19 September 2005
Florian Cramer and Stewart Home
Florian Cramer, M.A., was born in 1969, studied Comparative Literature, Art History and German Philology at FU Berlin, Universität Konstanz and University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He received an M.A. degree from FU Berlin (1998).
His areas of research include Comparative Studies in the Literature and the Arts, Modernism, Text Theory, Literature and Computing.
Interview with Florian Cramer, 6th of September, 2005.
by Nieke Kempen, Institute of Network Cultures
NK: ‘Program code is like pornography. It has linear logic, but no meaning.’ This sentence you mentioned in your article ‘Pornographic Coding’ was adapted from a Neoist slogan. I think an agreement between program code and pornography is not that clear. Can you tell me what you/they mean with this sentence?
FC: Both porn and program code have internal logic, but ostensibly no semantics. In other words, there is no immediate semantic denotation in program code and porn, but only connotation and implication. A program code has semantics through the virtue of programming language expressions and variable names, and through its impact on culture (as a control system, mostly), but it is not a semantic expression like a novel. Porn ostensibly has only itself as a semantic message since it follows a logic of excitation. Few pornographers, like de Sade, were able to radically extend this logics into a larger aesthetic and political program. When I watch porn, I don’t care much about its ostensible message – since the sex in most porn is terrible anyway -, but more about the non-intentional connotations, for example fashion, interiors and social relations. Mainstream porn flicks from the 1970s (Alex deRenzy, Gérard Kikoine, Lasse Braun), 1980s (Hans Moser, Ricardo Scicci) to the 1990s (John Stagliano, Michael Ninn) have often depicted capitalist conditions in a rigorous, quasi-Brechtian no-nonsense-style, devoid of the sugary embellishment you find in mainstream moviemaking.
NK: You think we demand a shamanic pornography. Can you tell me what you mean with shamanic pornography?
FC: The term “shamanic” was brought up by my fellow writer Stewart Home in reference to a Joseph Beuys retrospective exhibition in London. One might as well call it hermetic pornography. It’s a gradual process of gaining higher consciousness in seven levels, with the help of either chemical agents or intense hacker immersion into computers, with the ultimate gain of (a) on the code level, achieving orgasm through pure obscene imagination without any physical stimulation and (b) on the networking level, sexual telepathy. Level Seven means to abstract this imagination into a binary code, getting off on pure zeros and ones.
NK: In your article you mentioned: ‘Cybersex is by no means new, porn is its oldest device. Computation and programming have likewise been known in pornography for centuries.’ Pornography of this decade, if not the whole century, is indie porn. How can you explain this new pornographic movement?
FC: Our point was that indie porn actually de-emphasizes the programmed, algorithmic character of porn, replacing it with a simulacrum of the authentic: the models are ‘authentic’ people, untainted by plastic surgery, bodybuilding or Photoshop. They revive the image of late 1980s/early 1990s “indie” subculture as punk minus its original glam posing, i.e. a vitalist philosophy that integrates authentic life and authentic
expression. It’s quite an irony that this rhetoric of authenticity, induced into porn, would take off in computer networks in conjunction with particular software formalisms (the integration of image database, weblog and chat). This reveals much of the internal epistemological contradictions of indie porn.
NK: Indie porn pretends to be different from the commercial porn industry. At some websites it seems like art, ‘combine the punk styling of their models with visual punk aesthetics and do-it-yourself punk attitude’. In your opinion indie porn will save the porn industry of today. But on a website like, http://www.suicidegirls.com, could it not just be a way for teenage girls to experiment and express their selves?
FC: If this were the matter, they wouldn’t need a commercial porn site for the purpose. And a standard punk/goth look is in the end just as obstinate and formalized as the obstinate Pamela Anderson beauty norm in mainstream porn. One could rather argue that the mainstream porn beauty norm is more transgressive and subtly subversive since it managed to establish the transvestite as the male heterosexual beauty ideal – artificially blonde females with thick makeup, surgically enlarged lips and oversize breast implants taking it up the ass.
Apart from that, indie porn is still a far cry from the truly decentral, popular, open source pornography that we propose – and which is rather prototyped in the swapping of self-made porn images, videos and stories in peer-to-peer networks.
NK: Central to the aesthetics of indie porn is a concept of the authentic. The models are unmodified by surgery and also accessible in chats, personal blogs and homepages, in contrast to the glamorous and synthetic commercial pornography. I think that could be a reason for indie porn to be very popular. Sometimes it seems mysterious or forbidden, a little bit like child porn or animal sex. Can you explain why commercial pornography still is superior to indie porn?
FC: We wrote in the paper that commercial pornography is superior to indie porn because it offers less for the imagination to work with. Watching shoddy mainstream porn can be a good exercise for reaching
level five of shamanic porn consciousness. You have to shift your mental focus from terrible looking actors performing terribly boring turn-off sex acts to getting off on peripheral, more abstract details, from the interiors of the film sets to the color tint and sound/image noise of the video.
Download Pornographic Coding
THE OBSESSION OF THE (VANISHING) BODY
Franco “Bifo” Berardi is a writer, mediatheorist and media-activist. Founder of the magazine A/traverso (1975-1981), he took part in the staff of Radio Alice, the first free radio station in Italy (1976/1978). He was involved in the political movement of autonomia in Italy during the ’70’s. He worked with Felix Guattari, in the field of schizoanalisis. During the ’80’s he contributed to the magazine Semiotexte (New York), Chimerees (Paris), Metropoli (Rome) and Musica 80 (Milano). In the ’90 he published Mutazione e ciberpunk, (Genova, 1993), Cibernauti (roma, 1994), Felix (2001). Co-founder with Matteo Pasquinelli of the rekombinant.org e-zine.
Interview with Bifo, 15th of September, 2005.
by Marije Janssen, Institute of Network Cultures
MJ: Reading your article about the vanishing body it immediately made me think of Foucault, this is quite obvious of course. But where he speaks of the suppressed and dominated body you take it even beyond control and speak of a body which is almost out of control?
B: The erotic body is always out of control. The disappearance of eroticism from the social field is tied with the growing control of the social body. What makes the social control of the body possible? The connection of the cognitive activity inside the circuit of productive communication, and the acceleration of the cognitive reaction by the capitalist machine. Connected bodies are subjected to a kind of progressive inability to feel pleasure, and forced to choose the way of simulating pleasure. The shift from touch to vision, from hairy bodies to smooth connectable bodies. The control on the body does not come from outside. The control is built inside, in the very relationship between self perception and identity.
Identity (and loss of identity and need of identity) is the main tool of control of the body.
What is happening nowadays? What is happening when the Info-sphere becomes hyper-speedy, hyper-thick, and the impulses are proliferating beyond any limit? What happens when the expansion of the cyberspace overwhelms the human (physical, cultural) cybertime? This is happening: we are less and less able to elaborate in a conscious way on the emotional impulses reaching our skin, our sensitivity, our brain. Consciousness is detached from sensitivity, and subjugated by the connective machine.
MJ: Another comparison which comes from a more utopian background is with posthumanism, where the mix of the human body and advanced technology leads to a new humankind. But we now live in an age where the body must adapt to new technologies. To adapt means suppression, and loss of traditional human values. What do you think of this interpretation?
B: This is the problem, and I do not have a solution. This is the question and I do not have an answer. The question: should we adapt, or should we dis-connect? Should we become more and more speed, and happy to process fast proliferating simulated stimulation, although we are becoming unable to touch the body of the other? Or should we stop and find time for caresses, losing the train of connective excitation. Excitation and pleasure are splitting. A synthetic excitation which never reaches the state of pleasure. This is the destiny of the connective smooth bodies.
Time for caresses. This is what is lost in the assembly line of net-porn. Do you think that human beings can really renounce to the time for caresses? I do not think so. At the same time, I do not want to lose the experience of the ever-accelerating speed. I have no answer.
MJ: What do you think of the use of netporn as a way to create identities, in this way, the body is used as a tool to create a personality (like suicidegirls for example)?
B: The creation of multiple identities is a useful strategy in the domain of semio-political action, and also in the domain of literary simulation. But in the porn (in general) I see the symptom of an affection of the erotic sphere. Seeing becomes the pathogenic substitute (Ersatz) of touch. The virtualization carries in itself the danger of a disturbance of the sphere of desire and of bodily communication. The precarization of job, the fragmentation and cellularization of the daily life are the pathogenic context of virtualization.
The diffusion of porn far from being a cause of disturbance is the symptom of it. The simulated multiple identity is a strategy for the mise en scene of this kind of alienation. Not exactly a critique, but a form of ironic distanciation. This is why I like experiences like suicidegirls and so on.
Paul Watklawicz, the author of the ‘Pragmatics of Human Communication’ says that a useful therapy is “prescribing the symptom”.
Are you paranoia? Well, play the game of paranoia until you become conscious of your being playing a game. I would say that porn epidemic may be simultaneously a symptom and a therapy. But it has nothing to do with eroticism. In the erotic sphere we cannot talk of multiple identities, because of a simple reason: eroticism is not multiplication, but escape from identity: la petite mort, la ligne de fuite, lo sprofondamento, the extasis (being outside of oneself). Net porn is a way to manage the connective mutation. But we need to see less and touch more.
Desire dwells in conjunction, and is killed by connection. Connection means a relationship between formatted segments, compatibilisation of de-singularised bodies. Conjunction means: singular, unrepeatable communication between round bodies. Connection means integration of smooth bodies in a space which is no space and in a time which is no time.
Conjunction means ironic understanding among veined, streaked, haired, dirty bodies which have not been made compatible, which have not been formatted. Out of standard bodies.
MJ: By some people indieporn is called the savior of porn, again independent people who use their body a way of expressing themselves? Do you agree?
B: Indieporn is a way of deconstructing the social alienation of body. It may be in many cases that it is also a way of expressing oneself. But in this case, frankly, I would not speak of porn; I would speak of erotic use of porn-ironic image, a detournement of the porn image.
MJ: Is this loss of the body a general development and is porno just a way of showing the social changes? “Pornography is just the VISIBLE surface of this neuro-short circuit.”
B: I am not able to answer your last question, I think it is not a question, but an answer. Well. I agree with you.pornography is just the VISIBLE surface of this neuro-short circuit.