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Fearmonger: Fear, film, digital embodiment, and cinematic futures



Journal: Parol - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia This paper contributes to the ongoing debate about the contemporary technological moment and potential cinematic futures. We do so by presenting Fearmonger, a new media arts project that probes moving image culture through an embodied digital experience that, in one sense, victimizes a film viewer in figurative terms, but paradoxically might offer an alternative site for spectatorship. Fearmonger’s aesthetic design conceptualization invigorates the cinematic experience with wearable technology that jars viewers’ sensibility rather than attempting seamlessness with the digital, which is so often the motive for our current personal devices. In the sections that follow, we explore the concept of media as prosthesis and contextualize it through previous scholarship but also artistic forms. Second, we explain the Fearmonger project and explore the various ways that it interrogates the realities of a radically embodied cinema.
“when we invent a new technology, we become cannibals.
We eat ourselves alive since these technologies are merely
extensions of ourselves. The new environment shaped by
electronic technology is a cannibalistic one”
Marshall McLuhan, 1967
In “Cinema del Limite,” Antonio Bisaccia, R. Bruce Elder, Peggy
Gale, and Giuliano Lombardo make a controversial claim1. “The
cinema as we have known it,” they argue, “is dead”. As the argu-
ment progresses it becomes clear that “‘the movies’ are very much
practices. Paradoxically, according to the authors, the cinema has
died, not through atrophy, but because of a hypertrophy of mov-
ing images. The proliferation of personal computing devices and
the algorithmic circulation of images has led to a surfeit of movies:
“Go to almost any sports bar or pub, or walk through the lobbies
and atriums of almost any large public buildings, or take an eleva-
a screen with some kind of movie being shown on it.” The vastly
of moving images has led to a “crucial juncture for the cinema.”
1 A. Bisaccia, B. Elder, P. Gale, G. Lombardo, Cinema del Limite, in “Pa-
rol”, 2015, pp. 15-19.
104 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
time seems to “call out for new cinematic form[s],” but “we have
However, in spite of their dour cynicism toward the contempo-
rary moment, the authors also sound a note of optimism. With the
death of cinema, a “threshold has been crossed.” The slate has been
wiped clean, allowing “artists to rethink moving-image form from
the ground up.” The authors identify a number of tendencies in this
and as yet inchoate, these tendencies maintain a connection to a tra-
 -
ence of an industry devoted to empty entertainment or from the glut
taxi-cabs, or shopping mall lobbies.”
There is much one might say about this short but incredibly pro-
vocative and fecund article. One might, for example, explore wheth-
er “traditional cinema” is quite as dead as the authors make it out to
be, or consider the profound (and seemingly total) disparagement
of popular culture expressed by the essay. But it is another aspect
of the text that we will consider here. An almost utopian sensibil-
ity seems to animate the article’s conception of the new tendencies
with narrative and sentiment, the authors seem to say, these new
tendencies can redeem an art form (and a culture) given over to
violence, coercion, and manipulation.
         
striking. They write that
Another form artists have proposed is a radically embodied cinema.
When screens surround us, we want to treat them as extensions of our
physical body and to have them respond to our gestures and our touch.
In this work, the screen becomes less a mirror than a prosthesis. At
the limit, these works engender a participatory mode of experience, for
which self and world are continuous and coextensive.
Here, the authors seem to redeploy an older technophilic idea that
the development of technology and the integration of humanity and
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 105
the machine will allow for the transcendence of cultural crisis and
lead to heightened, authentic experience, an idea to be found in the
work of Marshall McLuhan, the Futurists, and others. Perhaps this
is so. But it seems equally plausible that a new kind of cinema will
simply constitute new forms of coercion and violence, forms that
may become even more invasive as technology addresses and works
on the body at an ever more intimate and physiological level.
In what follows we would like to make a modest contribution to this
ongoing debate about the contemporary technological moment and po-
tential cinematic futures. We do so by presenting Fearmonger, a new
media arts project that probes moving image culture through an em-
    
for spectatorship. Fearmonger’s aesthetic design conceptualization in-
vigorates the cinematic experience with wearable technology that jars
viewers’ sensibility rather than attempting seamlessness with the digi-
tal, which is so often the motive for our current personal devices. In the
sections that follow, we explore the concept of media as prosthesis and
contextualize it through previous scholarship but also artistic forms.
Second, we explain the Fearmonger project and explore the various
ways that it interrogates the realities of a radically embodied cinema.
Prosthetic Gods
In spite of its status as one of the “gravitational centres” of con-
   -
ception with a rich history in the twentieth century and beyond. One
might think of this conception as a subset of the broader category
of technology as prosthesis or media as prosthesis, ideas that pre-
occupied diverse thinkers and artists such as Marshall McLuhan,
Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, F.T. Marinetti, and STELARC.
In The Medium is the Massage2, McLuhan gives one of the best-
known elaborations of the idea of media as prosthesis. “All media
2 M. McLuhan, Q. Fiore, The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Ef-
fects, produced by Jerome Agel, Penguin Books, Toronto 2003.
106 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
are extensions of some human faculty,” he writes, “psychic or physi-
cal.” (26) He then proceeds to give a series of examples (strikingly
illustrated by Quentin Fiore) to back up his claim: the wheel is an
extension of the foot, the book is an extension of the eye, clothing is
an extension of the skin, and electric circuitry is an extension of the
central nervous system.
In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud gives a remarkably
similar account. “With every tool man is perfecting his own organs,”
he writes, “whether motor or sensory, or is removing the limits to
their functioning.” Freud then proceeds to elaborate this idea with a
set of examples even more extensive than McLuhan’s:
“Motor power places gigantic forces at his disposal, which, like his
muscles, he can employ in any direction; thanks to ships and aircraft
neither water nor air can hinder his movements; by means of spectacles
he corrects defects in the lens of his own eye; by means of the telescope
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 107
he sees into the far distance; and by means of the microscope he
overcomes the limit of visibility set by the structure of his retina. In
the photographic camera he has created an instrument which retains
     
    
the power he possesses of recollection, his memory. With the help of
the telephone he can hear at distances which would be respected as
unattainable even in a fairy tale. Writing was in it’s origin the voice
of an absent person; and the dwelling-house was a substitute for the
longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease.” (737)
For both McLuhan and Freud, then, technology in general and
   -
theses – extensions that supplement and compensate for the weak-
nesses of the biological human body.
But, for McLuhan in particular, these prostheses are not sim-
ple tools, to be used for instrumental ends and put down without
consequence when not in use. They are, rather, environments in
which we swim. We may use media and technology, but they also
use us, changing us in manifold profound ways in the process.
“All media work us over completely,” writes McLuhan in The
Medium is the Massage. “They are so pervasive in their person-
al, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical,
and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched,
  The medium is the massage. Any under-
standing of social and cultural change is impossible without a
knowledge of the way media work as environments.” (26) The
passage is classic McLuhan. With deceptively breezy simplicity
he profoundly troubles the distinction between inside and outside,
between the biological self and the media-technical other that has
been a key aspect of western philosophical thought for hundreds
(if not thousands) of years.
108 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
These disruptions have provided fertile material for contem-
porary artists, particularly those of a posthumanist bent, some of
whom joyfully anticipate a cyborg future. Consider, for example,
the work of the Australian performance artist STELARC. This artist
has explored, in perhaps the most literal and extreme way possible,
McLuhan’s dictum that media and technology are the “extensions
of man.” Throughout his career STELARC has created a dizzying
array of machines that have functioned as literal extensions of his
body – prostheses that he has worn or had surgically implanted or
attached. This artistic practice has been accompanied by a body of
theorizing in a gleefully apocalyptic mode. Like Foucault, exulting
that the face of humanist “man” will be wiped away, like a sand
sculpture at the edge of the seashore, STELARC prophesies the end
of man and celebrates the posthuman future. In the new world of
accelerated data networks, homo biologicus can no longer thrive, or
perhaps even survive. As STELARC pithily states it, “in the terrain
of cyber complexity that we now inhabit the inadequacy and the ob-
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 109
solescence of the ego-agent driven biological body cannot be more
apparent.” (122) However, a body that is “open and aware, invaded,
augmented and with extended operation,” what is for STELARC
“a more complex and interesting body,” will save us from obso-
lescence. (120) “Consider” he writes, “a body whose awareness is
extruded by surrogate robots in situations and spaces where no body
could go. These machines with arrays of sensors, manipulators and
hybrid locomotion would exponentially multiply the operational
possibilities – scaling-up the subtlety, speed and complexity of hu-
man action. Perhaps what it means to be human is about not retain-
ing our humanity.” (126)
If, however, McLuhan’s dictum that the medium is the massage,
the force that works on the body and subjectivity, can be taken as
a triumphalist call for a posthumanist future, it can also be taken
another way. We can see in McLuhan’s notion of recalibrated sense
perception, a much more ambivalent exploration of the human re-
lationship to the machine. This ambivalent perspective was already
anticipated by Freud. “Man has, as it were, become a kind of pros-
thetic God,” he writes in Civilization and its Discontents. “When
organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trou-
ble at times... present-day man does not feel happy in his Godlike
character.” Although sometimes derided by critics for a techno-opti-
mism that lyrically celebrates the encounter between humanity and
machine, McLuhan’s work can be as critical as Freud’s and at times
sounds cautionary and even dystopic notes. It is McLuhan in this
last register that we see when he notes that “Man becomes as it were
the sex organ of the machine world, as the bee of the plant world,
enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms.”
110 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
In a surprising reversal, in which the machine is no longer the
extension of “man,” but we are the extensions of the machine, we
can perhaps see McLuhan channeling an older tradition. In the early
twentieth century the Surrealists also charted the porous line be-
tween the human and the machine. This was not the technophilism
of Marinetti and Futurists (who can perhaps been seen as the pre-
cursors of contemporary post humanism) but a much more ambiva-
lent and critical exploration of industrialization, Taylorism, and the
man-made mass death of the First World War. Utilizing the aesthetic
category that Freud would come to call “the uncanny,” the Surre-
alists used the indeterminacy and estrangement of human-machine
hybrids to ask unsettling questions about modernity and its impact
on human being.
Inspired by both Freud and Surrealism, it is perhaps Walter Ben-
jamin who has asked the most pointed questions about cinema as
prosthesis. In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduc-
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 111
tion Benjamin exhibits the same kind of ambivalence about technol-
ogy and its impact on the body as we saw in Freud and McLuhan3.
On the one hand, he sees the tremendous power and potential of the
new medium of cinema:
By close-ups of the things around us, by focusing on hidden details
of familiar objects, by exploring common place milieus under the in-
comprehension of the necessities which rule our lives; on the other hand,
 
  -
oms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked
the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-
the close-up, space expands; with slow motion, movement is extended.
The enlargement of a snapshot does not simply render more precise what
in any case was visible, though unclear: it reveals entirely new structural
formations of the subject. So, too, slow motion not only presents fami-
liar qualities of movement but reveals in them entirely unknown ones
rent nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye – if
only because an unconsciously penetrated space is substituted for a spa-
ce consciously explored by man. Even if one has a general knowledge of
the way people walk, one knows nothing of a person’s posture during the
fractional second of a stride. The act of reaching for a lighter or a spoon
is familiar routine, yet we hardly know what really goes on between
the camera intervenes with the resources of its lowerings and liftings, its
interruptions and isolations, it extensions and accelerations, its enlarge-
ments and reductions. The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as
does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses. (236-7)
With its capacity to slow down or speed up time, to magnify ob-
jects, to bring together distant moments, the movies can present a
world that no naked human eye can see. And this capacity to see the
world in a fresh new way can inspire not only art but politics as well.
3 W. Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in
“Illuminations”, trans. Harry Zohn, Schocken Books, New York 1968, pp.
112 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
The ability to see the world from a novel perspective is the precursor
to remaking that world in a way that is more just and human.
However, in spite of certain lyrical and optimistic appraisals
of the new media, much of the Work of Art essay is given over to
elaborating anxious and critical views of cinema. And here, once
again, Benjamin shows his proximity to both Freud and McLuhan.
of like-minded others, Benjamin presents cinema as something that
works on the body, not in the manner of a massage, but as a kind
of manipulation and violence. He approvingly quotes Georges Du-
hamel who notes: “I can no longer think what I want to think. My
thoughts have been replaced by moving images.” (238) This im-
age of the body being violently broached and colonized by the new
medium is picked up in Benjamin’s tropes of the magician and the
surgeon. “Magician and surgeon,” writes Benjamin, “compare to
painter and cameraman.” He then proceeds to elaborate the ways
The surgeon represents the polar opposite of the magician. The ma-
gician heals a sick person by the laying on of hands; the surgeon cuts
into the patient’s body. The magician maintains the natural distance
between the patient and himself; though he reduces it very slightly by
the laying on of hands, he greatly increases it by virtue of his authori-
ty. The surgeon does exactly the reverse; he greatly diminishes the di-
stance between himself and the patient by penetrating into the patient’s
body, and increases it but little by the caution with which his hand mo-
ves among the organs. In short, in contrast to the magician – who is still
hidden in the medical practitioner – the surgeon at the decisive moment
abstains from facing the patient man to man; rather, it is through the
operation that he penetrates into him. (233)
Once again, the tropes of violence are striking. Cinema may be a
prosthesis, Benjamin seems to argue, but it is one that accomplishes
    
and brutally palpating organs.
At the end of their essay, Bisaccia, Elder, Gale, and Lombardo
reassert their approval of new forms that are “still in their forma-
ary aspects of the moving image culture that surrounds it, and it
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 113
ger is inspired by this optimistic conception of the cinema. But
it also takes seriously the more ambivalent and cautionary inter-
pretations expressed by thinkers like Benjamin and McLuhan.
While acknowledging and celebrating cinema’s powerful capac-
ral level – we are also conscious of its ability to manipulate and
coerce. In honour of McLuhan, we set out to approach the project
as a type of “probe” – not the elaboration of some certain set of
propositions or principles, but a way of exploring a thorny set of
even more questions.
Fearmonger is an evolving critical arts project, digital prototype,
and spectator experience that disturbs traditional expectations for
cinema in keeping with the comments we have been making con-
cerning media’s recalibration of the senses. It is, in many ways, a
move beyond classical cinematic spectatorship towards something
like cinema as prosthesis – a radically embodied and interactive way
of engaging with moving image culture. It is not a game, but rather
a critical encounter. It uses wearable devices and controllers to in-
stigate emotional responses through re-engineered tech, software
algorithms, a contrived performance by unknowing participants, all
orchestrated through fear, or rather the emotionally, artistically, and
historically derived concept of uncanny fear. Three experiential lay-
ers contribute to it.
In its most simple staging, an unknowing person is asked to wear
a Virtual Reality (VR) headset for the purpose of viewing a set of
  
body to measure physiological changes, including galvanic skin
responses, heart rate, and skeletal muscle activity during viewing.
Laden with awkward machinery, the participant is ignorant of how
isolate the person. This individual is symbolically pinned to a chair,
ture his bodily data in an attempt to disclose his emotions. He can-
114 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
not divert his eyes as they are coerced to watch due to the headset
attached to his head.
Everyone in the room watches and listens to the fragments of
horror clips, but everyone also sees the participant in his mild dis-
comfort. The spectacle waits for the visualizations of fear, in the
form of biodata, to appear on the screen. In this way, the person at
the centre of Fearmonger is forced into a tableau as the machines
surrounding him eschew direct communication with him but pro-
duce dynamic output from him. In this staging, we echo Duhamel’s
complaint: “I can no longer think what I want to think. My thoughts
have been replaced by moving images.” We also ponder Marcel
O’Gorman’s Necromedia4, in particular his notions of the “dead-
of death and technology.” Our participant is deadened by his inac-
tion. Or turned around another way, our human participant feeds
Fearmonger the output it needs to sustain the watching eye of the
audience, quietly colonized as McLuhan foretold. Our participant
becomes a media prosthesis.
Fearmonger participant is attached to several devices.
4 M. O’Gorman, Necromedia, Univ of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 2015.
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 115
5. The algorithm we devel-
oped uses Hollands’s content selection, but it also encodes a ranked
hierarchy for fear; he decides what is fearful in an ordered list. In
this way, he imposes a subjective and reductive schema upon the
media experience that contributes to Fearmonger’s reticent domi-
nance. He mimics algorithms that circulate cinematic content across
networks. In this design, we both grieve but also propitiate a brutal-
anonymous digital agents.
At the same time, we understand our creative treatment of Holly-
sin posit remediation as the way new media refashion older media
forms in a manner that is often recuperative: “Older electronic and
    
as digital media challenge that status. Both new and old media are
invoking the twin logics of immediacy and hypermediacy in their
   
the focal point, but the physicality of going to a cinema and sitting
with others is erased in favour of viewer isolation in virtual reality.
For our participant wearer, clips appear in hyperreal exaggeration on
an old style virtual cinema stage in the VR viewing space. The short
embodied medium. Like Youtube, Fearmonger shortens and reduces
clips in the style of web circulation. It privileges whims of
the moment, or in Fearmonger’s case, bodily reactions. Displaced
The Shining (1980) are ranked and displayed alongside recent ones,
like Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2014). Ex Machina’s uncanny sci-
mansion of The Shining. In this way, Fearmonger stages the bru-
  
historical placement, and denies conventions of genre in relating
discordant forms.
5 
116 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
Still from The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Still from Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014)
In Fearmonger’s second layer, the main person is acted upon by
a group. Four spectators, also somewhat ignorant of the proceed-
ings, are asked to watch him. They observe him as a data feed as
they watch a visualization of his physiological responses appear on
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 117
a large screen. They imagine his emotions and interpret them as they
watch a visual representation of his fear. With four controlling de-
vices, re-engineered game hardware6, they intensify or soften the
seeming cinematic horror playing out at their discretion. One as-
sumes choices are determined by the level of anxiety, excitement,
embarrassment, or boredom that one subjectively interprets from
the immersed person’s biodata displaying in real time on a screen,
but there is an element of coercion here as well as the algorithm
algorithm averages out the four spectator’s choices that are also
anonymous to each other. Locked into Fearmonger’s machinations,
these spectators feel they are in control but the constraints built into
choices – make impotent their will.
6 Fearmonger uses several main hardware pieces. The Myo Armband is
used to detect muscle tension within the participant’s arm. Arguably if
      -
tected through Myo armband sensors. All of it would be visualized on
the spectator screen. IMO is used to measure the participant’s heart rate
and GSR level. These measures are taken using three sensors attached to
spectator screen using IOM’s API. Spectators use the PS Move controller
to input choices/votes for increasing or decreasing the tension for the next
clip. Spectators can switch between the two selection options by pressing
the T button. The Move’s Sphere provides immediate feedback on the
spectator’s selection (red light indicates increase tension vote and blue
light indicates decrease in tension vote). The spectator display also shows
the vote situation. Oculus Rift is used as the primary display for the par-
ticipant to watch the clips. The VR head-mounted display with noise-can-
celing headphones provided the ideal display option for the project, as we
want the participant to be isolated from the environment.
118 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
Spectators choose how to treat Fearmonger participant’s viewing experience.
This aspect of the performance also poses questions about specta-
torship in this new kind of cinematic environment, in several kinds
of ways. First, it is interested in how the spectators will react to the
participant’s anxious and fearful experiences. They have the power to
either escalate or de-escalate his discomfort. Which will they choose?
Inherent in Bisaccia, Elder, Gale, and Lombardo’s essay is a sense
that the new forms of cinema currently emerging will counter the bru-
dia’s threat to evacuate our moral sense.” The new forms of cinema,
   
of spectatorship – one that is meditative and sympathetic, rather than
callous, thrill-driven, and greedy for sensation. The new cinema gives
they? In the case of Fearmonger, will they attempt to contemplate
the participants’ experiences, to empathize with them, and de-escalate
the anxious and fearful spectacle before them? Or, will the new tech-
nology give them new means to brutalize and victimize? Will their
anonymity and power tempt them to give vent to sadistic impulses, to
escalate the participants discomfort for their own pleasure?
Further, Fearmonger questions whether, in the new digitized en-
vironment, spectators are even able to make more empathetic choic-
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 119
es. As noted, they interact with the participant, not directly, as a
human being, but through the mediation of the technology that pre-
self? Will an insight into heart rate or galvanic skin response stir us
ological data, if they are disconnected from more classical imagery,
narrative, or visual representations of interiority and emotional life?
prosthesis, has the human being become a thing? Will we sympa-
thize with a thing? Can we?
As noted above, a Fearmonger staging never asks for verbal opin-
   -
        
from one participant and names it emotion. In this way, it appears
to know and act upon participants with a seemingly autonomous
machine intelligence. At the centre of the design experience for
Fearmonger is the uncanny. This, as we have noted above, is the
disorienting and estranging confusion of inside and outside, self and
other (Junyk). R. Bruce Elder writes about it in DADA, Surrealism
and Cinematic Eect; he names the uncanny as one contribution to
the “imaginative richness” of surrealism and surrealist thinking of
the early modern era (291). The uncanny describes how friendly,
cozy, and homelike experiences can become suddenly fearful, unfa-
miliar, threatening, strange, or simply odd. We began to design Fear-
monger’s uncanny from the work of Anthony Vidler, author of the
Architectural Uncanny7, using his notion of “unhomely” in modern
culture to identify how experiences of estrangement can overwhelm
the embodied subject in familiar spaces. In later work, Vidler writes
of the “uncanny property of objects [which] adopt the characteris-
tic behaviour of their owners, [only] thence to take revenge”8. We
decided that Fearmonger needs to exhibit the desire for imagina-
tive revenge as much as it does the desire for pleasure. Fearmonger
exhibits the feeling of invasion. Vidler characterizes the surrealist
7 A. Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely,
The Mit Press, Cambridge 1994.
8 A. Vidler, Fantasy, the Uncanny and Surrealist Theories of Architecture,
in “Papers of Surrealism”, Issue 1 winter 2003, p. 9.
120 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
uncanny as the situation where: “the boundaries between organic
and inorganic were blurred; the body itself, invaded and re-shaped
by technology, in turn invades and permeates the space outside,
even as this space takes on dimensions that themselves confuse the
inner and the outer, visually, mentally, and physically” (5). Is un-
canny estrangement, the projects asks, an inevitable aspect of the
new technology with its deep embodied connections? And what of
a cinematic experience based on this technology? Will uncanniness
add to this experience? Will it produce surprise? Pleasure? Insight
and possibly critique into the media-technical aspects of culture and
society? Or, will it simply be alienating and enervating, amplifying
the anxiety and unease that seems to pulsate through contemporary
life and experience?
Finally in its third layer, Fearmonger expects a public audience
reactions all bound up in this medial experience. A stream of the
same horror clips would appear across a large screen with only
  
make salient the creepy way network algorithms constantly make
hidden choices for us based on an assessment of our thoughts,
feelings, and emotions. Conversations often focus on whether
Fearmonger is art or an experiment, and that is our intent. The
   
of spectatorship with it, all for the goal to both tantalize and prod
an audience to consider technocultural transformation, certainly
drives our enthusiasm.
In Lieu of a Conclusion
In Deep Time of the Media, Siegfried Zielinski argues that the
history of media technologies has been dominated by “the idea of
inexorable, quasi-natural technical progress.”9. For example, tra-
ditional histories of cinema (“from the cave paintings of Lascaux
9 S. Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media, Toward an Archaeology of Hearing
and Seeing by Technical Means, The Mit Press, Cambridge 2005.
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 121
to the immersive IMAX”) have been haunted by the belief in “the
absolute necessity for simple technical artifacts to develop into
complex technological systems, or the continual perfecting of the
illusionizing potential of media.” (2-3) This ideology of progress
has also been picked up and leveraged by Silicon Valley which
insists that with an Apple watch on our wrists and a bluetooth
          
and happier. No longer held back by our old human frailties, we
will become, as Freud called it, “prosthetic gods.” Zielinski’s
media archaeology presents an untimely and bracing perspective
on these issues10. He is particularly suspicious of the discourse of
media as prosthesis:
The paradigm of technology as an organ was a crutch used in the
development of mechanics; similarly, the organic becoming technology
is now a poor prosthesis in the age of electronics and computation.
best, fully functioning technology can be created only in opposition
to the traditional image of what is human and living, seldom as its
extension and expansion. (6)
In the end, Zielinski comes to a radically skeptical position on
the narratives of technological progress and the character of our
own media-technical moment. “The history of the media is not the
product of a predictable and necessary advance from primitive to
complex apparatus,” he argues. “The current state of the art does not
necessarily represent the best possible state.” (7)
There is a similar dose of healthy skepticism in the essay by
Bisaccia, Elder, Gale, and Lombardo which has served as a touch-
stone for us in our own intervention into these issues. The authors
   
and the various discourses surrounding it. But interestingly, in spite
of the fact that there is an element of idealizing optimism in their
assessment of certain avant-garde cinematic tendencies that might
the authors end, not on a note of triumphalism, but with a call to dia-
10 The reference here is to Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations which present-
ed critiques of many of the quasi sacred ideas of the nineteenth century.
122 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
logue. “We would like to convene a meeting of academics, artists,
curators, and critics to discuss these matters,” they note, ending, not
with a conclusion but the suspension of a conclusion in favour of
debate and discourse about “the current state of the art.”
This essay, and indeed the entire Fearmonger project is a mod-
est contribution to this dialogue. On the one hand, the project is
conceived as an incarnation of many of the latest developments in
media and movie-making. It draws on the previous scholarly work
of one of the authors concerning technocultural futures and digital
embodiment (Pedersen). With its curation and redeployment of the
cinematic archive, Fearmonger is meant to participate in the prac-
tice of remediation that so marks our current moment. Similarly,
with its use of wearable technologies and intensive interactivity, it
strives towards the radical embodiment of cinema and technology
as prosthesis. At the same time, however, a spirit of skepticism an-
imates the project. The scholarly contribution of this essay’s other
author also includes previous work on the uncanny as a complex
sensibility (Junyk). Perhaps our focus on the theme of uncanny
horror points to an intuition that human-machine hybrids are not
the products of utopic progress, but are deeply inhuman and even
anti-human in the ways articulated by Zielinski, McLuhan, the
Surrealists, and the other theorists and artists we have considered
in these pages. While Fearmonger might lead to new modes of
sympathetic spectatorship, we leave open the possibility that it will
simply encourage participants to explore the violence and sadism
so amply solicited by conventional movie-making, particularly in
its contemporary iteration. For the moment we come to no conclu-
sions. It is enough to simply participate in a dialogue with engaged
“academics, artists, curators, and critics,” groups too often left out
of the discussion about the shape of contemporary technology and
its future. And if there is optimism in this project, it comes from
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 123
Project overview and photo from a staging of Fearmonger
Fearmonger Film Clips, Curated by David Hollands
Scale 1- 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L.
124 Parɔl - Quaderni d’Arte e di Epistemologia n. 30
Scale 2- The Shining (1980)
“A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil
        
Scale 3- The Exorcist 3 (1990)
“A police lieutenant uncovers more than he bargained for as his
investigation of a series of murders, which have all the hallmarks of
the deceased ‘Gemini’ serial killer, lead him to question the patients
of a psychiatric ward.”
Scale 4- Lake Mungo (2008)
a mock documentary form that presents its narrative events as fac-
tual. A family discusses how the ghostly presence of their recently
deceased member Alice is appearing in their collections of home
Scale 5- It Follows (2014)
“A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force
after a sexual encounter.”
Scale 6- Session 9 (2001)
“Tensions rise within an asbestos cleaning crew as they work in
coming back.”
Scale 7- Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
“Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran at-
sociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own
dreams, delusion, and perception of death.”
Scale 8- Ex Machina (2015)
“A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-
breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the hu-
man qualities of a breath-taking humanoid A.I.”
I. Elder, I. Junyk - Fearmonger 125
Scale 9- The Dead Zone (1983)
“A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic detec-
tive ability.”
Scale 10 and Scale 13- The Descent (2005)
“A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers
become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of
Scale 11- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
“Two siblings visit their grandfather’s grave in Texas along with
three of their friends and are attacked by a family of cannibalistic
Scale 12- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
        
ing killer and his family of equally psychopathic killers.”
Scale 14- Grave Encounters (2011)
“For their ghost hunting reality show, a production crew locks
themselves inside an abandoned mental hospital that’s supposedly
haunted – and it might prove to be all too true.”
Scale 15- Green Room (2015)
a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.”
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Full-text available
Origin stories for wearable computers stress motives, beliefs, assumptions transgressions, and goals amid the technological and economic conditions that alter them. One facet of this book is to challenge rhetorical motives embedded in technical terms, like augmented reality, and make salient their social and political assumptions as well as the kinds of rhetoric that lingers in their evocations. “Reality shifting” – deliberately a gerund rather than a noun – is a catch-all term to describe immersive computing phenomenon; but, it is also a term that suggests ongoing scrutiny of the meanings it instigates. Affective computing, brain-computer interaction, and emotion augmentation drive toward convergence with everyday computing practices. This book focuses on the communicative aspects of wearable devices and reality-shifting interfaces in their conceptual, social, cultural, political and, most importantly, rhetorical contexts. It analyzes the cultural artifacts that drive us to embrace them as well as design-based writing by inventors and governments. Put simply, the intent of Ready to Wear is that it focuses squarely on motive.
In previous actions the body has performed with technology attached (the Third Hand- actuated with EMG signals), technology inserted (the Stomach Sculpture- a self-illuminating, sound-emitting, opening/closing, extending and retracting mechanism operating in the stomach cavity) and Net-connected (the body becoming accessed and remotely activated by people in other places). The body has been augmented, invaded and now becomes a host- not only for technology, but also for remote agents. Just as the Internet provides extensive and interactive ways of displaying, linking and retrieving information and images it may now allow unexpected ways of accessing, interfacing and uploading the body itself. And instead of seeing the Internet as a means of fulfilling out-moded metaphysical desires of disembodiment, it offers on the contrary, powerful individual and collective strategies for projecting body presence and extruding body awareness. The Internet does not hasten the disappearance of the body and the dissolution of the self- rather it generates new collective physical couplings and a telematic scaling of subjectivity. Such a body's authenticity will not be due to the coherence of its individuality but rather to its multiplicity of collaborating agents. What becomes important is not merely the body's identity, but its connectivity- not its mobility or location, but its interface....
This paper examines the complex relationship between Surrealism and architectural theory and practice. While architecture did not apparently play an extensive role in Surrealist concerns, this paper argues that it could offer, nevertheless, a crucial arena for a Surrealist articulation of space as psychically charged. In the writings of Carrington, Matta, Tzara and Dalí, the irrational possibilities of architectural spaces are explored, particularly in relation to discussions of homes and dwellings. If Surrealism pitted itself explicitly against the modernism of Le Corbusier, this paper considers the points of overlap between them, using Benjamin's concept of fetishism to explore confusions of identity between the mental and the physical, the organic and the inorganic. This paper is based on a keynote speech given at the conference Fantasy Space: Surrealism and Architecture, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, September 12, 2003.
This essay considers Rainer Maria Rilke's use of classicism as a response to the uncanny and fragmenting industrial city. While the twentieth-century revival of classicism has typically been seen as part of the reactionary “call to order,” I argue that Rilke's work represents a radically different modernist classicism – one that celebrates the fluidity and contingency of urban life. While his early work evinces a flight from the chaos of the modern city to a lost antique wholeness, after his engagement with Rodin's disarticulated sculpture, Rilke radically reimagines classicism as the ideal form for a Baudelairean modernity defined by “the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent.”
  • G E Steam
  • M Mcluhan
Steam G. E., McLuhan M., Hot and Cool, Interview, 1967; Media Research: Technology, Art, Communications (Critical Voices), M. Moos ed., G and B Arts International, Amsterdam 1997.
Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means
  • S Zielinski
Zielinski S., Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means, The MIT Press, Cambridge 2008.
  • A Bisaccia
  • R B Elder
  • P Gale
  • G Lombardo
Bisaccia A., Elder R. B., Gale P., Lombardo G., Cinema del Limite, in "Parol" 2015, pp. 15-19.
Civilization and its
  • S Freud
Freud S., Civilization and its Discontents, Peter Gay ed., W.W. Norton & Company, New York 1989.