Touch-sensitive : cybernetic images and replicant bodies in the post-industrial age
This thesis uses Deleuzian cybernetics to advance upon post-modern accounts of the contemporary image economy. It begins with the hypothesis that the schizophrenic behaviours of late capitalism have induced an irreparable crisis in the inherited `specular economy' (Irigaray). This is manifested as the breakdown of the laws of generalised equivalence between truth, value and meaning and the end of a stable signifier-signified relationship - theorised as the escape of reality into 'hyperreality', or the world become simulation according to Baudrillard. It will expose the insufficiency of post-modern accounts which theorise this crisis in representation via methods which fail to escape their own always already representational terms and it will then rigorously follow through the implications of an image economy which is constituted by simulations which are `genuinely' sourceless, which do not imitate a prior reality but which rather synthesise forces and relations. To escape the closed loop of representationalism, it will divert attention away from the signifier and will concentrate on the sub-representational power of images to re-engineer reality and to re-invent the limits of the body. Using the theory and practice of Deleuze, Spinoza, Bergson, Benjamin and Virilio, it will treat images as planes of corporeal becoming - as material entities, virtual avatars, possessional states and conductors of pre-personal affect. Post-modem accounts which cite the overwhelming predominance of images sit uncomfortably with the theories of French anti-ocularcentrism - accessed here via Irigaray and Lyotard - which mark the demise of vision and its attached representational order. This paradox requires that a new perceptual relation be mapped - figured here as entirely corporeal, as tactile and synesthetic (Mcluhan) and therefore immersive. Both 'affect' and 'intensity', as modes of pre-personal perception, will be treated as tactile interactions for these responses to images demand that a body be always 'in touch' with its environment, always anorganically altering its perceptual capacities by rules of feedback. It will be argued that in this reality studio, the body no longer perceives via a specular light source, solid form and assumed phallocentric meaning. The proposed synthesis between cybernetic imaging technologies, immanent perceptual criteria and the ever-changing state of the body requires an engagement with the female since she bears a privileged relation to this scenario. In the specular economy, women have been assumed, like faithful images, to secondarily reproduce an underlying, phallocentric truth. However, it will be shown that just as images can work nonrepresentationally, so too can female bodies; on the one hand appearing representational but on the other conducting radically subversive effects. Where bodies and images are such simulatory becomings it will be shown how the female is neither representationally ordered (social constructivism) nor essentially defined (biological reductivism) but is rather cybernetically engineered. Throughout, her privileged access to the virtual realm beyond language will be used to substantiate the major claim of this thesis that cybernetic simulation is more concerned with the material alteration of an environment rather than with the implementation of linguistic obligation.