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Beyond Murcalumis/Arcalumis: Art in the Post Cyborg Age

Deconism: deconfigured deconvoluted decontextualized deconstruction and decontamination of past modernism, past humanism, past adaptation phenomena, and the new deconomy

Ceci n'est pas un article.
Ceci n'est pas par <<Steve Mann>>,
Assistant Filing Clerk Trainee[1],
EXISTech Corporation


This paper is an attempt to capture a stream-of-(de)consciousness collection of thoughts following a recent injury that ended my life as a "cyborg" after approximately 30 years of being "one" with the machine (wearable technologies, wearable computers, dermaplants, sensory extensions and long term adaptations, etc.). I wrote this article in small pieces, while still in a dreamlike state each time I woke up in the night, with the help of a bedside version of my machine that was damaged in the injury. In a sense, therefore, the article is not really written by "me" in the usual sense, but, rather, attempts to express the confused state of mixed-up sensory post-cyborg re-adaptation. The article also includes aspects of a (de)conference that I organized on the topic of post-cyborgism and post-post-cyborgism, attended by approximately 100 philosophers, artists, and scholars.

What's next to define our age, beyond pastmodernism, is "decyborging", the empty existentialist void we feel when "unplugged". The nausea of reality, as we plummet into a need for Nexium.
(I should have taken the purple pill.[2]) What's beyond Post Post Adaptation Effects? It's not VR sickness, but, rather, reality sickness. It's not the flashbacks you feel after taking the glasses off from eight hours of playing a videogame, but, rather, it's the lack of flashbacks you feel from not wearing the glasses for a long periods of time after more than twenty years of adaptation. Deconism is what you might experience in a disease-suspect detention camp. Or a quarantine facility for detention of persons suspected of having been exposed to Obedience Deficit Disorder (ODD).

DISCLAIMER: Eye am not a camera[3]. Eye am not a "cryborg". Eye sleep with my keyer on, so the normal human mechanism that prevents a person from sleepwalking (or in my case, from sleepwalking in cyberspace) has been bypassed. Ordinarily when we reach for pen and paper, to collect our morning thoughts, the dreamlike state is cleared away by our movement, and replaced with coherent thought and obedience to authority. Obedience to not crossing or blurring the lines between art theory and art practice. Obedience to respecting the boundaries between various disciplines of thought. But this paper comes from thoughts that occur before the simulacrummy feeling I get when I finally wake up in the morning after reading too many files named baud.htm[4] the night before. Tapping out (decon)text on my deconTEXTualizing keyer, or thought-reading camera, it's all a blur, and it doesn't matter that it doesn't respect the convention of flouting convention, or whatever other expected mould it should fit for postmodernism. Please excuse various forms of deconcrete poetry, my excessive and often inappropriate use of hyperlinks which clearly demonstrate my lack of linear narrative (or simply incoherence in thought arising from not being consciously awake). Unlike the modern world where articles have a linear sequential progression I seem to feel the past postmodern and fragmented, or is it perhaps just a polyschitzo experiences that lays bare the inauthenticity of disconnected discollective consciousness of authorship?

This paper attempts to look beyond the obvious "look beyond" Post Modernism (i.e. deconstructionism), Post Humanism (e.g. cyborgs), and Post Adaptation Phenomena (e.g. virtual reality motion sickness and VR flashbacks).

The common thread running through all of this is my own personal and very real experience living as a "cyborg" for the last 30 years, and learning that one cannot really obtain malleability of narrative, or really deconstruct the world in a true sense. Much of this material is borrowed from my book, CYBORG published by Randomhouse Doubleday. In particular, by inventing, designing, building, and wearing "digital eyeglasses", I see the world in a different light --- laser light. The computer controlled laser light source concealed within the eyeglass frames resynthesizes visual reality. Not virtual reality, but, what I call "mediated reality", i.e. a modified sensory perception. Not some sumulacking science fiction flapdoodle, but the real thing, if there ever was an objective reality we could get back to. I call it arcalumis (murcalumis), or inverse simulacra (simulacrum). Get closer to, not further from, reality by way of inverting the reality-distortions that have been thrust upon us against our will.

Reality is not the alleged reality one sees when removing the digital eyeglasses that have been filtering out advertising: when removing the eyeglasses, we are back into the world of Big Business Billboards that give us a simulacraving for cigarettes. Anybody who says taking off your shades brings you closer to reality is either a simulackey or shareholder in advertising and propaganda. And there's the Sontagonism to imagery, i.e. the alleged notion that ``all photographs are surreal''[5], which has a very postmodern flavour. And then there's the somewhat Pastmodern viewpoint: "When it comes to photographs, we are all deconstructionists now. After thirty years of Derrida, Foucault, and Baudrillard, anyone can confidently (if incorrectly) proclaim that photographs lie, manipulate, oppress; that they are "fictive constructs" and "discourses of power"; that they reveal only their own prejudices, not objective reality; that they express privilege, never truth. Yet more and more, it is upon these presumably meretricious, morally stained documents that we rely not just to bring us news of the world, but to form our ethical and political consciousness and even, sometimes, to determine our actions." [6]

After thirty years of being a "cyborg", I can't really bring myself to accept either of these. Not Sontag. Not Linfield. Not Postmodernism. Not Pastmodernism.

Eye am not a camera. Eye am a filter that filters light. Not Export Light, not Malboro Lights, but, rather, a photonic firewall that redirects packets of incoming lightspam to /dev/null.

If postmodernism can be taken to be the fragmented lack of objective reality[7], then certainly pastmodernism is the attempt to rebuild reality, not just to get back to a "new modernism", but to take responsibility for reality, in the existential sense of self determination. But maybe pastmodernism also includes the work of those who try to destroy the cyborg. The work of the state. The work of the police state. Cyborg unplugged. Wheras modernism deals with objectivity and postmodernism deals with subjectivity, instead of either of these, pastmodernism deals with subjectrights. Whereas postmodernism's attempt to revel in malleability of the reality often loses traction with reality and can become inneffective in really creating world change, pastmodernism attempts to get traction. Or question the lack of traction. Or lack of simulack. Lacra. Lacrum. Pastmodernism gets results! Or is the victim of results. And then deconism is what happens after pastmodernism [8] (partly as a result of pastmodernism). Deconism comes after the ideas and notions of Murcalumis/Arcalumis (inverse simulacra).

Not just for a new vision, but I've also rewired and reconfigured/deconfigured many other senses (e.g. a sixth and seventh sense of synthetic synesthesia). So arcalumis is not just for vision.

Ceci n'est pas un support soutenant une télévision qui est reliée à une caméra de télévision.

Ceci est une simulacrum.


I have been deconstructing reality through deconfigured eyes for more than 20 years. Not a Ricky Leackock "Fly on the Wall" perspective, but more like a fly-in-the-eye perspective. Not a Brechtian distance from the audience, or constant reminder that this is just a movie that isn't real, but, rather, a kind of inverse Epic Theatre. Not surveillance, but, rather, inverse surveillance (sousveillance, if you will).

However, I would like to first disacknowledge Air Canada for providing me with a glimpse into Past Past Adaptation Phenomena (Past Past Post Adaptation Phenomena), and for performing an "unplugging" experiment on me without my consent, which has triggered much of this thinking.

Deconism attempts to go beyond deconstructing deconstruction, i.e. to go beyond post post modernism (post2modernism, or "past modernism", as I like to call it). Perhaps my deconfigured vision has made me see the incestuous[10] (or recursive, as we like to say) nature of post modernism, or at least to see the degree to which its illusion of malleability has been shattered by recent events. To understand this recursion we may introduce meta modernism, i.e., postnmodernism (deconstruction to the nth degree). Whether squared, cubed, or more, meta decon either further fragments the fragmentation, or calls into question the fragmenting, or defragmentation of the fragments, ad infinitum. And technology allows construction, not just deconstruction, to program past ideology. To program the the past (i.e. previously defined ideologies). And to program past it (i.e. to program around it, e.g. to "hack" reality as just another ideology).

Deconism then attempts to understand the way in which state-sponsored terrorism has stripped and scrubbed the fragmented or defragmented fragments of metamodernism, and put its circular argument of arguments into a circular file. Or biohazard containment disposal vessel.

The Dada movement (for example Duchamp) in breaking down interdisciplinary boundaries was a wonderful response to the absurdity of war, but the movement sowed the seeds of its own destruction, for if everything is so absurd, then so is absurdity. And if absurdity is absurd, then the absurdity of absurdity is itself absurd. Recursion once more. Like a subroutine that calls itself infinitely many times over, falling into an infinite loop, like, in some ways, the Theatre of the Absurd. If dadaism is the absurdity of war, then surely deconism is the abusrdity of pretentious preworld prewar prethree.

An important response to deconism is Existential Technology (EXISTech), namely, existence of an invention before the essence of the idea. EXISTech is technology of self-determination for an epistimology and metaphysics of choice, and mastery of some degree of our own destiny. Being bound to freedom, we agree. We agree to the Terms and Conditions of reality. Oui Agree. Ouijagree. Ouija-gree to put an end to the idea of there being a single author to our actions. As Assistant Filing Clerk Trainee, I am free to write or saw what I wish. Hamlet's mirror. Pay no attention to what I have to write, for it is simply corporate drivel.

But what to do about deconism?

Greedom and democracy.

Cash in on our consensus for consent --- the new deconomy of democracy. Tollgates of Feedom and Democrazy.

Merger and Gorporate Greedom.

Merger of goverment and corporate (covernment if you will) forces. Armed forces.

Short-circuit the left and the right wing. Both are fighting for freedom. Stand back far enough and they're both on the same plane. A level plane. A level playing field. Fold the wings together, and toss it all into the circular file. Not that it's rubbish, but simply that it has no real effect. Because it doesn't matter whether it's left wing or fight wing, as long as it's out on a wing. Of an aircraft.

Order in the court: Chorder (Chaos from order), strikes a resonant chord for freedom and democracy on strike, whether picketing or profiteering from the stagnant stenographer chording the keys of justice. Or the keys of cages. Anarkey. Six by eight foot rectangles with walls made of chain-link fencing spin in unison with the wheels of justice. Lives tossed about by the machinery of justice. Machines of justice interconnected with the three branches of government! Or, in the Electric Age, the three phases of government cum covernment. Gone is the Government Convention (Gonvention, if you will). Geneva Gonvention. Gone is the media scrutiny. Prisoners "protected against insults and public scrutiny". Stripped and then "protected" from public inquiry.

Mergers for murder.

Merge the 3 branches of covernment. Let the sparks of creativity fly as the insulation between the three wires disappears. eMerger. For eMergency prEparedness. E-merge as an e-covernment. For eedom and emocracy. Freemocracy. deMocking any sense of justice. From yesterday's pretentious pre IPO hype, to today's pretentious premergency preplanning, fear drives the new deconomy.

Demonstrators de-monstrating de-monstrosity. Demon-stration, class demonstratification.

eResponsibility is now possible as we do an Enrun around accountability. Just put the accountants (and protestors) into six by eight foot rectangles. Outdoor cages with or without prayer mats. Or just citizens who don't comply. Because they're Titches carrying out acts of Werrorism.

Picture a middle-age accountant, run through the mills of justice, (as Milgram did). Fifteen volts for each wrong answer. Nobody objects. And if it were you or me in the cages, nobody else would object.

To reject the basic values of limits, checks, balances --- fuses in the wiring of democracy --- is to accept the values of terrorism.

Risk management to insure fascism.

Ensure, insure, assure.

Twisted and tortured, justice over twisted pair. Or braided. Braid together the t(h)ree branches of government. To start world war three.

From carrot to sticktatorship.

Armed Vision

Back's doppelganger grappling for a ground, graces the cover of an art gallery exhibit catalog and exists in a medium that falls at the nexus of electricity and water.

My own recent work also falls at the nexus of electricity and water, where body scanning lasers and an interactive video installation are combined with compulsory decontamination showers for all attendees:

(Three steps: (1) Strip=Violate, (2) Wash=Rape, (3) Cover=Protect)
(1) All attendees are required to remove all clothing, jewellery, and personal effects and check these items at the baggage counter prior to being allowed into the museum space. (2) They are then required to go through decontamination. (3) Finally they line up to get their bodies scanned by a computer, in order to automate the issuing of uniforms, so they can receive a white jumpsuit. The jumpsuits have no pockets in which to conceal contraband. Now the attendees are safely protected from themselves and each other, so that they can attend DECONference 2002 presentations by Steve Mann, Derrick de Kerckhove, Arthur Kroker, Julia Scher, and Critical Art Ensemble.

Crandall's depiction of the military's desire "to both violate and shield ... erotic charge of combat... analyze/violate/protect" [11] is perhaps best captured in defense against bioterror (irrespective of whether the bioterror be real, imagined, or merely an "inside job").

Military computer vision systems are now turned back toward us where the hidden cameras in the public baths transform our world from Baywatch to Bathwatch. Hidden underwater cameras in municipal swimming baths, such as the network of underwater cameras at North Toronto Community Center are connected to a sophisticated network of Internet connected computers. From Baywatch (the many watching the few) to Poolwatch (the few watching the many), we become the specimens (or shall I say, specimen and speciwomen) of an experiment, perpetrated from afar, without our knowledge or consent. Is it a swim meet, or a swim meat? Perhaps by now television cameras have outnumbered television receivers. Even in places where we're not fully clothed.

To save you if you drown in the bath.
Or slip and fall in the showers. Or toilets.

Toilets Against Terrorism! Project SafeBath. Saves Water. Saves Lives.
Function:       noun
Etymology:      Latin, from specere to look at, look -- more at SPY
Date:   1610

Lifeguard Rescyou. To surf and protect from afar.

In Back's exhibit, we see the magnified image of a fingernail --- the voyeuristic sustained gaze focused upon what might have been bitten off --- a nail-biting frenzy of fear --- fear from the feeling of not being protected. It hangs at waist-height, as if to suggest being of the belly, being born of terror, or saliva to the abdomen. And we can only see it on TV. TV is the new reality in the age of anthrax angst. Mediated like Jacob Wrestling with a Digital Angel. Or dead flowers. Television, Terrorvision. Ten minutes of fame, Twenty dollars of Terror. Or the campground. Strong Angel. ( Shower hours)

Foucault once said "Authority loves the plague". Today he might have said "Government loves anthrax". Queue up like cattle to be stripped, scrubbed, shielded, protected, and saved. Rescyou in the resqueue.

The Cream Machine, and other nonweapons

Weapons, even the nonlethal ones, define an enemy as "other". Even pepper spray is still inhumane to use on ourselves. And the "war on terrorism" (and peaceful protest) only glorifies the enemy, whether other or oursleves, as a war hero, or at least deserving Geneva Gonvention.

But water cannons cum soap cannons might be the kinder cleaner nonweapons we can use on ourselves.

New soap concentrates that protect us from chemical weapons will make chemical weapons themselves unnecessary.

So are we creaming the competition or creaming ourselves? Cream the competition before they start to compete; pre-emptive Dissidents will get creamed: Rape the mirror with the cream machine. A rich creamy lather squirts across the parking lot at those suspected of being contaminated. Or those suspected of contaminating. Or those suspected.

Quenching our own fire:
Training for submission to the bioterror state

I envision a shower column pointing to the right beside a canon spraying water up into the air. Fighting fire with water. Showers of lead and sparks. From muzzle to nozzle.

I envision perhaps a canon with six holes drilled and tapped, around the end of the muzzle with shower nozzles screwed into each one.

In the past we trained for war by waking up on the middle of the night and quickly getting dressed to fight. Now we train for war by falling comatose to common sense and getting undressed in the middle of the day to submit. We cannot bear the thought of firepower. We have instead been taught waterpower. We are taught not to fire, but to quench our own fire. But not to quench our own anger, for that would put an end to the war. Our anger is fueled by state sponsored media, so that the state can continue to fund the war on terror, so that we can continue in our training for war. Not so we can learn to fight, but so that we can continue being trained on how to submit to authority. Showers of lead and sparks have dissolved into soap showers. Or bleach showers. Gunpowder has been replaced with a solution of nine parts water, and one part household bleach. Our standard training uniform is made out of cloth that only intelligent people can see. It's the one we were wearing when we came into this world on the day we were born. Or maybe it's a white paper jumpsuit with no pockets in which to store weapons or contraband. Submission drills are like fire drills. [12] In the past we learned how to get out of buildings. Now we learn how to get out of buildings and then get out of our clothes. Separate yourselves by gender, take off your clothes, and stand in a line to be hosed down. Then it's easier to herd you to the processing or treatment plant. The enemy is within. No longer are we fighting an external enemy, but now the enemy is inside us, inside our governments, and inside our military dictators. As a nation declares war on its own people, it must ensure its people don't fight back. It must strip its people.

Terror control agents

Pepper spray, or agent orange? Or chemical agent provocateur. Or provacateurrorists.

Soap down the unruly unwashed masses. Soap is the solution for the great unwashed. Stop terror with suds.

A fundamentalesson on the fundamentaless. The fundamental lesson we've yet to learn is that lacking any fundamental rooting we may be washed away like topsoil that lacks age-old vegetation, leaving behind only those who are more deeply rooted than us.

Decon is about people, places, things, or shall we say, people, displaced, without their things.

No carryon. Lost luggage.

Moving PEOPLE PLACES without their THINGS.

Freedom Flight

Err Canada, Air or Canada, Error Canada, Terror Canada.

I envision a Freedom Flight that would tie together the military industrial complex of yesteryear with today's military corporate complex and "the new DECONomy".

The title of the exhibit might be "The new deconomy of freedom" or perhaps, "Freedom Deconomics", or just "Freedom Flight", to take art to lofty new heights. Sky Art.

It could be a flight to an alleged or real offsite exhibit, but the real exhibit would be the manner in which the participants must undergo decontrabanding and decontamination before being allowed to board the flight, as a social commentary on the corporate security complex of today's terror marketplace.

Noam Chomsky once distinguished retail terrorism from wholesale terrorism, but it's getting harder to tell where all the terror is coming from. Instead of a terror factory, all we need is a new deconomy of cleansing (from ethnic cleansing to corporate cleansing). Corporate cleansing to purge the world of all that's not safe for business, leaving behind a clean world marketplace.

A Freedom Flight to "escape" from democracy, and fly out into the Free Market deconomy.

To keep the airports "clean" for business-class travellers.

Are we free; fighting to be free: how much are you worth? How much am I worth?

If a rich business executive is damaged, he can sue for damages. If he is killed, his estate can sue. And then we know how much he was worth. But otherwise, not being the wealthy businessman, we can be damaged without cost to those who damage us. Thus we don't cost anyone anything. Thus we are free --- free for the taking --- without cost. Is this what it means to be a free man?

Free to download a free seating license.

Free-market fascism, becomes, therefore, an inverse Brechtian theatre: inverse Epic theatre ("Cipe theatre). As well as theatre of the absurd. Cipe theatre was at the heart of DECONference 2002 where we required attendees to be decontrabanded and decontaminated prior to being allowed into the decontextualization museum.

Jerbils of Justice

Seizure Augustus, Caesar Adjust us.


Adjustment bureau and justice.

Godels theorem.

Goebbels theorem. The Goerbbels of Justice.

A jury of a dozen gerbils deliberates justice. To each gerbil wheel, is connected a small magnet. Like the world as a whole, the magnet has a north pole and a south pole. Around each magnet are the three coils of government. The three phases of government. The three branches of government. Spaced 120 degrees apart. And connected to red, black, and blue wires, in accordance with Part 4, Section 36 of the electrical code. Jenerating of justice. For a justice server. Mounted in a 19 inch relay rack.

The applicants fill out forms, and the forms are passed on to the jury. Twelve blind gerbils, in a dark room, cannot read the applications, but they taste their sweet devenge. The paper gives them energy, to keep the wheels of justice turning.

Verdict of the Virmin

Twelve Vermen and Verwomen.
Deliver the Verdict.

Silence of the rodents.

Meriones unguiculatus.
Meritones undo to us. Do us. Do you. Do me!
Merrytones and musical chairs.

Seven white mice and five black mice,
see how they run,
around the circle of fifths,
making the melody,
like singing in the (hexaphonic) shower,
six notes for men, and six for women.
Of men and mice squeaking.
12 input channels. the dirty dozen.
to emerge squeaky clean.
We're happy here, if we sing along.

The verdict of the vermin brings "justice" to verminous persons in need of being sent to a cleansing station.

Maybe then we will begin to understand deconism:

Evolution toward deconism
Cyborg adaptation phenomena
Post adaptation phenomena
VR nausism
Post nausism

Notes and references:

Steve Mann is a faculty member at University of Toronto. Mann has written 139 research publications (39 journal articles, 37 conference articles, 2 books, 10 book chapters, and 51 patents), and has been the keynote speaker at 24 scientific and industry symposia and conferences and has also been an invited speaker at 52 university Distinguished Lecture Series and colloquia. His work has been shown in numerous museums and galleries such as Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, Stedelijk Museum of Art in Amsterdam, Science Museum in the U.K., San Francisco Art Institute, Austin Museum of Art, etc.. Dr. Steve Mann is regarded by many as the inventor of the voice activated wearable computer, of the EyeTap camera (a device that causes the eye itself to function as if it were a camera as described in, and of the Reality Mediator he has been wearing for more than 20 years, dating back to his high school days in the 1970s. His art, science, and technology contributions have also been featured in leading international fora for the general public, such as The New York Times, LA-Times, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, WiReD, NBC, ABC, CNN, David Letterman Top Ten, CBC-TV, Scientific American, Scientific American Frontiers, Discovery Channel, Byte, Reuters, New Scientist, Rolling Stone, and BBC. A feature length 35mm motion picture film documents his invention and life as he has lived it through ``wearable computer mediated reality'' and was considered by Toronto Life to be best film at the International Film Festival. Filmmaker and critic Peter Wintonnick called the documentary "the most important Canadian film this year".

His textbook entitled ``Intelligent Image Processing'' (ISBN: 0-471-40637-6, John Wiley and Sons), as well as a popular book on culture and technology, about his life as a ``cyborg'', (ISBN: 0-385-65825-7; Random House, Doubleday), further document his practice.

Original April 1 2000 design: High-security Rotogate turnstiles, set in concrete walls with reinforced steel, should be used to prevent suspects from fleeing from the facility once they discover that they will be required to undergo RC3 (Removal of Clothing, Contraband, and Contamination).
Acknowledgements: This work made possible by funding from Canada Council for the Arts, as well as funding from Ontario Arts Council (OAC).