reworking curvatures:

re-applying material/cyborg feminism with mumtaz afreen

link to powerpoint

GLOSSARY OF TERMS:

Cyborg - an assemblage, hybrid creature, or cybernetic organism that blurs binaries such as public/private, nature/culture, etc due to its origins in both social reality and fiction.

  • Prosthesis - a human-machine encounter which enhances movement, function, or activity, such as a dildo

  • “Material-discursive” - a way of thinking which refuses to separate poststructuralist (which centers on our perceptions of language/epistemology) thinking from materialist (which centers on our perceptions of physical reality). Also known as a practice in which matter is articulated through critique of language.

  • Techne - “craft” in Latin

  • “Coloniality of being” - existing under colonialism

  • Digital space - a mode of continuous transformation online which changes how embodiment and identity are perceived on the internet and/or in real life.

  • Materiality - physical reality having to do with matter, how it is affected by surrounding environments and vice versa. Grounded in Marxist philosophy. 


space agreements + trigger warnings

Speak one at a time

  • Be open to critiques/callouts.

    • “oops/ouch” method

  • Speak from the “I” and share your own unique experiences

  • Practice mindful listening.

  • Be Truthful! Speak your truths!

    • Say what you want to say, not what others want to hear

  • Trigger warnings: there will be mentions of sex, sex toys, body modification

icebreaker: what does it mean to be a cyborg?

On a sheet of paper, write down two to three phrases/sentences on what you envision as a cyborg. What does it mean to be/become a cyborg? How does one experience this process? Can you think of an example?

  • Feel free to pair up with a partner or complete this activity on your own

  • Share your thoughts if you feel comfortable!

why are cyborgs important?

Cyborg - an assemblage, hybrid creature, or cybernetic organism that blurs binaries such as public/private, nature/culture, etc due to its origins in both social reality and fiction.

  • Cyborgs can be viewed as alternate realities that can seem detached from our physical reality

    • I.e. orbs, androids, fairies, anything that deals with the fantastic or extraordinary

  • Can be viewed as a form of escapism or transcending physical/material reality

  • In a way we are all cyborgs...

why are cyborgs important to me? (short bio)

Since 2015/2016, I’ve chosen my artist name to be METAL FEMME to explore what it meant to me to be a queer, trans diasporic subject from the South Asian subcontinent

  • Feelings of fragmentation, loss of self, cyclical trauma all drew me toward conceptualising myself as existing out of my physical form

  • Through my interdisciplinary and multimedia artmaking, I attempt to explore what it means to exist in the third space and carve out trajectories of my own

    • I’ve been doing this through self publishing poetry chapbooks, embarking on a DJ career, venturing into watercolour sketches

    • My feelings of displacement and internal rifts were assuaged by reading materialist theory, especially cyborg feminist theory


robotisation of humans through music

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where cyborg feminism comes in

Donna Haraway

  • Published the “Cyborg Manifesto” in the 1985 issue of the Socialist Review

  • Context: Haraway is a middle class cis white woman 

    • How would this affect her perspective on cyborgs?

  • Provides an “imaginative resources” that blurs dualisms and refuses traditional notions of family, kinship in “a post gender world”, committed to “partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity” (Haraway 292).

  • “The main trouble with cyborgs is that they are illegitimate children of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism” (Haraway 293)

  • “Cyborgs are irreverent, they do not remember the cosmos” (Haraway 294)

    • Would you agree with this notion? 

      previous explorations of the cyborg feminine

THEMES

  • The encounter with the digital self

  • Ego death in the digital space (a mode of continuous transformation online which changes how embodiment and identity are perceived on the internet and in real life)

  • The heels and pole as prosthetics, the act of strip dancing as prosthesis (a human-machine encounter which enhances movement, function, or activity)

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THEMES

  • Otherization of the cyborg feminine (she is different bc she is a cyborg and vice versa)

  • Her portrayal as mysterious, sensual, even seductive

  • Woman (?) of dubious origins

  • “The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern and collective self. This is the self feminists must code.” (Haraway 302).

why are we obsessed with cyborgs?

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“Metal is neither a thing nor an organism, but a body without organs” (Deleuze & Guattari, “A Thousand Plateaus”)

  • Culture borrows from itself over and over again (Adorno)

    • Compare/contrast the designs for JENOVA and FKA TWIG’S mirror self in “Cellophane”

  • The fantasy of becoming “the other” is a “wish for a post body future in which one might enjoy the exoticism of otherness or dodge complicity by inhabiting that space of difference” (Nguyen 286).

  • Through envisioning ourselves as cyborgs we “desire to escape location or seek identity play” (Nguyen 292).

    • Is this always linked to a negative connotation?

how can we re-apply/reinvent the definition of a cyborg?

Rethinking what it means to be a cyborg

  • Reapplying our newly gained knowledge and systems of thought

  • Reconfiguring our mental framework, so we don’t just survive but thrive

    • Activity: Turn to a partner or write down on a sheet of paper any ideas you would have to re/apply the definition of a cyborg to yourself.

what does this potentiality mean for LGBTQ BIPOC?

“Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness” (Haraway 291)

  • Coalition through affinity instead of solely identity

    • “Not all skin folk are kin-folk”

  • “Who cyborgs will be is a radical question” (Haraway 294)

  • We have new channels and networks to strengthen our connections with each other

  • The digital space can be used subversively to arm ourselves and each other with consciousness in the revolutionary sense

  • We have new frameworks of exploring what we know about each other and ourselves


where do we go from here?

Some interesting contemporary artists who have been doing work revolving around cybernetics and cyborgs include...

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Top Left: Look 8 by Keith La Fuente, Bottom Left: #SELFIE by Sara Nicole Françoise, Center: Cravings by Lee Bul, Right: India Aono-Billson and Aaron Philip by 3rdeyechakra/bbychakra


what will your (future) truth be?

resources used

Material Feminisms ed. by Alaimo & Heckman

If certain topics weren’t discussed or overlooked, please feel free to comment upon that and offer your perspective on the matter if you have one! Thank you again!