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Son et Lumière: Bodily Fluids and Functions (Boyle, Mark/Hills, Joan), 1966

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Body and interface

If the reality of the body was investigated with the use of media, it was often also advanced as an argument against them. Body art was on the one hand an extreme example of the clinging to the precarious subjectivity and physical essentialism of the ego. Orlan's operations, on the other hand, testify to the cultural determination of every physical formation, in the truest sense of the word. It begins to become clear that the polarity posited at the beginning of this essay—between, at one end of the spectrum, using (or counteracting) media in order to demonstrate the presence and materiality of the body and, at the other extreme, exploring the immaterialities and potentialities implicit in the gradual disappearance of the real body due to the media—had its roots in the 1960s. In that decade, the foundation for the virtualization of the body had been laid in both conceptual and technological terms.

One of the earliest performances to substitute an electronic screen for the human body was delivered in the framework of expanded cinema and its practice of


consciousnessraising. «Son et Lumière: Bodily Fluids and Functions,» in which one of the first video projectors was used for art purposes, was staged by Mark Boyle and Joan Hills in Liverpool in 1966: «In the sperm sequence a couple wired to ECG (electro-cardiogram) and EEG (electroencephalogram) celebrated intercourse [hidden behind a screen], while the oscilloscopes of the ECG and EEG were televised on closed circuit television and projected with an Eidofor TV projector on to a large screen behind the couple. Thus, their heartbeats and brain waves were instantly revealed.»[64] Now as good as forgotten, this performance paradigmatically defined a central motif, namely interest in the invisible and process-based aggregate states of the body. In other words: interest in the image of the body when «viewed from the inside.»

This concentration on the body had already been reflected from a media theory point of view in Oswald Wiener's cybernetic «Bio Adapter.» Not long afterwards, the artist Jean Dupuy and the engineers Ralph Martel and Hyman Harris took first prize in a

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