By this means, he purifies the body into an investment object, and the mind of the investee (bodybuilder) is hidden in this capitalistic game. The fitness industry is a bridge that transforms the body into investment. It is also the master materializing bodies.

In the context of Foucault, it is also the field that regulates and standardizes the concept of “health". It originated from the dualism of the body and the mind of free humanism. This is why many artists take this culture as a creative source. The industry perfectly symbolized the desire of the mind to control the body. It reshapes the relationship between the mind and the body by deeply materializing and objectifying the body. Diamond Stingily’s solo show titled as “Doing the Best I can", Li Tingwei’s work You can say that you can do it!, Simon Fujiwara’s “Joanne” project and even Mika Rottenberg’s work The cardio solaric cyclopad-work from home as you get fit and tan and so on, are all narrated related issues. In Fujiwara’s project, this idea has undergone more complex examined. Joanne was originally an art teacher when Simon was at Harrow Middle School. After he graduated and left there, Joanne was involved in a fair because of her identity as a beauty queen. Her semi-nude photos were spread among students so that she lost her job. But what attracts Simon’s attention is Joanne’s multiple identities, and the contradiction between these identities, Joanne is also deeply involved in the art field which is sensitive to advertising, regulations, and materialization of the body. While at the same time, she is extremely self-visualization and objectification, and because of the training of art, she is also vigilant and introspective about these behaviors. Through the mixed meta-narrative, Fujiwara symbolized the sense of wandering between the identities as the name “Joanne", and in fact, it also stands for the unstable human subject of this era.

Considering this issue from the perspective of Posthumanism, it involves the way we view the human-machine relationship. Katherine Hayles believes that the duality of body/mind becomes the duality of matter/information. Especially when we talk about how human consciousness can be removed from the physical carrier and converted into information to other ports. The “dematerializing” tendency of the first stage of cybernetics presupposes the separation of information and carrier. On Jiang Yuhui’s view, “this seems to be clear, once the theory applied to people, it will inevitably lead to profound problems. One of the most difficult problems is the dualism of mind and body in philosophy history. This philosophical problem since Descartes has triggered waves of debates, and when informatics restored human nature to information, it seems to have carried out the extreme and thorough advancement of Descartes’s original position." The American TV series “Altered Carbon" expands the story with a similar background, the trailer’s few voice-overs offer an extreme vision of the future world:

Your body is not who you are

You shed it like snake shed its skin

We transfer the human consciousness between bodies

To live an eternal life

The poster of the TV series borrows from the body sealed in the plastic bag, which is a symbol of the 100% pure flesh, an affiliate without the host, and they are waiting to be possessed by the consciousness. Only then will these bodies become human.

Looking back to Miao Ying’s solo show “Content Aware”, it dealt with cybernetics. After human has eliminated the necessity of the body, then comes the world of the machine. And the function “content aware” of Photoshop means that the machine extends its tentacles into “aesthetics", the most mysterious intellectual activity of human. The cases about how artificial intelligence can turn themselves into artists through the algorithm are often seen, but the peculiarity of “content aware" is that it is extremely small and only be used as a graphic design function, it provides the limited possibilities for people to choose from, so we think they’re still autonomy. Michael Connor thought this represents the “features for dummies” from the Photoshop to the new feature in sub-amateurish Meitu app. And “Practical/Half-Asseded Aesthetics” is a kind of aesthetics resulted from cybernetics, machines produce images for human, people are like machines generally accept those images. All these are happening in our deceptively free creative environment.

The advanced stage of Cybernetics is “allow particular computer data/code package spontaneously plan in the direction where the programmer never expected”. As Ian Chen’s “immersive artificial world" – a self-operated simulated eco-system, utilizing complex computer simulation technology in the system, he sets different environmental parameters, and let the system evolute automatically. Compare to this, Conway’s Game of Life, a cellular automaton invented by John Horton Conway in 1970, has already completed the prototype of this simulation. Philippe Parreno’s solo exhibition in London in 2015 titled as With a Rhythmic Instinction to be Able to Travel Beyond Existing Forces of Life also cited the automatic system. The artist divided the insect paintings into groups according to the particular algorithm. The “lifetime" of the image is determined by the progress of cellular automaton. It can live for a few minutes or up to a whole day. When each set of images “dies", one of the images shortly freezes on the screen.

The parables that Parreno wants to tell are clear enough that the systems he refers to are not just models of life, but are themselves alive. When we successfully strip the body (material) down to the mind (information), it means that the self-evolving “information" in these computer programs is “alive" just as we are. When we begin to agree with such ideas, we also consolidate the status of mind (information) indirectly. According to Katherine Hayles, such a perception symbolizes a shift in the basis of the classification of life-forms that have led to a dramatic shift in the concept of human beings, and thus to the transition from human to the posthuman.

20166月苗颖个展上的一件装置作品以 Photoshop 内容识别功能制作了田园风光式的图像,上面印着收回你的思想、身体和未来的主权标语。展览的名字《内容觉醒》,意指一个微小的计算机算法,如何以一种舒适的催眠式的方式渐渐收割你的思想、身体和未来。时间跳转到两年后,我以一个名为《你看起来很好吃》的策展案投递了PSA青策计划。在那之前我的朋友因为过度健身导致横纹肌溶解险些肾衰竭,而身边的朋友也无一不为自己失控的身体感到烦恼。在上海街头,一些临街的健身房,以整面的玻璃墙展示着人们何以挥汗用意识争夺身体的主权。



直到我翻看《我们何以成为后人类》时遇到的案例:吉利恩·布朗 (Gillian Brown)  对人本主义与厌食症的关系进行的研究。研究表明,厌食者之所以能够克扣/亏待身体,是因为身体被当作一个可以控制和掌握的对象,而非自我内在的一部分……厌食者创造了一个身体的形象,其瘦骨嶙峋的样子,相当于一种有形的证明:自由人本主义主体的中心不在于身体,而在于心灵。厌食者,事实上从广泛的意义上说,所有的节食者都在进行一场争取自我控制的战斗,逃脱食物的奴役;使意识独立于身体。而在《马男波杰克》中,拥有意识的身体(鸡老板)可以将意识的观念悬置于肉鸡的身体之外,使肉鸡的身体单纯作为食材供应于生产链(即使它和拥有意识的主体看起来一模一样)。这样的认知来自笛卡尔,人的肉体就其有别于其他物体这一点来说,它不过是由一些肢体和其他类似的一些偶性组合成的;而人的灵魂就不是这样。在此语境中,人对身体的期望与改造总归是一种对偶性的期望和改造。这也导致他说出这样一句话:灵魂可以没有肉体而存在。

从笛卡尔开始,人们开始一步步的相信——我们的身体可以完全处以意识的操控之下(只要你的意识足够强大)。一言以蔽之:连自己的体重都控制不了,何以掌控自己的人生?自由人本主义的主体以这样的话语规训自身。这也意味者,身体与意识被置入了一个单纯的二元区分。而身体在其中代表着需要被控制的一方(附属方)。这样的区分可能导致的结果,就是一个完全纯粹的肉体,一个没有灵魂而存在的肉体,即一个马男波杰克世界中的肉鸡。人们如同在生鲜市场拣选肉类一样对自己的身体提出要求:肥肉少一点,骨头多一点,肉质精一点……事实上,这样的肉体也以一种资本的方式存在于我们的日常生活。伯勒斯预言了弗雷德里克·杰克逊(Fredric Jameson)关于信息社会是资本主义最纯粹的形式的论断。当身体被建构成信息的时候,它们不仅可以被买卖,而且还可以根据市场压力从根本上进行相应的改造。佩恩恩的《赖克投资长期投资计划》利用资本野心将肉体彻底转换为投资品。在这项艺术计划里,他计划招募二十个投资人出钱喂养一个非洲裔健美人士参加健美比赛,比赛赢得的奖金作为投资人的回报。通过这样的手段他将身体纯化为投资对象,而被投资人(健美人士)的意识则隐没在这场资本游戏中。健身行业是将身体转化为肉体的桥梁,也是物化身体的翘楚。从福柯的语境进入,它同时也是规驯健康观念的场域,而这根源来自于自由人本主义对身体/心灵二元关系的看待。这也是为什么众多艺术家将创作视角投向它的原因。这个行业完美象征了心灵对身体的掌控欲望,它通过将身体深度的物化与客体化重塑心灵与身体的关系。Diamond Stingily 的个展“Doing the Best I can”、李葶葳的作品 You can say that you can do it!Simon Fujiwara Joanne 项目甚至 Mika Rottenberg 的作品‘The cardio solaric cyclopad-work from home as you get fit and tan’等,无一不围绕着这一点展开。而在 Simon Fujiwara 的项目中,这种意识经历了更为复杂的审视。Joanne 原本是 Simon Harow 中学念书时的艺术老师,当他毕业离开后几年,Joanne 因为自己的选美冠军的身份卷入绯闻,她的半裸照在学生之间传播,因此丢了工作。但吸引 Simon 注意的却是 Joanne 的多重身份,与这些身份之间的矛盾性,Joanne 同时深处对广告、规训与物化身体过程十分敏感的艺术领域。她在将身体极端自我图像化与客体化的同时,也因为艺术的训练同时对这些行为保持警惕与自省。通过混杂的元叙事,Simon 将在这之间游走的意识符号化为了“Joanne”这个名字,而事实上这也象征了当下变动不居的人类主体。 

“Diamond Stingily Doing the Best I can”的图片搜索结果

“Simon Fujiwara  Joanne”的图片搜索结果


从后人类的视角去思考这个问题,这牵涉了我们何以看待人机关系的问题,凯瑟琳·海勒(Katherine Hayles)认为身体/意识的二元性在其中成为了物质/信息的二元性。特别是当我们谈论意识何以能够脱离肉身这个载体,转换为信息传输至其他端口的时候。控制论第一阶段的去物质化倾向预设了信息与载体的分离,在姜宇辉看来,这看似清楚明白,一旦运用于人的身上,则势必会引发深刻的难题。其中最棘手的问题正在于其中体现出的身心二元论的哲学立场。这个自笛卡尔以来的哲学难题已然引发了一波又一波的论争与激辩,而当信息论将人的本质还原为信息之时,它看起来确实是将笛卡尔的原初立场进行了极端而彻底的推进。美剧《碳变》(Altered Carbon,又名《副本》)以类似的设定展开故事内容,预告片的寥寥数句旁白就勾画出了一个极端的未来世界:

“Altered Carbon poster”的图片搜索结果

你的身体不代表你本人 (your body is not who you are)





回头看来苗颖的内容觉醒事实上处理的是控制论的问题。当人类自身将身体的必要性排除之后,接下来就是机器的工作了。而Photoshop 内容识别功能意味着机器将触角伸向审美这个最神秘的人类思维活动。关于人工智能如何能够通过算法将自己摇身一变为艺术家的案例屡见不鲜,但内容识别的特殊之处在于,它极其微小并且仅作为一种制图功能被使用, 它提供相当一部分的可能性供制图人选择,以至于我们认为自主权仍然在自己手上。麦克·康纳(Michael Connor)认为这代表了从专业图片软件 Photopshop 中的傻瓜功能到超级素人软件美图秀秀中的新功能等等。而方便美学/半屁股美学Practical/Half-Assed Aesthetics)事实上是一种控制论作用下的美学,机器代人生产图像,而人如机器一般接受这些图像。而这一切都发生在我们看似自由的创作环境中。

控制论的高阶是允许具体的计算机数据/编码包自发地向着程序设计员从未预想过的方向计划,如同 Ian Cheng 人工世界”——一个自己运转的虚拟生态系统,他利用复杂的电脑模拟技术在游戏中设置不同的环境参数,并让整个虚拟化的生态自动进化。相比这个具象化的模拟世界,约翰·何顿·康威在1970年发明的细胞自动机——康威生命游戏(Conway’s Game of Life——就已经将这个世界的雏形完成了。菲利普·帕雷诺(Philippe Parreno 2015年其伦敦的个展《超越现有生命力量的节奏性本能》(With a Rhythmic Instinction to be Able to Travel Beyond Existing Forces of Life) 也引用了这个自动系统。艺术家将昆虫的画作按照算法分成不同组,画面的寿命则由细胞自动机的进程决定。它可以存活数分钟,最长可以存活一整天。当每组画面死去时,其中的一张图画会在屏幕上出现短暂的冻结状态。



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